Sept. 2023 News

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

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

 

Sept. 30

Top Stories

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

 

U.S. National Politics

 

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More On Republican Threats To Shut U.S. Government

 

High Tech v. Government Clashes

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

 

Global Tensions, Human Rights

  • New York Times, Police Investigate About 100 Suicides Linked to Canadian Man
  • New York Times, Why Evergrande’s Problems Are Only Getting Worse
  • New York Times, Slovakia’s Election Could Echo in Ukraine. Here’s What to Expect
  • New York Times, How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Pushed Toward the Heart of U.K. Health Care

 

 U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Plot Claims

 

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

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

 

More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Strikes, Crypto Currency

 

U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

 

U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

More On U.S. Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Arts, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories

 

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Retiring Milley warns of ‘wannabe dictator’ in apparent jab at Trump, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The outspoken general, who is retiring over than 40 years in the military, makes way for Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

Department of Defense SealGen. Mark A. Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman who clashed with President Donald Trump but found new footing under President Biden, reiterated in his retirement speech Friday that the U.S. military is loyal to the Constitution above anything or anyone else.

“We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, to a tyrant or dictator or wannabe dictator,” Milley said in an apparent reference to Trump. He added that troops did not risk their lives to watch “this great experiment in democracy perish.”

Milley stepped aside Friday as his successor, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., was sworn in to the top military post in front of military personnel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on a day filled with ceremonial traditions. That included Milley inspecting the units lined up in a large field at the base, some in Revolutionary War uniforms, a military band playing the national anthem and the presentation of a retirement certificate. Brown will officially take over the post this weekend.

Biden, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Vice President Harris, praised the general for providing advice that was steady and to the point. Biden also commended him for prioritizing American democracy above all. “When it comes to the Constitution, that is and always has been Mark’s North Star,” Biden said.

Milley’s sometimes-tumultuous four-year tenure as chairman capped a career that spanned more than four decades. His was one of the most consequential and polarizing tenures of any military leader in recent memory. Milley was atop the Pentagon during the Trump administration’s chaotic final months, the Biden administration’s frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing effort to aid Ukraine as the Russian invasion draws close to the two-year mark.

To his frustrated critics, Milley often voiced his opinion on hot-button issues, notably defending a policy, implemented after the U.S. Capitol attack in 2021, that mandated military personnel to study domestic extremism. In one viral moment stemming from Republican attacks, he told members of Congress, “I want to understand White rage, and I’m White.”

Supporters lauded Milley for standing up to what they viewed as Trump’s dangerous ambitions. After the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, when Trump called for clearing demonstrators out of Lafayette Square near the White House, Milley initially walked alongside the president and other top administration officials as they marched to a church for a photo opportunity.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed., Details below). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

Politico, Shutdown averted: Senate clears stopgap bill with hours to spare, Ursula Perano, Sept. 30, 2023. The legislation, which effectively punts the deadline for Congress' various spending fights to Nov. 17, now heads to the president's desk.

politico CustomThe Senate cleared a stopgap funding bill Saturday night, sending it to President Joe Biden's desk just in time to avert a government shutdown.

The legislation effectively punts the deadline for Congress' various spending fights to Nov. 17. It passed the upper chamber by a wide margin, 88-9.

"It's been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no government shutdown," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said shortly after passage.

The package is a departure from Senate leaders' original ambitions to include Ukraine aid in the short-term funding bill. The final version of the bill — which overwhelmingly passed the House with bipartisan support Saturday afternoon — only includes disaster relief alongside regular government funding. Senate Democrats now say they’ll be seeking a supplemental bill to continue assisting Ukraine in its war against Russia.

"Most Senate Republicans remain committed to helping our friends on the front lines," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Passage was slightly delayed Saturday night, when Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) temporarily objected to moving the bill forward, pushing for commitments on Ukraine aid. Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Co.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) both discussed the matter with Bennet Saturday evening, according to two sources. Bennet’s hesitation seemed to be resolved by about 8 p.m., when the Senate unanimously agreed to take up the package

Palmer Report, Analysis: Senate Democrats move to keep Ukraine funding intact after budget agreement, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 30, 2023. After a bill palmermonth of insisting they’d shut down the government, House Republicans caved – with a 45 day continuing resolution that funds everything but Ukraine. It was a cheap attempt at forcing the Democratic-controlled Senate to choose whether to keep the government open or keep a key U.S. ally intact against Putin. But it turns out Democrats are savvier than that.

bill palmer report logo headerSenate Democrats are already preparing a supplemental funding measure for Ukraine as early as next week, according to Bloomberg News. There appear to be enough votes in both the Senate and House to pass it.

senate democrats logoSo this anti-Ukraine stunt by House Republicans really does appear to be nothing beyond hot air. They just wanted to be able to tell their idiot base that they stuck it to Ukraine, and then next week it appears they’ll quietly vote to fund ukraine flagUkraine once the smoke has cleared.

House Republicans really are extraordinarily weak right now. But that’s what happens when you’re a house divided against itself, you have a narrow majority, and your “leader” has all the leadership skills of a rotting pumpkin.
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  • Washington Post, Senate poised to vote to avert shutdown after House passes short-term funding bill, Hannah Dormido and Adrián Blanco, Sept. 30, 2023. Just hours before a potential government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats reached a deal in the House that includes a 45-day continuing resolution with disaster relief funds, an extension of a federal flood insurance program and FAA reauthorization — but no Ukraine aid.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Reassert Need for Gag Order on Trump in Elections Case, Alan Feuer, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors argued that the former president has continued to make threatening statements after their initial request to limit his public discussion of the case.

Federal prosecutors on Friday reasserted the need to impose a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump in the case accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

They said that even after they first asked a judge three weeks ago to limit his remarks, Mr. Trump has continued to wage “a sustained campaign of prejudicial public statements” against witnesses, prosecutors and others.

The prosecutors cited several threatening statements that Mr. Trump made since they initially asked Judge Tanya S. tanya chutkan newerChutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case in Federal District Court in Washington, to impose the gag order. Their request was first filed under seal on Sept. 5 and a public version was released 10 days later. Judge Chutkan has yet to rule on the matter.

Since their request, prosecutors said in their filing on Friday night, Mr. Trump has continued to attack potential witnesses in the case like former Vice President Mike Pence — who, Mr. Trump wrote online, had lied about him and had gone to the “Dark Side.”

The filing noted that Mr. Trump had lashed out at another witness in the case, “the former attorney general” — an apparent reference to William P. Barr — saying he had not done his job after the election “because he was afraid of being impeached.”

Moreover, prosecutors cited a menacing message that Mr. Trump posted on his social media site last week about Gen. Mark A. Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs. After General Milley gave several interviews that were critical of Mr. Trump, the former president suggested that he had committed treason and that in the past he might have faced execution.

“No other criminal defendant would be permitted to issue public statements insinuating that a known witness in his case should be executed,” Molly Gaston, one of the prosecutors, wrote. “This defendant should not be, either.”

Justice Department log circularAs the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated — he is facing three other criminal indictments beyond the case in Washington — so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats have prompted protective measures, including increased security for many people involved in the cases against him.

In their filing, the prosecutors, who work for the special counsel, Jack Smith, pressed another issue, saying Mr. Trump may have violated the terms of his release in the election interference case by suggesting that he might have purchased a firearm on Monday during a campaign stop at a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

That day, prosecutors noted, Mr. Trump’s spokesman posted a video online of the former president handling a Glock pistol at the store. The spokesman said in the post that Mr. Trump had purchased it, but aides quickly denied that he had actually done so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors cite Trump’s supposed gun purchase as possible crime, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A legal argument about whether to issue a gag order cites his recent interaction with a gun seller.

Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

Justice Department log circular“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”

The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”

Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”

The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.

“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.

Emptywheel, Analysis: DOJ's Theory of Trump's Mob, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right), Sept. 30, 2023. In the government's reply motion on its marcy wheelerrequest for a gag, DOJ neatly lays out how Trump's attacks on Pence were a key tool he used to direct the mob.

Justice Department log circularDOJ’s reply on its bid for a gag on Donald Trump has a number of the things you’d expect. It has a list of the seven people Trump has threatened since the last filing on this, including Trump’s vicious attack on Mark Milley.

With each filing, DOJ just keeps adding to the list of people Trump either incited or targeted. The government also notes that Trump may have broken the law — or claimed he did, for political benefit — when he claimed to have purchased a Glock.

But I’m most interested DOJ’s rebuttal to Trump’s claim that Jack Smith improperly connected Trump to January 6 in his press conference announcing the indictment when he said Trump had, “fueled . . . an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”

Emptywheel, Analysis: The Timeline of the Hunter Biden Investigation Doesn't Support Attacks on Lesley Wolf, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Sept. 30, 2023. A timeline of the Hunter Biden investigation -- even as presented in documents provided by Gary Shapley and Joe Ziegler -- undermines many of their claims about the investigation generally and AUSA Lesley Wolf specifically.

irs logoSelf-imagined IRS whistleblowers, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, continue to engage in an information campaign that not only hasn’t provided real evidence for impeachment, but also must be creating real difficulties for David david weissWeiss, left, as he attempts to charge the tax case against Hunter Biden.

The House Ways and Means Committee released a slew of documents provided by the IRS Agents the other day in advance of Thursday’s Impeachment Clown Show. Below, I’ve laid out just the documents pertaining to the investigation (that is, the purported topic of their whistleblower complaint), along with explanations of what the documents show. There are a bunch of other investigative documents (Shapley

 

hunter biden beard

appears to have let Ziegler assume most of the legal risk of releasing the bulk of the new IRS and grand jury documents), some of which reflect a real sloppiness about parts of the investigation, which would pose still more problems charging this case.

 

U.S. National Politics

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World Crisis Radio, Weekly Strategic Commentary: MAGA faction sinks into abyss of collective insanity, with party extinction fast approaching! webster tarpley 2007Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian and commentator, Sept. 30, 2023 (148:38 mins.). Trump horrifies nation with call to execute Gen. Milley for disloyalty to him; First session of Comer’s impeachment probe dissolves amid guffaws;

Biden speech at McCain Library is clarion call for the defense of constitutional democracy, with direct attacks on MAGA boss: ”Trump says the Constitution gave him the right to do whatever he wants as president”;

President sets new aggressive tone for coming year of campaigning; Biden now joins FDR as the two most pro-labor presidents in US history; At Milley’s retirement, Biden slams Tuberville’s ”outrageous” sabotage of military promotions; In farewell to arms, Milley joins in stressing Constitution as touchstone of American life, noting that American soldiers swear oath neither to a dictator nor to a ”wannabe dictator”;

Looming expropriation of fraudulent oligarch could have ramifications in many directions; Voters should brace for further tantrums;
As shutdown looms, 21 crazed House sectarians torpedo McCarthy’s short-term spending bill with 30% spending cuts, demanding even more killer austerity; Trump wants shutdown to promote chaos, paralyze courts, and smash the state;

MAGA on the wrong side of history: violent reactionary anarchists seek to roll back modern state into dark ages oligarchy, aborting process that began in Italy in 1300s; UAW President Fain starts long-overdue discussion of class as auto workers fight for labor rights;

Breaking: WaPo reports anti-McCarthy putsch plot by MAGA extremists to install Majority Whip Tom Emmer, seen as more likely to deliver killer cuts

ny times logoNew York Times, For Biden, Menendez’s Troubles May Clear Foreign Policy Roadblocks, Michael Crowley and Karoun Demirjian, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez bucked colleagues, and President Biden, on matters like Cuba and Iran.

joe biden resized oWhen the Biden administration relaxed some travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba in May of last year, Senator Robert Menendez was having none of it.

“I am dismayed,” Mr. Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement. Anyone who believed the measure might help bring democracy to Cuba was “simply in a state of denial,” he fumed.

A day later, Mr. Menendez erupted again, this time over reports that the Biden administration was easing oil sanctions against Venezuela’s authoritarian government — “a strategy destined to fail,” he declared.

democratic donkey logoFor Biden officials, the friendly fire from a fellow Democrat was exasperating if not exactly surprising. Before stepping aside as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his indictment on federal corruption charges last week, Mr. Menendez routinely opposed and even criticized President Biden — and the previous Democrat in the White House, Barack Obama — on foreign policy issues.

From Latin America to the Middle East, Mr. Menendez has long been among the most hawkish Democrats on Capitol Hill, and never afraid to oppose or criticize members of his own party on issues he holds dear. His replacement as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, has been vague about his plans but is closer personally to Mr. Biden and likely to be more accommodating of his agenda.

Flexibility has not been Mr. Menendez’s calling card. When Mr. Obama made negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran one of his top second-term foreign policy goals, Mr. Menendez pressed for new sanctions on Tehran that some Obama officials saw as intended to spoil the talks. Once the nuclear deal was completed, in 2015, Mr. Menendez vocally criticized and voted against it. And when Mr. Biden sought in 2021 and last year to return the United States to the agreement after President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal, Mr. Menendez argued that Mr. Biden was making a dangerous mistake.

Most recently, Mr. Menendez has complicated Mr. Biden’s plans to win Sweden’s admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in what would be a strategic blow to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Mr. Menendez, who has maintained his innocence, said he would continue to speak out on a range of issues even though he has temporarily stepped down as his committee’s chairman.

 

steve schmidt logo horizontalThe Warning with Steve Schmidt, Commentator: Confronting lies about Trump and Jan. 6th - My PBD podcast appearance, Steve Schmidt, Sept. 30, 2023. I appeared on the PBD podcast where we discussed how Donald Trump came to power, the con that he is not part of the establishment, & I confront lies and conspiracy theories on the January 6th insurrection. 

 

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

President Biden issued a broad and blistering attack against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday, accusing his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office in next year’s elections.

In his most direct condemnation of his leading Republican challenger in many months, Mr. Biden portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution. While he usually avoids referring to Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Biden this time held nothing back as he offered a dire warning about the consequences of a new Trump term.

democratic donkey logo“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Tempe, Ariz. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Mr. Biden cited recent comments by Mr. Trump vowing “retribution” against his foes, accusing NBC News of “treason” and suggesting that the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, might deserve to be put to death. The president also decried plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s allies to erode the independence of major agencies, wipe out much of the top ranks of civil service and make senior government officials personally loyal to him.

“Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep Americans safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. It’s also a threat to the character of our nation.”

The gloves-off assault on Mr. Trump represented a marked shift for Mr. Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge him.

But repeated speeches claiming credit for “Bidenomics” have not moved his anemic approval ratings, as many voters tell pollsters they worry about the 80-year-old president’s age.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal court halts grant program for Black female entrepreneurs, Julian Mark, Sept. 30, 2023. In issuing an injunction, the appellate panel sided with a conservative group that alleges the Fearless Fund’s program amounts to reverse discrimination.

A panel of federal appellate judges on Saturday stopped an Atlanta-based venture fund from awarding $20,000 grants to Black female entrepreneurs for now.

The injunction issued by a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit prevents the Fearless Fund from closing its application window. The fund was sued this summer by a conservative group alleging reverse discrimination.
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Saturday’s decision temporarily reverses a Tuesday order by U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, who denied the a request by the plaintiff, American Alliance for Equal Rights, to halt the grant awards process.

In August, the alliance, led by conservative activist Edward Blum, sued the Fearless Fund, alleging that its program granting money solely to Black female business owners illegally discriminates on the basis of race. That lawsuit was filed a month after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively banned race-conscious college admissions, through rulings on cases Blum initiated against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

“The members of the American Alliance for Equal Rights are gratified that the 11th Circuit has recognized the likelihood that the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest is illegal," Blum said in a statement Saturday. "We look forward to the final resolution of this lawsuit.”

A separate 11th Circuit panel will now decide whether the Fearless Fund will be blocked from awarding money under its Fearless Strivers Grant Contest while the case is litigated in district court. The panel’s Saturday decision merely halt’s the grant process while that separate panel decides. It’s unclear when that determination will be made.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision, appreciate the important points made by the dissent, and look forward to further appellate review," said Jason Schwartz, a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which is representing the Fearless Fund. "We remain committed to defending our clients’ meaningful work.”

 diane feinstein older

Politico, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has died at age 90, Burgess Everett, Sept. 29, 2023. The trail-blazing Democratic senator, shown above in a file photo, had faced mounting health problems in recent years. Her replacement will be selected by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.).

senate democrats logopolitico CustomHer death, confirmed by a person with knowledge of the situation, brings Senate Democrats’ functional majority to 50 votes, with Republicans holding 49 votes. Two other Democratic senators tested positive for Covid this week — and the majority of the caucus is calling on indicted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to resign.

Politico, A look at the life of Dianne Feinstein, David Cohen, Sept. 29, 2023. Before her long stint in the Senate, she led San Francisco through a healing period after horrific political violence.

gavin newsom serious abcPolitico, Pressure is on Newsom to quickly appoint Feinstein’s temporary replacement, Jeremy B. White, Melanie Mason and Christopher Cadelago, Sept. 29, 2023. Feinstein's death will upend the intensifying race to replace her and force Newsom, above, into a painful political decision.

politico CustomThe death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein places Gov. Gavin Newsom under intense pressure to quickly name a replacement as a bitterly divided Congress votes on a spending plan in the coming hours to avert a government shutdown.

Newsom had hoped to avoid the politically charged decision of selecting a second senator. But he will need to move swiftly as a budget standoff has the government on the verge of shutting down, and Senate Democrats could need every vote.

The timing of Feinstein’s death — four months before a primary but more than a year before the end of her term — complicates this election cycle. Staff at the California secretary of state’s office was huddling early Friday morning to determine the timelines that would govern an appointment or a possible special election.

democratic donkey logoThe governor’s inner circle knows he’s facing a vastly tighter timeline then the five weeks it took him to nominate Alex Padilla to Kamala Harris’ Senate seat after the 2020 presidential election. He’s expected to move quickly on the appointment while respecting the death of a longtime friend and mentor.

Newsom released a statement on Feinstein’s death Friday morning, eulogizing the senator without getting into the timing of appointing a caretaker to her seat.

“Dianne Feinstein was many things – a powerful, trailblazing US Senator; an early voice for gun control; a leader in times of tragedy and chaos,” Newsom said in the statement.

“But to me, she was a dear friend, a lifelong mentor, and a role model not only for me, but to my wife and daughters for what a powerful, effective leader looks like. She was a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace. She broke down barriers and glass ceilings, but never lost her belief in the spirit of political cooperation.”

“And she was a fighter — for the city, the state and the country she loved. Every race she won, she made history, but her story wasn’t just about being the first woman in a particular political office, it was what she did for California, and for America, with that power once she earned it. That’s what she should be remembered for. There is simply nobody who possessed the strength, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein. Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and we will mourn with her family in this difficult time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who will replace Dianne Feinstein in the Senate? Adam Nagourney and Shawn Hubler, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to pick a Black woman to fill the seat, but has also said he would not choose any of the current Democrats running for Senate.

senate democrats logoThe death of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, immediately turns the spotlight to an intense, ongoing three-way battle to replace her, fraught with racial, political and generational tensions over one of the most coveted positions in California and national politics.

It also puts new pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will chose someone to fill her seat. Mr. Newsom, whose profile has risen in national Democratic politics in recent weeks as he has traveled the country on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign, had come under fire for announcing he would not pick any of the declared candidates in filling any vacancy, so as not to elevate them and give them an advantage.

Mr. Newsom had originally promised to pick a Black woman to fill the position if it opened up, and many Democrats thought he would turn to Representative Barbara Lee, a progressive. But Mr. Newsom said he would pick a caretaker senator instead. “I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ms. Lee denounced Mr. Newsom for that decision, calling it insulting.

The other leading Democratic candidates in the race for Ms. Feinstein’s seat are Representative Adam Schiff, a high-profile member of the congressional committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol; Representative Katie Porter, a third-term California member of the House; and Ms. Ms. Lee.

It is unclear whom Mr. Newsom might pick to fill Ms. Feinstein’s seat. The names that have been discussed, since Ms. Feinstein said earlier this year that she would not run again, include Shirley Weber, the California secretary of state; Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles county supervisor; and Angela Glover Blackwell, a civil rights lawyer in Oakland and the founder of PolicyLink, a research and advocacy nonprofit group.

Mr. Newsom had originally made the pledge about a Black woman in response to the fact that there are no Black women serving in the Senate. The last one was Kamala Harris, a California Democrat who left the Senate to become Mr. Biden’s vice president.

At that time, in January 2021, Mr. Newsom picked Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state, to replace her. Mr. Padilla became the first Latino from the state to serve in the Senate; he was elected last year to a full term.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dianne Feinstein, Oldest Senator and a Fixture of California Politics, Dies at 90, Sept. 29, 2023. She achieved remarkable breakthroughs as a woman, becoming San Francisco’s first female mayor and California’s first woman elected to the Senate.

 

robert hur us attorney

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Biden Aides Questioned in Inquiry Into Handling of Documents, Glenn Thrush, Sept. 28, 2023. The special counsel investigating how classified material ended up at President Biden’s think tank and home after his vice presidency has interviewed senior White House and cabinet officials.

Robert K. Hur, the special counsel investigating President Biden’s handling of classified documents while serving as vice president, has interviewed many of Mr. Biden’s closest aides and advisers in a quiet inquiry that over the last nine months has reached into the upper levels of the White House and the cabinet, people familiar with the case said.

Justice Department log circularThose who have been questioned about how government documents came to be stored in a think tank office set up for Mr. Biden after his vice presidency and in his Delaware home include officials who worked with him both at the tail end of the Obama administration and now.

Among them are Steve Ricchetti, a top White House aide, and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, the people familiar with the case said.

Prosecutors have also spoken to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who has been a key Biden foreign policy adviser for decades; Ron Klain, who served as White House chief of staff until earlier this year; and Michael R. Carpenter, the former managing director of the Penn Biden Center, who is currently ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Mr. Blinken’s interview was previously reported by ABC News.

The investigation, overshadowed by more dramatic developments in the special counsel inquiries into former President Donald J. Trump and Hunter Biden, is primarily focused on determining the chain of custody for the documents with classified markings found in the offices of the president’s Washington think tank and at his house in Delaware, the people familiar with the case said.

Mr. Hur’s team has also scrutinized whether longtime Biden aides, and the president himself, adhered to security protocols in handling and packing up official documents and private notes from his vice presidency, they said.

One of the thorniest unresolved issues is whether Mr. Biden will submit to an interview, typically the final stage of an investigation. He could also answer written questions or interact with Mr. Hur’s team through his team of White House and personal lawyers.

A spokesman for Mr. Hur did not comment. A White House spokesman also declined to comment.

Mr. Ricchetti, Mr. Klain and Mr. Blinken have been key advisers to Mr. Biden for over a decade. Mr. Ricchetti, a former lobbyist and adviser to President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, essentially took control of Mr. Biden’s post-vice presidential life. He set up a network of nonprofits and academic institutions that would serve as Mr. Biden’s base of operations, negotiated the former vice president’s lucrative book deal and helped to set up the initial structure of the 2020 campaign.

Mr. Hur’s investigation does not appear to be comparable in scope or seriousness to Mr. Trump’s retention of classified materials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which led to his indictment on charges of mishandling national security documents and conspiring with two of his employees to obstruct government efforts to retrieve them.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers immediately notified the National Archives upon discovering the classified documents in late 2022 and have since cooperated with the Justice Department. Mr. Trump, by contrast, put off requests from the archives, initially turned over only a portion of what he had taken, failed to fully respond to a subpoena to return the rest and ultimately was subjected to a search of his home and office by F.B.I. agents with a search warrant.

But the investigation into Mr. Biden, even if it ends without criminal charges, presents political challenges for an incumbent president heading into an election year with low approval numbers.

Mr. Trump has misleadingly portrayed Mr. Biden’s handling of sensitive government documents as equivalent to or worse than his own. Mr. Trump would almost certainly try to spin a decision by Mr. Hur not to prosecute his opponent as proof of a “two-tiered” system of justice rigged to favor Democrats, according to a person close to the former president.

With the exception of President Barack Obama, every occupant of the Oval Office since Watergate has confronted a special prosecutor scrutinizing him or members of his staff, sometimes for relatively narrow matters but at other times for issues that have mushroomed into at least the threat of impeachment.

In January, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appointed Mr. Hur, a veteran prosecutor who had worked in the Trump administration, to examine “the possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records discovered” at Mr. Biden’s think tank in Washington and at his residences.

Mr. Trump tapped Mr. Hur in late 2017 to run the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland, where he earned bipartisan praise for his handling of violent crime and public corruption cases. But it was his previous, 11-month stint as the top aide to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein — as Mr. Rosenstein oversaw the appointment of a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to investigate Mr. Trump’s dealings with Russia — that provided him with experience operating in a hyper-political environment.

Mr. Hur helped run the day-to-day operations of the department at a time of major tumult. From mid-2017 to late 2018, Mr. Rosenstein was under relentless political pressure, including the threat of being fired by Mr. Trump over the appointment of Mr. Mueller, which the president considered a personal betrayal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans hold first hearing in Biden impeachment inquiry, Jacqueline Alemany and Amy B Wang, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans are holding their first hearing Thursday as part of an inquiry into whether to impeach President Biden, which House james comerOversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has said will lay out the basis for a probe that has so far shown no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

Comer, right, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), have called four witnesses to testify, three of whom were invited by Republicans.

The House is exploring impeaching President Biden. What comes next?

Comer has repeatedly touted evidence that has fallen short of substantiating his claims that President Biden has engaged in corruption and abuse of public office. But Comer is expected to try again Thursday, promising “emails, text messages, bank records, and testimony of Biden business associates,” according to his opening statement.

The Post has previously reported that Hunter Biden accepted money from Chinese nationals and that he sought to sell the Biden family “brand” and the illusion of access to and influence over his father. But there is no evidence that President Biden himself used his official perch to enrich his family, and a key witness testified last month that Hunter Biden was unable to influence his father’s actions or policy decisions — and that during their frequent communications, “nothing of material” was ever discussed.
Comer, Raskin set tone for contentious hearing

In his opening statement, Comer alleged Biden has for years “lied to the American people about his knowledge of and participation in his family’s corrupt business schemes.” Comer accused Biden of having developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets.

“These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to his family,” he said. “It also includes a Chinese national who wired a quarter of a million dollars to his son.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, hit back in his opening statement by quoting other Republicans’ criticism of their own party in the last week.

“ ‘Clown show,’ ‘foolishness,’ ‘terribly misguided,’ ‘stupidity,’ ‘failure to lead,'” Raskin said. “These are Republicans talking about Republicans. So let’s be clear: This isn’t partisan warfare America is seeing today. It is chaotic infighting between Republicans and Republicans.”

Raskin concluded his fiery remarks by saying that the inquiry all boils down to a “thoroughly demolished lie” that Rudy Giuliani and Trump launched years ago regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Raskin went on to cite various witnesses — including a former Giuliani associate — who have all disputed the GOP’s allegations that Viktor Shokin, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, was fired because he was investigating Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden served.

jonathan turley The committee is hearing live testimony from conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, right, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky and a former Justice Department tax attorney, Eileen O’Connor. They are expected to try to bolster the case that President Biden engaged in wrongdoing but will not be able to speak to how Hunter Biden conducted his business or whether his father assisted him.

Turley has become a mainstay expert witness at impeachment hearings. He first appeared before Congress in 2019 as an expert on impeachment, arguing against impeaching President Donald Trump over a July 2019 phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Dubinsky has previously provided analysis for Fox News on bank records associated with members of the Biden family that Comer released this year. In an August 2023 interview, Dubinsky insinuated that the Biden family may be utilizing shell companies for “nefarious” reasons — “to either launder money or hide a transaction.”

O’Connor, who served during President George W. Bush’s administration, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July, recommending that a judge reject a proposed plea agreement in the Hunter Biden case related to tax and gun charges.”

Democrats, who are allowed to summon one witness, will feature testimony from Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment expert and law school professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt first testified in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment and then again during the first impeachment of Trump.

  • Brian Tyler Cohen, Commentary: MEGAVIRAL: Star Democrat gives SPEECH OF THE YEAR against Republicans, Brian Tyler Cohen, Sept. 28, 2023.
  • MSNBC, Commentary: ‘Cooked and done:’ AOC shreds GOP for ‘embarrassing’ hearing on impeachment, Chris Hayes, Sept. 28, 2023. “The Republican Party knew that this was cooked and done from the beginning,” says Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Their star witnesses that they called in today said in their opening statements that there is not evidence to support articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.”

 

joe biden 9 26 2023 uaw picket linePolitico, Biden joins striking auto workers on picket line, Lauren Egan and Myah Ward, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers comes at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement.

politico CustomPresident Joe Biden on Tuesday became the first sitting president to join a picket line with striking workers, vividly demonstrating his commitment to labor and its central role in his reelection campaign.

The president, donning a blue hat with a United Auto Workers symbol, stood on a wooden platform and used a bull horn to speak to the crowd of union members dressed in red. He was flanked by United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.

uaw logo“The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going,” the president told the crowd outside of GM’s Willow Run Redistribution Center in Wayne County, Mich. “You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”

Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement represented a tectonic shift for an office historically known for breaking strikes, not supporting them.

The move also appeared to be a clear counter to former President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Michigan on Wednesday instead of participating in the second Republican primary debate — the latest sign that both candidates have moved beyond the primary phase of the election and are focused on November 2024.

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US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

 

More On Republican Threats To Shut Government

 

gop house chairs 2023 New York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right Wing Tanks Stopgap Bill in House, Pushing Toward a Shutdown, Catie Edmondson, Kayla Guo and Carl Hulse, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Hard-right Republicans defied Speaker Kevin McCarthy and defeated their own party’s bill, making a lapse in funding at midnight on Saturday all but certain.

Hard-line conservatives on Friday tanked Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-shot bid to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown, in an extraordinary display of defiance that made it clear that Congress would almost certainly miss a midnight deadline on Saturday to keep federal funding flowing.

djt maga hatIt appeared evident even before the vote that the stopgap bill was bound to fail, as several hard-right Republicans had declared that they would not back a temporary spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, under any circumstances. And the measure — which would slash spending and impose severe immigration restrictions — never had a chance of preventing a shutdown, since it was regarded as a nonstarter in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But Mr. McCarthy, bracing for political blowback for a government closure, had scheduled it anyway in hopes of showing he was trying to avoid the crisis. And the decision by right-wing lawmakers to effectively blow up his one final effort to seize some political leverage in the shutdown fight dealt the speaker a stinging defeat while leaving politically vulnerable Republicans fuming.

ny times logoNew York Times, Where Would a Government Shutdown Immediately Be Most Felt? Zach Montague, Sept. 30, 2023. As federal agencies prepare to enact their contingency plans for a shutdown, this is where the public could notice changes in the coming days.

Washington braced for a government shutdown over the weekend as Congress remained mired in dysfunction on Friday. Federal agencies planned to send home hundreds of thousands of workers, who would not be paid until the shutdown ended. Hundreds of thousands of others deemed essential, like air traffic controllers, would be ordered to work. They, too, would not be paid until Congress reached a deal.

The nation’s capital always feels the effects of shutdowns most acutely, but Americans beyond Washington also face consequences. Here is where they would notice them most immediately.

  • Food and medical help
  • Business and tax support
  • National parks and forests
  • Federal courts
  • Environmental standards and disaster relief
  • Student aid and loans

ny times logoNew York Times, With a Shutdown in View, McCarthy Plays a Weak Hand, Annie Karni, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The G.O.P. speaker, whose style is to placate his detractors, does not have the Republican votes to keep the government open. He is calling the vote anyway.

kevin mccarthyWhen Representative Kevin McCarthy, right, was short the votes he needed to become speaker in January, he didn’t browbeat his far-right Republican detractors or threaten retribution. Instead, he granted them major concessions, subjecting himself to a long, humiliating slog to win them over.

Mr. McCarthy is now facing a near-certain government shutdown and a possible move by the same faction to oust him from his post if he moves to head off the crisis. And he is turning to the same people-pleasing script, seeking to mollify a faction of his conference he privately scorns.

djt maga hatHe has once again caved to the demands of far-right lawmakers, opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden and then agreeing to slash government spending to levels they clamored for. When that was not enough, Mr. McCarthy pushed aside a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Instead, he bowed to the right flank’s insistence on first bringing up a series of individual yearlong spending bills loaded up with arch-conservative policy dictates — even though none had a chance of enactment.

Democrats have criticized him as the weakest speaker in history. Hard-right members continue to demand more. But members of Mr. McCarthy’s inner circle — a coterie of mostly traditional Republicans who are deeply conservative but share little in common with the hard right — argue that the speaker’s malleability is actually his strength. They say it is the only way to deal with what they regard as a nearly ungovernable majority.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the hard-right House Republicans who have led the opposition to a temporary funding measure, Robert Jimison and Catie Edmondson, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). With a Sept. 30 deadline looming, hard-right House Republicans have formed a wall of opposition to a temporary measure to fund the government.

djt maga hatRepublican support for a long-shot bid to avert a shutdown, floating a bill that would keep government funding flowing at vastly reduced levels while imposing stringent immigration restrictions demanded by conservatives.

The proposal stands little chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But Mr. McCarthy’s more immediate problem is in his own chamber, where the math is not in his favor.

republican elephant logoAlready, at least 10 hard-right lawmakers have declared they will not vote for any stopgap measure under any circumstances, because they are opposed to funding the government — even temporarily — with a single up-or-down vote.

Their opposition effectively closes off Mr. McCarthy’s simplest escape hatch to avoid a government shutdown on Sunday. With Democrats sure to oppose the spending cuts and border restrictions, he can afford to lose no more than four Republicans if all members show up and vote. And turning to Democrats for help would put his speakership at risk.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Shutdown Holdouts Have Antagonized McCarthy Before, Karen Yourish and Lazaro Gamio, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Most of the House Republicans who voted against Kevin McCarthy’s stopgap spending bill have long been a thorn in his side.

Most of the House Republicans who voted against Kevin McCarthy’s stopgap spending bill Friday have been a thorn in his side since before he was elected speaker. They tend to cluster ideologically on the far-right end of the political spectrum.

djt maga hatAbout three-quarters of the 21 Republicans who voted against Mr. McCarthy’s temporary spending bill were supported by the campaign arm of the House Freedom Caucus during the 2022 midterms. Six members of the group are serving in Congress for the first time.

In January, 20 Republicans nearly derailed Mr. McCarthy’s ambitions to become speaker by voting against him multiple times. Eleven of them were among those who held out against his stopgap funding measure on Friday.

Mr. McCarthy’s five-day, 15-vote floor fight for speaker foreshadowed how hard it would be for him to corral Republican lawmakers to unify behind basic tasks like passing funding bills or raising the federal debt limit.

Notably, Representatives Wesley Hunt of Texas and Ken Buck of Colorado came back to Washington at Mr. McCarthy’s request to vote in his favor for speaker. And Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia aligned herself with Mr. McCarthy during the speaker fight and was ousted from the Freedom Caucus over the summer.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Did the Government Get to a Shutdown, and What Will It Take to Reopen? Kayla Guo, Sept. 30, 2023. Any deal to keep it open would have to be bipartisan, since the Senate and White House are controlled by Democrats, and the House by Republicans.

The federal government is careening toward a shutdown at midnight on Saturday. That’s because Congress has not yet passed any of the 12 yearlong spending bills that fund the federal government, and it remains jammed on a temporary stopgap measure to keep funding flowing while lawmakers pass those annual spending bills.

Under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse, and it exercises that power by passing legislation each year to fund the government. There are 12 so-called appropriations bills, which run from Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, until midnight the following Sept. 30.

This year, Congress has failed to enact any of those measures, which must be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the president. Without a stopgap measure to temporarily fund the federal agencies while the two chambers debate, pass legislation, resolve any differences between the bills and send the measures to President Biden, the government will shut down.

ny times logoNew York Times, McCarthy’s Temporary Spending Bill Fails to Pass the House, Catie Edmondson, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Republicans defeated Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s stopgap spending plan, pushing Congress closer to a government shutdown at midnight on Saturday.

Hard-line conservatives on Friday tanked Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-shot bid to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown, in djt maga hatan extraordinary display of defiance that made it all but certain that Congress would miss a midnight deadline on Saturday to keep federal funding flowing.

It appeared clear even before the vote that the stopgap bill was bound to fail, as several hard-right Republicans had declared that they kevin mccarthywould not back a temporary spending bill under any circumstances. Mr. McCarthy, right, bracing for political blowback for a government closure, had scheduled it anyway in hopes of showing he was trying to avoid the crisis.

But the decision by right-wing lawmakers to effectively blow up one final effort by Mr. McCarthy to give the appearance of trying to head off a shutdown dealt the speaker a stinging defeat, and left politically vulnerable Republicans fuming. And the size of the group of defectors was striking, reflecting both Mr. McCarthy’s weak hold on his conference and the influence of the far right in the House.

The bill failed by a vote of 198-232, with 21 Republicans joining all Democrats to defeat it.

The measure, which would have kept government funding flowing at vastly reduced levels — cutting spending to most domestic programs by nearly 30 percent — and impose stringent immigration restrictions demanded by conservatives, would not have prevented a shutdown even if it had passed the House, because it was considered dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Here’s what else to know:

Mr. McCarthy’s allies have defended his strategy as a way to show the public that he tried to keep the government open, but was foiled by a handful of his far-right members. But the defeat on the House floor was a devastating blow for Mr. McCarthy, whose job is on the line and who has been unable to corral his tiny majority to agree on a measure to head off a meltdown.

The Republican plan that was blocked on Friday would have kept the government open for 30 days and impose drastic cuts across the board to government programs, except for funding for veterans, homeland security and disaster response. It does not include any military or humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and it would direct the homeland security secretary to resume “all activities related to the construction of the border wall” at the southern border that were in place under former President Donald J. Trump.

The defeat left the House in an exceedingly weak position to negotiate with the Senate, which is moving ahead with its own, bipartisan short-term funding plan. That bill would continue spending at current levels for six weeks and provide $6 billion in aid to Ukraine and $6 billion for natural disaster relief at home.

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More On High Tech v. Government Clashes

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to State Laws on Social Media, Adam Liptak, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The tech industry argues that laws in Florida and Texas, prompted by conservative complaints about censorship, violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express, setting the stage for a major ruling on how the First Amendment applies to powerful tech platforms.

The laws’ supporters argue that the measures are needed to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, saying large platforms had removed posts expressing conservative views on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and claims of election fraud. In particular, they objected to the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, had challenged the laws, saying the First Amendment prevents the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.

The court’s decision to hear the cases was unsurprising. In each case, both sides had urged the justices to do so, citing a clear conflict between two federal appeals courts. One ruled against the Florida law, the other in favor of the one in Texas.

elon musk sideview

Politico, Musk ousts X team curbing election disinformation, Clothilde Goujard, Sept. 29, 2023. The announcement comes after EU digital chief Vera Jourová criticized the social media company over rampant falsehoods on its platform.

politico CustomElon Musk, above, the owner of X (formerly Twitter) said overnight that a global team working on curbing disinformation during elections had been dismissed — a mere two days after being singled out by the EU's digital chief as the online platform with the most falsehoods.

twitter bird CustomResponding to reports about cuts, the tech mogul said on X, "Oh you mean the 'Election Integrity' Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone."

Several Ireland-based staff working on a threat-disruption team — including senior manager Aaron Rodericks — were x logo twitterallegedly fired this week, according to tech media outlet The Information. Rodericks has, however, secured a court order halting disciplinary action over allegedly liking tweets critical of the company, according to Irish media.

european union logo rectangleVice President Vera Jourová this week warned that EU-supported research showed that X had become the platform with the largest ratio of posts containing misinformation or disinformation. The company under Musk left the European Commission's anti-disinformation charter in late May after failing its first test.

Jourová also urged tech companies to prepare for numerous national and European elections in the coming months, especially given the “particularly serious" risk that Russia will seek to meddle in them. Slovakia will hold its parliamentary election on Saturday. Poland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will also head to the polls in the coming weeks.

X must comply with the EU's content rules, the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires large tech platforms with over 45 million EU users to mitigate the risks of disinformation campaigns. Failure to follow the rulebook could lead to sweeping fines of up to 6 percent of companies' global annual revenue.

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC’s net neutrality battle is back after years of deadlock, Eva Dou, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The push comes amid widespread grievance with internet service providers — a reflection, some regulators say, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

When the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 asked the public to comment on how to regulate internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, it received more than a million responses. Aggrieved customers crashed the commission’s website. More than 7,800 of the comments contained f-bombs.

“It is absolutely maddening that the FCC would give free rein to this monopoly to screw customers over,” one commenter wrote. “There is no free market competition and it is unamerican.”

The FCC effort became the landmark 2015 decision — known as “net neutrality” — to regulate internet service as a public utility, akin to water or electricity. That classification granted the FCC broad oversight over internet service providers, including ensuring they did not discriminate or charge unreasonable rates.

The agency repealed the rule in 2017 under the Trump administration, arguing that the private sector would make better decisions than the government.

Now the FCC is preparing to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land. The agency argues that restoring the rule will improve consumers’ experience with internet providers — including by enabling it to better track broadband service outages and network reliability.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech Tuesday that due to high costs of entry into the market, there is only one high-speed broadband provider in some parts of the country.

“That provider might be the only game in town,” she said. “You need a referee on the field looking out for the public interest.”

The move came after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the FCC’s fifth commissioner on Monday, breaking a long-standing deadlock at the agency and giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Industry groups have stepped forward to declare that internet providers have not discriminated and will not discriminate, and that FCC regulation is overkill.

“America’s broadband providers are fiercely committed to an open internet. That has not and will not change,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, an industry group representing broadband providers including AT&T and Verizon, in a statement.

The FCC is placing the issue at the top of its agenda and is expected to release the text of the proposed rule Thursday. But the process will take months, and the clock is ticking: If Biden loses the presidential election next year, a Republican administration might repeal the rule again.

If the FCC gives the green light at its Oct. 19 monthly meeting, the agency will embark on a new rulemaking process with public comment.

Rosenworcel said in the speech that she knows it will be a fierce fight. “I have, in fact, been to this rodeo before,” she said.

Unchanged since the last clash: Internet service providers earn some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings in corporate America — a reflection, regulators argue, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

The 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index — calculated from surveys with tens of thousands of consumers — gave internet service providers a score of 68 out of 100, the second-lowest rating among 43 industries. Only gas stations provided consumers with less satisfaction (with a score of 65).

But the technology has evolved since the early debate over net neutrality, when the internet’s pipes were slower and smaller. At the time, economists warned that internet providers had an incentive to throttle certain types of websites — such as bandwidth-heavy video-streaming services like Netflix. Internet providers theoretically could determine which websites lived and died, based on personal preferences, or who could pay the most.

These days, the threat of an internet service provider squeezing Netflix seems less likely. The internet’s pipes have gotten so wide that there is generally enough to go around. After the removal of the net neutrality rule in 2017, there haven’t been reports of an internet provider choking a website to death.

 

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan vs. Jeff Bezos: This Is Big Tech’s Real Cage Match, David Streitfeld, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The chair of the Federal Trade Commission wants to disrupt Amazon, whose founder built a trillion-dollar firm by disrupting retail.

Jeff Bezos made his fortune with one truly big idea: What if a retailer did everything possible to make customers happy?

His forcefully nurtured creation, Amazon, sold as many items as possible as cheaply as possible and delivered them as quickly as possible. The result is that $40 out of every $100 spent online in the United States goes to Amazon and Mr. Bezos is worth $150 billion.

Lina Khan made her reputation with a very different idea: What if pleasing the customer was not enough?

Low prices, she argued in a 95-page examination of Amazon in the Yale Law Journal, can mask behavior that stifles competition and undermines society. Published in 2017 while she was still a law student, it is already one of the most consequential academic papers of modern times.

These two very different philosophies, each pushed by an outsider unafraid of taking risks, at last have their much-anticipated confrontation. The Federal Trade Commission, now run by Ms. Khan after her stunning rise from policy wonk to policy player, on Tuesday filed suit against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. The suit accused Amazon of being a monopolist that used unfair and illegal tactics to maintain its power. Amazon said the suit was “wrong on the facts and the law.”

Mr. Bezos, 59, is no longer in charge of Amazon on a day-to-day basis. He surrendered the chief executive reins to Andy Jassy two years ago. But make no mistake: Mr. Bezos is Amazon’s executive chair and owns more of the company than anyone else. It is his innovations, carried out over more than 20 years, that Ms. Khan is challenging. The F.T.C. complaint quotes him repeatedly.

Silicon Valley spent the summer transfixed by the prospect of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg literally fighting each other, despite the odds of this actually happening being near zero. Ms. Khan and Mr. Bezos are, however, the real thing — a courtroom clash that could have implications far beyond Amazon’s 1.5 million employees, 300 million customers and $1.3 trillion valuation.

If Ms. Khan’s arguments hold sway, the competitive landscape for tech companies will look very different going forward. Big antitrust cases tend to have that effect. The government achieved only a muddled victory in its pursuit of Microsoft 25 years ago. Yet that still had enough force to distract and weaken a much-feared software empire, allowing 1,000 start-ups to bloom, including Amazon.

It’s due largely to Ms. Khan, 34, that imposing major changes on the retailer is even thinkable. After spending a few days interviewing her and those around her for a profile in 2018, I thought she understood Mr. Bezos because she was so much like him. Very few people can see possibilities unseen by others and successfully work toward them for years, getting others to join along the way. But these were attributes they both shared.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

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Top Trump Court Battles, Insurrection Claims

 

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, was accused of playing a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn former president Donald Trump’s Georgia defeat in 2020.

A defendant in the sweeping election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and 18 others in Fulton County, Ga., georgia mapbecame the first to plead guilty on Friday. He also agreed to testify against others.

Scott Hall, a 59-year-old bail bondsman who prosecutors alleged played a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Hall’s status as a first-time offender.

scott graham hall weiner 9 29 2023Hall, shown at left in court with his lawyer, at right, agreed to serve five years of probation and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, to testify “truthfully in this case and all further proceedings.” That could affect the fortunes of those with whom he is alleged to have interacted, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, whose own trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 23, as well as former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

One looming question in the case is how high into the Trump campaign’s hierarchy Hall’s reach extended — and whether the former president or Rudy Giuliani, another co-defendant who led efforts to prove that election fraud had tainted the race, ever interacted with him.

According to an email written by then-state GOP Chairman David Shafer, Hall was acting at the request of David Bossie, the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United — and a relative of Hall’s. Bossie did not respond to requests for comment.

Hall’s plea was one of multiple victories logged Friday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis. The other wins came when a judge denied efforts by Clark and three other co-defendants to move their cases to federal court. Willis launched the investigation into Trump and his allies in February 2021, shortly after the former president’s now-famous phone exhortation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia result.

The sweeping indictment, filed in August, alleges that Trump and his co-defendants operated a vast criminal enterprise for the purpose of illegally reversing Trump’s defeat against Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. All 19 defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering enterprise. Hall had faced six additional charges, including conspiracy to commit computer theft, related to the breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County.

Prosecutors alleged in the 98-page indictment that Hall served as a linchpin of a secretive effort to access and copy Coffee County elections software, working alongside Powell, who allegedly retained the forensic data team that accompanied Hall and others on the trip. As part of his efforts to turn up evidence of voter fraud, Hall gained the ear of top officials not just in Georgia but also in Washington.

In the weeks after the election, Hall also held meetings or had phone conversations with leaders of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, according to people involved. Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2021, he had a 63-minute phone call with Clark, whom prosecutors accused of plotting to delegitimize the vote in Georgia and other states and galvanize slates of contingent pro-Trump electors.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Prosecutors TIGHTEN THE SCREWS on Trump with SURPRISE MOVE, Michael Popok, Sept. 29, 2023. Big news out of Georgia today, with the Fulton County DA announcing PLEA DEALS being offered to Trump lawyers Sydney Powell and Ken Chesebro, AND the Judge, shown above, announcing the possibility that up to 6 MORE TRUMP CO CONSPIRATORS may be tried on 10/23!

Michael Popok of Legal AF explains why this just got bad real fast for Trump under either scenario.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: On Fox News, GOP impeachment leaders spread false claims with impunity, Philip Bump, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Host Sean Hannity assiduously shielded his audience from the facts.

The Republican push to impeach President Biden formally began on Thursday with a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill. By most objective accounts, it was not a huge success for the GOP, featuring witnesses who by their own admission couldn’t provide any evidence incriminating Biden and who were loath to state that such evidence existed.
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But in the creaky machine that is modern American politics, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how the impeachment inquiry is perceived, and in that critical battle, the actual machinations in the hearing room are unimportant. What’s important are the snippets excerpted from the hearing and the extent to which flaws in either side’s case are smoothed over for mass consumption.

By that measure, the hearing was just dandy. Anyone tuning in to Sean Hannity’s prime time Fox News program, for example, learned that Republicans executed a precision strike on the sitting president, offering up evidence that only a buffoon or a hack could deny. This presentation was made easier by Hannity’s playing host to the three Republicans leading the impeachment push — each of whom offered false, baseless or debunked claims to which the Fox News host offered absolutely no pushback.

The assiduously policed right-wing narrative about the president was left unharmed.

Hannity’s show began the way all serious news programs do, with members in the live studio audience chanting “U-S-A!” as the host welcomed them. Hannity then launched into his monologue, his usual articulation of Republican genius and Democratic stupidity with elements of the hearing slotted into the appropriate places.

Someone inclined to be skeptical of Hannity’s daily presentations would very quickly wonder how his audience could continuously suspend disbelief. On Thursday, for example, Hannity alleged illegalities and unethical behavior by Biden that would make a New Jersey senator blush, arguing that the evidence of these actions was unassailable. Yet, he suggested, Democrats are so blinkered or craven that they simply ignore all of this, for days and months on end. And that’s the answer: Democrats would have to be utterly soulless and desperate for power to let this purported proof go unaddressed, so that’s the assumption about Democrats that carries the day.

 

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Hail to the Fraudster in Chief, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). On Tuesday, Justice Arthur F. Engoron paul krugmanruled in New York that Trump did, in fact, persistently commit fraud by overvaluing his assets, possibly by as much as $2.2 billion.

What’s remarkable about Engoron’s finding that Trump committed large-scale fraud (it’s now a ruling, not a mere accusation) is what it says about the man who became president and the voters who supported him.

Back in 2016, some observers warned conventional political analysts that they were underrating Trump’s chances because they didn’t appreciate how many Americans believed that he was a brilliant businessman — a belief based largely on his role on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” What we now know is that the old joke was, in Trump’s case, the simple truth: He wasn’t a real business genius; he just played one on TV.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Donald Trump’s legal team faces more woes, the money is running short, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald Trump’s team has found lawyers for others caught up in his prosecutions and has paid many of their legal bills. That arrangement may not be sustainable.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.

In an interview, Mr. Rowley said he was simply trying to help witnesses who did not have lawyers or did not know how to find one, and that he never sought to influence anyone’s testimony. And legal experts said the voice mail, while somewhat unusual, did not appear to cross any ethical lines.

But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.

Prosecutors have also brought conflict-of-interest questions about some of the arrangements before the courts, and witnesses and co-defendants may begin to face decisions about how closely they want to lash their legal strategies to Mr. Trump’s.

After prosecutors questioned potential conflicts among the lawyers, one key witness in the classified documents case, Yuscil Taveras, replaced his lawyer, who was being paid by Mr. Trump’s PAC and also represented one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta. Mr. Taveras is now represented by a federal public defender and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, has scheduled hearings for next month to consider questions about potential conflicts involving lawyers for Mr. Nauta and for Mr. Trump’s other co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Trial in Fraud Case, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump had sued Justice Arthur Engoron, aiming to push back a case that could begin as soon as Monday.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fraud Case May Cost Him Trump Tower and Other Properties, Rukmini Callimachi, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). If a judge’s ruling stands, Donald Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate.

A New York judge put a spotlight on former President Donald J. Trump’s business empire this week, determining in a ruling that he had inflated the value of his properties by considerable sums to gain favorable terms on loans and insurance.

If the ruling stands, Mr. Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate — an outcome the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sought when she filed a lawsuit last year that accused him of fraud and called for the cancellation of his business certificates for any entities in the state that benefited from deceitful practices.

The ruling by the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court, came before a trial, largely to decide possible penalties, that could begin as early as Monday. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to appeal.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a leading real estate expert have argued that Ms. James’ lawsuit does not properly factor in the Trump brand’s value or take into account the subjective nature of real estate valuations, with borrowers and lenders routinely offering differing estimates.

Nearly a dozen of the properties owned or partly controlled by Mr. Trump and his organization may be subject to Justice Engoron’s ruling. Here are the main ones that are vulnerable, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Trump Tower and Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment, 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan
Trump Tower

Ms. James’s lawsuit claims that the Trump Organization, which is a collection of approximately 500 separate entities that operate for the benefit and under the control of Mr. Trump, used deceptive practices to come up with the highest possible value for Trump Tower.

  • New York Times, Prosecutors said Donald Trump’s lawyers were trying to use an arcane law to delay the documents case trial, Sept. 28, 2023.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Global Tensions, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Police Investigate About 100 Suicides Linked to Canadian Man, Vjosa Isai, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The Canadian police charged Kenneth Law with aiding 14 suicides, including that of Ashtyn Prosser, and 88 other deaths are being reviewed by Britain’s National Crime Agency.

canadian flagThe authorities in Canada and Britain are investigating at least 100 poisoning deaths as suicides tied to the online businesses of a Canadian man accused of selling a toxic salt.

Kenneth Law, 57, of Mississauga, a city west of Toronto, is accused of operating a group of businesses that shipped about 1,200 packages of a toxic salt to people in 40 countries, fulfilling orders placed on his website.

The Canadian authorities have charged him with helping 14 people die by suicide, a number that may grow as investigations into Mr. Law’s businesses continue in Canada and Britain.

In Canada, where investigators said Mr. Law shipped 160 packages, he has been charged by multiple police agencies in Ontario with counseling or aiding suicide. The victims were between 16 and 36 years old.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Evergrande’s Problems Are Only Getting Worse, Sept. 30, 2023. The Chinese property developer’s efforts to restructure more than $300 billion in debt are being complicated by criminal investigations.

  • New York Times, Slovakia’s Election Could Echo in Ukraine. Here’s What to Expect, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).
  • New York Times, How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Pushed Toward the Heart of U.K. Health Care, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Three Killed in Shootings at a Home and a Medical School in Rotterdam, Claire Moses and Emma Bubola, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). A 32-year-old student of the medical school was arrested as a suspect in the shootings, the police said, but a motive remained unclear.

A woman, her teenage daughter and a man were killed on Thursday after a gunman opened fire at a house and a prominent medical school in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, an unusual outburst of gun violence in the city that the police chief called a “black day.”

The Rotterdam police chief, Fred Westerbeke, said at a news conference on Thursday evening local time that a 39-year-old woman and a male teacher at Erasmus Medical Center had been killed. Later, the Rotterdam police announced that the woman’s 14-year-old daughter had died from her injuries. They gave the age of the teacher as 43, correcting earlier statements that gave it as 46. None of the victims were immediately identified.

The Rotterdam police arrested a 32-year-old Erasmus student as a suspect. He was carrying a weapon and wearing a bulletproof vest, the authorities said. He was also not identified. The police said they believed the shooter had acted alone.

Much remained unclear, including a motive and the relationship between the victims and the suspect, who lived on the same street as the woman and her daughter, according to Dutch news media.

 

Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega, shown as a rebel leader in the 1980s and more currently.

Nicaragua's strongman Daniel Ortega, shown as a rebel leader in the 1980s and more currently.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Taking Away Critics’ Citizenship, a Country Takes Their Houses, Frances Robles, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Nicaragua’s government has begun confiscating the homes of former political prisoners and dissidents forced into exile, just as the country did in the 1980s.

nicaragua mapCamilo de Castro, a filmmaker whose work is critical of the government, and the other two homeowners, Gonzalo Carrión and Haydee Castillo, are all human rights activists who are among more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year by the Sandinista government with no rights to citizenship or property. Mr. de Castro and the other two homeowners, Gonzalo Carrión and Haydee Castillo, are all human rights activists who are among more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year by the Sandinista government with no rights to citizenship or property.

Now, the government has started making it official in stark fashion by fanning out and seizing its opponents’ properties, including the homes of two former foreign ministers.

The campaign is a throwback to the leftist party’s first time in office in the 1980s, when the Sandinistas expropriated homes, setting off yearslong legal disputes. The country’s current leader, Daniel Ortega, led the Sandinista revolution that thrust them into power and lives in a house he confiscated decades ago.

Mr. Ortega was beaten at the ballot box in 1990 but after changes to the constitution that made it possible for him to win, Mr. Ortega reclaimed the presidency in 2007. He spent the next decade chipping away at the country’s democracy by interfering with the National Assembly, elections and the Supreme Court.

Tens of thousands of people rose up against Mr. Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, in 2018, accusing them of becoming exactly what they had once fought against: leaders of a dictatorial family dynasty. Government opposition landed hundreds of people in prison, and at least 300 were shot in protests.

Earlier this year 222 political prisoners were released into exile.

The move to start seizing properties in recent days follows the confiscation of a prominent Jesuit university and the arrests of several priests. On Monday, the Sandinistas seized a private business school Harvard University founded nearly 60 years ago. The government’s campaign signals that even five years after a failed uprising, dissent has serious consequences.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Stunningly Sudden End to a Long, Bloody Conflict in the Caucasus, Andrew Higgins and Ivan Nechepurenko, Photographs by Nanna Heitmann, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). After decades of wars and tense stalemates, almost no one saw it coming: Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian control seemingly overnight.

Tens of thousands died fighting for and against it, destroying the careers of two presidents — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani — and tormenting a generation of American, Russian and European diplomats pushing stillborn peace plans. It outlasted six U.S. presidents.

But the self-declared state in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — recognized by no other country — vanished so quickly last week that its ethnic Armenian population had only minutes to pack before abandoning their homes and joining an exodus driven by fears of ethnic cleansing by a triumphant Azerbaijan.

After surviving more than three decades of on-off war and pressure from big outside powers to give up, or at least narrow, its ambitions as a separate country with its own president, army, flag and government, the Republic of Artsakh inside the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan collapsed almost overnight.

Slava Grigoryan, one of the thousands this week who fled Nagorno-Karabakh, said he had only 15 minutes to pack before heading to Armenia along a narrow mountain road controlled by Azerbaijani troops. On the way, he said, he saw the soldiers grab four Armenian men from his convoy and take them away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blast Kills at Least 52 at a Religious Gathering in Pakistan, Zia ur-Rehman and Christina Goldbaum, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The bombing, which officials believe was a suicide attack, was the latest sign of the country’s deteriorating security situation.

At least 52 people were killed on Friday in what officials said they believed was a suicide attack at a religious gathering in southwestern Pakistan, the latest sign of the country’s deteriorating security situation.

The blast occurred around midday in Mastung, a district in Balochistan Province. It targeted a procession of hundreds of people who had gathered for Eid Milad un-Nabi, a holiday celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

New York Times, New Border Crossing: Americans Turn to Mexico for Abortions, Sept. 25, 2023. American women are seeking help from Mexico, crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sikh Separatism Is a Nonissue in India, Except as a Political Boogeyman, Suhasini Raj, Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). India’s feud with Canada highlights how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has amplified a separatist threat that in reality is largely a diaspora illusion.

During his first trip to India as Canada’s prime minister in 2018, Justin Trudeau made a visit to the northern state of Punjab, where he got a photo op in full Punjabi dress at the Golden Temple, the holiest site of the Sikh religion.

He also got, courtesy of the Indian government, an earful of grievances — and a list of India’s most-wanted men on Canadian soil.

The killing this summer of one man on that list, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, has turned into a diplomatic war between India and Canada. Mr. Trudeau claimed this month that Indian agents had orchestrated the assassination inside Canada. India rejected the assertion and accused Canada of ignoring its warnings that Canadian Sikh extremists like Mr. Nijjar were plotting violence in Punjab in hopes of making the state into a separate Sikh nation.

But beyond the recriminations, a more complex story is unfolding in Punjab, analysts, political leaders and residents say. While the Indian government asserts that Canada’s lax attitude toward extremism among its politically influential Sikhs poses a national security threat inside India, there is little support in Punjab for a secessionist cause that peaked in deadly violence decades ago and was snuffed out.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Says It Will Expel U.S. Soldier Who Fled Over the Border, Choe Sang-Hun, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Pvt. Travis King dashed across the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone in July to flee to North Korea.

Pvt. Travis T. King, the American soldier who fled across the inter-Korean border into North Korean territory on July 18, was in United States custody on Wednesday, according to a senior U.S. administration official, after the North’s state news media announced that it had decided to expel him.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the efforts to release Private King.

After 70 days of investigation, North Korea found Private King guilty of “illegally intruding” into its territory and decided to expel him, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The news agency said that Private King had confessed to illegally entering North Korea because, it said, he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army and was disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society.”

North Korea had not said how or when it planned to deport Private King. He had fled to the North through the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea.

There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon.

It is unusual for North Korea to expel an American soldier who has expressed a wish to seek asylum there. In the past, the country allowed American G.I.s who deserted to its side to live and even start families there. It often used them as propaganda tools, casting them as evil United States military officers in anti-American movies.

Private King, 23, had been assigned to South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division. After being released in July from a South Korean detention center where he had spent time on assault charges, he was escorted by U.S. military personnel to Incheon International Airport outside Seoul to board a plane to the United States, where he was expected to face additional disciplinary action.

He never boarded the plane. Instead, he took a bus the next day to the border village of Panmunjom, which lies inside the D​MZ and allows tourists to visit.

The soldier “willfully and without authorization crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Colonel Taylor, the public affairs officer for U.S. Forces Korea, said at the time.

Last month, North Korea said that​ Private King wanted to seek refuge in the isolated Communist country or in a third country. In its announcement on Wednesday, it did not elaborate on why it had decided not to grant his wish.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fire at Wedding Hall in Iraq Kills More Than 100 People, Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Khaleel, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  Eyewitnesses said flares were set off in celebration as the bride and groom danced, and that a fire broke out at astonishing speed.

A fire swept through a wedding hall late Tuesday in a predominantly Christian area of northern Iraq, killing at least 100 people and leaving more than 150 others injured with severe burns or difficulty breathing from smoke inhalation, according to Iraqi officials.

The fire broke out during a wedding in the district of Hamdaniya, southeast of the city of Mosul in the Nineveh Plain, a part of Iraq where Christians have lived for many centuries. The district’s mayor, Issam Behnam, said 85 people from Hamdaniya alone had died, including some of his own relatives.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 20 Dead After Explosion at Nagorno-Karabakh Fuel Depot, Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrés R. Martínez, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The cause of the blast in the breakaway region of Azerbaijan, where thousands have been fleeing for Armenia, was not immediately clear. Hundreds were wounded.

Officials said on Tuesday that at least 20 people had been killed and nearly 300 wounded in an explosion at a fuel depot in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan on Monday.

The cause of the explosion, which produced a large fire that lit up night sky near the city of Stepanakert, was not immediately clear. Witnesses from inside Nagorno-Karabakh reported that it occurred as people lined up to refuel their cars as they were evacuating the enclave.

Thousands of ethnic Armenians have been fleeing the breakaway region for Armenia since a military offensive last week brought the enclave back under Azerbaijan’s control.

Emergency workers took 290 patients “with various degrees of burns” to four different medical facilities after the blast, the health ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tensions With China Cross a New Line in the South China Sea, Sui-Lee Wee, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Philippines is pushing back against China’s territorial claims. But China has been unrelenting, raising worries about an escalation.

China FlagThe video may seem too simple, too understated to mark a serious international incident in the South China Sea: a quick clip of a diver using a knife to cut a section of rope underwater.

But that diver was with the Philippine Coast Guard, and the rope was part of a sea barrier placed by Chinese forces to keep Philippine boats away from an area they had a legal right to fish in. In that moment, the Philippines took one of the most forceful steps yet in contesting China’s unrelenting territorial claims ever closer to the Philippine Islands.

“The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law,” the Philippines said in a statement, adding that the action had come on direct orders from President Ferdinand E. Marcos Jr.

Since he took office in June 2022, Mr. Marcos has signaled wanting a more muscular foreign policy approach toward China. But until now, those actions were confined mostly to rhetoric, deepening alliances with the United States and other countries, and releasing videos of aggressive activities undertaken by the Chinese Coast Guard against Philippine vessels.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blasting Bullhorns and Water Cannons, Chinese Ships Wall Off the South China Sea, Hannah Beech, Photographs and Video by Jes Aznar, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Traveling by boat, Times journalists saw firsthand how the world’s most brazen maritime militarization has transformed a major trade route.

China FlagThe world’s most brazen maritime militarization is gaining muscle in waters through which one-third of global ocean trade passes. Here, on underwater reefs that are known as the Dangerous Ground, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or P.L.A., has fortified an archipelago of forward operating bases that have branded these waters as China’s despite having no international legal grounding. China’s coast guard, navy and a fleet of fishing trawlers harnessed into a militia are confronting other vessels, civilian and military alike.

The mounting Chinese military presence in waters that were long dominated by the U.S. fleet is sharpening the possibility of a showdown between superpowers at a moment when relations between them have greatly worsened. And as Beijing challenges a Western-driven security order that stood for nearly eight decades, regional countries are increasingly questioning the strength of the American commitment to the Pacific.

Semafor, China looms over Biden’s meeting with Pacific leaders, Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant, Sept. 25, 2023.  President Biden will meet with more than a dozen leaders from Pacific nations at the White House today for a summit that will see him establish diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands and Niue.

Climate change will be a major topic of the gathering, but as with many of the administration’s international engagements, China will be looming in the background. At least one leader is skipping the summit — Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare — causing disappointment in the White House. The leaders who are in town were scheduled to attend the Baltimore Ravens game yesterday and receive a briefing from the Coast Guard on U.S. plans to address illegal fishing and maritime issues.

China’s militarized coast guard fleet, recently detailed in the New York Times, might be a natural topic of conversation.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during a frosty meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier in September 2023 (Canadian Press photo by Sean Kilpatrick via Associated Press).

 

More On 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Megadonor Network to Hear Pitches From DeSantis and Haley Camps, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The American Opportunity Alliance will meet in Dallas, as its biggest donors weigh whether investing in any non-Trump candidate remains worthwhile.

A network of megadonors whose biggest members have stayed on the sidelines in the Republican presidential primary will meet next month in Dallas as advisers to two of the candidates hoping to defeat Donald J. Trump will make one of their last pitches for support, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The multiday event will feature advisers to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, according to the two people. It will be hosted by Harlan Crow, the wealthy real-estate developer who backs Republicans and who has recently drawn attention for his friendship with and financial ties to Justice Clarence Thomas. Mr. Crow is hosting a separate fund-raiser for Ms. Haley next week, according to Bloomberg News.

The donor network, known as the American Opportunity Alliance, was founded a decade ago by a group of billionaires, including the hedge fund executive Paul Singer; Kenneth Griffin, another prominent investor; and members of the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs.

Some of its members have been known to be seeking options other than Mr. Trump. Mr. Griffin, in particular, has been vocal about how he is still assessing the field, despite his past support for Mr. DeSantis in his re-election effort as governor. Mr. Griffin, who has said he wants the G.O.P. to move on from Mr. Trump, bluntly told CNBC recently about Mr. DeSantis, “It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s G.O.P. Rivals Must Unite or Die. (They’ll Probably Still Die.), Ross Douthat, right, Sept. 30, 2023.  I’m not ross douthat newersure that an assembly of presidential candidates have ever given off stronger loser vibes, if I may use a word favored by the 45th president of the United States, than the Republicans who debated at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this week.

A snap 538/Washington Post/Ipsos poll and a CNN focus group both showed Ron DeSantis as the night’s winner, and that seems right: After months of campaigning and two debates, DeSantis is still the only candidate not named Donald Trump who has a clear argument for why he should be president and a record that fits his party’s trajectory and mood.

On the stage with his putative rivals, that makes him the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Against Trump himself, that’s probably going to be good for an extremely distant second place.

The path that I (and others) once saw for the Florida governor, where he would run on his political success and voters would drift his way out of weariness with Trump’s destructive impact on Republican fortunes, has been closed off — by DeSantis’s own struggles, the rallying effect of Trump’s indictments, and now by Trump’s solid general-election poll numbers against Joe Biden. The path other pundits claimed to see for non-Trump candidates, where they were supposed to run directly against Trump and call him out as a threat to the Republic, was never a realistic one for anything but a protest candidate, as Chris Christie is currently demonstrating.

So what remains for Trump’s rivals besides loserdom? Only this: They can refuse to simply replay 2016, refuse the pathetic distinction of claiming “momentum” from finishing third in early primaries, and figure out a way to join their powers against Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin to woo national GOP megadonors at retreat, Laura Vozzella, Sept. 30, 2023. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, right, is about to treat dozens of GOP megadonors to some posh Southern hospitality, putting them up for two days at Virginia glenn youngkin headshotBeach’s grande dame historic hotel on his political action committee’s dime.

He did the same a year ago, gifting billionaires with two-day stays at a Charlottesville-area resort boasting mountain views, fine dining — and facetime with the political newcomer teasing a presidential bid.

The mid-October timing for Youngkin’s second “Red Vest Retreat” is a little awkward, with Nov. 7 General Assembly races just three weeks away and the window for launching a credible 2024 White House bid rapidly closing.

Youngkin has insisted that he is focused entirely on Virginia in the run-up to elections that will decide if he can enact his conservative agenda, including a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions. With the House and Senate closely divided and all 140 seats on the ballot, both chambers are up for grabs. No one doubts that Youngkin wants those wins, even if his eye is really on the White House, since losses in his own state would make it tough to pitch himself to the nation.

The Oct. 17-18 gathering at the Historic Cavalier Hotel could serve both purposes, even if it costs the PAC six figures up front in lodging and catering as was the case for last year’s retreat at Keswick Hall, since the well-wooed donors might more than make up for that later with big-dollar donations.

Va. Dems outraise GOP, but Youngkin’s White House buzz helps close gap

But the optics are tricky since Youngkin will spend precious time in the state election’s homestretch hobnobbing with out-of-state donors, some with no clear interest in Virginia. News of the event broke this week in a report claiming that some attendees planned to use the second annual Red Vest Retreat — named for the governor’s signature zip-up campaign attire — to as an opportunity to “draft” Youngkin for president.

“Alarmed Republicans are preparing to draft Glenn Youngkin,” read the headline on an opinion piece that Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News, wrote for The Washington Post. Republican donors unhappy with former president Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field, Costa wrote, plan to use the retreat as a chance to “push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race.”

Officials with Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC did not respond to requests for comment. The only public response was a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from PAC chief Dave Rexrode: “As we’ve said many times before, @GlennYoungkin is solely focused on our Virginia legislative elections … which are already underway.”

The post linked to Costa’s piece, allowing Rexrode to spread word of the alleged “draft” effort even as he swatted it down.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, reacted sharply on X.

“Time for another RINO stooge in a vest to represent the billionaire donor class now that they realize that after 5 or 6 “reboots” DeSantis clearly doesn’t have it,” he tweeted, referring to Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who until recent campaign struggles was considered Trump’s most formidable challenger.

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More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine hits Russia’s Kursk region repeatedly with airstrikes, Mary Ilyushina and David L. Stern, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A Ukrainian drone strike on an electrical substation briefly left 5,000 people without electricity in Russia’s Kursk region, an area where authorities reported strikes and shelling nearly every day during the past week.

ukraine flagThe governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, said Friday that a Ukrainian drone dropped explosives on the substation in the village of Belaya, cutting off power to nearby areas, including a hospital that had to operate on a diesel power generator for some time. The power was restored Friday evening, according to Starovoyt.

Russian Flag“Today our region was massively attacked by Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles, our air defense shot down 10 UAVs,” Starovoyt said in a Telegram message. “Thanks to all our military and concerned citizens who reported on incoming drones.”

There was no immediate official reaction from Kyiv. An official with Ukraine’s SBU security service, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, told The Washington Post on Friday that the substation was shut down as a result of “a successful attack” near the border.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

More On U.S. Auto Workers Strike

 

GM Ford

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws a tantrum after his plan backfires, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Donald Trump has mostly spent bill palmerthe past two and a half years in hiding, only occasionally surfacing in public (and coming off as senile whenever he has).

bill palmer report logo headerFor the most part Trump has simply sat at home and whined about how horribly things are going for him, even as he’s been indicted and arrested over and over again. He’s finished, and on his more lucid days, he knows it.

But Trump is still pretending he’s a 2024 candidate, and so he has to occasionally surface in order to keep up appearances. To that end, he and his handlers were planning to have him hold an event with autoworkers this week. Trump and his Republican Party are exceedingly anti-union, but this was Trump’s attempt at goading a complicit media into portraying him as caring about the working class.

uaw logoThe thing is, President Joe Biden and his people are far more politically savvy than a senile Trump or his inept advisers. So Biden is now set to join striking autoworkers on the picket line, in a move that will get far more publicity than Trump’s autoworker photo op. To give you an idea of just how badly this is backfiring on Trump, he’s now throwing a complete fit about it.

Trump is now insisting that he only set up his autoworker event to try to get President Biden “off his lazy a..” – as if anyone is going to believe that. Trump then announced to autoworkers that “MAKE YOU RICH.” Well okay then.

What we’re seeing is Donald Trump losing, knowing that he’s losing, and whining about how he’s losing. If he thought he was clever for scheduling a one-off autoworker event, suffice it to say that President Biden has all too easily figured out how to outwit Trump. That’s partly because Trump is senile, and partly because Biden is really good at this.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. Will Expand Strikes at Ford and General Motors, Neal E. Boudette, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The United Automobile Workers union said 7,000 more of its members would walk off the job two weeks after it began strikes at the Big Three automakers.

uaw logoThe United Automobile Workers union increased the pressure on Ford Motor and General Motors by extending its strike to two more car assembly plants on Friday, saying the companies had not moved far enough to meet its demands for higher pay and benefits.

The move is the second escalation of strikes that started on Sept. 15 at three plants, one each owned by G.M., Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. The union said it would not expand the strike against Stellantis this week because of progress in negotiations there.

The U.A.W.’s president, Shawn Fain, said workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a G.M. factory in Lansing, Mich., would walk off the job on Friday. G.M. makes the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse sport-utility vehicles at the Lansing plant. Ford makes the Explorer, the Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator in Chicago.

llewellyn king photo logo

 White House Chronicle, Opinion: The Folly of Biden on the Picket Line, Llewellyn King, Sept. 30, 2023. The United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, formerly Chrysler, no matter the merits of the workers’ yearnings, shouldn’t have happened. Once it got going, it shouldn’t have lasted. The White House should have spoken.

Already there is damage. Ford has “paused” plans to build a $3.5-billion battery plant in Michigan. If the strike drags on or if the industry bows to the most damaging demand in the union’s wish list (a 32-hour work week), then the production of EVs and battery leadership will be ceded to other countries. U.S. automakers’ dependence on China — the world ’s top battery maker for EVs — will continue.

The U.S. auto industry is starting its EV surge behind others, and it will suffer mightily if the UAW doesn’t return to work.

In this circumstance, with so much at stake, it would be reasonable to expect President Joe Biden to have both sides closeted at Camp David and to be “knocking heads together.”

The president is the ultimate arbitrator, the one we look to for guidance and to tell us what is best. Yet, instead of bringing both sides together in the national interest, Biden has chosen sides, and chosen to walk the picket line.

Even Steven Rattner, the Democrats’ mechanic when it comes to auto issues, has said this is wrong.

Rattner — whom I caroused with when he was reporter at The New York Times, before he became fabulously rich on Wall Street — is through-and-through a Democrat and one of the party’s intellectuals. In 2009, he authored the rescue plan for the auto industry. At that time, it looked like General Motors and Chrysler were headed for permanent closure.

What was Biden thinking? Why did he abandon the high ground of the presidency?

How can Biden now sit down and bring both sides to the table to negotiate in good faith? He has already declared his allegiance to one.

I believe in the value of unions: guarantors of middle-class life for many. I am not just saying that. I have lived it.

I was once the president of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. I am very proud of the financial settlement we got on my watch for reporters and editors at The Washington Post. It was a breakthrough: a 67 percent pay raise over three years.

The newspaper industry was very prosperous at the time, whereas reporters and editors were poorly paid. It was long before the internet would crush the industry, reducing it to its present state of poverty and collapse. We were asking for some of the goodies we had created. There was no danger of The Washington Post moving to China.

Sadly, the unions have been slow to adjust to new realities. They are stuck in a mindset of the days when we were a country of industrial robber barons and industrial unions made sense. Now we are a service economy desperately seeking re-industrialize. EVs are important in that effort.

I ran into outdated union thinking head-on at the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. Although we were largely autonomous, we were a chapter of the American Newspaper Guild, our head office.

I had a proposal for simplifying work schedules for editorial staff. My proposal was that editorial staff work three days — 10 to 12 hours a day — and have three days off. My colleagues loved it, The Washington Post management saw it as a solution to overtime and weekend staffing problems. I had seen it work well at the BBC in London, where it was standard practice.

The ANG head office went berserk: It was a betrayal of union history and the “model” contract, written by the legendary reporter, columnist and ANG founder, Heywood Broun, in 1935. In ongoing negotiations with The Post, I dropped the proposal to everyone’s regret. That kind of legacy thinking is what has been killing unions and unionism.

There is a backstory to the Hollywood writers’ strike and the auto workers’ stoppage: artificial intelligence. It will change lives and is a threat to the kind of work unions have protected.

Biden might well have chosen the strikes as a chance to bring about settlements, but also to begin a national dialogue on AI.

Instead, Biden walked a picket line, resolving nothing.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS.

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist gets 6-year sentence in child pornography case, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A former national security journalist who worked for ABC News until his apartment was searched last year in a child pornography investigation was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

abc news logoJames Gordon Meek pleaded guilty in July to possessing explicit images and videos of minors, and sharing them with two other users on a smartphone messaging app called Kik in 2020. The FBI seized several devices during a search of Meek’s apartment in Arlington County, Va., last year, and Meek admitted they contained “dozens of images and at least eight videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to court filings.

At his sentencing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Meek asked his victims and his family for forgiveness and said he should have used his reporting skills to help victims of online sexual abuse instead of contributing to their exploitation.

“I was a journalist. I wrote countless stories about the misconduct of others,” he told Judge Claude M. Hilton. “I broke federal law, I violated God’s law, and I undermined my own personal ethos of always helping others. … I need you to hold me accountable.”

The investigation into Meek, an Emmy-winning producer who covered wars, terrorism and major crimes, began with a tip from the file storage company Dropbox about digital materials on an account he had registered, according to court records.

Authorities alleged that Meek also communicated online with minors, persuading at least one girl to send photographs showing nudity, although his guilty plea was based strictly on possessing and sharing child sexual abuse materials. Defense attorney Eugene Gorokhov noted throughout the case that Meek was not accused of physically meeting or abusing minors.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia requested a prison sentence of 12½ to nearly 16 years, arguing that Meek shared “images and videos of prepubescent children, including infants, being forcibly raped and exploited for the sexual pleasure of adults on the internet.”

One of Meek’s victims described what it felt like to be repeatedly victimized: “The first time was being abused and the second time is the ongoing anxiety due to the images of my abuse forever accessible,” according to a statement quoted by prosecutors.

“Not only were they traumatized by the initial sexual abuse that was captured on film, but they are also further victimized through the ongoing distribution and consumption of depictions of their abuse,” federal prosecutors Zoe Bedell and Whitney Kramer wrote in a court filing.

Gorokhov, who asked the judge to impose a prison sentence of five years, said Meek began to struggle with his mental health as he covered the horrors of war and terrorism, ultimately developing “this disease, this illness, this curse” as a coping mechanism.

“There’s going to be a breaking point,” Gorokhov said, noting that Meek also had files on his electronic devices showing “torture, executions, beheadings, human-rights atrocities” because of the kind of reporting he practiced.

Before joining ABC, Meek worked for the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, “where he advised top congressional leaders and held a top-secret clearance,” according to his attorney.

“The sentence in this case represents a rejection of the picture of Mr. Meek that the government tried to present,” Gorokhov said after the hearing. “We are grateful to the court for taking a careful look at the facts, accurately assessing those facts, and recognizing that Mr. Meek’s worst moments do not define him. ”

Meek said he did not know any of the young people depicted in the evidence against him but that he had read accounts from two of the female victims.

“I should have helped you find accountability,” he said.

Politico, IRS consultant charged in massive leak of taxpayer data, DOJ said, Brian Faler, Sept. 29, 2023. Charles Littlejohn stole the files while working as a government contractor and gave them to the news organization. The leak astonished many IRS veterans because tax filings are subject to elaborate safeguards and leaks are rare. 

politico CustomA consultant for the IRS has been chargedwith leaking the private tax information of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people to a prominent news outlet, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

irs logoThe agency said Charles Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., stole the files while working as a government contractor and gave them to the news organization. The agency doesn’t name the outfit, though it appears to be referring to ProPublica.

It also says he leaked information about an unnamed public official to a second unnamed news organization.

Justice Department log circularHe faces a maximum five years in prison, the Justice Department said.

pro publica logoThe announcement comes more than two years after ProPublica said it had obtained a massive trove of information about the taxes of wealthy people, many of them well known, and began publishing a series of stories showing they paid little or nothing in taxes.

The leak astonished many IRS veterans because tax filings are subject to elaborate safeguards and leaks are rare.

Adding to the mystery was the silence of Biden administration officials, who had said virtually nothing publicly about the leak or how it had happened. Republicans accused Democrats of disclosing the information in hopes of fueling their push in Congress to raise taxes on the rich.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Great Read: The Lawyer Trying to Hold Gunmakers Responsible for Mass Shootings, Michael Steinberger, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Josh Koskoff’s victory against Remington has raised the possibility of a new form of gun control: lawsuits against the companies that make assault rifles.

nra logo CustomIt was Koskoff’s first visit to Highland Park and first time he had come to see the Uvaldo family. When the Uvaldos began contemplating legal action against Smith & Wesson, they were directed to Koskoff, a lawyer based in Bridgeport, Conn., because of a landmark case that he won several months before Eduardo’s death: In February 2022, a $73 million settlement was announced in a lawsuit that Koskoff brought against the gun maker Remington on behalf of families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.

An AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, which at the time was owned by Remington, was used in the 2012 shooting that left 20 first graders and six adults dead. Because Remington was in bankruptcy, its insurers negotiated the agreement.

While it was believed to be a record settlement in a case involving a firearms manufacturer, the real significance of Soto v. Bushmaster was not the payout but that it ever reached the point where the insurance companies felt compelled to make a deal. Federal law provides broad immunity to gun makers from tort litigation, or civil law complaints. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, enacted by Congress in 2005, was thought to have essentially eliminated any possibility of holding them accountable for crimes committed with their weapons. PLCAA included several exceptions, however, and Koskoff, a medical malpractice and personal-injury lawyer who had no prior experience of gun litigation, used two of them to pursue Remington. Soto was not the first case to test the limits of PLCAA, but it is the only one filed since the law took effect that has arguably succeeded in pinning responsibility for a mass shooting on a gun company (although it bears repeating that it wasn’t Remington but its insurers who settled).

Koskoff’s unexpected victory jolted the gun industry and energized gun-control advocates. Soto “pierced the shield that PLCAA provided,” says Adam Winkler, a U.C.L.A. law professor and Second Amendment expert. Koskoff’s win came against a backdrop of despair about gun violence in America.duane keefe d davis

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Is Charged With Murder in Tupac Shakur Case, Julia Jacobs and Joe Coscarelli, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The man, a former gang leader named Duane Keith Davis, has said the four shots that killed the rapper in 1996 came from the vehicle he was riding in.

A man who has spoken publicly for years about having witnessed the drive-by shooting of the rapper Tupac Shakur from inside the car where the shots were fired was indicted on a murder charge, Las Vegas prosecutors announced on Friday, more than 25 years after the killing became a defining tragedy in the history of hip-hop.

The man, Duane Keith Davis, has said in interviews and a memoir that he was in the passenger seat of the white Cadillac that pulled up near the vehicle holding Shakur on a night in 1996, after a Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon prizefight in Las Vegas. Shot four times, the 25-year-old rapper died at a hospital less than a week later.

A grand jury in Clark County indicted Davis on one count of murder with use of a deadly weapon and with the intent to promote, further or assist a criminal gang, a prosecutor said in court on Friday. The prosecutor said Davis was in custody; his arrest was first reported by The Associated Press.

Talk of the case was revived in July, when the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department executed a search warrant at a home in Henderson, Nev., that was connected to Davis.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Rare Alliance, Democrats and Republicans Seek Legal Power to Clear Homeless Camps, Shawn Hubler, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Dozens of leaders, mostly from Western states, have asked the Supreme Court to overturn lower court decisions that restrict enforcement against public camping.

Garbage, feces and needles run through the rivers in Missoula, Mont. On the streets of San Francisco, tents are so thick that sidewalks in the Tenderloin neighborhood have become “unofficial open-air public housing.” In Portland, Ore., a blaze shut down an on-ramp to the Steel Bridge for several days in March after campers tunneled through a cinder block wall and lit a campfire to stay warm.

In a surge of legal briefs this week, frustrated leaders from across the political spectrum, including the liberal governor of California and right-wing state legislators in Arizona, charged that homeless encampments were turning their public spaces into pits of squalor, and asked the Supreme Court to revisit lower court decisions that they say have hobbled their ability to bring these camps under control.

The urgent pleas come as leaders across the country, and particularly in the West, have sought to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and restore normalcy in cities. In more than two dozen briefs filed in an appeal of a decision on homeless policies in a southern Oregon town, officials from nearly every Western state and beyond described desolate scenes related to a proliferation of tent encampments in recent years.

They begged the justices to let them remove people from their streets without running afoul of court rulings that have protected the civil rights of homeless individuals.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Marshals settle decades-old claims of racism by hundreds of employees, María Luisa Paúl and Hannah Knowles, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). It was over 29 years ago that Matthew Fogg, a retired chief deputy U.S. marshal, first filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service, alleging that a toxic environment of racism and discrimination permeated one of the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agencies and undercut career advancement opportunities for its Black employees.

Since then, the suit’s class — estimated to include more than 700 current and former Black deputy marshals and detention enforcement officers, plus thousands of Black applicants who were not hired — had been stuck in a sort of legal limbo, as the case was dismissed, reinstated and expanded over nearly three decades.

That is until Tuesday, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against job discrimination and harassment, granted preliminary approval of a $15 million settlement in one of the longest-running racial discrimination class actions in history.

“It’s a great sense of relief in a case that went on for an unusual length of time,” David Sanford, lead counsel for the class, told The Washington Post. “This was hard-fought over many years, with a lot of litigation, a lot of depositions, a lot of documents, a lot of people, a lot of witnesses — all leading to a legal battle that lasted for decades. But fortunately, it’s over now.”

Marshals Service employees have alleged racism for decades. Their case may finally be heard.

Throughout the litigation process, the U.S. Marshals Service denied wrongdoing. Though an equal-employment expert hired by the plaintiffs found that Black employees were significantly underrepresented in prestigious divisions and for promotions between 2007 and 2012, the agency argued that the analysis was flawed. A Marshals Service spokesman declined to comment on the class action’s allegations and instead referred The Post to a news release announcing that a settlement had been reached.

A final approval of the settlement is expected early next year, Sanford said. The agreement’s terms also stipulate that the Marshals Service will institute measures meant to enhance inclusion and transparency in its recruitment and promotions processes, as well as provide implicit-bias training to its employees — something Sanford said he hoped would achieve greater equity not only within the service, but across the federal government.

“This was another wake-up call for the federal government,” he said. “The federal government should be the shining light and standard by which everyone else operates. This shows that the U.S. government, like so many entities in corporate America, has fallen short. But hopefully as a result of the settlement, things will be better in the future at the Marshals Service and in the rest of the government.”

Yet for some plaintiffs, settling for $15 million in a court case that has spanned five U.S. presidencies — even as some of its plaintiffs have died — seemed like too little, too late.

“It’s a joke,” said Fogg, for whom the class action is named. He said he and other Black former employees believe the number reached is far too low.

Under the settlement, people who have been class agents and given depositions, like Fogg, will get more of the total, he said. But he still thinks the settlement is unfair, particularly because the case dragged on for so long.

Emptywheel, Analysis: Hunter Biden Threatens to Make Robert Costello's Dalliance with Rudy Giuliani Even More Costly, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Sept. 26-27, 2023. As he did with Garrett Ziegler, Hunter Biden has sued Rudy Gialiani and Robert Costello for hacking his data. These lawsuits provide basis to claim that DE USAO is pursuing Hunter for misdemeanor tax charges, while ignoring the way the President's son was and continues to be serially hacked by his father's opponents.

CT News Junkie, Dannehy Confirmed As Supreme Court Justice, Mike Savino, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Gov. Ned Lamont’s nominee, Nora Dannehy, for the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Senate approved the appointment of Dannehy with a 31-2 vote, followed by a 120-18 tally in the House.

“I have no doubt that she has the moral compass as well as the intellectual gravitas and wealth of knowledge and, actually, moderate hand on the till to make fair and even handed decisions,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

Dannehy, of Glastonbury, will fill the position of former Justice Maria Araújo Kahn, who resigned earlier this year after being confirmed to serve as a judge in a federal appeals court.

Her legal career includes service in both the public and private sectors. She was the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut and led prosecution of the corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

She was also deputy attorney general under former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, general counsel to Lamont and an associate general counsel for United Technology, now Rayhteon.

Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Dannehy “has a long history in our legal community” and a “record that is outstanding.”

She did draw some opposition, including from lawmakers who raised concerns about her lack of experience as a judge at any level.

“Without any experience sitting on a court, I have a real problem with that,” Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, said. Mastrofrancesco was one of the 18 opponents in the House.

craig fishbeinRep. Craig Fishbein, left, R-Wallingford, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said he shared those concerns, but ultimately supported Dannehy’s appointment. He said he was impressed with her answers during a hearing before the committee earlier this month.

“The governor has the power to select anyone, generally, in the world to be on the Connecticut Supreme Court,” Fishbein also said.

Other lawmakers said they were particularly impressed with her explanation for her 2020 departure from an inquiry into how federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies came to investigate whether Russian entities interfered in the 2016 election.

Dannehy told lawmakers she quit the probe due to actions by former President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, who pressured investigators to potentially release an incomplete and misleading report.

Rep. Steven Stafstrom, R-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the answer, along with Dannehy’s other responses, showed a “sense of ethics and fairness”.

Opponents also pointed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders during COVID, including his decision requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients. Dannehy was Lamont’s general counsel at the time.

“The despair that my family has had to endure as a result of many persistent and unrelenting executive orders is a burden that will impact our lives forever,” said Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, whose father died of COVID in a nursing home.

Winfield spoke glowingly of Dannehy, but said he spoke with Lamont’s office during the process about the need for more diversity among judicial nominees.

“I think there’s a concern about making sure that our bench is reflective of the various experiences that folks have,” Winfield said.

He added he was concerned about both the racial and ethnic diversity of judges at all levels, and about the high ratio of judges who were previously prosecutors.

Lamont’s first nomination was Sandra Slack Glover, appellate chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. Glover withdrew her nomination after it became clear she could win over the Judiciary Committee, in part because she signed a 2017 letter endorsing current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett for a post on an appellate court.

Barrett’s eventual role in overturning Roe v. Wade, through the controversial Dobbs decision, was a major point of contention throughout Glover’s confirmation hearing in May.

washington post logoWashington Post, Target to close nine stores, blames violence tied to organized theft, Jaclyn Peiser, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The retailer plans to shutter three stores in Portland, Ore., two in Seattle, one in New York and three in the San Francisco-Oakland area. 

Target said Tuesday that it will close nine stores in urban areas across four states, citing increased violence related to theft and organized retail crime.

By Oct. 21, three stores in Portland, Ore., two in Seattle, one in New York and three in the San Francisco-Oakland area will shut down. Retail crime at those locations has reached a level that threatens safety and “business performance,” Target said.

“We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all,” the company said in a news release.

Some employees will have the opportunity to transfer to other stores, the company said.

Target has been vocal about its troubles with theft and organized retail crime. Chief executive Brian Cornell said on a second-quarter earnings call last month that stores saw a “120 percent increase in theft incidents involving violence or threats of violence” during the first five months of the year.

Target said in May that shrink — the depletion of inventory caused by something other than sales — accounted for $500 million in losses. But Michael Fiddelke, its chief financial officer, did not specify how much for that can be attributed to external theft.

Shoplifting, organized crime and violence have become significant concerns for regional and national retailers. Home Depot, Lowe’s, Dollar Tree, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ulta are among those that flagged shrink during recent earnings calls. Growing losses have spurred giants such as Walmart to also shutter locations.

A D.C. grocery store is removing Tide, Colgate and Advil to deter theft

External theft accounted for an average of 36 percent of shrink-related losses at physical stores in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation’s security survey.

“The situation is only becoming more dire,” David Johnston, the retail federation’s vice president for asset protection and retail operations, said in a news release Tuesday. “Far beyond the financial impact of these crimes, the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority for all retailers, regardless of size or category.”

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More On Prosecutions Of Trump, Allies

ny times logoNew York Times, A federal judge denied Donald Trump’s request that she recuse herself in his elections trial, Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected arguments from the former president’s legal team that she could not fairly conduct his trial on federal charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

The judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election denied on Wednesday his attempt to disqualify her from the case for supposedly being biased against him.

In a strongly worded order, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan of Federal District Court in Washington, rejected claims by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that she had shown bias against the former president in statements she made from the bench in two cases related to the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021.

In the order, Judge Chutkan not only chided Mr. Trump’s lawyers for putting words in her mouth, but she also asserted that the remarks did not betray any animus or unfairness toward Mr. Trump that would warrant the extraordinary step of removing her from the election interference case.

“The statements certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible,” she wrote.

Seeking to disqualify a judge is a challenging and precarious move — one that, if it fails (which it often does), runs the risk of annoying the person granted the power to make critical decisions in the case. Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed their recusal motion two weeks ago, after Judge Chutkan handed them a significant defeat by scheduling the trial for March, much earlier than they had requested, but before they had filed any substantive motions to attack the charges Mr. Trump is facing.

A judge’s decision to remain on a case is generally not subject to an immediate appeal — though Mr. Trump’s lawyers could in theory try. Judge Chutkan’s ruling not to disqualify herself came as she considers a potentially significant development in the case: whether to grant the government’s request to impose a gag order on Mr. Trump’s public statements about the case.

In asking Judge Chutkan to step aside, Mr. Trump’s lawyers cited statements she had made about the former president at hearings for two defendants facing sentencing for crimes they committed on Jan. 6.

At one of the hearings, in October 2022, Judge Chutkan told the defendant, Christine Priola, a former occupational therapist in the Cleveland school system, that the people who “mobbed” the Capitol that day showed “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”

At the other hearing, in December 2021, Judge Chutkan told Robert Palmer, a Florida man who had hurled a fire extinguisher at police officers, that the “people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.

 

djt mug fulton county

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s lawyers said a gag order in an election case would strip him of his First Amendment rights, Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump against federal charges accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election offered an outraged response on Monday to the government’s request for a gag order, saying the attempt to “muzzle” him during his presidential campaign violated his free speech rights.

Justice Department log circularIn a 25-page filing, the lawyers sought to turn the tables on the government, accusing the prosecutors in the case of using “inflammatory rhetoric” themselves in a way that “violated longstanding rules of prosecutorial ethics.”

“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” one of the lawyers, Gregory M. Singer, wrote. “The court should reject this transparent gamesmanship.”

The papers, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came 10 days after prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, to impose a narrow gag order on Mr. Trump. The order, they said, was meant to curb Mr. Trump’s “near-daily” barrage of threatening social media posts and to limit the effect his statements might have on witnesses in the case and on the potential jury pool for the trial. It is scheduled to take place in Washington starting in March.

The lawyers’ attempt to fight the request has now set up a showdown that will ultimately have to be resolved by Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has herself experienced the impact of Mr. Trump’s menacing words.

One day after the former president wrote an online post in August saying, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Judge Chutkan received a voice mail message in her chambers from a woman who threatened to kill her. (The woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has since been arrested.)

Gag orders limiting what trial participants can say outside of court are not uncommon, especially to constrain pretrial publicity in high-profile cases. But the request to gag Mr. Trump as he solidifies his position as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a current of political tension into what was already a fraught legal battle.

That tension has only been heightened by the fact that Mr. Trump has placed the election interference case — and the three other criminal indictments he is facing — at the heart of his campaign.

His core political argument — that he is being persecuted, not prosecuted — may be protected in some ways by the First Amendment but has also put him on what could be a collision course with Judge Chutkan. Early in the case, she warned Mr. Trump that she would take measures to ensure the integrity of the proceedings and to keep him from intimidating witnesses or tainting potential jurors.


Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump told a gun store he’d like to buy a Glock pistol, which is raising legal questions, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Officials have increasingly voiced concerns about threats of violence related to the former president’s trials, as he faces charges that would make it illegal for a store to sell him a firearm.

A spokesman for former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Monday showing him at a gun shop in South Carolina, declaring that he had just bought a Glock pistol.

The post on X, formerly known as Twitter, included video of Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for president who is facing four criminal indictments. He looked over the dullish gold firearm, a special Trump edition Glock that depicts his likeness and says “Trump 45th,” as he visited the Palmetto State Armory outlet in Summerville, S.C. “I want to buy one,” he said twice in the video.

“President Trump buys a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!” his spokesman, Steven Cheung, wrote in his post. The video showed Mr. Trump among a small crowd of people and posing with a man holding the gun. A voice can be heard saying, “That’s a big seller.”

The statement immediately set off an uproar and prompted questions about whether such a purchase would be legal. Mr. Trump is under indictment on dozens of felony counts in two different cases related to his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election and to his possession of reams of classified documents after he left office.

There were also questions about whether the store could sell a firearm to Mr. Trump if people there knew that he was under indictment.

Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge in the case that accuses Mr. Trump of breaking several laws in his efforts to stay in office to impose a limited gag order after he made repeated threats against prosecutors and witnesses in various cases against him. Mr. Trump’s lawyers were under a late-Monday-night deadline to respond to the government’s request for the order.

But within two hours of the initial post on social media, Mr. Cheung deleted his post, and issued a statement saying, “President Trump did not purchase or take possession of the firearm. He simply indicated that he wanted one.”

A man who answered a phone registered to the shop’s owner hung up when a reporter called. A salesperson at the Summerville location, who declined to give her name or answer additional questions, said Mr. Trump had not bought a gun.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Looming Rulings Could Shape Trump’s Fraud Trial in New York, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump has adopted a long-shot legal strategy to try to delay his upcoming civil trial and severely limit the case against him.

After four years of investigating and litigating, Letitia James was finally due for her day in court against Donald J. Trump.

But with that day fast approaching — a trial in her civil fraud lawsuit against him is scheduled to start on Oct. 2 — the former president’s lawyers threw a legal Hail Mary that could delay the case and seeks to gut it altogether.

The last-ditch move that left the trial in limbo came in a familiar form for the famously litigious Mr. Trump: He filed a lawsuit.

His targets were Ms. James, the New York attorney general, and the judge overseeing the trial, Arthur F. Engoron. Mr. Trump’s lawsuit argues that they ignored a June appeals court ruling that excused Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, from the case and also raised the notion that some of the accusations against the former president and his company might be too old to go to trial.

Mr. Trump’s lawsuit — and in turn the fate of Ms. James’s case against him — hinges on a passage in the June appeals court ruling that has become a legal Rorschach test of sorts, in which each side sees what they want. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are convinced that the June ruling effectively tossed out the claims against him, while Ms. James’s team has argued that it had little effect on the accusation at the heart of her case — that Mr. Trump overstated his net worth by billions of dollars in his annual financial statements.

Christopher M. Kise, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, recently argued to Justice Engoron that Ms. James’s legal strategy was predicated on ignoring the appeals court’s decision.

“The foundation of the case is ignore everything except for what they want you to focus on,” he said. Mr. Kise separately asked the appeals court to delay the trial while it considered Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against Ms. James and Justice Engoron. One of the appeals court judges granted a provisional delay, which teed up the case to be considered by the full appellate court panel.

The attorney general’s office called Mr. Trump’s lawsuit “brazen and meritless,” saying in court papers that it reflected a complete misunderstanding of the June appeals court decision. The decision, Ms. James’s office argued, left it up to Justice Engoron to decide which claims against Mr. Trump can stay and which are so old that they must go.

The high-stakes battle is coming to a head this week, with Justice Engoron expected to issue his ruling by Tuesday. He has already expressed sympathy with some of Ms. James’s arguments: At a court appearance last week, addressing Mr. Kise, Justice Engoron pounded his fist in apparent frustration and remarked, “You cannot make false statements and use them in business.”

After Justice Engoron decides which of Ms. James’s claims can proceed to trial, the appeals court is expected to rule on Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against Ms. James and Justice Engoron, perhaps as soon as Thursday, according to a spokesman for the New York State Court system.

When the appeals court issues its ruling, there is no telling whether it will resolve the confusion about its original decision in June. It could simply decide that the timing of Mr. Trump’s lawsuit was improper and allow the trial to proceed as planned, potentially with major repercussions for the future of the former president’s family business. (Ms. James is seeking a roughly $250 million penalty and wants to oust Mr. Trump and his adult sons from leading their own company).

But if the appeals court sides with Mr. Trump, it could delay or defang the case before the trial even begins.

Some legal experts said that was unlikely to happen. David B. Saxe, who served nearly 20 years on the same appeals court, said the lawsuit seemed like an attempt to interfere with Justice Engoron’s implementation of that court’s June order. “I think it won’t fare well,” he said.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Jack Smith COMPLETELY OUTMANEUVERS Trump’s DUMB Legal Team, Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok on Legal AF discuss how Special Counsel Jack Smith has Trump’s lawyers out resourced and out matched, as he turns a close Trump confidant into a key witness for the prosecution in both the Mar a Lago AND Election Interference criminal cases.

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More On Climate, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Decades Later, Closed Military Bases Remain a Toxic Menace, Ralph Vartabedian, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Cities hoped for new businesses and housing on former military sites. But many are still waiting for pollution to be cleaned up.

For much of the 20th century, Fort Ord was one of the largest light infantry training bases in the country, a place where more than a million U.S. Army troops were schooled in the lethal skills of firing a mortar and aiming a rifle — discharging thousands of rounds a day into the scenic sand dunes along the coast of central California.

Later, when it became clear with the end of the Cold War that the colossal military infrastructure built up to fight the Soviet Union would no longer be necessary, Fort Ord was one of 800 U.S. military bases, large and small, that were shuttered between 1988 and 2005.

The cities of Seaside and Marina, Calif., where Fort Ord had been critical to the local economy, were left with a ghost town of clapboard barracks and decrepit, World War II-era concrete structures that neither of the cities could afford to tear down. Also left behind were poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue, a toxic legacy that in some areas of the base remains largely where the Army left it.

Across the country, communities were promised that closed bases would be restored, cleaned up and turned over for civilian use — creating jobs, spurring business growth and providing space for new housing.
But the cleanup has proceeded at a snail’s pace at many of the facilities, where future remediation work could extend until 2084 and local governments are struggling with the cost of making the land suitable for development.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battling a Water Crisis: Bottles, Barges and Maybe a Quarter-Billion-Dollar Pipe, Jacey Fortin, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A wedge of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is moving up the drought-drained Mississippi River, threatening public health in New Orleans and beyond.

People in New Orleans are used to preparing for hurricanes and floods. So when they learned of a new threat — an infusion of salty water creeping slowly up the Mississippi River, threatening municipal drinking water supplies — they did what comes naturally: strip bottled water from grocery store shelves.

But this is a crisis with even more lead time than a storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico: The worst of the saltwater intrusion isn’t expected to reach the city until late October. And the salty water could stick around for much longer, potentially corroding the city’s lead-lined pipes.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” said Jesse Keenan, a climate adaptation expert at Tulane University.

The crisis is a result of drought conditions in the Midwest, which have sapped water levels in the Mississippi, allowing salty water from the Gulf to creep upstream beneath a freshwater layer.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the “saltwater wedge,” which has already affected communities downstream, could reach water treatment plants near New Orleans in about a month, pushing the salty water into household faucets. About a million people across southeastern Louisiana could be affected.

Bottled water was scarce on store shelves in southeastern Louisiana, including at Fremin’s Food Market in Port Sulphur. It’s unclear how long the saltwater intrusion could last.Credit...Emily Kask for The New York Times
Three jugs of distilled water on otherwise empty store shelves.

Officials are working to slow the influx by strengthening an underwater sill, or levee, at the bottom of the Mississippi, and preparing to ship tens of millions of gallons of fresh water from upstream by barge to affected treatment facilities on a daily basis.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Invasive Mosquito Threatens Catastrophe in Africa, Stephanie Nolen, Photographs by Tiksa Negeri, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A malaria-carrying species that thrives in urban areas and resists all insecticides is causing outbreaks in places that have rarely faced the disease.

At its center is Anopheles stephensi, a malaria-carrying species of mosquito that arrived in the port city of the tiny East African nation of Djibouti a decade ago and was largely ignored by public health officials. It is resistant to all insecticides and has adapted to thrive in urban environments and survive in dry seasons. It is now breeding in locations across the center of the continent, and entomologists say further spread is inevitable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mosquitoes are a growing threat to public health, reversing years of progress, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Climate change and the rapid evolution of the insect have helped drive up malaria deaths and brought dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses to places that never had to worry about them.

  • New York Times, Insecticides can’t stop these mosquitoes. Now what? Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, With Climate Change, Smaller Storms Are Growing More Fearsome, More Often, Hilary Howard, Sept. 30, 2023. The storm that produced vast flooding in New York City started out as an unremarkable, if unpredictable, weather system.

ny times logoNew York Times, Years of Graft Doomed 2 Dams in Libya, Leaving Thousands in Muddy Graves, Vivian Yee, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Repair work was agreed on but never finished, and Derna paid the price. Experts say infrastructure projects have long been neglected by corrupt officials.

For years, the two aging dams loomed in the mountains above the Libyan city of Derna, riddled with cracks and fissures, threatening the thousands of people living in the valley below.

A Turkish company, Arsel Construction, was eventually hired by the Libyan government to upgrade the dams and build a new one. The work, Arsel said on its website at the time, was completed in 2012.

By then, the government had paid millions of dollars to the Turkish contractor for preliminary work, according to a government assessment dated 2011. But Arsel left Libya in the turmoil of the 2011 popular revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the country’s longtime dictator. Neither dam was ever repaired, the assessment said, and no third dam ever materialized.

When a lethal storm rolled up the Mediterranean Sea toward Derna two weeks ago, dumping far more rain than usual on the Green Mountains above the city, the dams burst. An avalanche of water boomed down into the valley below, driving much of Derna out to sea and killing at least 4,000 people. More than 8,000 others are still missing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can the U.S. Make Solar Panels? This Company Thinks So, Ivan Penn, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). First Solar kept producing them in Ohio after most of the industry moved to China. President Biden wants many more domestic manufacturers.

For more than two decades, workers at a factory in Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo, have been making something that other businesses stopped producing in the United States long ago: solar panels.

How the company that owns the factory, First Solar, managed to hang on when most solar panel manufacturing left the United States for China is critical to understanding the viability of President Biden’s efforts to establish a large domestic green energy industry.

Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress last year authorized hundreds of billions of dollars in federal incentives for manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric cars and semiconductors. The efforts amount to one of the most expansive uses of industrial policy ever attempted in the United States.

As a result, many companies, including First Solar, have announced the construction of dozens of factories, in total, around the country. But nobody is entirely sure whether these investments will be durable, especially in businesses, like battery or solar panel manufacturing, where China’s domination is deep and strong. Chinese manufacturers enjoy lower labor costs, economies of scale and incentives from a government eager to control industries critical to fighting climate change.

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An aerial view of Derna, Libya, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Thousands of people were killed or are missing after massive floods destroyed the city (Washington Post photo by Alice Martins)An aerial view of Derna, Libya, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Thousands of people were killed or are missing after massive floods destroyed the city (Washington Post photo by Alice Martins).

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets, Crypto Currency

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Measure Favored by the Fed Cooled in August, Jeanna Smialek, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Federal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation.

federal reserve system CustomFederal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation on Friday, when a key inflation measure continued to slow, the latest evidence that a return to normal after the pandemic and higher interest rates are combining to wrestle rapid price increases back to a more normal pace.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, which the central bank uses to define its 2 percent inflation goal, rose slightly more quickly last month as higher gas prices gave it a boost. It rose 3.5 percent in August from a year earlier, up from 3.4 percent in July.

But after stripping out food and fuel costs, both of which are volatile, a “core” inflation measure that Fed officials watch closely is beginning to cool notably. That measure picked up 3.9 percent from a year earlier, which was down from 4.3 percent in July. Compared with the previous month, it climbed 0.1 percent, a very muted pace.

It’s the latest encouraging sign for Fed policymakers, who have been raising interest rates since March 2022 in a campaign to slow the economy and cool price increases. While economic momentum has held up better than expected, a less ebullient housing market and a grinding return to normalcy in the car market have helped key prices — like automobile and rents — to fade.

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U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Navy Will Start Testing SEALs for Illicit Drug Use, Dave Philipps, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The SEALs will face random screening for performance-enhancing drugs, believed to be widely abused in the ranks.

For generations, the Navy SEALs have attracted top athletes who compete for slots on elite teams and take on harrowing missions, but never in all those years did the Navy regularly test the force for illicit steroids and other drugs that could boost performance. Now that is about to change.

Naval Special Warfare, which oversees the SEALs, announced on Friday that it would begin force-wide random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, or P.E.D.s, starting in November. It is the first time that any U.S. military special operations group has tried to regularly screen all of its members for doping.

The move comes more than a year after the death of a sailor in the SEALs’ grueling selection course revealed the use of steroids and other banned substances among SEAL candidates. In the aftermath, Naval Special Warfare began for the first time to test all students at the course.

This week, in a surprising and sweeping expansion of that oversight, the SEALs’ leadership said it would start testing not just the sailors in the training pipeline, but the entire Naval Special Warfare force of about 9,000 service members, including all SEALs and the combat boat crews who support them.

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More On U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, New Border Crossing: Americans Turn to Mexico for Abortions, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Edyra Espriella, Updated Sept. 28, 2023. American women are seeking help from Mexico, crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Mexican abortion-rights activists have seen a rise of American women crossing the border to seek abortions — crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

For decades, abortion was criminalized in Mexico and much of Latin America with few exceptions, while in the United States, the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling established a constitutional right to abortion.

Today, Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalized abortion nationwide, making it legally accessible in federal institutions and eliminating federal penalties for the procedure. Twelve of the country’s 32 states have also decriminalized abortion, and activists say they have renewed momentum to push local officials in the remaining states.

By comparison, more than 20 American states currently ban or restrict the procedure after 18 weeks of pregnancy or earlier, with 14 states completely forbidding the procedure in almost all circumstances.

Mexican activists, anticipating the Supreme Court could overturn Roe when it was still weighing the case, began organizing and have established an underground system, sending thousands of pills north and helping women travel south across the border. They say the longstanding restrictions in Latin America prepared them to now handle the influx of demand.

 

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

washington post logoWashington Post, JPMorgan agrees to $75 million settlement over ties to Jeffrey Epstein, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). JPMorgan Chase will pay $75 million to resolve a lawsuit with the U.S. Virgin Islands alleging it facilitated disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

jp morgan chase logoThe banking giant admitted no wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement, a large portion of which will be distributed to charities. It also sets aside $10 million to support mental health services for Epstein’s survivors.
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“This settlement is a historic victory for survivors and for state enforcement, and it should sound the alarm on Wall Street about banks’ responsibilities under the law to detect and prevent human trafficking,” USVI attorney general Ariel Smith said in a statement.

Smith also said JPMorgan agreed to “implement and maintain meaningful anti-trafficking measures,” which includes a commitment to elevate and report suspicious activity in the future.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, As Covid Infections Rise, Nursing Homes Are Still Waiting for Vaccines, Jordan Rau and Tony Leys, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Long-term care operators have yet to start administering shots to protect one of the most vulnerable populations.

“Covid is not pretty in a nursing home,” said Deb Wityk, a 70-year-old retired massage therapist who lives in one called Spurgeon Manor, in rural Iowa. She has contracted the disease twice, and is eager to get the newly approved vaccine because she has chronic leukemia, which weakens her immune system.

cdc logo CustomThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the latest vaccine on two weeks ago, and the new shots became available to the general public within the last week or so. But many nursing homes will not begin inoculations until well into October or even November, though infections among this vulnerable population are rising, to nearly 1 percent, or 9.7 per 1,000 residents of mid-September from a low of 2.2 per 1,000 residents in mid-June.

“The distribution of the new Covid-19 vaccine is not going well,” said Chad Worz, the chief executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. “Older adults in those settings are certainly the most vulnerable and should have been prioritized.”

With the end of the formal public health emergency in May, the federal government stopped purchasing and distributing Covid vaccines. That has added new complications for operators of nursing homes, who have encountered resistance throughout the pandemic in persuading people, especially employees, to receive yet another round of shots.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Bans Are Rising Sharply in Public Libraries, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Sept. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Restrictions that were largely happening in school libraries, where they affected children, are now affecting the wider community as well.

More than two years into a sharp rise in book challenges across the United States, restrictions are increasingly targeting public libraries, where they could affect not only the children’s section but also the books available to everyone in a community.

The shift comes amid a dramatic increase in efforts to remove books from libraries, according to a pair of new reports released this week from the American Library Association and PEN America, a free speech organization.

The A.L.A. found that nearly half the book challenges it tracked between January and August of this year took place in public libraries, up from 16 percent during the same period the year before. The association reported nearly 700 attempts to censor library materials, which targeted more than 1,900 individual titles — more than during the same period in 2022, a year that saw the most titles challenged since the organization began tracking the data.

Most of the challenged books were by or about people of color or L.G.B.T.Q. people.

“A year, a year and a half ago, we were told that these books didn’t belong in school libraries, and if people wanted to read them, they could go to a public library,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the A.L.A.’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Now, we’re seeing those same groups come to public libraries and come after the same books, essentially depriving everyone of the ability to make the choice to read them.”

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 Sept. 29

Top Stories

 

Top Trump Court Battle, Insurrection News

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

 

U.S. National Politics

 

More On High Tech v. Government Clashes

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

 

Global Tensions, Human Rights

 

 More U.S. Politics, Governance News

 

More On U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On Republican Threats To Shut U.S. Government

 

Litigation Against Trump, Allies

 

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

 

Sen. Bob Menendez Prosecution, Reactions

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, McCarthy’s Temporary Spending Bill Fails to Pass the House, Catie Edmondson, Sept. 29, 2023. Republicans defeated Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s stopgap spending plan, pushing Congress closer to a government shutdown at midnight on Saturday.

Hard-line conservatives on Friday tanked Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-shot bid to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown, in djt maga hatan extraordinary display of defiance that made it all but certain that Congress would miss a midnight deadline on Saturday to keep federal funding flowing.

It appeared clear even before the vote that the stopgap bill was bound to fail, as several hard-right Republicans had declared that they kevin mccarthywould not back a temporary spending bill under any circumstances. Mr. McCarthy, right, bracing for political blowback for a government closure, had scheduled it anyway in hopes of showing he was trying to avoid the crisis.

But the decision by right-wing lawmakers to effectively blow up one final effort by Mr. McCarthy to give the appearance of trying to head off a shutdown dealt the speaker a stinging defeat, and left politically vulnerable Republicans fuming. And the size of the group of defectors was striking, reflecting both Mr. McCarthy’s weak hold on his conference and the influence of the far right in the House.

The bill failed by a vote of 198-232, with 21 Republicans joining all Democrats to defeat it.

The measure, which would have kept government funding flowing at vastly reduced levels — cutting spending to most domestic programs by nearly 30 percent — and impose stringent immigration restrictions demanded by conservatives, would not have prevented a shutdown even if it had passed the House, because it was considered dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Here’s what else to know:

Mr. McCarthy’s allies have defended his strategy as a way to show the public that he tried to keep the government open, but was foiled by a handful of his far-right members. But the defeat on the House floor was a devastating blow for Mr. McCarthy, whose job is on the line and who has been unable to corral his tiny majority to agree on a measure to head off a meltdown.

The Republican plan that was blocked on Friday would have kept the government open for 30 days and impose drastic cuts across the board to government programs, except for funding for veterans, homeland security and disaster response. It does not include any military or humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and it would direct the homeland security secretary to resume “all activities related to the construction of the border wall” at the southern border that were in place under former President Donald J. Trump.

The defeat left the House in an exceedingly weak position to negotiate with the Senate, which is moving ahead with its own, bipartisan short-term funding plan. That bill would continue spending at current levels for six weeks and provide $6 billion in aid to Ukraine and $6 billion for natural disaster relief at home.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Issues a Blistering Attack on Trump, Peter Baker, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). During an appearance in Arizona, President Biden portrayed former President Donald J. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy.

President Biden issued a broad and blistering attack against former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday, accusing his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office in next year’s elections.

In his most direct condemnation of his leading Republican challenger in many months, Mr. Biden portrayed Mr. Trump as a budding autocrat with no fidelity to the tenets of American democracy and who is motivated by hatred and a desire for retribution. While he usually avoids referring to Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Biden this time held nothing back as he offered a dire warning about the consequences of a new Trump term.

democratic donkey logo“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Tempe, Ariz. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

Mr. Biden cited recent comments by Mr. Trump vowing “retribution” against his foes, accusing NBC News of “treason” and suggesting that the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, might deserve to be put to death. The president also decried plans being developed by Mr. Trump’s allies to erode the independence of major agencies, wipe out much of the top ranks of civil service and make senior government officials personally loyal to him.

“Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep Americans safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans,” Mr. Biden said. “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. It’s also a threat to the character of our nation.”

The gloves-off assault on Mr. Trump represented a marked shift for Mr. Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge him.

But repeated speeches claiming credit for “Bidenomics” have not moved his anemic approval ratings, as many voters tell pollsters they worry about the 80-year-old president’s age.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors cite Trump’s supposed gun purchase as possible crime, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 29, 2023. A legal argument about whether to issue a gag order cites his recent interaction with a gun seller.

Federal prosecutors said in a Friday night filing that former president Donald Trump may have broken the law if he bought a handgun at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina.

Justice Department log circular“The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so,” the court filing argues. “It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending.”

The prosecutors were referring to social media posts by the Trump campaign earlier this week, when a staffer posted a video of Trump — who is the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination— at the Palmetto State Armory, a gun store in Summerville, S.C.

The video “showed the defendant holding a Glock pistol with the defendant’s likeness etched into it. The defendant stated, ‘I’ve got to buy one,’ and posed for pictures,” the prosecutors’ filing states, noting that the staffer posted the video with a caption that said: “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

The campaign staffer later deleted the post and retracted the claim, saying Trump did not purchase or take possession of the gun. The latter claim, prosecutors note in their filing, is “directly contradicted by the video showing the defendant possessing the pistol.”

Only further confusing the issue, Trump reposted a video of the interaction made by someone else, which had the caption: “MY PRESIDENT Trump just bought a Golden Glock before his rally in South Carolina after being arrested 4 TIMES in a year.”

The prosecutors raised the South Carolina incident in arguing that the judge in D.C. overseeing Trump’s pending federal charges of obstructing the 2020 election results should impose a gag order on the former president because of public statements he has made attacking prosecutors, the judge and potential witnesses. Those statements, prosecutors argue, could intimidate jurors or bias the pool of prospective jurors.

“The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others — whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own — feign retraction,” the prosecutors wrote.

The judge overseeing the case, Tanya S. Chutkan, has scheduled an Oct. 16 hearing for lawyers to debate the request for a limited gag order to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that just as Trump knowingly spouted lies that the 2020 election had been stolen in the hopes of undoing those results, the former president now is attempting to undermine confidence in the judicial system by pumping out near-daily “disparaging and inflammatory attacks” about potential jurors, witnesses, prosecutors and the judge.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Jack Smith Files BLISTERING REPLY Calling Out Trump’s Threats, Ben Meiselas, Sept. 29, 2023.
MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on the powerful reply brief filed by Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Washington DC federal criminal case before Judge Tanya Chutkan involving criminal defendant Donald Trump where the government is seeking a limited gag order of Donald Trump. 

 diane feinstein older

Politico, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has died at age 90, Burgess Everett, Sept. 29, 2023. The trail-blazing Democratic senator, shown above in a file photo, had faced mounting health problems in recent years. Her replacement will be selected by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.).

senate democrats logopolitico CustomHer death, confirmed by a person with knowledge of the situation, brings Senate Democrats’ functional majority to 50 votes, with Republicans holding 49 votes. Two other Democratic senators tested positive for Covid this week — and the majority of the caucus is calling on indicted Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to resign.

Politico, A look at the life of Dianne Feinstein, David Cohen, Sept. 29, 2023. Before her long stint in the Senate, she led San Francisco through a healing period after horrific political violence.

gavin newsom serious abcPolitico, Pressure is on Newsom to quickly appoint Feinstein’s temporary replacement, Jeremy B. White, Melanie Mason and Christopher Cadelago, Sept. 29, 2023. Feinstein's death will upend the intensifying race to replace her and force Newsom, above, into a painful political decision.

politico CustomThe death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein places Gov. Gavin Newsom under intense pressure to quickly name a replacement as a bitterly divided Congress votes on a spending plan in the coming hours to avert a government shutdown.

Newsom had hoped to avoid the politically charged decision of selecting a second senator. But he will need to move swiftly as a budget standoff has the government on the verge of shutting down, and Senate Democrats could need every vote.

The timing of Feinstein’s death — four months before a primary but more than a year before the end of her term — complicates this election cycle. Staff at the California secretary of state’s office was huddling early Friday morning to determine the timelines that would govern an appointment or a possible special election.

democratic donkey logoThe governor’s inner circle knows he’s facing a vastly tighter timeline then the five weeks it took him to nominate Alex Padilla to Kamala Harris’ Senate seat after the 2020 presidential election. He’s expected to move quickly on the appointment while respecting the death of a longtime friend and mentor.

Newsom released a statement on Feinstein’s death Friday morning, eulogizing the senator without getting into the timing of appointing a caretaker to her seat.

“Dianne Feinstein was many things – a powerful, trailblazing US Senator; an early voice for gun control; a leader in times of tragedy and chaos,” Newsom said in the statement.

“But to me, she was a dear friend, a lifelong mentor, and a role model not only for me, but to my wife and daughters for what a powerful, effective leader looks like. She was a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace. She broke down barriers and glass ceilings, but never lost her belief in the spirit of political cooperation.”

“And she was a fighter — for the city, the state and the country she loved. Every race she won, she made history, but her story wasn’t just about being the first woman in a particular political office, it was what she did for California, and for America, with that power once she earned it. That’s what she should be remembered for. There is simply nobody who possessed the strength, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein. Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and we will mourn with her family in this difficult time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Who will replace Dianne Feinstein in the Senate? Adam Nagourney and Shawn Hubler, Sept. 29, 2023. Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to pick a Black woman to fill the seat, but has also said he would not choose any of the current Democrats running for Senate.

senate democrats logoThe death of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, immediately turns the spotlight to an intense, ongoing three-way battle to replace her, fraught with racial, political and generational tensions over one of the most coveted positions in California and national politics.

It also puts new pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will chose someone to fill her seat. Mr. Newsom, whose profile has risen in national Democratic politics in recent weeks as he has traveled the country on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign, had come under fire for announcing he would not pick any of the declared candidates in filling any vacancy, so as not to elevate them and give them an advantage.

Mr. Newsom had originally promised to pick a Black woman to fill the position if it opened up, and many Democrats thought he would turn to Representative Barbara Lee, a progressive. But Mr. Newsom said he would pick a caretaker senator instead. “I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ms. Lee denounced Mr. Newsom for that decision, calling it insulting.

The other leading Democratic candidates in the race for Ms. Feinstein’s seat are Representative Adam Schiff, a high-profile member of the congressional committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol; Representative Katie Porter, a third-term California member of the House; and Ms. Ms. Lee.

It is unclear whom Mr. Newsom might pick to fill Ms. Feinstein’s seat. The names that have been discussed, since Ms. Feinstein said earlier this year that she would not run again, include Shirley Weber, the California secretary of state; Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles county supervisor; and Angela Glover Blackwell, a civil rights lawyer in Oakland and the founder of PolicyLink, a research and advocacy nonprofit group.

Mr. Newsom had originally made the pledge about a Black woman in response to the fact that there are no Black women serving in the Senate. The last one was Kamala Harris, a California Democrat who left the Senate to become Mr. Biden’s vice president.

At that time, in January 2021, Mr. Newsom picked Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state, to replace her. Mr. Padilla became the first Latino from the state to serve in the Senate; he was elected last year to a full term.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dianne Feinstein, Oldest Senator and a Fixture of California Politics, Dies at 90, Sept. 29, 2023. She achieved remarkable breakthroughs as a woman, becoming San Francisco’s first female mayor and California’s first woman elected to the Senate.

 

gop house chairs 2023 New York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Government Shutdown Looms, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The situation serves as a reminder that partisan polarization in Washington is not symmetrical.

Two basic facts are central to understanding why the federal government may shut down on Sunday morning:

republican elephant logoFirst, the House Republican caucus contains about 20 hard-right members who sometimes support radical measures to get what they want. Many of them refused to certify the 2020 presidential election, for example, and now favor impeaching President Biden. They also tend to support deep cuts to federal spending, and they’re willing to shut down the government as a negotiating tactic. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — a fellow Republican — said last week.

kevin mccarthySecond, the Republicans’ House majority is so slim that McCarthy, right, needs the support of most of these roughly 20 members to remain speaker. If he passes a bill to fund the government and keep it open without support from the hard-right faction, it can retaliate by calling for a new vote on his speakership and potentially firing him. Nobody knows who would then become speaker.

This combination has created a strange situation in Washington. Most House members — along with President Biden — want to avoid a shutdown. So does the Senate: A bipartisan group agreed this week on a spending bill that would keep the government open through mid-November. A similar bill could probably pass the House by a wide margin if it came to the floor.

Yet the small Republican faction has enough sway over McCarthy that he has resisted allowing a vote on such a bill. As a result, much of the federal government may shut down this weekend. The deadline is midnight on Saturday night.

ny times logoNew York Times, With a Shutdown in View, McCarthy Plays a Weak Hand, Annie Karni, Sept. 29, 2023. The G.O.P. speaker, whose style is to placate his detractors, does not have the Republican votes to keep the government open. He is calling the vote anyway.

kevin mccarthyWhen Representative Kevin McCarthy, right, was short the votes he needed to become speaker in January, he didn’t browbeat his far-right Republican detractors or threaten retribution. Instead, he granted them major concessions, subjecting himself to a long, humiliating slog to win them over.

Mr. McCarthy is now facing a near-certain government shutdown and a possible move by the same faction to oust him from his post if he moves to head off the crisis. And he is turning to the same people-pleasing script, seeking to mollify a faction of his conference he privately scorns.

djt maga hatHe has once again caved to the demands of far-right lawmakers, opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden and then agreeing to slash government spending to levels they clamored for. When that was not enough, Mr. McCarthy pushed aside a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Instead, he bowed to the right flank’s insistence on first bringing up a series of individual yearlong spending bills loaded up with arch-conservative policy dictates — even though none had a chance of enactment.

Democrats have criticized him as the weakest speaker in history. Hard-right members continue to demand more. But members of Mr. McCarthy’s inner circle — a coterie of mostly traditional Republicans who are deeply conservative but share little in common with the hard right — argue that the speaker’s malleability is actually his strength. They say it is the only way to deal with what they regard as a nearly ungovernable majority.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battling a Water Crisis: Bottles, Barges and Maybe a Quarter-Billion-Dollar Pipe, Jacey Fortin, Sept. 29, 2023. A wedge of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is moving up the drought-drained Mississippi River, threatening public health in New Orleans and beyond.

People in New Orleans are used to preparing for hurricanes and floods. So when they learned of a new threat — an infusion of salty water creeping slowly up the Mississippi River, threatening municipal drinking water supplies — they did what comes naturally: strip bottled water from grocery store shelves.

But this is a crisis with even more lead time than a storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico: The worst of the saltwater intrusion isn’t expected to reach the city until late October. And the salty water could stick around for much longer, potentially corroding the city’s lead-lined pipes.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” said Jesse Keenan, a climate adaptation expert at Tulane University.

The crisis is a result of drought conditions in the Midwest, which have sapped water levels in the Mississippi, allowing salty water from the Gulf to creep upstream beneath a freshwater layer.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the “saltwater wedge,” which has already affected communities downstream, could reach water treatment plants near New Orleans in about a month, pushing the salty water into household faucets. About a million people across southeastern Louisiana could be affected.

Bottled water was scarce on store shelves in southeastern Louisiana, including at Fremin’s Food Market in Port Sulphur. It’s unclear how long the saltwater intrusion could last.Credit...Emily Kask for The New York Times
Three jugs of distilled water on otherwise empty store shelves.

Officials are working to slow the influx by strengthening an underwater sill, or levee, at the bottom of the Mississippi, and preparing to ship tens of millions of gallons of fresh water from upstream by barge to affected treatment facilities on a daily basis.

Politico, Rare Senate spat threatens farm bill push with House in shutdown chaos, Meredith Lee Hill, Sept. 29, 2023. Dragging out the farm bill would sideline several Republican initiatives in rural America but it would also help Speaker Kevin McCarthy avoid another mutiny from his right flank.

politico CustomThe Senate was supposed to bring a grownup attitude to hashing out $1 trillion farm and food legislation while the House swirled in dysfunction.

Instead, the Senate’s negotiations over the bill — which will affect everything from subsidies for inflation-stressed farmers to nutrition programs for low-income families — are unraveling as Republicans and Democrats spar over climate change and other big-ticket items.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosJust as the nation braces for a government shutdown this weekend, several programs tied to the once-every-five-years farm bill are also set to lapse. Leaders in both the House and Senate say their new goal is to pass legislation by the end of the year, when the bulk of agriculture programs expire. But the rare public spat over legislation that’s long married the interests of rural Republicans with urban Democrats has many interest groups worried the bill will get sidelined much longer than that.

Behind closed doors, lawmakers are starting to raise whether a one or two-year punt will be necessary, particularly as Republicans demand new increases for key farm programs and a hard-right mutiny paralyzes the House. That kind of delay would put additional strain on a sector already dealing with high inflation, potentially creating an election-year headache for ag-state lawmakers if farmers don’t see relief.

“If we don’t get that beefed up, there’s not going to be a farm bill this year — there’s going to be a one-year extension,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a longtime member of the Agriculture Committee, said of the safety net programs.

In recent weeks, both Democrats and Republicans have privately and publicly threatened to blow up the bipartisan talks being led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, the panel’s top Republican. And as Stabenow, who is a member of Democratic leadership, insists there isn’t enough money to significantly boost funding for some of the farm programs Boozman, Grassley and other Republicans want, Democrats are under intense pressure from the left to protect $20 billion in money for climate-centered agriculture projects.

The cash was authorized in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act last year and Senate Republicans want to remove tight restrictions on how the money can be spent if it’s added to the farm bill.

Defending the programs prompted Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to take to the Senate floor to accuse Democrats of prioritizing “climate and welfare spending” over America’s farmers — a charge Democrats say ignores how climate change is already affecting food producers.

After leaving a closed-door meeting of Agriculture Committee Democrats in Stabenow’s Senate hideaway last week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) warned he would not support any effort to “undo” the IRA’s climate-focused agriculture programs. The initiatives, he said, are designed to help farmers improve their yields and fight climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the hard-right House Republicans who have led the opposition to a temporary funding measure, Robert Jimison and Catie Edmondson, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). With a Sept. 30 deadline looming, hard-right House Republicans have formed a wall of opposition to a temporary measure to fund the government.

djt maga hatRepublican support for a long-shot bid to avert a shutdown, floating a bill that would keep government funding flowing at vastly reduced levels while imposing stringent immigration restrictions demanded by conservatives.

The proposal stands little chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But Mr. McCarthy’s more immediate problem is in his own chamber, where the math is not in his favor.

republican elephant logoAlready, at least 10 hard-right lawmakers have declared they will not vote for any stopgap measure under any circumstances, because they are opposed to funding the government — even temporarily — with a single up-or-down vote.

Their opposition effectively closes off Mr. McCarthy’s simplest escape hatch to avoid a government shutdown on Sunday. With Democrats sure to oppose the spending cuts and border restrictions, he can afford to lose no more than four Republicans if all members show up and vote. And turning to Democrats for help would put his speakership at risk.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Invasive Mosquito Threatens Catastrophe in Africa, Stephanie Nolen, Photographs by Tiksa Negeri, Sept. 29, 2023. A malaria-carrying species that thrives in urban areas and resists all insecticides is causing outbreaks in places that have rarely faced the disease.

At its center is Anopheles stephensi, a malaria-carrying species of mosquito that arrived in the port city of the tiny East African nation of Djibouti a decade ago and was largely ignored by public health officials. It is resistant to all insecticides and has adapted to thrive in urban environments and survive in dry seasons. It is now breeding in locations across the center of the continent, and entomologists say further spread is inevitable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mosquitoes are a growing threat to public health, reversing years of progress, Sept. 29, 2023. Climate change and the rapid evolution of the insect have helped drive up malaria deaths and brought dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses to places that never had to worry about them.

  • New York Times, Insecticides can’t stop these mosquitoes. Now what? Sept. 29, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. Will Expand Strikes at Ford and General Motors, Neal E. Boudette, Sept. 29, 2023. The United Automobile Workers union said 7,000 more of its members would walk off the job two weeks after it began strikes at the Big Three automakers.

uaw logoThe United Automobile Workers union increased the pressure on Ford Motor and General Motors by extending its strike to two more car assembly plants on Friday, saying the companies had not moved far enough to meet its demands for higher pay and benefits.

The move is the second escalation of strikes that started on Sept. 15 at three plants, one each owned by G.M., Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. The union said it would not expand the strike against Stellantis this week because of progress in negotiations there.

The U.A.W.’s president, Shawn Fain, said workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a G.M. factory in Lansing, Mich., would walk off the job on Friday. G.M. makes the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse sport-utility vehicles at the Lansing plant. Ford makes the Explorer, the Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator in Chicago.

Politico, IRS consultant charged in massive leak of taxpayer data, Brian Faler, DOJ said Charles Littlejohn stole the files while working as a government contractor and gave them to the news organization. The leak astonished many IRS veterans because tax filings are subject to elaborate safeguards and leaks are rare. 

politico CustomA consultant for the IRS has been chargedwith leaking the private tax information of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people to a prominent news outlet, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

irs logoThe agency said Charles Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., stole the files while working as a government contractor and gave them to the news organization. The agency doesn’t name the outfit, though it appears to be referring to ProPublica.

It also says he leaked information about an unnamed public official to a second unnamed news organization.

Justice Department log circularHe faces a maximum five years in prison, the Justice Department said.

pro publica logoThe announcement comes more than two years after ProPublica said it had obtained a massive trove of information about the taxes of wealthy people, many of them well known, and began publishing a series of stories showing they paid little or nothing in taxes.

The leak astonished many IRS veterans because tax filings are subject to elaborate safeguards and leaks are rare.

Adding to the mystery was the silence of Biden administration officials, who had said virtually nothing publicly about the leak or how it had happened. Republicans accused Democrats of disclosing the information in hopes of fueling their push in Congress to raise taxes on the rich.

elon musk sideview

Politico, Musk ousts X team curbing election disinformation, Clothilde Goujard, Sept. 29, 2023. The announcement comes after EU digital chief Vera Jourová criticized the social media company over rampant falsehoods on its platform.

politico CustomElon Musk, above, the owner of X (formerly Twitter) said overnight that a global team working on curbing disinformation during elections had been dismissed — a mere two days after being singled out by the EU's digital chief as the online platform with the most falsehoods.

twitter bird CustomResponding to reports about cuts, the tech mogul said on X, "Oh you mean the 'Election Integrity' Team that was undermining election integrity? Yeah, they’re gone."

Several Ireland-based staff working on a threat-disruption team — including senior manager Aaron Rodericks — were x logo twitterallegedly fired this week, according to tech media outlet The Information. Rodericks has, however, secured a court order halting disciplinary action over allegedly liking tweets critical of the company, according to Irish media.

european union logo rectangleVice President Vera Jourová this week warned that EU-supported research showed that X had become the platform with the largest ratio of posts containing misinformation or disinformation. The company under Musk left the European Commission's anti-disinformation charter in late May after failing its first test.

Jourová also urged tech companies to prepare for numerous national and European elections in the coming months, especially given the “particularly serious" risk that Russia will seek to meddle in them. Slovakia will hold its parliamentary election on Saturday. Poland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands will also head to the polls in the coming weeks.

X must comply with the EU's content rules, the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires large tech platforms with over 45 million EU users to mitigate the risks of disinformation campaigns. Failure to follow the rulebook could lead to sweeping fines of up to 6 percent of companies' global annual revenue.

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC’s net neutrality battle is back after years of deadlock, Eva Dou, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The push comes amid widespread grievance with internet service providers — a reflection, some regulators say, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

When the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 asked the public to comment on how to regulate internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, it received more than a million responses. Aggrieved customers crashed the commission’s website. More than 7,800 of the comments contained f-bombs.

“It is absolutely maddening that the FCC would give free rein to this monopoly to screw customers over,” one commenter wrote. “There is no free market competition and it is unamerican.”

The FCC effort became the landmark 2015 decision — known as “net neutrality” — to regulate internet service as a public utility, akin to water or electricity. That classification granted the FCC broad oversight over internet service providers, including ensuring they did not discriminate or charge unreasonable rates.

The agency repealed the rule in 2017 under the Trump administration, arguing that the private sector would make better decisions than the government.

Now the FCC is preparing to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land. The agency argues that restoring the rule will improve consumers’ experience with internet providers — including by enabling it to better track broadband service outages and network reliability.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech Tuesday that due to high costs of entry into the market, there is only one high-speed broadband provider in some parts of the country.

“That provider might be the only game in town,” she said. “You need a referee on the field looking out for the public interest.”

The move came after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the FCC’s fifth commissioner on Monday, breaking a long-standing deadlock at the agency and giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Industry groups have stepped forward to declare that internet providers have not discriminated and will not discriminate, and that FCC regulation is overkill.

“America’s broadband providers are fiercely committed to an open internet. That has not and will not change,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, an industry group representing broadband providers including AT&T and Verizon, in a statement.

The FCC is placing the issue at the top of its agenda and is expected to release the text of the proposed rule Thursday. But the process will take months, and the clock is ticking: If Biden loses the presidential election next year, a Republican administration might repeal the rule again.

If the FCC gives the green light at its Oct. 19 monthly meeting, the agency will embark on a new rulemaking process with public comment.

Rosenworcel said in the speech that she knows it will be a fierce fight. “I have, in fact, been to this rodeo before,” she said.

Unchanged since the last clash: Internet service providers earn some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings in corporate America — a reflection, regulators argue, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

The 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index — calculated from surveys with tens of thousands of consumers — gave internet service providers a score of 68 out of 100, the second-lowest rating among 43 industries. Only gas stations provided consumers with less satisfaction (with a score of 65).

But the technology has evolved since the early debate over net neutrality, when the internet’s pipes were slower and smaller. At the time, economists warned that internet providers had an incentive to throttle certain types of websites — such as bandwidth-heavy video-streaming services like Netflix. Internet providers theoretically could determine which websites lived and died, based on personal preferences, or who could pay the most.

These days, the threat of an internet service provider squeezing Netflix seems less likely. The internet’s pipes have gotten so wide that there is generally enough to go around. After the removal of the net neutrality rule in 2017, there haven’t been reports of an internet provider choking a website to death.

 

Top Trump Court Battle, Insurrection News

 

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

President Biden congratulates outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley during the ceremony on Friday (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

washington post logoWashington Post, Retiring Milley warns of ‘wannabe dictator’ in apparent jab at Trump, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Sept. 29, 2023. The outspoken general, who is retiring over than 40 years in the military, makes way for Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

Department of Defense SealGen. Mark A. Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman who clashed with President Donald Trump but found new footing under President Biden, reiterated in his retirement speech Friday that the U.S. military is loyal to the Constitution above anything or anyone else.
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“We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, to a tyrant or dictator or wannabe dictator,” Milley said in an apparent reference to Trump. He added that troops did not risk their lives to watch “this great experiment in democracy perish.”

Milley stepped aside Friday as his successor, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., was sworn in to the top military post in front of military personnel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on a day filled with ceremonial traditions. That included Milley inspecting the units lined up in a large field at the base, some in Revolutionary War uniforms, a military band playing the national anthem and the presentation of a retirement certificate. Brown will officially take over the post this weekend.

Biden, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Vice President Harris, praised the general for providing advice that was steady and to the point. Biden also commended him for prioritizing American democracy above all. “When it comes to the Constitution, that is and always has been Mark’s North Star,” Biden said.

Milley’s sometimes-tumultuous four-year tenure as chairman capped a career that spanned more than four decades. His was one of the most consequential and polarizing tenures of any military leader in recent memory. Milley was atop the Pentagon during the Trump administration’s chaotic final months, the Biden administration’s frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing effort to aid Ukraine as the Russian invasion draws close to the two-year mark.

To his frustrated critics, Milley often voiced his opinion on hot-button issues, notably defending a policy, implemented after the U.S. Capitol attack in 2021, that mandated military personnel to study domestic extremism. In one viral moment stemming from Republican attacks, he told members of Congress, “I want to understand White rage, and I’m White.”

Mark Milley, polarizing Joint Chiefs chairman, exits the center stage

Supporters lauded Milley for standing up to what they viewed as Trump’s dangerous ambitions. After the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, when Trump called for clearing demonstrators out of Lafayette Square near the White House, Milley initially walked alongside the president and other top administration officials as they marched to a church for a photo opportunity.

 

Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 29, 2023. Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, was accused of playing a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn former president Donald Trump’s Georgia defeat in 2020.

A defendant in the sweeping election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and 18 others in Fulton County, Ga., georgia mapbecame the first to plead guilty on Friday. He also agreed to testify against others.

Scott Hall, a 59-year-old bail bondsman who prosecutors alleged played a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Hall’s status as a first-time offender.

scott graham hall weiner 9 29 2023Hall, shown at left in court with his lawyer, at right, agreed to serve five years of probation and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, to testify “truthfully in this case and all further proceedings.” That could affect the fortunes of those with whom he is alleged to have interacted, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, whose own trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 23, as well as former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

One looming question in the case is how high into the Trump campaign’s hierarchy Hall’s reach extended — and whether the former president or Rudy Giuliani, another co-defendant who led efforts to prove that election fraud had tainted the race, ever interacted with him.

According to an email written by then-state GOP Chairman David Shafer, Hall was acting at the request of David Bossie, the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United — and a relative of Hall’s. Bossie did not respond to requests for comment.

Hall’s plea was one of multiple victories logged Friday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis. The other wins came when a judge denied efforts by Clark and three other co-defendants to move their cases to federal court. Willis launched the investigation into Trump and his allies in February 2021, shortly after the former president’s now-famous phone exhortation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia result.

The sweeping indictment, filed in August, alleges that Trump and his co-defendants operated a vast criminal enterprise for the purpose of illegally reversing Trump’s defeat against Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. All 19 defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering enterprise. Hall had faced six additional charges, including conspiracy to commit computer theft, related to the breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County.

Prosecutors alleged in the 98-page indictment that Hall served as a linchpin of a secretive effort to access and copy Coffee County elections software, working alongside Powell, who allegedly retained the forensic data team that accompanied Hall and others on the trip. As part of his efforts to turn up evidence of voter fraud, Hall gained the ear of top officials not just in Georgia but also in Washington.

In the weeks after the election, Hall also held meetings or had phone conversations with leaders of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, according to people involved. Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2021, he had a 63-minute phone call with Clark, whom prosecutors accused of plotting to delegitimize the vote in Georgia and other states and galvanize slates of contingent pro-Trump electors.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from the attorneys in Atlanta on Wednesday. (Jason Getz / Pool / AFP/ Getty Images)Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Prosecutors TIGHTEN THE SCREWS on Trump with SURPRISE MOVE, Michael Popok, Sept. 29, 2023. Big news out of Georgia today, with the Fulton County DA announcing PLEA DEALS being offered to Trump lawyers Sydney Powell and Ken Chesebro, AND the Judge, shown above, announcing the possibility that up to 6 MORE TRUMP CO CONSPIRATORS may be tried on 10/23!

Michael Popok of Legal AF explains why this just got bad real fast for Trump under either scenario.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: On Fox News, GOP impeachment leaders spread false claims with impunity, Philip Bump, Sept. 29, 2023. Host Sean Hannity assiduously shielded his audience from the facts.

The Republican push to impeach President Biden formally began on Thursday with a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill. By most objective accounts, it was not a huge success for the GOP, featuring witnesses who by their own admission couldn’t provide any evidence incriminating Biden and who were loath to state that such evidence existed.
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But in the creaky machine that is modern American politics, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how the impeachment inquiry is perceived, and in that critical battle, the actual machinations in the hearing room are unimportant. What’s important are the snippets excerpted from the hearing and the extent to which flaws in either side’s case are smoothed over for mass consumption.

By that measure, the hearing was just dandy. Anyone tuning in to Sean Hannity’s prime time Fox News program, for example, learned that Republicans executed a precision strike on the sitting president, offering up evidence that only a buffoon or a hack could deny. This presentation was made easier by Hannity’s playing host to the three Republicans leading the impeachment push — each of whom offered false, baseless or debunked claims to which the Fox News host offered absolutely no pushback.

The assiduously policed right-wing narrative about the president was left unharmed.

Hannity’s show began the way all serious news programs do, with members in the live studio audience chanting “U-S-A!” as the host welcomed them. Hannity then launched into his monologue, his usual articulation of Republican genius and Democratic stupidity with elements of the hearing slotted into the appropriate places.

Someone inclined to be skeptical of Hannity’s daily presentations would very quickly wonder how his audience could continuously suspend disbelief. On Thursday, for example, Hannity alleged illegalities and unethical behavior by Biden that would make a New Jersey senator blush, arguing that the evidence of these actions was unassailable. Yet, he suggested, Democrats are so blinkered or craven that they simply ignore all of this, for days and months on end. And that’s the answer: Democrats would have to be utterly soulless and desperate for power to let this purported proof go unaddressed, so that’s the assumption about Democrats that carries the day.

 

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Hail to the Fraudster in Chief, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). On Tuesday, Justice Arthur F. Engoron paul krugmanruled in New York that Trump did, in fact, persistently commit fraud by overvaluing his assets, possibly by as much as $2.2 billion.

What’s remarkable about Engoron’s finding that Trump committed large-scale fraud (it’s now a ruling, not a mere accusation) is what it says about the man who became president and the voters who supported him.

Back in 2016, some observers warned conventional political analysts that they were underrating Trump’s chances because they didn’t appreciate how many Americans believed that he was a brilliant businessman — a belief based largely on his role on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” What we now know is that the old joke was, in Trump’s case, the simple truth: He wasn’t a real business genius; he just played one on TV.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Donald Trump’s legal team faces more woes, the money is running short, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Former President Donald Trump’s team has found lawyers for others caught up in his prosecutions and has paid many of their legal bills. That arrangement may not be sustainable.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.

In an interview, Mr. Rowley said he was simply trying to help witnesses who did not have lawyers or did not know how to find one, and that he never sought to influence anyone’s testimony. And legal experts said the voice mail, while somewhat unusual, did not appear to cross any ethical lines.

But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.

Prosecutors have also brought conflict-of-interest questions about some of the arrangements before the courts, and witnesses and co-defendants may begin to face decisions about how closely they want to lash their legal strategies to Mr. Trump’s.

After prosecutors questioned potential conflicts among the lawyers, one key witness in the classified documents case, Yuscil Taveras, replaced his lawyer, who was being paid by Mr. Trump’s PAC and also represented one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta. Mr. Taveras is now represented by a federal public defender and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, has scheduled hearings for next month to consider questions about potential conflicts involving lawyers for Mr. Nauta and for Mr. Trump’s other co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Trial in Fraud Case, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump had sued Justice Arthur Engoron, aiming to push back a case that could begin as soon as Monday.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fraud Case May Cost Him Trump Tower and Other Properties, Rukmini Callimachi, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). If a judge’s ruling stands, Donald Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate.

A New York judge put a spotlight on former President Donald J. Trump’s business empire this week, determining in a ruling that he had inflated the value of his properties by considerable sums to gain favorable terms on loans and insurance.

If the ruling stands, Mr. Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate — an outcome the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sought when she filed a lawsuit last year that accused him of fraud and called for the cancellation of his business certificates for any entities in the state that benefited from deceitful practices.

The ruling by the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court, came before a trial, largely to decide possible penalties, that could begin as early as Monday. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to appeal.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a leading real estate expert have argued that Ms. James’ lawsuit does not properly factor in the Trump brand’s value or take into account the subjective nature of real estate valuations, with borrowers and lenders routinely offering differing estimates.

Nearly a dozen of the properties owned or partly controlled by Mr. Trump and his organization may be subject to Justice Engoron’s ruling. Here are the main ones that are vulnerable, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Trump Tower and Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment, 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan
Trump Tower

Ms. James’s lawsuit claims that the Trump Organization, which is a collection of approximately 500 separate entities that operate for the benefit and under the control of Mr. Trump, used deceptive practices to come up with the highest possible value for Trump Tower.

  • New York Times, Prosecutors said Donald Trump’s lawyers were trying to use an arcane law to delay the documents case trial, Sept. 28, 2023.

 

U.S. National Politics

 

 

Seven Republican presidential candidates appear at Wednesday's debate in Simi Valley, Calif. (Washington Post photo by Melina Mara).Seven Republican presidential candidates appear at Wednesday's debate in Simi Valley, Calif. (Washington Post photo by Melina Mara).

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From Another Trump-Free Republican Debate, Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Nikki Haley delivered an assured performance, Tim Scott reasserted himself and Ron DeSantis took swipes at Donald Trump, who skipped the event.

As he sat in the spin room with the Fox News host Sean Hannity after the second Republican debate on Wednesday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida accurately summed up the spectacle he had just participated in.

“If I was at home watching that,” Mr. DeSantis said, “I would have changed the channel.”

The meandering and at times indecipherable debate seemed to validate former President Donald J. Trump’s decision to skip it. With only occasional exceptions, the Republicans onstage seemed content to bicker with one another. Most of them delivered the dominant front-runner only glancing blows and did little to upend the political reality that Mr. Trump is lapping all of his rivals — whose cumulative support in most national polls still doesn’t come close to the former president’s standing.

Here are five takeaways from 120 minutes of cross-talk, unanswered questions, prepackaged comebacks and nary a word mentioning the heavy favorite’s legal jeopardy.

The first time he spoke, Mr. DeSantis finally took on Mr. Trump in front of a national audience.

“Donald Trump is missing in action,” Mr. DeSantis said. “He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have now.”

Allies and some donors had long been itching for such forcefulness.

But by the end of the 120-minute slog of a debate, that line felt more like an aberration that blended into the background. The candidates mostly seemed to intentionally ignore Mr. Trump’s overwhelming lead — other than Mr. Christie, who took an awkward stab at a nickname (“Donald Duck”).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The winners and losers of the second debate, Aaron Blake, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). It was a good night for nikki haley oNikki Haley and Donald Trump, but not for Ron DeSantis or for future Republican debates. Seven Republican candidates for president faced off at the second presidential debate of the 2024 election Wednesday night in Simi Valley, Calif. Again absent was the GOP’s runaway front-runner, former president Donald Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron DeSantis projected confidence onstage, but time is running out to stop his slide in the polls, Nicholas Nehamas, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). At a time when his standing in the polls has slid — and Republican donors have talked about finding another candidate to stop Donald J. Trump from cruising to the nomination — Gov. Ron DeSantis acted like the former president’s leading challenger at the second Republican presidential debate.

rnc logoStanding center stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday night, he deployed a newly assertive tone against the absent Mr. Trump, using criticisms he has been honing in recent weeks at the urging of his allies. He drew attacks from rivals who did show up, but none seemed to land a killer blow. And despite not saying a word until 15 minutes in, he ultimately imposed himself on the proceedings, speaking more than any other candidate.

“Donald Trump is missing in action,” Mr. DeSantis said during his first remarks of the debate. “He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt.”

The question is whether the performance will be enough now to stop him from losing ground and to build momentum. Time is running out to convince both skeptical voters and skittish donors that he is still the most competitive challenger to Mr. Trump than anyone else in the field. Mr. Trump’s standing in the race has only risen since the first debate in August, which he also skipped, and national surveys show him leading Mr. DeSantis by roughly 40 percentage points But as his rivals onstage Wednesday night clamored for airtime, conscious of their fading window, the Florida governor projected an air of confidence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans hold first hearing in Biden impeachment inquiry, Jacqueline Alemany and Amy B Wang, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans are holding their first hearing Thursday as part of an inquiry into whether to impeach President Biden, which House james comerOversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has said will lay out the basis for a probe that has so far shown no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

Comer, right, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), have called four witnesses to testify, three of whom were invited by Republicans.

The House is exploring impeaching President Biden. What comes next?

Comer has repeatedly touted evidence that has fallen short of substantiating his claims that President Biden has engaged in corruption and abuse of public office. But Comer is expected to try again Thursday, promising “emails, text messages, bank records, and testimony of Biden business associates,” according to his opening statement.

The Post has previously reported that Hunter Biden accepted money from Chinese nationals and that he sought to sell the Biden family “brand” and the illusion of access to and influence over his father. But there is no evidence that President Biden himself used his official perch to enrich his family, and a key witness testified last month that Hunter Biden was unable to influence his father’s actions or policy decisions — and that during their frequent communications, “nothing of material” was ever discussed.
Comer, Raskin set tone for contentious hearing

In his opening statement, Comer alleged Biden has for years “lied to the American people about his knowledge of and participation in his family’s corrupt business schemes.” Comer accused Biden of having developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets.

“These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to his family,” he said. “It also includes a Chinese national who wired a quarter of a million dollars to his son.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, hit back in his opening statement by quoting other Republicans’ criticism of their own party in the last week.

“ ‘Clown show,’ ‘foolishness,’ ‘terribly misguided,’ ‘stupidity,’ ‘failure to lead,'” Raskin said. “These are Republicans talking about Republicans. So let’s be clear: This isn’t partisan warfare America is seeing today. It is chaotic infighting between Republicans and Republicans.”

Raskin concluded his fiery remarks by saying that the inquiry all boils down to a “thoroughly demolished lie” that Rudy Giuliani and Trump launched years ago regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Raskin went on to cite various witnesses — including a former Giuliani associate — who have all disputed the GOP’s allegations that Viktor Shokin, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, was fired because he was investigating Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden served.

jonathan turley The committee is hearing live testimony from conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, right, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky and a former Justice Department tax attorney, Eileen O’Connor. They are expected to try to bolster the case that President Biden engaged in wrongdoing but will not be able to speak to how Hunter Biden conducted his business or whether his father assisted him.

Turley has become a mainstay expert witness at impeachment hearings. He first appeared before Congress in 2019 as an expert on impeachment, arguing against impeaching President Donald Trump over a July 2019 phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Dubinsky has previously provided analysis for Fox News on bank records associated with members of the Biden family that Comer released this year. In an August 2023 interview, Dubinsky insinuated that the Biden family may be utilizing shell companies for “nefarious” reasons — “to either launder money or hide a transaction.”

O’Connor, who served during President George W. Bush’s administration, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July, recommending that a judge reject a proposed plea agreement in the Hunter Biden case related to tax and gun charges.”

Democrats, who are allowed to summon one witness, will feature testimony from Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment expert and law school professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt first testified in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment and then again during the first impeachment of Trump.

  • Brian Tyler Cohen, Commentary: MEGAVIRAL: Star Democrat gives SPEECH OF THE YEAR against Republicans, Brian Tyler Cohen, Sept. 28, 2023.
  • MSNBC, Commentary: ‘Cooked and done:’ AOC shreds GOP for ‘embarrassing’ hearing on impeachment, Chris Hayes, Sept. 28, 2023. “The Republican Party knew that this was cooked and done from the beginning,” says Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Their star witnesses that they called in today said in their opening statements that there is not evidence to support articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.”

 

joe biden 9 26 2023 uaw picket linePolitico, Biden joins striking auto workers on picket line, Lauren Egan and Myah Ward, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers comes at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement.

politico CustomPresident Joe Biden on Tuesday became the first sitting president to join a picket line with striking workers, vividly demonstrating his commitment to labor and its central role in his reelection campaign.

The president, donning a blue hat with a United Auto Workers symbol, stood on a wooden platform and used a bull horn to speak to the crowd of union members dressed in red. He was flanked by United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.

uaw logo“The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going,” the president told the crowd outside of GM’s Willow Run Redistribution Center in Wayne County, Mich. “You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”

Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement represented a tectonic shift for an office historically known for breaking strikes, not supporting them.

The move also appeared to be a clear counter to former President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Michigan on Wednesday instead of participating in the second Republican primary debate — the latest sign that both candidates have moved beyond the primary phase of the election and are focused on November 2024.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Sen. Bob Menendez Prosecution, Reactions 

 

 Before joining the Senate, Robert Menendez, seen in 1992, became the first Cuban American and Latino to represent New Jersey in the House of Representatives (New York Times photo by William E. Sauro).

 Before joining the Senate, Robert Menendez, seen in 1992, became the first Cuban American and Latino to represent New Jersey in the House of Representatives (New York Times photo by William E. Sauro).

ny times logoNew York Times, As Robert Menendez’s Star Rose, Corruption Fears Cast a Persistent Shadow, Nicholas Fandos, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The New Jersey Democrat broke barriers for Latinos. But prosecutors circled for decades before charging him with an explosive new bribery plot.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Menendez Case, Prosecutors Confront Tighter Definition of Corruption, Benjamin Weiser, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court has said wrongdoing must be clear cut. Some observers say the accusations in Senator Robert Menendez’s case pass the test.

After the U.S. attorney in Manhattan announced corruption charges last Friday against Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the veteran Democratic lawmaker lashed back, calling the claims false and saying prosecutors had “misrepresented the normal work of congressional office.”

Mr. Menendez has said a lot more in recent days about the indictment, but his assertion last week offered a clue to the defense he may invoke, if his case goes to trial, one that other public officials facing corruption charges have used successfully.

In a series of key rulings since 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly narrowed the legal definition of corruption, leading to overturned convictions of prominent politicians in New York and elsewhere.

In 2016, in throwing out the conviction of Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, the court said a quid-pro-quo scheme had to encompass more than routine courtesies like arranging meetings — the normal work Mr. Menendez invoked.

But investigators found gold bars and cash-stuffed envelopes in Mr. Menendez’s home, and several legal experts interviewed this week said they believed the charges in the 39-page indictment could withstand the kinds of legal challenges that defense lawyers have successfully used in the past.

“It’s true that the Supreme Court keeps narrowing the scope of what is permissible for the government to pursue,” said Rachel E. Barkow, a professor of criminal law at New York University. “But I do think that this case falls into the heartland of what’s always been permissible, because as I read it, this is classic bribery.”

Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, said, “The Supreme Court’s point has always been not to criminalize normal politics” — what he called “the regular constituent service and day-to-day work of legislators.”

Politico, Cory Booker speaks: Bob Menendez should resign from Senate following indictment, Mia McCarthy, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  “Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker said in a statement.

politico CustomSen. Cory Booker on Tuesday called for his New Jersey counterpart and friend, Sen. Bob Menendez, to resign, four days after Menendez was indicted for allegedly accepting bribes.

“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost. Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe senate democrats logostepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving,” Booker said in a statement.

Booker is the latest in a growing group of federal lawmakers pushing for Menendez to step down, but he is to this point the most significant voice to speak up. He has been close to Menendez since joining the Senate a decade ago and testified in his favor at his corruption trial in 2017, which ended in a hung jury.

Booker’s call may also clear the way for other senators to join his call and reach a critical mass of pressure on Menendez, who is up for reelection next year, to leave public office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Schumer Must Do the Right Thing on Menendez. Now, Michelle Goldberg, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Hopefully, Democratic leaders in the Senate will do the right thing, and this column will be obsolete by the time you read it. I would have written it earlier, but I thought that at any moment, the dam would break and Robert Menendez, the recently indicted senator from New Jersey accused of spectacular acts of treachery and corruption, would be pushed out.

Yet here we are, four days after the Department of Justice gave us all a look at Menendez’s cash-stuffed jacket and one-kilo gold bars, and a united front of condemnation has yet to materialize. As I write this, more than a dozen Democratic senators have called on him to step down. Every other Democratic senator — especially the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer — should join them.

It’s true, of course, that an indictment is not a conviction. (Menendez knows this as well as anyone, having been charged with corruption once before but spared by a hung jury.) While he is entitled to another fair trial, he is not entitled to a seat in the United States Senate. As chairman, until recently, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is accused not just of accepting lavish bribes but also, more seriously, of passing sensitive information to an Egyptian businessman with ties to Egypt’s government. This is wrongdoing on a whole other level from what he was previously accused of.

At a defiant news conference on Monday, Menendez insisted he’s staying in the Senate and offered a preposterous excuse for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that F.B.I. agents found at his house. He said he kept it for emergencies, “because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.” Apparently, Menendez, who was born in New York, wants us to believe that, because of intergenerational trauma, he feels the need to hedge against Communist revolution in America. (Ironically, his family now, indeed, faces government confiscation.) He also claimed to be the victim of racist persecution by those who “simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. senator” — a deployment of identity politics so audaciously cynical, it belongs in a caustic TV farce, some deranged mash-up of “Veep” and “The Sopranos.”

His refusal to resign is a problem for Democrats both substantively and politically. At the most basic level, it’s hard to see how, given what Menendez has been accused of, he can be trusted to do his job. His continued tenure in the Senate is an embarrassment to the institution and to the Democratic Party, an embarrassment that will only grow more acute as his prosecution proceeds. Republicans, of course, understand that his presence in the Senate works to their advantage, which is why the right-wing senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas declared that Menendez should stay put.

And while Menendez’s indictment demonstrates the absurdity of Donald Trump’s ranting that the Justice Department is rigged against Republicans, it also makes it harder for Democrats to keep the spotlight on Trump’s baroque corruption. Finally, if Menendez somehow fends off a primary challenger next year, he could offer Republicans the chance to pick up New Jersey’s ordinarily safely Democratic Senate seat.

“It’s astonishing, given that kind of evidence, to say you’re not going anywhere,” Senator John Fetterman, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said on Monday evening, a few hours after Menendez’s news conference.

Fetterman was the first Democratic senator to call for Menendez’s resignation. He’s since been joined by several others, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and, most significantly, Menendez’s fellow New Jersey senator, Cory Booker. Outside the Senate, influential Democrats — including New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, and the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi — have also said Menendez should step down.

But the Senate’s top Democratic leaders are so far standing behind him, with Schumer calling him a “dedicated public servant” who “is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey.” Perhaps Schumer and others are holding their fire so they can try to ease Menendez out behind the scenes, but given Menendez’s news conference, he seems unlikely to go anywhere without a shove. And until Senate leaders denounce him — and, if necessary, make plans to expel him — Menendez’s shame will taint them as well.

When I spoke to Fetterman, he expressed bemused astonishment that some senators have seemed more exercised about his challenge to the Senate’s sartorial traditions than about the allegations of influence peddling by Menendez. “There were people running into the burning building to save the virtue of the Senate over a dress code,” said Fetterman, but when it comes to a stash of gold bars and “wads of cash all over the house,” they’re silent. “It’s confusing,” he said.

 

 

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

ny times logoNew York Times, Menendez, Defiant, Says He Will Not Resign, Tracey Tully, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, returned Monday to Union City, the community where he rose to political prominence, to offer a clear answer to former allies who have called for his resignation in the face of federal bribery charges: No.

senate democrats logo“The allegations leveled against me are just that — allegations.” Mr. Menendez said at a news conference at a community college not far from where he grew up, the child of Cuban immigrants.

It was the first time he had appeared publicly since federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed a 39-page indictment on Friday that accused him and his wife, Nadine Menendez, of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for wielding his political influence to benefit the government of Egypt and business associates in New Jersey.

Investigators found $550,000 in cash and 13 bars of gold bullion during a June 2022 search of a safe deposit box and the couple’s home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Many of New Jersey’s most prominent Democratic leaders have called on Mr. Menendez to step down. On Monday morning, he appeared at the lectern alone.

The indictment depicted a far-reaching web of political corruption involving aid and weapons sales to Egypt and efforts by Mr. Menendez to persuade state and federal prosecutors to go easy on his associates in three criminal cases.

Mr. Menendez was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until stepping aside on Friday, as required by rules the Senate Democrats adopted to govern themselves.

Mr. Menendez, his wife, and three New Jersey businessmen, who were also accused in the bribery conspiracy, are expected to appear Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan to respond to the charges.

Nadine Menendez, 56, Mr. Menendez’s wife of three years, did not attend the news conference.

phil murphy o smile CustomNew Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, right, a close ally of Mr. Menendez, called for the senator’s resignation Friday evening, unleashing a chorus of similar messages from fellow Democratic leaders across the state.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey spoke publicly for the first time since being charged with taking bribes in exchange for exerting political influence.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

  Damian Williams, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, talks about a display of photos of evidence in an indictment against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez during a news conference, September 22, 2023, in New York (Associated Press photo by Robert Bumsted).

Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, talks about a display of photos of evidence in an indictment against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez during a news conference, September 22, 2023, in New York (Associated Press photo by Robert Bumsted).

 

More On High Tech v. Government Clashes

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Hear Challenges to State Laws on Social Media, Adam Liptak, Sept. 29, 2023. The tech industry argues that laws in Florida and Texas, prompted by conservative complaints about censorship, violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether Florida and Texas may prohibit large social media companies from removing posts based on the views they express, setting the stage for a major ruling on how the First Amendment applies to powerful tech platforms.

The laws’ supporters argue that the measures are needed to combat what they called Silicon Valley censorship, saying large platforms had removed posts expressing conservative views on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and claims of election fraud. In particular, they objected to the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Two trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, had challenged the laws, saying the First Amendment prevents the government from telling private companies whether and how to disseminate speech.

The court’s decision to hear the cases was unsurprising. In each case, both sides had urged the justices to do so, citing a clear conflict between two federal appeals courts. One ruled against the Florida law, the other in favor of the one in Texas.

 

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan vs. Jeff Bezos: This Is Big Tech’s Real Cage Match, David Streitfeld, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The chair of the Federal Trade Commission wants to disrupt Amazon, whose founder built a trillion-dollar firm by disrupting retail.

Jeff Bezos made his fortune with one truly big idea: What if a retailer did everything possible to make customers happy?

His forcefully nurtured creation, Amazon, sold as many items as possible as cheaply as possible and delivered them as quickly as possible. The result is that $40 out of every $100 spent online in the United States goes to Amazon and Mr. Bezos is worth $150 billion.

Lina Khan made her reputation with a very different idea: What if pleasing the customer was not enough?

Low prices, she argued in a 95-page examination of Amazon in the Yale Law Journal, can mask behavior that stifles competition and undermines society. Published in 2017 while she was still a law student, it is already one of the most consequential academic papers of modern times.

These two very different philosophies, each pushed by an outsider unafraid of taking risks, at last have their much-anticipated confrontation. The Federal Trade Commission, now run by Ms. Khan after her stunning rise from policy wonk to policy player, on Tuesday filed suit against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. The suit accused Amazon of being a monopolist that used unfair and illegal tactics to maintain its power. Amazon said the suit was “wrong on the facts and the law.”

Mr. Bezos, 59, is no longer in charge of Amazon on a day-to-day basis. He surrendered the chief executive reins to Andy Jassy two years ago. But make no mistake: Mr. Bezos is Amazon’s executive chair and owns more of the company than anyone else. It is his innovations, carried out over more than 20 years, that Ms. Khan is challenging. The F.T.C. complaint quotes him repeatedly.

Silicon Valley spent the summer transfixed by the prospect of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg literally fighting each other, despite the odds of this actually happening being near zero. Ms. Khan and Mr. Bezos are, however, the real thing — a courtroom clash that could have implications far beyond Amazon’s 1.5 million employees, 300 million customers and $1.3 trillion valuation.

If Ms. Khan’s arguments hold sway, the competitive landscape for tech companies will look very different going forward. Big antitrust cases tend to have that effect. The government achieved only a muddled victory in its pursuit of Microsoft 25 years ago. Yet that still had enough force to distract and weaken a much-feared software empire, allowing 1,000 start-ups to bloom, including Amazon.

It’s due largely to Ms. Khan, 34, that imposing major changes on the retailer is even thinkable. After spending a few days interviewing her and those around her for a profile in 2018, I thought she understood Mr. Bezos because she was so much like him. Very few people can see possibilities unseen by others and successfully work toward them for years, getting others to join along the way. But these were attributes they both shared.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Law Sets the Stage for a Clash Over Disinformation, Steven Lee Myers, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The law, aimed at forcing social media giants to adopt new policies to curb harmful content, is expected to face blowback from Elon Musk, who owns X.

european union logo rectangleThe Facebook page in Slovakia called Som z dediny, which means “I’m from the village,” trumpeted a debunked Russian claim last month that Ukraine’s president had secretly purchased a vacation home in Egypt under his mother-in-law’s name.

A post on Telegram — later recycled on Instagram and other sites — suggested that a parliamentary candidate in the country’s coming election had died from a Covid vaccine, though he remains very much alive. A far-right leader posted on Facebook a photograph of refugees in Slovakia doctored to include an African man brandishing a machete.

As Slovakia heads toward an election on Saturday, the country has been inundated with disinformation and other harmful content on social media sites. What is different now is a new European Union law that could force the world’s social media platforms to do more to fight it — or else face fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s revenue.

The law, the Digital Services Act, is intended to force social media giants to adopt new policies and practices to address accusations that they routinely host — and, through their algorithms, popularize — corrosive content. If the measure is successful, as officials and experts hope, its effects could extend far beyond Europe, changing company policies in the United States and elsewhere.

The law, years of painstaking bureaucracy in the making, reflects a growing alarm in European capitals that the unfettered flow of disinformation online — much of it fueled by Russia and other foreign adversaries — threatens to erode the democratic governance at the core of the European Union’s values.

Europe’s effort sharply contrasts with the fight against disinformation in the United States, which has become mired in political and legal debates over what steps, if any, the government may take in shaping what the platforms allow on their sites.

A federal appeals court ruled this month that the Biden administration had very likely violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech by urging social media companies to remove content.

Europe’s new law has already set the stage for a clash with Elon Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter. Mr. Musk withdrew from a voluntary code of conduct this year but must comply with the new law — at least within the European Union’s market of nearly 450 million people.

Big, A Newsletter on the Politics of Monopoly Power, Commentary: How to Hide a $2 Trillion Antitrust Trial, Matt Stoller, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Secret matt stollertrials subvert the very rule of law. Yet Judge Amit Mehta has blocked the public from getting access to the Google antitrust trial, which is being held mostly behind closed doors.

Today, I want to do a bit of a summary of the Google antitrust trial, since we’re investing so much into covering it. The key question is as follows. Google is a very powerful corporation worth around $2 trillion, it controls access to the internet, and it will roll out generative artificial intelligence for billions of people. And yet, the public hasn’t heard that much about a major Justice Department log circulartrial where the firm and its executives are being asked how they secured that immense power. Why?

google logo customThere are several possibilities, but in my view, the most obvious reason is that the judge in the case, Amit Mehta, is effectively holding the contest in secret. Last week, according to our calculations, over half of the trial, including testimony from key witnesses, happened in closed session, unavailable to the public. Why? Here’s Mehta in a pre-trial hearing in August, explaining his thinking to Google’s attorneys.

“Look, I’m a trial judge. I am not anyone that understands the industry and the markets in the way that you do. And so I take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it’s going to cause competitive harm. And I think it behooves me to be somewhat conservative in thinking about that issue, because, you know, I can’t see around every corner.”

In other words, Mehta is deferring to Google on the need for secrecy.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Global Tensions, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Three Killed in Shootings at a Home and a Medical School in Rotterdam, Claire Moses and Emma Bubola, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). A 32-year-old student of the medical school was arrested as a suspect in the shootings, the police said, but a motive remained unclear.

A woman, her teenage daughter and a man were killed on Thursday after a gunman opened fire at a house and a prominent medical school in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, an unusual outburst of gun violence in the city that the police chief called a “black day.”

The Rotterdam police chief, Fred Westerbeke, said at a news conference on Thursday evening local time that a 39-year-old woman and a male teacher at Erasmus Medical Center had been killed. Later, the Rotterdam police announced that the woman’s 14-year-old daughter had died from her injuries. They gave the age of the teacher as 43, correcting earlier statements that gave it as 46. None of the victims were immediately identified.

The Rotterdam police arrested a 32-year-old Erasmus student as a suspect. He was carrying a weapon and wearing a bulletproof vest, the authorities said. He was also not identified. The police said they believed the shooter had acted alone.

Much remained unclear, including a motive and the relationship between the victims and the suspect, who lived on the same street as the woman and her daughter, according to Dutch news media.

 

Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega, shown as a rebel leader in the 1980s and more currently.

Nicaragua's strongman Daniel Ortega, shown as a rebel leader in the 1980s and more currently.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Taking Away Critics’ Citizenship, a Country Takes Their Houses, Frances Robles, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Nicaragua’s government has begun confiscating the homes of former political prisoners and dissidents forced into exile, just as the country did in the 1980s.

nicaragua mapCamilo de Castro, a filmmaker whose work is critical of the government, and the other two homeowners, Gonzalo Carrión and Haydee Castillo, are all human rights activists who are among more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year by the Sandinista government with no rights to citizenship or property. Mr. de Castro and the other two homeowners, Gonzalo Carrión and Haydee Castillo, are all human rights activists who are among more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year by the Sandinista government with no rights to citizenship or property.

Now, the government has started making it official in stark fashion by fanning out and seizing its opponents’ properties, including the homes of two former foreign ministers.

The campaign is a throwback to the leftist party’s first time in office in the 1980s, when the Sandinistas expropriated homes, setting off yearslong legal disputes. The country’s current leader, Daniel Ortega, led the Sandinista revolution that thrust them into power and lives in a house he confiscated decades ago.

Mr. Ortega was beaten at the ballot box in 1990 but after changes to the constitution that made it possible for him to win, Mr. Ortega reclaimed the presidency in 2007. He spent the next decade chipping away at the country’s democracy by interfering with the National Assembly, elections and the Supreme Court.

Tens of thousands of people rose up against Mr. Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, in 2018, accusing them of becoming exactly what they had once fought against: leaders of a dictatorial family dynasty. Government opposition landed hundreds of people in prison, and at least 300 were shot in protests.

Earlier this year 222 political prisoners were released into exile.

The move to start seizing properties in recent days follows the confiscation of a prominent Jesuit university and the arrests of several priests. On Monday, the Sandinistas seized a private business school Harvard University founded nearly 60 years ago. The government’s campaign signals that even five years after a failed uprising, dissent has serious consequences.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Stunningly Sudden End to a Long, Bloody Conflict in the Caucasus, Andrew Higgins and Ivan Nechepurenko, Photographs by Nanna Heitmann, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). After decades of wars and tense stalemates, almost no one saw it coming: Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian control seemingly overnight.

Tens of thousands died fighting for and against it, destroying the careers of two presidents — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani — and tormenting a generation of American, Russian and European diplomats pushing stillborn peace plans. It outlasted six U.S. presidents.

But the self-declared state in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — recognized by no other country — vanished so quickly last week that its ethnic Armenian population had only minutes to pack before abandoning their homes and joining an exodus driven by fears of ethnic cleansing by a triumphant Azerbaijan.

After surviving more than three decades of on-off war and pressure from big outside powers to give up, or at least narrow, its ambitions as a separate country with its own president, army, flag and government, the Republic of Artsakh inside the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan collapsed almost overnight.

Slava Grigoryan, one of the thousands this week who fled Nagorno-Karabakh, said he had only 15 minutes to pack before heading to Armenia along a narrow mountain road controlled by Azerbaijani troops. On the way, he said, he saw the soldiers grab four Armenian men from his convoy and take them away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blast Kills at Least 52 at a Religious Gathering in Pakistan, Zia ur-Rehman and Christina GoldbaumSept. 29, 2023.  The bombing, which officials believe was a suicide attack, was the latest sign of the country’s deteriorating security situation.

At least 52 people were killed on Friday in what officials said they believed was a suicide attack at a religious gathering in southwestern Pakistan, the latest sign of the country’s deteriorating security situation.

The blast occurred around midday in Mastung, a district in Balochistan Province. It targeted a procession of hundreds of people who had gathered for Eid Milad un-Nabi, a holiday celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

New York Times, New Border Crossing: Americans Turn to Mexico for Abortions, Sept. 25, 2023. American women are seeking help from Mexico, crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sikh Separatism Is a Nonissue in India, Except as a Political Boogeyman, Suhasini Raj, Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). India’s feud with Canada highlights how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has amplified a separatist threat that in reality is largely a diaspora illusion.

During his first trip to India as Canada’s prime minister in 2018, Justin Trudeau made a visit to the northern state of Punjab, where he got a photo op in full Punjabi dress at the Golden Temple, the holiest site of the Sikh religion.

He also got, courtesy of the Indian government, an earful of grievances — and a list of India’s most-wanted men on Canadian soil.

The killing this summer of one man on that list, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, has turned into a diplomatic war between India and Canada. Mr. Trudeau claimed this month that Indian agents had orchestrated the assassination inside Canada. India rejected the assertion and accused Canada of ignoring its warnings that Canadian Sikh extremists like Mr. Nijjar were plotting violence in Punjab in hopes of making the state into a separate Sikh nation.

But beyond the recriminations, a more complex story is unfolding in Punjab, analysts, political leaders and residents say. While the Indian government asserts that Canada’s lax attitude toward extremism among its politically influential Sikhs poses a national security threat inside India, there is little support in Punjab for a secessionist cause that peaked in deadly violence decades ago and was snuffed out.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Says It Will Expel U.S. Soldier Who Fled Over the Border, Choe Sang-Hun, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Pvt. Travis King dashed across the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone in July to flee to North Korea.

Pvt. Travis T. King, the American soldier who fled across the inter-Korean border into North Korean territory on July 18, was in United States custody on Wednesday, according to a senior U.S. administration official, after the North’s state news media announced that it had decided to expel him.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the efforts to release Private King.

After 70 days of investigation, North Korea found Private King guilty of “illegally intruding” into its territory and decided to expel him, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The news agency said that Private King had confessed to illegally entering North Korea because, it said, he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army and was disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society.”

North Korea had not said how or when it planned to deport Private King. He had fled to the North through the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea.

There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon.

It is unusual for North Korea to expel an American soldier who has expressed a wish to seek asylum there. In the past, the country allowed American G.I.s who deserted to its side to live and even start families there. It often used them as propaganda tools, casting them as evil United States military officers in anti-American movies.

Private King, 23, had been assigned to South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division. After being released in July from a South Korean detention center where he had spent time on assault charges, he was escorted by U.S. military personnel to Incheon International Airport outside Seoul to board a plane to the United States, where he was expected to face additional disciplinary action.

He never boarded the plane. Instead, he took a bus the next day to the border village of Panmunjom, which lies inside the D​MZ and allows tourists to visit.

The soldier “willfully and without authorization crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Colonel Taylor, the public affairs officer for U.S. Forces Korea, said at the time.

Last month, North Korea said that​ Private King wanted to seek refuge in the isolated Communist country or in a third country. In its announcement on Wednesday, it did not elaborate on why it had decided not to grant his wish.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fire at Wedding Hall in Iraq Kills More Than 100 People, Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Khaleel, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  Eyewitnesses said flares were set off in celebration as the bride and groom danced, and that a fire broke out at astonishing speed.

A fire swept through a wedding hall late Tuesday in a predominantly Christian area of northern Iraq, killing at least 100 people and leaving more than 150 others injured with severe burns or difficulty breathing from smoke inhalation, according to Iraqi officials.

The fire broke out during a wedding in the district of Hamdaniya, southeast of the city of Mosul in the Nineveh Plain, a part of Iraq where Christians have lived for many centuries. The district’s mayor, Issam Behnam, said 85 people from Hamdaniya alone had died, including some of his own relatives.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 20 Dead After Explosion at Nagorno-Karabakh Fuel Depot, Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrés R. Martínez, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The cause of the blast in the breakaway region of Azerbaijan, where thousands have been fleeing for Armenia, was not immediately clear. Hundreds were wounded.

Officials said on Tuesday that at least 20 people had been killed and nearly 300 wounded in an explosion at a fuel depot in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan on Monday.

The cause of the explosion, which produced a large fire that lit up night sky near the city of Stepanakert, was not immediately clear. Witnesses from inside Nagorno-Karabakh reported that it occurred as people lined up to refuel their cars as they were evacuating the enclave.

Thousands of ethnic Armenians have been fleeing the breakaway region for Armenia since a military offensive last week brought the enclave back under Azerbaijan’s control.

Emergency workers took 290 patients “with various degrees of burns” to four different medical facilities after the blast, the health ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tensions With China Cross a New Line in the South China Sea, Sui-Lee Wee, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Philippines is pushing back against China’s territorial claims. But China has been unrelenting, raising worries about an escalation.

China FlagThe video may seem too simple, too understated to mark a serious international incident in the South China Sea: a quick clip of a diver using a knife to cut a section of rope underwater.

But that diver was with the Philippine Coast Guard, and the rope was part of a sea barrier placed by Chinese forces to keep Philippine boats away from an area they had a legal right to fish in. In that moment, the Philippines took one of the most forceful steps yet in contesting China’s unrelenting territorial claims ever closer to the Philippine Islands.

“The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law,” the Philippines said in a statement, adding that the action had come on direct orders from President Ferdinand E. Marcos Jr.

Since he took office in June 2022, Mr. Marcos has signaled wanting a more muscular foreign policy approach toward China. But until now, those actions were confined mostly to rhetoric, deepening alliances with the United States and other countries, and releasing videos of aggressive activities undertaken by the Chinese Coast Guard against Philippine vessels.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blasting Bullhorns and Water Cannons, Chinese Ships Wall Off the South China Sea, Hannah Beech, Photographs and Video by Jes Aznar, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Traveling by boat, Times journalists saw firsthand how the world’s most brazen maritime militarization has transformed a major trade route.

China FlagThe world’s most brazen maritime militarization is gaining muscle in waters through which one-third of global ocean trade passes. Here, on underwater reefs that are known as the Dangerous Ground, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or P.L.A., has fortified an archipelago of forward operating bases that have branded these waters as China’s despite having no international legal grounding. China’s coast guard, navy and a fleet of fishing trawlers harnessed into a militia are confronting other vessels, civilian and military alike.

The mounting Chinese military presence in waters that were long dominated by the U.S. fleet is sharpening the possibility of a showdown between superpowers at a moment when relations between them have greatly worsened. And as Beijing challenges a Western-driven security order that stood for nearly eight decades, regional countries are increasingly questioning the strength of the American commitment to the Pacific.

Semafor, China looms over Biden’s meeting with Pacific leaders, Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant, Sept. 25, 2023.  President Biden will meet with more than a dozen leaders from Pacific nations at the White House today for a summit that will see him establish diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands and Niue.

Climate change will be a major topic of the gathering, but as with many of the administration’s international engagements, China will be looming in the background. At least one leader is skipping the summit — Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare — causing disappointment in the White House. The leaders who are in town were scheduled to attend the Baltimore Ravens game yesterday and receive a briefing from the Coast Guard on U.S. plans to address illegal fishing and maritime issues.

China’s militarized coast guard fleet, recently detailed in the New York Times, might be a natural topic of conversation.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during a frosty meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier in September 2023 (Canadian Press photo by Sean Kilpatrick via Associated Press).

 

More On Republican Threats To Shut U.S. Government

washington post logoWashington Post, House passes three more long-term spending bills, but agriculture bill fails, Marianna Sotomayor, Jacob Bogage, Eli Tan and Jeff Stein, Sept. 29, 2023. Congress is rapidly running out of ways to keep the government open past Saturday, after House Republicans on Friday failed to pass a short-term bill to extend the deadline and the Senate prepared a schedule for its own temporary funding bill that could delay a vote on final passage until after a shutdown begins.

Lawmakers quietly began acknowledging Friday that a lapse in appropriations appeared inevitable, though officially, leaders in both parties and both chambers insisted they would keep working and could find a solution in time.

But a grim reality started setting in by late afternoon. In a bid for the support of some of the far-right members who have insisted on steep spending reductions, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pushed ahead with a vote on short-term funding legislation that would have immediately cut most nondefense government programs by 30 percent. It still failed, 232-198, after 21 Republicans joined every Democrat in opposition.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. government starts notifying federal employees a shutdown may be imminent, Tony Romm, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The message will serve to acknowledge the growing risk that millions of employees may stop receiving pay, unless lawmakers can avert a government shutdown.

The U.S. government started notifying federal workers on Thursday that a shutdown appears imminent, as a Republican-led standoff on Capitol Hill forced the Biden administration to embark on the formal, methodical process of preparing much of Washington to come to a halt.
The messages acknowledged the growing risk that millions of employees and military service members may stop receiving pay in just three days, unless lawmakers in Congress can clinch a last-minute — and increasingly unlikely — deal that would extend government funding beyond Saturday.

The small group of House Republicans who might force a government shutdown

“During this time, some of you will be temporarily furloughed while others who perform excepted functions will continue to execute your assigned duties,” read one of the notices, sent to employees at the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by The Washington Post.

“Our collective mission is of great importance,” agency leaders continued, “and each and every one of you contributes in meaningful ways to keeping our nation, the American people, and our way of life secure.”

A shutdown would force the government to pare back to only its most vital functions. The resulting disruptions are likely to be significant, especially if the stalemate persists for weeks, potentially dragging down the fragile U.S. economy while complicating many of the services on which millions of Americans and businesses rely.

Some federal programs, including Social Security and mail delivery, would be unaffected, because they are funded outside of the annual appropriations process on Capitol Hill. But many other government operations would be rendered inaccessible if funds expire — resulting in closed parks and passport offices, and worrisome interruptions affecting federal housing, food and health aid for the poor.

Caught in the middle are the nation’s roughly 2 million federal workers and its approximately 1.3 million active-duty troops. On Thursday morning, some agencies began alerting many of these workers about the prospects of a funding lapse, which means they cannot be paid for as long as Congress fails to come to an agreement — though they would get paid back once any shutdown ends.

Members of the military are expected to helm their posts even without pay, as are a select group of civilian employees — such as bag-inspection agents at airports and federal law enforcement officials — whose jobs are considered essential to public safety or national security. But the Biden administration has yet to inform workers individually if they are going to be furloughed or exempted from a shutdown, adding to the anxieties of a political feud that has roiled the nation’s capital.

Michael Linden, a former top official at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the early notices reflected a political reality: Unlike past spending battles that yielded an eleventh-hour deal, “the chances of a shutdown are much higher.”

“If you’re 48 hours out from a potential shutdown, but it’s very clear there’s a [deal] on its path, then you might not do that,” he said. “But if there isn’t, you are going to have to tell agencies to tell their teams, so people can start to plan.”

As the federal government braced for impact, lawmakers prepared to return to work Thursday no closer to resolving their latest fiscal stalemate. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans inched closer to finalizing a bipartisan agreement that would fund federal agencies into November, but it remained unclear if they could pass it in time — or if the GOP-controlled House would even bother to consider it.

Biden, for his part, told attendees of a Democratic fundraising event in San Francisco on Wednesday night that a shutdown would be “disastrous.” He called on Republicans earlier Wednesday to extend government funding, warning that a lapse in federal funding starting Sunday would jeopardize “a lot of vital work.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Vulnerable Republicans Try to Head Off Blame for Shutdown, Kayla Guo, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Some House Republicans representing districts won by President Biden have explored a bipartisan stopgap measure as far-right lawmakers push toward a shutdown.

Days before an all-but-certain government shutdown instigated by hard-right Republicans in Washington, Elizabeth Catalino arrived at a Hudson Valley high school looking for answers from her own G.O.P. congressman, Representative Mike Lawler.

republican elephant logo“I’m very disappointed that you have this band of Republicans that are being so obstinate,” Ms. Catalino, who described herself as an independent, said in an interview on Monday after she attended a town hall-style meeting with Mr. Lawler in East Fishkill, N.Y. “And I think it’s just going to be hurtful to everybody if they’re successful in shutting the government down.”

As right-wing lawmakers take Congress to the brink of a government closure for which their party would almost certainly bear the blame, dozens of Republicans — particularly those like Mr. Lawler who represent districts won by President Biden — are toiling to head off the backlash from voters for the chaos sown by some of the most extreme members of the G.O.P.

“Especially in a divided government, we’re going to have to find compromise. We’re going to have to find areas of agreement,” Mr. Lawler said in an interview. “And for the handful of people that are unwilling to do that, it’s frankly destructive to the country and really harmful to the American people.”

Mr. Lawler is one of 18 House Republicans representing a district that voted for Mr. Biden, meaning that he must appeal to constituents ranging from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump to independents like Ms. Catalino and centrist Democrats. Before him, the seat had not been held by a Republican for more than two decades. And Mr. Lawler is expected to face a tough re-election race in 2024 as Democrats aim to wrench the seat back.

At the town hall and on cable news shows over the past week, Mr. Lawler has emphasized his opposition to a shutdown and his efforts to bring a bipartisan spending patch to the floor. He has told his swing-district constituents that the government is hurtling toward a closure at midnight on Saturday because a handful of G.O.P. hard-liners have stood in the way of government funding while he and other Republicans were working to extend it.

“Apparently, he’s willing to work with other people and other parties,” Eric Eckley, another of those constituents, said outside the town hall. “But that doesn’t answer the question of why the people in his party are not willing to run our government.”

Mr. Lawler’s office barred reporters from attending the meeting. But outside, attendees expressed frustration with the mess in Congress, even as some came away from the event with sympathy for their congressman’s plight.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate announces bipartisan short-term deal to avert government shutdown, Mariana Alfaro, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacob Bogage, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The stopgap measure would fund federal agencies at current levels through Nov. 17. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House remain unable to pass legislation to keep the government open beyond Saturday at midnight.

Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a short-term funding deal Tuesday night that would fund the government for six weeks, while including additional funding for Ukraine and domestic disaster relief.
Keeping up with politics is easy with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter, in your inbox weekdays.

The deal, reached days before the government would shut down on Saturday, would still need to overcome several procedural hurdles before full Senate approval. It would then move to the House, where its future is uncertain.

The short-term deal, called a continuing resolution, allocates $4.49 billion for the Defense Department’s effort in Ukraine, alongside $1.65 billion in additional funding for the war-torn country, which will remain available until Sept. 30, 2025. Combined, the more-than $6 billion in funds adds up to far less than the White House’s request for $20.6 billion in Ukraine funding. But if the plan becomes law, Congress would almost certainly pursue additional funding for Ukraine later this fall.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Shutdown Is Looming. What Comes Next? Zach Montague, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Many federal agencies have plans in place to weather a shutdown, but a disruption would still affect critical government services.

The White House has begun advising federal agencies to prepare for a government shutdown as Republican lawmakers have shown no signs of progress in negotiations to keep the government funded beyond this week.

djt maga hatThe United States has experienced 21 gaps in government funding since 1976, leading to varying degrees of disruption. Under a worst-case scenario, the White House is warily eyeing a repeat of 2018, the longest and most recent shutdown, which sidelined roughly 800,000 of the federal government’s 2.1 million employees for 34 days.

While much remains uncertain about how inevitable a shutdown may be or how long one may last, the broad contours of how it would play out are well-worn territory in Washington, and most agencies have readied plans for working through the tumult.

What exactly would be shut down?

  • A government shutdown amounts to a suspension of many government operations until Congress acts to restore funding.
  • For hundreds of thousands of federal employees, that means either being furloughed while the government is closed, or continuing to work without pay.
  • For the public, that typically means dealing with interruptions to a variety of government services and facing a range of inconveniences and disruptions to daily life.

In recent days, the White House has spotlighted several government programs that could cause more severe issues if suspended, in particular the nutrition and immunization assistance given out through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. If funding lapses, the White House has said nearly seven million women and children could lose critical access to food, and the federal contingency fund to keep the program running could run dry within days.

“If we have a shutdown, WIC shuts down, and that means the nutrition assistance to those moms and young children shuts down,” Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, told reporters on Monday.

Closures of national parks and museums are often one of the most visible impacts of a shutdown for the public, as well. In some cases, they can produce significant losses for the communities that depen

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More On 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Megadonor Network to Hear Pitches From DeSantis and Haley Camps, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 29, 2023. The American Opportunity Alliance will meet in Dallas, as its biggest donors weigh whether investing in any non-Trump candidate remains worthwhile.

A network of megadonors whose biggest members have stayed on the sidelines in the Republican presidential primary will meet next month in Dallas as advisers to two of the candidates hoping to defeat Donald J. Trump will make one of their last pitches for support, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The multiday event will feature advisers to Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, according to the two people. It will be hosted by Harlan Crow, the wealthy real-estate developer who backs Republicans and who has recently drawn attention for his friendship with and financial ties to Justice Clarence Thomas. Mr. Crow is hosting a separate fund-raiser for Ms. Haley next week, according to Bloomberg News.

The donor network, known as the American Opportunity Alliance, was founded a decade ago by a group of billionaires, including the hedge fund executive Paul Singer; Kenneth Griffin, another prominent investor; and members of the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs.

Some of its members have been known to be seeking options other than Mr. Trump. Mr. Griffin, in particular, has been vocal about how he is still assessing the field, despite his past support for Mr. DeSantis in his re-election effort as governor. Mr. Griffin, who has said he wants the G.O.P. to move on from Mr. Trump, bluntly told CNBC recently about Mr. DeSantis, “It’s not clear to me what voter base he is intending to appeal to.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ralph Nader, wary of Trump, offers to help Joe Biden win, Michael Scherer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The political firebrand, long estranged from Democrats, fears fascism will be on the ballot in 2024 and it must be defeated.

Ralph Nader Huffington PostThe liberal activist Ralph Nader still remembers nearly the exact words Joe Biden used to banish him from the U.S. Senate 23 years ago, after Nader’s Green Party presidential bid in 2000 won 97,000 votes in Florida.

“Ralph Nader is not going to be welcome anywhere near the corridors,” then-senator Biden had declared, blaming the consumer advocate for Democrat Al Gore’s defeat to Republican George W. Bush.

So began Nader’s long exile from Democratic Capitol Hill hideaways, where Nader had once been feted as a conquering policy genius.

Nader, a spry 89-year-old who works remotely because of covid concerns, still resents the slight. But if you ask him these days about Biden’s reelection fight in 2024, he does not respond with his old gibes about Republicans and Democrats being nothing more than “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

“We are stuck with Biden now,” Nader says in his cantankerous way. “In a two-party duopoly, if one should be defeated ferociously, the logic is that the other one prevails.”

Former president Donald Trump is, of course, the one deserving ferocious defeat in that calculation, and for the moment Nader wants everyone to know that this has become his overriding political mission.

“I know the difference between fascism and autocracy, and I’ll take autocracy any time,” Nader said in a recent telephone interview. “Fascism is what the GOP is the architecture of, and autocracy is what the Democrats are practitioners of. But autocracy leaves an opening. They don’t suppress votes. They don’t suppress free speech.”

If the pivot matters, it is likely to land hardest among the dissident parts of the liberal coalition, who like him have been fed up for years with the state of Democratic politics and could once again play a major role if they stay home or vote third-party in a close general election. Nader is dismissive of the chances of the Green Party in 2024, despite personal praise for Cornel West, the party’s likely candidate. He speaks of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democratic challenger to Biden who campaigns on some of Nader’s issues, as a wayward talent unable to get out of his own way.

Nader says no formal Biden endorsement will be forthcoming, and he still supports the idea of third parties in principle. “Biden is better than he has ever been but he is still terrible on empire and Wall Street,” is about as close as he will come to complimenting the president. But the cover boy for Newsweek in 1968 and Time in 1969 has devoted himself as he approaches his tenth decade of life to, in his view, making Democrats better at being Democrats.

For months, he has been calling and snail-mailing elected officials and operatives his thoughts about how the party must improve its sales pitches. He produced a 10-point plan for improving the party’s messaging and campaign tactics last year, calling for harder punches at the GOP and more liberal policy solutions.

The response has been mostly nothing — unreturned calls he counts in the thousands, a result of resentments over his 2000, 2004 and 2008 third-party presidential campaigns. Even news outlets that used to cover his crusades have moved on. “The main press I get these days is the obituary columns,” he jokes.

But he still reads the major papers carefully every day and likes to track down the phone numbers of Democratic knife fighters he feels are wielding dull blades.

ny times logoNew York Times, “Bring it, Tim”: Two South Carolinians, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, clashed, Michael C. Bender, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). For months, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have been polite to one another on the campaign trail. That ended in a fiery way on Wednesday night on the debate stage.

Nikki Haley, as governor of South Carolina in December 2012, appointed Tim Scott to the Senate. Nearly 11 years later, on Wednesday night, Ms. Haley said he had squandered repeated opportunities to rein in spending. Mr. Scott said Ms. Haley had never seen a federal dollar she didn’t like.

“Bring it, Tim,” Ms. Haley said, taunting him from across the Republican presidential debate stage.

Nervous laughter erupted from the friendly audience as two South Carolinians seeking the Republican presidential nomination finally shed the shared Southern politesse that had kept them from attacking each other on the campaign trail.

Their skirmish began when Ms. Haley dismissed Mr. Scott’s promise to limit spending in Washington by pointing out the increase in the national debt during his time in the Senate.

“Where have you been?” Ms. Haley asked. “Where have you been, Tim? Twelve years we’ve waited, and nothing has happened.””

 

ron desantis hands out

ny times logoNew York Times, Can DeSantis Reset? What to Watch For in the 2nd G.O.P. Debate, Jonathan Weisman and Lisa Lerer, Sept. 27, 2023. The first matchup fueled momentum for Nikki Haley and a slide in standing for Ron DeSantis. What it didn’t do was diminish Donald Trump’s lead.

Seven Republican presidential hopefuls not named Donald J. Trump will gather on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., with the pressing task of securing second place in the Republican Party’s nominating race — and the ultimate mission of actually challenging the front-runner, Mr. Trump.

The first debate last month in Milwaukee was a breakout moment for Vivek Ramaswamy, a wealthy entrepreneur and political newcomer, but it also elevated Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations. What it didn’t do is diminish Mr. Trump’s lead.

Here’s what to watch for in the second debate.

Can DeSantis reset (again)?

For months, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida was widely seen as the strongest challenger to Mr. Trump. But after a first debate where Mr. DeSantis was largely relegated to the sidelines, his standing in the race has sunk. Recent surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire show that Mr. DeSantis has lost as much as half of his support, falling to third place — or lower. Some of his biggest longtime donors have of late grown reluctant to put more money into a campaign that seems to be headed in the wrong direction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Nikki Haley Shouldn’t Be the Republican Party’s Future, Pamela Paul, Sept. 27, 2023. All eyes are on Donald Trump’s top rivals ahead of Wednesday night’s second G.O.P. primary debate. And according to the Opinion columnist Pamela Paul, it is a disappointing lineup — Nikki Haley especially.

Paul argues that Haley is not the moderate anti-Trump alternative she is touted to be. But rather, is an opportunist, pandering to both sides and lacking “a core philosophy and a commitment.” As a candidate, she promises to bring back the old Reagan-esque Republican values, but Paul believes that Haley is a hypocrite whose loyalty resides exclusively with her personal agenda.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Weighing In on Auto Strike, Has a Mixed Legacy on Unions, Russ Buettner, Sept. 27, 2023. Donald Trump will campaign in Michigan today amid the United Automobile Workers’ strike. He has both appeased unions and sought to circumvent them.

As a businessman, Donald J. Trump at first tried to circumvent labor unions, then spent decades largely appeasing them to avoid costly strikes.

During his first presidential campaign, he boiled down labor issues to a grievance about other countries taking advantage of the United States.

As president, he made appointments and adopted policies often more antagonistic to organized labor than those of many other Republicans.

When Mr. Trump arrives in the Detroit area on Wednesday to interject himself into the United Auto Workers strike, he will bring with him a record of interactions with organized labor that, whether out of pragmatism or opportunism, has few straight lines.

What may resonate the loudest with the current and former factory workers whom Mr. Trump hopes to reach is his decades-long history of reducing a host of economic and labor issues to the complaint that America’s leaders have allowed other countries to “rip off” the United States. He used that line of reasoning in announcing the Michigan trip, arguing that “dumb” government programs to promote electric vehicles would push all automobile production to China. “The all Electric Car is a disaster for both the United Auto Workers and the American Consumer,” he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

He deployed the same logic in criticizing Shawn Fain, the United Auto Workers’ president, though what he thought Mr. Fain should do differently was not clear. “I think he’s not doing a good job in representing his union, because he’s not going to have a union in three years from now,” Mr. Trump said in a recent interview broadcast on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Those jobs are all going to be gone because all of those electric cars are going to be made in China.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Las Vegas hospitality workers voted to authorize a strike against major resorts along the Strip, a step toward a walkout, Kurtis Lee, Sept. 27, 2023. Unions representing 60,000 workers across Nevada have been in talks with the resorts since April. The vote is a crucial step toward a walkout.

 

joe biden kamala harris

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Forget fantasies about replacing Biden. Kamala Harris can’t beat Trump, Max Boot, right, Sept. max boot screen shot25, 2023. I fear for America’s future and hence the world’s — more so now than ever. I had relaxed a bit after the last two national elections, which had seemed to signal a return to normalcy. Donald Trump was decisively defeated in 2020 and, in 2022, most of his fellow election deniers also lost in their bids to take over the election machinery of swing states.

The prospect of another Trump term is the greatest foreseeable disaster that can befall the United States and the world. Trump is likely to be 10 times more dangerous this time around, because he won’t allow any adults in the White House to act as a check on his worst instincts — no more Jim Mattis as defense secretary, John F. Kelly as chief of staff or H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. In a second term, Trump is likely to only appoint advisers as unhinged as he is.

We can only speculate what this will mean, but the likelihood is that Trump will cut off aid to Ukraine, pull out of NATO, eviscerate the civil service and the military’s top ranks, and appoint an attorney general who will prosecute his enemies. For a start. He was eager to do all of those things in his first term but was dissuaded or blocked by the “deep state.” He’s unlikely to allow that to happen again. He has become even more radical and more authoritarian since leaving office, and he now has much more experience in getting what he wants out of the government.

The consequences will be dire enough domestically, imperiling U.S. democracy, but they will be even worse internationally. Among other alarming consequences, a Trump presidency could allow Russian leader Vladimir Putin to defeat Ukraine and remake the 21st-century global order in favor of tyrants and aggressors.

So how do we stop Trump? Biden is a feeble vessel at best, but he’s the only realistic option we have.

In the world as it is, we’re just a few months before the start of the primaries, so if Biden were to step down now, the almost certain Democratic nominee would be Vice President Harris. (The last sitting vice president who sought but failed to secure a party’s presidential nomination was Alben Barkley in 1952.) And I have yet to meet a Democrat who has any confidence in Harris’s ability to beat Trump.

At the same time, any move to challenge Biden in the primaries or to replace Harris on the ticket would lead to Democratic fratricide which would likely ease Trump’s path back to power. Anyone who believes in preserving American democracy and the U.S.-led world order, therefore, has no choice but to back Biden in 2024, however uninspiring that might be.

 

guantanamo bay year 14 image.width 800

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Inside the Unfounded Claim That DeSantis Abused Guantánamo Detainees, Matthew Rosenberg and Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). A former prisoner’s story of mistreatment at the hands of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, made headlines. But The Times found no evidence to back it up.

Nearly a year ago, as Ron DeSantis’s political stock was rising, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee came forward with a stunning claim: Before he was Florida’s governor, as a young Navy lawyer, Mr. DeSantis had taken part in a forced feeding of a hunger striker at the notorious American prison, and laughed as he did so.

The detainee, Mansoor Adayfi, said he was tied to a chair, crying and screaming as tubes were shoved down his throat and cases of the dietary supplement Ensure were pumped into his stomach.

As the ordeal drew to an end, Mr. Adayfi added, he was approached by Mr. DeSantis and, “he said, ‘You should eat.’ I threw up in his face. Literally on his face.”

Mr. Adayfi told his story on a left-wing podcast, then in Harper’s Magazine and then again in mainstream media reports. He found other former detainees who also claimed to remember Mr. DeSantis and his cruelty. The accounts traveled quickly through the liberal media ecosystem, landing in Democratic opposition research and coalescing into a narrative that portrayed the Republican presidential candidate as an accessory to torture.

Yet, an examination of military records and interviews with detainees’ lawyers and service members who served at the same time as Mr. DeSantis found no evidence to back up the claims. The New York Times interviewed more than 40 people who served with Mr. DeSantis or around the same time and none recalled witnessing or even hearing of any episodes like the ones Mr. Adayfi described.

Instead, nearly all of those interviewed dismissed the story as highly improbable. Mr. DeSantis was a junior officer, who visited only for short stints and was tasked with what one fellow lawyer described as “scut work.” He would have had no reason to witness, and no power to authorize, a force feeding, according to the officer who supervised Mr. DeSantis at Guantánamo. Even senior lawyers were not allowed near force feedings, according to the commandant of the prison guards at the time.

“He was just too junior and too inexperienced and too green to have had any substantial role,” said Morris D. Davis, a retired Air Force colonel, who served as chief prosecutor of Guantánamo cases the year that Mr. DeSantis visited the prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Haley and Ramaswamy Rise, Some Indian Americans Have Mixed Feelings, Jazmine Ulloa, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Nikki Haley’s and Vivek Ramaswamy’s presence in the presidential race is celebrated by many Indian Americans, though not all agree with their policies.

Suresh Reddy, a centrist Democrat and city councilman, is watching the Republican presidential primary with a mix of pride and disappointment.

republican elephant logoWhen Mr. Reddy and his wife, Chandra Gangareddy, immigrants from southern India, settled in the Des Moines suburbs in September 2004, they could count the number of Indian American families on one hand. Only one Indian American had ever served in Congress at the time, and none had dared to mount a bid for the White House.

vivek ramaswamy linked inNow, for the first time in the nation’s history, two Indian Americans — Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, left — are serious presidential contenders who regularly invoke their parents’ immigrant roots. But their deeply conservative views, on display as they seek the Republican nomination, make it difficult for Mr. Reddy to fully celebrate the moment, he said.

“I’m really proud,” he said. “I just wish they had a better message.”

That disconnect, reflected in interviews with two dozen Indian American voters, donors and elected officials from across the political spectrum — in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and across the country — may complicate the G.O.P.’s efforts to appeal to the small but influential Indian American electorate.

Indian Americans now make up about 2.1 million, or roughly 16 percent, of the estimated 13.4 million Asian Americans who are eligible to vote, the third largest population of Asian origin behind Chinese and Filipino Americans, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the 2021 American Community Survey. Indian Americans also have tended to lean more Democratic than any other Asian American subgroups, according to Pew.

Though a small slice of the overall electorate, the demographic has become one of the fastest-growing constituencies, and is large enough to make a difference at the margins in swing states and in purple suburbs, including in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada.

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djt looking up

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine hits Russia’s Kursk region repeatedly with airstrikes, Mary Ilyushina and David L. Stern, Sept. 29, 2023. A Ukrainian drone strike on an electrical substation briefly left 5,000 people without electricity in Russia’s Kursk region, an area where authorities reported strikes and shelling nearly every day during the past week.

ukraine flagThe governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoyt, said Friday that a Ukrainian drone dropped explosives on the substation in the village of Belaya, cutting off power to nearby areas, including a hospital that had to operate on a diesel power generator for some time. The power was restored Friday evening, according to Starovoyt.

Russian Flag“Today our region was massively attacked by Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles, our air defense shot down 10 UAVs,” Starovoyt said in a Telegram message. “Thanks to all our military and concerned citizens who reported on incoming drones.”

There was no immediate official reaction from Kyiv. An official with Ukraine’s SBU security service, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, told The Washington Post on Friday that the substation was shut down as a result of “a successful attack” near the border.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who’s Gaining Ground in Ukraine? This Year, No One, Josh Holder, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Although both sides have launched ambitious offensives, the front line has barely shifted. After 18 months of war, a breakthrough still looks difficult.

ny times logoNew York Times, The British and French defense ministers visited Kyiv to discuss military support, Constant Méheut and Victoria Kim, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The visits by the NATO secretary general and the French and British defense ministers come ahead of a planned forum in Kyiv billed as a place to discuss weapons technology and how to increase production inside Ukraine.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, stressed the need to help Ukraine boost its domestic weapons production, speaking Thursday on an unannounced trip to Kyiv as at least two other Western defense officials said they had visited the city in shows of support.

Despite an influx of sophisticated weapons provided by Western allies, progress in Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been slow. The front line has barely shifted over the past year, and a prolonged stalemate could weaken Western support for Ukraine. As its troops burn through ammunition, Ukraine has been drumming up pledges of new arms while simultaneously looking to ramp up its domestic arms industry.

Mr. Stoltenberg spoke in Kyiv just a day before Ukraine plans to hold a forum with international military contractors, an event billed as an opportunity to discuss weapons technology and how to increase production inside Ukraine.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • NATO’s top official, visiting Kyiv, calls for boosting Ukraine’s arms production.
  • Russia launched a large drone attack overnight, Ukrainian officials say.
  • Domestic production deals with Western countries could help Ukraine’s economy and be lucrative for military contractors.
  • Europe made a bold pledge of ammunition for Ukraine. Now comes the hard part.
  • Ukraine and Russia clash at an international court at The Hague.
  • The U.S. announces sanctions targeting a global network supporting Iranian drones used in Russia.

 

The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, during a send-off ceremony for reservists drafted during a partial mobilization, in Sevastopol, Crimea, in September (Reuters Photo by Alexey Pavlishak).

The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, during a send-off ceremony for reservists drafted during a partial mobilization, in Sevastopol, Crimea, in September (Reuters Photo by Alexey Pavlishak).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Seeks to Show Commander Is Alive After Ukraine Claimed His Killing, Valeriya Safronova, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). After Ukraine said it had killed the head of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Russian state media broadcast footage of Viktor Sokolov meeting with officials.

Russian FlagThe comments and the release of the video were a Kremlin effort to address the questions swirling around the fate of Adm. Viktor Sokolov, one of the most senior Russian naval officers. In the video clip, Sergei K. Shoigu, the minister of defense, is seen discussing a drill that he said Russia’s Pacific Fleet completed on Monday. An officer who appears to be Mr. Sokolov is seen on a video screen, seemingly from another location, but does not speak during the footage.

A day after Ukraine claimed to have killed the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Russian state media broadcast footage of the admiral, Viktor Sokolov, in a meeting of defense officials.

A day after Ukraine’s military claimed that a recent strike on Crimea had killed the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday published a video showing the commander appearing via remote link at a meeting of top defense officials.

Russian state news media said the meeting took place on Tuesday, although the video’s authenticity and timing could not immediately be verified.

Shortly before the video was released, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said that responding to Ukraine’s claims about the commander’s killing was “exclusively the prerogative” of the Ministry of Defense and that the Kremlin had “nothing to say here.”

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • The naval commander appears in a brief video and does not speak.
  • A Russian strike hits port infrastructure, warehouses and dozens of trucks.
  • Russian forces tortured some Ukrainians to death, U.N. investigators say.
  • Ukrainian strikes on occupied Crimea aim to weaken Russia’s control of the region, experts say.
  • The U.S. is sending depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine. What does that mean?
  • The naval commander appears in a brief video and does not speak.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Influence Increases in Disputed Black Sea Waters, Constant Méheut, Sept. 27, 2023. Several ships have sailed a new corridor established to evade Russia’s de facto blockade. A military campaign has helped Ukraine gain some control, experts say.

Several ships have sailed a new shipping corridor established to evade Russia’s de facto blockade. A military campaign has helped Ukraine gain some control, experts say.

Russia has held sway over the Black Sea for much of the war. But Ukraine is increasingly managing to gain a degree of control over part of its disputed waters, aided by an intensifying military campaign, experts say.

In recent weeks, seven cargo vessels have successfully sailed a new shipping corridor established by Ukraine to evade Russia’s de facto blockade of its Black Sea ports, Ukraine’s Navy says. Analysts say that may stem from Kyiv’s new ability to hit Russian warships and potentially deter them from approaching Ukrainian waters, as well as its efforts to degrade Moscow’s surveillance capacities in the Black Sea.

To be sure, the Russian Navy may be reluctant to target civilian ships sailing near the shores of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, along the Black Sea’s west coast, which would most likely prompt widespread condemnation, and risk escalating the war.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • A new grain corridor highlights Ukraine’s military successes in the Black Sea, experts say.
  • Russia puts out another video of the admiral Ukraine claims to have killed.
  • Disinformation is a weapon regularly deployed in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • Canada’s speaker of the House of Commons quits after honoring a Ukrainian who fought for the Nazis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia criticizes delivery of U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Kostiantyn Khudov and Natalia Abbakumova, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russia has denounced the arrival in Ukraine of the first batch of U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday the delivery would “in no way” impact the outcome of the war. “There is no panacea and one kind of weapon that can change the balance of forces on the battlefield. There is no such weapon,” he told reporters.

He acknowledged that “Abrams tanks are serious weapons” but asserted that they, too, would “burn” as other weapons have done. “The Americans continue to increase their indirect involvement in this conflict,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Port City Severed From the Sea, Young Sailors Feel Adrift, Marc Santora, Photographs by Laetitia Vancon, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). With Russia trying to maintain military control of the Black Sea, the Ukrainian city of Odesa is disconnected from its waters — and its history.

 

President Biden met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in the Oval Office on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

President Biden met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in the Oval Office on Thursday (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: Zelensky Thanks Americans in Emotional Speech to End Washington Visit, Karoun Demirjian and Ben Shpigel, Updated Sept. 22, 2023. “There is not a soul in Ukraine that does not feel gratitude to you, America,” the Ukrainian president said after a long day of lobbying Congress for more aid and a meeting with President Biden.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine finished a long day of lobbying in Washington at the White House, where he met Thursday with President Biden after receiving a $325 million air-defense package, but appeared to have made little immediate progress in persuading House leadership to approve another $24 billion in military and humanitarian aid.

ukraine flagMr. Zelensky, accompanied by his wife, Olena Zelenska, capped off his visit with an emotional speech at the National Archive on Thursday evening, during which he and his wife thanked Americans for their support.

Zelensky is working hard to highlight the values that bind the American and Ukrainian people, stressing a shared love of freedom. He says U.S. aid has saved millions of lives in Ukraine by keeping most of the country out of Russian hands.

washington post logoWashington Post, The spat that is threatening to wipe out the goodwill between Warsaw and Kyiv, Loveday Morris and Annabelle Chapman, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Polish farmers angry over cheap Ukrainian grain imports are posing a real challenge to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party ahead of elections.

Politico, Ukraine claims senior Russian navy officers killed, injured in Crimea missile strike, Carlo Martuscelli, Sept. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A Ukrainian politico Custommissile attack on the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet headquarters on Friday killed and injured “dozens” of Russian troops, including a number of senior officials, Ukraine’s armed forces claimed on Saturday.

The claim, which couldn’t be verified, came as another rocket attack was launched on the Crimean city of Sevastopol, where the fleet is based, on Saturday. The Russia-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said on Telegram that debris from intercepted missiles fell near a pier during the latest assault.

Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces said on Telegram that more details of Friday’s missile attack would be communicated “when possible.”

Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told U.S. broadcaster Voice of America that at least nine people were killed and another 16 were injured in Friday’s attack.

According to Budanov, Russian Colonel-General Alexander Romanchuk was in “very serious condition,” while chief of staff Lieutenant General Oleg Tsekov was unconscious, Voice of America reported. Budanov didn’t, however, confirm reports that the Black Sea Admiral Viktor Sokolov had been killed in the attack, the broadcaster said. The claims could not be verified.

Crimea, which extends into the Black Sea, was occupied illegally by Russia in 2014.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

More On U.S. Auto Workers Strike

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Amazon Is the Apex Predator of Our Platform Era, Cory Doctorow, Sept. 27, 2023. Mr. Doctorow is an author, most recently, of “The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s chair, Lina Khan, has brought her long-awaited, audacious case against Amazon, signaling the Biden administration’s determination to restore an approach to competition law that has been in decline since the Carter administration. This will doubtless draw fresh criticism about her supposed overreach. But Amazon is precisely the kind of company that Congress had in mind in enacting America’s many antitrust laws.

Only more so: The Congress of 1890, which passed the first of those laws, could never have imagined the world we now inhabit.

The robber barons of that era hijacked the economy and politics, but they also faced the constraints of empires grounded in physical goods. They couldn’t lay a railroad or erect a steel mill without time-consuming capital and logistical hurdles. Today’s tech barons at huge platforms like Amazon, Google and Meta can deploy anticompetitive, deceptive and unfair tactics with the agility and speed of a digital system. As in any shell game, the quickness of the hand deceives the eye.

And Amazon is the apex predator of our platform era. Having first subsidized end-users and then offered favorable terms to business customers, Amazon was able to exploit its digital flexibility to lock both in and raid them for an ever-increasing share of the value they created. This program of redistribution from platform users to shareholders continued until Amazon became a vestigial place, a retail colossus barely hindered by either competition or regulation, where prices go up as quality goes down and the undifferentiated slurry of products from obscure brands is wreathed in inauthentic reviews.

It’s hard to remember that the internet was originally supposed to connect producers and shoppers, artists and audiences, and members of communities with one another without permission or control by third parties. In its early years, Amazon was good to its users. It sold products affordably and shipped them swiftly and reliably. It attended closely to the authenticity of the reviews that appeared on its site and operated an “honest search” that populated results pages with the best matches for each query.

Then Amazon started locking everyone in. Through Prime, it presold customers a year’s worth of shipping. With its digital publishing ventures, it nudged customers toward subscriptions, building a captive base of readers and deploying technology and expansive readings of obscure copyright laws to stop them from moving their books to other platforms. It opened Prime shipping at a low rate to its suppliers, relieving businesses of messy fulfillment logistics.

Meanwhile, its heavy subsidies, made possible by its investors’ appetite for backing an incipient monopoly, made it increasingly difficult for rival retail sites to gain traction, because Amazon’s seemingly bottomless coffers meant that it could sell goods below cost and extinguish any upstart that dared to compete with it. This created another form of lock-in for Amazon: It became progressively harder not to shop there.

The more locked in we were, the less Amazon needed to offer us. The customer-friendly, honest search degraded as the company began to allow retailers to buy their way to the top of listings, and by 2021, ads generated $31 billion in revenue. As sellers became increasingly reliant upon Amazon to display and deliver their goods, the company was free to drain money from them, too, piling fee upon fee and reportedly copying best-selling products.

Amazon’s army of workers also suffered: They are routinely maimed on the job, and on-site infirmaries send badly injured workers back into harm’s way. Its warehouse workers urinate in bottles to keep up with impossibly high fulfillment demands; its drivers are forced to defecate in bags. Amazon pioneered the “megacycle,” a 10.5-hour, mandatory graveyard shift at its warehouses, as well as a new kind of arm’s-length quasi entrepreneur who borrows small fortunes and hires legions of drivers kitted out in Amazon livery, only to be stuck with the bill for all those delivery vans — and risk termination at any moment.

Now we are at the final stage of monopolistic decay. The nation’s dominant online retail marketplace not only claws away much of its sellers’ revenues but also now penalizes them if they sell their products for lower prices at other retail outlets (including at its archrivals Target and Walmart). Amazon gets the American consumer coming and going, providing worse goods at higher prices while receiving vast sums in subsidies from state and local governments.

Speaking for his landmark antitrust bill of 1890, Senator John Sherman said: “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessaries of life. If we would not submit to an emperor we should not submit to an autocrat of trade.”

This suspicion of corporate power died in the Reagan era, when regulators adopted a new posture grounded in the idea that monopolies were evidence of efficiency and should be nurtured and that “consumer welfare” in the form of low prices was an absolute good of antitrust law. Amazon is surely the king of our time. Our antitrust laws were fashioned specifically to guard against this overwhelming corporate power — both its accumulation and its abuse.

This is something Ms. Khan, the F.T.C. chair, understands better than almost anyone: As a law student, she published “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” in The Yale Law Journal in 2017. That article launched her career as an antitrust theorist, culminating in her elevation to the trade commission just four years later. Ironically, Ms. Khan’s deep expertise on Amazon and past criticism prompted the company to seek her recusal from antitrust investigations.

Ms. Khan has taken aim at some of the largest tech companies the world has ever seen. Sometimes, she loses. The F.T.C. failed to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard and Meta’s acquisition of Within. Ms. Khan’s detractors then smear her with claims of gamesmanship and insincerity. But she is engaged in the honorable and necessary business of restoring the enforcement program of the federal government. She seeks to reinvigorate the use of the longstanding — and long-dormant — powers she already has.

The best time to have fought this power was over the past quarter-century, as Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, used his shareholders’ capital on predatory pricing campaigns, seemingly in plain violation of the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, and on a string of anticompetitive acquisitions that surely violated the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914.

The second-best time to fight this power is now. Ms. Khan, who is joined by over a dozen states in taking on Amazon, has set herself a monumental, urgent, necessary task. She is fighting to win — but if she loses again, it will not signal defeat.

The calcified edifice of expensively purchased pro-monopoly precedent is hard, but it appears brittle. With our support, Ms. Khan — and her colleagues on the commission as well as Jonathan Kanter, her opposite number at the Justice Department’s antitrust division — will continue to hammer away at this yellowing old shell until it shatters.

Cory Doctorow is the author of the newsletter Pluralistic and of “The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Gov. Glenn Youngkin to woo national GOP megadonors at retreat, Laura Vozzella, Sept. 30, 2023. Gov. Glenn Youngkin is about to treat dozens of GOP megadonors to some posh Southern hospitality, putting them up for two days at Virginia Beach’s grande dame historic hotel on his political action committee’s dime.

He did the same a year ago, gifting billionaires with two-day stays at a Charlottesville-area resort boasting mountain views, fine dining — and facetime with the political newcomer teasing a presidential bid.

The mid-October timing for Youngkin’s second “Red Vest Retreat” is a little awkward, with Nov. 7 General Assembly races just three weeks away and the window for launching a credible 2024 White House bid rapidly closing.

Youngkin has insisted that he is focused entirely on Virginia in the run-up to elections that will decide if he can enact his conservative agenda, including a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions. With the House and Senate closely divided and all 140 seats on the ballot, both chambers are up for grabs. No one doubts that Youngkin wants those wins, even if his eye is really on the White House, since losses in his own state would make it tough to pitch himself to the nation.

The Oct. 17-18 gathering at the Historic Cavalier Hotel could serve both purposes, even if it costs the PAC six figures up front in lodging and catering as was the case for last year’s retreat at Keswick Hall, since the well-wooed donors might more than make up for that later with big-dollar donations.

Va. Dems outraise GOP, but Youngkin’s White House buzz helps close gap

But the optics are tricky since Youngkin will spend precious time in the state election’s homestretch hobnobbing with out-of-state donors, some with no clear interest in Virginia. News of the event broke this week in a report claiming that some attendees planned to use the second annual Red Vest Retreat — named for the governor’s signature zip-up campaign attire — to as an opportunity to “draft” Youngkin for president.

“Alarmed Republicans are preparing to draft Glenn Youngkin,” read the headline on an opinion piece that Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS News, wrote for The Washington Post. Republican donors unhappy with former president Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field, Costa wrote, plan to use the retreat as a chance to “push, if not shove, Youngkin into the Republican presidential race.”

Officials with Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC did not respond to requests for comment. The only public response was a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, from PAC chief Dave Rexrode: “As we’ve said many times before, @GlennYoungkin is solely focused on our Virginia legislative elections … which are already underway.”

The post linked to Costa’s piece, allowing Rexrode to spread word of the alleged “draft” effort even as he swatted it down.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, reacted sharply on X.

“Time for another RINO stooge in a vest to represent the billionaire donor class now that they realize that after 5 or 6 “reboots” DeSantis clearly doesn’t have it,” he tweeted, referring to Youngkin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who until recent campaign struggles was considered Trump’s most formidable challenger.

White House Chronicle, Opinion: The Folly of Biden on the Picket Line, Llewellyn King, Sept. 30, 2023. The United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, formerly Chrysler, no matter the merits of the workers’ yearnings, shouldn’t have happened. Once it got going, it shouldn’t have lasted. The White House should have spoken.

Already there is damage. Ford has “paused” plans to build a $3.5-billion battery plant in Michigan. If the strike drags on or if the industry bows to the most damaging demand in the union’s wish list (a 32-hour work week), then the production of EVs and battery leadership will be ceded to other countries. U.S. automakers’ dependence on China — the world ’s top battery maker for EVs — will continue.

The U.S. auto industry is starting its EV surge behind others, and it will suffer mightily if the UAW doesn’t return to work.

In this circumstance, with so much at stake, it would be reasonable to expect President Joe Biden to have both sides closeted at Camp David and to be “knocking heads together.”

The president is the ultimate arbitrator, the one we look to for guidance and to tell us what is best. Yet, instead of bringing both sides together in the national interest, Biden has chosen sides, and chosen to walk the picket line.

Even Steven Rattner, the Democrats’ mechanic when it comes to auto issues, has said this is wrong.

Rattner — whom I caroused with when he was reporter at The New York Times, before he became fabulously rich on Wall Street — is through-and-through a Democrat and one of the party’s intellectuals. In 2009, he authored the rescue plan for the auto industry. At that time, it looked like General Motors and Chrysler were headed for permanent closure.

What was Biden thinking? Why did he abandon the high ground of the presidency?

How can Biden now sit down and bring both sides to the table to negotiate in good faith? He has already declared his allegiance to one.

I believe in the value of unions: guarantors of middle-class life for many. I am not just saying that. I have lived it.

I was once the president of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. I am very proud of the financial settlement we got on my watch for reporters and editors at The Washington Post. It was a breakthrough: a 67 percent pay raise over three years.

The newspaper industry was very prosperous at the time, whereas reporters and editors were poorly paid. It was long before the internet would crush the industry, reducing it to its present state of poverty and collapse. We were asking for some of the goodies we had created. There was no danger of The Washington Post moving to China.

Sadly, the unions have been slow to adjust to new realities. They are stuck in a mindset of the days when we were a country of industrial robber barons and industrial unions made sense. Now we are a service economy desperately seeking re-industrialize. EVs are important in that effort.

I ran into outdated union thinking head-on at the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. Although we were largely autonomous, we were a chapter of the American Newspaper Guild, our head office.

I had a proposal for simplifying work schedules for editorial staff. My proposal was that editorial staff work three days — 10 to 12 hours a day — and have three days off. My colleagues loved it, The Washington Post management saw it as a solution to overtime and weekend staffing problems. I had seen it work well at the BBC in London, where it was standard practice.

The ANG head office went berserk: It was a betrayal of union history and the “model” contract, written by the legendary reporter, columnist and ANG founder, Heywood Broun, in 1935. In ongoing negotiations with The Post, I dropped the proposal to everyone’s regret. That kind of legacy thinking is what has been killing unions and unionism.

There is a backstory to the Hollywood writers’ strike and the auto workers’ stoppage: artificial intelligence. It will change lives and is a threat to the kind of work unions have protected.

Biden might well have chosen the strikes as a chance to bring about settlements, but also to begin a national dialogue on AI.

Instead, Biden walked a picket line, resolving nothing.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS.

 

 

GM Ford

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws a tantrum after his plan backfires, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Donald Trump has mostly spent bill palmerthe past two and a half years in hiding, only occasionally surfacing in public (and coming off as senile whenever he has).

bill palmer report logo headerFor the most part Trump has simply sat at home and whined about how horribly things are going for him, even as he’s been indicted and arrested over and over again. He’s finished, and on his more lucid days, he knows it.

But Trump is still pretending he’s a 2024 candidate, and so he has to occasionally surface in order to keep up appearances. To that end, he and his handlers were planning to have him hold an event with autoworkers this week. Trump and his Republican Party are exceedingly anti-union, but this was Trump’s attempt at goading a complicit media into portraying him as caring about the working class.

uaw logoThe thing is, President Joe Biden and his people are far more politically savvy than a senile Trump or his inept advisers. So Biden is now set to join striking autoworkers on the picket line, in a move that will get far more publicity than Trump’s autoworker photo op. To give you an idea of just how badly this is backfiring on Trump, he’s now throwing a complete fit about it.

Trump is now insisting that he only set up his autoworker event to try to get President Biden “off his lazy a..” – as if anyone is going to believe that. Trump then announced to autoworkers that “MAKE YOU RICH.” Well okay then.

What we’re seeing is Donald Trump losing, knowing that he’s losing, and whining about how he’s losing. If he thought he was clever for scheduling a one-off autoworker event, suffice it to say that President Biden has all too easily figured out how to outwit Trump. That’s partly because Trump is senile, and partly because Biden is really good at this.

Relevant Recent Headlines 

 

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist gets 6-year sentence in child pornography case, Salvador Rizzo, Sept. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A former national security journalist who worked for ABC News until his apartment was searched last year in a child pornography investigation was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.

abc news logoJames Gordon Meek pleaded guilty in July to possessing explicit images and videos of minors, and sharing them with two other users on a smartphone messaging app called Kik in 2020. The FBI seized several devices during a search of Meek’s apartment in Arlington County, Va., last year, and Meek admitted they contained “dozens of images and at least eight videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” according to court filings.

At his sentencing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Meek asked his victims and his family for forgiveness and said he should have used his reporting skills to help victims of online sexual abuse instead of contributing to their exploitation.

“I was a journalist. I wrote countless stories about the misconduct of others,” he told Judge Claude M. Hilton. “I broke federal law, I violated God’s law, and I undermined my own personal ethos of always helping others. … I need you to hold me accountable.”

The investigation into Meek, an Emmy-winning producer who covered wars, terrorism and major crimes, began with a tip from the file storage company Dropbox about digital materials on an account he had registered, according to court records.

Authorities alleged that Meek also communicated online with minors, persuading at least one girl to send photographs showing nudity, although his guilty plea was based strictly on possessing and sharing child sexual abuse materials. Defense attorney Eugene Gorokhov noted throughout the case that Meek was not accused of physically meeting or abusing minors.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia requested a prison sentence of 12½ to nearly 16 years, arguing that Meek shared “images and videos of prepubescent children, including infants, being forcibly raped and exploited for the sexual pleasure of adults on the internet.”

One of Meek’s victims described what it felt like to be repeatedly victimized: “The first time was being abused and the second time is the ongoing anxiety due to the images of my abuse forever accessible,” according to a statement quoted by prosecutors.

“Not only were they traumatized by the initial sexual abuse that was captured on film, but they are also further victimized through the ongoing distribution and consumption of depictions of their abuse,” federal prosecutors Zoe Bedell and Whitney Kramer wrote in a court filing.

Gorokhov, who asked the judge to impose a prison sentence of five years, said Meek began to struggle with his mental health as he covered the horrors of war and terrorism, ultimately developing “this disease, this illness, this curse” as a coping mechanism.

“There’s going to be a breaking point,” Gorokhov said, noting that Meek also had files on his electronic devices showing “torture, executions, beheadings, human-rights atrocities” because of the kind of reporting he practiced.

Before joining ABC, Meek worked for the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, “where he advised top congressional leaders and held a top-secret clearance,” according to his attorney.

“The sentence in this case represents a rejection of the picture of Mr. Meek that the government tried to present,” Gorokhov said after the hearing. “We are grateful to the court for taking a careful look at the facts, accurately assessing those facts, and recognizing that Mr. Meek’s worst moments do not define him. ”

Meek said he did not know any of the young people depicted in the evidence against him but that he had read accounts from two of the female victims.

“I should have helped you find accountability,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Great Read: The Lawyer Trying to Hold Gunmakers Responsible for Mass Shootings, Michael Steinberger, Sept. 29, 2023. Josh Koskoff’s victory against Remington has raised the possibility of a new form of gun control: lawsuits against the companies that make assault rifles.

nra logo CustomIt was Koskoff’s first visit to Highland Park and first time he had come to see the Uvaldo family. When the Uvaldos began contemplating legal action against Smith & Wesson, they were directed to Koskoff, a lawyer based in Bridgeport, Conn., because of a landmark case that he won several months before Eduardo’s death: In February 2022, a $73 million settlement was announced in a lawsuit that Koskoff brought against the gun maker Remington on behalf of families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.

An AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, which at the time was owned by Remington, was used in the 2012 shooting that left 20 first graders and six adults dead. Because Remington was in bankruptcy, its insurers negotiated the agreement.

While it was believed to be a record settlement in a case involving a firearms manufacturer, the real significance of Soto v. Bushmaster was not the payout but that it ever reached the point where the insurance companies felt compelled to make a deal. Federal law provides broad immunity to gun makers from tort litigation, or civil law complaints. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, enacted by Congress in 2005, was thought to have essentially eliminated any possibility of holding them accountable for crimes committed with their weapons. PLCAA included several exceptions, however, and Koskoff, a medical malpractice and personal-injury lawyer who had no prior experience of gun litigation, used two of them to pursue Remington. Soto was not the first case to test the limits of PLCAA, but it is the only one filed since the law took effect that has arguably succeeded in pinning responsibility for a mass shooting on a gun company (although it bears repeating that it wasn’t Remington but its insurers who settled).

Koskoff’s unexpected victory jolted the gun industry and energized gun-control advocates. Soto “pierced the shield that PLCAA provided,” says Adam Winkler, a U.C.L.A. law professor and Second Amendment expert. Koskoff’s win came against a backdrop of despair about gun violence in America.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Is Charged With Murder in Tupac Shakur Case, Julia Jacobs and Joe Coscarelli, Sept. 29, 2023. The man, a former gang leader named Duane Keith Davis, has said the four shots that killed the rapper in 1996 came from the vehicle he was riding in.

A man who has spoken publicly for years about having witnessed the drive-by shooting of the rapper Tupac Shakur from inside the car where the shots were fired was indicted on a murder charge, Las Vegas prosecutors announced on Friday, more than 25 years after the killing became a defining tragedy in the history of hip-hop.

The man, Duane Keith Davis, has said in interviews and a memoir that he was in the passenger seat of the white Cadillac that pulled up near the vehicle holding Shakur on a night in 1996, after a Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon prizefight in Las Vegas. Shot four times, the 25-year-old rapper died at a hospital less than a week later.

A grand jury in Clark County indicted Davis on one count of murder with use of a deadly weapon and with the intent to promote, further or assist a criminal gang, a prosecutor said in court on Friday. The prosecutor said Davis was in custody; his arrest was first reported by The Associated Press.

Talk of the case was revived in July, when the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department executed a search warrant at a home in Henderson, Nev., that was connected to Davis.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Rare Alliance, Democrats and Republicans Seek Legal Power to Clear Homeless Camps, Shawn Hubler, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Dozens of leaders, mostly from Western states, have asked the Supreme Court to overturn lower court decisions that restrict enforcement against public camping.

Garbage, feces and needles run through the rivers in Missoula, Mont. On the streets of San Francisco, tents are so thick that sidewalks in the Tenderloin neighborhood have become “unofficial open-air public housing.” In Portland, Ore., a blaze shut down an on-ramp to the Steel Bridge for several days in March after campers tunneled through a cinder block wall and lit a campfire to stay warm.

In a surge of legal briefs this week, frustrated leaders from across the political spectrum, including the liberal governor of California and right-wing state legislators in Arizona, charged that homeless encampments were turning their public spaces into pits of squalor, and asked the Supreme Court to revisit lower court decisions that they say have hobbled their ability to bring these camps under control.

The urgent pleas come as leaders across the country, and particularly in the West, have sought to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and restore normalcy in cities. In more than two dozen briefs filed in an appeal of a decision on homeless policies in a southern Oregon town, officials from nearly every Western state and beyond described desolate scenes related to a proliferation of tent encampments in recent years.

They begged the justices to let them remove people from their streets without running afoul of court rulings that have protected the civil rights of homeless individuals.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Marshals settle decades-old claims of racism by hundreds of employees, María Luisa Paúl and Hannah Knowles, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). It was over 29 years ago that Matthew Fogg, a retired chief deputy U.S. marshal, first filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service, alleging that a toxic environment of racism and discrimination permeated one of the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agencies and undercut career advancement opportunities for its Black employees.

Since then, the suit’s class — estimated to include more than 700 current and former Black deputy marshals and detention enforcement officers, plus thousands of Black applicants who were not hired — had been stuck in a sort of legal limbo, as the case was dismissed, reinstated and expanded over nearly three decades.

That is until Tuesday, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against job discrimination and harassment, granted preliminary approval of a $15 million settlement in one of the longest-running racial discrimination class actions in history.

“It’s a great sense of relief in a case that went on for an unusual length of time,” David Sanford, lead counsel for the class, told The Washington Post. “This was hard-fought over many years, with a lot of litigation, a lot of depositions, a lot of documents, a lot of people, a lot of witnesses — all leading to a legal battle that lasted for decades. But fortunately, it’s over now.”

Marshals Service employees have alleged racism for decades. Their case may finally be heard.

Throughout the litigation process, the U.S. Marshals Service denied wrongdoing. Though an equal-employment expert hired by the plaintiffs found that Black employees were significantly underrepresented in prestigious divisions and for promotions between 2007 and 2012, the agency argued that the analysis was flawed. A Marshals Service spokesman declined to comment on the class action’s allegations and instead referred The Post to a news release announcing that a settlement had been reached.

A final approval of the settlement is expected early next year, Sanford said. The agreement’s terms also stipulate that the Marshals Service will institute measures meant to enhance inclusion and transparency in its recruitment and promotions processes, as well as provide implicit-bias training to its employees — something Sanford said he hoped would achieve greater equity not only within the service, but across the federal government.

“This was another wake-up call for the federal government,” he said. “The federal government should be the shining light and standard by which everyone else operates. This shows that the U.S. government, like so many entities in corporate America, has fallen short. But hopefully as a result of the settlement, things will be better in the future at the Marshals Service and in the rest of the government.”

Yet for some plaintiffs, settling for $15 million in a court case that has spanned five U.S. presidencies — even as some of its plaintiffs have died — seemed like too little, too late.

“It’s a joke,” said Fogg, for whom the class action is named. He said he and other Black former employees believe the number reached is far too low.

Under the settlement, people who have been class agents and given depositions, like Fogg, will get more of the total, he said. But he still thinks the settlement is unfair, particularly because the case dragged on for so long.

Emptywheel, Analysis: Hunter Biden Threatens to Make Robert Costello's Dalliance with Rudy Giuliani Even More Costly, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Sept. 26-27, 2023. As he did with Garrett Ziegler, Hunter Biden has sued Rudy Gialiani and Robert Costello for hacking his data. These lawsuits provide basis to claim that DE USAO is pursuing Hunter for misdemeanor tax charges, while ignoring the way the President's son was and continues to be serially hacked by his father's opponents.

CT News Junkie, Dannehy Confirmed As Supreme Court Justice, Mike Savino, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Gov. Ned Lamont’s nominee, Nora Dannehy, for the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Senate approved the appointment of Dannehy with a 31-2 vote, followed by a 120-18 tally in the House.

“I have no doubt that she has the moral compass as well as the intellectual gravitas and wealth of knowledge and, actually, moderate hand on the till to make fair and even handed decisions,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

Dannehy, of Glastonbury, will fill the position of former Justice Maria Araújo Kahn, who resigned earlier this year after being confirmed to serve as a judge in a federal appeals court.

Her legal career includes service in both the public and private sectors. She was the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut and led prosecution of the corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

She was also deputy attorney general under former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, general counsel to Lamont and an associate general counsel for United Technology, now Rayhteon.

Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Dannehy “has a long history in our legal community” and a “record that is outstanding.”

She did draw some opposition, including from lawmakers who raised concerns about her lack of experience as a judge at any level.

“Without any experience sitting on a court, I have a real problem with that,” Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, said. Mastrofrancesco was one of the 18 opponents in the House.

craig fishbeinRep. Craig Fishbein, left, R-Wallingford, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said he shared those concerns, but ultimately supported Dannehy’s appointment. He said he was impressed with her answers during a hearing before the committee earlier this month.

“The governor has the power to select anyone, generally, in the world to be on the Connecticut Supreme Court,” Fishbein also said.

Other lawmakers said they were particularly impressed with her explanation for her 2020 departure from an inquiry into how federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies came to investigate whether Russian entities interfered in the 2016 election.

Dannehy told lawmakers she quit the probe due to actions by former President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, who pressured investigators to potentially release an incomplete and misleading report.

Rep. Steven Stafstrom, R-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the answer, along with Dannehy’s other responses, showed a “sense of ethics and fairness”.

Opponents also pointed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders during COVID, including his decision requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients. Dannehy was Lamont’s general counsel at the time.

“The despair that my family has had to endure as a result of many persistent and unrelenting executive orders is a burden that will impact our lives forever,” said Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, whose father died of COVID in a nursing home.

Winfield spoke glowingly of Dannehy, but said he spoke with Lamont’s office during the process about the need for more diversity among judicial nominees.

“I think there’s a concern about making sure that our bench is reflective of the various experiences that folks have,” Winfield said.

He added he was concerned about both the racial and ethnic diversity of judges at all levels, and about the high ratio of judges who were previously prosecutors.

Lamont’s first nomination was Sandra Slack Glover, appellate chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. Glover withdrew her nomination after it became clear she could win over the Judiciary Committee, in part because she signed a 2017 letter endorsing current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett for a post on an appellate court.

Barrett’s eventual role in overturning Roe v. Wade, through the controversial Dobbs decision, was a major point of contention throughout Glover’s confirmation hearing in May.

washington post logoWashington Post, Target to close nine stores, blames violence tied to organized theft, Jaclyn Peiser, Sept. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The retailer plans to shutter three stores in Portland, Ore., two in Seattle, one in New York and three in the San Francisco-Oakland area. 

Target said Tuesday that it will close nine stores in urban areas across four states, citing increased violence related to theft and organized retail crime.

By Oct. 21, three stores in Portland, Ore., two in Seattle, one in New York and three in the San Francisco-Oakland area will shut down. Retail crime at those locations has reached a level that threatens safety and “business performance,” Target said.

“We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all,” the company said in a news release.

Some employees will have the opportunity to transfer to other stores, the company said.

Target has been vocal about its troubles with theft and organized retail crime. Chief executive Brian Cornell said on a second-quarter earnings call last month that stores saw a “120 percent increase in theft incidents involving violence or threats of violence” during the first five months of the year.

Target said in May that shrink — the depletion of inventory caused by something other than sales — accounted for $500 million in losses. But Michael Fiddelke, its chief financial officer, did not specify how much for that can be attributed to external theft.

Shoplifting, organized crime and violence have become significant concerns for regional and national retailers. Home Depot, Lowe’s, Dollar Tree, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ulta are among those that flagged shrink during recent earnings calls. Growing losses have spurred giants such as Walmart to also shutter locations.

A D.C. grocery store is removing Tide, Colgate and Advil to deter theft

External theft accounted for an average of 36 percent of shrink-related losses at physical stores in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation’s security survey.

“The situation is only becoming more dire,” David Johnston, the retail federation’s vice president for asset protection and retail operations, said in a news release Tuesday. “Far beyond the financial impact of these crimes, the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority for all retailers, regardless of size or category.”

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More On Prosecutions Of Trump, Allies

ny times logoNew York Times, A federal judge denied Donald Trump’s request that she recuse herself in his elections trial, Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected arguments from the former president’s legal team that she could not fairly conduct his trial on federal charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

The judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election denied on Wednesday his attempt to disqualify her from the case for supposedly being biased against him.

In a strongly worded order, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan of Federal District Court in Washington, rejected claims by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that she had shown bias against the former president in statements she made from the bench in two cases related to the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021.

In the order, Judge Chutkan not only chided Mr. Trump’s lawyers for putting words in her mouth, but she also asserted that the remarks did not betray any animus or unfairness toward Mr. Trump that would warrant the extraordinary step of removing her from the election interference case.

“The statements certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible,” she wrote.

Seeking to disqualify a judge is a challenging and precarious move — one that, if it fails (which it often does), runs the risk of annoying the person granted the power to make critical decisions in the case. Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed their recusal motion two weeks ago, after Judge Chutkan handed them a significant defeat by scheduling the trial for March, much earlier than they had requested, but before they had filed any substantive motions to attack the charges Mr. Trump is facing.

A judge’s decision to remain on a case is generally not subject to an immediate appeal — though Mr. Trump’s lawyers could in theory try. Judge Chutkan’s ruling not to disqualify herself came as she considers a potentially significant development in the case: whether to grant the government’s request to impose a gag order on Mr. Trump’s public statements about the case.

In asking Judge Chutkan to step aside, Mr. Trump’s lawyers cited statements she had made about the former president at hearings for two defendants facing sentencing for crimes they committed on Jan. 6.

At one of the hearings, in October 2022, Judge Chutkan told the defendant, Christine Priola, a former occupational therapist in the Cleveland school system, that the people who “mobbed” the Capitol that day showed “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”

At the other hearing, in December 2021, Judge Chutkan told Robert Palmer, a Florida man who had hurled a fire extinguisher at police officers, that the “people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.

 

 

djt mug fulton county

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s lawyers said a gag order in an election case would strip him of his First Amendment rights, Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump against federal charges accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election offered an outraged response on Monday to the government’s request for a gag order, saying the attempt to “muzzle” him during his presidential campaign violated his free speech rights.

Justice Department log circularIn a 25-page filing, the lawyers sought to turn the tables on the government, accusing the prosecutors in the case of using “inflammatory rhetoric” themselves in a way that “violated longstanding rules of prosecutorial ethics.”

“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” one of the lawyers, Gregory M. Singer, wrote. “The court should reject this transparent gamesmanship.”

The papers, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came 10 days after prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, to impose a narrow gag order on Mr. Trump. The order, they said, was meant to curb Mr. Trump’s “near-daily” barrage of threatening social media posts and to limit the effect his statements might have on witnesses in the case and on the potential jury pool for the trial. It is scheduled to take place in Washington starting in March.

The lawyers’ attempt to fight the request has now set up a showdown that will ultimately have to be resolved by Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has herself experienced the impact of Mr. Trump’s menacing words.

One day after the former president wrote an online post in August saying, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Judge Chutkan received a voice mail message in her chambers from a woman who threatened to kill her. (The woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has since been arrested.)

Gag orders limiting what trial participants can say outside of court are not uncommon, especially to constrain pretrial publicity in high-profile cases. But the request to gag Mr. Trump as he solidifies his position as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a current of political tension into what was already a fraught legal battle.

That tension has only been heightened by the fact that Mr. Trump has placed the election interference case — and the three other criminal indictments he is facing — at the heart of his campaign.

His core political argument — that he is being persecuted, not prosecuted — may be protected in some ways by the First Amendment but has also put him on what could be a collision course with Judge Chutkan. Early in the case, she warned Mr. Trump that she would take measures to ensure the integrity of the proceedings and to keep him from intimidating witnesses or tainting potential jurors.


Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump told a gun store he’d like to buy a Glock pistol, which is raising legal questions, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Officials have increasingly voiced concerns about threats of violence related to the former president’s trials, as he faces charges that would make it illegal for a store to sell him a firearm.

A spokesman for former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Monday showing him at a gun shop in South Carolina, declaring that he had just bought a Glock pistol.

The post on X, formerly known as Twitter, included video of Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for president who is facing four criminal indictments. He looked over the dullish gold firearm, a special Trump edition Glock that depicts his likeness and says “Trump 45th,” as he visited the Palmetto State Armory outlet in Summerville, S.C. “I want to buy one,” he said twice in the video.

“President Trump buys a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!” his spokesman, Steven Cheung, wrote in his post. The video showed Mr. Trump among a small crowd of people and posing with a man holding the gun. A voice can be heard saying, “That’s a big seller.”

The statement immediately set off an uproar and prompted questions about whether such a purchase would be legal. Mr. Trump is under indictment on dozens of felony counts in two different cases related to his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election and to his possession of reams of classified documents after he left office.

There were also questions about whether the store could sell a firearm to Mr. Trump if people there knew that he was under indictment.

Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge in the case that accuses Mr. Trump of breaking several laws in his efforts to stay in office to impose a limited gag order after he made repeated threats against prosecutors and witnesses in various cases against him. Mr. Trump’s lawyers were under a late-Monday-night deadline to respond to the government’s request for the order.

But within two hours of the initial post on social media, Mr. Cheung deleted his post, and issued a statement saying, “President Trump did not purchase or take possession of the firearm. He simply indicated that he wanted one.”

A man who answered a phone registered to the shop’s owner hung up when a reporter called. A salesperson at the Summerville location, who declined to give her name or answer additional questions, said Mr. Trump had not bought a gun.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Looming Rulings Could Shape Trump’s Fraud Trial in New York, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump has adopted a long-shot legal strategy to try to delay his upcoming civil trial and severely limit the case against him.

After four years of investigating and litigating, Letitia James was finally due for her day in court against Donald J. Trump.

But with that day fast approaching — a trial in her civil fraud lawsuit against him is scheduled to start on Oct. 2 — the former president’s lawyers threw a legal Hail Mary that could delay the case and seeks to gut it altogether.

The last-ditch move that left the trial in limbo came in a familiar form for the famously litigious Mr. Trump: He filed a lawsuit.

His targets were Ms. James, the New York attorney general, and the judge overseeing the trial, Arthur F. Engoron. Mr. Trump’s lawsuit argues that they ignored a June appeals court ruling that excused Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, from the case and also raised the notion that some of the accusations against the former president and his company might be too old to go to trial.

Mr. Trump’s lawsuit — and in turn the fate of Ms. James’s case against him — hinges on a passage in the June appeals court ruling that has become a legal Rorschach test of sorts, in which each side sees what they want. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are convinced that the June ruling effectively tossed out the claims against him, while Ms. James’s team has argued that it had little effect on the accusation at the heart of her case — that Mr. Trump overstated his net worth by billions of dollars in his annual financial statements.

Christopher M. Kise, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, recently argued to Justice Engoron that Ms. James’s legal strategy was predicated on ignoring the appeals court’s decision.

“The foundation of the case is ignore everything except for what they want you to focus on,” he said. Mr. Kise separately asked the appeals court to delay the trial while it considered Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against Ms. James and Justice Engoron. One of the appeals court judges granted a provisional delay, which teed up the case to be considered by the full appellate court panel.

The attorney general’s office called Mr. Trump’s lawsuit “brazen and meritless,” saying in court papers that it reflected a complete misunderstanding of the June appeals court decision. The decision, Ms. James’s office argued, left it up to Justice Engoron to decide which claims against Mr. Trump can stay and which are so old that they must go.

The high-stakes battle is coming to a head this week, with Justice Engoron expected to issue his ruling by Tuesday. He has already expressed sympathy with some of Ms. James’s arguments: At a court appearance last week, addressing Mr. Kise, Justice Engoron pounded his fist in apparent frustration and remarked, “You cannot make false statements and use them in business.”

After Justice Engoron decides which of Ms. James’s claims can proceed to trial, the appeals court is expected to rule on Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against Ms. James and Justice Engoron, perhaps as soon as Thursday, according to a spokesman for the New York State Court system.

When the appeals court issues its ruling, there is no telling whether it will resolve the confusion about its original decision in June. It could simply decide that the timing of Mr. Trump’s lawsuit was improper and allow the trial to proceed as planned, potentially with major repercussions for the future of the former president’s family business. (Ms. James is seeking a roughly $250 million penalty and wants to oust Mr. Trump and his adult sons from leading their own company).

But if the appeals court sides with Mr. Trump, it could delay or defang the case before the trial even begins.

Some legal experts said that was unlikely to happen. David B. Saxe, who served nearly 20 years on the same appeals court, said the lawsuit seemed like an attempt to interfere with Justice Engoron’s implementation of that court’s June order. “I think it won’t fare well,” he said.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Jack Smith COMPLETELY OUTMANEUVERS Trump’s DUMB Legal Team, Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok on Legal AF discuss how Special Counsel Jack Smith has Trump’s lawyers out resourced and out matched, as he turns a close Trump confidant into a key witness for the prosecution in both the Mar a Lago AND Election Interference criminal cases.

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More On Climate, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Decades Later, Closed Military Bases Remain a Toxic Menace, Ralph Vartabedian, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Cities hoped for new businesses and housing on former military sites. But many are still waiting for pollution to be cleaned up.

For much of the 20th century, Fort Ord was one of the largest light infantry training bases in the country, a place where more than a million U.S. Army troops were schooled in the lethal skills of firing a mortar and aiming a rifle — discharging thousands of rounds a day into the scenic sand dunes along the coast of central California.

Later, when it became clear with the end of the Cold War that the colossal military infrastructure built up to fight the Soviet Union would no longer be necessary, Fort Ord was one of 800 U.S. military bases, large and small, that were shuttered between 1988 and 2005.

The cities of Seaside and Marina, Calif., where Fort Ord had been critical to the local economy, were left with a ghost town of clapboard barracks and decrepit, World War II-era concrete structures that neither of the cities could afford to tear down. Also left behind were poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue, a toxic legacy that in some areas of the base remains largely where the Army left it.

Across the country, communities were promised that closed bases would be restored, cleaned up and turned over for civilian use — creating jobs, spurring business growth and providing space for new housing.
But the cleanup has proceeded at a snail’s pace at many of the facilities, where future remediation work could extend until 2084 and local governments are struggling with the cost of making the land suitable for development.

ny times logoNew York Times, Years of Graft Doomed 2 Dams in Libya, Leaving Thousands in Muddy Graves, Vivian Yee, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Repair work was agreed on but never finished, and Derna paid the price. Experts say infrastructure projects have long been neglected by corrupt officials.

For years, the two aging dams loomed in the mountains above the Libyan city of Derna, riddled with cracks and fissures, threatening the thousands of people living in the valley below.

A Turkish company, Arsel Construction, was eventually hired by the Libyan government to upgrade the dams and build a new one. The work, Arsel said on its website at the time, was completed in 2012.

By then, the government had paid millions of dollars to the Turkish contractor for preliminary work, according to a government assessment dated 2011. But Arsel left Libya in the turmoil of the 2011 popular revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the country’s longtime dictator. Neither dam was ever repaired, the assessment said, and no third dam ever materialized.

When a lethal storm rolled up the Mediterranean Sea toward Derna two weeks ago, dumping far more rain than usual on the Green Mountains above the city, the dams burst. An avalanche of water boomed down into the valley below, driving much of Derna out to sea and killing at least 4,000 people. More than 8,000 others are still missing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can the U.S. Make Solar Panels? This Company Thinks So, Ivan Penn, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). First Solar kept producing them in Ohio after most of the industry moved to China. President Biden wants many more domestic manufacturers.

For more than two decades, workers at a factory in Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo, have been making something that other businesses stopped producing in the United States long ago: solar panels.

How the company that owns the factory, First Solar, managed to hang on when most solar panel manufacturing left the United States for China is critical to understanding the viability of President Biden’s efforts to establish a large domestic green energy industry.

Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress last year authorized hundreds of billions of dollars in federal incentives for manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric cars and semiconductors. The efforts amount to one of the most expansive uses of industrial policy ever attempted in the United States.

As a result, many companies, including First Solar, have announced the construction of dozens of factories, in total, around the country. But nobody is entirely sure whether these investments will be durable, especially in businesses, like battery or solar panel manufacturing, where China’s domination is deep and strong. Chinese manufacturers enjoy lower labor costs, economies of scale and incentives from a government eager to control industries critical to fighting climate change.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

An aerial view of Derna, Libya, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Thousands of people were killed or are missing after massive floods destroyed the city (Washington Post photo by Alice Martins)An aerial view of Derna, Libya, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Thousands of people were killed or are missing after massive floods destroyed the city (Washington Post photo by Alice Martins).

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets, Crypto Currency

ny times logoNew York Times, Inflation Measure Favored by the Fed Cooled in August, Jeanna Smialek, Sept. 29, 2023. Federal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation.

federal reserve system CustomFederal Reserve officials received more good news in their battle against rapid inflation on Friday, when a key inflation measure continued to slow, the latest evidence that a return to normal after the pandemic and higher interest rates are combining to wrestle rapid price increases back to a more normal pace.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, which the central bank uses to define its 2 percent inflation goal, rose slightly more quickly last month as higher gas prices gave it a boost. It rose 3.5 percent in August from a year earlier, up from 3.4 percent in July.

But after stripping out food and fuel costs, both of which are volatile, a “core” inflation measure that Fed officials watch closely is beginning to cool notably. That measure picked up 3.9 percent from a year earlier, which was down from 4.3 percent in July. Compared with the previous month, it climbed 0.1 percent, a very muted pace.

It’s the latest encouraging sign for Fed policymakers, who have been raising interest rates since March 2022 in a campaign to slow the economy and cool price increases. While economic momentum has held up better than expected, a less ebullient housing market and a grinding return to normalcy in the car market have helped key prices — like automobile and rents — to fade.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Navy Will Start Testing SEALs for Illicit Drug Use, Dave Philipps, Sept. 29, 2023.  The SEALs will face random screening for performance-enhancing drugs, believed to be widely abused in the ranks.

For generations, the Navy SEALs have attracted top athletes who compete for slots on elite teams and take on harrowing missions, but never in all those years did the Navy regularly test the force for illicit steroids and other drugs that could boost performance. Now that is about to change.

Naval Special Warfare, which oversees the SEALs, announced on Friday that it would begin force-wide random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, or P.E.D.s, starting in November. It is the first time that any U.S. military special operations group has tried to regularly screen all of its members for doping.

The move comes more than a year after the death of a sailor in the SEALs’ grueling selection course revealed the use of steroids and other banned substances among SEAL candidates. In the aftermath, Naval Special Warfare began for the first time to test all students at the course.

This week, in a surprising and sweeping expansion of that oversight, the SEALs’ leadership said it would start testing not just the sailors in the training pipeline, but the entire Naval Special Warfare force of about 9,000 service members, including all SEALs and the combat boat crews who support them.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

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More On U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, New Border Crossing: Americans Turn to Mexico for Abortions, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Edyra Espriella, Updated Sept. 28, 2023. American women are seeking help from Mexico, crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Mexican abortion-rights activists have seen a rise of American women crossing the border to seek abortions — crystallizing the shifting policies of two nations that once held vastly different positions on the procedure.

For decades, abortion was criminalized in Mexico and much of Latin America with few exceptions, while in the United States, the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling established a constitutional right to abortion.

Today, Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalized abortion nationwide, making it legally accessible in federal institutions and eliminating federal penalties for the procedure. Twelve of the country’s 32 states have also decriminalized abortion, and activists say they have renewed momentum to push local officials in the remaining states.

By comparison, more than 20 American states currently ban or restrict the procedure after 18 weeks of pregnancy or earlier, with 14 states completely forbidding the procedure in almost all circumstances.

Mexican activists, anticipating the Supreme Court could overturn Roe when it was still weighing the case, began organizing and have established an underground system, sending thousands of pills north and helping women travel south across the border. They say the longstanding restrictions in Latin America prepared them to now handle the influx of demand.

 

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

washington post logoWashington Post, JPMorgan agrees to $75 million settlement over ties to Jeffrey Epstein, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). JPMorgan Chase will pay $75 million to resolve a lawsuit with the U.S. Virgin Islands alleging it facilitated disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

jp morgan chase logoThe banking giant admitted no wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement, a large portion of which will be distributed to charities. It also sets aside $10 million to support mental health services for Epstein’s survivors.
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“This settlement is a historic victory for survivors and for state enforcement, and it should sound the alarm on Wall Street about banks’ responsibilities under the law to detect and prevent human trafficking,” USVI attorney general Ariel Smith said in a statement.

Smith also said JPMorgan agreed to “implement and maintain meaningful anti-trafficking measures,” which includes a commitment to elevate and report suspicious activity in the future.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, As Covid Infections Rise, Nursing Homes Are Still Waiting for Vaccines, Jordan Rau and Tony Leys, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Long-term care operators have yet to start administering shots to protect one of the most vulnerable populations.

“Covid is not pretty in a nursing home,” said Deb Wityk, a 70-year-old retired massage therapist who lives in one called Spurgeon Manor, in rural Iowa. She has contracted the disease twice, and is eager to get the newly approved vaccine because she has chronic leukemia, which weakens her immune system.

cdc logo CustomThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the latest vaccine on two weeks ago, and the new shots became available to the general public within the last week or so. But many nursing homes will not begin inoculations until well into October or even November, though infections among this vulnerable population are rising, to nearly 1 percent, or 9.7 per 1,000 residents of mid-September from a low of 2.2 per 1,000 residents in mid-June.

“The distribution of the new Covid-19 vaccine is not going well,” said Chad Worz, the chief executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. “Older adults in those settings are certainly the most vulnerable and should have been prioritized.”

With the end of the formal public health emergency in May, the federal government stopped purchasing and distributing Covid vaccines. That has added new complications for operators of nursing homes, who have encountered resistance throughout the pandemic in persuading people, especially employees, to receive yet another round of shots.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, On Day 146, Screenwriters Reach Deal With Studios to End Their Strike, Brooks Barnes and John Koblin, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America got most of what it wanted. With actors still on picket lines, however, much of Hollywood will remain shut down.

Hollywood’s bitter, monthslong labor dispute has taken a big first step toward a resolution.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 11,000 screenwriters, reached a tentative deal on a new contract with entertainment companies on Sunday night, all but ending a 146-day strike that has contributed to a shutdown of television and film production.

In the coming days, guild members will vote on whether to accept the deal, which has much of what they had demanded, including increases in compensation for streaming content, concessions from studios on minimum staffing for television shows, and guarantees that artificial intelligence technology will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the Writers Guild’s negotiating committee said in an email to members.

Conspicuously not doing a victory lap was the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of studios. “The W.G.A. and A.M.P.T.P. have reached a tentative agreement” was its only comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, The deal reflects the strength of unions’ hands in the current moment, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler and Michael J. de la Merced, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The work stoppage isn’t officially over yet, and actors remain on strike. But hints about what the W.G.A. attained suggest that as organized labor enjoys a surge in popularity across a variety of industries, its muscle-flexing is achieving results.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional,” the W.G.A. told its members on Sunday, though it hasn’t yet disclosed details. News reports suggest the deal includes provisions for residual payments from streaming, minimum staffing of shows and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.

Expect more particulars once the W.G.A. informs its membership ahead of a vote that’s expected on Tuesday. Until then, writers are still on strike, though they’re not actively picketing. Late-night talk shows, which don’t rely on striking actors, are likely to resume production first.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Bans Are Rising Sharply in Public Libraries, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Sept. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Restrictions that were largely happening in school libraries, where they affected children, are now affecting the wider community as well.

More than two years into a sharp rise in book challenges across the United States, restrictions are increasingly targeting public libraries, where they could affect not only the children’s section but also the books available to everyone in a community.

The shift comes amid a dramatic increase in efforts to remove books from libraries, according to a pair of new reports released this week from the American Library Association and PEN America, a free speech organization.

The A.L.A. found that nearly half the book challenges it tracked between January and August of this year took place in public libraries, up from 16 percent during the same period the year before. The association reported nearly 700 attempts to censor library materials, which targeted more than 1,900 individual titles — more than during the same period in 2022, a year that saw the most titles challenged since the organization began tracking the data.

Most of the challenged books were by or about people of color or L.G.B.T.Q. people.

“A year, a year and a half ago, we were told that these books didn’t belong in school libraries, and if people wanted to read them, they could go to a public library,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the A.L.A.’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Now, we’re seeing those same groups come to public libraries and come after the same books, essentially depriving everyone of the ability to make the choice to read them.”

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US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

 

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gop house chairs 2023 New York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Government Shutdown Looms, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, Sept. 28, 2023. The situation serves as a reminder that partisan polarization in Washington is not symmetrical.

Two basic facts are central to understanding why the federal government may shut down on Sunday morning:

republican elephant logoFirst, the House Republican caucus contains about 20 hard-right members who sometimes support radical measures to get what they want. Many of them refused to certify the 2020 presidential election, for example, and now favor impeaching President Biden. They also tend to support deep cuts to federal spending, and they’re willing to shut down the government as a negotiating tactic. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — a fellow Republican — said last week.

kevin mccarthySecond, the Republicans’ House majority is so slim that McCarthy, right, needs the support of most of these roughly 20 members to remain speaker. If he passes a bill to fund the government and keep it open without support from the hard-right faction, it can retaliate by calling for a new vote on his speakership and potentially firing him. Nobody knows who would then become speaker.

This combination has created a strange situation in Washington. Most House members — along with President Biden — want to avoid a shutdown. So does the Senate: A bipartisan group agreed this week on a spending bill that would keep the government open through mid-November. A similar bill could probably pass the House by a wide margin if it came to the floor.

Yet the small Republican faction has enough sway over McCarthy that he has resisted allowing a vote on such a bill. As a result, much of the federal government may shut down this weekend. The deadline is midnight on Saturday night.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. government starts notifying federal employees a shutdown may be imminent, Tony Romm, Sept. 28, 2023. The message will serve to acknowledge the growing risk that millions of employees may stop receiving pay, unless lawmakers can avert a government shutdown.

The U.S. government started notifying federal workers on Thursday that a shutdown appears imminent, as a Republican-led standoff on Capitol Hill forced the Biden administration to embark on the formal, methodical process of preparing much of Washington to come to a halt.
The messages acknowledged the growing risk that millions of employees and military service members may stop receiving pay in just three days, unless lawmakers in Congress can clinch a last-minute — and increasingly unlikely — deal that would extend government funding beyond Saturday.

The small group of House Republicans who might force a government shutdown

“During this time, some of you will be temporarily furloughed while others who perform excepted functions will continue to execute your assigned duties,” read one of the notices, sent to employees at the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by The Washington Post.

“Our collective mission is of great importance,” agency leaders continued, “and each and every one of you contributes in meaningful ways to keeping our nation, the American people, and our way of life secure.”

A shutdown would force the government to pare back to only its most vital functions. The resulting disruptions are likely to be significant, especially if the stalemate persists for weeks, potentially dragging down the fragile U.S. economy while complicating many of the services on which millions of Americans and businesses rely.

Some federal programs, including Social Security and mail delivery, would be unaffected, because they are funded outside of the annual appropriations process on Capitol Hill. But many other government operations would be rendered inaccessible if funds expire — resulting in closed parks and passport offices, and worrisome interruptions affecting federal housing, food and health aid for the poor.

Caught in the middle are the nation’s roughly 2 million federal workers and its approximately 1.3 million active-duty troops. On Thursday morning, some agencies began alerting many of these workers about the prospects of a funding lapse, which means they cannot be paid for as long as Congress fails to come to an agreement — though they would get paid back once any shutdown ends.

Members of the military are expected to helm their posts even without pay, as are a select group of civilian employees — such as bag-inspection agents at airports and federal law enforcement officials — whose jobs are considered essential to public safety or national security. But the Biden administration has yet to inform workers individually if they are going to be furloughed or exempted from a shutdown, adding to the anxieties of a political feud that has roiled the nation’s capital.

Michael Linden, a former top official at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the early notices reflected a political reality: Unlike past spending battles that yielded an eleventh-hour deal, “the chances of a shutdown are much higher.”

“If you’re 48 hours out from a potential shutdown, but it’s very clear there’s a [deal] on its path, then you might not do that,” he said. “But if there isn’t, you are going to have to tell agencies to tell their teams, so people can start to plan.”

As the federal government braced for impact, lawmakers prepared to return to work Thursday no closer to resolving their latest fiscal stalemate. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans inched closer to finalizing a bipartisan agreement that would fund federal agencies into November, but it remained unclear if they could pass it in time — or if the GOP-controlled House would even bother to consider it.

Biden, for his part, told attendees of a Democratic fundraising event in San Francisco on Wednesday night that a shutdown would be “disastrous.” He called on Republicans earlier Wednesday to extend government funding, warning that a lapse in federal funding starting Sunday would jeopardize “a lot of vital work.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Vulnerable Republicans Try to Head Off Blame for Shutdown, Kayla Guo, Sept. 28, 2023. Some House Republicans representing districts won by President Biden have explored a bipartisan stopgap measure as far-right lawmakers push toward a shutdown.

Days before an all-but-certain government shutdown instigated by hard-right Republicans in Washington, Elizabeth Catalino arrived at a Hudson Valley high school looking for answers from her own G.O.P. congressman, Representative Mike Lawler.

republican elephant logo“I’m very disappointed that you have this band of Republicans that are being so obstinate,” Ms. Catalino, who described herself as an independent, said in an interview on Monday after she attended a town hall-style meeting with Mr. Lawler in East Fishkill, N.Y. “And I think it’s just going to be hurtful to everybody if they’re successful in shutting the government down.”

As right-wing lawmakers take Congress to the brink of a government closure for which their party would almost certainly bear the blame, dozens of Republicans — particularly those like Mr. Lawler who represent districts won by President Biden — are toiling to head off the backlash from voters for the chaos sown by some of the most extreme members of the G.O.P.

“Especially in a divided government, we’re going to have to find compromise. We’re going to have to find areas of agreement,” Mr. Lawler said in an interview. “And for the handful of people that are unwilling to do that, it’s frankly destructive to the country and really harmful to the American people.”

Mr. Lawler is one of 18 House Republicans representing a district that voted for Mr. Biden, meaning that he must appeal to constituents ranging from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump to independents like Ms. Catalino and centrist Democrats. Before him, the seat had not been held by a Republican for more than two decades. And Mr. Lawler is expected to face a tough re-election race in 2024 as Democrats aim to wrench the seat back.

At the town hall and on cable news shows over the past week, Mr. Lawler has emphasized his opposition to a shutdown and his efforts to bring a bipartisan spending patch to the floor. He has told his swing-district constituents that the government is hurtling toward a closure at midnight on Saturday because a handful of G.O.P. hard-liners have stood in the way of government funding while he and other Republicans were working to extend it.

“Apparently, he’s willing to work with other people and other parties,” Eric Eckley, another of those constituents, said outside the town hall. “But that doesn’t answer the question of why the people in his party are not willing to run our government.”

Mr. Lawler’s office barred reporters from attending the meeting. But outside, attendees expressed frustration with the mess in Congress, even as some came away from the event with sympathy for their congressman’s plight.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the hard-right House Republicans who have led the opposition to a temporary funding measure, Robert Jimison and Catie Edmondson, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). With a Sept. 30 deadline looming, hard-right House Republicans have formed a wall of opposition to a temporary measure to fund the government.

djt maga hatRepublican support for a long-shot bid to avert a shutdown, floating a bill that would keep government funding flowing at vastly reduced levels while imposing stringent immigration restrictions demanded by conservatives.

The proposal stands little chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But Mr. McCarthy’s more immediate problem is in his own chamber, where the math is not in his favor.

republican elephant logoAlready, at least 10 hard-right lawmakers have declared they will not vote for any stopgap measure under any circumstances, because they are opposed to funding the government — even temporarily — with a single up-or-down vote.

Their opposition effectively closes off Mr. McCarthy’s simplest escape hatch to avoid a government shutdown on Sunday. With Democrats sure to oppose the spending cuts and border restrictions, he can afford to lose no more than four Republicans if all members show up and vote. And turning to Democrats for help would put his speakership at risk.

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washington post logoWashington Post, FCC’s net neutrality battle is back after years of deadlock, Eva Dou, Sept. 28, 2023. The push comes amid widespread grievance with internet service providers — a reflection, some regulators say, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

When the Federal Communications Commission in 2014 asked the public to comment on how to regulate internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, it received more than a million responses. Aggrieved customers crashed the commission’s website. More than 7,800 of the comments contained f-bombs.

“It is absolutely maddening that the FCC would give free rein to this monopoly to screw customers over,” one commenter wrote. “There is no free market competition and it is unamerican.”

The FCC effort became the landmark 2015 decision — known as “net neutrality” — to regulate internet service as a public utility, akin to water or electricity. That classification granted the FCC broad oversight over internet service providers, including ensuring they did not discriminate or charge unreasonable rates.

The agency repealed the rule in 2017 under the Trump administration, arguing that the private sector would make better decisions than the government.

Now the FCC is preparing to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land. The agency argues that restoring the rule will improve consumers’ experience with internet providers — including by enabling it to better track broadband service outages and network reliability.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a speech Tuesday that due to high costs of entry into the market, there is only one high-speed broadband provider in some parts of the country.

“That provider might be the only game in town,” she said. “You need a referee on the field looking out for the public interest.”

The move came after Anna Gomez was sworn in as the FCC’s fifth commissioner on Monday, breaking a long-standing deadlock at the agency and giving Democrats a 3-2 majority.

Industry groups have stepped forward to declare that internet providers have not discriminated and will not discriminate, and that FCC regulation is overkill.

“America’s broadband providers are fiercely committed to an open internet. That has not and will not change,” said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, an industry group representing broadband providers including AT&T and Verizon, in a statement.

The FCC is placing the issue at the top of its agenda and is expected to release the text of the proposed rule Thursday. But the process will take months, and the clock is ticking: If Biden loses the presidential election next year, a Republican administration might repeal the rule again.

If the FCC gives the green light at its Oct. 19 monthly meeting, the agency will embark on a new rulemaking process with public comment.

Rosenworcel said in the speech that she knows it will be a fierce fight. “I have, in fact, been to this rodeo before,” she said.

Unchanged since the last clash: Internet service providers earn some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings in corporate America — a reflection, regulators argue, of monopoly power wielded by a short list of providers.

The 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index — calculated from surveys with tens of thousands of consumers — gave internet service providers a score of 68 out of 100, the second-lowest rating among 43 industries. Only gas stations provided consumers with less satisfaction (with a score of 65).

But the technology has evolved since the early debate over net neutrality, when the internet’s pipes were slower and smaller. At the time, economists warned that internet providers had an incentive to throttle certain types of websites — such as bandwidth-heavy video-streaming services like Netflix. Internet providers theoretically could determine which websites lived and died, based on personal preferences, or who could pay the most.

These days, the threat of an internet service provider squeezing Netflix seems less likely. The internet’s pipes have gotten so wide that there is generally enough to go around. After the removal of the net neutrality rule in 2017, there haven’t been reports of an internet provider choking a website to death.

 

Top Trump Court Battle News

 

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Donald Trump’s legal team faces more woes, the money is running short, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 28, 2023.  Former President Donald Trump’s team has found lawyers for others caught up in his prosecutions and has paid many of their legal bills. That arrangement may not be sustainable.

President Donald Trump officialMr. Trump’s political action committee, seeded with money he had raised with debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, became the piggy bank for paying the bills, helping to knit together the interests of key figures in the investigations.

In an interview, Mr. Rowley said he was simply trying to help witnesses who did not have lawyers or did not know how to find one, and that he never sought to influence anyone’s testimony. And legal experts said the voice mail, while somewhat unusual, did not appear to cross any ethical lines.

But as Mr. Trump’s legal problems have expanded, the ad hoc system has come under intense strain with the PAC doling out financial lifelines to some aides and allies while shutting the door on others. It is now running short of money, possibly forcing Mr. Trump to decide how long to go on helping others as his own legal fees mount.

Prosecutors have also brought conflict-of-interest questions about some of the arrangements before the courts, and witnesses and co-defendants may begin to face decisions about how closely they want to lash their legal strategies to Mr. Trump’s.

After prosecutors questioned potential conflicts among the lawyers, one key witness in the classified documents case, Yuscil Taveras, replaced his lawyer, who was being paid by Mr. Trump’s PAC and also represented one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case, Walt Nauta. Mr. Taveras is now represented by a federal public defender and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal judge in the documents case, Aileen M. Cannon, has scheduled hearings for next month to consider questions about potential conflicts involving lawyers for Mr. Nauta and for Mr. Trump’s other co-defendant, Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Effort to Delay Trial in Fraud Case, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 28, 2023. Donald Trump had sued Justice Arthur Engoron, aiming to push back a case that could begin as soon as Monday.

Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud trial over accusations that he inflated the value of his properties by billions of dollars could begin as soon as Monday after a New York appeals court rejected the former president’s attempt to delay it.

The appeals court, in a terse two-page order Thursday, effectively turned aside for now a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against the trial judge, Arthur F. Engoron. The lawsuit had sought to delay the trial, and ultimately throw out many of the accusations against the former president.

Thursday’s ruling came two days after Justice Engoron issued an order that struck a major blow to Mr. Trump, finding him liable for having committed fraud by persistently overvaluing his assets and stripping him of control over his New York properties.

Justice Engoron sided with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who last year sued Mr. Trump, accusing him of inflating his net worth to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Fraud Case May Cost Him Trump Tower and Other Properties, Rukmini Callimachi, Sept. 28, 2023. If a judge’s ruling stands, Donald Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate.

A New York judge put a spotlight on former President Donald J. Trump’s business empire this week, determining in a ruling that he had inflated the value of his properties by considerable sums to gain favorable terms on loans and insurance.

If the ruling stands, Mr. Trump could lose control over some of his most well-known New York real estate — an outcome the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sought when she filed a lawsuit last year that accused him of fraud and called for the cancellation of his business certificates for any entities in the state that benefited from deceitful practices.

The ruling by the judge, Arthur F. Engoron of the New York State Supreme Court, came before a trial, largely to decide possible penalties, that could begin as early as Monday. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to appeal.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a leading real estate expert have argued that Ms. James’ lawsuit does not properly factor in the Trump brand’s value or take into account the subjective nature of real estate valuations, with borrowers and lenders routinely offering differing estimates.

Nearly a dozen of the properties owned or partly controlled by Mr. Trump and his organization may be subject to Justice Engoron’s ruling. Here are the main ones that are vulnerable, as mentioned in the lawsuit.

Trump Tower and Mr. Trump’s triplex apartment, 725 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan
Trump Tower

Ms. James’s lawsuit claims that the Trump Organization, which is a collection of approximately 500 separate entities that operate for the benefit and under the control of Mr. Trump, used deceptive practices to come up with the highest possible value for Trump Tower.

  • New York Times, Prosecutors said Donald Trump’s lawyers were trying to use an arcane law to delay the documents case trial, Sept. 28, 2023.

 

U.S. National Politics

 

 

Seven Republican presidential candidates appear at Wednesday's debate in Simi Valley, Calif. (Washington Post photo by Melina Mara).Seven Republican presidential candidates appear at Wednesday's debate in Simi Valley, Calif. (Washington Post photo by Melina Mara).

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Takeaways From Another Trump-Free Republican Debate, Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Sept. 28, 2023. Nikki Haley delivered an assured performance, Tim Scott reasserted himself and Ron DeSantis took swipes at Donald Trump, who skipped the event.

As he sat in the spin room with the Fox News host Sean Hannity after the second Republican debate on Wednesday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida accurately summed up the spectacle he had just participated in.

“If I was at home watching that,” Mr. DeSantis said, “I would have changed the channel.”

The meandering and at times indecipherable debate seemed to validate former President Donald J. Trump’s decision to skip it. With only occasional exceptions, the Republicans onstage seemed content to bicker with one another. Most of them delivered the dominant front-runner only glancing blows and did little to upend the political reality that Mr. Trump is lapping all of his rivals — whose cumulative support in most national polls still doesn’t come close to the former president’s standing.

Here are five takeaways from 120 minutes of cross-talk, unanswered questions, prepackaged comebacks and nary a word mentioning the heavy favorite’s legal jeopardy.

The first time he spoke, Mr. DeSantis finally took on Mr. Trump in front of a national audience.

“Donald Trump is missing in action,” Mr. DeSantis said. “He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have now.”

Allies and some donors had long been itching for such forcefulness.

But by the end of the 120-minute slog of a debate, that line felt more like an aberration that blended into the background. The candidates mostly seemed to intentionally ignore Mr. Trump’s overwhelming lead — other than Mr. Christie, who took an awkward stab at a nickname (“Donald Duck”).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The winners and losers of the second debate, Aaron Blake, Sept. 28, 2023. It was a good night for Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, but not for Ron DeSantis or for future Republican debates. Seven Republican candidates for president faced off at the second presidential debate of the 2024 election Wednesday night in Simi Valley, Calif. Again absent was the GOP’s runaway front-runner, former president Donald Trump.

The first debate seemed to put businessman Vivek Ramaswamy on the map for many voters, but former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley appeared to gather the most momentum from it. None of them, however, is close to within striking distance of depriving Trump of a third straight GOP presidential nomination.

Below are some winners and losers from the second debate.

Winners: Nikki Haley, right: The strength of Haley’s initial debate performance was dealing directly with issues and looking like a serious nikki haley ocandidate who could appeal to all parts of the party. And while she may have had a bit less impact on Wednesday night than she did in the first debate, she mostly did it again.

After multiple candidates failed to directly answer questions about the United Auto Workers strike, Haley invoked what others probably wish they had: the impact of inflation on the workers.

She later gave one of the most substantive answers on health care. On that question and others, she looked less like she was pandering and punting on questions than the other candidates did.

And by the end, her performance had something all candidates strive for: the promise of a viral moment. She told Ramaswamy, after a tough question about his posture on TikTok, that, “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”

Haley was derailed a little bit toward the end when she seemed a bit too eager to go after Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), and then Scott came back at her in an exchange that devolved into a shouting match. The South Carolina-on-South Carolina tension was real. But if the best her opponents have to work with is an old story about $50,000 worth of curtains at the State Department (Haley was absolved), she’s probably in good shape.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron DeSantis projected confidence onstage, but time is running out to stop his slide in the polls, Nicholas Nehamas, Sept. 28, 2023. At a time when his standing in the polls has slid — and Republican donors have talked about finding another candidate to stop Donald J. Trump from cruising to the nomination — Gov. Ron DeSantis acted like the former president’s leading challenger at the second Republican presidential debate.

rnc logoStanding center stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday night, he deployed a newly assertive tone against the absent Mr. Trump, using criticisms he has been honing in recent weeks at the urging of his allies. He drew attacks from rivals who did show up, but none seemed to land a killer blow. And despite not saying a word until 15 minutes in, he ultimately imposed himself on the proceedings, speaking more than any other candidate.

“Donald Trump is missing in action,” Mr. DeSantis said during his first remarks of the debate. “He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt.”

The question is whether the performance will be enough now to stop him from losing ground and to build momentum. Time is running out to convince both skeptical voters and skittish donors that he is still the most competitive challenger to Mr. Trump than anyone else in the field. Mr. Trump’s standing in the race has only risen since the first debate in August, which he also skipped, and national surveys show him leading Mr. DeSantis by roughly 40 percentage points But as his rivals onstage Wednesday night clamored for airtime, conscious of their fading window, the Florida governor projected an air of confidence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election 2024: Supreme Court refuses to allow Alabama to use disputed map for 2024, Robert Barnes, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused Alabama’s request to hold 2024 elections under a new congressional map judged to be an unlawful attempt to diminish the power of the state’s Black voters.

supreme court graphicIt was the second time in four months that the high court has sided with a three-judge panel that found that Alabama’s legislature probably violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to create a second congressional district where minority voters have a large enough share of the electorate to elect their candidate of choice. The state has seven districts, and its voting population is about 27 percent Black.

The case has been closely watched because of an unprecedented number of challenges to congressional maps that are advancing in courts throughout the country, enough to give one political party or the other an advantage heading into the 2024 elections. The map courts envision for Alabama, for instance, could mean a second Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. Meanwhile, federal judges in Georgia and Louisiana have found similar Voting Rights Act violations in maps from those states.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans hold first hearing in Biden impeachment inquiry, Jacqueline Alemany and Amy B Wang, Sept. 28, 2023. House Republicans are holding their first hearing Thursday as part of an inquiry into whether to impeach President Biden, which House james comerOversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has said will lay out the basis for a probe that has so far shown no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

Comer, right, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), have called four witnesses to testify, three of whom were invited by Republicans.

The House is exploring impeaching President Biden. What comes next?

Comer has repeatedly touted evidence that has fallen short of substantiating his claims that President Biden has engaged in corruption and abuse of public office. But Comer is expected to try again Thursday, promising “emails, text messages, bank records, and testimony of Biden business associates,” according to his opening statement.

The Post has previously reported that Hunter Biden accepted money from Chinese nationals and that he sought to sell the Biden family “brand” and the illusion of access to and influence over his father. But there is no evidence that President Biden himself used his official perch to enrich his family, and a key witness testified last month that Hunter Biden was unable to influence his father’s actions or policy decisions — and that during their frequent communications, “nothing of material” was ever discussed.
Comer, Raskin set tone for contentious hearing

In his opening statement, Comer alleged Biden has for years “lied to the American people about his knowledge of and participation in his family’s corrupt business schemes.” Comer accused Biden of having developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets.

“These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to his family,” he said. “It also includes a Chinese national who wired a quarter of a million dollars to his son.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, hit back in his opening statement by quoting other Republicans’ criticism of their own party in the last week.

“ ‘Clown show,’ ‘foolishness,’ ‘terribly misguided,’ ‘stupidity,’ ‘failure to lead,'” Raskin said. “These are Republicans talking about Republicans. So let’s be clear: This isn’t partisan warfare America is seeing today. It is chaotic infighting between Republicans and Republicans.”

Raskin concluded his fiery remarks by saying that the inquiry all boils down to a “thoroughly demolished lie” that Rudy Giuliani and Trump launched years ago regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Raskin went on to cite various witnesses — including a former Giuliani associate — who have all disputed the GOP’s allegations that Viktor Shokin, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine, was fired because he was investigating Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden served.

jonathan turley The committee is hearing live testimony from conservative legal scholar Jonathan Turley, right, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky and a former Justice Department tax attorney, Eileen O’Connor. They are expected to try to bolster the case that President Biden engaged in wrongdoing but will not be able to speak to how Hunter Biden conducted his business or whether his father assisted him.

Turley has become a mainstay expert witness at impeachment hearings. He first appeared before Congress in 2019 as an expert on impeachment, arguing against impeaching President Donald Trump over a July 2019 phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

Dubinsky has previously provided analysis for Fox News on bank records associated with members of the Biden family that Comer released this year. In an August 2023 interview, Dubinsky insinuated that the Biden family may be utilizing shell companies for “nefarious” reasons — “to either launder money or hide a transaction.”

O’Connor, who served during President George W. Bush’s administration, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July, recommending that a judge reject a proposed plea agreement in the Hunter Biden case related to tax and gun charges.”

Democrats, who are allowed to summon one witness, will feature testimony from Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment expert and law school professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt first testified in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment and then again during the first impeachment of Trump.

 

joe biden 9 26 2023 uaw picket linePolitico, Biden joins striking auto workers on picket line, Lauren Egan and Myah Ward, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers comes at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement.

politico CustomPresident Joe Biden on Tuesday became the first sitting president to join a picket line with striking workers, vividly demonstrating his commitment to labor and its central role in his reelection campaign.

The president, donning a blue hat with a United Auto Workers symbol, stood on a wooden platform and used a bull horn to speak to the crowd of union members dressed in red. He was flanked by United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.

uaw logo“The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going,” the president told the crowd outside of GM’s Willow Run Redistribution Center in Wayne County, Mich. “You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”

Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement represented a tectonic shift for an office historically known for breaking strikes, not supporting them.

The move also appeared to be a clear counter to former President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Michigan on Wednesday instead of participating in the second Republican primary debate — the latest sign that both candidates have moved beyond the primary phase of the election and are focused on November 2024.

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Sen. Bob Menendez Prosecution, Reactions 

 

 Before joining the Senate, Robert Menendez, seen in 1992, became the first Cuban American and Latino to represent New Jersey in the House of Representatives (New York Times photo by William E. Sauro).

 Before joining the Senate, Robert Menendez, seen in 1992, became the first Cuban American and Latino to represent New Jersey in the House of Representatives (New York Times photo by William E. Sauro).

ny times logoNew York Times, As Robert Menendez’s Star Rose, Corruption Fears Cast a Persistent Shadow, Nicholas Fandos, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The New Jersey Democrat broke barriers for Latinos. But prosecutors circled for decades before charging him with an explosive new bribery plot.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Menendez Case, Prosecutors Confront Tighter Definition of Corruption, Benjamin Weiser, Sept. 28, 2023.  The Supreme Court has said wrongdoing must be clear cut. Some observers say the accusations in Senator Robert Menendez’s case pass the test.

After the U.S. attorney in Manhattan announced corruption charges last Friday against Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the veteran Democratic lawmaker lashed back, calling the claims false and saying prosecutors had “misrepresented the normal work of congressional office.”

Mr. Menendez has said a lot more in recent days about the indictment, but his assertion last week offered a clue to the defense he may invoke, if his case goes to trial, one that other public officials facing corruption charges have used successfully.

In a series of key rulings since 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly narrowed the legal definition of corruption, leading to overturned convictions of prominent politicians in New York and elsewhere.

In 2016, in throwing out the conviction of Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, the court said a quid-pro-quo scheme had to encompass more than routine courtesies like arranging meetings — the normal work Mr. Menendez invoked.

But investigators found gold bars and cash-stuffed envelopes in Mr. Menendez’s home, and several legal experts interviewed this week said they believed the charges in the 39-page indictment could withstand the kinds of legal challenges that defense lawyers have successfully used in the past.

“It’s true that the Supreme Court keeps narrowing the scope of what is permissible for the government to pursue,” said Rachel E. Barkow, a professor of criminal law at New York University. “But I do think that this case falls into the heartland of what’s always been permissible, because as I read it, this is classic bribery.”

Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, said, “The Supreme Court’s point has always been not to criminalize normal politics” — what he called “the regular constituent service and day-to-day work of legislators.”

Politico, Cory Booker speaks: Bob Menendez should resign from Senate following indictment, Mia McCarthy, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  “Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker said in a statement.

politico CustomSen. Cory Booker on Tuesday called for his New Jersey counterpart and friend, Sen. Bob Menendez, to resign, four days after Menendez was indicted for allegedly accepting bribes.

“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost. Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe senate democrats logostepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving,” Booker said in a statement.

Booker is the latest in a growing group of federal lawmakers pushing for Menendez to step down, but he is to this point the most significant voice to speak up. He has been close to Menendez since joining the Senate a decade ago and testified in his favor at his corruption trial in 2017, which ended in a hung jury.

Booker’s call may also clear the way for other senators to join his call and reach a critical mass of pressure on Menendez, who is up for reelection next year, to leave public office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Schumer Must Do the Right Thing on Menendez. Now, Michelle Goldberg, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Hopefully, Democratic leaders in the Senate will do the right thing, and this column will be obsolete by the time you read it. I would have written it earlier, but I thought that at any moment, the dam would break and Robert Menendez, the recently indicted senator from New Jersey accused of spectacular acts of treachery and corruption, would be pushed out.

Yet here we are, four days after the Department of Justice gave us all a look at Menendez’s cash-stuffed jacket and one-kilo gold bars, and a united front of condemnation has yet to materialize. As I write this, more than a dozen Democratic senators have called on him to step down. Every other Democratic senator — especially the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer — should join them.

It’s true, of course, that an indictment is not a conviction. (Menendez knows this as well as anyone, having been charged with corruption once before but spared by a hung jury.) While he is entitled to another fair trial, he is not entitled to a seat in the United States Senate. As chairman, until recently, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is accused not just of accepting lavish bribes but also, more seriously, of passing sensitive information to an Egyptian businessman with ties to Egypt’s government. This is wrongdoing on a whole other level from what he was previously accused of.

At a defiant news conference on Monday, Menendez insisted he’s staying in the Senate and offered a preposterous excuse for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that F.B.I. agents found at his house. He said he kept it for emergencies, “because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.” Apparently, Menendez, who was born in New York, wants us to believe that, because of intergenerational trauma, he feels the need to hedge against Communist revolution in America. (Ironically, his family now, indeed, faces government confiscation.) He also claimed to be the victim of racist persecution by those who “simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. senator” — a deployment of identity politics so audaciously cynical, it belongs in a caustic TV farce, some deranged mash-up of “Veep” and “The Sopranos.”

His refusal to resign is a problem for Democrats both substantively and politically. At the most basic level, it’s hard to see how, given what Menendez has been accused of, he can be trusted to do his job. His continued tenure in the Senate is an embarrassment to the institution and to the Democratic Party, an embarrassment that will only grow more acute as his prosecution proceeds. Republicans, of course, understand that his presence in the Senate works to their advantage, which is why the right-wing senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas declared that Menendez should stay put.

And while Menendez’s indictment demonstrates the absurdity of Donald Trump’s ranting that the Justice Department is rigged against Republicans, it also makes it harder for Democrats to keep the spotlight on Trump’s baroque corruption. Finally, if Menendez somehow fends off a primary challenger next year, he could offer Republicans the chance to pick up New Jersey’s ordinarily safely Democratic Senate seat.

“It’s astonishing, given that kind of evidence, to say you’re not going anywhere,” Senator John Fetterman, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said on Monday evening, a few hours after Menendez’s news conference.

Fetterman was the first Democratic senator to call for Menendez’s resignation. He’s since been joined by several others, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and, most significantly, Menendez’s fellow New Jersey senator, Cory Booker. Outside the Senate, influential Democrats — including New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, and the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi — have also said Menendez should step down.

But the Senate’s top Democratic leaders are so far standing behind him, with Schumer calling him a “dedicated public servant” who “is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey.” Perhaps Schumer and others are holding their fire so they can try to ease Menendez out behind the scenes, but given Menendez’s news conference, he seems unlikely to go anywhere without a shove. And until Senate leaders denounce him — and, if necessary, make plans to expel him — Menendez’s shame will taint them as well.

When I spoke to Fetterman, he expressed bemused astonishment that some senators have seemed more exercised about his challenge to the Senate’s sartorial traditions than about the allegations of influence peddling by Menendez. “There were people running into the burning building to save the virtue of the Senate over a dress code,” said Fetterman, but when it comes to a stash of gold bars and “wads of cash all over the house,” they’re silent. “It’s confusing,” he said.

 

 

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

ny times logoNew York Times, Menendez, Defiant, Says He Will Not Resign, Tracey Tully, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, returned Monday to Union City, the community where he rose to political prominence, to offer a clear answer to former allies who have called for his resignation in the face of federal bribery charges: No.

senate democrats logo“The allegations leveled against me are just that — allegations.” Mr. Menendez said at a news conference at a community college not far from where he grew up, the child of Cuban immigrants.

It was the first time he had appeared publicly since federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed a 39-page indictment on Friday that accused him and his wife, Nadine Menendez, of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for wielding his political influence to benefit the government of Egypt and business associates in New Jersey.

Investigators found $550,000 in cash and 13 bars of gold bullion during a June 2022 search of a safe deposit box and the couple’s home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Many of New Jersey’s most prominent Democratic leaders have called on Mr. Menendez to step down. On Monday morning, he appeared at the lectern alone.

The indictment depicted a far-reaching web of political corruption involving aid and weapons sales to Egypt and efforts by Mr. Menendez to persuade state and federal prosecutors to go easy on his associates in three criminal cases.

Mr. Menendez was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until stepping aside on Friday, as required by rules the Senate Democrats adopted to govern themselves.

Mr. Menendez, his wife, and three New Jersey businessmen, who were also accused in the bribery conspiracy, are expected to appear Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan to respond to the charges.

Nadine Menendez, 56, Mr. Menendez’s wife of three years, did not attend the news conference.

phil murphy o smile CustomNew Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, right, a close ally of Mr. Menendez, called for the senator’s resignation Friday evening, unleashing a chorus of similar messages from fellow Democratic leaders across the state.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey spoke publicly for the first time since being charged with taking bribes in exchange for exerting political influence.

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  Damian Williams, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, talks about a display of photos of evidence in an indictment against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez during a news conference, September 22, 2023, in New York (Associated Press photo by Robert Bumsted).

Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, talks about a display of photos of evidence in an indictment against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez during a news conference, September 22, 2023, in New York (Associated Press photo by Robert Bumsted).

 

More On High Tech v. Government Clashes

 

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan vs. Jeff Bezos: This Is Big Tech’s Real Cage Match, David Streitfeld, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The chair of the Federal Trade Commission wants to disrupt Amazon, whose founder built a trillion-dollar firm by disrupting retail.

Jeff Bezos made his fortune with one truly big idea: What if a retailer did everything possible to make customers happy?

His forcefully nurtured creation, Amazon, sold as many items as possible as cheaply as possible and delivered them as quickly as possible. The result is that $40 out of every $100 spent online in the United States goes to Amazon and Mr. Bezos is worth $150 billion.

Lina Khan made her reputation with a very different idea: What if pleasing the customer was not enough?

Low prices, she argued in a 95-page examination of Amazon in the Yale Law Journal, can mask behavior that stifles competition and undermines society. Published in 2017 while she was still a law student, it is already one of the most consequential academic papers of modern times.

These two very different philosophies, each pushed by an outsider unafraid of taking risks, at last have their much-anticipated confrontation. The Federal Trade Commission, now run by Ms. Khan after her stunning rise from policy wonk to policy player, on Tuesday filed suit against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. The suit accused Amazon of being a monopolist that used unfair and illegal tactics to maintain its power. Amazon said the suit was “wrong on the facts and the law.”

Mr. Bezos, 59, is no longer in charge of Amazon on a day-to-day basis. He surrendered the chief executive reins to Andy Jassy two years ago. But make no mistake: Mr. Bezos is Amazon’s executive chair and owns more of the company than anyone else. It is his innovations, carried out over more than 20 years, that Ms. Khan is challenging. The F.T.C. complaint quotes him repeatedly.

Silicon Valley spent the summer transfixed by the prospect of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg literally fighting each other, despite the odds of this actually happening being near zero. Ms. Khan and Mr. Bezos are, however, the real thing — a courtroom clash that could have implications far beyond Amazon’s 1.5 million employees, 300 million customers and $1.3 trillion valuation.

If Ms. Khan’s arguments hold sway, the competitive landscape for tech companies will look very different going forward. Big antitrust cases tend to have that effect. The government achieved only a muddled victory in its pursuit of Microsoft 25 years ago. Yet that still had enough force to distract and weaken a much-feared software empire, allowing 1,000 start-ups to bloom, including Amazon.

It’s due largely to Ms. Khan, 34, that imposing major changes on the retailer is even thinkable. After spending a few days interviewing her and those around her for a profile in 2018, I thought she understood Mr. Bezos because she was so much like him. Very few people can see possibilities unseen by others and successfully work toward them for years, getting others to join along the way. But these were attributes they both shared.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Law Sets the Stage for a Clash Over Disinformation, Steven Lee Myers, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The law, aimed at forcing social media giants to adopt new policies to curb harmful content, is expected to face blowback from Elon Musk, who owns X.

european union logo rectangleThe Facebook page in Slovakia called Som z dediny, which means “I’m from the village,” trumpeted a debunked Russian claim last month that Ukraine’s president had secretly purchased a vacation home in Egypt under his mother-in-law’s name.

A post on Telegram — later recycled on Instagram and other sites — suggested that a parliamentary candidate in the country’s coming election had died from a Covid vaccine, though he remains very much alive. A far-right leader posted on Facebook a photograph of refugees in Slovakia doctored to include an African man brandishing a machete.

As Slovakia heads toward an election on Saturday, the country has been inundated with disinformation and other harmful content on social media sites. What is different now is a new European Union law that could force the world’s social media platforms to do more to fight it — or else face fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s revenue.

The law, the Digital Services Act, is intended to force social media giants to adopt new policies and practices to address accusations that they routinely host — and, through their algorithms, popularize — corrosive content. If the measure is successful, as officials and experts hope, its effects could extend far beyond Europe, changing company policies in the United States and elsewhere.

The law, years of painstaking bureaucracy in the making, reflects a growing alarm in European capitals that the unfettered flow of disinformation online — much of it fueled by Russia and other foreign adversaries — threatens to erode the democratic governance at the core of the European Union’s values.

Europe’s effort sharply contrasts with the fight against disinformation in the United States, which has become mired in political and legal debates over what steps, if any, the government may take in shaping what the platforms allow on their sites.

A federal appeals court ruled this month that the Biden administration had very likely violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech by urging social media companies to remove content.

Europe’s new law has already set the stage for a clash with Elon Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter. Mr. Musk withdrew from a voluntary code of conduct this year but must comply with the new law — at least within the European Union’s market of nearly 450 million people.

Big, A Newsletter on the Politics of Monopoly Power, Commentary: How to Hide a $2 Trillion Antitrust Trial, Matt Stoller, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Secret matt stollertrials subvert the very rule of law. Yet Judge Amit Mehta has blocked the public from getting access to the Google antitrust trial, which is being held mostly behind closed doors.

Today, I want to do a bit of a summary of the Google antitrust trial, since we’re investing so much into covering it. The key question is as follows. Google is a very powerful corporation worth around $2 trillion, it controls access to the internet, and it will roll out generative artificial intelligence for billions of people. And yet, the public hasn’t heard that much about a major Justice Department log circulartrial where the firm and its executives are being asked how they secured that immense power. Why?

google logo customThere are several possibilities, but in my view, the most obvious reason is that the judge in the case, Amit Mehta, is effectively holding the contest in secret. Last week, according to our calculations, over half of the trial, including testimony from key witnesses, happened in closed session, unavailable to the public. Why? Here’s Mehta in a pre-trial hearing in August, explaining his thinking to Google’s attorneys.

“Look, I’m a trial judge. I am not anyone that understands the industry and the markets in the way that you do. And so I take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it’s going to cause competitive harm. And I think it behooves me to be somewhat conservative in thinking about that issue, because, you know, I can’t see around every corner.”

In other words, Mehta is deferring to Google on the need for secrecy.

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Global Tensions, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Three Killed in Shootings at a Home and a Medical School in Rotterdam, Claire Moses and Emma Bubola, Sept. 28, 2023.  A 32-year-old student of the medical school was arrested as a suspect in the shootings, the police said, but a motive remained unclear.

A woman, her teenage daughter and a man were killed on Thursday after a gunman opened fire at a house and a prominent medical school in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, an unusual outburst of gun violence in the city that the police chief called a “black day.”

The Rotterdam police chief, Fred Westerbeke, said at a news conference on Thursday evening local time that a 39-year-old woman and a male teacher at Erasmus Medical Center had been killed. Later, the Rotterdam police announced that the woman’s 14-year-old daughter had died from her injuries. They gave the age of the teacher as 43, correcting earlier statements that gave it as 46. None of the victims were immediately identified.

The Rotterdam police arrested a 32-year-old Erasmus student as a suspect. He was carrying a weapon and wearing a bulletproof vest, the authorities said. He was also not identified. The police said they believed the shooter had acted alone.

Much remained unclear, including a motive and the relationship between the victims and the suspect, who lived on the same street as the woman and her daughter, according to Dutch news media.

 

Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega, shown as a rebel leader in the 1980s and more currently.

Nicaragua's strongman Daniel Ortega, shown as a rebel leader in the 1980s and more currently.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Taking Away Critics’ Citizenship, a Country Takes Their Houses, Frances Robles, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Nicaragua’s government has begun confiscating the homes of former political prisoners and dissidents forced into exile, just as the country did in the 1980s.

nicaragua mapCamilo de Castro, a filmmaker whose work is critical of the government, and the other two homeowners, Gonzalo Carrión and Haydee Castillo, are all human rights activists who are among more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year by the Sandinista government with no rights to citizenship or property. Mr. de Castro and the other two homeowners, Gonzalo Carrión and Haydee Castillo, are all human rights activists who are among more than 300 Nicaraguans declared traitors this year by the Sandinista government with no rights to citizenship or property.

Now, the government has started making it official in stark fashion by fanning out and seizing its opponents’ properties, including the homes of two former foreign ministers.

The campaign is a throwback to the leftist party’s first time in office in the 1980s, when the Sandinistas expropriated homes, setting off yearslong legal disputes. The country’s current leader, Daniel Ortega, led the Sandinista revolution that thrust them into power and lives in a house he confiscated decades ago.

Mr. Ortega was beaten at the ballot box in 1990 but after changes to the constitution that made it possible for him to win, Mr. Ortega reclaimed the presidency in 2007. He spent the next decade chipping away at the country’s democracy by interfering with the National Assembly, elections and the Supreme Court.

Tens of thousands of people rose up against Mr. Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, in 2018, accusing them of becoming exactly what they had once fought against: leaders of a dictatorial family dynasty. Government opposition landed hundreds of people in prison, and at least 300 were shot in protests.

Earlier this year 222 political prisoners were released into exile.

The move to start seizing properties in recent days follows the confiscation of a prominent Jesuit university and the arrests of several priests. On Monday, the Sandinistas seized a private business school Harvard University founded nearly 60 years ago. The government’s campaign signals that even five years after a failed uprising, dissent has serious consequences.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Stunningly Sudden End to a Long, Bloody Conflict in the Caucasus, Andrew Higgins and Ivan Nechepurenko, Photographs by Nanna Heitmann, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). After decades of wars and tense stalemates, almost no one saw it coming: Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian control seemingly overnight.

Tens of thousands died fighting for and against it, destroying the careers of two presidents — one Armenian, one Azerbaijani — and tormenting a generation of American, Russian and European diplomats pushing stillborn peace plans. It outlasted six U.S. presidents.

But the self-declared state in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — recognized by no other country — vanished so quickly last week that its ethnic Armenian population had only minutes to pack before abandoning their homes and joining an exodus driven by fears of ethnic cleansing by a triumphant Azerbaijan.

After surviving more than three decades of on-off war and pressure from big outside powers to give up, or at least narrow, its ambitions as a separate country with its own president, army, flag and government, the Republic of Artsakh inside the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan collapsed almost overnight.

Slava Grigoryan, one of the thousands this week who fled Nagorno-Karabakh, said he had only 15 minutes to pack before heading to Armenia along a narrow mountain road controlled by Azerbaijani troops. On the way, he said, he saw the soldiers grab four Armenian men from his convoy and take them away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sikh Separatism Is a Nonissue in India, Except as a Political Boogeyman, Suhasini Raj, Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar, Sept. 28, 2023. India’s feud with Canada highlights how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has amplified a separatist threat that in reality is largely a diaspora illusion.

During his first trip to India as Canada’s prime minister in 2018, Justin Trudeau made a visit to the northern state of Punjab, where he got a photo op in full Punjabi dress at the Golden Temple, the holiest site of the Sikh religion.

He also got, courtesy of the Indian government, an earful of grievances — and a list of India’s most-wanted men on Canadian soil.

The killing this summer of one man on that list, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, has turned into a diplomatic war between India and Canada. Mr. Trudeau claimed this month that Indian agents had orchestrated the assassination inside Canada. India rejected the assertion and accused Canada of ignoring its warnings that Canadian Sikh extremists like Mr. Nijjar were plotting violence in Punjab in hopes of making the state into a separate Sikh nation.

But beyond the recriminations, a more complex story is unfolding in Punjab, analysts, political leaders and residents say. While the Indian government asserts that Canada’s lax attitude toward extremism among its politically influential Sikhs poses a national security threat inside India, there is little support in Punjab for a secessionist cause that peaked in deadly violence decades ago and was snuffed out.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Korea Says It Will Expel U.S. Soldier Who Fled Over the Border, Choe Sang-Hun, Sept. 27, 2023. Pvt. Travis King dashed across the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone in July to flee to North Korea.

Pvt. Travis T. King, the American soldier who fled across the inter-Korean border into North Korean territory on July 18, was in United States custody on Wednesday, according to a senior U.S. administration official, after the North’s state news media announced that it had decided to expel him.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the efforts to release Private King.

After 70 days of investigation, North Korea found Private King guilty of “illegally intruding” into its territory and decided to expel him, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The news agency said that Private King had confessed to illegally entering North Korea because, it said, he “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army and was disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society.”

North Korea had not said how or when it planned to deport Private King. He had fled to the North through the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea.

There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon.

It is unusual for North Korea to expel an American soldier who has expressed a wish to seek asylum there. In the past, the country allowed American G.I.s who deserted to its side to live and even start families there. It often used them as propaganda tools, casting them as evil United States military officers in anti-American movies.

Private King, 23, had been assigned to South Korea as a member of the First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division. After being released in July from a South Korean detention center where he had spent time on assault charges, he was escorted by U.S. military personnel to Incheon International Airport outside Seoul to board a plane to the United States, where he was expected to face additional disciplinary action.

He never boarded the plane. Instead, he took a bus the next day to the border village of Panmunjom, which lies inside the D​MZ and allows tourists to visit.

The soldier “willfully and without authorization crossed the Military Demarcation Line into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Colonel Taylor, the public affairs officer for U.S. Forces Korea, said at the time.

Last month, North Korea said that​ Private King wanted to seek refuge in the isolated Communist country or in a third country. In its announcement on Wednesday, it did not elaborate on why it had decided not to grant his wish.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fire at Wedding Hall in Iraq Kills More Than 100 People, Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Khaleel, Sept. 27, 2023.  Eyewitnesses said flares were set off in celebration as the bride and groom danced, and that a fire broke out at astonishing speed.

A fire swept through a wedding hall late Tuesday in a predominantly Christian area of northern Iraq, killing at least 100 people and leaving more than 150 others injured with severe burns or difficulty breathing from smoke inhalation, according to Iraqi officials.

The fire broke out during a wedding in the district of Hamdaniya, southeast of the city of Mosul in the Nineveh Plain, a part of Iraq where Christians have lived for many centuries. The district’s mayor, Issam Behnam, said 85 people from Hamdaniya alone had died, including some of his own relatives.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 20 Dead After Explosion at Nagorno-Karabakh Fuel Depot, Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrés R. Martínez, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The cause of the blast in the breakaway region of Azerbaijan, where thousands have been fleeing for Armenia, was not immediately clear. Hundreds were wounded.

Officials said on Tuesday that at least 20 people had been killed and nearly 300 wounded in an explosion at a fuel depot in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan on Monday.

The cause of the explosion, which produced a large fire that lit up night sky near the city of Stepanakert, was not immediately clear. Witnesses from inside Nagorno-Karabakh reported that it occurred as people lined up to refuel their cars as they were evacuating the enclave.

Thousands of ethnic Armenians have been fleeing the breakaway region for Armenia since a military offensive last week brought the enclave back under Azerbaijan’s control.

Emergency workers took 290 patients “with various degrees of burns” to four different medical facilities after the blast, the health ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tensions With China Cross a New Line in the South China Sea, Sui-Lee Wee, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Philippines is pushing back against China’s territorial claims. But China has been unrelenting, raising worries about an escalation.

China FlagThe video may seem too simple, too understated to mark a serious international incident in the South China Sea: a quick clip of a diver using a knife to cut a section of rope underwater.

But that diver was with the Philippine Coast Guard, and the rope was part of a sea barrier placed by Chinese forces to keep Philippine boats away from an area they had a legal right to fish in. In that moment, the Philippines took one of the most forceful steps yet in contesting China’s unrelenting territorial claims ever closer to the Philippine Islands.

“The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law,” the Philippines said in a statement, adding that the action had come on direct orders from President Ferdinand E. Marcos Jr.

Since he took office in June 2022, Mr. Marcos has signaled wanting a more muscular foreign policy approach toward China. But until now, those actions were confined mostly to rhetoric, deepening alliances with the United States and other countries, and releasing videos of aggressive activities undertaken by the Chinese Coast Guard against Philippine vessels.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blasting Bullhorns and Water Cannons, Chinese Ships Wall Off the South China Sea, Hannah Beech, Photographs and Video by Jes Aznar, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Traveling by boat, Times journalists saw firsthand how the world’s most brazen maritime militarization has transformed a major trade route.

China FlagThe world’s most brazen maritime militarization is gaining muscle in waters through which one-third of global ocean trade passes. Here, on underwater reefs that are known as the Dangerous Ground, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or P.L.A., has fortified an archipelago of forward operating bases that have branded these waters as China’s despite having no international legal grounding. China’s coast guard, navy and a fleet of fishing trawlers harnessed into a militia are confronting other vessels, civilian and military alike.

The mounting Chinese military presence in waters that were long dominated by the U.S. fleet is sharpening the possibility of a showdown between superpowers at a moment when relations between them have greatly worsened. And as Beijing challenges a Western-driven security order that stood for nearly eight decades, regional countries are increasingly questioning the strength of the American commitment to the Pacific.

Semafor, China looms over Biden’s meeting with Pacific leaders, Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant, Sept. 25, 2023.  President Biden will meet with more than a dozen leaders from Pacific nations at the White House today for a summit that will see him establish diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands and Niue.

Climate change will be a major topic of the gathering, but as with many of the administration’s international engagements, China will be looming in the background. At least one leader is skipping the summit — Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare — causing disappointment in the White House. The leaders who are in town were scheduled to attend the Baltimore Ravens game yesterday and receive a briefing from the Coast Guard on U.S. plans to address illegal fishing and maritime issues.

China’s militarized coast guard fleet, recently detailed in the New York Times, might be a natural topic of conversation.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada during a frosty meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier in September 2023 (Canadian Press photo by Sean Kilpatrick via Associated Press).

 

Republican Threats To Shut U.S. Government

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate announces bipartisan short-term deal to avert government shutdown, Mariana Alfaro, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacob Bogage, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The stopgap measure would fund federal agencies at current levels through Nov. 17. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House remain unable to pass legislation to keep the government open beyond Saturday at midnight.

Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a short-term funding deal Tuesday night that would fund the government for six weeks, while including additional funding for Ukraine and domestic disaster relief.
Keeping up with politics is easy with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter, in your inbox weekdays.

The deal, reached days before the government would shut down on Saturday, would still need to overcome several procedural hurdles before full Senate approval. It would then move to the House, where its future is uncertain.

The short-term deal, called a continuing resolution, allocates $4.49 billion for the Defense Department’s effort in Ukraine, alongside $1.65 billion in additional funding for the war-torn country, which will remain available until Sept. 30, 2025. Combined, the more-than $6 billion in funds adds up to far less than the White House’s request for $20.6 billion in Ukraine funding. But if the plan becomes law, Congress would almost certainly pursue additional funding for Ukraine later this fall.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Shutdown Is Looming. What Comes Next? Zach Montague, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Many federal agencies have plans in place to weather a shutdown, but a disruption would still affect critical government services.

The White House has begun advising federal agencies to prepare for a government shutdown as Republican lawmakers have shown no signs of progress in negotiations to keep the government funded beyond this week.

djt maga hatThe United States has experienced 21 gaps in government funding since 1976, leading to varying degrees of disruption. Under a worst-case scenario, the White House is warily eyeing a repeat of 2018, the longest and most recent shutdown, which sidelined roughly 800,000 of the federal government’s 2.1 million employees for 34 days.

While much remains uncertain about how inevitable a shutdown may be or how long one may last, the broad contours of how it would play out are well-worn territory in Washington, and most agencies have readied plans for working through the tumult.

What exactly would be shut down?

  • A government shutdown amounts to a suspension of many government operations until Congress acts to restore funding.
  • For hundreds of thousands of federal employees, that means either being furloughed while the government is closed, or continuing to work without pay.
  • For the public, that typically means dealing with interruptions to a variety of government services and facing a range of inconveniences and disruptions to daily life.

In recent days, the White House has spotlighted several government programs that could cause more severe issues if suspended, in particular the nutrition and immunization assistance given out through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. If funding lapses, the White House has said nearly seven million women and children could lose critical access to food, and the federal contingency fund to keep the program running could run dry within days.

“If we have a shutdown, WIC shuts down, and that means the nutrition assistance to those moms and young children shuts down,” Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, told reporters on Monday.

Closures of national parks and museums are often one of the most visible impacts of a shutdown for the public, as well. In some cases, they can produce significant losses for the communities that depen

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More On 2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Ralph Nader, wary of Trump, offers to help Joe Biden win, Michael Scherer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The political firebrand, long estranged from Democrats, fears fascism will be on the ballot in 2024 and it must be defeated.

Ralph Nader Huffington PostThe liberal activist Ralph Nader still remembers nearly the exact words Joe Biden used to banish him from the U.S. Senate 23 years ago, after Nader’s Green Party presidential bid in 2000 won 97,000 votes in Florida.

“Ralph Nader is not going to be welcome anywhere near the corridors,” then-senator Biden had declared, blaming the consumer advocate for Democrat Al Gore’s defeat to Republican George W. Bush.

So began Nader’s long exile from Democratic Capitol Hill hideaways, where Nader had once been feted as a conquering policy genius.

Nader, a spry 89-year-old who works remotely because of covid concerns, still resents the slight. But if you ask him these days about Biden’s reelection fight in 2024, he does not respond with his old gibes about Republicans and Democrats being nothing more than “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

“We are stuck with Biden now,” Nader says in his cantankerous way. “In a two-party duopoly, if one should be defeated ferociously, the logic is that the other one prevails.”

Former president Donald Trump is, of course, the one deserving ferocious defeat in that calculation, and for the moment Nader wants everyone to know that this has become his overriding political mission.

“I know the difference between fascism and autocracy, and I’ll take autocracy any time,” Nader said in a recent telephone interview. “Fascism is what the GOP is the architecture of, and autocracy is what the Democrats are practitioners of. But autocracy leaves an opening. They don’t suppress votes. They don’t suppress free speech.”

If the pivot matters, it is likely to land hardest among the dissident parts of the liberal coalition, who like him have been fed up for years with the state of Democratic politics and could once again play a major role if they stay home or vote third-party in a close general election. Nader is dismissive of the chances of the Green Party in 2024, despite personal praise for Cornel West, the party’s likely candidate. He speaks of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democratic challenger to Biden who campaigns on some of Nader’s issues, as a wayward talent unable to get out of his own way.

Nader says no formal Biden endorsement will be forthcoming, and he still supports the idea of third parties in principle. “Biden is better than he has ever been but he is still terrible on empire and Wall Street,” is about as close as he will come to complimenting the president. But the cover boy for Newsweek in 1968 and Time in 1969 has devoted himself as he approaches his tenth decade of life to, in his view, making Democrats better at being Democrats.

For months, he has been calling and snail-mailing elected officials and operatives his thoughts about how the party must improve its sales pitches. He produced a 10-point plan for improving the party’s messaging and campaign tactics last year, calling for harder punches at the GOP and more liberal policy solutions.

The response has been mostly nothing — unreturned calls he counts in the thousands, a result of resentments over his 2000, 2004 and 2008 third-party presidential campaigns. Even news outlets that used to cover his crusades have moved on. “The main press I get these days is the obituary columns,” he jokes.

But he still reads the major papers carefully every day and likes to track down the phone numbers of Democratic knife fighters he feels are wielding dull blades.

ny times logoNew York Times, “Bring it, Tim”: Two South Carolinians, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, clashed, Michael C. Bender, Sept. 28, 2023. For months, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have been polite to one another on the campaign trail. That ended in a fiery way on Wednesday night on the debate stage.

Nikki Haley, as governor of South Carolina in December 2012, appointed Tim Scott to the Senate. Nearly 11 years later, on Wednesday night, Ms. Haley said he had squandered repeated opportunities to rein in spending. Mr. Scott said Ms. Haley had never seen a federal dollar she didn’t like.

“Bring it, Tim,” Ms. Haley said, taunting him from across the Republican presidential debate stage.

Nervous laughter erupted from the friendly audience as two South Carolinians seeking the Republican presidential nomination finally shed the shared Southern politesse that had kept them from attacking each other on the campaign trail.

Their skirmish began when Ms. Haley dismissed Mr. Scott’s promise to limit spending in Washington by pointing out the increase in the national debt during his time in the Senate.

“Where have you been?” Ms. Haley asked. “Where have you been, Tim? Twelve years we’ve waited, and nothing has happened.””

 

ron desantis hands out

ny times logoNew York Times, Can DeSantis Reset? What to Watch For in the 2nd G.O.P. Debate, Jonathan Weisman and Lisa Lerer, Sept. 27, 2023. The first matchup fueled momentum for Nikki Haley and a slide in standing for Ron DeSantis. What it didn’t do was diminish Donald Trump’s lead.

Seven Republican presidential hopefuls not named Donald J. Trump will gather on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., with the pressing task of securing second place in the Republican Party’s nominating race — and the ultimate mission of actually challenging the front-runner, Mr. Trump.

The first debate last month in Milwaukee was a breakout moment for Vivek Ramaswamy, a wealthy entrepreneur and political newcomer, but it also elevated Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations. What it didn’t do is diminish Mr. Trump’s lead.

Here’s what to watch for in the second debate.

Can DeSantis reset (again)?

For months, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida was widely seen as the strongest challenger to Mr. Trump. But after a first debate where Mr. DeSantis was largely relegated to the sidelines, his standing in the race has sunk. Recent surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire show that Mr. DeSantis has lost as much as half of his support, falling to third place — or lower. Some of his biggest longtime donors have of late grown reluctant to put more money into a campaign that seems to be headed in the wrong direction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Nikki Haley Shouldn’t Be the Republican Party’s Future, Pamela Paul, Sept. 27, 2023. All eyes are on Donald Trump’s top rivals ahead of Wednesday night’s second G.O.P. primary debate. And according to the Opinion columnist Pamela Paul, it is a disappointing lineup — Nikki Haley especially.

Paul argues that Haley is not the moderate anti-Trump alternative she is touted to be. But rather, is an opportunist, pandering to both sides and lacking “a core philosophy and a commitment.” As a candidate, she promises to bring back the old Reagan-esque Republican values, but Paul believes that Haley is a hypocrite whose loyalty resides exclusively with her personal agenda.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Weighing In on Auto Strike, Has a Mixed Legacy on Unions, Russ Buettner, Sept. 27, 2023. Donald Trump will campaign in Michigan today amid the United Automobile Workers’ strike. He has both appeased unions and sought to circumvent them.

As a businessman, Donald J. Trump at first tried to circumvent labor unions, then spent decades largely appeasing them to avoid costly strikes.

During his first presidential campaign, he boiled down labor issues to a grievance about other countries taking advantage of the United States.

As president, he made appointments and adopted policies often more antagonistic to organized labor than those of many other Republicans.

When Mr. Trump arrives in the Detroit area on Wednesday to interject himself into the United Auto Workers strike, he will bring with him a record of interactions with organized labor that, whether out of pragmatism or opportunism, has few straight lines.

What may resonate the loudest with the current and former factory workers whom Mr. Trump hopes to reach is his decades-long history of reducing a host of economic and labor issues to the complaint that America’s leaders have allowed other countries to “rip off” the United States. He used that line of reasoning in announcing the Michigan trip, arguing that “dumb” government programs to promote electric vehicles would push all automobile production to China. “The all Electric Car is a disaster for both the United Auto Workers and the American Consumer,” he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

He deployed the same logic in criticizing Shawn Fain, the United Auto Workers’ president, though what he thought Mr. Fain should do differently was not clear. “I think he’s not doing a good job in representing his union, because he’s not going to have a union in three years from now,” Mr. Trump said in a recent interview broadcast on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Those jobs are all going to be gone because all of those electric cars are going to be made in China.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Las Vegas hospitality workers voted to authorize a strike against major resorts along the Strip, a step toward a walkout, Kurtis Lee, Sept. 27, 2023. Unions representing 60,000 workers across Nevada have been in talks with the resorts since April. The vote is a crucial step toward a walkout.

 

joe biden kamala harris

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Forget fantasies about replacing Biden. Kamala Harris can’t beat Trump, Max Boot, right, Sept. max boot screen shot25, 2023. I fear for America’s future and hence the world’s — more so now than ever. I had relaxed a bit after the last two national elections, which had seemed to signal a return to normalcy. Donald Trump was decisively defeated in 2020 and, in 2022, most of his fellow election deniers also lost in their bids to take over the election machinery of swing states.

The prospect of another Trump term is the greatest foreseeable disaster that can befall the United States and the world. Trump is likely to be 10 times more dangerous this time around, because he won’t allow any adults in the White House to act as a check on his worst instincts — no more Jim Mattis as defense secretary, John F. Kelly as chief of staff or H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. In a second term, Trump is likely to only appoint advisers as unhinged as he is.

We can only speculate what this will mean, but the likelihood is that Trump will cut off aid to Ukraine, pull out of NATO, eviscerate the civil service and the military’s top ranks, and appoint an attorney general who will prosecute his enemies. For a start. He was eager to do all of those things in his first term but was dissuaded or blocked by the “deep state.” He’s unlikely to allow that to happen again. He has become even more radical and more authoritarian since leaving office, and he now has much more experience in getting what he wants out of the government.

The consequences will be dire enough domestically, imperiling U.S. democracy, but they will be even worse internationally. Among other alarming consequences, a Trump presidency could allow Russian leader Vladimir Putin to defeat Ukraine and remake the 21st-century global order in favor of tyrants and aggressors.

So how do we stop Trump? Biden is a feeble vessel at best, but he’s the only realistic option we have.

In the world as it is, we’re just a few months before the start of the primaries, so if Biden were to step down now, the almost certain Democratic nominee would be Vice President Harris. (The last sitting vice president who sought but failed to secure a party’s presidential nomination was Alben Barkley in 1952.) And I have yet to meet a Democrat who has any confidence in Harris’s ability to beat Trump.

At the same time, any move to challenge Biden in the primaries or to replace Harris on the ticket would lead to Democratic fratricide which would likely ease Trump’s path back to power. Anyone who believes in preserving American democracy and the U.S.-led world order, therefore, has no choice but to back Biden in 2024, however uninspiring that might be.

 

guantanamo bay year 14 image.width 800

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Inside the Unfounded Claim That DeSantis Abused Guantánamo Detainees, Matthew Rosenberg and Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). A former prisoner’s story of mistreatment at the hands of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, made headlines. But The Times found no evidence to back it up.

Nearly a year ago, as Ron DeSantis’s political stock was rising, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee came forward with a stunning claim: Before he was Florida’s governor, as a young Navy lawyer, Mr. DeSantis had taken part in a forced feeding of a hunger striker at the notorious American prison, and laughed as he did so.

The detainee, Mansoor Adayfi, said he was tied to a chair, crying and screaming as tubes were shoved down his throat and cases of the dietary supplement Ensure were pumped into his stomach.

As the ordeal drew to an end, Mr. Adayfi added, he was approached by Mr. DeSantis and, “he said, ‘You should eat.’ I threw up in his face. Literally on his face.”

Mr. Adayfi told his story on a left-wing podcast, then in Harper’s Magazine and then again in mainstream media reports. He found other former detainees who also claimed to remember Mr. DeSantis and his cruelty. The accounts traveled quickly through the liberal media ecosystem, landing in Democratic opposition research and coalescing into a narrative that portrayed the Republican presidential candidate as an accessory to torture.

Yet, an examination of military records and interviews with detainees’ lawyers and service members who served at the same time as Mr. DeSantis found no evidence to back up the claims. The New York Times interviewed more than 40 people who served with Mr. DeSantis or around the same time and none recalled witnessing or even hearing of any episodes like the ones Mr. Adayfi described.

Instead, nearly all of those interviewed dismissed the story as highly improbable. Mr. DeSantis was a junior officer, who visited only for short stints and was tasked with what one fellow lawyer described as “scut work.” He would have had no reason to witness, and no power to authorize, a force feeding, according to the officer who supervised Mr. DeSantis at Guantánamo. Even senior lawyers were not allowed near force feedings, according to the commandant of the prison guards at the time.

“He was just too junior and too inexperienced and too green to have had any substantial role,” said Morris D. Davis, a retired Air Force colonel, who served as chief prosecutor of Guantánamo cases the year that Mr. DeSantis visited the prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Haley and Ramaswamy Rise, Some Indian Americans Have Mixed Feelings, Jazmine Ulloa, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Nikki Haley’s and Vivek Ramaswamy’s presence in the presidential race is celebrated by many Indian Americans, though not all agree with their policies.

Suresh Reddy, a centrist Democrat and city councilman, is watching the Republican presidential primary with a mix of pride and disappointment.

republican elephant logoWhen Mr. Reddy and his wife, Chandra Gangareddy, immigrants from southern India, settled in the Des Moines suburbs in September 2004, they could count the number of Indian American families on one hand. Only one Indian American had ever served in Congress at the time, and none had dared to mount a bid for the White House.

vivek ramaswamy linked inNow, for the first time in the nation’s history, two Indian Americans — Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, left — are serious presidential contenders who regularly invoke their parents’ immigrant roots. But their deeply conservative views, on display as they seek the Republican nomination, make it difficult for Mr. Reddy to fully celebrate the moment, he said.

“I’m really proud,” he said. “I just wish they had a better message.”

That disconnect, reflected in interviews with two dozen Indian American voters, donors and elected officials from across the political spectrum — in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and across the country — may complicate the G.O.P.’s efforts to appeal to the small but influential Indian American electorate.

Indian Americans now make up about 2.1 million, or roughly 16 percent, of the estimated 13.4 million Asian Americans who are eligible to vote, the third largest population of Asian origin behind Chinese and Filipino Americans, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the 2021 American Community Survey. Indian Americans also have tended to lean more Democratic than any other Asian American subgroups, according to Pew.

Though a small slice of the overall electorate, the demographic has become one of the fastest-growing constituencies, and is large enough to make a difference at the margins in swing states and in purple suburbs, including in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada.

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djt looking up

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Who’s Gaining Ground in Ukraine? This Year, No One, Josh Holder, Sept. 28, 2023. Although both sides have launched ambitious offensives, the front line has barely shifted. After 18 months of war, a breakthrough still looks difficult.

ny times logoNew York Times, The British and French defense ministers visited Kyiv to discuss military support, Constant Méheut and Victoria Kim, Sept. 28, 2023. The visits by the NATO secretary general and the French and British defense ministers come ahead of a planned forum in Kyiv billed as a place to discuss weapons technology and how to increase production inside Ukraine.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, stressed the need to help Ukraine boost its domestic weapons production, speaking Thursday on an unannounced trip to Kyiv as at least two other Western defense officials said they had visited the city in shows of support.

Despite an influx of sophisticated weapons provided by Western allies, progress in Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been slow. The front line has barely shifted over the past year, and a prolonged stalemate could weaken Western support for Ukraine. As its troops burn through ammunition, Ukraine has been drumming up pledges of new arms while simultaneously looking to ramp up its domestic arms industry.

Mr. Stoltenberg spoke in Kyiv just a day before Ukraine plans to hold a forum with international military contractors, an event billed as an opportunity to discuss weapons technology and how to increase production inside Ukraine.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • NATO’s top official, visiting Kyiv, calls for boosting Ukraine’s arms production.
  • Russia launched a large drone attack overnight, Ukrainian officials say.
  • Domestic production deals with Western countries could help Ukraine’s economy and be lucrative for military contractors.
  • Europe made a bold pledge of ammunition for Ukraine. Now comes the hard part.
  • Ukraine and Russia clash at an international court at The Hague.
  • The U.S. announces sanctions targeting a global network supporting Iranian drones used in Russia.

 

The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, during a send-off ceremony for reservists drafted during a partial mobilization, in Sevastopol, Crimea, in September (Reuters Photo by Alexey Pavlishak).

The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Adm. Viktor Sokolov, during a send-off ceremony for reservists drafted during a partial mobilization, in Sevastopol, Crimea, in September (Reuters Photo by Alexey Pavlishak).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Seeks to Show Commander Is Alive After Ukraine Claimed His Killing, Valeriya Safronova, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). After Ukraine said it had killed the head of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Russian state media broadcast footage of Viktor Sokolov meeting with officials.

Russian FlagThe comments and the release of the video were a Kremlin effort to address the questions swirling around the fate of Adm. Viktor Sokolov, one of the most senior Russian naval officers. In the video clip, Sergei K. Shoigu, the minister of defense, is seen discussing a drill that he said Russia’s Pacific Fleet completed on Monday. An officer who appears to be Mr. Sokolov is seen on a video screen, seemingly from another location, but does not speak during the footage.

A day after Ukraine claimed to have killed the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Russian state media broadcast footage of the admiral, Viktor Sokolov, in a meeting of defense officials.

A day after Ukraine’s military claimed that a recent strike on Crimea had killed the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday published a video showing the commander appearing via remote link at a meeting of top defense officials.

Russian state news media said the meeting took place on Tuesday, although the video’s authenticity and timing could not immediately be verified.

Shortly before the video was released, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said that responding to Ukraine’s claims about the commander’s killing was “exclusively the prerogative” of the Ministry of Defense and that the Kremlin had “nothing to say here.”

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • The naval commander appears in a brief video and does not speak.
  • A Russian strike hits port infrastructure, warehouses and dozens of trucks.
  • Russian forces tortured some Ukrainians to death, U.N. investigators say.
  • Ukrainian strikes on occupied Crimea aim to weaken Russia’s control of the region, experts say.
  • The U.S. is sending depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine. What does that mean?
  • The naval commander appears in a brief video and does not speak.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Influence Increases in Disputed Black Sea Waters, Constant Méheut, Sept. 27, 2023. Several ships have sailed a new corridor established to evade Russia’s de facto blockade. A military campaign has helped Ukraine gain some control, experts say.

Several ships have sailed a new shipping corridor established to evade Russia’s de facto blockade. A military campaign has helped Ukraine gain some control, experts say.

Russia has held sway over the Black Sea for much of the war. But Ukraine is increasingly managing to gain a degree of control over part of its disputed waters, aided by an intensifying military campaign, experts say.

In recent weeks, seven cargo vessels have successfully sailed a new shipping corridor established by Ukraine to evade Russia’s de facto blockade of its Black Sea ports, Ukraine’s Navy says. Analysts say that may stem from Kyiv’s new ability to hit Russian warships and potentially deter them from approaching Ukrainian waters, as well as its efforts to degrade Moscow’s surveillance capacities in the Black Sea.

To be sure, the Russian Navy may be reluctant to target civilian ships sailing near the shores of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, along the Black Sea’s west coast, which would most likely prompt widespread condemnation, and risk escalating the war.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • A new grain corridor highlights Ukraine’s military successes in the Black Sea, experts say.
  • Russia puts out another video of the admiral Ukraine claims to have killed.
  • Disinformation is a weapon regularly deployed in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • Canada’s speaker of the House of Commons quits after honoring a Ukrainian who fought for the Nazis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia criticizes delivery of U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Kostiantyn Khudov and Natalia Abbakumova, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russia has denounced the arrival in Ukraine of the first batch of U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday the delivery would “in no way” impact the outcome of the war. “There is no panacea and one kind of weapon that can change the balance of forces on the battlefield. There is no such weapon,” he told reporters.

He acknowledged that “Abrams tanks are serious weapons” but asserted that they, too, would “burn” as other weapons have done. “The Americans continue to increase their indirect involvement in this conflict,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Port City Severed From the Sea, Young Sailors Feel Adrift, Marc Santora, Photographs by Laetitia Vancon, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). With Russia trying to maintain military control of the Black Sea, the Ukrainian city of Odesa is disconnected from its waters — and its history.

 

President Biden met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in the Oval Office on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

President Biden met with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in the Oval Office on Thursday (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: Zelensky Thanks Americans in Emotional Speech to End Washington Visit, Karoun Demirjian and Ben Shpigel, Updated Sept. 22, 2023. “There is not a soul in Ukraine that does not feel gratitude to you, America,” the Ukrainian president said after a long day of lobbying Congress for more aid and a meeting with President Biden.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine finished a long day of lobbying in Washington at the White House, where he met Thursday with President Biden after receiving a $325 million air-defense package, but appeared to have made little immediate progress in persuading House leadership to approve another $24 billion in military and humanitarian aid.

ukraine flagMr. Zelensky, accompanied by his wife, Olena Zelenska, capped off his visit with an emotional speech at the National Archive on Thursday evening, during which he and his wife thanked Americans for their support.

Zelensky is working hard to highlight the values that bind the American and Ukrainian people, stressing a shared love of freedom. He says U.S. aid has saved millions of lives in Ukraine by keeping most of the country out of Russian hands.

washington post logoWashington Post, The spat that is threatening to wipe out the goodwill between Warsaw and Kyiv, Loveday Morris and Annabelle Chapman, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Polish farmers angry over cheap Ukrainian grain imports are posing a real challenge to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party ahead of elections.

Politico, Ukraine claims senior Russian navy officers killed, injured in Crimea missile strike, Carlo Martuscelli, Sept. 24, 2023 (print ed.). A Ukrainian politico Custommissile attack on the Russian navy’s Black Sea fleet headquarters on Friday killed and injured “dozens” of Russian troops, including a number of senior officials, Ukraine’s armed forces claimed on Saturday.

The claim, which couldn’t be verified, came as another rocket attack was launched on the Crimean city of Sevastopol, where the fleet is based, on Saturday. The Russia-installed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said on Telegram that debris from intercepted missiles fell near a pier during the latest assault.

Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces said on Telegram that more details of Friday’s missile attack would be communicated “when possible.”

Ukraine’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told U.S. broadcaster Voice of America that at least nine people were killed and another 16 were injured in Friday’s attack.

According to Budanov, Russian Colonel-General Alexander Romanchuk was in “very serious condition,” while chief of staff Lieutenant General Oleg Tsekov was unconscious, Voice of America reported. Budanov didn’t, however, confirm reports that the Black Sea Admiral Viktor Sokolov had been killed in the attack, the broadcaster said. The claims could not be verified.

Crimea, which extends into the Black Sea, was occupied illegally by Russia in 2014.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

More On U.S. Auto Workers Strike

 

GM Ford

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws a tantrum after his plan backfires, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Donald Trump has mostly spent bill palmerthe past two and a half years in hiding, only occasionally surfacing in public (and coming off as senile whenever he has).

bill palmer report logo headerFor the most part Trump has simply sat at home and whined about how horribly things are going for him, even as he’s been indicted and arrested over and over again. He’s finished, and on his more lucid days, he knows it.

But Trump is still pretending he’s a 2024 candidate, and so he has to occasionally surface in order to keep up appearances. To that end, he and his handlers were planning to have him hold an event with autoworkers this week. Trump and his Republican Party are exceedingly anti-union, but this was Trump’s attempt at goading a complicit media into portraying him as caring about the working class.

uaw logoThe thing is, President Joe Biden and his people are far more politically savvy than a senile Trump or his inept advisers. So Biden is now set to join striking autoworkers on the picket line, in a move that will get far more publicity than Trump’s autoworker photo op. To give you an idea of just how badly this is backfiring on Trump, he’s now throwing a complete fit about it.

Trump is now insisting that he only set up his autoworker event to try to get President Biden “off his lazy a..” – as if anyone is going to believe that. Trump then announced to autoworkers that “MAKE YOU RICH.” Well okay then.

What we’re seeing is Donald Trump losing, knowing that he’s losing, and whining about how he’s losing. If he thought he was clever for scheduling a one-off autoworker event, suffice it to say that President Biden has all too easily figured out how to outwit Trump. That’s partly because Trump is senile, and partly because Biden is really good at this.

Relevant Recent Headlines 

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, In Rare Alliance, Democrats and Republicans Seek Legal Power to Clear Homeless Camps, Shawn Hubler, Sept. 27, 2023. Dozens of leaders, mostly from Western states, have asked the Supreme Court to overturn lower court decisions that restrict enforcement against public camping.

Garbage, feces and needles run through the rivers in Missoula, Mont. On the streets of San Francisco, tents are so thick that sidewalks in the Tenderloin neighborhood have become “unofficial open-air public housing.” In Portland, Ore., a blaze shut down an on-ramp to the Steel Bridge for several days in March after campers tunneled through a cinder block wall and lit a campfire to stay warm.

In a surge of legal briefs this week, frustrated leaders from across the political spectrum, including the liberal governor of California and right-wing state legislators in Arizona, charged that homeless encampments were turning their public spaces into pits of squalor, and asked the Supreme Court to revisit lower court decisions that they say have hobbled their ability to bring these camps under control.

The urgent pleas come as leaders across the country, and particularly in the West, have sought to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and restore normalcy in cities. In more than two dozen briefs filed in an appeal of a decision on homeless policies in a southern Oregon town, officials from nearly every Western state and beyond described desolate scenes related to a proliferation of tent encampments in recent years.

They begged the justices to let them remove people from their streets without running afoul of court rulings that have protected the civil rights of homeless individuals.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Marshals settle decades-old claims of racism by hundreds of employees, María Luisa Paúl and Hannah Knowles, Sept. 28, 2023. It was over 29 years ago that Matthew Fogg, a retired chief deputy U.S. marshal, first filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service, alleging that a toxic environment of racism and discrimination permeated one of the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agencies and undercut career advancement opportunities for its Black employees.

Since then, the suit’s class — estimated to include more than 700 current and former Black deputy marshals and detention enforcement officers, plus thousands of Black applicants who were not hired — had been stuck in a sort of legal limbo, as the case was dismissed, reinstated and expanded over nearly three decades.

That is until Tuesday, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against job discrimination and harassment, granted preliminary approval of a $15 million settlement in one of the longest-running racial discrimination class actions in history.

“It’s a great sense of relief in a case that went on for an unusual length of time,” David Sanford, lead counsel for the class, told The Washington Post. “This was hard-fought over many years, with a lot of litigation, a lot of depositions, a lot of documents, a lot of people, a lot of witnesses — all leading to a legal battle that lasted for decades. But fortunately, it’s over now.”

Marshals Service employees have alleged racism for decades. Their case may finally be heard.

Throughout the litigation process, the U.S. Marshals Service denied wrongdoing. Though an equal-employment expert hired by the plaintiffs found that Black employees were significantly underrepresented in prestigious divisions and for promotions between 2007 and 2012, the agency argued that the analysis was flawed. A Marshals Service spokesman declined to comment on the class action’s allegations and instead referred The Post to a news release announcing that a settlement had been reached.

A final approval of the settlement is expected early next year, Sanford said. The agreement’s terms also stipulate that the Marshals Service will institute measures meant to enhance inclusion and transparency in its recruitment and promotions processes, as well as provide implicit-bias training to its employees — something Sanford said he hoped would achieve greater equity not only within the service, but across the federal government.

“This was another wake-up call for the federal government,” he said. “The federal government should be the shining light and standard by which everyone else operates. This shows that the U.S. government, like so many entities in corporate America, has fallen short. But hopefully as a result of the settlement, things will be better in the future at the Marshals Service and in the rest of the government.”

Yet for some plaintiffs, settling for $15 million in a court case that has spanned five U.S. presidencies — even as some of its plaintiffs have died — seemed like too little, too late.

“It’s a joke,” said Fogg, for whom the class action is named. He said he and other Black former employees believe the number reached is far too low.

Under the settlement, people who have been class agents and given depositions, like Fogg, will get more of the total, he said. But he still thinks the settlement is unfair, particularly because the case dragged on for so long.

Emptywheel, Analysis: Hunter Biden Threatens to Make Robert Costello's Dalliance with Rudy Giuliani Even More Costly, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), Sept. 26-27, 2023. As he did with Garrett Ziegler, Hunter Biden has sued Rudy Gialiani and Robert Costello for hacking his data. These lawsuits provide basis to claim that DE USAO is pursuing Hunter for misdemeanor tax charges, while ignoring the way the President's son was and continues to be serially hacked by his father's opponents.

CT News Junkie, Dannehy Confirmed As Supreme Court Justice, Mike Savino, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Gov. Ned Lamont’s nominee, Nora Dannehy, for the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Senate approved the appointment of Dannehy with a 31-2 vote, followed by a 120-18 tally in the House.

“I have no doubt that she has the moral compass as well as the intellectual gravitas and wealth of knowledge and, actually, moderate hand on the till to make fair and even handed decisions,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

Dannehy, of Glastonbury, will fill the position of former Justice Maria Araújo Kahn, who resigned earlier this year after being confirmed to serve as a judge in a federal appeals court.

Her legal career includes service in both the public and private sectors. She was the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut and led prosecution of the corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

She was also deputy attorney general under former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, general counsel to Lamont and an associate general counsel for United Technology, now Rayhteon.

Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Dannehy “has a long history in our legal community” and a “record that is outstanding.”

She did draw some opposition, including from lawmakers who raised concerns about her lack of experience as a judge at any level.

“Without any experience sitting on a court, I have a real problem with that,” Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, said. Mastrofrancesco was one of the 18 opponents in the House.

craig fishbeinRep. Craig Fishbein, left, R-Wallingford, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, said he shared those concerns, but ultimately supported Dannehy’s appointment. He said he was impressed with her answers during a hearing before the committee earlier this month.

“The governor has the power to select anyone, generally, in the world to be on the Connecticut Supreme Court,” Fishbein also said.

Other lawmakers said they were particularly impressed with her explanation for her 2020 departure from an inquiry into how federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies came to investigate whether Russian entities interfered in the 2016 election.

Dannehy told lawmakers she quit the probe due to actions by former President Donald Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, who pressured investigators to potentially release an incomplete and misleading report.

Rep. Steven Stafstrom, R-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the answer, along with Dannehy’s other responses, showed a “sense of ethics and fairness”.

Opponents also pointed to Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders during COVID, including his decision requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients. Dannehy was Lamont’s general counsel at the time.

“The despair that my family has had to endure as a result of many persistent and unrelenting executive orders is a burden that will impact our lives forever,” said Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, whose father died of COVID in a nursing home.

Winfield spoke glowingly of Dannehy, but said he spoke with Lamont’s office during the process about the need for more diversity among judicial nominees.

“I think there’s a concern about making sure that our bench is reflective of the various experiences that folks have,” Winfield said.

He added he was concerned about both the racial and ethnic diversity of judges at all levels, and about the high ratio of judges who were previously prosecutors.

Lamont’s first nomination was Sandra Slack Glover, appellate chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. Glover withdrew her nomination after it became clear she could win over the Judiciary Committee, in part because she signed a 2017 letter endorsing current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett for a post on an appellate court.

Barrett’s eventual role in overturning Roe v. Wade, through the controversial Dobbs decision, was a major point of contention throughout Glover’s confirmation hearing in May.

washington post logoWashington Post, Target to close nine stores, blames violence tied to organized theft, Jaclyn Peiser, Sept. 28, 2023. The retailer plans to shutter three stores in Portland, Ore., two in Seattle, one in New York and three in the San Francisco-Oakland area. 

Target said Tuesday that it will close nine stores in urban areas across four states, citing increased violence related to theft and organized retail crime.

By Oct. 21, three stores in Portland, Ore., two in Seattle, one in New York and three in the San Francisco-Oakland area will shut down. Retail crime at those locations has reached a level that threatens safety and “business performance,” Target said.

“We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all,” the company said in a news release.

Some employees will have the opportunity to transfer to other stores, the company said.

Target has been vocal about its troubles with theft and organized retail crime. Chief executive Brian Cornell said on a second-quarter earnings call last month that stores saw a “120 percent increase in theft incidents involving violence or threats of violence” during the first five months of the year.

Target said in May that shrink — the depletion of inventory caused by something other than sales — accounted for $500 million in losses. But Michael Fiddelke, its chief financial officer, did not specify how much for that can be attributed to external theft.

Shoplifting, organized crime and violence have become significant concerns for regional and national retailers. Home Depot, Lowe’s, Dollar Tree, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ulta are among those that flagged shrink during recent earnings calls. Growing losses have spurred giants such as Walmart to also shutter locations.

A D.C. grocery store is removing Tide, Colgate and Advil to deter theft

External theft accounted for an average of 36 percent of shrink-related losses at physical stores in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation’s security survey.

“The situation is only becoming more dire,” David Johnston, the retail federation’s vice president for asset protection and retail operations, said in a news release Tuesday. “Far beyond the financial impact of these crimes, the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority for all retailers, regardless of size or category.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Prosecutions Of Trump, Allies

ny times logoNew York Times, A federal judge denied Donald Trump’s request that she recuse herself in his elections trial, Alan Feuer, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected arguments from the former president’s legal team that she could not fairly conduct his trial on federal charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

The judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s trial on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election denied on Wednesday his attempt to disqualify her from the case for supposedly being biased against him.

In a strongly worded order, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan of Federal District Court in Washington, rejected claims by Mr. Trump’s lawyers that she had shown bias against the former president in statements she made from the bench in two cases related to the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021.

In the order, Judge Chutkan not only chided Mr. Trump’s lawyers for putting words in her mouth, but she also asserted that the remarks did not betray any animus or unfairness toward Mr. Trump that would warrant the extraordinary step of removing her from the election interference case.

“The statements certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible,” she wrote.

Seeking to disqualify a judge is a challenging and precarious move — one that, if it fails (which it often does), runs the risk of annoying the person granted the power to make critical decisions in the case. Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed their recusal motion two weeks ago, after Judge Chutkan handed them a significant defeat by scheduling the trial for March, much earlier than they had requested, but before they had filed any substantive motions to attack the charges Mr. Trump is facing.

A judge’s decision to remain on a case is generally not subject to an immediate appeal — though Mr. Trump’s lawyers could in theory try. Judge Chutkan’s ruling not to disqualify herself came as she considers a potentially significant development in the case: whether to grant the government’s request to impose a gag order on Mr. Trump’s public statements about the case.

In asking Judge Chutkan to step aside, Mr. Trump’s lawyers cited statements she had made about the former president at hearings for two defendants facing sentencing for crimes they committed on Jan. 6.

At one of the hearings, in October 2022, Judge Chutkan told the defendant, Christine Priola, a former occupational therapist in the Cleveland school system, that the people who “mobbed” the Capitol that day showed “blind loyalty to one person who, by the way, remains free to this day.”

At the other hearing, in December 2021, Judge Chutkan told Robert Palmer, a Florida man who had hurled a fire extinguisher at police officers, that the “people who exhorted you and encouraged you and rallied you to go and take action and to fight have not been charged.

 

 

djt mug fulton county

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s lawyers said a gag order in an election case would strip him of his First Amendment rights, Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump against federal charges accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election offered an outraged response on Monday to the government’s request for a gag order, saying the attempt to “muzzle” him during his presidential campaign violated his free speech rights.

Justice Department log circularIn a 25-page filing, the lawyers sought to turn the tables on the government, accusing the prosecutors in the case of using “inflammatory rhetoric” themselves in a way that “violated longstanding rules of prosecutorial ethics.”

“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” one of the lawyers, Gregory M. Singer, wrote. “The court should reject this transparent gamesmanship.”

The papers, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came 10 days after prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, to impose a narrow gag order on Mr. Trump. The order, they said, was meant to curb Mr. Trump’s “near-daily” barrage of threatening social media posts and to limit the effect his statements might have on witnesses in the case and on the potential jury pool for the trial. It is scheduled to take place in Washington starting in March.

The lawyers’ attempt to fight the request has now set up a showdown that will ultimately have to be resolved by Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has herself experienced the impact of Mr. Trump’s menacing words.

One day after the former president wrote an online post in August saying, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Judge Chutkan received a voice mail message in her chambers from a woman who threatened to kill her. (The woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has since been arrested.)

Gag orders limiting what trial participants can say outside of court are not uncommon, especially to constrain pretrial publicity in high-profile cases. But the request to gag Mr. Trump as he solidifies his position as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a current of political tension into what was already a fraught legal battle.

That tension has only been heightened by the fact that Mr. Trump has placed the election interference case — and the three other criminal indictments he is facing — at the heart of his campaign.

His core political argument — that he is being persecuted, not prosecuted — may be protected in some ways by the First Amendment but has also put him on what could be a collision course with Judge Chutkan. Early in the case, she warned Mr. Trump that she would take measures to ensure the integrity of the proceedings and to keep him from intimidating witnesses or tainting potential jurors.


Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump told a gun store he’d like to buy a Glock pistol, which is raising legal questions, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Officials have increasingly voiced concerns about threats of violence related to the former president’s trials, as he faces charges that would make it illegal for a store to sell him a firearm.

A spokesman for former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Monday showing him at a gun shop in South Carolina, declaring that he had just bought a Glock pistol.

The post on X, formerly known as Twitter, included video of Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for president who is facing four criminal indictments. He looked over the dullish gold firearm, a special Trump edition Glock that depicts his likeness and says “Trump 45th,” as he visited the Palmetto State Armory outlet in Summerville, S.C. “I want to buy one,” he said twice in the video.

“President Trump buys a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!” his spokesman, Steven Cheung, wrote in his post. The video showed Mr. Trump among a small crowd of people and posing with a man holding the gun. A voice can be heard saying, “That’s a big seller.”

The statement immediately set off an uproar and prompted questions about whether such a purchase would be legal. Mr. Trump is under indictment on dozens of felony counts in two different cases related to his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election and to his possession of reams of classified documents after he left office.

There were also questions about whether the store could sell a firearm to Mr. Trump if people there knew that he was under indictment.

Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge in the case that accuses Mr. Trump of breaking several laws in his efforts to stay in office to impose a limited gag order after he made repeated threats against prosecutors and witnesses in various cases against him. Mr. Trump’s lawyers were under a late-Monday-night deadline to respond to the government’s request for the order.

But within two hours of the initial post on social media, Mr. Cheung deleted his post, and issued a statement saying, “President Trump did not purchase or take possession of the firearm. He simply indicated that he wanted one.”

A man who answered a phone registered to the shop’s owner hung up when a reporter called. A salesperson at the Summerville location, who declined to give her name or answer additional questions, said Mr. Trump had not bought a gun.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Looming Rulings Could Shape Trump’s Fraud Trial in New York, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump has adopted a long-shot legal strategy to try to delay his upcoming civil trial and severely limit the case against him.

After four years of investigating and litigating, Letitia James was finally due for her day in court against Donald J. Trump.

But with that day fast approaching — a trial in her civil fraud lawsuit against him is scheduled to start on Oct. 2 — the former president’s lawyers threw a legal Hail Mary that could delay the case and seeks to gut it altogether.

The last-ditch move that left the trial in limbo came in a familiar form for the famously litigious Mr. Trump: He filed a lawsuit.

His targets were Ms. James, the New York attorney general, and the judge overseeing the trial, Arthur F. Engoron. Mr. Trump’s lawsuit argues that they ignored a June appeals court ruling that excused Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, from the case and also raised the notion that some of the accusations against the former president and his company might be too old to go to trial.

Mr. Trump’s lawsuit — and in turn the fate of Ms. James’s case against him — hinges on a passage in the June appeals court ruling that has become a legal Rorschach test of sorts, in which each side sees what they want. Mr. Trump’s lawyers are convinced that the June ruling effectively tossed out the claims against him, while Ms. James’s team has argued that it had little effect on the accusation at the heart of her case — that Mr. Trump overstated his net worth by billions of dollars in his annual financial statements.

Christopher M. Kise, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, recently argued to Justice Engoron that Ms. James’s legal strategy was predicated on ignoring the appeals court’s decision.

“The foundation of the case is ignore everything except for what they want you to focus on,” he said. Mr. Kise separately asked the appeals court to delay the trial while it considered Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against Ms. James and Justice Engoron. One of the appeals court judges granted a provisional delay, which teed up the case to be considered by the full appellate court panel.

The attorney general’s office called Mr. Trump’s lawsuit “brazen and meritless,” saying in court papers that it reflected a complete misunderstanding of the June appeals court decision. The decision, Ms. James’s office argued, left it up to Justice Engoron to decide which claims against Mr. Trump can stay and which are so old that they must go.

The high-stakes battle is coming to a head this week, with Justice Engoron expected to issue his ruling by Tuesday. He has already expressed sympathy with some of Ms. James’s arguments: At a court appearance last week, addressing Mr. Kise, Justice Engoron pounded his fist in apparent frustration and remarked, “You cannot make false statements and use them in business.”

After Justice Engoron decides which of Ms. James’s claims can proceed to trial, the appeals court is expected to rule on Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against Ms. James and Justice Engoron, perhaps as soon as Thursday, according to a spokesman for the New York State Court system.

When the appeals court issues its ruling, there is no telling whether it will resolve the confusion about its original decision in June. It could simply decide that the timing of Mr. Trump’s lawsuit was improper and allow the trial to proceed as planned, potentially with major repercussions for the future of the former president’s family business. (Ms. James is seeking a roughly $250 million penalty and wants to oust Mr. Trump and his adult sons from leading their own company).

But if the appeals court sides with Mr. Trump, it could delay or defang the case before the trial even begins.

Some legal experts said that was unlikely to happen. David B. Saxe, who served nearly 20 years on the same appeals court, said the lawsuit seemed like an attempt to interfere with Justice Engoron’s implementation of that court’s June order. “I think it won’t fare well,” he said.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Jack Smith COMPLETELY OUTMANEUVERS Trump’s DUMB Legal Team, Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok, Sept. 26-27, 2023. Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok on Legal AF discuss how Special Counsel Jack Smith has Trump’s lawyers out resourced and out matched, as he turns a close Trump confidant into a key witness for the prosecution in both the Mar a Lago AND Election Interference criminal cases.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Decades Later, Closed Military Bases Remain a Toxic Menace, Ralph Vartabedian, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Cities hoped for new businesses and housing on former military sites. But many are still waiting for pollution to be cleaned up.

For much of the 20th century, Fort Ord was one of the largest light infantry training bases in the country, a place where more than a million U.S. Army troops were schooled in the lethal skills of firing a mortar and aiming a rifle — discharging thousands of rounds a day into the scenic sand dunes along the coast of central California.

Later, when it became clear with the end of the Cold War that the colossal military infrastructure built up to fight the Soviet Union would no longer be necessary, Fort Ord was one of 800 U.S. military bases, large and small, that were shuttered between 1988 and 2005.

The cities of Seaside and Marina, Calif., where Fort Ord had been critical to the local economy, were left with a ghost town of clapboard barracks and decrepit, World War II-era concrete structures that neither of the cities could afford to tear down. Also left behind were poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue, a toxic legacy that in some areas of the base remains largely where the Army left it.

Across the country, communities were promised that closed bases would be restored, cleaned up and turned over for civilian use — creating jobs, spurring business growth and providing space for new housing.
But the cleanup has proceeded at a snail’s pace at many of the facilities, where future remediation work could extend until 2084 and local governments are struggling with the cost of making the land suitable for development.

ny times logoNew York Times, Years of Graft Doomed 2 Dams in Libya, Leaving Thousands in Muddy Graves, Vivian Yee, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Repair work was agreed on but never finished, and Derna paid the price. Experts say infrastructure projects have long been neglected by corrupt officials.

For years, the two aging dams loomed in the mountains above the Libyan city of Derna, riddled with cracks and fissures, threatening the thousands of people living in the valley below.

A Turkish company, Arsel Construction, was eventually hired by the Libyan government to upgrade the dams and build a new one. The work, Arsel said on its website at the time, was completed in 2012.

By then, the government had paid millions of dollars to the Turkish contractor for preliminary work, according to a government assessment dated 2011. But Arsel left Libya in the turmoil of the 2011 popular revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the country’s longtime dictator. Neither dam was ever repaired, the assessment said, and no third dam ever materialized.

When a lethal storm rolled up the Mediterranean Sea toward Derna two weeks ago, dumping far more rain than usual on the Green Mountains above the city, the dams burst. An avalanche of water boomed down into the valley below, driving much of Derna out to sea and killing at least 4,000 people. More than 8,000 others are still missing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can the U.S. Make Solar Panels? This Company Thinks So, Ivan Penn, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). First Solar kept producing them in Ohio after most of the industry moved to China. President Biden wants many more domestic manufacturers.

For more than two decades, workers at a factory in Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo, have been making something that other businesses stopped producing in the United States long ago: solar panels.

How the company that owns the factory, First Solar, managed to hang on when most solar panel manufacturing left the United States for China is critical to understanding the viability of President Biden’s efforts to establish a large domestic green energy industry.

Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress last year authorized hundreds of billions of dollars in federal incentives for manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric cars and semiconductors. The efforts amount to one of the most expansive uses of industrial policy ever attempted in the United States.

As a result, many companies, including First Solar, have announced the construction of dozens of factories, in total, around the country. But nobody is entirely sure whether these investments will be durable, especially in businesses, like battery or solar panel manufacturing, where China’s domination is deep and strong. Chinese manufacturers enjoy lower labor costs, economies of scale and incentives from a government eager to control industries critical to fighting climate change.

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An aerial view of Derna, Libya, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Thousands of people were killed or are missing after massive floods destroyed the city (Washington Post photo by Alice Martins)An aerial view of Derna, Libya, on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Thousands of people were killed or are missing after massive floods destroyed the city (Washington Post photo by Alice Martins).

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Budgets, Crypto Currency

ny times logoNew York Times, FTX Chief Once Met With Powell. Now D.C. Crypto Lobbyists Are Struggling, Jeanna Smialek and David Yaffe-Bellany, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). FTX’s demise and its leader’s upcoming trial haven’t stopped a major lobbying push by the industry this week, but the events have changed the landscape.

Cryptocurrency lobbyists were riding so high in early 2022 that an FTX executive felt comfortable directly emailing Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, to ask him to meet with Sam Bankman-Fried, the soon-to-be-disgraced founder of the cryptocurrency exchange.

It worked.

“The day that would work for me is February 1,” Mr. Powell replied to a Jan. 11 email from Mark Wetjen, an FTX policy official and former commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Mr. Powell’s public calendar shows that he and Mr. Bankman-Fried met as planned. And Mr. Wetjen went on to send the Fed chair two policy papers that FTX had recently published, according to emails obtained through a public records request. “Hope you’re finding these useful!” Mr. Wetjen wrote. “Great to have people like you serving our country.”

Mr. Powell has long been cautious about the digital currency industry, but, like many in Washington, he was trying to learn more. FTX was eager to do the teaching. According to newly released records, Mr. Wetjen managed to gain access to a range of federal officials. The records show that Mr. Bankman-Fried secured a virtual meeting in October 2021 with another top Fed official, Lael Brainard, who is now the director of the White House National Economic Council. And public calendars show that Mr. Bankman-Fried went on to meet with another top financial regulator, Martin Gruenberg, head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The crypto industry faces a more difficult landscape in Washington after last fall’s collapse of FTX. Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested on fraud charges in December, and his trial is set to start on Tuesday. The industry has also faced a wide-ranging government crackdown that has sent some crypto entrepreneurs abroad in search of friendlier governments.

The companies that have survived crypto’s downturn are still pouring millions of dollars into lobbying, but they are having a harder time gaining access to the halls of power. Some congressional offices have become reluctant to meet with industry representatives. Crypto lobbyists appear less frequently on the public calendars of key officials at the regulatory agencies, and companies have had to shift strategy, straining to distinguish themselves from FTX.

“There are a bunch of people who’ve had trouble having meetings,” said Sheila Warren, who runs the Crypto Council for Innovation, an advocacy group. “I have heard from some offices that they will not meet with certain people anymore.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Billions to Connect Everyone to High-Speed Internet Could Still Fall Short, Madeleine Ngo, Sept. 19, 2023. President Biden promised to provide every American access to high-speed internet. But some raised concerns about the funds.

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U.S. Military, Security, Intelligence, Foreign Policy

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Officials Focus on African Crises at United Nations Gathering, Michael Crowley, Sept. 23, 2023 (print ed.). Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met on Friday with African leaders in hopes of reversing a coup in Niger, as the U.S. tries to deliver on promises to the growing but troubled continent.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met on Friday with African leaders seeking to restore Niger’s democratically elected government to power, capping a week at the United Nations in which the Biden administration worked to deliver on promises of support amid high-profile crises elsewhere, like the war in Ukraine.

In a sign of the instability threatening Africa’s potential for economic growth and independence, several of the leaders spoke about a scourge of coups that has spread across the continent — eight in the past three years — as President Biden has tried to promote democracy.

On Tuesday, Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu, told the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly that the military overthrows reflect widespread failures to improve African lives. “The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favor towards coups,” he said. “It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems.”

Mindful of complaints on the continent that the United States is consumed by the war in Ukraine and competition with China, President Biden spent much of his speech to the U.N. on Tuesday addressing topics of particular interest to African leaders, including food security, development aid and climate change.

U.S. officials said Mr. Biden’s address drew an enthusiastic response from African leaders and diplomats in New York who appreciated his attention to their issues. That included Mr. Biden’s discussion of plans for a U.S.-sponsored corridor linking Angola with mineral-rich parts of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (a project in which the United States, dependent on rare-earth minerals, has a significant self-interest).

And recapping the week for reporters at a news conference on Friday, Mr. Blinken lingered on the details of his Africa diplomacy, noting U.S. progress on a joint program with the United Nations and African Union that helps “countries in Africa develop their own sustainable and effective sources of food,” including through what he called “climate-resistant” crops.

But officials from the 54-nation continent hardly speak from a unified pro-Western position. In remarks on Thursday, Col. Mamadi Doumbouya of Guinea, who announced himself as that country’s new leader after a coup in September 2021, condemned democratically elected African leaders “who cheat to manipulate the text of the constitution in order to stay in power eternally,” calling them “the real putschists.”

Directing his comments toward Western nations, Mr. Doumbouya complained that “this democratic model that you have so insidiously and skilfully imposed on us” was not working for his continent.

The discord reflected just one of the challenges facing the Biden administration’s effort to follow through on pledges to focus American foreign policy more on Africa.

In the near term, Biden officials are working to address several broiling crises in Niger, Sudan and elsewhere.

On Friday morning, Mr. Blinken met with the leaders of several nations that are members of the Economic Community of West African States, a regional group that has been pressuring Niger’s military leadership to relinquish power under the threat of a military intervention. The Biden administration hopes to avoid a conflict that could spill across the region.

In a readout following the meeting, the State Department said that attendees “were united in their position that the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland in Niger” — the country’s ruling military junta — “must release President Mohamed Bazoum, his family, and all those unlawfully detained.”

Mr. Bazoum and his family have been detained since July.

In a side drama this week, representatives of Mr. Bazoum’s government and from the junta both sought to address the general assembly.

Bakary Yaou Sangaré, Niger’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who was appointed under Mr. Bazoum, would have had the right to do so — had he not thrown his allegiance with the generals who seized power and who named him the country’s new foreign minister.

  • Washington Post, U.S. plan envisions factories in Africa for surging EV battery demand, Sept. 23, 2023.

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The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

washington post logoWashington Post, JPMorgan agrees to $75 million settlement over ties to Jeffrey Epstein, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). JPMorgan Chase will pay $75 million to resolve a lawsuit with the U.S. Virgin Islands alleging it facilitated disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

jp morgan chase logoThe banking giant admitted no wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement, a large portion of which will be distributed to charities. It also sets aside $10 million to support mental health services for Epstein’s survivors.
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“This settlement is a historic victory for survivors and for state enforcement, and it should sound the alarm on Wall Street about banks’ responsibilities under the law to detect and prevent human trafficking,” USVI attorney general Ariel Smith said in a statement.

Smith also said JPMorgan agreed to “implement and maintain meaningful anti-trafficking measures,” which includes a commitment to elevate and report suspicious activity in the future.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, As Covid Infections Rise, Nursing Homes Are Still Waiting for Vaccines, Jordan Rau and Tony Leys, Sept. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Long-term care operators have yet to start administering shots to protect one of the most vulnerable populations.

“Covid is not pretty in a nursing home,” said Deb Wityk, a 70-year-old retired massage therapist who lives in one called Spurgeon Manor, in rural Iowa. She has contracted the disease twice, and is eager to get the newly approved vaccine because she has chronic leukemia, which weakens her immune system.

cdc logo CustomThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the latest vaccine on two weeks ago, and the new shots became available to the general public within the last week or so. But many nursing homes will not begin inoculations until well into October or even November, though infections among this vulnerable population are rising, to nearly 1 percent, or 9.7 per 1,000 residents of mid-September from a low of 2.2 per 1,000 residents in mid-June.

“The distribution of the new Covid-19 vaccine is not going well,” said Chad Worz, the chief executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. “Older adults in those settings are certainly the most vulnerable and should have been prioritized.”

With the end of the formal public health emergency in May, the federal government stopped purchasing and distributing Covid vaccines. That has added new complications for operators of nursing homes, who have encountered resistance throughout the pandemic in persuading people, especially employees, to receive yet another round of shots.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, On Day 146, Screenwriters Reach Deal With Studios to End Their Strike, Brooks Barnes and John Koblin, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America got most of what it wanted. With actors still on picket lines, however, much of Hollywood will remain shut down.

Hollywood’s bitter, monthslong labor dispute has taken a big first step toward a resolution.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 11,000 screenwriters, reached a tentative deal on a new contract with entertainment companies on Sunday night, all but ending a 146-day strike that has contributed to a shutdown of television and film production.

In the coming days, guild members will vote on whether to accept the deal, which has much of what they had demanded, including increases in compensation for streaming content, concessions from studios on minimum staffing for television shows, and guarantees that artificial intelligence technology will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the Writers Guild’s negotiating committee said in an email to members.

Conspicuously not doing a victory lap was the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of studios. “The W.G.A. and A.M.P.T.P. have reached a tentative agreement” was its only comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, The deal reflects the strength of unions’ hands in the current moment, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler and Michael J. de la Merced, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The work stoppage isn’t officially over yet, and actors remain on strike. But hints about what the W.G.A. attained suggest that as organized labor enjoys a surge in popularity across a variety of industries, its muscle-flexing is achieving results.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional,” the W.G.A. told its members on Sunday, though it hasn’t yet disclosed details. News reports suggest the deal includes provisions for residual payments from streaming, minimum staffing of shows and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.

Expect more particulars once the W.G.A. informs its membership ahead of a vote that’s expected on Tuesday. Until then, writers are still on strike, though they’re not actively picketing. Late-night talk shows, which don’t rely on striking actors, are likely to resume production first.

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Sen. Bob Menendez Prosecution, Reactions

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, right, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, pose for a photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 20, 2022. (Associated Press file photo by Susan Walsh).

 

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Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Kahn

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Accuses Amazon of Illegally Protecting Monopoly in Online Retail, David McCabe, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon, saying its conduct in its online store and services to merchants illegally stifled competition.

ftc logoThe Federal Trade Commission and 17 states sued Amazon on Tuesday, setting up a long-awaited antitrust fight with the e-commerce giant that could alter the way Americans shop for everything from toilet paper to electronics online.

amazon logo smallThe 172-page suit, the federal government’s most significant challenge to the power of the online store, accused Amazon of protecting a monopoly over swaths of online retail by squeezing merchants and favoring its own services.

For consumers, that meant “artificially higher prices” as merchants were blocked from selling their products for less on other sites, and a worse shopping experience as Amazon boosted its own products and peppered its search results with ads, the lawsuit said. The retailer’s tactics made it impossible for its rivals to compete, the agency and states said.

“A single company, Amazon, has seized control over much of the online retail economy,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. “It exploits its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers: both the tens of millions of American households who regularly shop on Amazon’s online superstore and the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on Amazon to reach them.”

The lawsuit put the influence and reach of Amazon, a $1.3 trillion behemoth, squarely in the spotlight after years of mounting scrutiny. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the onetime upstart online bookseller has grown into a sprawling conglomerate with tentacles in retail, Hollywood and the foundational infrastructure of the internet.

Much of the Seattle-based company’s power has emanated from its online marketplace, sometimes known as an “everything store” for the range of products it sells and the speed with which it delivers them. Amazon’s sway over online commerce has shaped the lives of merchants around the world, set the working conditions for more than one million warehouse workers and pushed the U.S. Postal Service to deliver on Sundays.

 

donald trump money palmer report Customny times logoNew York Times, Judge Finds Trump Inflated Property Values, a Win for N.Y. Attorney General, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The decision will simplify the path for Attorney General Letitia James, who has accused former President Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

arthur engoran judgeThe decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron, right, is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the documents in the case “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s entire company, but it sought to terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, though that will likely be fought over in coming months.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Ruling Against Trump Cuts to the Heart of His Identity, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023. The finding by a judge that Donald Trump committed fraud in valuing his properties undercut his narrative of the career that propelled him into politics.

Nearly every aspect of Donald J. Trump’s life and career has been under scrutiny from the justice system over the past several years, leaving him under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions and being held to account in a civil case for what a jury found to be sexual abuse that he committed decades ago.

But a ruling on Tuesday by a New York State judge that Mr. Trump had committed fraud by inflating the value of his real estate holdings went to the heart of the identity that made him a national figure and launched his political career.

By effectively branding him a cheat, the decision in the civil proceeding by Justice Arthur F. Engoron undermined Mr. Trump’s relentlessly promoted narrative of himself as a master of the business world, the persona that he used to enmesh himself in the fabric of popular culture and that eventually gave him the stature and resources to reach the White House.

The ruling was the latest remarkable development to test the resilience of Mr. Trump’s appeal as he seeks to win election again despite the weight of evidence against him in cases spanning his years as a New York developer, his 2016 campaign, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of national security secrets after leaving office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are six takeaways from the judge’s ruling, Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, Sept. 27, 2023. Justice Arthur F. Engoron’s finding that the former president committed fraud has major implications for his businesses. But Mr. Trump still has cards left to play.

 

joe biden 9 26 2023 uaw picket linePolitico, Biden joins striking auto workers on picket line, Lauren Egan and Myah Ward, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers comes at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement.

politico CustomPresident Joe Biden on Tuesday became the first sitting president to join a picket line with striking workers, vividly demonstrating his commitment to labor and its central role in his reelection campaign.

The president, donning a blue hat with a United Auto Workers symbol, stood on a wooden platform and used a bull horn to speak to the crowd of union members dressed in red. He was flanked by United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.

uaw logo“The unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going,” the president told the crowd outside of GM’s Willow Run Redistribution Center in Wayne County, Mich. “You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.”

Biden’s choice to show solidarity with striking auto workers at a time of great promise and peril for the labor movement represented a tectonic shift for an office historically known for breaking strikes, not supporting them.

The move also appeared to be a clear counter to former President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Michigan on Wednesday instead of participating in the second Republican primary debate — the latest sign that both candidates have moved beyond the primary phase of the election and are focused on November 2024.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate announces bipartisan short-term deal to avert government shutdown, Mariana Alfaro, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacob Bogage, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The stopgap measure would fund federal agencies at current levels through Nov. 17. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House remain unable to pass legislation to keep the government open beyond Saturday at midnight.

Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a short-term funding deal Tuesday night that would fund the government for six weeks, while including additional funding for Ukraine and domestic disaster relief.
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The deal, reached days before the government would shut down on Saturday, would still need to overcome several procedural hurdles before full Senate approval. It would then move to the House, where its future is uncertain.

The short-term deal, called a continuing resolution, allocates $4.49 billion for the Defense Department’s effort in Ukraine, alongside $1.65 billion in additional funding for the war-torn country, which will remain available until Sept. 30, 2025. Combined, the more-than $6 billion in funds adds up to far less than the White House’s request for $20.6 billion in Ukraine funding. But if the plan becomes law, Congress would almost certainly pursue additional funding for Ukraine later this fall.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Shutdown Is Looming. What Comes Next? Zach Montague, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Many federal agencies have plans in place to weather a shutdown, but a disruption would still affect critical government services.

The White House has begun advising federal agencies to prepare for a government shutdown as Republican lawmakers have shown no signs of progress in negotiations to keep the government funded beyond this week.

djt maga hatThe United States has experienced 21 gaps in government funding since 1976, leading to varying degrees of disruption. Under a worst-case scenario, the White House is warily eyeing a repeat of 2018, the longest and most recent shutdown, which sidelined roughly 800,000 of the federal government’s 2.1 million employees for 34 days.

While much remains uncertain about how inevitable a shutdown may be or how long one may last, the broad contours of how it would play out are well-worn territory in Washington, and most agencies have readied plans for working through the tumult.

What exactly would be shut down?

  • A government shutdown amounts to a suspension of many government operations until Congress acts to restore funding.
  • For hundreds of thousands of federal employees, that means either being furloughed while the government is closed, or continuing to work without pay.
  • For the public, that typically means dealing with interruptions to a variety of government services and facing a range of inconveniences and disruptions to daily life.

In recent days, the White House has spotlighted several government programs that could cause more severe issues if suspended, in particular the nutrition and immunization assistance given out through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. If funding lapses, the White House has said nearly seven million women and children could lose critical access to food, and the federal contingency fund to keep the program running could run dry within days.

“If we have a shutdown, WIC shuts down, and that means the nutrition assistance to those moms and young children shuts down,” Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, told reporters on Monday.

Closures of national parks and museums are often one of the most visible impacts of a shutdown for the public, as well. In some cases, they can produce significant losses for the communities that depend on tourism.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s lawyers said a gag order in an election case would strip him of his First Amendment rights, Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Lawyers representing former President Donald J. Trump against federal charges accusing him of seeking to overturn the 2020 election offered an outraged response on Monday to the government’s request for a gag order, saying the attempt to “muzzle” him during his presidential campaign violated his free speech rights.

Justice Department log circularIn a 25-page filing, the lawyers sought to turn the tables on the government, accusing the prosecutors in the case of using “inflammatory rhetoric” themselves in a way that “violated longstanding rules of prosecutorial ethics.”

“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” one of the lawyers, Gregory M. Singer, wrote. “The court should reject this transparent gamesmanship.”

The papers, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, came 10 days after prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the election interference case, to impose a narrow gag order on Mr. Trump. The order, they said, was meant to curb Mr. Trump’s “near-daily” barrage of threatening social media posts and to limit the effect his statements might have on witnesses in the case and on the potential jury pool for the trial. It is scheduled to take place in Washington starting in March.

The lawyers’ attempt to fight the request has now set up a showdown that will ultimately have to be resolved by Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee who has herself experienced the impact of Mr. Trump’s menacing words.

One day after the former president wrote an online post in August saying, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU,” Judge Chutkan received a voice mail message in her chambers from a woman who threatened to kill her. (The woman, Abigail Jo Shry, has since been arrested.)

Gag orders limiting what trial participants can say outside of court are not uncommon, especially to constrain pretrial publicity in high-profile cases. But the request to gag Mr. Trump as he solidifies his position as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a current of political tension into what was already a fraught legal battle.

That tension has only been heightened by the fact that Mr. Trump has placed the election interference case — and the three other criminal indictments he is facing — at the heart of his campaign.

His core political argument — that he is being persecuted, not prosecuted — may be protected in some ways by the First Amendment but has also put him on what could be a collision course with Judge Chutkan. Early in the case, she warned Mr. Trump that she would take measures to ensure the integrity of the proceedings and to keep him from intimidating witnesses or tainting potential jurors.


Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

Former President Donald J. Trump is shown visiting a South Carolina gun shop on Sept. 25, 2023, and holding a Glock, which shows his face in an oval on the grip and says “Trump 45th” on the barrel (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump told a gun store he’d like to buy a Glock pistol, which is raising legal questions, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Officials have increasingly voiced concerns about threats of violence related to the former president’s trials, as he faces charges that would make it illegal for a store to sell him a firearm.

A spokesman for former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Monday showing him at a gun shop in South Carolina, declaring that he had just bought a Glock pistol.

The post on X, formerly known as Twitter, included video of Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for president who is facing four criminal indictments. He looked over the dullish gold firearm, a special Trump edition Glock that depicts his likeness and says “Trump 45th,” as he visited the Palmetto State Armory outlet in Summerville, S.C. “I want to buy one,” he said twice in the video.

“President Trump buys a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!” his spokesman, Steven Cheung, wrote in his post. The video showed Mr. Trump among a small crowd of people and posing with a man holding the gun. A voice can be heard saying, “That’s a big seller.”

The statement immediately set off an uproar and prompted questions about whether such a purchase would be legal. Mr. Trump is under indictment on dozens of felony counts in two different cases related to his efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election and to his possession of reams of classified documents after he left office.

There were also questions about whether the store could sell a firearm to Mr. Trump if people there knew that he was under indictment.

Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge in the case that accuses Mr. Trump of breaking several laws in his efforts to stay in office to impose a limited gag order after he made repeated threats against prosecutors and witnesses in various cases against him. Mr. Trump’s lawyers were under a late-Monday-night deadline to respond to the government’s request for the order.

But within two hours of the initial post on social media, Mr. Cheung deleted his post, and issued a statement saying, “President Trump did not purchase or take possession of the firearm. He simply indicated that he wanted one.”

A man who answered a phone registered to the shop’s owner hung up when a reporter called. A salesperson at the Summerville location, who declined to give her name or answer additional questions, said Mr. Trump had not bought a gun.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Prosecutions Move Forward, Threats and Concerns Increase, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). As criminal cases proceed against the former president, heated rhetoric and anger among his supporters have authorities worried about the risk of political dissent becoming deadly.

Justice Department log circularAt the federal courthouse in Washington, a woman called the chambers of the judge assigned to the election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and said that if Mr. Trump were not re-elected next year, “we are coming to kill you.”

FBI logoAt the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents have reported concerns about harassment and threats being directed at their families amid intensifying anger among Trump supporters about what they consider to be the weaponization of the Justice Department. “Their children didn’t sign up for this,” a senior F.B.I. supervisor recently testified to Congress.

And the top prosecutors on the four criminal cases against Mr. Trump — two brought by the Justice Department and one each in Georgia and New York — now require round-the-clock protection.

As the prosecutions of Mr. Trump have accelerated, so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Mr. Trump has promised “retribution” to produce violence.

Given the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, scholars, security experts, law enforcement officials and others are increasingly warning about the potential for lone-wolf attacks or riots by angry or troubled Americans who have taken in the heated rhetoric.

In April, before federal prosecutors indicted Mr. Trump, one survey showed that 4.5 percent of American adults agreed with the idea that the use of force was “justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” Just two months later, after the first federal indictment of Mr. Trump, that figure surged to 7 percent.

 

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison.

The late financier, sex trafficker of underage victims, companion and advisor to the powerful, and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein is show in a collage with scenes from the island in the Caribbean he owned before his death in prison

washington post logoWashington Post, JPMorgan agrees to $75 million settlement over ties to Jeffrey Epstein, Aaron Gregg, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). JPMorgan Chase will pay $75 million to resolve a lawsuit with the U.S. Virgin Islands alleging it facilitated disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

jp morgan chase logoThe banking giant admitted no wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement, a large portion of which will be distributed to charities. It also sets aside $10 million to support mental health services for Epstein’s survivors.
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“This settlement is a historic victory for survivors and for state enforcement, and it should sound the alarm on Wall Street about banks’ responsibilities under the law to detect and prevent human trafficking,” USVI attorney general Ariel Smith said in a statement.

Smith also said JPMorgan agreed to “implement and maintain meaningful anti-trafficking measures,” which includes a commitment to elevate and report suspicious activity in the future.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Day 146, Screenwriters Reach Deal With Studios to End Their Strike, Brooks Barnes and John Koblin, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Writers Guild of America got most of what it wanted. With actors still on picket lines, however, much of Hollywood will remain shut down.

Hollywood’s bitter, monthslong labor dispute has taken a big first step toward a resolution.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 11,000 screenwriters, reached a tentative deal on a new contract with entertainment companies on Sunday night, all but ending a 146-day strike that has contributed to a shutdown of television and film production.

In the coming days, guild members will vote on whether to accept the deal, which has much of what they had demanded, including increases in compensation for streaming content, concessions from studios on minimum staffing for television shows, and guarantees that artificial intelligence technology will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the Writers Guild’s negotiating committee said in an email to members.

Conspicuously not doing a victory lap was the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of studios. “The W.G.A. and A.M.P.T.P. have reached a tentative agreement” was its only comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, The deal reflects the strength of unions’ hands in the current moment, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler and Michael J. de la Merced, Sept. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The work stoppage isn’t officially over yet, and actors remain on strike. But hints about what the W.G.A. attained suggest that as organized labor enjoys a surge in popularity across a variety of industries, its muscle-flexing is achieving results.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional,” the W.G.A. told its members on Sunday, though it hasn’t yet disclosed details. News reports suggest the deal includes provisions for residual payments from streaming, minimum staffing of shows and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.

Expect more particulars once the W.G.A. informs its membership ahead of a vote that’s expected on Tuesday. Until then, writers are still on strike, though they’re not actively picketing. Late-night talk shows, which don’t rely on striking actors, are likely to resume production first.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Pandemic-era boom changes the face of American home schooling, Laura Meckler, Peter Jamison, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Fear of school shootings, bullying and indoctrination helped fuel a pandemic-era boom in home schooling, according to an exclusive Washington Post-Schar School survey.

A pandemic-era boom has fundamentally changed the face of American home schooling, transforming a group that has for decades been dominated by conservative Christians into one that is more racially and ideologically diverse, a Washington Post-Schar School poll finds.

Rather than religion, home-schoolers today are likely to be motivated by fear of school shootings, anxiety over bullying and anger with the perceived encroachment of politics into public schools, the poll finds. Yet even among those who voice such concerns, many do not share the deep-seated opposition to public education that defined home-schoolers of past decades, and the new crop is more likely to mix and match home schooling with public school, depending on their children’s needs.

The survey, the first of its kind since the pandemic spurred hundreds of thousands of families to try home schooling, offers the clearest reasons to date for its explosive growth, documenting shifts with broad implications for the future of U.S. education.

The poll’s findings suggest that American home schooling is evolving from a movement into a practice — no longer driven by shared ideology and political goals but by circumstances specific to individual families.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP wants to cut this education program by nearly 80% as shutdown looms, Theodoric Meyer, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Tobi Raji, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Because House Republicans are focusing on year-long spending bills, we thought it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s in those bills.

The 12 bills would cut nondefense discretionary spending — which doesn’t include Pentagon funding or mandatory programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — by $58 billion more than the amount to which President Biden and McCarthy agreed in May when they struck a deal to raise the debt limit, according to an analysis by Bobby Kogan and Jean Ross of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. (The analysis also excludes Department of Veterans Affairs medical care spending.)

But the cuts would hit some government programs much harder than others — and several bills that House Republicans have made the most progress passing would raise spending rather than slash it.

The only spending bill House Republicans have passed to date — the military construction and veterans affairs bill — would raise spending by 4.8 percent compared with the previous fiscal year, according to the analysis by Kogan and Ross.

The four spending bills the House will take up today include the homeland security bill (which would raise spending by 3.9 percent, according to the CAP analysis), the defense bill (which would raise spending by 2.2 percent, per the analysis), the agriculture bill (which would cut spending by 2 percent, according to the analysis) and the State Department and foreign operations bill (which would cut spending by 15 percent, according to the analysis).
Deep cuts

One quarter of all the savings House Republicans’ bills would achieve comes from cutting a single program that provides funding for low-income schools, known as Title I education grants.

House Republicans want to cut Title I by nearly 80 percent, saving $14.7 billion.

The cuts are even steeper than education funding reductions proposed by the Center for Renewing America, a think tank led by Russ Vought, former president Donald Trump’s White House budget director.

The think tank put out a budget proposal in December that called for cutting $8.2 billion from the Department of Education’s elementary and secondary education programs, which include Title I grants. (House Republicans would cut $14.7 billion from Title I in the 2024 fiscal year compared with the previous year, while the Center for Renewing America proposed cutting $8.2 billion from almost 30 elementary and secondary education programs in the 2023 fiscal year compared with the 2021 fiscal year.)

Democrats have warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts could cost up to 224,000 teachers their jobs, and teachers unions have mobilized to lobby against them.

 

U.S. National Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Election 2024: Supreme Court refuses to allow Alabama to use disputed map for 2024, Robert Barnes, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused Alabama’s request to hold 2024 elections under a new congressional map judged to be an unlawful attempt to diminish the power of the state’s Black voters.

supreme court graphicIt was the second time in four months that the high court has sided with a three-judge panel that found that Alabama’s legislature probably violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to create a second congressional district where minority voters have a large enough share of the electorate to elect their candidate of choice. The state has seven districts, and its voting population is about 27 percent Black.

The case has been closely watched because of an unprecedented number of challenges to congressional maps that are advancing in courts throughout the country, enough to give one political party or the other an advantage heading into the 2024 elections. The map courts envision for Alabama, for instance, could mean a second Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. Meanwhile, federal judges in Georgia and Louisiana have found similar Voting Rights Act violations in maps from those states.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ralph Nader, wary of Trump, offers to help Joe Biden win, Michael Scherer, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The political firebrand, long estranged from Democrats, fears fascism will be on the ballot in 2024 and it must be defeated.

Ralph Nader Huffington PostThe liberal activist Ralph Nader still remembers nearly the exact words Joe Biden used to banish him from the U.S. Senate 23 years ago, after Nader’s Green Party presidential bid in 2000 won 97,000 votes in Florida.

“Ralph Nader is not going to be welcome anywhere near the corridors,” then-senator Biden had declared, blaming the consumer advocate for Democrat Al Gore’s defeat to Republican George W. Bush.

So began Nader’s long exile from Democratic Capitol Hill hideaways, where Nader had once been feted as a conquering policy genius.

Nader, a spry 89-year-old who works remotely because of covid concerns, still resents the slight. But if you ask him these days about Biden’s reelection fight in 2024, he does not respond with his old gibes about Republicans and Democrats being nothing more than “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

“We are stuck with Biden now,” Nader says in his cantankerous way. “In a two-party duopoly, if one should be defeated ferociously, the logic is that the other one prevails.”

Former president Donald Trump is, of course, the one deserving ferocious defeat in that calculation, and for the moment Nader wants everyone to know that this has become his overriding political mission.

“I know the difference between fascism and autocracy, and I’ll take autocracy any time,” Nader said in a recent telephone interview. “Fascism is what the GOP is the architecture of, and autocracy is what the Democrats are practitioners of. But autocracy leaves an opening. They don’t suppress votes. They don’t suppress free speech.”

If the pivot matters, it is likely to land hardest among the dissident parts of the liberal coalition, who like him have been fed up for years with the state of Democratic politics and could once again play a major role if they stay home or vote third-party in a close general election. Nader is dismissive of the chances of the Green Party in 2024, despite personal praise for Cornel West, the party’s likely candidate. He speaks of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democratic challenger to Biden who campaigns on some of Nader’s issues, as a wayward talent unable to get out of his own way.

Nader says no formal Biden endorsement will be forthcoming, and he still supports the idea of third parties in principle. “Biden is better than he has ever been but he is still terrible on empire and Wall Street,” is about as close as he will come to complimenting the president. But the cover boy for Newsweek in 1968 and Time in 1969 has devoted himself as he approaches his tenth decade of life to, in his view, making Democrats better at being Democrats.

For months, he has been calling and snail-mailing elected officials and operatives his thoughts about how the party must improve its sales pitches. He produced a 10-point plan for improving the party’s messaging and campaign tactics last year, calling for harder punches at the GOP and more liberal policy solutions.

The response has been mostly nothing — unreturned calls he counts in the thousands, a result of resentments over his 2000, 2004 and 2008 third-party presidential campaigns. Even news outlets that used to cover his crusades have moved on. “The main press I get these days is the obituary columns,” he jokes.

But he still reads the major papers carefully every day and likes to track down the phone numbers of Democratic knife fighters he feels are wielding dull blades.

 

Independent podcaster Tucker Carlson is shown above in a screen shot from him work as the top-rated host at Fox News before his termination.

Independent podcaster Tucker Carlson is shown above in a screen shot from him when he worked as the top-rated host at Fox News before his termination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson finds a new booster: Russian TV, Mary Ilyushina, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The blustering American TV personality Tucker Carlson has lambasted the United States for sending too much aid to Ukraine, called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “sweaty and rat-like” and given credence to Russia’s baseless justifications for its invasion.

The former Fox News host’s rhetoric on the war — he has called it a U.S.-led “regime-change war” against Russia — and his attacks on Zelensky’s government — “a pure client state of the United States State Department” — aligns so well with the major propaganda points of Russian state television that one channel has decided to broadcast Carlson’s new show on X, formerly Twitter, to millions of Russians, though apparently without Carlson’s permission.

The channel, Rossiya 24, had recently been teasing a new show “Tucker,” and the first episode aired over the weekend. But rather than a voiced-over ensemble of Carlson’s greatest hits against Ukraine — effectively throwing raw meat to the pro-war hawks in its audience — the show turned out to be a puzzling, roughly 20-minute excerpt of his recent interview of embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an official virtually unknown to Russian viewers.

Rossiya 24 is Russia’s leading news channel, and the hosts of its political talk shows spend hours drumming into their audiences that Kyiv, not Moscow, is to blame for the brutal war, and that U.S. military aid will accomplish nothing other than helping “neo-Nazi Zelensky” fight “until the last Ukrainian.”

In that sense, Carlson would be a natural fit in the lineup. His descriptions of Zelensky, who is Jewish, as a rat, for instance, have been denounced by Jewish groups as resorting to an old antisemitic trope used by the Nazis, among others. He made those comments in the debut of his internet show in June, in which he also declared that aliens were visiting Earth and questioned the official accounts of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

But Russian pundits have long used Carlson’s rants on Fox News to support their viewpoints, seizing on the prominent American TV star to boost the credibility of their claims and showcase how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conspiracy theories about Washington resonate well beyond Russian borders.

Long before the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russian television executives excitedly replayed Carlson segments to illustrate political turmoil in the United States and to debunk allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. (Even though the late Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin boasted of meddling in the race using his internet troll farms.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Heads to the Picket Line in Michigan to Court Autoworkers, Katie Rogers, Sept. 26, 2023. President Biden’s trip joe biden twittercomes a day before the arrival of former President Trump, as the two men offer dueling messages in a key swing state.

President Biden will travel to Michigan on Tuesday to join a group of striking autoworkers on the picket line, an extraordinary gesture of support to a labor union by a sitting American president.

democratic donkey logoAt first glance, the visit looks like a capstone for a politician who has for decades positioned himself as a champion of the middle class, but other political forces are at play as well. Mr. Biden will join the workers in Wayne County one day before his predecessor and likely 2024 rival, former President Donald J. Trump, is scheduled to visit a nearby county and deliver remarks to current and former union members.

It is the first time this campaign season that the two men, whose political styles are as divergent as their visions for the country, will be competing in real time to present dueling messages to a powerful bloc of voters in a key swing state.

uaw logoIn one corner, Mr. Biden has argued that his clean-energy agenda, including a shift toward electric vehicles, will create new manufacturing jobs, even as companies that make batteries and other electric-vehicle parts resist unionizing their workers.

In another, Mr. Trump has channeled the growing frustration among workers who fear for the future of their jobs. “REMEMBER, HE WANTS TO TAKE YOUR JOBS AWAY AND GIVE THEM TO CHINA AND OTHER FOREIGN COUNTRIES.” Mr. Trump wrote of the president in a social media post on Monday, adding, “I WILL KEEP YOUR JOBS AND MAKE YOU RICH!!!

Officials with both campaigns, of course, have pounced.

“No self-serving photo op can erase Trump’s four years of abandoning union workers and standing with his ultrarich friends,” Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign, said in a statement.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser for Mr. Trump, said the president’s visit shows he is on the defensive.

ny times logoNew York Times, The rivals’ appearances in Michigan reveal a political battle to become the voice of blue collar workers, Andrew Ross uaw logoSorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler and Michael J. de la Merced, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The president and his leading Republican rival are heading to Michigan to address members of the U.A.W., whose political clout is growing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Are Down on Biden. Why Does His Party Keep Winning Elections? Reid J. Epstein, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Despite a flood of negative polls, the Democrats have delivered in special elections, which can be a useful gauge of the national political environment.

For nearly two years, poll after poll has found Americans in a sour mood about President Biden, uneasy about the economy and eager for younger leaders of the country.

joe biden resized oAnd yet when voters have actually cast ballots, Democrats have delivered strong results in special elections — the sort of contests that attract little attention but can serve as a useful gauge for voter enthusiasm.

In special elections this year for state legislative offices, Democrats have exceeded Mr. Biden’s performance in the 2020 presidential election in 21 of 27 races, topping his showing by an average of seven percentage points, according to a study conducted by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm for state legislative races.

Those results, combined with an 11-point triumph for a liberal State Supreme Court candidate in Wisconsin this spring and a 14-point defeat of an Ohio ballot referendum this summer in a contest widely viewed as a proxy battle over abortion rights, run counter to months of public opinion polling that has found Mr. Biden to be deeply unpopular heading into his re-election bid next year.

Taken together, these results suggest that the favorable political environment for Democrats since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade has endured through much of 2023. Democratic officials have said since the summer of 2022, when the ruling came down, that abortion is both a powerful motivator for the party’s voters and the topic most likely to persuade moderate Republicans to vote for Democratic candidates.

“Dobbs absolutely changed the way that people thought about and processed things that they had perceived as a given,” said Heather Williams, the interim president of the D.L.C.C. “We continue to see voters recognizing what’s at stake in these elections.”

Democrats are now using abortion rights to power races far down the ballot — an extension of how candidates in special elections at the congressional level have long used prominent national issues to fuel their campaigns.

Politico, San Francisco Mayor Breed gets a major challenger. Inside Daniel Lurie’s plan to beat her, Christopher Cadelago, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The nonprofit leader, an heir to a San Francisco business dynasty, formally declared his San Francisco mayoral campaign as the city struggles with politico Customdrug and homelessness crises that have happened on incumbent Mayor London Breed’s watch.

Daniel Lurie, a longtime nonprofit executive and an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, formally announced his challenge to Mayor London Breed on Tuesday, pledging to dramatically bolster police presence in a city roiled by homeless encampments, drug overdoses and a downtown hollowed out by the pandemic-induced tech exodus.

“We are in a crisis, and we are hurting right now,” Lurie, a Democrat, said in an interview ahead of his announcement Tuesday. “We need people to work together, and the only way you can take on an entrenched system with a leader that has allowed these problems to fester is with new leadership. It’s got to be leadership from the outside.”

With that cannon blast at San Francisco’s clubby Democratic establishment, Lurie becomes the latest fed-up centrist to challenge the prevailing progressive politics in one of America’s most important cities. Candidates campaigning against crime and quality-of-life complaints have rattled Democratic politics in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, though with decidedly mixed results at the ballot box.

Lurie’s candidacy is a daring wager that San Francisco voters — motivated by frustration with the slow pace of progress and eager for a new direction — will reverse a tradition of elevating City Hall operators to the mayorship. His distinctive profile is that of a city government outsider with an insider’s pedigree and connections.

He joins a growing field in the 2024 mayoral race that’s targeting the incumbent Breed, a Democrat who took office late in 2017 after spending four years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, including two years as its president. The city’s ranked-choice voting system is notoriously hard to game out, and more candidates are likely to enter a contest that already includes Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. But Lurie’s campaign is banking on the idea that while Breed maintains a base of loyalists, few voters who want a clean break from the status quo will select the mayor as their second or third choice in the election.

Given the overwhelmingly liberal San Francisco voter base, the ultimate winner of the race will almost certainly be a Democrat — though debates within the party are often about shades of deep blue and focus on “moderates” versus progressives. Both Breed and Lurie fit more neatly in the moderate camp, making questions of experience and their records potentially larger focal points than pure ideology.

Meidas Touch Network, Judge PROTECTS Jury from Trump THREAT with STRONG Order, Michael Popok, Sept. 26, 2023. Fulton County DA Fani Willis continued her WIN STREAK this time creating an ANONYMOUS JURY for Trump and the other co-conspirators criminal trial. Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on breaking news with Judge McAfee siding with Ms Willis once again to protect the jurors from Trump’s attacks.

 

gop house chairs 2023 ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Wrecking-Ball Caucus: How the Far Right Brought Washington to Its Knees, Carl Hulse, Sept. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Far-right Republicans are sowing mass dysfunction, and spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment, a House coup and a military blockade.

djt maga hatWhen it comes to his view of the United States government, Representative Bob Good, a right-wing Republican who represents a Virginia district that was once the domain of Thomas Jefferson, doesn’t mince words.

“Most of what Congress does is not good for the American people,” Mr. Good declared in an interview off the House floor as the chamber descended into chaos last week. “Most of what we do as a Congress is totally unjustified.”

Though his harsh assessment is a minority opinion even among his Republican colleagues, it encapsulates the perspective that is animating the hard right on Capitol Hill and, increasingly, defining a historically dysfunctional moment in American politics.

republican elephant logoWith a disruptive government shutdown just days away, Washington is in the grip of an ultraconservative minority that sees the federal government as a threat to the republic, a dangerous monolith to be broken apart with little regard for the consequences. They have styled themselves as a wrecking crew aimed at the nation’s institutions on a variety of fronts.

They are eager to impeach the president and even oust their own speaker if he doesn’t accede to their every demand. They have refused to allow their own party to debate a Pentagon spending bill or approve routine military promotions — a striking posture given that unflinching support for the armed forces has long been a bedrock of Republican orthodoxy.

Defying the G.O.P.’s longstanding reputation as the party of law and order, they have pledged to handcuff the F.B.I. and throttle the Justice Department. Members of the party of Ronald Reagan refused to meet with a wartime ally, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, this week when he visited the Capitol and want to eliminate assistance to his country, a democratic nation under siege from an autocratic aggressor.

And they are unbowed by guardrails that in past decades forced consensus even in the most extreme of conflicts; this is the same bloc that balked at raising the debt ceiling in the spring to avert a federal debt default.

“There is a group of Republican members who seem to feel there is no limit at all as to how you can wreck the system,” said Ross K. President Donald Trump officialBaker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “There are no boundaries, no forbidden zones. They go where relatively junior members have feared to tread in the past.”

 

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Meidas Touch Network, Analysis: Trump Vows to Ban All News Media That Doesn’t Praise Him, Brett Meiselas, Sept. 24-25, 2023. Donald Trump continues to tell us his fascist intentions should he be reelected. Will the mainstream media finally listen?

Donald Trump launched into his most overtly fascist assault on the First Amendment in a Sunday night tirade, promising that he will remove from the airwaves any news media that is not friendly towards him should he be reelected as president of the United States.

NBC News logoTrump specifically took aim at NBC News to make his point t (ironically, NBC is the network that employed and elevated Donald Trump during The Apprentice days, shown above in a publicity photo from the show), writing that the network “should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason.’”

Trump then made his intentions crystal clear:

“I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media djt maga hatwill be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events. Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE? They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven GOP candidates qualify to participate in Wednesday’s debate, Maeve Reston, Sept. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson did not make the stage after he failed to meet the RNC’s criteria. And former president Donald Trump will once again skip it.

rnc logoSeven GOP presidential candidates have qualified for Wednesday night’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson did not make the stage after he failed to meet the polling and fundraising criteria set by the Republican National Committee.

The RNC is r