Nov. 2023 News

 

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

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

 

Nov. 30

Top Storiescop 208 uae logo

climate change photo

 

Destroying Democracies

 

More On Israel's War With Hamas

 

More On Trump Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

djt indicted proof

 

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

 

China's President Xi Jinping, right, listens to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 17, 2015. The death Wednesday of Mr. Kissinger — a centenarian, former secretary of state and figurehead of American power on the world stage — has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe to his polarizing legacy. (Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP)

China's President Xi Jinping, right, listens to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 17, 2015. The death Wednesday of Mr. Kissinger — a centenarian, former secretary of state and figurehead of American power on the world stage — has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe to his polarizing legacy. (Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP)

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On U.S. National Politics

 

Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

U.S. Supreme Court

 

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

 

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

 

More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Strikes, High Tech

 

U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Free Speech, Culture

 

Top Stories

 climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, A Climate Summit Begins With Fossil Fuels, and Frustration, Going Strong, David Gelles, Nov. 30, 2023. After decades of meetings, nations still haven’t agreed to curb the main driver of global warming.

As leaders from nearly every nation on the planet gather on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates to confront global warming, many are carrying a sense of disillusionment into the annual climate summit convened by the United Nations.

cop 208 uae logoCountries talk about the need to cut the pollution that is dangerously heating the planet, but emissions are reaching record highs this year. Rich countries have pledged to help poor countries transition away from coal, oil and gas, but have largely failed to fulfill their promises for financial aid. After 27 years of meetings, countries still can’t agree to stop burning fossil fuels, which scientists say is the main driver of climate change.

And this year, the hottest year in recorded history, the talks known as COP28 are being hosted by a country that is ramping up its production of oil and has been accused of using its position as facilitator of the summit to strike oil and gas deals on the sidelines.

“There is skepticism of this COP — where it is and who is running it,” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute, a research organization.

Certainly, progress has been made since 2015, when nations signed a watershed agreement in Paris to work to limit global warming to relatively safe levels. The United States, the countries of the European Union and other nations have reduced their emissions while increasing renewable energy, particularly when it comes to transportation and electricity. Global investment in new solar and wind energy projects soared to record levels in 2023.

But the United States is also producing a record amount of crude oil and was the world’s leading exporter of natural gas in the first six months of 2023. And while China has led the world in electric vehicle adoption and is investing heavily in renewable electricity, it is also building new coal-fired power plants as its emissions continue to rise.

The science is clear, researchers say: nations must sharply cut greenhouse gases this decade to avoid the most catastrophic impacts from climate change. The warning signs are all around. Extreme weather is ravaging every continent. Biodiversity is collapsing and glaciers are melting. Billion dollar disasters are occurring regularly.

ny times logoNew York Times, A new forecast shows where countries are — and aren’t — making progress on climate change, Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, Nov. 30, 2023. Emissions from electricity and transportation are projected to fall over time, a new report finds, but industry remains a major climate challenge.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hostages Freed From Gaza Recount Violence, Hunger and Fear, Katherine Rosman, Emma Bubola, Rachel Abrams and Russell Goldman, Nov. 30, 2023. Hostages who have returned to Israel in the past week have come home malnourished, ill, injured and bearing psychological wounds, their families said.

Israel FlagSome of the hostages were held in sweltering tunnels deep beneath Gaza, while others were squeezed into tight quarters with strangers or confined in isolation. There were children forced to appear in hostage videos, and others forced to watch gruesome footage of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack. They bore physical and psychological wounds.

palestinian flagAs some hostages captured that day in the Hamas-led assault on southern Israel have been released, they have relayed these and other stories of their captivity to family members. While their individual experiences differ in some details, their accounts share features that corroborate one another and suggest that Hamas and its allies planned to take hostages.

The New York Times interviewed the family members of 10 freed hostages, who spoke on behalf of their relatives to relay sensitive information.

The relatives who spoke to The Times described how the freed hostages, many of them children, were deprived of adequate food while in Gaza. Many said they had received just a single piece of bread per day for weeks. Others were fed small portions of rice, or pieces of cheese. The Red Cross said it was denied access to the hostages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Knew Hamas’s Attack Plan More Than a Year Ago, Ronen Bergman and Adam Goldman, Nov. 30, 2023. A blueprint reviewed by The Times laid out the attack in detail. Israeli officials dismissed it as aspirational and ignored specific warnings.

Israel FlagIsraeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out.

The approximately 40-page document, which the Israeli authorities code-named “Jericho Wall,” outlined, point by point, exactly the kind of devastating invasion that led to the deaths of about 1,200 people.

The translated document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not set a date for the attack, but described a methodical assault designed to overwhelm the fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and storm key military bases, including a division headquarters.

Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision. The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras and automated machine guns along the border, and gunmen to pour into Israel en masse in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot — all of which happened on Oct. 7.

 

Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo above by Samar Abu Elouf). Shown below in a photograph released by Thailand’s foreign ministry on Saturday are freed Thai hostages and an official, wearing a vest, posing at the Shamir Medical Center in Israel (Photo via Thailand's Foreign Ministry via Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Congress Weighs Aid to Israel, Some Democrats Want Strings Attached, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Democrats are clashing with each other and the White House over adding conditions, including measures to avoid civilian casualties, to an infusion of aid.

Israel FlagDemocrats in Congress are clashing with each other and the Biden administration over a push from the left that would attach conditions to an emergency infusion of security aid for Israel during its war with Hamas, the latest reflection of a growing rift within the party over support for the Jewish state.

U.S. House logoThe debate is a striking departure from longstanding practice on Capitol Hill, where for decades, lawmakers have approved huge amounts of military funding for Israel with few strings attached. Now, as Israel battles Hamas in a conflict whose civilian death toll has soared, a growing number of Democrats are voicing worry about how American dollars will be used.

The issue could come to a head on the Senate floor as early as next week, when Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has said the chamber could begin work on a legislative package including the aid measure.

The disagreements among Democrats simmered behind closed doors on Capitol Hill and at the White House on Tuesday. At the White House, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, huddled with roughly 20 Democratic senators who have raised concerns about how Israel might use U.S. assistance on the battlefield. Later, at a private party lunch in the Capitol, several of the same Democrats argued to their colleagues that any aid package should increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza and ensure that Israel do more to avoid civilian casualties.

ny times logoNew York Times, In the West Bank, Release of Prisoners Deepens Support for Hamas, Christina Goldbaum and Hiba Yazbek, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Frustration with the Palestinian Authority has been simmering, and some believe Hamas and other armed groups are the only ones they can trust to protect them.

palestinian flagIsrael’s bombardment of Gaza and the elation over the prisoners’ release have deepened support for Hamas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has administered cities and towns for more than two decades. Gaza, the other Palestinian enclave, has by contrast been controlled since 2007 by Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and other countries.

Now, as many in the West Bank fear the war could spread to the occupied territory, some believe Hamas and other armed groups are the only ones they can trust to protect them.

The Palestinian Authority — which is controlled by the Fatah political faction — is deeply unpopular and widely seen as a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation. Long-simmering frustrations with the authority’s leadership and accusations of corruption have been exacerbated in the past year by an uptick in violence by Israeli settlers.

For some Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, the freed prisoners have become a potent symbol of Hamas’s ability to achieve tangible results and its willingness to fight for the Palestinian cause. Each night in Ramallah, as new batches of prisoners were released, one refrain echoed across the crowds: “The people want Hamas! The people want Hamas!”

Pollsters and analysts caution that support for the group is limited to a minority of residents and tends to rise temporarily during conflicts in Gaza. But with fears that a wider war could break out in the West Bank, many say the growing support today has taken on a new quality.

Politico, The 543-word editorial that may have just upended the presidential campaign, Meridith McGraw and Adam Cancryn, Nov. 30, 2023. The post by Trump calling for Obamacare’s replacement has lit a fire under Biden’s slow burn campaign.

politico CustomRepublicans thought they were done with their Obamacare nightmare. Then Donald Trump read a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

It was an item by the paper’s editorial board that piqued the former president’s frustration — one focused on health care industry consolidation but touching enough on the Affordable Care Act to reignite grievances about failing to repeal the law. And so, he fired off a post on Truth Social saying he was Democratic-Republican Campaign logos“seriously looking at alternatives” and that 2017’s failed repeal and replace effort was “a low point for the Republican Party.”

In a click of a button, a long-dormant campaign fault line was reopened.

The post lit a fire under President Joe Biden’s slow burn campaign. Significant campaign resources were quickly mobilized in response. Groups began preparing new ads calling for Obamacare’s protection. GOP lawmakers on the Hill had to take cover from inquisitive reporters asking if they backed Trump’s call. Advocacy organizations dusted off old playbooks.

“It’s a story that tells itself,” said Leslie Dach, the chair of Democrat-aligned group Protect Our Care. “He’s opening up a Pandora’s box of hurt.”

The assumption among Trump advisers was that the primary reason he put out the social media missive was that he’d read that Journal editorial, which was included along with his post. But they noted health care policy had recently been top of mind — just the week before, Trump had lunch with former Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, a surgeon, where they talked about health care, among other things, which prompted an endorsement.

washington post logoWashington Post, More people are dying in Puerto Rico as its health-care system crumbles, Omaya Sosa Pascual, Jeniffer Wiscovitch, Arelis R. Hernández, Andrew Ba Tran and Dylan Moriarty, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). While the nation recovered from covid, the U.S. territory’s death rate increased, an investigation by The Washington Post and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism has found.

Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.3 million people, experienced more than 35,400 deaths last year. That’s nearly 3,300 more than researchers would ordinarily expect based on historic patterns, according to a statistical analysis by The Post and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI).

This “excess mortality” — a term scientists use to describe unusually high death counts from natural disasters, disease outbreaks or other factors — resulted in part from a covid spike early last year that killed more than 2,300 people, health data shows.

ap logoAssociated Press, U.S. authorities charge a man from India with a plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader in New York City, Ashok Sharma and Larry Neumeister, Nov. 29-30, 2023. U.S. authorities announced murder-for-hire charges Wednesday against a man from India who they say plotted to pay an assassin $100,000 to kill a prominent Sikh separatist leader living in New York City after the man advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.

Justice Department log circularU.S. Attorney Damian Williams announced the charges against Nikhil Gupta, 52, an Indian national who had lived in India, as an indictment was unsealed in Manhattan federal court.

india flag map“As alleged, the defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs, an ethnoreligious minority group in India,” he said in a release.

According to the release, Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30 in Czechoslovakia through a bilateral extradition treaty between the U.S. and the Czech Republic. It was not immediately clear when he might be brought to the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Foiled Plot’s Burning Question: Why Would India Take the Risk? Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar, Nov. 30, 2023. After an indictment accused an Indian official of ordering an assassination on U.S. soil, diplomats and experts debate how far up the chain the scheme went.

india flag mapIn page after page of fly-on-the-wall detail, the indictment unsealed in New York this week describes a chilling plot: A criminal operative, on orders from a government official in India, tried to arrange the killing of a Sikh American on U.S. soil.

As the scheme unfolded, court documents said, it grew only more brazen. When a prominent Sikh was gunned down in Canada in June in what prosecutors call a related assassination, the operative was told to speed up in New York, not slow down, the indictment says. And he was ordered to proceed even as India’s prime minister was on a red-carpet visit to Washington.

The plot was eventually foiled, the indictment says. But its damning narration leaves open a burning question: Why would the Indian government take such a gamble?

The Sikh secessionist movement targeted in the plot is a shadow of what it once was and poses no more than a minor threat to India’s national security, even if Indian officials see a new generation of Sikhs in the diaspora as more radicalized proponents of the cause. Pursuing a vocal American activist in the movement would seem a risk to the momentum in U.S.-India relations as New Delhi expands its trade and defense ties with Washington in unprecedented ways.

The United States’ intense courtship of India as a counter to China may give the Indian government the sense that there is little it could do to rupture ties. But many diplomats, former officials and analysts in New Delhi are looking at two other possible explanations for the plot: that it was either sanctioned from the top with an eye on India’s domestic political calendar, or was the work of a rogue government element seeking to fulfill the desire of political bosses.

 

Destroying Democracies

 

Mississippi 'Goon Squad' Suspects: Top row: former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon and Brett McAlpin; bottom row: former deputies Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. All pleaded guilty this year to federal and state charges (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis via Associated Press ).

Mississippi 'Goon Squad' Suspects: Top row: former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon and Brett McAlpin; bottom row: former deputies Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. All pleaded guilty this year to federal and state charges (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis via Associated Press ).

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How a ‘Goon Squad’ of Deputies Got Away With Years of Brutality, Brian Howey and Nate Rosenfield, Photographs by Rory Doyle, Nov. 30, 2023. They barged into homes in the middle of the night, then held people down while they beat them, witnesses said. For years, signs of the violence in Mississippi went ignored.

For nearly two decades, a loose band of sheriff’s deputies roamed impoverished neighborhoods across a central Mississippi county, meting out their own version of justice.

Narcotics detectives and patrol officers, some who called themselves the Goon Squad, barged into homes in the middle of the night, accusing people inside of dealing drugs. Then they handcuffed or held them at gunpoint and tortured them into confessing or providing information, according to dozens of people who say they endured or witnessed the assaults.

They described violence that sometimes went on for hours and seemed intended to strike terror into the deputies’ targets.

In the pursuit of drug arrests, deputies of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department shocked Robert Jones with a Taser in 2018 while he lay submerged in a flooded ditch, then rammed a stick down his throat until he vomited blood, he said.

During a raid the same year, deputies choked Mitchell Hobson with a lamp cord and waterboarded him to simulate drowning, he said, then beat him until the walls were spattered with his blood. That raid took place at the home of Rick Loveday, a sheriff’s deputy in a neighboring county, who said he was dragged half-naked from his bed at gunpoint, before deputies jabbed a flashlight threateningly at his buttocks and then pummeled him relentlessly.

The string of violence might have continued unchecked if not for one near-fatal raid in January.

According to a Justice Department investigation, deputies broke into the home of two Black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, shocked them with Tasers and threatened to rape them. Deputy Hunter Elward shoved the barrel of a gun into Mr. Jenkins’s mouth, not realizing a bullet was in the chamber, and pulled the trigger. Mr. Jenkins was grievously injured, the incident was thrust into the national spotlight, and in August five deputies and a police officer pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

But an investigation by The New York Times and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting at Mississippi Today reveals a history of blatant and brutal incidents stretching back to at least 2004.

 

american flag upside down distress

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending, Robert Kagan, right, Nov. 30, 2023. There is a clear path robert kagan looking leftto dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. So why is everyone behaving like normal?

Let’s stop the wishful thinking and face the stark reality: There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. In 13 weeks, Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination. In the RealClearPolitics poll average (for the period from Nov. 9 to 20), Trump leads his nearest competitor by 47 points and leads the rest of the field combined by 27 points.

The idea that he is unelectable in the general election is nonsense — he is tied or ahead of President Biden in all the latest polls — stripping other Republican challengers of their own stated reasons for existence. The fact that many Americans might prefer other candidates, much ballyhooed by such political sages as Karl Rove, will soon become irrelevant when millions of Republican voters turn out to choose the person whom no one allegedly wants.

President Donald Trump officialFor many months now, we have been living in a world of self-delusion, rich with imagined possibilities. Maybe it will be Ron DeSantis, or maybe Nikki Haley. Maybe the myriad indictments of Trump will doom him with Republican suburbanites. Such hopeful speculation has allowed us to drift along passively, conducting business as usual, taking no dramatic action to change course, in the hope and expectation that something will happen. Like people on a riverboat, we have long known there is a waterfall ahead but assume we will somehow find our way to shore before we go over the edge. But now the actions required to get us to shore are looking harder and harder, if not downright impossible.

djt maga hatThe magical-thinking phase is ending. Barring some miracle, Trump will soon be the presumptive Republican nominee for president. When that happens, there will be a swift and dramatic shift in the political power dynamic, in his favor. Until now, Republicans and conservatives have enjoyed relative freedom to express anti-Trump sentiments, to speak openly and positively about alternative candidates, to vent criticisms of Trump’s behavior past and present. Donors who find Trump distasteful have been free to spread their money around to help his competitors. Establishment Republicans have made no secret of their hope that Trump will be convicted and thus removed from the equation without their having to take a stand against him.

Robert Kagan, a Post Opinions contributing editor, is the author of “Rebellion: How Antiliberalism Is Tearing America Apart — Again,” which will be published by Knopf in May.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. stops helping Big Tech spot foreign meddling amid GOP legal threats, Naomi Nix and Cat Zakrzewski, Nov. 30, 2023. Anthony Faiola, Stefano Pitrelli and Louisa Loveluck, Nov. 30, 2023. The federal government has stopped warning Meta about foreign influence campaigns amid a legal campaign against the Biden administration’s communication with tech firms.

meta logoThe U.S. federal government has stopped warning some social networks about foreign disinformation campaigns on their platforms, reversing a years-long approach to preventing Russia and other actors from interfering in American politics less than a year before the U.S. presidential elections, according to company officials.

Meta no longer receives notifications of global influence campaigns from the Biden administration, halting a prolonged partnership between the federal government and the world’s largest social media company, senior security officials said Wednesday. Federal agencies have also stopped communicating about political disinformation with Pinterest, according to the company.

The developments underscore the far-reaching impact of a conservative legal campaign against initiatives established to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when Russia manipulated social media in an attempt to sow chaos and swing the vote for Donald Trump.

For months, researchers in government and academia have warned that a barrage of lawsuits, congressional demands and online attacks are having a chilling effect on programs intended to combat health and election misinformation. But the shift in communications about foreign meddling signals how ongoing litigation and Republican probes in Congress are unwinding efforts once viewed as critical to protecting U.S. national security interests.

Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks

Ben Nimmo, chief of global threat intelligence for Meta, said government officials stopped communicating foreign election interference threats to the company in July.

That month, a federal judge limited the Biden administration’s communications with tech platforms in response to a lawsuit alleging such coordination ran afoul of the First Amendment by encouraging companies to remove falsehoods about covid-19 and the 2020 election. The decision included an exemption allowing the government to communicate with the companies about national security threats, specifically foreign interference in elections. The case, Missouri v. Biden, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has paused lower court restrictions while it reviews the matter.

The shift erodes a partnership considered crucial to the integrity of elections around the world — just months before voters head to the polls in Taiwan, the European Union, India and the United States. Ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential race, foreign actors such as China and Russia have become more aggressive at trying to exacerbate political tensions in the United States, while advanced artificial intelligence allows bad actors to easily create convincing political propaganda.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “legal warfare by far-right actors” has led to a dire situation.

“We are seeing a potential scenario where all the major improvements in identifying, threat-sharing, and public exposure of foreign malign influence activity targeting U.S. elections have been systematically undermined,” the senator from Virginia said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, 4,789 Facebook Accounts in China Impersonated Americans, Meta Says, Steven Lee Myers, Nov. 30, 2023. The company warned that the inauthentic accounts underscored the threat of foreign election interference in 2024.

federal reserve system CustomMeta announced on Thursday that it had removed thousands of Facebook accounts based in China that were impersonating Americans debating political issues in the United States. The company warned that the campaign presaged coordinated international efforts to influence the 2024 presidential election.

The network of fake accounts — 4,789 in all — used names and photographs lifted from elsewhere on the internet and copied partisan political content from X, formerly known as Twitter, Meta said in its latest quarterly adversarial threat analysis. The copied material included posts by prominent Republican and Democratic politicians, the report said.

The campaign appeared intended not to favor one side or another but to highlight the deep divisions in American politics, a tactic that Russia’s influence campaigns have used for years in the United States and elsewhere.

Meta warned that the campaign underscored the threat facing a confluence of elections around the world in 2024 — from India in April to the United States in November.

“Foreign threat actors are attempting to reach audiences ahead of next year’s various elections, including in the U.S. and Europe,” the company’s report said, “and we need to remain alert to their evolving tactics and targeting across the internet.”

Although Meta did not attribute the latest campaign to China’s Communist government, it noted that the country had become the third-most-common geographic source for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and other social media platforms, after Russia and Iran.

The Chinese network was the fifth that Meta has detected and taken down this year, more than in any other nation, suggesting that China is stepping up its covert influence efforts. While previous campaigns focused on Chinese issues, the latest ones have weighed more directly into domestic U.S. politics.

“This represents the most notable change in the threat landscape, when compared with the 2020 election cycle,” the company said in the threat report.

Meta’s report followed a series of disclosures about China’s global information operations, including a recent State Department report that accused China of spending billions on “deceptive and coercive methods” to shape the global information environment.

ny times logoNew York Times, 6 Takeaways From Liz Cheney’s Book Criticizing Trump and His ‘Enablers,’ Peter Baker, Nov. 30, 2023. The former Republican congresswoman’s memoir, to be published next week, is meant as a warning about returning Donald Trump to the presidency.

liz cheney oath coverIt was inevitable that Liz Cheney’s new memoir, right, would cause a splash. An outspoken Republican critic of former President Donald J. Trump in a party that he otherwise dominates, she has shown over the past three years that she is willing to say out loud what most other Republicans say only in private, if at all.

The memoir, Oath and Honor, arrives on bookshelves just as Mr. Trump is poised to reclaim the Republican presidential nomination in primaries beginning in a few weeks. It is meant as a five-alarm warning that returning him to power would endanger American democracy and a damning indictment of his “enablers” and “collaborators” in her own party.

But beyond its top-line arguments, the book offers a rare peek inside the Republican cloakroom at what Ms. Cheney, a former representative from Wyoming, heard from her colleagues about “the Orange Jesus,” as one wryly called Mr. Trump. Here are a half-dozen stories she tells in the book, a copy of which The New York Times obtained ahead of its publication on Tuesday by Little, Brown and Company.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why new Ariz. indictments are key in the fight against election subversion, Aaron Blake, right, Nov. 30, 2023. There has been no aaron blakeshortage of brazen Republican efforts to question and overturn election results since November 2020 — efforts that despite the failure and fallout from the 2020 episode involving Donald Trump have continued. But the late-2022 attempt in Cochise County, Ariz., was subtly among the most potentially pivotal.

Now it’s leading to consequences — a pair of indictments — that could prove significant.

After some local Republican officials balked at certifying election results in President Biden’s 2020 victory, the Cochise County officials went even further in Arizona’s 2022 election. They blew through a Nov. 28, 2022, deadline to certify the county’s election results.

They did so not because they alleged something amiss in that rural county’s votes but apparently in protest over how the much more populous Maricopa County was handling its votes. (To date, there is no evidence of malfeasance in that county, either, and lawsuits have repeatedly failed.) The Cochise County Board of Supervisors ultimately relented and certified the votes on Dec. 1, but only after a court order forced it to.

The county supervisors made their play even as it was obviously legally problematic.Go ahead, go for it, arrest me,’ ” Lake said.

It turns out those officials effectively gave Lake what she wanted.

Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd and Terry Thomas “Tom” Crosby have now been indicted. They are each charged with a pair of Class 5 felonies for allegedly conspiring to delay the canvass of their county’s votes.

While the indictments are merely the latest in a long line over efforts to overturn elections — federally, in Michigan, in Georgia and now in Arizona — the threat of prosecution in this case could serve as a significant deterrent.

Despite the law often making such duties ministerial — in other words, not optional — refusal to certify has emerged as something of a last-ditch option to thwart election results when other efforts fail. Election deniers have waged often-successful efforts to take over local election administration. As episodes like one in 2020 in Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, show, a small number of officials can have a big impact. And many state laws don’t contemplate what happens if local officials do such a thing. That can make the impulse to go rogue on election certification attractive and particularly fraught.

When the Cochise County officials were holding out, Tammy Patrick of the National Association of Election Officials told me, “It does open up this sort of playbook to play out not just in 2024, but also beyond.”

It remains to be seen how compelling the case against the officials is.

A lawyer for Crosby, Dennis Wilenchik, said there was no conspiracy to interfere in the election and that such an alleged conspiracy wouldn’t “be pursuant to any unlawful end even had it existed.” He said the fact that then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) ultimately met her own, later deadline to certify the statewide results — after the court order forced Cochise County’s hand — renders the claim of election interference “kind of nonsensical.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Antagonism flares as red states try to dictate how blue cities are run, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country are increasingly overriding the actions of Democratic cities — removing elected district attorneys or threatening to strip them of power, taking over election offices and otherwise limiting local independence.

State lawmakers proposed nearly 700 bills this year to circumscribe what cities and counties can do, according to Katie Belanger, lead consultant for the Local Solutions Support Center, a national organization focused in part on ending the overreach it calls “abusive state preemption.”

The group’s tracking mostly found “conservative state legislatures responding to or anticipating actions of progressive cities,” she said, with many bills designed to bolster state restrictions on police defunding, abortion, and LGBTQ and voting rights. As of mid-October, at least 92 had passed.

In Florida, for instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed sweeping measures that empower the state attorney general to pursue election-related crimes and that require cities and counties to suspend a local ordinance if someone sues alleging it is preempted by state law. He has removed two elected Democratic prosecutors in as many years, including one who pledged not to charge people seeking abortions or transgender care.

More clashes are expected. Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry takes office in January and has promised to confront the state’s largest city, New Orleans. He already has created a committee led by a local GOP political donor and businessman to address public safety and other issues there. He has threatened to withhold state funding for the city’s water infrastructure until the DA agrees to prosecute women who violate the state’s abortion ban by seeking the procedure.

Given the presidential campaign that lies ahead in 2024, Belanger is concerned about states passing election-related laws that affect local authorities.

“Election administration has been a target for abusive preemption in the past,” she said, “and as we go into an election year, that is a trend that will grow.”

The antagonisms between red states and blue cities are all the more notable because the urban areas in the crosshairs are mostly majority-minority, with many mayors and district attorneys of color.

These actions go “squarely against the Republican philosophy of small government and more freedom,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, a Black Democrat who has struggled to pass local tobacco and gun control ordinances because of constraints enacted by Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature. “This is about common-sense democracy.”

Some of the fiercest standoffs have come in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the most expansive preemption law in the country in June, barring cities and counties from passing an array of ordinances. Opponents condemned it as the “Death Star,” saying it would imperil local residents and block worker protections like mandatory water breaks during heat waves. Abbott defended the law as crucial to reducing business regulation.

Politico, Judge key to Jan. 6 cases warns US faces 'authoritarian' threat, Josh Gerstein, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Beryl Howell sees “time of testing” for nation as facts are denied and disputed. The judge who spearheaded the judiciary’s response to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, blamed that event on “big lies” and warned that the country is in danger of turning toward authoritarianism.

politico CustomAs the federal court in Washington that Judge Beryl Howell, right, once oversaw prepares for a historic trial of former President Donald Trump on beryl howellcharges of attempting to fraudulently overturn the results of the 2020 election, the jurist used a rare public speech Tuesday to lament that many of those convicted for their actions on Jan. 6 fell under the sway of falsehoods.

“My D.C. judicial colleagues and I regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offense conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, when they disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol,” said Howell, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Howell, who served as chief judge of the District Court from 2016 until March and remains on the bench there, also suggested that the dangers evident on the day of the Capitol riot have not passed — in part because some Americans have become unmoored from facts.

“We are having a very surprising and downright troubling moment in this country when the very importance of facts is dismissed, or ignored,” Howell told the annual gala of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association at a downtown hotel. “That’s very risky business for all of us in our democracy. ... The facts matter.”

Howell did not refer by name to Trump, who is currently the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination next year. She also made no mention of his trial set to open March 4 before one of her colleagues, Judge Tanya Chutkan.

However, Howell approvingly quoted Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson’s claim in her new book that the U.S. “is at a crossroads teetering on the brink of authoritarianism.” The judge also quoted and echoed Richardson’s warning that “Big lies are springboards for authoritarians.”

Howell received a “champion” award Tuesday night from the women lawyers group, which she urged to help preserve democratic traditions by calling attention to the facts at the center of their work.

 

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

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More On Israel's War With Hamas

washington post logoWashington Post, In undisclosed call, Pope Francis warned Israel against committing ‘terror,’ Anthony Faiola, Stefano Pitrelli and Louisa Loveluck, Nov. 30, 2023. The call with President Isaac Herzog was felt to have gone so badly that Israel didn’t report it, signaling a widening rift between the Vatican and pope francis uncropped 3 13the Jewish state.

As bombs fell and tanks penetrated deep into Gaza in late October, Israeli President Isaac Herzog held a fraught phone call with Pope Francis. The Israeli head of state was describing his nation’s horror over the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 when the pope issued a blunt rejoinder.

It is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror,” Francis said, according to a senior Israeli official familiar with the call, which has not been previously reported.

Israel FlagHerzog protested, repeating the position that the Israeli government was doing what was needed in Gaza to defend its own people. The pope continued, saying those responsible should indeed be held accountable, but not civilians.

European bans on pro-Palestinian protests prompt claims of bias

That private call would inform Israeli interpretations of Francis’s polemic statement, at his Nov. 22 general audience in St. Peter’s Square, that the conflict had “gone beyond war. This is terrorism.” Taken with the diplomatic exchange — deemed so “bad” by the Israelis that they did not make it public — the implication seemed clear: The pope was calling their campaign in Gaza an act of terrorism.

Politico, Benny Gantz eyes his moment to topple Israel's Netanyahu, Jamie Dettmer, Nov. 30, 2023. Former defense minister is emerging as most likely candidate to call time on leader’s long political career.

politico CustomAll eyes are on when retired general Benny Gantz, right, is going to make his move against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

benny grantz cropped flickr as israel defense forces chief of staffjpg SmallSince Hamas’ murderous attacks on October 7, Israelis have largely put partisan politics aside, but the strain for such a highly rambunctious nation is starting to show. With the first phase of action in Gaza coming to a close, the weeks ahead now look set to roll into a potential endgame for Netanyahu, as many Israelis blame him for last month’s catastrophic security blunder.

Gantz is the most likely challenger to step up and call time on Netanyahu’s long political career. Before the attacks, the former defense Israel Flagminister expressed concern over the dangerously “extremist” direction Netanyahu and his allies were taking the country but after October 7 he was still ready to join Netanyahu’s war cabinet for the sake of national unity. As he noted: “There is a time for peace and a time for war. Now is a time for war.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel-Hamas War: Blinken Returns to Middle East as U.S. Tries to Shape Next Phase of War, Michael Crowley, Nov. 30, 2023. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met in Israel on Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, as part of a diplomatic push by the Biden administration to extend Benjamin Netanyahu smile Twittera tenuous truce in Gaza and try to exert some influence over the next phase of Israel’s military offensive.

On his third swing through the Middle East since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel, Mr. Blinken planned to see other senior Israeli officials and visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank to meet with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. He was later expected to travel on to Dubai for a climate conference and meetings with Arab leaders.

Here’s what we know:

  • The Secretary of State went to Israel as part of a diplomatic push to extend a tenuous truce in Gaza and try to exert some influence over the next phase of Israel’s offensive.
  • The new phase of Israel’s offensive is expected to focus on southern Gaza.
  • Hamas releases two more female hostages, including one who was seen in a hostage video.
  • Mediators worked for days to extend the deal.
  • A shooting in Jerusalem kills at least 3 people, Israeli officials say.
  • The activist Ahed Tamimi is among the Palestinians freed in the latest exchange.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Understanding the True Nature of the Hamas-Israel War, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The reason the Hamas-tom friedman twitterIsrael war can be hard for outsiders to understand is that three wars are going on at the same time: a war between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians exacerbated by a terrorist group, a war within Israeli and Palestinian societies over the future, and a war between Iran and its proxies and America and its allies.

But before we dig into those wars, here’s the most important thing to keep in mind about them: There’s a single formula that can maximize the chances that the forces of decency can prevail in all three. It is the formula that I think President Biden is pushing, even if he can’t spell it all out publicly now — and we should all push it with him: You should want Hamas defeated; as many Gazan civilians as possible spared; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his extremist allies booted; all the hostages returned; Iran deterred; and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank reinvigorated in partnership with moderate Arab states.

Pay particular attention to that last point: a revamped Palestinian Authority is the keystone for the forces of moderation, coexistence and decency triumphing in all three wars. It is the keystone for reviving a two-state solution. It is the keystone for creating a stable foundation for the normalization of relations between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab-Muslim world. And it is the keystone for creating an alliance between Israel, moderate Arabs, the United States and NATO that can weaken Iran and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis — all of whom are up to no good.

Unfortunately, as Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Harel, reported on Tuesday, Netanyahu “is locked in by the extreme right and the settlers, who are fighting an all-out war against the idea of any involvement of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza mainly out of fear that the United States and Saudi Arabia will exploit such a move to restart the political process and push for a two-state solution in a way that will require Israel to make concessions in the West Bank.” So, Netanyahu, “under pressure from his political partners, has banned any discussion of this option.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Israel keeps hundreds of Palestinians in detention without charge, Ishaan Tharoor, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). In lists distributed to media, Israeli authorities label all the prisoners up for release as “terrorists.” Some were convicted of crimes such as attempted murder; others were detained for activities like “throwing stones” or carrying knives. And a few, like 59-year-old Hanan Barghouti, the eldest female prisoner to be released, were in indefinite Israeli custody without any charge.

While there were scenes of jubilation in Ramallah in the West Bank as a group of released prisoners met their families over the weekend, Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, issued directives cracking down on such celebrations in East Jerusalem, where the Israeli police can directly operate. “My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy,” he said. “Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism, victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, for those Nazis.”

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, most of which is under Israel’s military administration, Israeli authorities have detained roughly as many Palestinians as have been released in the past few days. A post-Oct. 7 crackdown saw the Palestinian population in Israeli custody almost double, by some measures: According to Palestinian rights groups, more than 3,000 Palestinians, mostly in the West Bank, were swept up by Israeli security forces. The majority appear to be held in administrative detention — that is, a form of incarceration without charge or trial that authorities can renew indefinitely.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fearful, Humiliated and Desperate: Gazans Heading South Face Horrors, Yara Bayoumy, Samar Abu Elouf and Iyad Abuheweila, Photographs by Samar Abu Elouf, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Tens of thousands of Gazans are making the most difficult of choices, leaving their homes behind to survive.

palestinian flagThey walked for hours, raising their hands when they encountered Israeli troops with guns trained on them to display their I.D. cards — or wave white rags. All around them was the sound of gunfire and the incessant buzzing of drones. Bodies littered rubble-filled streets.

For the tens of thousands of Gazans who have fled the northern part of the enclave where the heaviest fighting has been taking place, evacuating to the south has been a perilous journey, according to at least 10 Gazans that The New York Times spoke to on the ground and by phone. Even though a tenuous cease-fire in place since Friday has brought temporary relief from the bombardment, they face an uncertain future — and the threat the strikes will return, leaving them displaced yet again.

The Israeli military launched a deadly bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip after an attack on Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 in which, Israeli officials say, 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage. In the seven weeks since, Israel has pounded the tiny coastal enclave with the aim of destroying Hamas’s military capabilities. So far, more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed as of Nov. 21, according to the Gazan health authorities.

For weeks, Israel has been urging Gazans living in northern towns to flee along Salah al-Din Street, the strip’s main north-south highway.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Has Warned Israel to Fight More Surgically in Gaza, Officials Say, Erica L. Green, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). American officials have told the Israelis that a major bombardment risks sparking a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s capacity to respond.

The United States has warned Israel that it must fight more surgically and avoid further mass displacement of Palestinians in its war against Hamas to avoid a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s ability to respond, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The White House has told Israel that replicating the scale of its bombardment in northern Gaza as it makes an expected push into southern Gaza once the recent pause in fighting ends would produce a crisis beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network, the officials said on Monday night. The United Nations has said the fighting has already displaced most of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million.

The statements are the Biden administration’s strongest warning to Israeli officials to date about the next phase of their military operation. For weeks, the White House has been careful to say it does not dictate how Israel conducts its military operations, but President Biden and senior members of his staff have grown more vocal as the humanitarian crisis has unfolded.

They also come as the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, said they were ramping up humanitarian aid during the cease-fire that took effect last week, and expressed optimism that aid could continue even when fighting resumed.

Among other things, American officials have told the Israelis that any coming military operations should not hamper the flow of power and water or impede the work of humanitarian sites such as hospitals and U.N.-supported shelters in south and central Gaza.

The Israeli government was receptive to the requests, one official said.

The cease-fire, to allow for the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians taken prisoner by Israel, has allowed for the first extended break in the violence since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen and other militant groups killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel. Gazan health officials say at least 13,000 people were killed during the nearly 50-day Israeli bombardment and ground invasion that followed.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made clear that he intends for Israel to continue fighting after the truce ends, though it was extended by two more days on Monday.

The Biden administration officials said the United States was planning to take advantage of the extra time. On Tuesday, the United States will begin deploying military relief flights to deliver medical items, food, winter items and other necessities for the civilian population to Egypt, which borders Gaza.

Extraordinary progress has already been made in aid delivery, the officials said, though they acknowledged that the level of assistance was not enough to support normal life in Gaza. The officials also said that the increase in aid, including much-needed fuel, was not contingent on hostage releases, offering hope that the shipments could continue when fighting resumed.

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gaza destruction Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace, Lauren Leatherby, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). In less than two months, more than twice as many women and children have been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after two years of war.

 

More On Trump Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

 

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Politico, New York court reinstates Trump’s gag orders in civil fraud case, Erica Orden, Nov. 30, 2023. The gag orders bar Trump and his lawyers from disparaging court staff.

politico CustomA New York state appeals court on Thursday reinstated the gag orders issued by the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s $250 million civil fraud trial, lifting a pause on the orders that was put into effect earlier this month by one of the court’s judges.

In its two-page order, the appeals court didn’t explain its decision for reinstating the gag orders, which bar Trump and his lawyers from commenting on staff working for the trial judge, Justice Arthur Engoron.

The gag orders have been a central focus of the two-month trial, often eclipsing even the testimony. The initial gag order came just days into the trial, after Trump posted a disparaging social media message about the judge’s law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who sits alongside the judge on the bench. Engoron found that Trump subsequently violated the gag order twice, issuing him two fines totaling $15,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy privately recounts terse phone call with Trump after ouster, Jacqueline Alemany and Leigh Ann Caldwell, Nov. 30, 2023. During the call, former president detailed the reasons he hadn’t intervened during the effort to remove McCarthy as speaker.

kevin mccarthyIn the weeks after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, traveled down to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and threw a lifeline to the former president, who was under a cloud of controversy for provoking the historic assault.

U.S. House logoThe fence-mending session between the two Republican leaders ended with a photo op of the two men, grinning side by side in a gilded, frescoed room. The stunning turnabout of the House GOP leader, who had previously blamed Trump for the deadly attack, paved the way for the former president’s return to de facto leader of the Republican Party.

When the tables were turned almost three years later, however, Trump did not return the favor.

During a phone call with McCarthy weeks after his historic Oct. 3 removal as House speaker, Trump detailed the reasons he had declined to ask Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other hard-right lawmakers to back off their campaign to oust the California Republican from his leadership position, according to people familiar with the exchange who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose a private conversation.

During the call, Trump lambasted McCarthy for not expunging his two impeachments and not endorsing him in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the conversation.

“F--- you,” McCarthy claimed to have then told Trump, when he rehashed the call later to other people in two separate conversations, according to the people. A spokesperson for McCarthy said that he did not swear at the former president and that they have a good relationship. A spokesperson for Trump declined to comment.

The transactional — and at times tumultuous — relationship has seemingly endured despite McCarthy’s ouster. The two continue to speak and text, according to people with knowledge of the relationship.

McCarthy has previously grappled with discrepancies between his private, disparaging comments about Trump to others and his continued fealty to the former president. In her new book, former congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) accused McCarthy of repeatedly lying about his relationship with Trump after the Jan. 6 attack. Cheney writes that when she pressed McCarthy about why he visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago, McCarthy claimed that he was summoned by the former president’s staff out of concern for his well-being.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump co-defendant in Georgia who pleaded guilty could testify in other cases, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Amy Gardner, Nov. 30, 2023.  Prosecutors in Arizona and Nevada have reached out to Kenneth Chesebro, who helped organize pro-Trump electors in 2020.

kenneth chesebroKenneth Chesebro, right, one of former president Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia election-interference case, plans to meet with investigators in Arizona and Nevada, where similar probes are underway, according to three individuals with knowledge of the arrangements.

Chesebro, who pleaded guilty in the Georgia case to a single felony count of participating in a conspiracy to file false documents, had been charged primarily related to his 2020 role in organizing slates of pro-Trump electors. Those electors met and voted in seven states where Joe Biden had won — actions that they hoped would allow Congress to award those states’ electoral votes to Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.

georgia mapAs part of his pleading, Chesebro avoids prison time but must testify in the case. Separately, he has also been approached by prosecutors in Arizona and Nevada, who are investigating whether the Trump slates of electors who gathered in those states broke any laws, said the individuals, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss secret or sensitive proceedings. One said a grand jury is examining the Nevada case and that Chesebro is expected to testify in front of that panel. He plans to travel to the state this week.

The offices of Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, both Democrats, are leading the respective investigations. Nevada investigators reached out to a Chesebro lawyer last week to arrange a sit-down, one of the individuals said; Arizona investigators plan to speak to Chesebro in the coming weeks, said two others.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyer Told Trump Defying Documents Subpoena Would Be a Crime, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Nov. 30, 2023. Not long after federal prosecutors issued a subpoena last year for all the classified documents that former President Donald J. Trump took with him from the White House to his estate in southern Florida, one of his lawyers told him, in no uncertain terms, that it would be a crime if he did not comply with the demand, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The lawyer, Jennifer Little, this year related the account of her discussion with Mr. Trump to a grand jury overseen by the special counsel Jack Smith. She is one of several witnesses who prosecutors were told had advised Mr. Trump to cooperate.

A few months after Ms. Little testified to the grand jury, Mr. Smith charged Mr. Trump with violating the subpoena for the documents and obstructing the government’s repeated efforts to reclaim nearly three dozen classified documents that he removed from the White House.

As part of her grand jury appearance, Ms. Little told prosecutors that the former president clearly understood her warning, the person familiar with the matter said.

Her sworn testimony that Mr. Trump was aware that disregarding the subpoena would be a criminal offense could serve as significant evidence of his consciousness of guilt if she ends up being called as a witness when the case eventually goes in front of a jury.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Bankers Say His Exaggerated Net Worth Did Not Affect Loans, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.)  Bankers whom Donald J. Trump is accused of defrauding testified at his civil fraud trial this week that they did not rely on his embellished claims of wealth, lending support to the central plank of the former president’s defense.

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, sued Mr. Trump in 2022 for inflating his net worth on his annual financial statements to receive favorable loans from banks, notably including Deutsche Bank. Before the trial, the judge found that the statements were filled with examples of fraud; the trial will determine any consequences the former president may face.

Mr. Trump has protested the premise of the case, insisting that the banks did their own due diligence and that misstatements in the financial documents would not have affected the overall terms of the loans. It follows, his lawyers have argued, that the alleged fraud had no victim.

The bankers who testified this week supported that argument when asked about the loan process.

“We are expected to conduct some due diligence and verify the information provided, to the extent that is possible,” David Williams, a banker in the wealth management group at Deutsche Bank, said on Tuesday. He said repeatedly that the bank had performed that diligence and factored its own analysis into the relationship with Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers seek to probe U.S. handling of 2020 election fraud claims, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 28, 2023. New court filing seeks evidence to relitigate debunked claims that election was ‘stolen,’ investigate DOJ communications with Biden, Biden’s son, and Mike Pence.

Attorneys for Donald Trump have asked a federal judge in Washington to allow them to investigate several U.S. government agencies about their handling of investigations into him and allegations of voter fraud three years ago as the former president moves to defend himself from charges that he criminally conspired to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

In court papers filed Monday, Trump’s legal team sought permission to compel prosecutors to turn over information about the FBI, national security and election integrity units of the Justice Department, as well as the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security’s response to foreign interference and other threats to the 2020 election, in what appeared to be an attempt to resuscitate his unfounded allegation that President Biden’s election victory was “stolen.”

Whether Trump genuinely believed that allegation may be a matter for trial, his lawyers wrote, but prosecutors cannot “suppress and withhold from President Trump information that supports this defense and related arguments regarding good faith and the absence of [his] criminal intent.” It was “certainly not criminal,” they added, “for President Trump to disagree with officials now favored by the prosecution and to rely instead on the independent judgment that the American people elected him to use while leading the country.”

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More On U.S. National Politics

 

 rosalynn carter 1927 2023s

Yahoo News via AOL.com, Rosalynn Carter funeral: Jimmy Carter and all 5 living first ladies attend service, Dylan Stableford, Nov. 28, 2023. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all five living current and former first ladies — Jill Biden, Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton — gathered at a memorial on Tuesday for former first lady Rosalynn Carter in Atlanta.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Fled Climate Chaos. Asylum Law Made Decades Ago Might Not Help, Miriam Jordan, Nov. 28, 2023. The legal system for refugees at the U.S. border never envisioned the millions displaced by global warming. But some are testing a climate-based argument.

First came the hurricanes — two storms, two weeks apart in 2020 — that devastated Honduras and left the country’s most vulnerable in dire need. In distant villages inhabited by Indigenous people known as the Miskito, homes were leveled and growing fields were ravaged.

Then came the drug cartels, who stepped into the vacuum left by the Honduran government, ill-equipped to respond to the catastrophe. Violence soon followed.

“Everything changed after the hurricanes, and we need protection,” Cosmi, a 36-year-old father of two, said, adding that his uncle was killed after being ordered to abandon the family plot.

Cosmi, who asked to be identified only by his first name out of concern for his family’s safety and that of relatives left behind, was staying at a squalid encampment on a spit of dirt along the river that separates Mexico and Texas. Hundreds of other Miskito were alongside him in tiny tents, all hoping to claim asylum.


ICE logo

Politico, Why Senate Dems are prepared to swallow a border policy compromise, Jennifer Haberkorn and Burgess Everett, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). In addition to helping embattled US allies, Senate Dems believe changes could help cool border politics in battleground states ahead of 2024.

politico CustomA growing number of Senate Democrats appear open to making it harder for migrants to seek asylum in order to secure Republican support for senate democrats logoaiding Ukraine and Israel.

They are motivated not just by concern for America’s embattled allies. They also believe changes are needed to help a migration crisis that is growing more dire and to potentially dull the political sting of border politics in battleground states before the 2024 elections.

Politico, House GOP appears to have the votes to expel Santos, Olivia Beavers and Jordain Carney, Nov. 29, 2023. An internal POLITICO whip count found nearly 90 House Republicans say they plan or are likely to support voting to boot the New York Republican. That means it’s a near-certainty the indicted politico Customlawmaker will be out this week.

If all Democrats vote to boot him, as expected, then lawmakers will reach the two-thirds vote threshold required to remove the New York Republican from the House.

hunter biden joe biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden willing to testify publicly, lawyer says amid House GOP efforts to discredit him, Matt Viser, Nov. 28, 2023. Escalation of battle with House GOP comes in response to a subpoena for a closed-door session.

Hunter Biden, shown above right with his father in a file photo, is willing to testify in a public hearing before the House Oversight Committee, a lawyer for the president’s son said Tuesday.Abbe Lowell, a lawyer representing Hunter Biden, disclosed the offer in a letter in response to a subpoena this month that is seeking a deposition, which would take place behind closed doors. It is a striking escalation in the battle between the president’s son and congressional Republicans, who have focused on his past business dealings and have launched impeachment hearings aimed at President Biden.
Keeping up with politics is easy with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter, in your inbox weekdays.

Lowell’s three-page letter cited past comments from Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the committee, that essentially dared Hunter Biden to come and testify in public.

“Mr. Chairman, we take you up on your offer,” Lowell wrote, in a copy of the letter reviewed by The Washington Post. “Accordingly, our client will get right to it by agreeing to answer any pertinent and relevant question you or your colleagues might have, but — rather than subscribing to your cloaked, one-sided process — he will appear at a public Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing.”

“A public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements,” Lowell added.

In a statement later Tuesday morning, Comer indicated that he would not comply with Biden’s request that the deposition be done in public.

“Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” he said. “That won’t stand with House Republicans.”

The committee expects Hunter Biden to appear for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 13, Comer said, adding that “Hunter Biden should have opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”

Much of the letter from Lowell is combative, citing past statements from Comer and noting that the chairman has never taken Lowell up on offers to hold a meeting.

“Your empty investigation has gone on too long wasting too many better-used resources. It should come to an end,” Lowell wrote. “Consequently, Mr. Biden will appear at such a public hearing on the date you noticed, December 13, or any date in December that we can arrange.”

The committee has asked James Biden to appear for an interview on Dec. 6 and Hunter Biden to appear on Dec. 13.

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

 

 

China's President Xi Jinping, right, listens to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 17, 2015. The death Wednesday of Mr. Kissinger — a centenarian, former secretary of state and figurehead of American power on the world stage — has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe to his polarizing legacy. (Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP)

China's President Xi Jinping, right, listens to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 17, 2015. The death Wednesday of Mr. Kissinger — a centenarian, former secretary of state and figurehead of American power on the world stage — has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe to his polarizing legacy. (Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP)

 

state dept map logo Small

ny times logoNew York Times, Henry Kissinger, Who Shaped U.S. Cold War History, Is Dead at 100, David E. Sanger, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The most powerful secretary of state of the postwar era, he was both celebrated and reviled. His legacy still resonates in U.S. international relations.

Henry A KissingerHenry A. Kissinger, right, the scholar-turned-diplomat who engineered the United States’ opening to China, negotiated its exit from Vietnam, and used cunning, ambition and intellect to remake American power relationships with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, sometimes trampling on democratic values to do so, died on Wednesday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 100.

His death was announced in a statement by his consulting firm.

Few diplomats have been both celebrated and reviled with such passion as Mr. Kissinger. Considered the most powerful secretary of state in the post-World War II era, he was by turns hailed as an ultrarealist who reshaped diplomacy to reflect American interests and denounced as having abandoned American values, particularly in the arena of human rights, if he thought it served the nation’s purposes.

He advised 12 presidents — more than a quarter of those who have held the office — from John F. Kennedy to Joseph R. Biden Jr. With a scholar’s understanding of diplomatic history, a German-Jewish refugee’s drive to succeed in his adopted land, a deep well of insecurity and a lifelong Bavarian accent that sometimes added an indecipherable element to his pronouncements, he transformed almost every global relationship he touched.

At a critical moment in American history and diplomacy, he was second in power only to President Richard M. Nixon. He joined the Nixon White House in January 1969 as national security adviser and, after his appointment as secretary of state in 1973, kept both titles, a rarity. When Nixon resigned, he stayed on under President Gerald R. Ford.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a reflection of Henry Kissinger’s complicated legacy, his death elicited sharply divergent opinions, Michael D. Shear, Nov. 30, 2023. The death of former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger on Wednesday, at the age of 100, prompted a surge of reaction, with historians and friends hailing his diplomatic achievements, and critics assailing his foreign policy actions in Vietnam and elsewhere around the globe as murderous.

The daughters of former President Richard M. Nixon called Mr. Kissinger “one of America’s most skilled diplomats” in a statement, adding that he had worked with their father in “a partnership that produced a generation of peace for our nation.”

Mr. Kissinger was Mr. Nixon’s chief diplomat at a time of deep division and strife in the United States over the war in Vietnam. His long career inspired decades of debate about the morality of his actions.

But critics of the former secretary of state also flooded X. Many accused Mr. Kissinger, who was also the national security adviser to Mr. Nixon and his successor, Gerald R. Ford, of advocating a foreign policy that led to death and war across the globe. More than a few posts expressed pleasure at his passing.

Such strong reactions to the news of his death probably would not have surprised Mr. Kissinger, since his long career has evoked sharply divergent opinions for decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Henry Kissinger, the Hypocrite, Nov. 30, 2023. Ben Rhodes (right, a former deputy national security adviser and author of “After benjamin rhodes othe Fall: The Rise of Authoritarianism in the World We’ve Made”), Henry Kissinger, who died on Wednesday, exemplified the gap between the story that America, the superpower, tells and the way that we can act in the world.

At turns opportunistic and reactive, his was a foreign policy enamored with the exercise of power and drained of concern for the human beings left in its wake. Precisely because his America was not the airbrushed version of a city on a hill, he never felt irrelevant: Ideas go in and out of style, but power does not.

From 1969 to 1977, Mr. Kissinger established himself as one of the most powerful functionaries in history. For a portion of that time, he was the only person ever to serve concurrently as national security adviser and secretary of state, two very different jobs that simultaneously made him responsible for shaping and carrying out American foreign policy. If his German Jewish origins and accented English set him apart, the ease with which he wielded power made him a natural avatar for an American national security state that grew and gained momentum through the 20th century, like an organism that survives by enlarging itself.

Thirty years after Mr. Kissinger retired into the comforts of the private sector, I served in a bigger post-Cold War, post-Sept. 11 national security apparatus. As a deputy national security adviser with responsibilities that included speech writing and communications, I often focused more on the story America told than the actions we took.

In the White House, you’re atop an establishment that includes the world’s most powerful military and economy while holding the rights to a radical story: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But I was constantly confronted by the contradictions embedded in American leadership, the knowledge that our government arms autocrats while its rhetoric appeals to the dissidents trying to overthrow them or that our nation enforces rules — for the conduct of war, the resolution of disputes and the flow of commerce — while insisting that America be excused from following them when they become inconvenient.

Mr. Kissinger was not uncomfortable with that dynamic. For him, credibility was rooted in what you did more than what you stood for, even when those actions rendered American concepts of human rights and international law void. He helped extend the war in Vietnam and expand it to Cambodia and Laos, where the United States rained down more bombs than it dropped on Germany and Japan in World War II. That bombing — often indiscriminately massacring civilians — did nothing to improve the terms on which the Vietnam War ended; if anything, it just indicated the lengths to which the United States would go to express its displeasure at losing.

Axios Sneak Peek, White House treads careful line on Kissinger, Hans Nichols, Nov. 30, 2023. White House treads careful line on Kissinger, Nov. 30, 2023. The death of former Secretary State Henry Kissinger — arguably America's most famous and divisive diplomat — has triggered an outpouring of remembrance, respect and revulsion from current and former U.S. officials.

State of play: Nearly 24 hours after news of Kissinger's death broke, President Biden put out a statement this evening praising Kissinger's "fierce intellect" but noting that "we often disagreed. And often strongly."

• Biden said he'd never forget receiving his first briefing from Kissinger as a young senator. Some members of Biden's administration, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken, continued to seek out Kissinger's counsel.

• But Kissinger told the New York Post last year that Biden was the only president — dating back to his time as Richard Nixon's national security adviser — who had not invited him to the White House.

What they're saying: Historians, progressives and representatives of countries who suffered from the consequences of Kissinger's policies — including U.S.-backed coups and bombing campaigns — did not mince words about his death.

• "A man has died whose historical brilliance never managed to conceal his profound moral misery," tweeted Chile's ambassador to the U.S. Juan Gabriel Valdés.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Navy Rescues Ship From Pirate Attack in Gulf of Aden, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The United States is investigating whether Iran was involved in the incident. Hours after the attack, two missiles were fired at the Navy ship involved in the rescue.

The U.S. Navy intervened to stop the hijacking of a commercial cargo ship by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia on Sunday, after which two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward the Navy destroyer that responded to the incident, the U.S. military said.

The ballistic missiles were fired from the part of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the region. If the missiles were meant to hit the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, they fell well short of the mark: They landed in the Gulf of Aden 10 nautical miles from the American ship.

The U.S.S. Mason, and other ships from the U.S.-led counter-piracy task force that operates off the coast of Somalia, responded after the crew of the commercial ship, the Central Park, called for help. The Central Park crew reported they were under attack from an unknown entity, U.S. Central Command said.

When the coalition vessels arrived at the Central Park, they demanded the release of the ship. Five armed people fled from the ship and attempted to flee in the small boat they had used to attack the cargo ship. The U.S.S. Mason pursued the attackers and forced them to surrender, the news release said. Fox News reported the rescue earlier.

Later, at about 1:41 a.m. local time on Monday, more than 16 hours after the initial attack, two ballistic missiles were fired toward the U.S.S. Mason, which was “concluding its response” to the attack at the time.

U.S. officials would not say who was responsible for the attack and if the five-person group was acting under the orders of a state or group. But officials said that they are investigating whether Iran was involved, or if it was an attack unrelated to the regional tensions that have intensified since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which prompted Israel to launch a war against the militant group in Gaza.

Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran in the war in Yemen, attacked several commercial vessels last week in the Red Sea — a body of water next to the Gulf of Aden — including the Central Park. The Houthis and other groups backed by Iran, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, have increased attacks on Israel since Oct. 7.

Officials said it is not clear if the attackers were the same group that attempted to take the ship earlier. While the Houthi rebels struck in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden where the Central Park was attacked is far from their area of operations. One U.S. official and one former Pentagon official said Iranian involvement in the operation is being investigated.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Why a Major Primary Challenge to Joe Biden Is So Unlikely, Maggie Astor, Nov. 30, 2023. It’s really hard to run against a sitting president. And beginning at this point, just two months before primary voting starts, wouldn’t be feasible anyhow.

The Democratic anxiety that has swirled around President Biden for over a year has kicked into overdrive in recent weeks, as his approval ratings have stayed stubbornly low and polls have shown the possibility of his losing to former President Donald J. Trump.

That anxiety has crystallized into one question, repeated like a drumbeat: Can’t some big-name Democrat challenge him? Someone more prominent than Marianne Williamson or Dean Phillips?

The answer: In theory, sure. In practice, the prospects are remote.

There are several reasons for that, most of which boil down to it being really hard to run a successful primary campaign against a sitting president. And doing so at this point, just two months before voting starts, wouldn’t be feasible anyhow.

Making things still more difficult for a would-be challenger is that Mr. Biden remains relatively popular among Democratic voters. According to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll, 79 percent of party voters in six battleground states somewhat or strongly approve of his performance, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for another Democrat.

“Logistically, it’s impossible,” said Tim Hogan, a Democratic strategist who has worked for Hillary Clinton and Amy Klobuchar. “Politically, it’s a suicide mission.”

To appear on each state’s primary ballot, candidates must submit paperwork along with, in many cases, a hefty filing fee and hundreds or even thousands of voter signatures.

The deadlines for those submissions have already passed in South Carolina and Nevada, the first two states on the Democratic calendar; in New Hampshire, which is holding an unsanctioned primary in January; and in Alabama and Arkansas.

Michigan, another early-voting state, released its list of candidates this month. By mid-December, the window to get added to the ballot there will have closed. The deadline is similar for California, which will account for more delegates than any other state; and for Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

So even if a candidate entered the race tomorrow, they would be unable to get on the ballot in the first two primaries, and probably in a lot of others. It would be a tall order, for instance, to secure 26,000 signatures in California by its Dec. 15 deadline.

dean phillips campaign Politico, Florida Democrats plan to cancel presidential primary, enraging Dean Phillips’ campaign, Holly Otterbein and Gary Fineout, Nov. 30, 2023. The representative, shown above, says the state party has deliberately moved to keep him off the ballot. Florida Dems say he is acting “unbecoming.”

politico CustomFlorida appears poised to hold no presidential primary election for Democrats this cycle after the state party submitted only President Joe Biden’s name as a candidate up for the nomination.

The move to leave Rep. Dean Phillips off the primary ballot left the Minnesota Democrat enraged on Thursday. In a statement first provided to Politico, Phillips, who has launched a longshot primary bid against Biden, accused Florida Democratic Party officials of rigging the primary. He threatened a lawsuit and a convention fight if he didn’t win ballot access in the state.

“Americans would expect the absence of democracy in Tehran, not Tallahassee,” said Phillips. “The intentional disenfranchisement of voters runs counter to everything for which our Democratic Party and country stand. Our mission as Democrats is to defeat authoritarians, not become them.”

democratic donkey logoThe Phillips campaign’s complaint is rooted in the process by which candidates can get on the ballot in Florida. Under state law, it is left up to the parties to decide who makes the primary ballot. The deadline for parties to submit a list of approved candidates to state election officials is Thursday.

But Florida Democrats acted before then, sending a notice on Nov. 1 to the state that had Biden as the only primary candidate. Phillips had entered the race a few days earlier, and self-help guru Marianne Williamson had been campaigning for months by then. Under state law, if a party only signs off on one candidate for the primary ballot, the contest is not held.

Florida’s primary is held March 19, which puts it in line behind Super Tuesday and several other large states such as California and Texas. It is expected to allocate 250 delegates.

In his statement, Phillips called the handling of the process by the Florida Democrats a “blatant act of electoral corruption” and demanded Biden “condemn and immediately address” it.

Nikki Fried, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, contended the party followed its “standard process” that was outlined on its website.

“We are dismayed by Dean Phillps’ conspiratorial and inappropriate comments comparing the state of Florida to the Iranian regime as part of his knee-jerk reaction to long-established procedures,” Fried said. “This is unbecoming of someone running for higher office.”

In addition to considering a lawsuit against the Florida Democratic Party, Phillips’ campaign said that it is planning to take its fight to the Democratic National Committee.

dnc square logo

A DNC spokesperson said the committee offered to provide guidance to the Phillips campaign on state party processes weeks ago, but that the campaign did not take up the offer, and continues to be available to him and other Democratic candidates.

Phillips’ approach of attacking the primary process is reminiscent of the tactic adopted by insurgent presidential candidates in the past, most notably Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom are debating on Thursday night. Here’s what to watch for, Jonathan Weisman and Nicholas Nehamas, Nov. 30, 2023. The stakes are high for the governor of Florida as his polling sags fewer than seven weeks out from the Iowa caucuses.

Call it the “Debate Me Please” showdown.

Ron DeSantis of Florida, 45, and Gavin Newsom of California, 56, two relatively youthful governors adept at seeking — and finding — the spotlight, will square off at 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday in a nationally televised debate in Alpharetta, Ga., in suburban Atlanta. Both pleaded for this matchup, and now they have it.

Each has an agenda, both near-term and further out, as well as political challenges that they hope to address during their 90-minute encounter. Mr. DeSantis, the Republican, needs to lift his campaign for president a week ahead of the fourth Republican primary debate and under seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Mr. Newsom, the Democrat, needs to lift the fortunes of his president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and prove in the short run that he is a team player, and in the medium term that his appeal can reach beyond the liberal enclaves of the West Coast.

With Donald J. Trump still holding wide leads in the Republicans’ 2024 nominating contests, and Mr. Biden resolute on standing for re-election, both men could also be eyeing the 2028 presidential race, though neither would admit it. They have presented themselves as the fresh, new avatars of their respective ideologies and, potentially, the future of their political parties. Now, after they have used each other as foils for years, the debate could offer a culmination to their long-running public feud.

Axios Sneak Peek, 1 big thing: The Vendetta in Alpharetta, Hans Nichols, Nov. 30, 2023. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faces a fraught challenge in tonight's showdown with California Gov. Gavin Newsom — one that's raised scrutiny over the strategic wisdom of debating an opponent who claims he has nothing to lose,

What we're watching: DeSantis must make an argument for his leadership that's less about Florida and more about the future, GOP strategists tell Axios. That's a tall order for a face-off billed as "The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate" — and for a governor plenty proud of his Florida story.

ny times logoNew York Times, Has No Labels Become a Stalking Horse for Trump? Thomas B. Edsall, right, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). No Labels, a Washington-based organization run thomas edsallby political and corporate insiders, finds itself in an awkward situation.

After its founding in 2010, the group was praised by moderates in both parties as a force for cooperation and consensus. Now however, No Labels is the target of criticism because of its plan to place a presidential and vice-presidential nominee of its own choosing on the 2024 ballot — a step that could tip the outcome in favor of Donald Trump, if he once again wins the Republican nomination.

No Labels officials contend that their polling suggests that their ticket could win.Numerous factors exacerbate the suspicion that whatever its intentions are (or were), the organization has functionally become an asset to the Trump campaign and a threat to the re-election of Joe Biden.

Leaks to the media that prominent Republican donors, including Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’s benefactor, are contributing to No Labels — which is well on its way to raising $70 million — suggest that some major donors to No Labels see the organization as a means to promote Republican goals.

No Labels, in turn, has declined to disclose its donors and the secrecy has served to intensify the concern that some of its contributors are using the organization’s plan to run a third-party ticket to weaken the Biden campaign.

The founder and chief executive of No Labels, Nancy Jacobson, was previously a prominent Democratic fund-raiser. She is married to Mark Penn, a consultant and pollster for Bill and Hillary Clinton, from both of whom Penn eventually became alienated.

During the Trump presidency, Penn publicly voiced support for Trump’s policies on a number of key issues, in newspaper columns and during appearances on Fox News. Penn is chief executive and chairman of Stagwell Inc., which in turn owns a polling firm, HarrisX, that conducts surveys for No Labels. Penn says he has “no role, real or imagined, in this No Labels effort.”

The fear in many quarters — from Republican consultants who are members of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project to Democrats of all ideological stripes — is that if the No Labels’ third-party campaign is carried out, it will help elect Trump.

An NBC survey in September found that the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot would shift the outcome from a 46-46 tie to a three point 39-36 Trump advantage over Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Haley, Rise in Polls Feeds Voter Enthusiasm on Trail, Jazmine Ulloa, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The crowds are bigger and voters are warming up to her candidacy, but Nikki Haley still faces a daunting task in taking down the front-runner, Donald Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Koch Network Endorses Nikki Haley in Bid to Push G.O.P. Past Trump, Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Swan, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The support will fortify Ms. Haley as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for the No. 2 spot in the Republican presidential field.

nikki haley oThe political network founded by the Koch brothers is endorsing Nikki Haley, right, in the Republican presidential primary race, giving her organizational muscle and financial heft as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for second place in Iowa.

The group announced its plans in a memo on Tuesday.

The commitment by the network, Americans for Prosperity Action, bolsters Ms. Haley as the campaign enters the final seven weeks before the first nominating contest. Since the first Republican primary debate, Ms. Haley has steadily climbed in polls, and is closely competing with Mr. DeSantis for the second-place slot in Iowa. Former President Donald J. Trump remains the dominant front-runner in the race.

Ms. Haley, who has described Mr. Trump’s time as past, has gained support from donors and her candidacy has received approval from elite opinion-makers, many of whom describe her as the best alternative to Mr. Trump.

Americans for Prosperity Action has been among the country’s largest spenders on anti-Trump material this year, buying online ads and sending mailers to voters in a number of states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. All told, the group has spent more than $9 million in independent expenditures opposing Mr. Trump.

One mailer in Iowa, paid for by AFP Action, shows images of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden and reads, “You can stop Biden…by letting go of Trump.”

But so far none of that spending has benefited any of his rivals, who have been busily battling each other.

  • Washington Post, Biden highlights Trump’s renewed effort to shelve Affordable Care Act, Nov. 28, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: DeSantis PAC snips and clips its way to falsehood in attacking Haley, Glenn Kessler, Nov. 28, 2023. “We know her as ‘crooked Hillary.’ But to Nikki Haley, she’s her role model — the reason she ran for office.”

— voice-over from an attack ad aired by Fight Right, Inc., a new super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), aired Nov. 21
Keeping up with politics is easy with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter, in your inbox weekdays.

With former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley rising in the polls to emerge as a (distant) second-place finisher in the Republican primaries behind former president Donald Trump, allies of DeSantis have begun to attack her as a Hillary Clinton-loving liberal.

This ad — with the tagline “Nikki’s not who she says” — is the first of what the group promises will be an effort “to shed light on the failed records and leadership of Governor DeSantis’s opponents.” The ad ends by urging viewers to visit TheRealNikki.com, a website paid for by the DeSantis campaign and claiming that Haley is “supportive of every liberal cause under the sun.”

That’s a stretch. When Haley was elected governor in 2011, she was perceived as a darling of the tea party, the conservative activists who paved the way for Trump to take over the GOP. She was also U.N. ambassador under Trump.

This ad is yet another example of how attack ads are crafted to present a misleading narrative. Haley has made no secret of the fact that an appearance by Clinton at a women’s professional event in Greenville, S.C., — at a time when, by her account, many people were giving Haley reasons not to seek public office — was a galvanizing event that gave her the confidence to enter politics.

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djt ron desantis cnn collage

 

Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

 

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and the winner, Javier Milei (file photos).

WhoWhatWhy, Commentary: The Fake Populists Who Serve Elites While Claiming to Stand for the People, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Nov. 30, 2023. Who better than a billionaire’s advisor to pose as the authentic voice of the have-nots?

whowhatwhy logoThe recent election of Javier Gerardo Milei as Argentina’s president adds another member to the tribe of fake populists. These are politicians who claim they represent “the people” against exploitative elites and foreign interests, but who often form part of that same cosmopolitan elite class.

Fake populists often vaunt credentials of national purity and launch campaigns to “drain the swamp” (a term invented by Benito Mussolini), but their “anti-corruption” campaigns often target those who might reveal their thievery.

Such strongmen scams recur throughout authoritarian history, not least because they are at the heart of autocratic personality cults that celebrate the leader as a man of the people. Speaking in the plain and blunt language of the truth-teller, such individuals pose as one of us — us being the pure expression of the nation, unadulterated by foreign origins or “globalist” affiliations.

Former president Donald Trump played this game well. A 2017 study found that his speech patterns matched those of fourth-graders, and the touching misspellings and capitalizations of his tweets, which shouted “notice me!,” helped to create his populist profile. Indian leader Narendra Modi’s I-am-everyman Instagram persona serves the same purpose.

Of course, that everyman is also the man above all other men, a dynamic being admired for his worldliness and glamor. Yet the faux populist presents any superior knowledge and wisdom he has gained in his life journey as benefiting the nation by preparing him for his mission of making his country great (again).

Put differently, unlike the elites who prey on the nation and do the bidding of unsavory foreign-linked forces, his expertise will be applied to repairing the nation’s ills.

The Wharton-educated billionaire and international capitalist Trump followed this tradition. Trump is one of the biggest “globalists” out there, given that the business model of the Trump Organization long included laundering money for foreigners and licensing his name abroad. As American Kleptocracy author Casey Michel told me, Trump is the first leader “to emerge globally, at least in a Western jurisdiction, from the supply side of [kleptocratic] services.”

Numerous cabinet officials of his America First administration, such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (who did business with Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law) and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, were deeply enmeshed in networks of international capital.

Nor did owing millions to Chinese and German banks and being bankrolled by Russians (as per Eric Trump’s declaration) prevent Trump from styling himself as the man who would end America’s exploitation by foreigners and corrupt elites. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” said Donald Trump to his credulous audience as he accepted the GOP nomination in 2016, after arriving on a mist-filled stage like a rock star.
Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, 2016

It is too early to know what Milei will do in Argentina. Like Trump and Morawiecki, he comes from outside politics. But his borrowings of Trump’s slogans (“Make Argentina Great Again”), profane speech, rogue profile, and politics of threat are familiar, as are his rants against the “caste” of “corrupt politicians, businessmen, bribed journalists.” The chainsaw, deployed to indicate that drastic action is needed to help an economy plagued by inflation rates as high as 185 percent, is also a weapon.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Declares Gay Rights Movement as ‘Extremist,’ Neil MacFarquhar, Nov. 30, 2023. Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared the international gay rights movement an “extremist organization,” another chilling crackdown on gay and transgender people whose rights have been scaled back drastically since the start of the war in Ukraine.

The court was acting on a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice requesting the designation. When it filed the case on Nov. 17, the ministry said the activities of the international L.G.B.T.Q. movement had exhibited “various signs and manifestations of an extremist orientation, including incitement of social and religious hatred.”

The ruling escalates the threat for gay communities inside Russia. Gay rights activists and other experts say the ruling will put gay people and their organizations at risk of being criminally prosecuted for something as simple as displaying symbols like the rainbow flag or for endorsing the statement “Gay rights are human rights.”

Experts said the decision would make the work of all L.G.B.T.Q. organizations, as well as any political activity, untenable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gold Bars and Tokyo Apartments: How Money Is Flowing Out of China, Keith Bradsher and Joy Dong, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Chinese families are sending money overseas, a sign of unease about the country’s economic and political future. A cheaper currency is also helping exports.

China FlagAffluent Chinese have moved hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country this year, seizing on the end of Covid precautions that had almost completely sealed China’s borders for nearly three years.

They are using their savings to buy overseas apartments, stocks and insurance policies. Able to fly again to Tokyo, London and New York, Chinese travelers have bought apartments in Japan and poured money into accounts in the United States or Europe that pay higher interest than in China, where rates are low and falling.

The outbound shift of money in part indicates unease inside China about the sputtering recovery after the pandemic as well as deeper problems, like an alarming slowdown in real estate, the main storehouse of wealth for families. For some people, it is also a reaction to fears about the direction of the economy under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has cracked down on business and strengthened the government’s hand in many aspects of society.

In some cases, Chinese are improvising to get around China’s strict government controls on transferring money overseas. They have bought gold bars small enough to be scattered unobtrusively through carry-on luggage, as well as large stacks of foreign currency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why are there only 350 Americans studying in China? Vivian Wang, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The flow of students between the countries has been a mainstay of their relationship, even when ties have soured. Now these exchanges, too, are under threat.

On a cool Saturday morning, in a hotel basement in Beijing, throngs of young Chinese gathered to do what millions had done before them: dream of an American education.

China FlagAt a college fair organized by the United States Embassy, the students and their parents hovered over rows of booths advertising American universities. As a mascot of a bald eagle worked the crowd, they posed eagerly for photos.

But beneath the festive atmosphere thrummed a note of anxiety. Did America still want Chinese students? And were Chinese students sure they wanted to go to America?

“We see the negative news, so it’s better to be careful,” said Zhuang Tao, the father of a college senior considering graduate school in the United States, Australia and Britain. He had read the frequent headlines about gun violence, anti-Asian discrimination and, of course, tensions between the United States and China, at one of their highest levels in decades. “After all, the entire situation is a bit complicated.”

Students have been traveling between China and the United States for generations, propelled by ambition, curiosity and a belief that their time abroad could help them better their and their countries’ futures. The first Chinese student to graduate from an American university, Yung Wing, arrived at Yale in 1850 and later helped send 120 more students to America.

The trickle became a steady stream: For nearly the past two decades, Chinese students have made up the largest share of international students in the United States. And for Americans, until the coronavirus pandemic, China was the most popular destination for study abroad outside of Western Europe, according to an annual State Department-funded survey. Students have been an anchor in the two countries’ relations, even when political or economic ties have soured.

But that anchor is now under threat. For the last three years, the number of Chinese students in the United States has fallen, according to the State Department survey. The number of American students in China, meanwhile, plummeted during the pandemic to a mere 350 as of this year, the American Embassy has said, compared to more than 11,000 in 2019.

Both Beijing and Washington have acknowledged the importance of restoring exchanges. During his trip to San Francisco this month, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, declared that China was “ready to invite” 50,000 Americans to study in China over the next five years. The American ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, has insisted that the United States welcomes Chinese students.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stranded in Tunnel for 16 Days, Indian Workers Are Finally Rescued, Mujib Mashal and Suhasini Raj, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). After repeated mechanical setbacks, the operation turned to trained miners using manual tools to clear the final stretch of debris.

After a 16-day effort to free dozens of Indian construction workers trapped inside a Himalayan road tunnel, rescuers were finally preparing to pull the men out on Tuesday as diggers labored to clear a final stretch of debris by hand, the authorities said.

india flag mapThe rescue operation had hit repeated roadblocks, with officials ultimately trying multiple ways to reach the 41 stranded men. But a breakthrough came on Tuesday afternoon, as trained miners using hand tools made rapid progress after picking up at the point where a drilling machine had failed.

“The work of putting in the pipe to rescue the workers has been completed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of the northern state of Uttarakhand, the site of the tunnel, said in a brief statement on social media. “Soon, all the worker brothers will be taken out.”

Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, gave a less definitive assessment and said that about two meters, or six feet, of drilling remained.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, he said at 4 p.m. local time, about two hours after the chief minister’s statement, that “we are near a breakthrough but not yet there.” The rescuers had moved close enough that the workers trapped inside could hear the preparations for their rescue, Mr. Hasnain said.

“In less than 24 hours, we have managed to dig 10 meters manually, which I would say is phenomenal,” he said. “There are 41 inside. Outside there are many more — the safety of those outside is as important as those inside, so we are not in a hurry.”

Once the rescue begins, he added, it will take about three or four hours to bring out all the workers through the inserted pipe, roughly three to five minutes for each one.

The workers’ ordeal, followed closely in India with regular updates on television and social media, put a spotlight on concerns long raised by environmental experts about large-scale construction in the fragile Himalayan mountain range. Experts say that the country’s procedures for environmental assessments of such projects are weak and prone to political interference.

The men were building a tunnel that is part of a major road project on a Hindu pilgrimage route when a landslide early on Nov. 12 trapped them behind about 60 meters, or about 195 feet, of debris.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Shaky Oil Market, OPEC Has Bitter Decisions to Make, Stanley Reed, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Anticipating a drop in demand for 2024, major producers, led by Saudi Arabia, are trying to reduce supply. These are tricky times for the world’s major oil producers: Prices are lower, the health of the global economy is uncertain, and, even as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries tries to cut output, supplies from other producers, notably the United States, are growing.

No wonder the group postponed its year-end meeting. Initially scheduled for last weekend in Vienna, the meeting is now planned for Thursday, barring another postponement. The agenda — whether to cut production further, and by how much — is likely to be unpalatable for many of the 23 members.

The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, has fallen to about $82 a barrel, from a high of more than $96 this year and $128 at its height early in the Ukraine war.

It has dropped even as producers in OPEC Plus, a bigger group that includes Russia, have cut production, but the coming months seem unlikely to give oil producers a respite from this squeeze.

ap logoAssociated Press, Pope punishes leading critic Cardinal Burke in second action against conservative American prelates, Nicole Winfield, Nov. 28, 2023. Pope Francis met separately on Wednesday with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and relatives of Palestinians currently in Gaza.

pope francis uncropped 3 13Pope Francis has decided to punish one of his highest-ranking critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, by revoking his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary in the second such radical action against a conservative American prelate this month, according to two people briefed on the measures.

Francis told a meeting of the heads of Vatican offices last week that he was moving against Burke because he was a source of “disunity” in the church, said one of the participants at the Nov. 20 meeting. The participant spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the contents of the encounter.

Francis said he was removing Burke’s privileges of having a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary as a retired cardinal because he was using the privileges against the church, said another person who was subsequently briefed on the pope’s measures. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the details.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vietnam Is Jailing Environmentalists Who Helped It Secure Billions, Sui-Lee Wee, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The government is preparing to present its energy transition plan at the U.N. climate talks as it intensifies a crackdown on environmental advocates.

vietnam flagWhen Vietnam was awarded a multibillion-dollar deal by a group of nine wealthy nations last year to work on reducing its use of coal, it agreed to regularly consult with nongovernmental organizations.

Instead, the government has arrested several prominent environmentalists from those organizations who shaped policies that helped secure the funding, prompting concerns over sending money to countries that have violated human rights.

As the country prepares to announce how it will spend the money at the United Nations climate talks that begin on Thursday, activists are saying that Vietnamese officials need to be held accountable for what they are calling a harsh crackdown against those who speak out about the country’s environmental woes.

Ngo Thi To Nhien, the director of an energy think tank, was the sixth environmental campaigner to be detained in the past two years.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Battle for Influence Rages in Heart of Wagner’s Operations in Africa, lian Peltier, Photographs by Jim Huylebroek, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The death of the mercenary group’s leader has created a window of opportunity in the Central African Republic for Western powers to offer an alternative.

In palmier times, the leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, appeared at a Russian cultural center in the capital of the Central African Republic, sitting with schoolchildren and promising them free laptops.

But Mr. Prigozhin’s death in August has rattled the mercenary group’s once-cozy relations with the Central African Republic, which is now weighing offers from Russia and Western countries, including the United States, to replace Wagner as its primary security guarantor.

The outcome of this struggle could be a bellwether for the group’s future on the continent, where the Central African Republic is perhaps the most deeply enmeshed among the handful of African nations partnering with Wagner.

The Russian Defense Ministry has sought to absorb some of Wagner’s activities, while preserving its influence and maintaining its wealth of knowledge about the continent. But a senior Western diplomat said that the uncertainty around Wagner in the Central African Republic provided a “window of opportunity” for the United States and France to counter Russian influence.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

Politico, Senate Judiciary issues subpoenas to Leo, Crow in SCOTUS ethics probe as Republicans boycott, Katherine Tully-McManus, Nov. 30, 2023. No action was taken on nearly 200 amendments from Republicans.

politico CustomSenate Judiciary Republicans walked out of the committee to boycott a vote authorizing subpoenas for information from conservative activists and donors about their ties to conservative Supreme Court justices.

senate democrats logoThe panel voted 11-0 to authorize subpoenas for conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo and Texas billionaire Harlan Crow on their close personal and financial relationships with some justices, with no Republicans left in the room besides ranking member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Graham exited once the vote was underway and did not vote.

“They think we're gonna roll over and come back sometime later and try all over again and face the same limitations. You know, there reaches a point where there has to be a vote. They walked out on it. That's their decision,” Durbin said.

The subpoenas are part of an ongoing investigation into ethics at the Supreme Court and how undisclosed gifts and personal ties between major activists, donors and justices may have granted access to individuals and groups with business before the court.

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Justices Search for Middle Ground on Mandatory Sentences for Gun Crimes, Adam Liptak, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A federal law imposes a mandatory 15-year sentence for possessing a gun after committing three serious drug offenses. But which offenses count? The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday over which drug offenses trigger mandatory 15-year sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which is a kind of federal three-strikes law.

The justices had three choices. By the end of the arguments, most of them seemed to have settled on a middle ground.

The law imposes the mandatory sentences on people convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms if they had already committed three violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The question for the justices was how to determine which drug offenses count under the law, which refers to a schedule of controlled substances overseen by the attorney general.

That schedule is revised from time to time, giving rise to the puzzle in the case.

Depending on which version of the schedule applies, a state drug conviction may or may not count as a strike under the federal gun law. Lawyers in the two consolidated cases on Monday gave the justices three options for deciding which schedule applied: the one in force when the defendant committed the state drug offense, the one in place when the defendant committed the federal gun crime or the one that applied when the defendant was sentenced for the federal gun crime.

A federal appeals court ruled that the middle choice — the schedule in place when he committed the federal gun crime — was the one that counted, affirming the 15-year mandatory sentence.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court ruled that Arizona lawmakers must testify about state voting laws requiring proof of citizenship, Adam Liptak
Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Two Republican lawmakers had argued that they could not be questioned about their motives for supporting the laws, which require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that two Arizona lawmakers must testify about their reasons for supporting state laws requiring proof of citizenship for voting in federal elections.

The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. No dissents were noted.

The Justice Department, the Democratic National Committee, civil rights groups and others had challenged the state laws, saying they violated federal laws and had been enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

After Arizona’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, a Democrat, declined to defend aspects of the laws, Ben Toma, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Warren Petersen, the president of the Arizona Senate, both Republicans, intervened to defend it.

Lawmakers are ordinarily shielded by a legislative privilege from inquiries into their motives for sponsoring or voting for legislation. In September, Judge Susan R. Bolton, of the Federal District Court in Arizona, ruled that a different analysis applied when lawmakers voluntarily injected themselves into a litigation.

“The speaker and president each waived their privilege by intervening to ‘fully defend’ the voting laws and putting their motives at issue,” Judge Bolton wrote, adding that the two legislators could be compelled to testify about their activities.

At first, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked Judge Bolton’s ruling but later lifted its stay, allowing depositions of the men to proceed. The lawmakers then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“Unless the court issues an immediate stay,” they told the justices in an emergency application, “the legislative leaders will quickly find themselves between the mythical Scylla and Charybdis: They’ll either need to submit to improper depositions or refuse to do so and expose themselves to potential sanctions and contempt charges. Either choice brings serious consequences that can’t be corrected.”
In response, lawyers for the Democratic National Committee wrote that the lawmakers were trying to have it both ways by arguing that the laws were not the product of discriminatory intent but refusing to be questioned about the matter. That, they wrote, is “wholly foreign to foundational principles of our adversarial judicial system, and to basic fairness.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Quiet Blockbuster at the Supreme Court That Could Impact All Americans, Kate Shaw, Nov. 22, 2023. Some Supreme Court terms are characterized by a single blockbuster case. This term largely revolves around a single blockbuster question: Will our government retain the capacity to address the most pressing issues of our time?

That’s what’s at stake in a group of cases involving the power, capacity and in some instances the very existence of federal agencies, the entities responsible for carrying out so much of the work of government.

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

Politico, Meta files suit to kneecap the FTC, Alfred Ng and Josh Sisco, Nov. 30, 2023. The tech giant argues in its suit that the agency has “structurally unconstitutional authority.”

politico CustomMeta is suing the Federal Trade Commission, challenging the constitutionality of its in-house enforcement powers in a bid to stop the agency from unilaterally changing the terms of a 2020 privacy settlement.

The tech giant argued in its suit filed late Wednesday that the agency has “structurally unconstitutional authority” in how it enforces cases against companies through its in-house administrative court.

On Monday, Meta lost a bid to bar the FTC from reopening a 2020 enforcement order against the company, in which the agency accused Meta of privacy violations against children. Meta filed an appeal to that decision on Tuesday. Meta is also seeking to pause the FTC’s case while its lawsuit and appeal play out.

As part of its 2020 settlement Meta paid a $5 billion fine and agreed to make major changes to its privacy practices.

“The FTC’s unilateral attempt to rewrite our privacy settlement agreement raises serious and important issues about the FTC’s constitutional authority and Meta’s due process rights,” Chris Sgro, a Meta spokesperson, said in a statement. “Monday’s ruling did not reach those issues and the Judge suggested that Meta raise them in a separate suit. The FTC shouldn’t be the prosecutor, judge, and jury in the same case.”

The FTC declined to comment.

The claims: The FTC is able to handle enforcement through two methods: By filing a lawsuit through a federal court, or bringing its case directly to a company through its “administrative process,” a structure created by Congress in the FTC Act of 1914.

Companies facing these in-house cases can either settle the charges or challenge the complaint with an administrative law judge, where the FTC commissioners vote on a final decision. At that point companies can appeal in a federal appellate court of their choice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Defendant Who Opened Fire on Deputies Sentenced to Two Years, Lola Fadulu, Nov. 30, 2023. Nathan Donald Pelham, of Greenville, Texas, opened fire on deputies in April days before he was scheduled to surrender to the F.B.I. for his role in the U.S. Capitol attack.

Nathan Donald Pelham, a Texas man, was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in federal prison for shooting at local law enforcement officers days before he was scheduled to surrender to the F.B.I. for charges related to illegally entering the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

On April 12, an F.B.I. special agent called Mr. Pelham to tell him that there was a federal misdemeanor warrant for his arrest and that he needed to surrender on April 17, according to the criminal complaint. Mr. Pelham agreed to do so.

But later that day, Mr. Pelham’s father asked local police to check on his son because he had been threatening to kill himself and had a gun, according to the criminal complaint. When police arrived at Mr. Pelham’s home, it was dark and police soon heard a series of gunshots from inside the home.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Whistleblower alleges failures in medical care at U.S. border facilities, Nick Miroff, Nov. 30, 2023. A Customs and Border Protection official filed a complaint with Congress alleging his supervisors failed to adequately monitor a medical services contractor.

A senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official Thursday filed a whistleblower complaint with Congress alleging his supervisors failed to adequately monitor the agency’s medical service contractor for staffing shortages, unsafe care and other problems before the May death of an 8-year-old girl in U.S. custody.
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Attorneys for Troy Hendrickson, a 15-year CBP veteran, told lawmakers in a letter that their client was reassigned by supervisors after raising concerns about the track record of medical contractor Loyal Source Government Services. The company is a finalist for a new five-year, $1.5 billion CBP contract.

Hendrickson’s concerns about Loyal Source included what he described as 40 percent staffing deficits, employees working without proper clearances and licenses, and billing errors resulting in overpayments of millions of dollars, among other issues, according to his attorneys.

washington post logoWashington Post, Liz Whitmer Gereghty drops out of competitive New York congressional race, Maegan Vazquez, Nov. 30, 2023. Gereghty’s exit from the race gives a boost to Mondaire Jones, who previously represented the district.

democratic donkey logoLiz Whitmer Gereghty, a small-business founder and sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), announced Wednesday that she is suspending her campaign for Congress in a competitive district in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Gereghty said in a statement that she remains “committed to doing everything possible to elect Democrats across the board in 2024” and endorsed former congressman Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) for the seat, saying that “uniting our party and focusing our resources on taking back the House is critical to fighting back against the radical extremism plaguing our politics.”

U.S. House logoDemocrats narrowly lost the seat in New York’s 17th Congressional District last year and see it as one of their best pickup opportunities in 2024.

Gereghty, who has lived in the Hudson Valley for more than 20 years, was new to congressional politics and during her campaign launch highlighted her service on the local school board.

Jones won the seat in 2020 but opted to run in a different district last year after redistricting in the state prompted then-Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) to run in the 17th District. Maloney narrowly lost to Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.).

Democratic groups see New York congressional districts like Lawler’s, which flipped for Republicans in 2022, as the key to regaining control of the House next year. They’ve invested early in the New York races — and invested more than in years past.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Law Requires a Choice: Marijuana or a Gun? Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Legal challenges are pending across the country against a federal law that prevents medical marijuana users from buying or owning firearms.

There are relatively few limitations at the federal level on who is eligible to purchase or possess firearms and ammunition. The national background check system looks for issues like a criminal conviction, mental health problems, a dishonorable military discharge, unlawful immigration status or a domestic violence restraining order.

But even as a growing number of states have legalized marijuana, either for recreational or medical use, participating in a state’s medical marijuana system remains a barrier to gun ownership.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Chicken Tycoons vs. the Antitrust Hawks, H. Claire Brown, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). As part of a campaign against anticompetitive practices, the Biden administration has taken on the chicken industry. Why have the results been so paltry?

ny times logoNew York Times, Wife of Gilgo Beach Suspect Gets a Documentary Deal, Corey Kilgannon, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Rex Heuermann is accused of killing three women. The commercialization of such a depraved case has rankled victims’ families.

After Rex Heuermann was arrested in July and accused of slaughtering women found bound in burlap and buried along a desolate stretch of Gilgo Beach, his family was left reeling and destitute.

With their dilapidated Massapequa Park ranch house turned inside out by investigators, Mr. Heuermann’s wife, Asa Ellerup, and their two grown children were left to sleep on mats and cook on a grill in the front yard in full view of news crews and true-crime gawkers. Things got so bad that the daughter of a West Coast serial killer created an online fund-raiser.

But where some saw evil, depravity and tragedy, media companies saw pay dirt, swooping in with lucrative bids to turn the whole thing into content.

Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBCUniversal, is paying the family to participate in a documentary series covering the family through Mr. Heuermann’s trial, which is likely to begin next year.

george floyd derek chauvin

 ny times logoNew York Times, Stabbing of Derek Chauvin Raises Questions About Inmate Safety, Glenn Thrush and Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The ex-officer, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was being held in a federal prison for high-profile inmates. He is said to be likely to survive.

The stabbing on Friday of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd in 2020, at a special unit inside a Tucson, Ariz., prison is the latest in a series of attacks against high-profile inmates in the troubled, short-staffed federal Bureau of Prisons.

The assault comes less than five months after Larry Nassar, the doctor convicted of sexually abusing young female gymnasts, was stabbed multiple times at the federal prison in Florida. It also follows the release of Justice Department reports detailing incompetence and mismanagement at federal detention centers that led to the deaths in recent years of James Bulger, the Boston gangster known as Whitey, and Jeffrey Epstein, who had been charged with sex trafficking.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, though the bureau did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. The agency said in a statement that the inmate required “life-saving measures” before being rushed to a hospital emergency room nearby. The office of Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general who prosecuted the former police officer, identified the inmate as Mr. Chauvin.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Today’s Migrant Crisis Looks Like to a Holocaust Refugee, Joseph Berger, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Read a firsthand account of one of the 140,000 Jewish refugees who fled postwar Europe and arrived in New York City.

Even with New York’s complicated history as a port for new arrivals, the photographs this summer of more than a hundred migrants sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk outside the once-elegant Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan were shocking. So were scenes of young migrants idling on sidewalks, stoops and park benches, desperate to work but legally prohibited from doing so.

For those of us who were once part of such a moment, the scenes stirred up memories and reflections on how different some things were now for new arrivals and how much they were the same. I, too, was once part of a migrant influx.

In the years after the end of World War II, New York City absorbed a similar wave of immigrants — a large majority of the 140,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors who came to America between 1946 and 1953 — and it did so comparatively smoothly and uneventfully. These immigrants were eager to get on with their lives but were still in shock or heartbroken from the brutalities they had suffered, the parents and siblings they had lost, and the hometowns they could no longer return to.

Those who had no relatives to stay with were put up in 14 hotels that had seen better days as well as in a shelter hacked out of the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street, which is now the Public Theater.

My family was among those immigrants, having spent the previous four years waiting for visas to the United States while idling in two camps for so-called displaced persons in the American zone in occupied Germany. After a rocky voyage on a merchant marine vessel called the U.S.S. General A.W. Greely, my parents, my brother and I arrived on March 3, 1950, at a pier on West 21st Street. My brother Josh was not yet 3. I was 5.

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More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration to Require Replacing of Lead Pipes Within 10 Years, Coral Davenport, Nov. 30, 2023. The proposal to rip out nine million pipes across the country could cost as much as $30 billion but would nearly eliminate the neurotoxin from drinking water.

The Biden administration is proposing new restrictions that would require the removal of virtually all lead water pipes across the country in an effort to prevent another public health catastrophe like the one that came to define Flint, Mich.

The proposal on Thursday from the Environmental Protection Agency would impose the strictest limits on lead in drinking water since federal standards were first set 30 years ago. It would affect about nine million pipes that snake throughout communities across the country.

“This is the strongest lead rule that the nation has ever seen,” Radhika Fox, the E.P.A.’s assistant administrator for water, said in an interview. “This is historic progress.”

Digging up and replacing lead pipes from coast to coast is no small undertaking. The E.P.A. estimates the price at $20 billion to $30 billion over the course of a decade. The rule would require the nation’s utilities — and most likely their ratepayers — to absorb most of that cost, but $15 billion is available from the 2021 infrastructure law to help them pay for it.

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More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

 

 

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Politico, NATO vows to stick with Ukraine ‘as long as it takes,’ Stuart Lau, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). We are pretty much becoming a de facto NATO army,” Ukraine’s foreign minister says in his first NATO-Ukraine Council meeting.

politico CustomNATO's foreign ministers Wednesday agreed to step up work with Ukraine on a wide range of security issues, in a bid to show solidarity amid distractions from the war between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement, NATO allies vowed to "remain steadfast in their commitment to further step up political and practical support to Ukraine" and said they "will continue their support for as long as it takes," after a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels.

"We are increasing our interoperability with NATO," Kuleba said, ahead of the first foreign ministerial-level NATO-Ukraine Council meeting. "We are pretty much becoming a de facto NATO army, in terms of our technical capacity, management approaches and principles of running an army."

Politico, Sweden says Turkey pledges to ratify its NATO bid ‘within weeks,’ Stuart Lau, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). ‘There were no new demands from the Turkish government,’ says Foreign Minister Tobias Billström.

politico CustomTurkey has promised Sweden it will ratify its bid to join NATO "within weeks," Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said Wednesday.

Referring to his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan, with whom he spoke on Tuesday, Billström said: "He told me that he expected the ratification to take place within weeks. And of course, we don’t take anything for granted from the side of Sweden, but we look forward to this being completed."

Swedish flagThe Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission recently abruptly postponed a session to vote on Sweden's accession bid.

According to Billström, the top Turkish envoy didn't put forward any new conditions in the conversation. "There were no new demands from the Turkish government, so we look [at] our part as being fulfilled," he told reporters at the NATO foreign ministerial meeting.

Apart from Turkey, Hungary has also not ratified Sweden's membership status in the alliance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Women Protest Long Deployments for Soldiers in Ukraine, Neil MacFarquhar and Milana Mazaeva, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). “Make way for someone else,” a grass-roots movement demands as women challenge the argument that the mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely.

Russian FlagThe woman in the video, her face blurred, gave a blunt assessment of Russian military policy: Soldiers mobilized over a year ago to fight in Ukraine deserved to come home. Why weren’t they?

“Our mobilized became the best army in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this army should stay there to the last man,” she said. “If he did something heroic, spilled blood for his country sincerely, then maybe it was time to return to his family, make way for someone else, but that’s not happening.”

The speaker was part of a new, grass-roots movement that has been gathering steam in Russia over the past several weeks. Women in various cities are seeking to stage public protests, challenging the official argument that mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely to secure their Russian homeland.

ny times logoNew York Times, A massive storm battered southern Ukraine, causing havoc for civilians and soldiers, Marc Santora, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

A powerful wintry storm battered southern Ukraine on Monday, washing away Russian coastal defenses from some beaches on the occupied Crimean peninsula. The storm, which Ukrainian meteorologists said was among the most intense in decades, snarled supply routes for both countries’ armies and deepened the misery of tens of thousands of soldiers huddled in shallow trenches across the sprawling front line.

ukraine flagAs temperatures plunged below freezing across much of the country, hundreds of thousands of civilians were left without power in Russian-occupied territories and tens of thousands more lost power across southern Ukraine.

All the hardships that a winter storm typically delivers were compounded and complicated by the exigencies of war. A blizzard of snow, for example, stranded civilians on roads while complicating the movement of humanitarian aid to communities across Ukraine ravaged by fighting.

Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea — as less violent storms have done in the past — complicating the navigation of already dangerous shipping lanes.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Consumers, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fed’s Preferred Inflation Measure Eased in October, Jeanna Smialek, Nov. 30, 2023. The Personal Consumption Expenditures price index continued to cool and consumer spending was moderate, good news for the Federal Reserve.

A closely watched measure of inflation showed continued signs of fading in October, encouraging news for the Federal Reserve as officials try to gauge whether they need to take further action in order to fully stamp out rapid price increases.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation measure, which the Fed cites when it says it aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, climbed by 3 percent in the year through October. That was down from 3.4 percent the previous month, and was in line with economist forecasts. Compared to the previous month, prices were flat.

After stripping out volatile food and fuel prices for a clearer look at underlying price pressures, inflation climbed by 3.5 percent over the year. That was down from 3.7 percent previously.

The latest evidence that price increases are slowing came alongside other positive news for Fed officials: Consumers are spending less robustly. A measure of personal consumption climbing by 0.2 percent from September, marking a slight slowdown from the previous month.

Politico, ‘Go f--k yourself!’ Elon Musk tells fleeing advertisers, Claudia Chiappa, Nov. 30, 2023. ‘Is that clear? I hope it is,’ says X owner as companies pull ads from his platform.

politico CustomElon Musk has a message for advertisers who have left X en masse amid accusations of unchecked antisemitism on the social media platform: "Go fuck yourself."

“If somebody has been trying to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself,” Musk said during an animated interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday.

Musk has faced criticism over the spread of disinformation and hate content on X since he bought the company formerly known as Twitter. That culminated in an advertiser exodus in recent weeks, as posts about the Israel-Hamas war spread.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk’s Warning to Advertisers, and Other DealBook Summit Highlights, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, Nov. 30, 2023. Artificial intelligence, antisemitism, the 2024 presidential election, war in the Middle East and other big topics made headlines at this year’s event.

Coming into Wednesday’s DealBook Summit, few could predict what Elon Musk — whose SpaceX, Tesla and X are among the most consequential and talked-about companies in the world — would say. And the famously voluble billionaire delivered.

Yes, there was the moment when, using profane language, Musk denounced companies that had suspended advertising on X following his endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory. (He did try to clear the air, saying he hadn’t meant to support bigots. “I’m quite sorry” if he had encouraged them, he said.)

But over a 90-minute conversation, Musk touched on much more, including what drives him, his fears about artificial intelligence and more.

“Don’t advertise.” Musk accused advertisers of trying to “blackmail” him over his remarks. (Bob Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., had said earlier that being associated with X and Musk was “not a positive” for his company.) After directing expletives at those businesses, Musk then cheekily added, “Hi, Bob, if you’re in the audience.” Linda Yaccarino, X’s C.E.O. whom Musk hired to win back advertisers (and who was at the summit), later posted a more conciliatory message.

“Do you want the best car, or do you not want the best car?” Whether people love Musk or hate him, the mogul boasted about the capabilities of Tesla vehicles and SpaceX rockets.

“A philosophy of curiosity.” Pressed on what drives him, Musk turned contemplative, speaking at length about a difficult childhood and how he has grappled with an existential crisis he first felt at age 12. His answer: Ensure humanity reaches the stars and settles other planets, hence his work at SpaceX. “If you’re a single-planet civilization,” he said, “something will happen to that planet, and you will die.”

“I’m quite concerned that there’s some dangerous element of A.I. that they’ve discovered.” Asked about the recent leadership shake-up at OpenAI, which he co-founded before leaving in 2019, Musk said that he was worried about the speed at which it had been pushing innovation. He predicted that the technology could reach the point of problem-solving like the human brain — so-called artificial general intelligence — in less than three years. (Jensen Huang, the C.E.O. of the A.I. chipmaker Nvidia, reckoned that milestone would take at least a decade.)

“I think I would not vote for [President] Biden.” Musk, who has turned politically conservative in recent years, criticized the president for snubbing Tesla in the company’s green-energy initiatives, despite its leadership in electric vehicles. The billionaire also said that liberals tended to embrace censorship now, anathema to the self-described free speech “absolutist.” But when asked if he would then vote for Donald Trump, Biden’s likely Republican opponent, Musk demurred, saying only, “this is definitely a difficult choice.”

New York Times, Opinion: How the Biden Administration Took the Pen Away From Meta, Google and Amazon, Nov. 30, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Back at OpenAI, Sam Altman Outlines the Company’s Priorities, Cade Metz and Tripp Mickle, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). OpenAI said on Wednesday that it had completed the first phase of a new governance structure that added Microsoft as a nonvoting board member, as it works to end the divisions that fueled the ouster of Sam Altman as chief executive and sets itself up for a future as a bigger company.

In a blog post, Mr. Altman, who was rapidly reinstated last week, also outlined his priorities for OpenAI as he retakes the reins of the high-profile artificial intelligence start-up. He said the company would resume its work building safe A.I. systems and products that benefited its customers. He added that its board would focus on improving governance and overseeing an independent review of the events that led to and followed his removal as chief executive.

Microsoft expands a three-person board that OpenAI announced last week. The tech giant is one of OpenAI’s biggest investors, having committed $13 billion. Microsoft will be able to participate in OpenAI’s board meetings but not vote on business decisions.

“Part of what good governance means is that there’s more predictability, transparency and input from various stakeholders, and this seemed like a good way to get that from a very important one,” Mr. Altman said in an interview, referring to Microsoft.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike Changed the Labor Movement, Kurtis Lee, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The 1968 action led to greater economic mobility for Black workers. Today, union activists are trying to capture some of that spirit.

This article is from Headway, an initiative from The New York Times exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress. Headway looks for promising solutions, notable experiments and lessons from what has been tried.

Jack Walker is a union man. He drives a garbage truck in Memphis, where his route can take him barreling past shotgun-style houses along the Mississippi River and down the narrow alleyways near the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He is aware, always, of how his union protections are tied to Dr. King’s death and that of another man: his father.

Robert Walker, Mr. Walker’s father, was also a sanitation worker. On Feb. 1, 1968, he was collecting garbage when sheets of rain started pouring down. He and his colleague Echol Cole took shelter in the compactor of their truck. When a compressing piston malfunctioned, the two men were crushed. The city had no intention to pay death benefits, offering Robert Walker’s widow only $500 for funeral expenses, “if you need it,” as the official letter put it. She had five children, including Jack, and was pregnant with a sixth.

The tragedy was a culmination of slow-burning indignities for Black sanitation workers in Memphis. They earned low wages to lug heavy, open tubs of refuse to their trucks. Rotting garbage seeped onto their skin and clothes. Their white colleagues, who were often drivers, showered at the depot at the end of their shifts. But the Black collectors were forced to ride the bus or walk home in their dank clothes covered in flecks of trash and maggots.

Fed up, they called a strike. Roughly 1,300 sanitation workers began marching through the streets of Memphis. They carried signs that read “I Am a Man,” with the “Am” underlined. The strike stretched on for weeks. Even as trash began to accumulate on city streets, Memphis’s mayor wouldn’t entertain the strikers’ demands, instead sending in police officers with clubs and mace to break up marches.

The strikers’ mission and bravery spoke to Dr. King, who had embarked on a new economic justice effort, the Poor People’s Campaign. He came to Memphis in March and again in April, when, at a local church, he gave an impassioned speech that would turn out to be his last.

Two weeks after Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the Memphis City Council voted to recognize the sanitation workers’ union, promising higher wages to the largely Black work force.

“It was a first step in getting them on their feet financially,” said Lee Saunders, the current president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “It was a huge deal.”

The strike in Memphis more than five decades ago “inspired a surge of organizing and strikes, not unlike what we see today,” said William P. Jones, a history professor at the University of Minnesota who has written on race and class.

Today’s resurgence in labor activism cuts across a broad range of industries. There have been recent labor fights at, among other places, rail yards, schools, hospitals, hotels, Hollywood studios and Starbucks stores. And the issues on the bargaining table include traditional demands, like higher wages and better staffing levels, as well as protections against replacement by artificial intelligence. Unions have had remarkable success in recent months, including securing a big pay raise for Las Vegas hospitality workers who merely threatened a strike.

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U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

Politico, Police investigating Florida Republican Party chair over alleged sexual assault, Kimberly Leonard and Andrew Atterbury, Nov. 30, 2023. The Sarasota Police Department is investigating Florida Republican Party Chair Christian Ziegler, whose wife co-founded the conservative parents group Moms for Liberty, following allegations of sexual assault.

politico CustomAccording to a heavily redacted police report obtained by POLITICO through a public records request, the alleged incident took place on Oct. 2 at a home in Sarasota and the victim filed a complaint two days later. The documents omit details about the victim’s statement to authorities but include the words “rape” and “sexually battered.”

The Florida Trident, the news platform for the open government watchdog Florida Center for Government Accountability, was first to report on the news.

Ziegler, through his attorney, acknowledged the police were investigating him and said he’d been “fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department.”

“We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated,” his attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain. I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded.”

Ziegler is married to Bridget Ziegler, a school board member in Sarasota County and Moms for Liberty co-founder. The group has risen to prominence in Florida under the DeSantis administration, which emphasizes rooting out any traces of liberal “indoctrination” — particularly on the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and race.

Bridget Ziegler did not respond to requests for comment.

The Trident article quotes anonymous sources who say the Zieglers were in a consensual three-way sexual relationship with the victim but that Bridget Ziegler wasn’t there when the alleged sexual assault happened. POLITICO was not immediately able to substantiate the claims.

Moms for Liberty on Thursday indicated that it was standing by Bridget Ziegler, saying in a statement that “we are confident she will get to tell her side of things to those who are interested in more than click bait.” The group added that Bridget Ziegler stepped back from the organization’s board in 2021.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and other top leaders, including Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., met with Moms for Liberty this year to plot out local school board candidates to oppose in 2024, following up on scores of endorsements and nominations in the 2022 cycle. Moms for Liberty has a growing national presence, with close to 300 chapters, while reporting more than $2 million in revenue for 2022.

DeSantis also appointed Bridget Ziegler to be one of the chairs for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the governing board that DeSantis tapped to oversee the district surrounding Walt Disney World after a heated fight about LGBTQ+ topics in public schools.

News of the alleged incident broke just hours before DeSantis was set to appear in a highly advertised debate on Fox News against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, who has criticized DeSantis for his policies on schools.

The Republican Party of Sarasota County said in a statement that it was “shocked and disappointed” about the reports regarding the Zieglers.

 

eric adams serious nydn

ny times logoNew York Times, A Final Wave of Sex-Abuse Lawsuits as One-Year Window Closes in New York, Hurubie Meko, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Since the Adult Survivors Act was passed, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed, some aimed at politicians and others at institutions.

In the year since a one-time window opened in New York State allowing people to file sex-abuse lawsuits even after the statute of limitations had expired, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed.

Before the deadline on Thanksgiving, a flurry of attention-grabbing suits were filed against politicians — like former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Eric Adams, the mayor of New York (shown above) — and celebrities, like Sean Combs, the producer and music mogul, who had just settled a separate suit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing him of rape.

But hundreds of people have also — collectively and separately — sued institutions, including the state’s prisons, jails and prominent hospitals, for abuses they said were systematically ignored and hidden for decades. At least 479 suits contain charges of abuse at Rikers Island.

As the legislation to allow the civil suits, known as the Adult Survivors Act, approached its sunset date, the number of lawsuits filed — both in State Supreme Court and in the Court of Claims — steadily increased after a campaign to alert people to the deadline. The number of cases filed in State Supreme Court alone rose from 803 on Oct. 31 to 1,397 as of Nov. 22.

 

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

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who won a jury verdict that he sexually attacked her three decades ago.

Politico, Trump backs Adams, Cuomo in sexual misconduct lawsuits, Matt Berg, Nov. 29, 2023. Former President Donald Trump expressed his support for New York Mayor Eric Adams and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the pair face new lawsuits from women alleging sexual misconduct — in Adams’ case, a claim that dates back decades.

politico CustomOn Truth Social early Wednesday, Trump said he hopes Adams, Cuomo and “all of the others that got sued based on this ridiculous law where someone can be sued decades later, and with no proof, will fight it on being totally unfair and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.”

Trump was referencing Adult Survivors Act lawsuits, which surfaced last week as the New York legislation was expiring. The act gave victims of sexual assault two years to sue over past assaults that would previously have been barred by the statute of limitations.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The U.S. pharmacy industry is crumbling. Here’s how to fix it, Robert Gebelhoff, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Canby Drug & Gifts, a pharmacy in rural Minnesota, is a paradox. It does good business, yet it is always on the verge of shutting down. “I’m one bad contract from closing,” says owner Mark Whittier.

His drugstore, one of a few in his county of more than 9,000 people, exemplifies the struggle many independent pharmacies face. The store is a lifeline for customers, most of whom are either on Medicaid or the state’s health-insurance program. Yet profitability is now near-impossible because of the preposterous way the United States distributes pharmaceutical drugs.

Without serious reforms, businesses such as Whittier’s could disappear.

The tectonic plates beneath retail pharmaceuticals are shifting, and drugstores are falling. The total number of drugstores has been falling since 2015, but the trend has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, which have lost about 10 percent of their pharmacies in two decades.

There are plenty of reasons for this: As for many other businesses, revenue for pharmacies cratered during the pandemic. Labor shortages, especially among pharmacists seeking better pay and working conditions, further strained operations. Meanwhile, online retailers have provided new competition and large opioid settlements have battered many chains.

But U.S. drug distribution has also greatly consolidated, granting enormous power to a few big players that have mangled the industry in the pursuit of profit. A small number of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and Optum Rx — act as intermediaries between pharmacies and the insurance companies that pay for prescription drugs. But each PBM also runs a network of pharmacies and goes to great lengths to direct customers to its preferred retail stores.

That’s right — the same corporations that are deciding where Americans should buy their drugs are often running those drugstores.

This market dominance has driven business away from independent stores. Worse, PBMs are notorious for setting low-reimbursement fees, making it difficult for pharmacies to break even. Many PBMs also impose contracts on independent pharmacies with unrealistic demands on how they dispense drugs and how their customers follow the regimens. When pharmacies fall short, they are hit with enormous fees.

Together, these forces have expanded America’s “pharmacy deserts” — swaths of the country without easy access to stores — and this situation is bound to worsen. CVS and Walgreens plan to continue shedding retail locations in the coming years. Rite Aid’s bankruptcy last month will pile on another 150-plus closures.

This could have serious effects on Americans’ health, especially among minorities. Long drives and onerous trips on public transportation make it hard for patients to stay on track with their medications. People shouldn’t have to spend an hour in a car or bus just to pick up insulin to treat diabetes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Wiped Out Hepatitis C. Now It Is Trying to Help the Rest of Africa, Stephanie Nolen, Photographs by Natalija Gormalova, Nov. 28, 2023. Effective drugs that have made the disease curable have yet to reach most of the region.

egypt flagEgypt is on track to be the first country to achieve the World Health Organization goal of eliminating hepatitis C, and it is leveraging that victory into a campaign of “health diplomacy,” pledging to donate drugs and share expertise, with the goal of treating a million African patients. It is an unusual gesture in the world of global health, where largess is typically delivered to developing countries from high-income nations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unvaccinated and Vulnerable: Children Drive Surge in Deadly Outbreaks, Stephanie Nolen, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 60 million “zero-dose children” have not received any vaccines and have aged out of routine immunization programs. Protecting them will require a costly vaccination blitz. Large outbreaks of diseases that primarily kill children are spreading around the world, a grim legacy of disruptions to health systems during the Covid-19 pandemic that have left more than 60 million children without a single dose of standard childhood vaccines.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2By midway through this year, 47 countries were reporting serious measles outbreaks, compared with 16 countries in June 2020. Nigeria is currently facing the largest diphtheria outbreak in its history, with more than 17,000 suspected cases and nearly 600 deaths so far. Twelve countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, are reporting circulating polio virus.

Many of the children who missed their shots have now aged out of routine immunization programs. So-called “zero-dose children” account for nearly half of all child deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses, according to Gavi, the organization that helps fund vaccination in low- and middle-income countries.

An additional 85 million children are under-immunized as a result of the pandemic — that is, they received only part of the standard course of several shots required to be fully protected from a particular disease.

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Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Free Speech, Culture 

Politico, ‘Go f--k yourself!’ Elon Musk tells fleeing advertisers, Claudia Chiappa, Nov. 30, 2023. ‘Is that clear? I hope it is,’ says X owner as companies pull ads from his platform.

politico CustomElon Musk has a message for advertisers who have left X en masse amid accusations of unchecked antisemitism on the social media platform: "Go fuck yourself."

“If somebody has been trying to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself,” Musk said during an animated interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday.

Musk has faced criticism over the spread of disinformation and hate content on X since he bought the company formerly known as Twitter. That culminated in an advertiser exodus in recent weeks, as posts about the Israel-Hamas war spread.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk’s Warning to Advertisers, and Other DealBook Summit Highlights, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, Nov. 30, 2023. Artificial intelligence, antisemitism, the 2024 presidential election, war in the Middle East and other big topics made headlines at this year’s event.

Coming into Wednesday’s DealBook Summit, few could predict what Elon Musk — whose SpaceX, Tesla and X are among the most consequential and talked-about companies in the world — would say. And the famously voluble billionaire delivered.

Yes, there was the moment when, using profane language, Musk denounced companies that had suspended advertising on X following his endorsement of an antisemitic conspiracy theory. (He did try to clear the air, saying he hadn’t meant to support bigots. “I’m quite sorry” if he had encouraged them, he said.)

But over a 90-minute conversation, Musk touched on much more, including what drives him, his fears about artificial intelligence and more.

“Don’t advertise.” Musk accused advertisers of trying to “blackmail” him over his remarks. (Bob Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., had said earlier that being associated with X and Musk was “not a positive” for his company.) After directing expletives at those businesses, Musk then cheekily added, “Hi, Bob, if you’re in the audience.” Linda Yaccarino, X’s C.E.O. whom Musk hired to win back advertisers (and who was at the summit), later posted a more conciliatory message.

“Do you want the best car, or do you not want the best car?” Whether people love Musk or hate him, the mogul boasted about the capabilities of Tesla vehicles and SpaceX rockets.

“A philosophy of curiosity.” Pressed on what drives him, Musk turned contemplative, speaking at length about a difficult childhood and how he has grappled with an existential crisis he first felt at age 12. His answer: Ensure humanity reaches the stars and settles other planets, hence his work at SpaceX. “If you’re a single-planet civilization,” he said, “something will happen to that planet, and you will die.”

“I’m quite concerned that there’s some dangerous element of A.I. that they’ve discovered.” Asked about the recent leadership shake-up at OpenAI, which he co-founded before leaving in 2019, Musk said that he was worried about the speed at which it had been pushing innovation. He predicted that the technology could reach the point of problem-solving like the human brain — so-called artificial general intelligence — in less than three years. (Jensen Huang, the C.E.O. of the A.I. chipmaker Nvidia, reckoned that milestone would take at least a decade.)

“I think I would not vote for [President] Biden.” Musk, who has turned politically conservative in recent years, criticized the president for snubbing Tesla in the company’s green-energy initiatives, despite its leadership in electric vehicles. The billionaire also said that liberals tended to embrace censorship now, anathema to the self-described free speech “absolutist.” But when asked if he would then vote for Donald Trump, Biden’s likely Republican opponent, Musk demurred, saying only, “this is definitely a difficult choice.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Advertisers Say They Do Not Plan to Return to X After Musk’s Comments, Kate Conger and Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 30, 2023. Elon Musk, the owner of X, criticized advertisers with expletives on Wednesday at The New York Times’s DealBook Summit. Elon Musk, the owner of X, criticized advertisers with expletives on Wednesday at The New York Times’s DealBook Summit.

Advertisers said on Thursday that they did not plan to reopen their wallets anytime soon with X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, after its owner, Elon Musk, insulted brands using an expletive and told them not to spend on the platform.

At least half a dozen marketing agencies said the brands they represent were standing firm against advertising on X, while others said they had advised advertisers to stop posting anything on the platform. Some temporary spending pauses that advertisers have enacted in recent weeks against X are likely to turn into permanent freezes, they added, with Mr. Musk’s comments giving them no incentive to return.

Advertisers are “not coming back” to X, said Lou Paskalis, the founder and chief executive of AJL Advisory, a marketing consultancy. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform.”

Mr. Musk has repeatedly criticized and alienated advertisers since buying Twitter last year. At one point, he threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” against advertisers who paused their spending because they were concerned about his plans to loosen content moderation rules on X.

In recent weeks, more than 200 advertisers had halted their spending on X after Mr. Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory and researchers called attention to instances of ads appearing alongside pro-Nazi posts on the platform. The company, which has made most of its revenue from advertising, is at risk of losing up to $75 million this quarter as brands back away.

The situation was compounded on Wednesday when Mr. Musk made incendiary comments against advertisers at the DealBook Summit in New York. In a wide-ranging interview at the event, Mr. Musk apologized for the antisemitic post, calling it “one of the most foolish” he had ever published, but also said that advertisers were trying to “blackmail” him. He singled out Bob A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, who also attended the DealBook Summit.

“Don’t advertise,” Mr. Musk then said, using an expletive multiple times to emphasize his point.

Hours later, Linda Yaccarino, X’s chief executive, tried to mitigate the damage. In a post on X, she shifted attention to Mr. Musk’s apology for associating himself with antisemitism and appealed to advertisers to return.

“I will certainly not pander,” he said.

Mr. Musk’s dismissiveness of advertiser concerns has caused brands to view him as a risky partner, said Steve Boehler, the founder of the marketing management consultancy Mercer Island Group.

  • New York Times, Opinion: How the Biden Administration Took the Pen Away From Meta, Google and Amazon, Nov. 30, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Back at OpenAI, Sam Altman Outlines the Company’s Priorities, Cade Metz and Tripp Mickle, Nov. 30, 2023 (print ed.). OpenAI said on Wednesday that it had completed the first phase of a new governance structure that added Microsoft as a nonvoting board member, as it works to end the divisions that fueled the ouster of Sam Altman as chief executive and sets itself up for a future as a bigger company.

In a blog post, Mr. Altman, who was rapidly reinstated last week, also outlined his priorities for OpenAI as he retakes the reins of the high-profile artificial intelligence start-up. He said the company would resume its work building safe A.I. systems and products that benefited its customers. He added that its board would focus on improving governance and overseeing an independent review of the events that led to and followed his removal as chief executive.

Microsoft expands a three-person board that OpenAI announced last week. The tech giant is one of OpenAI’s biggest investors, having committed $13 billion. Microsoft will be able to participate in OpenAI’s board meetings but not vote on business decisions.

“Part of what good governance means is that there’s more predictability, transparency and input from various stakeholders, and this seemed like a good way to get that from a very important one,” Mr. Altman said in an interview, referring to Microsoft.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Meta, Millions of Underage Users Were an ‘Open Secret,’ States Say, Natasha Singer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Meta has received more than 1.1 million reports of users under the age of 13 on its Instagram platform since early 2019 yet it “disabled only a fraction” of those accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint against the company brought by the attorneys general of 33 states.

meta logoInstead, the social media giant “routinely continued to collect” children’s personal information, like their locations and email addresses, without parental permission, in violation of a federal children’s privacy law, according to the court filing. Meta could face hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, in civil penalties should the states prove the allegations.

“Within the company, Meta’s actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed,” the complaint said, “and zealously protected from disclosure to the public.”

The privacy charges are part of a larger federal lawsuit, filed last month by California, Colorado and 31 other states in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit accuses Meta of unfairly ensnaring young people on its Instagram and Facebook platforms while concealing internal studies showing user harms. And it seeks to force Meta to stop using certain features that the states say have harmed young users.

But much of the evidence cited by the states was blacked out by redactions in the initial filing.

Now the unsealed complaint, filed on Wednesday evening, provides new details from the states’ lawsuit. Using snippets from internal emails, employee chats and company presentations, the complaint contends that Instagram for years “coveted and pursued” underage users even as the company “failed” to comply with the children’s privacy law.

The unsealed filing said that Meta “continually failed” to make effective age-checking systems a priority and instead used approaches that enabled users under 13 to lie about their age to set up Instagram accounts. It also accused Meta executives of publicly stating in congressional testimony that the company’s age-checking process was effective and that the company removed underage accounts when it learned of them — even as the executives knew there were millions of underage users on Instagram.

“Tweens want access to Instagram, and they lie about their age to get it now,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an internal company chat in November 2021, according to the court filing.

In Senate testimony the following month, Mr. Mosseri said: “If a child is under the age of 13, they are not permitted on Instagram.”

In a statement on Saturday, Meta said that it had spent a decade working to make online experiences safe and age-appropriate for teenagers and that the states’ complaint “mischaracterizes our work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents.”

Semafor, MSNBC cancels Mehdi Hasan’s show, Max Tani, Nov. 30, 2023. MSNBC is canceling outspoken opinion host Mehdi Hasan’s weekend program and show on the streaming service Peacock.

dan rather steady logoTwo people familiar with the move, which MSNBC privately announced to staff Thursday morning, told Semafor that Hasan will become an on-camera analyst and fill-in host. The network plans to expand host Ayman Mohyeldin’s weekend program to two hours to replace Hasan’s show.

Over the past several years, Hasan became a cult favorite online for his tough interview style and impassioned monologues. But these never translated to ratings successes on the weekends or during fill-in appearances on primetime shows.
Title iconNotable

Variety reported that the move is part of a shakeup aimed at consolidating the network’s weekend schedule to give MSNBC more flexibility. The network also announced on Thursday that it would be launching a two hour morning panel show with Symone Sanders, Michael Steel, and Alicia Menendez. As “Decision 2024 ramps up, the show will provide thoughtful analysis and coverage on the state of our country from three trusted voices familiar to the MSNBC audience,” an MSNBC executive told Variety.

washington post logoWashington Post, A rural post office was told to prioritize Amazon packages. Chaos ensued, Caroline O'Donovan and Jacob Bogage, Nov. 28, 2023.  Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations.

Bemidji is not the only place where postal workers say they have been overwhelmed by packages from Amazon, the ubiquitous e-commerce giant. Carriers and local officials say mail service has been disrupted in rural communities from Portland, Maine, to Washington state’s San Juan Islands.

The situation stems from a crisis at the Postal Service, which has lost $6.5 billion in the past year. The post office has had a contract with Amazon since 2013, when it started delivering packages on Sundays. But in recent years, that business has exploded as Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations.

The Postal Service considers the contract proprietary and has declined to disclose its terms. But U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said publicly that “increasing package volume” — not just from Amazon, but from FedEx and UPS as well — is key to the mail service’s financial future. In a Nov. 14 speech to the Postal Service Board of Governors, DeJoy said he wants the post office to become the “preferred delivery provider in the nation.” And in recent years, the agency has reconfigured its nationwide network of mail-sorting plants, purchased an armada of eco-friendly delivery trucks and pressed a marketing campaign in service of that goal.

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Nov. 29

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Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

 

 

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

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Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo above by Samar Abu Elouf). Shown below in a photograph released by Thailand’s foreign ministry on Saturday are freed Thai hostages and an official, wearing a vest, posing at the Shamir Medical Center in Israel (Photo via Thailand's Foreign Ministry via Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fearful, Humiliated and Desperate: Gazans Heading South Face Horrors, Yara Bayoumy, Samar Abu Elouf and Iyad Abuheweila, Photographs by Samar Abu Elouf, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Tens of thousands of Gazans are making the most difficult of choices, leaving their homes behind to survive.

palestinian flagThey walked for hours, raising their hands when they encountered Israeli troops with guns trained on them to display their I.D. cards — or wave white rags. All around them was the sound of gunfire and the incessant buzzing of drones. Bodies littered rubble-filled streets.

For the tens of thousands of Gazans who have fled the northern part of the enclave where the heaviest fighting has been taking place, evacuating to the south has been a perilous journey, according to at least 10 Gazans that The New York Times spoke to on the ground and by phone. Even though a tenuous cease-fire in place since Friday has brought temporary relief from the bombardment, they face an uncertain future — and the threat the strikes will return, leaving them displaced yet again.

The Israeli military launched a deadly bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip after an attack on Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 in which, Israeli officials say, 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage. In the seven weeks since, Israel has pounded the tiny coastal enclave with the aim of destroying Hamas’s military capabilities. So far, more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed as of Nov. 21, according to the Gazan health authorities.

For weeks, Israel has been urging Gazans living in northern towns to flee along Salah al-Din Street, the strip’s main north-south highway.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Congress Weighs Aid to Israel, Some Democrats Want Strings Attached, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 29, 2023. Democrats are clashing with each other and the White House over adding conditions, including measures to avoid civilian casualties, to an infusion of aid.

Israel FlagDemocrats in Congress are clashing with each other and the Biden administration over a push from the left that would attach conditions to an emergency infusion of security aid for Israel during its war with Hamas, the latest reflection of a growing rift within the party over support for the Jewish state.

U.S. House logoThe debate is a striking departure from longstanding practice on Capitol Hill, where for decades, lawmakers have approved huge amounts of military funding for Israel with few strings attached. Now, as Israel battles Hamas in a conflict whose civilian death toll has soared, a growing number of Democrats are voicing worry about how American dollars will be used.

The issue could come to a head on the Senate floor as early as next week, when Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, has said the chamber could begin work on a legislative package including the aid measure.

The disagreements among Democrats simmered behind closed doors on Capitol Hill and at the White House on Tuesday. At the White House, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, huddled with roughly 20 Democratic senators who have raised concerns about how Israel might use U.S. assistance on the battlefield. Later, at a private party lunch in the Capitol, several of the same Democrats argued to their colleagues that any aid package should increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza and ensure that Israel do more to avoid civilian casualties.

ny times logoNew York Times, In the West Bank, Release of Prisoners Deepens Support for Hamas, Christina Goldbaum and Hiba Yazbek, Nov. 29, 2023. Frustration with the Palestinian Authority has been simmering, and some believe Hamas and other armed groups are the only ones they can trust to protect them.

palestinian flagIsrael’s bombardment of Gaza and the elation over the prisoners’ release have deepened support for Hamas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has administered cities and towns for more than two decades. Gaza, the other Palestinian enclave, has by contrast been controlled since 2007 by Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and other countries.

Now, as many in the West Bank fear the war could spread to the occupied territory, some believe Hamas and other armed groups are the only ones they can trust to protect them.

The Palestinian Authority — which is controlled by the Fatah political faction — is deeply unpopular and widely seen as a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation. Long-simmering frustrations with the authority’s leadership and accusations of corruption have been exacerbated in the past year by an uptick in violence by Israeli settlers.

For some Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, the freed prisoners have become a potent symbol of Hamas’s ability to achieve tangible results and its willingness to fight for the Palestinian cause. Each night in Ramallah, as new batches of prisoners were released, one refrain echoed across the crowds: “The people want Hamas! The people want Hamas!”

Pollsters and analysts caution that support for the group is limited to a minority of residents and tends to rise temporarily during conflicts in Gaza. But with fears that a wider war could break out in the West Bank, many say the growing support today has taken on a new quality.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Has Warned Israel to Fight More Surgically in Gaza, Officials Say, Erica L. Green, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). American officials have told the Israelis that a major bombardment risks sparking a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s capacity to respond.

The United States has warned Israel that it must fight more surgically and avoid further mass displacement of Palestinians in its war against Hamas to avoid a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s ability to respond, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The White House has told Israel that replicating the scale of its bombardment in northern Gaza as it makes an expected push into southern Gaza once the recent pause in fighting ends would produce a crisis beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network, the officials said on Monday night. The United Nations has said the fighting has already displaced most of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million.

The statements are the Biden administration’s strongest warning to Israeli officials to date about the next phase of their military operation. For weeks, the White House has been careful to say it does not dictate how Israel conducts its military operations, but President Biden and senior members of his staff have grown more vocal as the humanitarian crisis has unfolded.

They also come as the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, said they were ramping up humanitarian aid during the cease-fire that took effect last week, and expressed optimism that aid could continue even when fighting resumed.

Among other things, American officials have told the Israelis that any coming military operations should not hamper the flow of power and water or impede the work of humanitarian sites such as hospitals and U.N.-supported shelters in south and central Gaza.

The Israeli government was receptive to the requests, one official said.

The cease-fire, to allow for the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians taken prisoner by Israel, has allowed for the first extended break in the violence since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen and other militant groups killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel. Gazan health officials say at least 13,000 people were killed during the nearly 50-day Israeli bombardment and ground invasion that followed.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made clear that he intends for Israel to continue fighting after the truce ends, though it was extended by two more days on Monday.

The Biden administration officials said the United States was planning to take advantage of the extra time. On Tuesday, the United States will begin deploying military relief flights to deliver medical items, food, winter items and other necessities for the civilian population to Egypt, which borders Gaza.

Extraordinary progress has already been made in aid delivery, the officials said, though they acknowledged that the level of assistance was not enough to support normal life in Gaza. The officials also said that the increase in aid, including much-needed fuel, was not contingent on hostage releases, offering hope that the shipments could continue when fighting resumed.

washington post logoWashington Post, More people are dying in Puerto Rico as its health-care system crumbles, Omaya Sosa Pascual, Jeniffer Wiscovitch, Arelis R. Hernández, Andrew Ba Tran and Dylan Moriarty, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). While the nation recovered from covid, the U.S. territory’s death rate increased, an investigation by The Washington Post and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism has found.

Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.3 million people, experienced more than 35,400 deaths last year. That’s nearly 3,300 more than researchers would ordinarily expect based on historic patterns, according to a statistical analysis by The Post and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI).

This “excess mortality” — a term scientists use to describe unusually high death counts from natural disasters, disease outbreaks or other factors — resulted in part from a covid spike early last year that killed more than 2,300 people, health data shows.

ap logoAssociated Press, U.S. authorities charge a man from India with a plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader in New York City, Ashok Sharma and Larry Neumeister, Nov. 29, 2023. U.S. authorities announced murder-for-hire charges Wednesday against a man from India who they say plotted to pay an assassin $100,000 to kill a prominent Sikh separatist leader living in New York City after the man advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.

Justice Department log circularU.S. Attorney Damian Williams announced the charges against Nikhil Gupta, 52, an Indian national who had lived in India, as an indictment was unsealed in Manhattan federal court.

india flag map“As alleged, the defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs, an ethnoreligious minority group in India,” he said in a release.

According to the release, Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30 in Czechoslovakia through a bilateral extradition treaty between the U.S. and the Czech Republic. It was not immediately clear when he might be brought to the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Hopes to Alter the Trajectory of the War as Hostages Are Released, Peter Baker, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden said his goal was to extend the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas to obtain the release of other captives and send more aid into Gaza.

After seven weeks of struggling with a crisis that defies easy solutions, President Biden could take solace over the weekend in saving a single 4-year-old girl whose parents were killed in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

joe biden black background resized serious fileBut gratifying as it was to secure the release of Avigail Idan from her Hamas captors on Sunday, the challenge for Mr. Biden going forward is not only to free the rest of the Americans being held hostage but to use the success of recent days to alter the trajectory of the war consuming Gaza.

In brief comments on Nantucket, the Massachusetts island where he spent Thanksgiving, Mr. Biden on Sunday declared that it was “my goal, our goal” to extend the temporary pause in the war between Israel and Hamas, which is set to expire after another group of hostages is freed on Monday, so as to obtain the release of additional captives and send more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel had already indicated willingness to do that and Hamas has now done the same.

The president spent part of the weekend trying to turn that willingness into a reality, calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday, a day after consulting with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, whose government hosts some Hamas figures and has served as an intermediary with the group.

“He’s continuing to work this hour by hour to see if we can secure those additional days of pause and those additional hostages coming home to their families,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC, one of several television interviews he gave on Sunday.

In seeking to extend the pause and hostage releases, Mr. Biden has American interests to consider as well as those of Israel. Among the 240 hostages taken by Hamas, 10 are believed to be American. Among those released under a deal brokered by Mr. Biden last week to free 50 hostages, the only American to be handed over so far has been Avigail, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Israel and whose name is often spelled Abigail in U.S. media.

Two American women from that group are expected to be among the hostages set to be released on Monday in the final stage of the initial deal between Israel and Hamas, leaving seven American men in captivity. Mr. Biden hopes an extension of the pause in exchange for the release of more hostages will result in the rest of the Americans being freed. Israel has said it would extend the pause by a day for each 10 additional hostages released.

“We’ll continue to remain personally engaged to see that this deal is fully implemented and work to extend the deal as well,” Mr. Biden told reporters.

Left unspoken is what might happen after Hamas has released all the hostages it is willing to give up and the temporary truce officially expires. Mr. Netanyahu has made clear that he intends to resume the military operation to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed an estimated 1,200 people.

 rosalynn carter 1927 2023s

 

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a  2018 Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

Yahoo News via AOL.com, Rosalynn Carter funeral: Jimmy Carter and all 5 living first ladies attend service, Dylan Stableford, Nov. 28, 2023. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all five living current and former first ladies — Jill Biden, Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton — gathered at a memorial on Tuesday for former first lady Rosalynn Carter in Atlanta.

Carter was wheeled into the church in a wheelchair with a blanket wrapped around his legs and positioned in the front row.

Melania Trump was dressed in a gray coat, the other first ladies in dark blue or black attire. Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama did not attend the event, which was billed as a “tribute service” at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the Emory University campus.

Former PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff, Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy and their grandson Jason Carter delivered eulogies.

Jason Carter began by welcoming the former first ladies and their "lovely husbands," drawing laughter.

The last time all of the living first ladies attended an event together was in 2018 at the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral. All living current and former presidents and first ladies, including Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and the Trumps, attended the service.

Before that, in 2007, all current and former presidents and first ladies at that time, including George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, the Carters and Nancy Reagan, attended the funeral of former President Gerald Ford in Washington.

Rosalynn Carter died last week at 96. She had entered home hospice care in Plains, Ga., after being diagnosed with dementia.

The Carters made their last public appearance in September, when they attended the Plains Peanut Festival a week before Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday. The couple waved to parade attendees from the back of an SUV.

Following Tuesday’s memorial service in Atlanta, Rosalynn Carter will be taken back to Plains for a private funeral on Wednesday at Maranatha Baptist Church, the couple's home church. From there the casket will then be transferred to a hearse and depart for private interment at the Carter family residence. Jimmy Carter plans to be buried next to her.

 

First Lady Rosalynn Carter, right, is shown in the White House working with her personal assistant. Historians regard Carter as a leading example, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, in using the position to foster advocacy on policy issues extending beyond traditional women's issues

First Lady Rosalynn Carter, right, is shown in the White House working with her personal assistant. Historians regard Carter as a leading example, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, in using the position to foster advocacy on policy issues extending beyond traditional women's issues (Carter Library Photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Rosalynn Carter to Be Honored by Presidents and Fellow First Ladies, Peter Baker, Nov. 28, 2023. Former President Jimmy Carter will emerge from hospice care to join a cast of political heavyweights paying tribute on Tuesday to Mrs. Carter, who died at 96 last week at her home in Plains, Ga.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stranded in Tunnel for 16 Days, Indian Workers Are Finally Rescued, Mujib Mashal and Suhasini Raj, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). After repeated mechanical setbacks, the operation turned to trained miners using manual tools to clear the final stretch of debris.

After a 16-day effort to free dozens of Indian construction workers trapped inside a Himalayan road tunnel, rescuers were finally preparing to pull the men out on Tuesday as diggers labored to clear a final stretch of debris by hand, the authorities said.

india flag mapThe rescue operation had hit repeated roadblocks, with officials ultimately trying multiple ways to reach the 41 stranded men. But a breakthrough came on Tuesday afternoon, as trained miners using hand tools made rapid progress after picking up at the point where a drilling machine had failed.

“The work of putting in the pipe to rescue the workers has been completed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of the northern state of Uttarakhand, the site of the tunnel, said in a brief statement on social media. “Soon, all the worker brothers will be taken out.”

Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, gave a less definitive assessment and said that about two meters, or six feet, of drilling remained.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, he said at 4 p.m. local time, about two hours after the chief minister’s statement, that “we are near a breakthrough but not yet there.” The rescuers had moved close enough that the workers trapped inside could hear the preparations for their rescue, Mr. Hasnain said.

“In less than 24 hours, we have managed to dig 10 meters manually, which I would say is phenomenal,” he said. “There are 41 inside. Outside there are many more — the safety of those outside is as important as those inside, so we are not in a hurry.”

Once the rescue begins, he added, it will take about three or four hours to bring out all the workers through the inserted pipe, roughly three to five minutes for each one.

The workers’ ordeal, followed closely in India with regular updates on television and social media, put a spotlight on concerns long raised by environmental experts about large-scale construction in the fragile Himalayan mountain range. Experts say that the country’s procedures for environmental assessments of such projects are weak and prone to political interference.

The men were building a tunnel that is part of a major road project on a Hindu pilgrimage route when a landslide early on Nov. 12 trapped them behind about 60 meters, or about 195 feet, of debris.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Shaky Oil Market, OPEC Has Bitter Decisions to Make, Stanley Reed, Nov. 29, 2023. Anticipating a drop in demand for 2024, major producers, led by Saudi Arabia, are trying to reduce supply. These are tricky times for the world’s major oil producers: Prices are lower, the health of the global economy is uncertain, and, even as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries tries to cut output, supplies from other producers, notably the United States, are growing.

No wonder the group postponed its year-end meeting. Initially scheduled for last weekend in Vienna, the meeting is now planned for Thursday, barring another postponement. The agenda — whether to cut production further, and by how much — is likely to be unpalatable for many of the 23 members.

The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, has fallen to about $82 a barrel, from a high of more than $96 this year and $128 at its height early in the Ukraine war.

It has dropped even as producers in OPEC Plus, a bigger group that includes Russia, have cut production, but the coming months seem unlikely to give oil producers a respite from this squeeze.

 

More On Israel's War With Hamas

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Understanding the True Nature of the Hamas-Israel War, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The reason the Hamas-tom friedman twitterIsrael war can be hard for outsiders to understand is that three wars are going on at the same time: a war between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians exacerbated by a terrorist group, a war within Israeli and Palestinian societies over the future, and a war between Iran and its proxies and America and its allies.

But before we dig into those wars, here’s the most important thing to keep in mind about them: There’s a single formula that can maximize the chances that the forces of decency can prevail in all three. It is the formula that I think President Biden is pushing, even if he can’t spell it all out publicly now — and we should all push it with him: You should want Hamas defeated; as many Gazan civilians as possible spared; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his extremist allies booted; all the hostages returned; Iran deterred; and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank reinvigorated in partnership with moderate Arab states.

Pay particular attention to that last point: a revamped Palestinian Authority is the keystone for the forces of moderation, coexistence and decency triumphing in all three wars. It is the keystone for reviving a two-state solution. It is the keystone for creating a stable foundation for the normalization of relations between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab-Muslim world. And it is the keystone for creating an alliance between Israel, moderate Arabs, the United States and NATO that can weaken Iran and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis — all of whom are up to no good.

Unfortunately, as Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Harel, reported on Tuesday, Netanyahu “is locked in by the extreme right and the settlers, who are fighting an all-out war against the idea of any involvement of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza mainly out of fear that the United States and Saudi Arabia will exploit such a move to restart the political process and push for a two-state solution in a way that will require Israel to make concessions in the West Bank.” So, Netanyahu, “under pressure from his political partners, has banned any discussion of this option.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Israel keeps hundreds of Palestinians in detention without charge, Ishaan Tharoor, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). In lists distributed to media, Israeli authorities label all the prisoners up for release as “terrorists.” Some were convicted of crimes such as attempted murder; others were detained for activities like “throwing stones” or carrying knives. And a few, like 59-year-old Hanan Barghouti, the eldest female prisoner to be released, were in indefinite Israeli custody without any charge.

While there were scenes of jubilation in Ramallah in the West Bank as a group of released prisoners met their families over the weekend, Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, issued directives cracking down on such celebrations in East Jerusalem, where the Israeli police can directly operate. “My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy,” he said. “Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism, victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, for those Nazis.”

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, most of which is under Israel’s military administration, Israeli authorities have detained roughly as many Palestinians as have been released in the past few days. A post-Oct. 7 crackdown saw the Palestinian population in Israeli custody almost double, by some measures: According to Palestinian rights groups, more than 3,000 Palestinians, mostly in the West Bank, were swept up by Israeli security forces. The majority appear to be held in administrative detention — that is, a form of incarceration without charge or trial that authorities can renew indefinitely.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thin rations, heavy bombing: Israel’s hostages start sharing their stories, Louisa Loveluck and Lior Soroka, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.).  They survived on rice and bread and slept as best they could on chairs and benches. At least one man tried to escape his captors when an Israeli airstrike caused the building he was in to collapse. A young boy kept a diary of his experience.

The stories of hostages kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 are emerging, slowly and in fragments, as dozens of Israeli women and children, as well as foreign workers, are released from Gaza as part of a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

Israel and Hamas agreed Monday to extend the pause for two additional days, under a deal brokered by Qatar and Egypt that will allow more hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian women and teenagers in Israeli prisons. Eleven Israelis and 33 Palestinians were released later Monday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel and Hamas Agree to Extend Truce, Qatar Says, Staff Reports, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Qatari officials, who helped negotiate the initial deal, said Israel and Hamas had agreed to pause fighting for another two days.

Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce for two more days, according to officials in Qatar who helped negotiate the initial cease-fire, as Israeli officials signaled that a fourth exchange of hostages and prisoners would go forward Monday.

Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, which has helped mediate the talks that led to the initial pause in fighting, said an “agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.” It did not elaborate on the terms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel-Hamas War: Hamas and Israel Complete 3rd Exchange of Hostages for Prisoners, Isabel Kershner, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited his country’s troops in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, three days into a pause in fighting there, and vowed that “we are continuing until the end — until victory.”

Israel Flag“Nothing will stop us,” he said in a video statement in which he wore protective gear and was surrounded by Israeli soldiers.

It was not immediately clear exactly when Mr. Netanyahu conducted his visit — information about the trip was withheld by the government until he had exited the Palestinian enclave — or precisely where he was, although he most likely traveled to the northern part of Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has established control.

palestinian flagThe trip was Mr. Netanyahu’s first to Gaza since the Israeli ground invasion began almost a month ago, according to officials. Those who traveled with him included his national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi; his military secretary, Maj. Gen. Avi Gil; and the Israeli military’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram.

Photographs released by the Israeli government showed Mr. Netanyahu — wearing a T-shirt, jeans and a khaki flak jacket and helmet — looking at a map, consulting with commanders and standing just inside a tunnel that his office said the Israeli military had recently exposed.

The pause, which began on Friday, is part of a deal that includes the release by Hamas of at least 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and increased aid for Gaza. Israel has offered to extend the pause by one day for every additional 10 hostages released. Hamas announced on Sunday evening, after Mr. Netanyahu’s visit, that it was seeking to extend the truce, which was slated to end on Tuesday.

“We are making every effort to bring back our hostages and eventually we will return them all,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Israeli officials have said about 240 people were taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7 in an attack that also killed about 1,200 people.

Some analysts have argued that the longer the cease-fire, the harder it may be for Israel to go back to fighting. But the prime minister emphasized that rooting out Hamas remained a central objective for Israel.

“We have three goals in this war: Eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and ensure that Gaza will not go back to being a threat to the state of Israel,” he said.

He added: “We are convinced that we have the force, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all of our goals for the war.”

Here’s what we know: Hamas released a total of 17 more hostages on Sunday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday. The group said it was seeking to extend the truce, which is slated to continue into Monday.

The latest release of hostages includes a 4-year-old American.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel, Hamas appear open to extending pause; agencies rush aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). As the end nears for the fragile four-day pause in the Israel-Gaza conflict, officials on both sides have said they are open to extending it to exchange more of the hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said that if Hamas is “willing or able to release additional hostages, then there will be an extended pause” in combat. Hamas said on Telegram that it is seeking an extension to “increase the number of those released from imprisonment.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the pause could be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas beyond the initial 50. Hamas has released 58 hostages over the past three days, including Thai and Philippine nationals. Israel has released more than 100 imprisoned Palestinian women and teenagers in exchange. Ahead of the pause’s scheduled end on Tuesday morning, aid agencies are racing to boost deliveries to Gaza.

Key updates

  • Egyptian official says deal is close to extend pause for two days
  • 84-year-old hostage released by Hamas is in serious condition, doctor says

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Calls to Extend Truce, Complications Surround Last Planned Swap, Talya Minsberg and Yara Bayoumy, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Israel and Hamas were at odds over the hostages and prisoners set to be released on Monday, the final day of a four-day cease-fire, putting their truce on shaky ground and raising questions about whether the pause could be extended.

Israel and Hamas each signaled a willingness over the weekend to prolong their truce if it allowed for more hostages and Palestinian detainees to be freed. But both sides have taken issue with the names presented by the other for the final day of exchanges under the deal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, who said that officials from Qatar, the lead mediator, were trying to address the differences.

Here’s what we know:

  • With a four-day truce set to expire, both Israel and Hamas said they are open to extending it to allow more hostages and Palestinian detainees to be freed.
  • Qatar works to resolve both sides’ concerns on the deal’s last day.
  • Elon Musk visits Israel amid a backlash over his endorsement of an antisemitic post.
  • A father welcomes his freed son home in the West Bank.
  • Here’s what we know about the Israeli hostages released on Sunday.
  • Vermont police arrest a suspect in the shooting of 3 Palestinian students.

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu and Hamas depended on each other. Both may be on the way out, Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). In 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power for a second run as Israel’s prime minister, a job he has held almost continuously since, he was confronted with a major change in the region: Hamas, a militant Islamist group, had been elected to power in the Gaza Strip three years earlier.

From the beginning, Hamas vowed to destroy Israel and, in his 2009 campaign, Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas. What happened instead was a decade and a half of uneasy coexistence, during which Netanyahu’s serial governments and Hamas’s leaders found each other useful for their own purposes.

The odd symbiosis endured — through years of escalations and accommodations, hopes of calm and periods of chaos — until now, when both Hamas and Netanyahu face a possible end to their hold on power.

Hamas leaders, after directing the attack that killed at least 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, are being bombed and hunted by an Israeli military that has pledged the group will never rule in Gaza again. In the midst of devastating attacks that have killed more than 11,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, even some Gazans have taken the rare step of publicly criticizing Hamas for the October attack and leaving civilians exposed to military onslaught.

Netanyahu, who agreed last month to share emergency war powers with his chief political rival, is facing unprecedented public rage for his failure to prevent the October attack and a disordered government response in its aftermath. Polls show 75 percent of Israelis calling for him to resign now or be replaced when the fighting stops.

ny times logoNew York Times, William Burns, the C.I.A. director, arrived in Qatar for talks about hostage releases, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). William J. Burns, the C.I.A. head, and David Barnea, who leads the Mossad, Israel’s spy service, are scheduled to meet with officials in Qatar, which has been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas.

CIA LogoMr. Burns, below left, and David Barnea, the head of the Mossad, Israel’s spy service, are scheduled to meet with Qatari officials. Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s political leadership in Doha, has been a mediator in the talks between Israel and Hamas.

williams burns 2005Qatar announced on Monday that Israel and Hamas had agreed to extend a pause in fighting for two additional days to exchange more hostages and prisoners and to allow more aid to come into Gaza.

One U.S. official said Mr. Burns’s talks in Qatar would be meant to build on that agreement.

U.S. officials have been deeply involved in pushing for a deal to release hostages taken during the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. Mr. Burns traveled to Doha on Nov. 9 as he and Mr. Barnea held talks with Qatari officials who have been working on the issue.

Hamas and Israel finally reached a deal on Nov. 21, and exchanges began later that week. During the first four days of the truce, 50 Israelis or dual nationals were released under the framework of the deal, and an additional 19 hostages — 17 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian-Israeli dual citizen — were released through separate negotiations. In exchange for the release of the Israelis and dual nationals, Israel paused its military campaign in Gaza, allowed more aid to flow into the enclave and released some Palestinian prisoners.

The U.S. has warned Israel to fight more surgically in Gaza, senior Biden administration officials said.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

 

gaza destruction Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace, Lauren Leatherby, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). In less than two months, more than twice as many women and children have been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after two years of war.

 

Destroying Democracies

 

american flag upside down distress

washington post logoWashington Post, Antagonism flares as red states try to dictate how blue cities are run, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country are increasingly overriding the actions of Democratic cities — removing elected district attorneys or threatening to strip them of power, taking over election offices and otherwise limiting local independence.

State lawmakers proposed nearly 700 bills this year to circumscribe what cities and counties can do, according to Katie Belanger, lead consultant for the Local Solutions Support Center, a national organization focused in part on ending the overreach it calls “abusive state preemption.”

The group’s tracking mostly found “conservative state legislatures responding to or anticipating actions of progressive cities,” she said, with many bills designed to bolster state restrictions on police defunding, abortion, and LGBTQ and voting rights. As of mid-October, at least 92 had passed.

In Florida, for instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed sweeping measures that empower the state attorney general to pursue election-related crimes and that require cities and counties to suspend a local ordinance if someone sues alleging it is preempted by state law. He has removed two elected Democratic prosecutors in as many years, including one who pledged not to charge people seeking abortions or transgender care.

More clashes are expected. Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry takes office in January and has promised to confront the state’s largest city, New Orleans. He already has created a committee led by a local GOP political donor and businessman to address public safety and other issues there. He has threatened to withhold state funding for the city’s water infrastructure until the DA agrees to prosecute women who violate the state’s abortion ban by seeking the procedure.

Given the presidential campaign that lies ahead in 2024, Belanger is concerned about states passing election-related laws that affect local authorities.

“Election administration has been a target for abusive preemption in the past,” she said, “and as we go into an election year, that is a trend that will grow.”

The antagonisms between red states and blue cities are all the more notable because the urban areas in the crosshairs are mostly majority-minority, with many mayors and district attorneys of color.

These actions go “squarely against the Republican philosophy of small government and more freedom,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, a Black Democrat who has struggled to pass local tobacco and gun control ordinances because of constraints enacted by Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature. “This is about common-sense democracy.”

Some of the fiercest standoffs have come in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the most expansive preemption law in the country in June, barring cities and counties from passing an array of ordinances. Opponents condemned it as the “Death Star,” saying it would imperil local residents and block worker protections like mandatory water breaks during heat waves. Abbott defended the law as crucial to reducing business regulation.

Politico, Judge key to Jan. 6 cases warns US faces 'authoritarian' threat, Josh Gerstein, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Beryl Howell sees “time of testing” for nation as facts are denied and disputed. The judge who spearheaded the judiciary’s response to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, blamed that event on “big lies” and warned that the country is in danger of turning toward authoritarianism.

politico CustomAs the federal court in Washington that Judge Beryl Howell, right, once oversaw prepares for a historic trial of former President Donald Trump on beryl howellcharges of attempting to fraudulently overturn the results of the 2020 election, the jurist used a rare public speech Tuesday to lament that many of those convicted for their actions on Jan. 6 fell under the sway of falsehoods.

“My D.C. judicial colleagues and I regularly see the impact of big lies at the sentencing of hundreds, hundreds of individuals who have been convicted for offense conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, when they disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol,” said Howell, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Howell, who served as chief judge of the District Court from 2016 until March and remains on the bench there, also suggested that the dangers evident on the day of the Capitol riot have not passed — in part because some Americans have become unmoored from facts.

“We are having a very surprising and downright troubling moment in this country when the very importance of facts is dismissed, or ignored,” Howell told the annual gala of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association at a downtown hotel. “That’s very risky business for all of us in our democracy. ... The facts matter.”

Howell did not refer by name to Trump, who is currently the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination next year. She also made no mention of his trial set to open March 4 before one of her colleagues, Judge Tanya Chutkan.

However, Howell approvingly quoted Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson’s claim in her new book that the U.S. “is at a crossroads teetering on the brink of authoritarianism.” The judge also quoted and echoed Richardson’s warning that “Big lies are springboards for authoritarians.”

Howell received a “champion” award Tuesday night from the women lawyers group, which she urged to help preserve democratic traditions by calling attention to the facts at the center of their work.

 

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Troubling Trump Pardon and a Link to the Kushners, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A commutation for a drug smuggler had broader implications than previously known, putting a new focus on how Donald Trump would use clemency powers.

Even amid the uproar over President Donald J. Trump’s freewheeling use of his pardon powers at the end of his term, one commutation stood out.

Jonathan Braun of New York had served just two and a half years of a decade-long sentence for running a massive marijuana ring, when Mr. Trump, at 12:51 a.m. on his last day in office, announced he would be freed.

Mr. Braun was, to say the least, an unusual candidate for clemency.

A Staten Islander with a history of violent threats, Mr. Braun had told a rabbi who owed him money: “I am going to make you bleed.” Mr. Braun’s family had told confidants they were willing to spend millions of dollars to get him out of prison.

At the time, Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department and federal regulators, as well as New York state authorities, were still after him for his role in an entirely separate matter: his work as a predatory lender, making what judges later found were fraudulent and usurious loans to cash-strapped small businesses.

Nearly three years later, the consequences of Mr. Braun’s commutation are becoming clearer, raising new questions about how Mr. Trump intervened in criminal justice decisions and what he could do in a second term, when he would have the power to make good on his suggestions that he would free supporters convicted of storming the Capitol and possibly even to pardon himself if convicted of the federal charges he faces.

Just months after Mr. Trump freed him, Mr. Braun returned to working as a predatory lender, according to New York State’s attorney general. Two months ago, a New York state judge barred him from working in the industry. Weeks later, a federal judge, acting on a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, imposed a nationwide ban on him.

A New York Times investigation, drawing on documents and interviews with current and former officials, and others familiar with Mr. Braun’s case, found there were even greater ramifications stemming from the commutation than previously known and revealed new details about Mr. Braun’s history and how the commutation came about.

The commutation dealt a substantial blow to an ambitious criminal investigation being led by the Justice Department’s U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan aimed at punishing members of the predatory lending industry who hurt small businesses. Mr. Braun and prosecutors were in negotiations over a cooperation deal in which he would be let out of prison in exchange for flipping on industry insiders and potentially even wearing a wire. But the commutation instantly destroyed the government’s leverage on Mr. Braun.

The investigation into the industry, and Mr. Braun’s conduct, remains open but hampered by the lack of an insider.

At multiple levels, up to the president, the justice system appeared to fail more than once to take full account of Mr. Braun’s activities. After pleading guilty to drug charges in 2011, Mr. Braun agreed to cooperate in a continuing investigation, allowing him to stay out of prison but under supervision for nine years — a period he used to establish himself as a predatory lender, making violent threats to those who owed him money, court filings show.

Since returning to predatory lending after being freed, Mr. Braun is still engaging in deceptive business tactics, regulators and customer say.

In working to secure his release, Mr. Braun’s family used a connection to Charles Kushner, the father of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, to try to get the matter before Mr. Trump. Jared Kushner’s White House office drafted the language used in the news release to announce commutations for Mr. Braun and others.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Braun said he did not know how his commutation came about.

“I believe God made it happen for me because I’m a good person and I was treated unfairly,” he said, adding that his supporters tried “multiple paths” to get him out of prison but he had no idea which one succeeded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are some takeaways from the investigation into Jonathan Braun’s pardon, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Two days after Donald J. Trump left the White House, The New York Times published a story about how one of his last acts as president had been to commute the 10-year sentence of Jonathan Braun, a marijuana smuggler who had ongoing legal problems and a reputation for making violent threats.

In his final weeks in office, Mr. Trump had used his pardon power on behalf of a parade of loyalists, as well as scores of others who were not big political names. But few of them stood out like Mr. Braun, who was still under investigation by the Justice Department in an entirely different matter: for gouging small businesses through high-interest loans.

Mr. Braun was still under investigation by the Justice Department at the time of his pardon. Here are some key points about the case.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Trump Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers seek to probe U.S. handling of 2020 election fraud claims, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 28, 2023. New court filing seeks evidence to relitigate debunked claims that election was ‘stolen,’ investigate DOJ communications with Biden, Biden’s son, and Mike Pence.

Attorneys for Donald Trump have asked a federal judge in Washington to allow them to investigate several U.S. government agencies about their handling of investigations into him and allegations of voter fraud three years ago as the former president moves to defend himself from charges that he criminally conspired to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

In court papers filed Monday, Trump’s legal team sought permission to compel prosecutors to turn over information about the FBI, national security and election integrity units of the Justice Department, as well as the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security’s response to foreign interference and other threats to the 2020 election, in what appeared to be an attempt to resuscitate his unfounded allegation that President Biden’s election victory was “stolen.”

Whether Trump genuinely believed that allegation may be a matter for trial, his lawyers wrote, but prosecutors cannot “suppress and withhold from President Trump information that supports this defense and related arguments regarding good faith and the absence of [his] criminal intent.” It was “certainly not criminal,” they added, “for President Trump to disagree with officials now favored by the prosecution and to rely instead on the independent judgment that the American people elected him to use while leading the country.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

federico klein

 

 

More On U.S. National Politics

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ny times logoNew York Times, They Fled Climate Chaos. Asylum Law Made Decades Ago Might Not Help, Miriam Jordan, Nov. 28, 2023. The legal system for refugees at the U.S. border never envisioned the millions displaced by global warming. But some are testing a climate-based argument.

First came the hurricanes — two storms, two weeks apart in 2020 — that devastated Honduras and left the country’s most vulnerable in dire need. In distant villages inhabited by Indigenous people known as the Miskito, homes were leveled and growing fields were ravaged.

Then came the drug cartels, who stepped into the vacuum left by the Honduran government, ill-equipped to respond to the catastrophe. Violence soon followed.

“Everything changed after the hurricanes, and we need protection,” Cosmi, a 36-year-old father of two, said, adding that his uncle was killed after being ordered to abandon the family plot.

Cosmi, who asked to be identified only by his first name out of concern for his family’s safety and that of relatives left behind, was staying at a squalid encampment on a spit of dirt along the river that separates Mexico and Texas. Hundreds of other Miskito were alongside him in tiny tents, all hoping to claim asylum.


ICE logo

Politico, Why Senate Dems are prepared to swallow a border policy compromise, Jennifer Haberkorn and Burgess Everett, Nov. 29, 2023. In addition to helping embattled US allies, Senate Dems believe changes could help cool border politics in battleground states ahead of 2024.

politico CustomA growing number of Senate Democrats appear open to making it harder for migrants to seek asylum in order to secure Republican support for senate democrats logoaiding Ukraine and Israel.

They are motivated not just by concern for America’s embattled allies. They also believe changes are needed to help a migration crisis that is growing more dire and to potentially dull the political sting of border politics in battleground states before the 2024 elections.

Politico, House GOP appears to have the votes to expel Santos, Olivia Beavers and Jordain Carney, Nov. 29, 2023. An internal POLITICO whip count found nearly 90 House Republicans say they plan or are likely to support voting to boot the New York Republican. That means it’s a near-certainty the indicted politico Customlawmaker will be out this week.

If all Democrats vote to boot him, as expected, then lawmakers will reach the two-thirds vote threshold required to remove the New York Republican from the House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden willing to testify publicly, lawyer says amid House GOP efforts to discredit him, Matt Viser, Nov. 28, 2023. Escalation of battle with House GOP comes in response to a subpoena for a closed-door session.

Hunter Biden is willing to testify in a public hearing before the House Oversight Committee, a lawyer for the president’s son said Tuesday.

Abbe Lowell, a lawyer representing Hunter Biden, disclosed the offer in a letter in response to a subpoena this month that is seeking a deposition, which would take place behind closed doors. It is a striking escalation in the battle between the president’s son and congressional Republicans, who have focused on his past business dealings and have launched impeachment hearings aimed at President Biden.
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Lowell’s three-page letter cited past comments from Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the committee, that essentially dared Hunter Biden to come and testify in public.

“Mr. Chairman, we take you up on your offer,” Lowell wrote, in a copy of the letter reviewed by The Washington Post. “Accordingly, our client will get right to it by agreeing to answer any pertinent and relevant question you or your colleagues might have, but — rather than subscribing to your cloaked, one-sided process — he will appear at a public Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing.”

“A public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements,” Lowell added.

In a statement later Tuesday morning, Comer indicated that he would not comply with Biden’s request that the deposition be done in public.

“Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” he said. “That won’t stand with House Republicans.”

The committee expects Hunter Biden to appear for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 13, Comer said, adding that “Hunter Biden should have opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”

Much of the letter from Lowell is combative, citing past statements from Comer and noting that the chairman has never taken Lowell up on offers to hold a meeting.

“Your empty investigation has gone on too long wasting too many better-used resources. It should come to an end,” Lowell wrote. “Consequently, Mr. Biden will appear at such a public hearing on the date you noticed, December 13, or any date in December that we can arrange.”

The committee has asked James Biden to appear for an interview on Dec. 6 and Hunter Biden to appear on Dec. 13.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandy Hook families offer Alex Jones a deal to settle $1.5 billion debt, Timothy Bella, Nov. 28, 2023. The families of victims of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School have offered Infowars founder Alex Jones a deal to settle the $1.5 billion debt for only 6 percent of what he owes them for saying the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax, according to a new court filing.

The settlement offer, which was filed in Jones’s personal bankruptcy case in Houston last week, calls for the right-wing conspiracy theorist to pay the families at least $85 million over 10 years. Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote that Jones could either liquidate his estate and give the proceeds to creditors, or pay the families at least $8.5 million a year for 10 years — and 50 percent of any income over $9 million a year — to settle his debt.

While lawyers described the proposal as a viable way to help resolve the bankruptcy cases that Jones faces for himself and his company, Free Speech Systems, the attorneys for the victims slammed the Infowars founder for failing to curb his spending, change his “extravagant lifestyle,” or failing to produce financial documents in court. Jones’s personal spending between May and July of this year was $242,219, including more than $93,000 in July alone, according to previous court filings.

“Jones has failed in every way to serve as the fiduciary mandated by the Bankruptcy Code in exchange for the breathing spell he has enjoyed for almost a year,” lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote in the settlement offer filing, which The Post obtained. “His time is up.”

Vickie L. Driver, Jones’s personal bankruptcy attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning. In a Monday court hearing, Driver suggested that even though the settlement offer was only pennies on the dollar compared to the $1.5 billion he owes, the figure was still too high and that it was unrealistic that he would be able to pay it.

“There are no financials that will ever show that Mr. Jones ever made that … in 10 years,” Driver said, according to the Associated Press.

The offer comes more than a year after Sandy Hook families were awarded nearly $1.5 billion in liabilities for Jones’s false theories about the 2012 school shooting. Jones, 49, is appealing the rulings in Connecticut and Texas, arguing that he didn’t get fair trials. The order came after the families testified about years of threats and harassment from Jones’s followers, who accused family members of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the mass shooting.

After Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, filed for bankruptcy in July 2022, Jones did the same last December, marking $969 million in bankruptcy claims that he owed to 17 people in the Sandy Hook cases as “disputed.” Jones claimed his estimated debts to be between $1 billion and $10 billion, and said last year that his debts were primarily business debts and that he owed an estimated 50 to 99 creditors. At the time, he estimated his assets to be worth between $1 million and $10 million.

Within a year of filing for bankruptcy, Jones reported that he paid more than $1.3 million in debts that he owed to people classified as “insiders,” which include any relatives or business partners. Among those listed is Erika Wulff Jones, whom he married in 2017 and with whom he has a child. Alex Jones reported paying his wife more than $680,800 as part of what’s listed as a “premarital agreement.”

Jones is still broadcasting and continues to tell his Infowars audience that he has money problems, urging them to buy his products to support his cause. Jones recently asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez for permission to sell his personal possessions, such as SUVs, boats and 49 firearms, to Infowars fans to help pay “administrative claims and reduce cost to maintain certain personal property, particularly those stored in various storage facilities.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Donations to GOP drop as worries mount about the party’s finances, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered ahead of the 2024 elections.

The Republican Party’s finances are increasingly worrisome to party members, advisers to former president Donald Trump, and other operatives involved in the 2024 election effort, according to 10 people familiar with the matter.

rnc logoThe Republican National Committee disclosed that it had $9.1 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 30, the lowest amount for the RNC in any Federal Election Commission report since February 2015. That compares with about $20 million at the same point in the 2016 election cycle and about $61 million four years ago, when Trump was in the White House.

The Democratic National Committee reported having $17.7 million as of Oct. 30, almost twice as much as the Republican Party, with one year before the election.

“It’s a revenue problem,” Tennessee RNC member Oscar Brock said. “We’re going through the same efforts we always go through to raise money: the same donor meetings, retreats, digital advertising, direct mail. But the return is much lower this year. If you know the answer, I’d love to know it. The staff has managed to tighten down on expenses to keep the party from going into the red.”

Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered, according to people familiar with the party’s finances, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party details. Some donors aren’t giving to the RNC because they think that will help Trump, which they don’t want to do, these people said, while others have said they prefer to wait until 2024 to give. Some have grown frustrated with the party’s leadership, people close to major donors said.

The party cut certain expenditures this year after projected money did not come in, according to people familiar with the decisions.

An RNC spokeswoman said the party has nonetheless deployed staff in 15 swing states to start working on get-out-the-vote efforts and election monitoring. The party is also pursuing 70 lawsuits in 19 states challenging voting rules and is encouraging Republicans to use early voting and mail ballots — methods Trump and his allies have disparaged, even as McDaniel repeatedly touts the importance of the “Bank Your Vote” initiative.

ny times logoNew York Times, Members of Congress Head for the Exits, Many Citing Dysfunction, Kayla Guo, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). More than three dozen incumbents will not seek re-election next year. Some are running for other offices, while others intend to leave Congress altogether.

Eleven are running for the Senate. Five for state or local office. One for president of the United States. Another is resigning to become a university president. And more and more say they are hanging up their hats in public office altogether.

U.S. House logoMore than three dozen members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election next year, some to pursue other offices and many others simply to get out of Washington. Twelve have announced their plans just this month.

The wave of lawmakers across chambers and parties announcing they intend to leave Congress comes at a time of breathtaking dysfunction on Capitol Hill, primarily instigated by House Republicans. The House G.O.P. majority spent the past few months deposing its leader, waging a weekslong internal war to select a new speaker and struggling to keep federal funding flowing. Right-wing members have rejected any spending legislation that could become law and railed against their new leader for turning to Democrats, as his predecessor did, to avert a government shutdown.

The chaos has Republicans increasingly worried that they could lose their slim House majority next year, a concern that typically prompts a rash of retirements from the party in control. But it is not only G.O.P. lawmakers who are opting to leave; Democrats, too, are rushing for the exits, with retirements across parties this year outpacing those of the past three election cycles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are the members of Congress who are giving up their seats, setting up a 2024 fight, Robert Jimison, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  The fight for control of Congress could be heavily influenced by the already large number of members retiring or seeking higher office. Few of the departures that have been announced are expected to alter the balance of power in the closely divided House, where the vast majority of seats are gerrymandered to be safe for one of the two political parties, or in the Senate. But a handful are already putting crucial seats up for grabs.

Many of those who are leaving are expressing frustration about the polarization and paralysis that has gripped the institution particularly this year, as House Republicans, dominated by their far-right flank, have struggled to do the basic business of governing and feuded over who should lead them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mike Johnson’s rise to House speaker cements the far-right takeover of the G.O.P., Carl Hulse, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). After their party was decimated in the 2008 elections, mainstream Republican leaders believed they could harness rising far-right populist forces. Instead, they were overrun by them.

The roots of the Republican crackup this fall that paralyzed the House, fueled the unexpected rise of Speaker Mike Johnson and now threatens to force a government shutdown crisis early next year lie in a fateful choice the party made more than a decade ago that has come back to haunt its leaders.

In early 2009, congressional Republicans were staring down a long exile in the political wilderness. Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and Democrats were within reach of a filibuster-proof, 60-vote supermajority in the Senate and the largest House majority in more than 20 years after the economic crisis of 2008.

djt maga hatBut Republicans saw a glimmer of hope in the energized far-right populist movement that emerged out of a backlash to Mr. Obama — the first Black president — and his party’s aggressive economic and social agenda, which included a federal health care plan. Republicans seized on the Tea Party and associated groups, with their nativist leanings and vehemently anti-establishment impulses, as their ticket back to power.

“We benefited from the anger that was generated against the one-way legislation of the Obama years,” said Eric Cantor, the former House leader from Virginia who became the No. 2 Republican after the 2010 midterm elections catapulted the party back into the majority. “It was my way or the highway.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Has No Labels Become a Stalking Horse for Trump? Thomas B. Edsall, right, Nov. 29, 2023. No Labels, a Washington-based organization run thomas edsallby political and corporate insiders, finds itself in an awkward situation.

After its founding in 2010, the group was praised by moderates in both parties as a force for cooperation and consensus. Now however, No Labels is the target of criticism because of its plan to place a presidential and vice-presidential nominee of its own choosing on the 2024 ballot — a step that could tip the outcome in favor of Donald Trump, if he once again wins the Republican nomination.

No Labels officials contend that their polling suggests that their ticket could win.Numerous factors exacerbate the suspicion that whatever its intentions are (or were), the organization has functionally become an asset to the Trump campaign and a threat to the re-election of Joe Biden.

Leaks to the media that prominent Republican donors, including Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’s benefactor, are contributing to No Labels — which is well on its way to raising $70 million — suggest that some major donors to No Labels see the organization as a means to promote Republican goals.

No Labels, in turn, has declined to disclose its donors and the secrecy has served to intensify the concern that some of its contributors are using the organization’s plan to run a third-party ticket to weaken the Biden campaign.

The founder and chief executive of No Labels, Nancy Jacobson, was previously a prominent Democratic fund-raiser. She is married to Mark Penn, a consultant and pollster for Bill and Hillary Clinton, from both of whom Penn eventually became alienated.

During the Trump presidency, Penn publicly voiced support for Trump’s policies on a number of key issues, in newspaper columns and during appearances on Fox News. Penn is chief executive and chairman of Stagwell Inc., which in turn owns a polling firm, HarrisX, that conducts surveys for No Labels. Penn says he has “no role, real or imagined, in this No Labels effort.”

The fear in many quarters — from Republican consultants who are members of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project to Democrats of all ideological stripes — is that if the No Labels’ third-party campaign is carried out, it will help elect Trump.

An NBC survey in September found that the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot would shift the outcome from a 46-46 tie to a three point 39-36 Trump advantage over Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Haley, Rise in Polls Feeds Voter Enthusiasm on Trail, Jazmine Ulloa, Nov. 29, 2023. The crowds are bigger and voters are warming up to her candidacy, but Nikki Haley still faces a daunting task in taking down the front-runner, Donald Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Koch Network Endorses Nikki Haley in Bid to Push G.O.P. Past Trump, Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Swan, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The support will fortify Ms. Haley as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for the No. 2 spot in the Republican presidential field.

nikki haley oThe political network founded by the Koch brothers is endorsing Nikki Haley, right, in the Republican presidential primary race, giving her organizational muscle and financial heft as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for second place in Iowa.

The group announced its plans in a memo on Tuesday.

The commitment by the network, Americans for Prosperity Action, bolsters Ms. Haley as the campaign enters the final seven weeks before the first nominating contest. Since the first Republican primary debate, Ms. Haley has steadily climbed in polls, and is closely competing with Mr. DeSantis for the second-place slot in Iowa. Former President Donald J. Trump remains the dominant front-runner in the race.

Ms. Haley, who has described Mr. Trump’s time as past, has gained support from donors and her candidacy has received approval from elite opinion-makers, many of whom describe her as the best alternative to Mr. Trump.

Americans for Prosperity Action has been among the country’s largest spenders on anti-Trump material this year, buying online ads and sending mailers to voters in a number of states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. All told, the group has spent more than $9 million in independent expenditures opposing Mr. Trump.

One mailer in Iowa, paid for by AFP Action, shows images of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden and reads, “You can stop Biden…by letting go of Trump.”

But so far none of that spending has benefited any of his rivals, who have been busily battling each other.

  • Washington Post, Biden highlights Trump’s renewed effort to shelve Affordable Care Act, Nov. 28, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: DeSantis PAC snips and clips its way to falsehood in attacking Haley, Glenn Kessler, Nov. 28, 2023. “We know her as ‘crooked Hillary.’ But to Nikki Haley, she’s her role model — the reason she ran for office.”

— voice-over from an attack ad aired by Fight Right, Inc., a new super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), aired Nov. 21
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With former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley rising in the polls to emerge as a (distant) second-place finisher in the Republican primaries behind former president Donald Trump, allies of DeSantis have begun to attack her as a Hillary Clinton-loving liberal.

This ad — with the tagline “Nikki’s not who she says” — is the first of what the group promises will be an effort “to shed light on the failed records and leadership of Governor DeSantis’s opponents.” The ad ends by urging viewers to visit TheRealNikki.com, a website paid for by the DeSantis campaign and claiming that Haley is “supportive of every liberal cause under the sun.”

That’s a stretch. When Haley was elected governor in 2011, she was perceived as a darling of the tea party, the conservative activists who paved the way for Trump to take over the GOP. She was also U.N. ambassador under Trump.

This ad is yet another example of how attack ads are crafted to present a misleading narrative. Haley has made no secret of the fact that an appearance by Clinton at a women’s professional event in Greenville, S.C., — at a time when, by her account, many people were giving Haley reasons not to seek public office — was a galvanizing event that gave her the confidence to enter politics.

 

iowa map

ny times logoNew York Times, In Countdown to Iowa, Trump Is Coasting as DeSantis and Haley Clash, Shane Goldmacher, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are running low on time to make a statement in Iowa’s caucuses and stop Donald Trump from delivering an early knockout blow.

The Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the Republican nominating calendar, are poised to play an especially consequential role in 2024. But with only 49 days to go, Donald J. Trump’s top rivals are running out of time to catch him as Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley thrash each other in the final sprint to the starting line.

Far ahead in national polls, Mr. Trump is aiming for an emphatic victory on Jan. 15 in Iowa that could serve as an early knockout punch. He leads in public surveys in the state by a margin twice as large as the most competitive contest in the last 50 years.

ron desantis hands out

Mr. DeSantis, above, the Florida governor, is betting on Iowa to pierce Mr. Trump’s growing aura of inevitability — and to reassert himself as the main rival to short-circuit Mr. Trump’s third run for president. Mr. DeSantis, who won the backing of the state’s popular Republican governor, has been barnstorming across all of Iowa’s 99 counties, bolstered by an army of door knockers paid for by his related super PAC.

On Saturday, Mr. DeSantis will visit his final county with an event in Newton held at the Thunderdome, a venue whose name appropriately captures the increasing acrimony and intensity of the race in the state. Mr. Trump will be in Cedar Rapids that same day.

For much of the year, the DeSantis team had insisted the 2024 primary was a two-man race. But Ms. Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, has ridden the momentum of her debate performances to transform it into a two-man-plus-one-woman contest.

“The more people see of Nikki Haley the more they like her,” said Betsy Ankney, Ms. Haley’s campaign manager. “The more they see Ron DeSantis, the less they like him.”

Now Ms. Haley, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Underestimate me — that’ll be fun” to the Iowa State Fair, is seeking to snuff out Mr. DeSantis at the very start. If she can best Mr. DeSantis in Iowa, his strongest early state, her team believes Ms. Haley would be positioned to emerge as the singular Trump alternative when the calendar turns to two friendlier terrains — New Hampshire, where she has polled in second place, and her home state, South Carolina, where she served as governor.

Revealingly, Ms. Haley’s allied super PAC has spent $3.5 million on ads and other expenditures attacking Mr. DeSantis in the last two months in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to federal records, but not a dollar explicitly opposing Mr. Trump despite his dominant overall lead.

Axios, Romney: Most Democrats would be an "upgrade" from Trump, Shauneen Miranda, Nov. 26-27, 2023. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Friday he would be happy to vote for a Democrat in the 2024 presidential race, which he thinks would be an "upgrade" from former President Trump.

axios logoWhy it matters: Romney, one of Trump's most vocal critics within the GOP, has repeatedly sparred with the former president, who remains the 2024 Republican Party front-runner for the White House.

President Donald Trump officialWhat he's saying: "I'd be happy to support virtually any one of the Republicans, maybe not Vivek [Ramaswamy], but the others that are running would be acceptable to me, and I'd be happy to vote for them," Romney said Friday in an interview with CBS' Norah O'Donnell when asked who in the GOP he supports.

"I'd be happy to vote for a number of the Democrats, too. I mean, it would be an upgrade, in my opinion, from Donald Trump and perhaps also from Joe Biden," Romney said.

djt maga hatThe Utah Republican said he thinks independent candidates are likely to elect Trump and that if he were re-elected, it would be "devastating for our country and his character."

Romney also clarified he would not be running for president in 2024 — even as an independent — and would only run "perhaps if Godzilla comes in and removes all the other candidates and so forth."

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djt ron desantis cnn collage

 

Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Gold Bars and Tokyo Apartments: How Money Is Flowing Out of China, Keith Bradsher and Joy Dong, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Chinese families are sending money overseas, a sign of unease about the country’s economic and political future. A cheaper currency is also helping exports.

China FlagAffluent Chinese have moved hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country this year, seizing on the end of Covid precautions that had almost completely sealed China’s borders for nearly three years.

They are using their savings to buy overseas apartments, stocks and insurance policies. Able to fly again to Tokyo, London and New York, Chinese travelers have bought apartments in Japan and poured money into accounts in the United States or Europe that pay higher interest than in China, where rates are low and falling.

The outbound shift of money in part indicates unease inside China about the sputtering recovery after the pandemic as well as deeper problems, like an alarming slowdown in real estate, the main storehouse of wealth for families. For some people, it is also a reaction to fears about the direction of the economy under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has cracked down on business and strengthened the government’s hand in many aspects of society.

In some cases, Chinese are improvising to get around China’s strict government controls on transferring money overseas. They have bought gold bars small enough to be scattered unobtrusively through carry-on luggage, as well as large stacks of foreign currency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why are there only 350 Americans studying in China? Vivian Wang, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The flow of students between the countries has been a mainstay of their relationship, even when ties have soured. Now these exchanges, too, are under threat.

On a cool Saturday morning, in a hotel basement in Beijing, throngs of young Chinese gathered to do what millions had done before them: dream of an American education.

China FlagAt a college fair organized by the United States Embassy, the students and their parents hovered over rows of booths advertising American universities. As a mascot of a bald eagle worked the crowd, they posed eagerly for photos.

But beneath the festive atmosphere thrummed a note of anxiety. Did America still want Chinese students? And were Chinese students sure they wanted to go to America?

“We see the negative news, so it’s better to be careful,” said Zhuang Tao, the father of a college senior considering graduate school in the United States, Australia and Britain. He had read the frequent headlines about gun violence, anti-Asian discrimination and, of course, tensions between the United States and China, at one of their highest levels in decades. “After all, the entire situation is a bit complicated.”

Students have been traveling between China and the United States for generations, propelled by ambition, curiosity and a belief that their time abroad could help them better their and their countries’ futures. The first Chinese student to graduate from an American university, Yung Wing, arrived at Yale in 1850 and later helped send 120 more students to America.

The trickle became a steady stream: For nearly the past two decades, Chinese students have made up the largest share of international students in the United States. And for Americans, until the coronavirus pandemic, China was the most popular destination for study abroad outside of Western Europe, according to an annual State Department-funded survey. Students have been an anchor in the two countries’ relations, even when political or economic ties have soured.

But that anchor is now under threat. For the last three years, the number of Chinese students in the United States has fallen, according to the State Department survey. The number of American students in China, meanwhile, plummeted during the pandemic to a mere 350 as of this year, the American Embassy has said, compared to more than 11,000 in 2019.

Both Beijing and Washington have acknowledged the importance of restoring exchanges. During his trip to San Francisco this month, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, declared that China was “ready to invite” 50,000 Americans to study in China over the next five years. The American ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, has insisted that the United States welcomes Chinese students.

ap logoAssociated Press, Pope punishes leading critic Cardinal Burke in second action against conservative American prelates, Nicole Winfield, Nov. 28, 2023. Pope Francis met separately on Wednesday with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and relatives of Palestinians currently in Gaza.

pope francis uncropped 3 13Pope Francis has decided to punish one of his highest-ranking critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, by revoking his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary in the second such radical action against a conservative American prelate this month, according to two people briefed on the measures.

Francis told a meeting of the heads of Vatican offices last week that he was moving against Burke because he was a source of “disunity” in the church, said one of the participants at the Nov. 20 meeting. The participant spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the contents of the encounter.

Francis said he was removing Burke’s privileges of having a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary as a retired cardinal because he was using the privileges against the church, said another person who was subsequently briefed on the pope’s measures. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the details.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vietnam Is Jailing Environmentalists Who Helped It Secure Billions, Sui-Lee Wee, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The government is preparing to present its energy transition plan at the U.N. climate talks as it intensifies a crackdown on environmental advocates.

vietnam flagWhen Vietnam was awarded a multibillion-dollar deal by a group of nine wealthy nations last year to work on reducing its use of coal, it agreed to regularly consult with nongovernmental organizations.

Instead, the government has arrested several prominent environmentalists from those organizations who shaped policies that helped secure the funding, prompting concerns over sending money to countries that have violated human rights.

As the country prepares to announce how it will spend the money at the United Nations climate talks that begin on Thursday, activists are saying that Vietnamese officials need to be held accountable for what they are calling a harsh crackdown against those who speak out about the country’s environmental woes.

Ngo Thi To Nhien, the director of an energy think tank, was the sixth environmental campaigner to be detained in the past two years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battle for Influence Rages in Heart of Wagner’s Operations in Africa, lian Peltier, Photographs by Jim Huylebroek, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The death of the mercenary group’s leader has created a window of opportunity in the Central African Republic for Western powers to offer an alternative.

In palmier times, the leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, appeared at a Russian cultural center in the capital of the Central African Republic, sitting with schoolchildren and promising them free laptops.

But Mr. Prigozhin’s death in August has rattled the mercenary group’s once-cozy relations with the Central African Republic, which is now weighing offers from Russia and Western countries, including the United States, to replace Wagner as its primary security guarantor.

The outcome of this struggle could be a bellwether for the group’s future on the continent, where the Central African Republic is perhaps the most deeply enmeshed among the handful of African nations partnering with Wagner.

The Russian Defense Ministry has sought to absorb some of Wagner’s activities, while preserving its influence and maintaining its wealth of knowledge about the continent. But a senior Western diplomat said that the uncertainty around Wagner in the Central African Republic provided a “window of opportunity” for the United States and France to counter Russian influence.

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Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Navy Rescues Ship From Pirate Attack in Gulf of Aden, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The United States is investigating whether Iran was involved in the incident. Hours after the attack, two missiles were fired at the Navy ship involved in the rescue.

The U.S. Navy intervened to stop the hijacking of a commercial cargo ship by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia on Sunday, after which two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward the Navy destroyer that responded to the incident, the U.S. military said.

The ballistic missiles were fired from the part of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the region. If the missiles were meant to hit the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, they fell well short of the mark: They landed in the Gulf of Aden 10 nautical miles from the American ship.

The U.S.S. Mason, and other ships from the U.S.-led counter-piracy task force that operates off the coast of Somalia, responded after the crew of the commercial ship, the Central Park, called for help. The Central Park crew reported they were under attack from an unknown entity, U.S. Central Command said.

When the coalition vessels arrived at the Central Park, they demanded the release of the ship. Five armed people fled from the ship and attempted to flee in the small boat they had used to attack the cargo ship. The U.S.S. Mason pursued the attackers and forced them to surrender, the news release said. Fox News reported the rescue earlier.

Later, at about 1:41 a.m. local time on Monday, more than 16 hours after the initial attack, two ballistic missiles were fired toward the U.S.S. Mason, which was “concluding its response” to the attack at the time.

U.S. officials would not say who was responsible for the attack and if the five-person group was acting under the orders of a state or group. But officials said that they are investigating whether Iran was involved, or if it was an attack unrelated to the regional tensions that have intensified since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which prompted Israel to launch a war against the militant group in Gaza.

Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran in the war in Yemen, attacked several commercial vessels last week in the Red Sea — a body of water next to the Gulf of Aden — including the Central Park. The Houthis and other groups backed by Iran, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, have increased attacks on Israel since Oct. 7.

Officials said it is not clear if the attackers were the same group that attempted to take the ship earlier. While the Houthi rebels struck in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden where the Central Park was attacked is far from their area of operations. One U.S. official and one former Pentagon official said Iranian involvement in the operation is being investigated.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, US military Osprey aircraft with 6 aboard crashes off southern Japan, at least 1 dead, Staff Report, Nov. 29, 2023. A crew member who was recovered from the ocean after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft carrying six people crashed Wednesday off southern Japan has been pronounced dead, coast guard officials said.

politico CustomThe cause of the crash and the status of the five others on the aircraft were not immediately known, coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa said. Initial reports said the aircraft was carrying eight people, but the U.S. military later revised the number to six, he said.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Justices Search for Middle Ground on Mandatory Sentences for Gun Crimes, Adam Liptak, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A federal law imposes a mandatory 15-year sentence for possessing a gun after committing three serious drug offenses. But which offenses count? The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday over which drug offenses trigger mandatory 15-year sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which is a kind of federal three-strikes law.

The justices had three choices. By the end of the arguments, most of them seemed to have settled on a middle ground.

The law imposes the mandatory sentences on people convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms if they had already committed three violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The question for the justices was how to determine which drug offenses count under the law, which refers to a schedule of controlled substances overseen by the attorney general.

That schedule is revised from time to time, giving rise to the puzzle in the case.

Depending on which version of the schedule applies, a state drug conviction may or may not count as a strike under the federal gun law. Lawyers in the two consolidated cases on Monday gave the justices three options for deciding which schedule applied: the one in force when the defendant committed the state drug offense, the one in place when the defendant committed the federal gun crime or the one that applied when the defendant was sentenced for the federal gun crime.

A federal appeals court ruled that the middle choice — the schedule in place when he committed the federal gun crime — was the one that counted, affirming the 15-year mandatory sentence.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court ruled that Arizona lawmakers must testify about state voting laws requiring proof of citizenship, Adam Liptak
Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Two Republican lawmakers had argued that they could not be questioned about their motives for supporting the laws, which require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that two Arizona lawmakers must testify about their reasons for supporting state laws requiring proof of citizenship for voting in federal elections.

The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. No dissents were noted.

The Justice Department, the Democratic National Committee, civil rights groups and others had challenged the state laws, saying they violated federal laws and had been enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

After Arizona’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, a Democrat, declined to defend aspects of the laws, Ben Toma, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Warren Petersen, the president of the Arizona Senate, both Republicans, intervened to defend it.

Lawmakers are ordinarily shielded by a legislative privilege from inquiries into their motives for sponsoring or voting for legislation. In September, Judge Susan R. Bolton, of the Federal District Court in Arizona, ruled that a different analysis applied when lawmakers voluntarily injected themselves into a litigation.

“The speaker and president each waived their privilege by intervening to ‘fully defend’ the voting laws and putting their motives at issue,” Judge Bolton wrote, adding that the two legislators could be compelled to testify about their activities.

At first, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked Judge Bolton’s ruling but later lifted its stay, allowing depositions of the men to proceed. The lawmakers then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“Unless the court issues an immediate stay,” they told the justices in an emergency application, “the legislative leaders will quickly find themselves between the mythical Scylla and Charybdis: They’ll either need to submit to improper depositions or refuse to do so and expose themselves to potential sanctions and contempt charges. Either choice brings serious consequences that can’t be corrected.”
In response, lawyers for the Democratic National Committee wrote that the lawmakers were trying to have it both ways by arguing that the laws were not the product of discriminatory intent but refusing to be questioned about the matter. That, they wrote, is “wholly foreign to foundational principles of our adversarial judicial system, and to basic fairness.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Quiet Blockbuster at the Supreme Court That Could Impact All Americans, Kate Shaw, Nov. 22, 2023. Some Supreme Court terms are characterized by a single blockbuster case. This term largely revolves around a single blockbuster question: Will our government retain the capacity to address the most pressing issues of our time?

That’s what’s at stake in a group of cases involving the power, capacity and in some instances the very existence of federal agencies, the entities responsible for carrying out so much of the work of government.

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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Law Requires a Choice: Marijuana or a Gun? Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 29, 2023. Legal challenges are pending across the country against a federal law that prevents medical marijuana users from buying or owning firearms.

There are relatively few limitations at the federal level on who is eligible to purchase or possess firearms and ammunition. The national background check system looks for issues like a criminal conviction, mental health problems, a dishonorable military discharge, unlawful immigration status or a domestic violence restraining order.

But even as a growing number of states have legalized marijuana, either for recreational or medical use, participating in a state’s medical marijuana system remains a barrier to gun ownership.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Chicken Tycoons vs. the Antitrust Hawks, H. Claire Brown, Nov. 29, 2023.As part of a campaign against anticompetitive practices, the Biden administration has taken on the chicken industry. Why have the results been so paltry?

ny times logoNew York Times, Wife of Gilgo Beach Suspect Gets a Documentary Deal, Corey Kilgannon, Nov. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Rex Heuermann is accused of killing three women. The commercialization of such a depraved case has rankled victims’ families.

After Rex Heuermann was arrested in July and accused of slaughtering women found bound in burlap and buried along a desolate stretch of Gilgo Beach, his family was left reeling and destitute.

With their dilapidated Massapequa Park ranch house turned inside out by investigators, Mr. Heuermann’s wife, Asa Ellerup, and their two grown children were left to sleep on mats and cook on a grill in the front yard in full view of news crews and true-crime gawkers. Things got so bad that the daughter of a West Coast serial killer created an online fund-raiser.

But where some saw evil, depravity and tragedy, media companies saw pay dirt, swooping in with lucrative bids to turn the whole thing into content.

Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBCUniversal, is paying the family to participate in a documentary series covering the family through Mr. Heuermann’s trial, which is likely to begin next year.

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Stabbing of Derek Chauvin Raises Questions About Inmate Safety, Glenn Thrush and Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The ex-officer, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was being held in a federal prison for high-profile inmates. He is said to be likely to survive.

The stabbing on Friday of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd in 2020, at a special unit inside a Tucson, Ariz., prison is the latest in a series of attacks against high-profile inmates in the troubled, short-staffed federal Bureau of Prisons.

The assault comes less than five months after Larry Nassar, the doctor convicted of sexually abusing young female gymnasts, was stabbed multiple times at the federal prison in Florida. It also follows the release of Justice Department reports detailing incompetence and mismanagement at federal detention centers that led to the deaths in recent years of James Bulger, the Boston gangster known as Whitey, and Jeffrey Epstein, who had been charged with sex trafficking.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, though the bureau did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. The agency said in a statement that the inmate required “life-saving measures” before being rushed to a hospital emergency room nearby. The office of Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general who prosecuted the former police officer, identified the inmate as Mr. Chauvin.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Today’s Migrant Crisis Looks Like to a Holocaust Refugee, Joseph Berger, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Read a firsthand account of one of the 140,000 Jewish refugees who fled postwar Europe and arrived in New York City.

Even with New York’s complicated history as a port for new arrivals, the photographs this summer of more than a hundred migrants sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk outside the once-elegant Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan were shocking. So were scenes of young migrants idling on sidewalks, stoops and park benches, desperate to work but legally prohibited from doing so.

For those of us who were once part of such a moment, the scenes stirred up memories and reflections on how different some things were now for new arrivals and how much they were the same. I, too, was once part of a migrant influx.

In the years after the end of World War II, New York City absorbed a similar wave of immigrants — a large majority of the 140,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors who came to America between 1946 and 1953 — and it did so comparatively smoothly and uneventfully. These immigrants were eager to get on with their lives but were still in shock or heartbroken from the brutalities they had suffered, the parents and siblings they had lost, and the hometowns they could no longer return to.

Those who had no relatives to stay with were put up in 14 hotels that had seen better days as well as in a shelter hacked out of the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street, which is now the Public Theater.

My family was among those immigrants, having spent the previous four years waiting for visas to the United States while idling in two camps for so-called displaced persons in the American zone in occupied Germany. After a rocky voyage on a merchant marine vessel called the U.S.S. General A.W. Greely, my parents, my brother and I arrived on March 3, 1950, at a pier on West 21st Street. My brother Josh was not yet 3. I was 5.

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More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Love Avocados. It’s Killing Mexico’s Forests, Simon Romero and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Photographs by César Rodríguez, Nov. 28, 2023. Illegal deforestation for avocado crops points to a blood-soaked trade with the United States involving threats, abductions and killings.

In western Mexico forests are being razed at a breakneck pace and while deforestation in places like the Amazon rainforest or Borneo is driven by cattle ranching, gold mining and palm oil farms, in this hot spot, it is fueled by the voracious appetite in the United States for avocados.

A combination of interests, including criminal gangs, landowners, corrupt local officials and community leaders, are involved in clearing forests for avocado orchards, in some cases illegally seizing privately owned land. Virtually all the deforestation for avocados in the last two decades may have violated Mexican law, which prohibits “land-use change” without government authorization.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Will Skip U.N. Climate Summit, White House Official Says, Lisa Friedman and Jim Tankersley, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden has attended the past two summits and calls climate change “the ultimate threat,” but he will miss the talks beginning in Dubai on Thursday.

President Biden will not attend a major United Nations climate summit that begins Thursday in Dubai, skipping an event expected to be attended by King Charles III, Pope Francis and leaders from nearly 200 countries, a White House official said Sunday.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss the president’s schedule, did not give a reason Mr. Biden will not make an appearance at the two-week summit, known as COP28.

But senior White House aides suggested that the war between Israel and Hamas had consumed the president in recent weeks and days, as he pressed for a pause in fighting and release of hostages held by Hamas.

“They’ve got the war in the Middle East and a war in Ukraine, a bunch of things going on,” John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s special envoy for climate change, said last week. Mr. Kerry and his team will be in Dubai.

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More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

 

 

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Politico, NATO vows to stick with Ukraine ‘as long as it takes,’ Stuart Lau, Nov. 29, 2023. We are pretty much becoming a de facto NATO army,” Ukraine’s foreign minister says in his first NATO-Ukraine Council meeting.

politico CustomNATO's foreign ministers Wednesday agreed to step up work with Ukraine on a wide range of security issues, in a bid to show solidarity amid distractions from the war between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement, NATO allies vowed to "remain steadfast in their commitment to further step up political and practical support to Ukraine" and said they "will continue their support for as long as it takes," after a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels.

"We are increasing our interoperability with NATO," Kuleba said, ahead of the first foreign ministerial-level NATO-Ukraine Council meeting. "We are pretty much becoming a de facto NATO army, in terms of our technical capacity, management approaches and principles of running an army."

Politico, Sweden says Turkey pledges to ratify its NATO bid ‘within weeks,’ Stuart Lau, Nov. 29, 2023. ‘There were no new demands from the Turkish government,’ says Foreign Minister Tobias Billström.

politico CustomTurkey has promised Sweden it will ratify its bid to join NATO "within weeks," Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said Wednesday.

Referring to his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan, with whom he spoke on Tuesday, Billström said: "He told me that he expected the ratification to take place within weeks. And of course, we don’t take anything for granted from the side of Sweden, but we look forward to this being completed."

Swedish flagThe Turkish parliament's foreign affairs commission recently abruptly postponed a session to vote on Sweden's accession bid.

According to Billström, the top Turkish envoy didn't put forward any new conditions in the conversation. "There were no new demands from the Turkish government, so we look [at] our part as being fulfilled," he told reporters at the NATO foreign ministerial meeting.

Apart from Turkey, Hungary has also not ratified Sweden's membership status in the alliance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Women Protest Long Deployments for Soldiers in Ukraine, Neil MacFarquhar and Milana Mazaeva, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). “Make way for someone else,” a grass-roots movement demands as women challenge the argument that the mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely.

Russian FlagThe woman in the video, her face blurred, gave a blunt assessment of Russian military policy: Soldiers mobilized over a year ago to fight in Ukraine deserved to come home. Why weren’t they?

“Our mobilized became the best army in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this army should stay there to the last man,” she said. “If he did something heroic, spilled blood for his country sincerely, then maybe it was time to return to his family, make way for someone else, but that’s not happening.”

The speaker was part of a new, grass-roots movement that has been gathering steam in Russia over the past several weeks. Women in various cities are seeking to stage public protests, challenging the official argument that mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely to secure their Russian homeland.

ny times logoNew York Times, A massive storm battered southern Ukraine, causing havoc for civilians and soldiers, Marc Santora, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

A powerful wintry storm battered southern Ukraine on Monday, washing away Russian coastal defenses from some beaches on the occupied Crimean peninsula. The storm, which Ukrainian meteorologists said was among the most intense in decades, snarled supply routes for both countries’ armies and deepened the misery of tens of thousands of soldiers huddled in shallow trenches across the sprawling front line.

ukraine flagAs temperatures plunged below freezing across much of the country, hundreds of thousands of civilians were left without power in Russian-occupied territories and tens of thousands more lost power across southern Ukraine.

All the hardships that a winter storm typically delivers were compounded and complicated by the exigencies of war. A blizzard of snow, for example, stranded civilians on roads while complicating the movement of humanitarian aid to communities across Ukraine ravaged by fighting.

Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea — as less violent storms have done in the past — complicating the navigation of already dangerous shipping lanes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia held these Ukrainian teens captive. Their testimonies could be used against Putin, Siobhán O'Grady and Anastacia Galouchka, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Ukraine intends to use the teens’ testimony as evidence that Russia is systematically removing Ukrainian children from their homes and culture.

Russian FlagThe Russian missing child poster went up in Crimea soon after Rostyslav Lavrov escaped last month.

“HELP FIND,” it read. “17 years old, born 2006 … Height 160 cm, thin build, dark hair, blue eyes.”

“Anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of the teenager is asked to report this.”

The attached photo — which Lavrov said was taken several months ago when Russian authorities holding him against his will tried to issue him a Russian ID card — showed the Ukrainian teen sullen in a white shirt and tie.

He is one of three Ukrainian teenagers who fled Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea this summer and shared their experiences with The Washington Post in lengthy interviews in Kyiv and Kherson. They each described systematic efforts by Russian officials to keep them in Russian-controlled territory.

Ukraine says there are thousands of Ukrainian children like Lavrov who were forced to move to Russia or Russian-occupied territory, including Crimea, since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. What makes Lavrov exceptional is that he got out, carrying with him memories of his experience that could one day be used in court to prove Russia committed war crimes by relocating children.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Consumers, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike Changed the Labor Movement, Kurtis Lee, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The 1968 action led to greater economic mobility for Black workers. Today, union activists are trying to capture some of that spirit.

This article is from Headway, an initiative from The New York Times exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress. Headway looks for promising solutions, notable experiments and lessons from what has been tried.

Jack Walker is a union man. He drives a garbage truck in Memphis, where his route can take him barreling past shotgun-style houses along the Mississippi River and down the narrow alleyways near the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He is aware, always, of how his union protections are tied to Dr. King’s death and that of another man: his father.

Robert Walker, Mr. Walker’s father, was also a sanitation worker. On Feb. 1, 1968, he was collecting garbage when sheets of rain started pouring down. He and his colleague Echol Cole took shelter in the compactor of their truck. When a compressing piston malfunctioned, the two men were crushed. The city had no intention to pay death benefits, offering Robert Walker’s widow only $500 for funeral expenses, “if you need it,” as the official letter put it. She had five children, including Jack, and was pregnant with a sixth.

The tragedy was a culmination of slow-burning indignities for Black sanitation workers in Memphis. They earned low wages to lug heavy, open tubs of refuse to their trucks. Rotting garbage seeped onto their skin and clothes. Their white colleagues, who were often drivers, showered at the depot at the end of their shifts. But the Black collectors were forced to ride the bus or walk home in their dank clothes covered in flecks of trash and maggots.

Fed up, they called a strike. Roughly 1,300 sanitation workers began marching through the streets of Memphis. They carried signs that read “I Am a Man,” with the “Am” underlined. The strike stretched on for weeks. Even as trash began to accumulate on city streets, Memphis’s mayor wouldn’t entertain the strikers’ demands, instead sending in police officers with clubs and mace to break up marches.

The strikers’ mission and bravery spoke to Dr. King, who had embarked on a new economic justice effort, the Poor People’s Campaign. He came to Memphis in March and again in April, when, at a local church, he gave an impassioned speech that would turn out to be his last.

Two weeks after Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the Memphis City Council voted to recognize the sanitation workers’ union, promising higher wages to the largely Black work force.

“It was a first step in getting them on their feet financially,” said Lee Saunders, the current president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “It was a huge deal.”

The strike in Memphis more than five decades ago “inspired a surge of organizing and strikes, not unlike what we see today,” said William P. Jones, a history professor at the University of Minnesota who has written on race and class.

Today’s resurgence in labor activism cuts across a broad range of industries. There have been recent labor fights at, among other places, rail yards, schools, hospitals, hotels, Hollywood studios and Starbucks stores. And the issues on the bargaining table include traditional demands, like higher wages and better staffing levels, as well as protections against replacement by artificial intelligence. Unions have had remarkable success in recent months, including securing a big pay raise for Las Vegas hospitality workers who merely threatened a strike.

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U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Final Wave of Sex-Abuse Lawsuits as One-Year Window Closes in New York, Hurubie Meko, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Since the Adult Survivors Act was passed, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed, some aimed at politicians and others at institutions.

In the year since a one-time window opened in New York State allowing people to file sex-abuse lawsuits even after the statute of limitations had expired, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed.

Before the deadline on Thanksgiving, a flurry of attention-grabbing suits were filed against politicians — like former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Eric Adams, the mayor of New York (shown above) — and celebrities, like Sean Combs, the producer and music mogul, who had just settled a separate suit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing him of rape.

But hundreds of people have also — collectively and separately — sued institutions, including the state’s prisons, jails and prominent hospitals, for abuses they said were systematically ignored and hidden for decades. At least 479 suits contain charges of abuse at Rikers Island.

As the legislation to allow the civil suits, known as the Adult Survivors Act, approached its sunset date, the number of lawsuits filed — both in State Supreme Court and in the Court of Claims — steadily increased after a campaign to alert people to the deadline. The number of cases filed in State Supreme Court alone rose from 803 on Oct. 31 to 1,397 as of Nov. 22.

 

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

Former President Donald Trump is shown in a photo collage with columnist E. Jean Carroll, who won a jury verdict that he sexually attacked her three decades ago.

Politico, Trump backs Adams, Cuomo in sexual misconduct lawsuits, Matt Berg, Nov. 29, 2023. Former President Donald Trump expressed his support for New York Mayor Eric Adams and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the pair face new lawsuits from women alleging sexual misconduct — in Adams’ case, a claim that dates back decades.

politico CustomOn Truth Social early Wednesday, Trump said he hopes Adams, Cuomo and “all of the others that got sued based on this ridiculous law where someone can be sued decades later, and with no proof, will fight it on being totally unfair and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.”

Trump was referencing Adult Survivors Act lawsuits, which surfaced last week as the New York legislation was expiring. The act gave victims of sexual assault two years to sue over past assaults that would previously have been barred by the statute of limitations.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The U.S. pharmacy industry is crumbling. Here’s how to fix it, Robert Gebelhoff, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Canby Drug & Gifts, a pharmacy in rural Minnesota, is a paradox. It does good business, yet it is always on the verge of shutting down. “I’m one bad contract from closing,” says owner Mark Whittier.

His drugstore, one of a few in his county of more than 9,000 people, exemplifies the struggle many independent pharmacies face. The store is a lifeline for customers, most of whom are either on Medicaid or the state’s health-insurance program. Yet profitability is now near-impossible because of the preposterous way the United States distributes pharmaceutical drugs.

Without serious reforms, businesses such as Whittier’s could disappear.

The tectonic plates beneath retail pharmaceuticals are shifting, and drugstores are falling. The total number of drugstores has been falling since 2015, but the trend has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, which have lost about 10 percent of their pharmacies in two decades.

There are plenty of reasons for this: As for many other businesses, revenue for pharmacies cratered during the pandemic. Labor shortages, especially among pharmacists seeking better pay and working conditions, further strained operations. Meanwhile, online retailers have provided new competition and large opioid settlements have battered many chains.

But U.S. drug distribution has also greatly consolidated, granting enormous power to a few big players that have mangled the industry in the pursuit of profit. A small number of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and Optum Rx — act as intermediaries between pharmacies and the insurance companies that pay for prescription drugs. But each PBM also runs a network of pharmacies and goes to great lengths to direct customers to its preferred retail stores.

That’s right — the same corporations that are deciding where Americans should buy their drugs are often running those drugstores.

This market dominance has driven business away from independent stores. Worse, PBMs are notorious for setting low-reimbursement fees, making it difficult for pharmacies to break even. Many PBMs also impose contracts on independent pharmacies with unrealistic demands on how they dispense drugs and how their customers follow the regimens. When pharmacies fall short, they are hit with enormous fees.

Together, these forces have expanded America’s “pharmacy deserts” — swaths of the country without easy access to stores — and this situation is bound to worsen. CVS and Walgreens plan to continue shedding retail locations in the coming years. Rite Aid’s bankruptcy last month will pile on another 150-plus closures.

This could have serious effects on Americans’ health, especially among minorities. Long drives and onerous trips on public transportation make it hard for patients to stay on track with their medications. People shouldn’t have to spend an hour in a car or bus just to pick up insulin to treat diabetes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Wiped Out Hepatitis C. Now It Is Trying to Help the Rest of Africa, Stephanie Nolen, Photographs by Natalija Gormalova, Nov. 28, 2023. Effective drugs that have made the disease curable have yet to reach most of the region.

egypt flagEgypt is on track to be the first country to achieve the World Health Organization goal of eliminating hepatitis C, and it is leveraging that victory into a campaign of “health diplomacy,” pledging to donate drugs and share expertise, with the goal of treating a million African patients. It is an unusual gesture in the world of global health, where largess is typically delivered to developing countries from high-income nations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unvaccinated and Vulnerable: Children Drive Surge in Deadly Outbreaks, Stephanie Nolen, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 60 million “zero-dose children” have not received any vaccines and have aged out of routine immunization programs. Protecting them will require a costly vaccination blitz. Large outbreaks of diseases that primarily kill children are spreading around the world, a grim legacy of disruptions to health systems during the Covid-19 pandemic that have left more than 60 million children without a single dose of standard childhood vaccines.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2By midway through this year, 47 countries were reporting serious measles outbreaks, compared with 16 countries in June 2020. Nigeria is currently facing the largest diphtheria outbreak in its history, with more than 17,000 suspected cases and nearly 600 deaths so far. Twelve countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, are reporting circulating polio virus.

Many of the children who missed their shots have now aged out of routine immunization programs. So-called “zero-dose children” account for nearly half of all child deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses, according to Gavi, the organization that helps fund vaccination in low- and middle-income countries.

An additional 85 million children are under-immunized as a result of the pandemic — that is, they received only part of the standard course of several shots required to be fully protected from a particular disease.

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Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Free Speech, Culture

ny times logoNew York Times, At Meta, Millions of Underage Users Were an ‘Open Secret,’ States Say, Natasha Singer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Meta has received more than 1.1 million reports of users under the age of 13 on its Instagram platform since early 2019 yet it “disabled only a fraction” of those accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint against the company brought by the attorneys general of 33 states.

meta logoInstead, the social media giant “routinely continued to collect” children’s personal information, like their locations and email addresses, without parental permission, in violation of a federal children’s privacy law, according to the court filing. Meta could face hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, in civil penalties should the states prove the allegations.

“Within the company, Meta’s actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed,” the complaint said, “and zealously protected from disclosure to the public.”

The privacy charges are part of a larger federal lawsuit, filed last month by California, Colorado and 31 other states in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit accuses Meta of unfairly ensnaring young people on its Instagram and Facebook platforms while concealing internal studies showing user harms. And it seeks to force Meta to stop using certain features that the states say have harmed young users.

But much of the evidence cited by the states was blacked out by redactions in the initial filing.

Now the unsealed complaint, filed on Wednesday evening, provides new details from the states’ lawsuit. Using snippets from internal emails, employee chats and company presentations, the complaint contends that Instagram for years “coveted and pursued” underage users even as the company “failed” to comply with the children’s privacy law.

The unsealed filing said that Meta “continually failed” to make effective age-checking systems a priority and instead used approaches that enabled users under 13 to lie about their age to set up Instagram accounts. It also accused Meta executives of publicly stating in congressional testimony that the company’s age-checking process was effective and that the company removed underage accounts when it learned of them — even as the executives knew there were millions of underage users on Instagram.

“Tweens want access to Instagram, and they lie about their age to get it now,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an internal company chat in November 2021, according to the court filing.

In Senate testimony the following month, Mr. Mosseri said: “If a child is under the age of 13, they are not permitted on Instagram.”

In a statement on Saturday, Meta said that it had spent a decade working to make online experiences safe and age-appropriate for teenagers and that the states’ complaint “mischaracterizes our work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A rural post office was told to prioritize Amazon packages. Chaos ensued, Caroline O'Donovan and Jacob Bogage, Nov. 28, 2023.  Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations.

Bemidji is not the only place where postal workers say they have been overwhelmed by packages from Amazon, the ubiquitous e-commerce giant. Carriers and local officials say mail service has been disrupted in rural communities from Portland, Maine, to Washington state’s San Juan Islands.

The situation stems from a crisis at the Postal Service, which has lost $6.5 billion in the past year. The post office has had a contract with Amazon since 2013, when it started delivering packages on Sundays. But in recent years, that business has exploded as Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations.

The Postal Service considers the contract proprietary and has declined to disclose its terms. But U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said publicly that “increasing package volume” — not just from Amazon, but from FedEx and UPS as well — is key to the mail service’s financial future. In a Nov. 14 speech to the Postal Service Board of Governors, DeJoy said he wants the post office to become the “preferred delivery provider in the nation.” And in recent years, the agency has reconfigured its nationwide network of mail-sorting plants, purchased an armada of eco-friendly delivery trucks and pressed a marketing campaign in service of that goal.

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Nov. 28

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Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

 

 

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

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

 

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Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo above by Samar Abu Elouf). Shown below in a photograph released by Thailand’s foreign ministry on Saturday are freed Thai hostages and an official, wearing a vest, posing at the Shamir Medical Center in Israel (Photo via Thailand's Foreign Ministry via Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fearful, Humiliated and Desperate: Gazans Heading South Face Horrors, Yara Bayoumy, Samar Abu Elouf and Iyad Abuheweila, Photographs by Samar Abu Elouf, Nov. 28, 2023. Tens of thousands of Gazans are making the most difficult of choices, leaving their homes behind to survive.

palestinian flagThey walked for hours, raising their hands when they encountered Israeli troops with guns trained on them to display their I.D. cards — or wave white rags. All around them was the sound of gunfire and the incessant buzzing of drones. Bodies littered rubble-filled streets.

For the tens of thousands of Gazans who have fled the northern part of the enclave where the heaviest fighting has been taking place, evacuating to the south has been a perilous journey, according to at least 10 Gazans that The New York Times spoke to on the ground and by phone. Even though a tenuous cease-fire in place since Friday has brought temporary relief from the bombardment, they face an uncertain future — and the threat the strikes will return, leaving them displaced yet again.

The Israeli military launched a deadly bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip after an attack on Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 in which, Israeli officials say, 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage. In the seven weeks since, Israel has pounded the tiny coastal enclave with the aim of destroying Hamas’s military capabilities. So far, more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed as of Nov. 21, according to the Gazan health authorities.

For weeks, Israel has been urging Gazans living in northern towns to flee along Salah al-Din Street, the strip’s main north-south highway.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Has Warned Israel to Fight More Surgically in Gaza, Officials Say, Erica L. Green, Nov. 28, 2023. American officials have told the Israelis that a major bombardment risks sparking a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s capacity to respond.

The United States has warned Israel that it must fight more surgically and avoid further mass displacement of Palestinians in its war against Hamas to avoid a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s ability to respond, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The White House has told Israel that replicating the scale of its bombardment in northern Gaza as it makes an expected push into southern Gaza once the recent pause in fighting ends would produce a crisis beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network, the officials said on Monday night. The United Nations has said the fighting has already displaced most of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million.

The statements are the Biden administration’s strongest warning to Israeli officials to date about the next phase of their military operation. For weeks, the White House has been careful to say it does not dictate how Israel conducts its military operations, but President Biden and senior members of his staff have grown more vocal as the humanitarian crisis has unfolded.

They also come as the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, said they were ramping up humanitarian aid during the cease-fire that took effect last week, and expressed optimism that aid could continue even when fighting resumed.

Among other things, American officials have told the Israelis that any coming military operations should not hamper the flow of power and water or impede the work of humanitarian sites such as hospitals and U.N.-supported shelters in south and central Gaza.

The Israeli government was receptive to the requests, one official said.

The cease-fire, to allow for the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians taken prisoner by Israel, has allowed for the first extended break in the violence since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen and other militant groups killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel. Gazan health officials say at least 13,000 people were killed during the nearly 50-day Israeli bombardment and ground invasion that followed.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made clear that he intends for Israel to continue fighting after the truce ends, though it was extended by two more days on Monday.

The Biden administration officials said the United States was planning to take advantage of the extra time. On Tuesday, the United States will begin deploying military relief flights to deliver medical items, food, winter items and other necessities for the civilian population to Egypt, which borders Gaza.

Extraordinary progress has already been made in aid delivery, the officials said, though they acknowledged that the level of assistance was not enough to support normal life in Gaza. The officials also said that the increase in aid, including much-needed fuel, was not contingent on hostage releases, offering hope that the shipments could continue when fighting resumed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel and Hamas Agree to Extend Truce, Qatar Says, Staff Reports, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Qatari officials, who helped negotiate the initial deal, said Israel and Hamas had agreed to pause fighting for another two days.

Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce for two more days, according to officials in Qatar who helped negotiate the initial cease-fire, as Israeli officials signaled that a fourth exchange of hostages and prisoners would go forward Monday.

Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, which has helped mediate the talks that led to the initial pause in fighting, said an “agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.” It did not elaborate on the terms.

washington post logoWashington Post, More people are dying in Puerto Rico as its health-care system crumbles, Omaya Sosa Pascual, Jeniffer Wiscovitch, Arelis R. Hernández, Andrew Ba Tran and Dylan Moriarty, Nov. 28, 2023. While the nation recovered from covid, the U.S. territory’s death rate increased, an investigation by The Washington Post and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism has found.

Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.3 million people, experienced more than 35,400 deaths last year. That’s nearly 3,300 more than researchers would ordinarily expect based on historic patterns, according to a statistical analysis by The Post and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI).

This “excess mortality” — a term scientists use to describe unusually high death counts from natural disasters, disease outbreaks or other factors — resulted in part from a covid spike early last year that killed more than 2,300 people, health data shows.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Hopes to Alter the Trajectory of the War as Hostages Are Released, Peter Baker, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden said his goal was to extend the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas to obtain the release of other captives and send more aid into Gaza.

After seven weeks of struggling with a crisis that defies easy solutions, President Biden could take solace over the weekend in saving a single 4-year-old girl whose parents were killed in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

joe biden black background resized serious fileBut gratifying as it was to secure the release of Avigail Idan from her Hamas captors on Sunday, the challenge for Mr. Biden going forward is not only to free the rest of the Americans being held hostage but to use the success of recent days to alter the trajectory of the war consuming Gaza.

In brief comments on Nantucket, the Massachusetts island where he spent Thanksgiving, Mr. Biden on Sunday declared that it was “my goal, our goal” to extend the temporary pause in the war between Israel and Hamas, which is set to expire after another group of hostages is freed on Monday, so as to obtain the release of additional captives and send more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel had already indicated willingness to do that and Hamas has now done the same.

The president spent part of the weekend trying to turn that willingness into a reality, calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday, a day after consulting with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, whose government hosts some Hamas figures and has served as an intermediary with the group.

“He’s continuing to work this hour by hour to see if we can secure those additional days of pause and those additional hostages coming home to their families,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC, one of several television interviews he gave on Sunday.

In seeking to extend the pause and hostage releases, Mr. Biden has American interests to consider as well as those of Israel. Among the 240 hostages taken by Hamas, 10 are believed to be American. Among those released under a deal brokered by Mr. Biden last week to free 50 hostages, the only American to be handed over so far has been Avigail, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Israel and whose name is often spelled Abigail in U.S. media.

Two American women from that group are expected to be among the hostages set to be released on Monday in the final stage of the initial deal between Israel and Hamas, leaving seven American men in captivity. Mr. Biden hopes an extension of the pause in exchange for the release of more hostages will result in the rest of the Americans being freed. Israel has said it would extend the pause by a day for each 10 additional hostages released.

“We’ll continue to remain personally engaged to see that this deal is fully implemented and work to extend the deal as well,” Mr. Biden told reporters.

Left unspoken is what might happen after Hamas has released all the hostages it is willing to give up and the temporary truce officially expires. Mr. Netanyahu has made clear that he intends to resume the military operation to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed an estimated 1,200 people.

 rosalynn carter 1927 2023s

 

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a  2018 Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

Yahoo News via AOL.com, Rosalynn Carter funeral: Jimmy Carter and all 5 living first ladies attend service, Dylan Stableford, Nov. 28, 2023. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all five living current and former first ladies — Jill Biden, Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton — gathered at a memorial on Tuesday for former first lady Rosalynn Carter in Atlanta.

Carter was wheeled into the church in a wheelchair with a blanket wrapped around his legs and positioned in the front row.

Melania Trump was dressed in a gray coat, the other first ladies in dark blue or black attire. Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama did not attend the event, which was billed as a “tribute service” at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the Emory University campus.

Former PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff, Rosalynn Carter and Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy and their grandson Jason Carter delivered eulogies.

Jason Carter began by welcoming the former first ladies and their "lovely husbands," drawing laughter.

The last time all of the living first ladies attended an event together was in 2018 at the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush at the Washington National Cathedral. All living current and former presidents and first ladies, including Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and the Trumps, attended the service.

Before that, in 2007, all current and former presidents and first ladies at that time, including George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, the Carters and Nancy Reagan, attended the funeral of former President Gerald Ford in Washington.

Rosalynn Carter died last week at 96. She had entered home hospice care in Plains, Ga., after being diagnosed with dementia.

The Carters made their last public appearance in September, when they attended the Plains Peanut Festival a week before Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday. The couple waved to parade attendees from the back of an SUV.

Following Tuesday’s memorial service in Atlanta, Rosalynn Carter will be taken back to Plains for a private funeral on Wednesday at Maranatha Baptist Church, the couple's home church. From there the casket will then be transferred to a hearse and depart for private interment at the Carter family residence. Jimmy Carter plans to be buried next to her.

 

First Lady Rosalynn Carter, right, is shown in the White House working with her personal assistant. Historians regard Carter as a leading example, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, in using the position to foster advocacy on policy issues extending beyond traditional women's issues

First Lady Rosalynn Carter, right, is shown in the White House working with her personal assistant. Historians regard Carter as a leading example, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, in using the position to foster advocacy on policy issues extending beyond traditional women's issues (Carter Library Photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Rosalynn Carter to Be Honored by Presidents and Fellow First Ladies, Peter Baker, Nov. 28, 2023. Former President Jimmy Carter will emerge from hospice care to join a cast of political heavyweights paying tribute on Tuesday to Mrs. Carter, who died at 96 last week at her home in Plains, Ga.

Former President Jimmy Carter will emerge from hospice care to join some of his successors and every living presidential spouse on Tuesday to honor Rosalynn Carter, his wife and partner of more than three-quarters of a century and the nation’s first lady from 1977 to 1981, the Carter Center said.

Mr. Carter, who turned 99 last month and has rarely been seen in public since entering hospice care in February, made the 140-mile journey from the couple’s home in Plains, Ga., to Atlanta for a tribute at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church at Emory University. President Biden, former President Bill Clinton and all five living first ladies will attend as well.

Mrs. Carter, who was suffering from dementia, died at 96 last week at the family’s modest ranch-style house in Plains just a few months after she and her husband had celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary, making them the longest-enduring presidential couple in American history. Frail but alert and smiling, the two made their last public appearance together in September when they were driven around the Plains Peanut Festival.

Born at her family’s house in Plains, the tiny town where she would live most of her life, Eleanor Rosalynn Smith as a young girl might have been surprised at the star-studded turnout expected to salute her at the end. Her father drove a school bus, owned an auto repair shop and ran a farm, while her mother sold milk from their one cow, worked in the school lunchroom and later joined the post office.

Rosalynn Carter, as she became known after marrying her childhood friend’s older brother, never forgot her humble roots, even as she made her way to the White House, traveled the world representing her country, pushed to improve mental health services and transformed the role of first lady. After Mr. Carter lost re-election, the two returned to the small house they had built in 1961 and focused on philanthropic activities for most of the last four decades.

In addition to Mr. Biden and Mr. Clinton, the attendees at Tuesday’s service will include Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff; Jill Biden, the current first lady; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; three other former first ladies, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump; Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia’s first lady, Marty Kemp; and Mayor Andre Dickens of Atlanta.

None of the high-profile attendees are scheduled to speak. The ceremony will reflect Mrs. Carter’s taste for simple elegance over modern glitz. Her grandchildren will serve as honorary pallbearers, with remarks or readings from her son James Earl Carter III, known as Chip; her daughter, Amy Carter; one of her grandsons; and three of her great-grandchildren.

Former President Jimmy Carter will emerge from hospice care to join political heavyweights paying tribute on Tuesday to Mrs. Carter, who died last week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stranded in Tunnel for 16 Days, Indian Workers Are Finally Rescued, Mujib Mashal and Suhasini Raj, Nov. 28, 2023. After repeated mechanical setbacks, the operation turned to trained miners using manual tools to clear the final stretch of debris.

After a 16-day effort to free dozens of Indian construction workers trapped inside a Himalayan road tunnel, rescuers were finally preparing to pull the men out on Tuesday as diggers labored to clear a final stretch of debris by hand, the authorities said.

india flag mapThe rescue operation had hit repeated roadblocks, with officials ultimately trying multiple ways to reach the 41 stranded men. But a breakthrough came on Tuesday afternoon, as trained miners using hand tools made rapid progress after picking up at the point where a drilling machine had failed.

“The work of putting in the pipe to rescue the workers has been completed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of the northern state of Uttarakhand, the site of the tunnel, said in a brief statement on social media. “Soon, all the worker brothers will be taken out.”

Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, gave a less definitive assessment and said that about two meters, or six feet, of drilling remained.

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, he said at 4 p.m. local time, about two hours after the chief minister’s statement, that “we are near a breakthrough but not yet there.” The rescuers had moved close enough that the workers trapped inside could hear the preparations for their rescue, Mr. Hasnain said.

“In less than 24 hours, we have managed to dig 10 meters manually, which I would say is phenomenal,” he said. “There are 41 inside. Outside there are many more — the safety of those outside is as important as those inside, so we are not in a hurry.”

Once the rescue begins, he added, it will take about three or four hours to bring out all the workers through the inserted pipe, roughly three to five minutes for each one.

The workers’ ordeal, followed closely in India with regular updates on television and social media, put a spotlight on concerns long raised by environmental experts about large-scale construction in the fragile Himalayan mountain range. Experts say that the country’s procedures for environmental assessments of such projects are weak and prone to political interference.

The men were building a tunnel that is part of a major road project on a Hindu pilgrimage route when a landslide early on Nov. 12 trapped them behind about 60 meters, or about 195 feet, of debris.

 

More On Israel's War With Hamas

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Israel keeps hundreds of Palestinians in detention without charge, Ishaan Tharoor, Nov. 28, 2023. In lists distributed to media, Israeli authorities label all the prisoners up for release as “terrorists.” Some were convicted of crimes such as attempted murder; others were detained for activities like “throwing stones” or carrying knives. And a few, like 59-year-old Hanan Barghouti, the eldest female prisoner to be released, were in indefinite Israeli custody without any charge.

While there were scenes of jubilation in Ramallah in the West Bank as a group of released prisoners met their families over the weekend, Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, issued directives cracking down on such celebrations in East Jerusalem, where the Israeli police can directly operate. “My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy,” he said. “Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism, victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, for those Nazis.”

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, most of which is under Israel’s military administration, Israeli authorities have detained roughly as many Palestinians as have been released in the past few days. A post-Oct. 7 crackdown saw the Palestinian population in Israeli custody almost double, by some measures: According to Palestinian rights groups, more than 3,000 Palestinians, mostly in the West Bank, were swept up by Israeli security forces. The majority appear to be held in administrative detention — that is, a form of incarceration without charge or trial that authorities can renew indefinitely.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thin rations, heavy bombing: Israel’s hostages start sharing their stories, Louisa Loveluck and Lior Soroka, Nov. 28, 2023.  They survived on rice and bread and slept as best they could on chairs and benches. At least one man tried to escape his captors when an Israeli airstrike caused the building he was in to collapse. A young boy kept a diary of his experience.

The stories of hostages kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 are emerging, slowly and in fragments, as dozens of Israeli women and children, as well as foreign workers, are released from Gaza as part of a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

Israel and Hamas agreed Monday to extend the pause for two additional days, under a deal brokered by Qatar and Egypt that will allow more hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian women and teenagers in Israeli prisons. Eleven Israelis and 33 Palestinians were released later Monday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel-Hamas War: Hamas and Israel Complete 3rd Exchange of Hostages for Prisoners, Isabel Kershner, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited his country’s troops in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, three days into a pause in fighting there, and vowed that “we are continuing until the end — until victory.”

Israel Flag“Nothing will stop us,” he said in a video statement in which he wore protective gear and was surrounded by Israeli soldiers.

It was not immediately clear exactly when Mr. Netanyahu conducted his visit — information about the trip was withheld by the government until he had exited the Palestinian enclave — or precisely where he was, although he most likely traveled to the northern part of Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has established control.

palestinian flagThe trip was Mr. Netanyahu’s first to Gaza since the Israeli ground invasion began almost a month ago, according to officials. Those who traveled with him included his national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi; his military secretary, Maj. Gen. Avi Gil; and the Israeli military’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram.

Photographs released by the Israeli government showed Mr. Netanyahu — wearing a T-shirt, jeans and a khaki flak jacket and helmet — looking at a map, consulting with commanders and standing just inside a tunnel that his office said the Israeli military had recently exposed.

The pause, which began on Friday, is part of a deal that includes the release by Hamas of at least 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and increased aid for Gaza. Israel has offered to extend the pause by one day for every additional 10 hostages released. Hamas announced on Sunday evening, after Mr. Netanyahu’s visit, that it was seeking to extend the truce, which was slated to end on Tuesday.

“We are making every effort to bring back our hostages and eventually we will return them all,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Israeli officials have said about 240 people were taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7 in an attack that also killed about 1,200 people.

Some analysts have argued that the longer the cease-fire, the harder it may be for Israel to go back to fighting. But the prime minister emphasized that rooting out Hamas remained a central objective for Israel.

“We have three goals in this war: Eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and ensure that Gaza will not go back to being a threat to the state of Israel,” he said.

He added: “We are convinced that we have the force, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all of our goals for the war.”

Here’s what we know: Hamas released a total of 17 more hostages on Sunday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday. The group said it was seeking to extend the truce, which is slated to continue into Monday.

The latest release of hostages includes a 4-year-old American.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel, Hamas appear open to extending pause; agencies rush aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). As the end nears for the fragile four-day pause in the Israel-Gaza conflict, officials on both sides have said they are open to extending it to exchange more of the hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said that if Hamas is “willing or able to release additional hostages, then there will be an extended pause” in combat. Hamas said on Telegram that it is seeking an extension to “increase the number of those released from imprisonment.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the pause could be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas beyond the initial 50. Hamas has released 58 hostages over the past three days, including Thai and Philippine nationals. Israel has released more than 100 imprisoned Palestinian women and teenagers in exchange. Ahead of the pause’s scheduled end on Tuesday morning, aid agencies are racing to boost deliveries to Gaza.

Key updates

  • Egyptian official says deal is close to extend pause for two days
  • 84-year-old hostage released by Hamas is in serious condition, doctor says

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Calls to Extend Truce, Complications Surround Last Planned Swap, Talya Minsberg and Yara Bayoumy, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Israel and Hamas were at odds over the hostages and prisoners set to be released on Monday, the final day of a four-day cease-fire, putting their truce on shaky ground and raising questions about whether the pause could be extended.

Israel and Hamas each signaled a willingness over the weekend to prolong their truce if it allowed for more hostages and Palestinian detainees to be freed. But both sides have taken issue with the names presented by the other for the final day of exchanges under the deal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, who said that officials from Qatar, the lead mediator, were trying to address the differences.

Here’s what we know:

  • With a four-day truce set to expire, both Israel and Hamas said they are open to extending it to allow more hostages and Palestinian detainees to be freed.
  • Qatar works to resolve both sides’ concerns on the deal’s last day.
  • Elon Musk visits Israel amid a backlash over his endorsement of an antisemitic post.
  • A father welcomes his freed son home in the West Bank.
  • Here’s what we know about the Israeli hostages released on Sunday.
  • Vermont police arrest a suspect in the shooting of 3 Palestinian students.

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu and Hamas depended on each other. Both may be on the way out, Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). In 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power for a second run as Israel’s prime minister, a job he has held almost continuously since, he was confronted with a major change in the region: Hamas, a militant Islamist group, had been elected to power in the Gaza Strip three years earlier.

From the beginning, Hamas vowed to destroy Israel and, in his 2009 campaign, Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas. What happened instead was a decade and a half of uneasy coexistence, during which Netanyahu’s serial governments and Hamas’s leaders found each other useful for their own purposes.

The odd symbiosis endured — through years of escalations and accommodations, hopes of calm and periods of chaos — until now, when both Hamas and Netanyahu face a possible end to their hold on power.

Hamas leaders, after directing the attack that killed at least 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, are being bombed and hunted by an Israeli military that has pledged the group will never rule in Gaza again. In the midst of devastating attacks that have killed more than 11,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, even some Gazans have taken the rare step of publicly criticizing Hamas for the October attack and leaving civilians exposed to military onslaught.

Netanyahu, who agreed last month to share emergency war powers with his chief political rival, is facing unprecedented public rage for his failure to prevent the October attack and a disordered government response in its aftermath. Polls show 75 percent of Israelis calling for him to resign now or be replaced when the fighting stops.

ny times logoNew York Times, William Burns, the C.I.A. director, arrived in Qatar for talks about hostage releases, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 28, 2023. William J. Burns, the C.I.A. head, and David Barnea, who leads the Mossad, Israel’s spy service, are scheduled to meet with officials in Qatar, which has been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas.

CIA LogoMr. Burns, below left, and David Barnea, the head of the Mossad, Israel’s spy service, are scheduled to meet with Qatari officials. Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s political leadership in Doha, has been a mediator in the talks between Israel and Hamas.

williams burns 2005Qatar announced on Monday that Israel and Hamas had agreed to extend a pause in fighting for two additional days to exchange more hostages and prisoners and to allow more aid to come into Gaza.

One U.S. official said Mr. Burns’s talks in Qatar would be meant to build on that agreement.

U.S. officials have been deeply involved in pushing for a deal to release hostages taken during the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. Mr. Burns traveled to Doha on Nov. 9 as he and Mr. Barnea held talks with Qatari officials who have been working on the issue.

Hamas and Israel finally reached a deal on Nov. 21, and exchanges began later that week. During the first four days of the truce, 50 Israelis or dual nationals were released under the framework of the deal, and an additional 19 hostages — 17 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian-Israeli dual citizen — were released through separate negotiations. In exchange for the release of the Israelis and dual nationals, Israel paused its military campaign in Gaza, allowed more aid to flow into the enclave and released some Palestinian prisoners.

The U.S. has warned Israel to fight more surgically in Gaza, senior Biden administration officials said.

 ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Went Back to the Stone Age,’ Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Hiba Yazbek, Abu Bakr Bashir and Ameera Harouda, Photographs by Samar Abu Elouf and Yousef Masoud, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Daily life in besieged Gaza revolves around finding food and water. With practically no fuel or coal, families are burning doors and window frames.

palestinian flagNamzi Mwafi, 23, has one job, day in and day out: find water for his family.

Dozens of his extended family members are sheltering together in a two-bedroom apartment in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza near the territory’s border with Egypt, he says. The oldest, his grandmother, is 68; the youngest, a cousin, is 6 months old.

To keep them alive, Mr. Mwafi says he wakes up at 4 a.m., spending hours waiting for water at a crowded filling station. Sometimes, he has to fight to keep his place in line and sometimes there is nothing left when his turn comes.

When he is lucky, he pushes his heavy trolley home through the sand and the family rations the haul to about a glass a day each.

There is practically no gas or other fuel left in Gaza, according to the United Nions agencies operating there, so some people are building makeshift clay or metal ovens to cook. Firewood and coal have also largely run out, so families are burning stripped-down doors, shutters and window frames, cardboard and grasses. Some simply do not cook, eating raw onions and eggplants instead.

“We went back to the Stone Age,” Mr. Mwafi said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hamas releases American girl with 16 other hostages, Biden says, Staff reports, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old with American and Israeli citizenship who was taken hostage on Oct. 7, was back in Israel on Sunday, President Biden said in a news conference.

The Red Cross was transporting a group of Hamas’s captives, the third of four groups planned to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in as many days, to Israeli authorities. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said the Red Cross, acting as an intermediary, was carrying 14 Israelis and three Thai nationals. In a reciprocal release, the Israeli prison service reported that 39 Palestinian prisoners were freed Sunday.

 

From left, Tahseen Ahmed, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. The three students are receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds in Vermont. (Institute for Middle East Understanding, via Awartani family)

From left, Tahseen Ahmed, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. The three students are receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds in Vermont. (Institute for Middle East Understanding, via Awartani family.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Three Palestinian American students injured after Vermont shooting, Abigail Hauslohner, and Hannah Allam, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Police, who are still searching for the suspect, are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. Police in Vermont are investigating the possibility of a “hate-motivated” crime in the Saturday evening shooting of three Palestinian college students in downtown Burlington, Vt.

Burlington police said on Sunday that a “white male with a handgun” approached the three students as they walked through downtown and “without speaking” shot the three men at least four times before fleeing on foot.

“All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities,” the Burlington Police Department said in a statement. All three remain hospitalized, one with very serious injuries, the department added.

The victims’ parents identified them in a statement as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil rights advocacy group, said it believed the students were targeted because they are Palestinians. Police said that two are U.S. citizens, and one is a legal U.S. resident.

“As parents, we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot in Burlington, ” the parents said in a statement. “We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. … No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony. Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”

The ADC said the three men are students at Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College, respectively, and had gathered in Burlington to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Awartani’s grandmother.

The ADC also said that the students were wearing kaffiyehs, the traditional Arab scarf associated with Palestinians, when they were attacked.

“We have reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three victims being Arab,” the ADC statement said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The police arrested a suspect in the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont, Emma Bubola, Amanda Holpuch and Rebecca Carballo, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The three college students were on their way to dinner on Saturday night when the shooting occurred.

The suspect, identified by the police as Jason J. Eaton, 48, was expected to be arraigned Monday in connection with the shooting of the students, three men in their 20s who attend American universities. They were shot and wounded on Saturday by a white man with a handgun while they were walking near the University of Vermont, the police said. Two of the victims were wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs, a traditional headdress.

The young men told family members they were speaking a hybrid of English and Arabic before the man shot at them four times without saying anything before the attack, according to a family spokeswoman.

Two of the victims were in stable condition, the authorities said. The third sustained much more serious injuries.

In a statement after the arrest, the police said authorities had conducted a search of Mr. Eaton’s residence, adding that the shooting occurred in front of his apartment building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk meets with Netanyahu in Israel, tours kibbutz attacked by Hamas, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The SpaceX founder also reached a ‘principle understanding’ with Israel to operate Starlink satellites in Gaza.

elon musk sideviewElon Musk, right, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Israel, where the pair toured the Kfar Azza kibbutz, one of the Jewish communities attacked by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 cross-border assault.
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x logo twitterAfter touring the scene of the violence, Musk was shown a video documenting some of the atrocities that took place, according to a conversation between the two men broadcast afterward on X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk said it was jarring to visit the site and troubling to see the joy on the faces of Hamas militants as they killed innocent people.

“It’s one thing obviously if civilians die accidentally, but it’s another thing to revel in the joy of killing civilians. … That’s evil,” Musk said.

Musk also rebuffed arguments that Israel has disproportionately killed civilians in Gaza, saying the actions of Hamas militants were intentional. “There is an important difference here, which is Israel tries to avoid killing civilians,” Musk said.

The trip comes as Musk faces widespread criticism for his decision to loosen content moderation on X, formerly Twitter, after he purchased the platform last year. Since the Hamas attack, antisemitic content has surged more than 900 percent on the platform, The Washington Post reported. Disinformation specialists have accused Musk of playing a uniquely potent role by easing moderation standards and amplifying antisemitic tropes.

Musk has also been condemned by the White House for indicating support for an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X, a move U.S. officials called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.” A number of major advertisers have fled the platform after their ads appeared next to pro-Nazi posts.

Musk did not directly address those allegations in his conversation with Netanyahu on Monday, but he said there is a need to “stop the propaganda that is convincing people to engage in murder.” The militants must be “neutralized,” he added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hamas Releases More Hostages, Including 4-Year Old Girl, Isabel Kershner and Vivian Yee, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Here’s what we know about the Israeli hostages released on Sunday; Hamas released 17 more hostages on Sunday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday — and said it would seek to extend a temporary cease-fire with Israel after the current four-day pause is over.

Under the deal reached last week, the cease-fire began on Friday and is slated to continue into Monday. It is the longest breaking fighting in Gaza since Oct. 7, when gunmen from Hamas and other militant groups launched a deadly attack on southern Israel.

palestinian flagIsrael has said that it is prepared to grant another day’s pause for every 10 hostages Hamas releases beyond the 50 outlined in the agreement, but the Palestinian group, which controls Gaza, had not previously responded to the offer publicly.

The statement by Hamas came hours after the Israeli prime minister’s office said 14 Israelis, including nine children, and three foreigners had been released on the third day of the agreement, under which both sides agreed to exchange Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

Avigail, the 4-year-old, a dual Israeli and U.S. citizen, and the others released on Sunday were among roughly 240 people taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials.

joe biden resized o“Thank God she’s home,” President Biden said of Avigail. Members of her family previously told The New York Times that her parents, Roy Idan and Smadar Idan, had been fatally shot at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Her siblings — Michael, 9, and Amelia, 6 — survived the violence.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said multiple members of three families had been released on Sunday. TV images showed Israelis lining the road near the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, waving flags and cheering as the convoy of minibuses carrying 12 of the freed hostages made its way there.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman of the Israeli military, said another hostage, Elma Avraham, was flown by army helicopter directly from Gaza to an Israeli hospital in serious condition. The Israeli military said four others — one Israeli and three foreign nationals — had crossed into Egypt.

Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, which helped broker the deal, said on social media that the released hostages included a Russian national and three Thai citizens.

Under the deal announced last week, Hamas agreed to free at least 50 hostages, all women and children, while Israel would release from its prisons 150 Palestinian women and minors, some of whom were detained for violent crimes. Hamas had previously also released 10 Thai citizens and one Filipino.

On Sunday night, Hamas released a statement saying that it “seeks to extend the truce after the four-day period ends.”

Just a day earlier, there were fears the agreement could be in peril: Hamas threatened on Saturday to postpone the second trade, claiming that Israel had reneged on parts of the agreement. But after an hourslong delay, the exchange went ahead with Hamas handing over 13 Israeli hostages, and Israel releasing 39 Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

An extended cease-fire could create more opportunities for other countries, particularly the United States, to pressure Israel to scale back its military goals. The Israeli response to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel has killed more than 13,000 Gazans, according to health officials there, leading to rising alarm among Israel’s allies about its campaign.

 

gaza destruction Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace, Lauren Leatherby, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). In less than two months, more than twice as many women and children have been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after two years of war.

Israel has cast the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip as a regrettable but unavoidable part of modern conflict, pointing to the heavy human toll from military campaigns the United States itself once waged in Iraq and Syria.

But a review of past conflicts and interviews with casualty and weapons experts suggest that Israel’s assault is different.

While wartime death tolls will never be exact, experts say that even a conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza show that the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century.

People are being killed in Gaza more quickly, they say, than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which were themselves widely criticized by human rights groups.

Precise comparisons of war dead are impossible, but conflict-casualty experts have been taken aback at just how many people have been reported killed in Gaza — most of them women and children — and how rapidly.

It is not just the scale of the strikes. Israel said it had engaged more 15,000 targets before reaching a brief cease-fire in recent days. It is also the nature of the weaponry itself.

Israel’s liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising, some experts say.

“It’s beyond anything that I’ve seen in my career,” said Marc Garlasco, a military adviser for the Dutch organization PAX and a former senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon. To find a historical comparison for so many large bombs in such a small area, he said, we may “have to go back to Vietnam, or the Second World War.”

In fighting during this century, by contrast, U.S. military officials often believed that the most common American aerial bomb — a 500-pound weapon — was far too large for most targets when battling the Islamic State in urban areas like Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

The Israeli military points out that Gaza presents a battlefield like few others. It is small and dense, with civilians living next to, and even on top of, Hamas combatants who rely on tunnel networks to shield themselves and their weapons, putting residents directly in the line of fire, the military says.

Given these underground networks — which the military says enabled Hamas to wage its deadly attacks on Oct. 7 — Israeli forces say they use the “smallest available ordnance” to achieve their strategic objectives in order to cause the “minimal adverse effect on civilians.”

Civilian casualties are notoriously hard to calculate, and officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip do not separate the deaths of civilians and combatants.

Researchers point instead to the roughly 10,000 women and children reported killed in Gaza as an approximate — though conservative — measure of civilian deaths in the territory. International officials and experts familiar with the way figures are compiled in Gaza say the overall numbers are generally reliable.

The Israeli military acknowledged that children, women and older people have been killed in Gaza, but said the death toll reported in Gaza could not be trusted. The military did not provide a count of its own, but said that civilians “are not the target” of its campaign.

“We do a lot in order to prevent and, where possible, minimize the killing or wounding of civilians,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. “We focus on Hamas.”

Still, researchers say the pace of deaths reported in Gaza during the Israeli bombardment has been exceptionally high.

 

thai hostages

ny times logoNew York Times, Preparations for Next Hostage Release Move Forward, Aaron Boxerman, Patrick Kingsley and Victoria Kim, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.).  There were no reports of major flare-ups in violence as the temporary cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war entered a second day. Hamas was expected to release Israeli hostages in exchange for 42 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israel FlagHamas was expected to release a new group of Israeli hostages held in Gaza on Saturday in exchange for the release of 42 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails, as a fragile temporary truce between the two sides entered its second day.

The Israeli authorities were prepared to release the 42 Palestinian prisoners and detainees once they received the Israeli hostages, Israel’s prison service said. According to Israeli and Hamas officials, one Israeli will be released for every three Palestinians in the exchanges, meaning roughly 14 Israeli hostages would most likely be freed. Israeli officials declined to comment further.

palestinian flagThe first exchange in the four-day cease-fire deal was completed Friday, with 13 Israeli hostages released from Gaza in return for 39 Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Another 10 Thai nationals and one Filipino were also freed.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement late Friday that security officials were reviewing a list of hostages slated to be released on Saturday. Over the four days of the truce — which took effect at 7 a.m. local time on Friday — at least 50 hostages are to be released by Hamas in exchange for 150 Palestinians in Israeli custody.

The hostages freed in Friday’s exchange were rushed to hospitals where medical teams assessed their well-being. Eight of the Israeli hostages were deemed to be in good condition, and another five were considered stable, according to the hospitals which received them.

Additional aid trucks were expected to enter Gaza on Saturday, after the biggest shipment of humanitarian supplies since the beginning of the war was allowed into the territory on Friday. The more than 130 trucks of aid included fuel and cooking gas, bringing a modicum of relief for the territory’s 2.2 million civilians.

The volume of aid still falls far shy of the 500 daily truckloads that had been going into the enclave before the conflict began on Oct. 7. Nearly 80 percent of Gazans have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have been closely watching news of the releases with a mix of hope and trepidation.

No Americans were among the first hostages released. President Biden said on Friday that his “hope and expectation” was that they would be free soon.

Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza and staged the attack in southern Israel that set off the war, has not directly responded to Israel’s offer to extend the cease-fire by a day for every 10 hostages released after the first 50. A top Hamas official, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Friday that his group was committed to making the truce work.

Some of the displaced Palestinians tried to return to northern Gaza from the south on foot on Friday, to check on their homes or the relatives they had left behind, despite warnings from Israeli officials not to. Israeli forces on the ground opened fire on them, according to witnesses, an Egyptian official and some of those injured. The Israeli military declined to answer questions about the shootings.

Despite the cease-fire in Gaza, Israel and militant groups in Lebanon continued to trade fire across the country’s volatile border. The Israeli military said it struck targets in Lebanon on Saturday belonging to Hezbollah, the politically powerful Lebanese armed group, after militants fired a missile at an Israeli drone.

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Destroying Democracies

 

american flag upside down distress

washington post logoWashington Post, Antagonism flares as red states try to dictate how blue cities are run, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country are increasingly overriding the actions of Democratic cities — removing elected district attorneys or threatening to strip them of power, taking over election offices and otherwise limiting local independence.

State lawmakers proposed nearly 700 bills this year to circumscribe what cities and counties can do, according to Katie Belanger, lead consultant for the Local Solutions Support Center, a national organization focused in part on ending the overreach it calls “abusive state preemption.”

The group’s tracking mostly found “conservative state legislatures responding to or anticipating actions of progressive cities,” she said, with many bills designed to bolster state restrictions on police defunding, abortion, and LGBTQ and voting rights. As of mid-October, at least 92 had passed.

In Florida, for instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed sweeping measures that empower the state attorney general to pursue election-related crimes and that require cities and counties to suspend a local ordinance if someone sues alleging it is preempted by state law. He has removed two elected Democratic prosecutors in as many years, including one who pledged not to charge people seeking abortions or transgender care.

More clashes are expected. Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry takes office in January and has promised to confront the state’s largest city, New Orleans. He already has created a committee led by a local GOP political donor and businessman to address public safety and other issues there. He has threatened to withhold state funding for the city’s water infrastructure until the DA agrees to prosecute women who violate the state’s abortion ban by seeking the procedure.

Given the presidential campaign that lies ahead in 2024, Belanger is concerned about states passing election-related laws that affect local authorities.

“Election administration has been a target for abusive preemption in the past,” she said, “and as we go into an election year, that is a trend that will grow.”

The antagonisms between red states and blue cities are all the more notable because the urban areas in the crosshairs are mostly majority-minority, with many mayors and district attorneys of color.

These actions go “squarely against the Republican philosophy of small government and more freedom,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, a Black Democrat who has struggled to pass local tobacco and gun control ordinances because of constraints enacted by Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature. “This is about common-sense democracy.”

Some of the fiercest standoffs have come in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the most expansive preemption law in the country in June, barring cities and counties from passing an array of ordinances. Opponents condemned it as the “Death Star,” saying it would imperil local residents and block worker protections like mandatory water breaks during heat waves. Abbott defended the law as crucial to reducing business regulation.

 

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Troubling Trump Pardon and a Link to the Kushners, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A commutation for a drug smuggler had broader implications than previously known, putting a new focus on how Donald Trump would use clemency powers.

Even amid the uproar over President Donald J. Trump’s freewheeling use of his pardon powers at the end of his term, one commutation stood out.

Jonathan Braun of New York had served just two and a half years of a decade-long sentence for running a massive marijuana ring, when Mr. Trump, at 12:51 a.m. on his last day in office, announced he would be freed.

Mr. Braun was, to say the least, an unusual candidate for clemency.

A Staten Islander with a history of violent threats, Mr. Braun had told a rabbi who owed him money: “I am going to make you bleed.” Mr. Braun’s family had told confidants they were willing to spend millions of dollars to get him out of prison.

At the time, Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department and federal regulators, as well as New York state authorities, were still after him for his role in an entirely separate matter: his work as a predatory lender, making what judges later found were fraudulent and usurious loans to cash-strapped small businesses.

Nearly three years later, the consequences of Mr. Braun’s commutation are becoming clearer, raising new questions about how Mr. Trump intervened in criminal justice decisions and what he could do in a second term, when he would have the power to make good on his suggestions that he would free supporters convicted of storming the Capitol and possibly even to pardon himself if convicted of the federal charges he faces.

Just months after Mr. Trump freed him, Mr. Braun returned to working as a predatory lender, according to New York State’s attorney general. Two months ago, a New York state judge barred him from working in the industry. Weeks later, a federal judge, acting on a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, imposed a nationwide ban on him.

A New York Times investigation, drawing on documents and interviews with current and former officials, and others familiar with Mr. Braun’s case, found there were even greater ramifications stemming from the commutation than previously known and revealed new details about Mr. Braun’s history and how the commutation came about.

The commutation dealt a substantial blow to an ambitious criminal investigation being led by the Justice Department’s U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan aimed at punishing members of the predatory lending industry who hurt small businesses. Mr. Braun and prosecutors were in negotiations over a cooperation deal in which he would be let out of prison in exchange for flipping on industry insiders and potentially even wearing a wire. But the commutation instantly destroyed the government’s leverage on Mr. Braun.

The investigation into the industry, and Mr. Braun’s conduct, remains open but hampered by the lack of an insider.

At multiple levels, up to the president, the justice system appeared to fail more than once to take full account of Mr. Braun’s activities. After pleading guilty to drug charges in 2011, Mr. Braun agreed to cooperate in a continuing investigation, allowing him to stay out of prison but under supervision for nine years — a period he used to establish himself as a predatory lender, making violent threats to those who owed him money, court filings show.

Since returning to predatory lending after being freed, Mr. Braun is still engaging in deceptive business tactics, regulators and customer say.

In working to secure his release, Mr. Braun’s family used a connection to Charles Kushner, the father of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, to try to get the matter before Mr. Trump. Jared Kushner’s White House office drafted the language used in the news release to announce commutations for Mr. Braun and others.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Braun said he did not know how his commutation came about.

“I believe God made it happen for me because I’m a good person and I was treated unfairly,” he said, adding that his supporters tried “multiple paths” to get him out of prison but he had no idea which one succeeded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are some takeaways from the investigation into Jonathan Braun’s pardon, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Two days after Donald J. Trump left the White House, The New York Times published a story about how one of his last acts as president had been to commute the 10-year sentence of Jonathan Braun, a marijuana smuggler who had ongoing legal problems and a reputation for making violent threats.

In his final weeks in office, Mr. Trump had used his pardon power on behalf of a parade of loyalists, as well as scores of others who were not big political names. But few of them stood out like Mr. Braun, who was still under investigation by the Justice Department in an entirely different matter: for gouging small businesses through high-interest loans.

Mr. Braun was still under investigation by the Justice Department at the time of his pardon. Here are some key points about the case.

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More On Trump Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers seek to probe U.S. handling of 2020 election fraud claims, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Nov. 28, 2023. New court filing seeks evidence to relitigate debunked claims that election was ‘stolen,’ investigate DOJ communications with Biden, Biden’s son, and Mike Pence.

Attorneys for Donald Trump have asked a federal judge in Washington to allow them to investigate several U.S. government agencies about their handling of investigations into him and allegations of voter fraud three years ago as the former president moves to defend himself from charges that he criminally conspired to subvert the results of the 2020 election.
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In court papers filed Monday, Trump’s legal team sought permission to compel prosecutors to turn over information about the FBI, national security and election integrity units of the Justice Department, as well as the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security’s response to foreign interference and other threats to the 2020 election, in what appeared to be an attempt to resuscitate his unfounded allegation that President Biden’s election victory was “stolen.”

Whether Trump genuinely believed that allegation may be a matter for trial, his lawyers wrote, but prosecutors cannot “suppress and withhold from President Trump information that supports this defense and related arguments regarding good faith and the absence of [his] criminal intent.” It was “certainly not criminal,” they added, “for President Trump to disagree with officials now favored by the prosecution and to rely instead on the independent judgment that the American people elected him to use while leading the country.”

 

john earle sullivan

washington post logoWashington Post, Rioter or journalist? Man who said he was only filming Jan. 6 convicted, Tom Jackman, Nov. 17, 2023. John Earle Sullivan, above, accused by conservatives of being an ‘antifa’ insurgent, said he was just trying to blend in on Jan. 6.

As he recorded video of his journey through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, John Earle Sullivan captured himself shouting at rioters to seize the American seat of power, breaking a window inside a Senate office, and then filming the fatal shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt outside the House chamber.

Earlier that day, a documentary filmmaker followed Sullivan and captured him helping a rioter scale a wall to reach the upper West Terrace of the Capitol, wielding a switchblade knife near the House chamber, and later musing about the Babbitt video. “Everybody’s gonna want this,” Sullivan said excitedly, according to court documents. “Nobody has it. I’m selling it, I could make millions of dollars.” Court records show that Sullivan was paid more than $90,000 for the rights to the video.

Federal prosecutors said Sullivan had been one of the thousands of rioters seeking to cause mayhem that day, and charged him with felony obstruction of an official proceeding, namely the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win. Sullivan also faced a second felony for civil disorder and five misdemeanors.

When his case landed before a jury this week, Sullivan claimed that he was simply working as a citizen journalist to document history, and all of his words and deeds indicating he was sympathetic to President Donald Trump were just a ruse to blend in with the rioters. “It’s my job to document and record history,” Sullivan testified. He said his cheers of approval for the rioters and offers to help them were merely to “say a lot of things to try and protect myself” from people he feared might turn on him if they knew his true political colors.

The jury didn’t believe him. On Thursday, after deliberating for less than four hours, they convicted Sullivan of obstructing the electoral vote count, civil disorder and five misdemeanors, and Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered him held in jail until sentencing.

Sullivan had attended and filmed other protests, and built a large following on social media starting in the summer of 2020. But his video at the Capitol drew great notoriety in the days after the Capitol attack as conservatives like Rudy Giuliani claimed Sullivan was an “antifa” agitator who helped ignite the Jan. 6 riot, rather than Trump supporters. 

John Earle Sullivan speaks to his online followers in December 2020, shortly before he traveled to D.C. for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. (John Earle Sullivan)

On the witness stand, Sullivan, 29, initially denied and then was forced to admit actions he took at the Capitol when confronted with video shot by himself or documentarian Jade Sacker. As Sullivan stood on the upper West Terrace, seemingly exulting in the mob’s violent approach, he was captured helping one rioter climb up to the terrace.

“I don’t recall it,” he said of the footage played in court. Shown it again two days later, he admitted that there were a lot of people around him watching him. But he said it was a tactic to avoid being beaten by conservatives, who he testified had been targeting him for his online posts and for his alleged role in a Utah rally where a man was shot.

“We did this s---! We took this s---!” Sullivan yelled as he walked through the Capitol with Sacker, again testifying that he was merely trying to blend in.

As the crowd besieged the main door to the House chamber, Sullivan can be heard saying, “Hey, guys, I have a knife, I have a knife, let me up.” Sullivan said he took a switchblade as protection, and claimed he had a knife so that he could move to the front of the crowd and “get the shot.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: New Trump defense motions in D.C. case expected on Monday, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). An appeals court in Washington could decide at any time whether to reimpose a limited gag order on Donald Trump in his federal election-obstruction case in D.C. The three-judge panel questioned prosecutors and defense lawyers last week about the issue, and the argument spilled over into Thanksgiving (more on this topic below).

Monday should see new Trump defense motions in the D.C. case — this time related to which witnesses he’d like to subpoena. Since his defense team argues this is a case of politically motivated, selective prosecution, we could see him seek permission from the court to subpoena Democrats and government figures he wants to put on the witness stand.

On Friday, a hearing is scheduled in the Fulton County, Ga., case, where the judge is expected to consider a raft of defense motions.

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More On U.S. National Politics

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ny times logoNew York Times, They Fled Climate Chaos. Asylum Law Made Decades Ago Might Not Help, Miriam Jordan, Nov. 28, 2023. The legal system for refugees at the U.S. border never envisioned the millions displaced by global warming. But some are testing a climate-based argument.

First came the hurricanes — two storms, two weeks apart in 2020 — that devastated Honduras and left the country’s most vulnerable in dire need. In distant villages inhabited by Indigenous people known as the Miskito, homes were leveled and growing fields were ravaged.

Then came the drug cartels, who stepped into the vacuum left by the Honduran government, ill-equipped to respond to the catastrophe. Violence soon followed.

“Everything changed after the hurricanes, and we need protection,” Cosmi, a 36-year-old father of two, said, adding that his uncle was killed after being ordered to abandon the family plot.

Cosmi, who asked to be identified only by his first name out of concern for his family’s safety and that of relatives left behind, was staying at a squalid encampment on a spit of dirt along the river that separates Mexico and Texas. Hundreds of other Miskito were alongside him in tiny tents, all hoping to claim asylum.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden willing to testify publicly, lawyer says amid House GOP efforts to discredit him, Matt Viser, Nov. 28, 2023. Escalation of battle with House GOP comes in response to a subpoena for a closed-door session.

Hunter Biden is willing to testify in a public hearing before the House Oversight Committee, a lawyer for the president’s son said Tuesday.

Abbe Lowell, a lawyer representing Hunter Biden, disclosed the offer in a letter in response to a subpoena this month that is seeking a deposition, which would take place behind closed doors. It is a striking escalation in the battle between the president’s son and congressional Republicans, who have focused on his past business dealings and have launched impeachment hearings aimed at President Biden.
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Lowell’s three-page letter cited past comments from Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the committee, that essentially dared Hunter Biden to come and testify in public.

“Mr. Chairman, we take you up on your offer,” Lowell wrote, in a copy of the letter reviewed by The Washington Post. “Accordingly, our client will get right to it by agreeing to answer any pertinent and relevant question you or your colleagues might have, but — rather than subscribing to your cloaked, one-sided process — he will appear at a public Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing.”

“A public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements,” Lowell added.

In a statement later Tuesday morning, Comer indicated that he would not comply with Biden’s request that the deposition be done in public.

“Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” he said. “That won’t stand with House Republicans.”

The committee expects Hunter Biden to appear for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 13, Comer said, adding that “Hunter Biden should have opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”

Much of the letter from Lowell is combative, citing past statements from Comer and noting that the chairman has never taken Lowell up on offers to hold a meeting.

“Your empty investigation has gone on too long wasting too many better-used resources. It should come to an end,” Lowell wrote. “Consequently, Mr. Biden will appear at such a public hearing on the date you noticed, December 13, or any date in December that we can arrange.”

The committee has asked James Biden to appear for an interview on Dec. 6 and Hunter Biden to appear on Dec. 13.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandy Hook families offer Alex Jones a deal to settle $1.5 billion debt, Timothy Bella, Nov. 28, 2023. The families of victims of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School have offered Infowars founder Alex Jones a deal to settle the $1.5 billion debt for only 6 percent of what he owes them for saying the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax, according to a new court filing.

The settlement offer, which was filed in Jones’s personal bankruptcy case in Houston last week, calls for the right-wing conspiracy theorist to pay the families at least $85 million over 10 years. Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote that Jones could either liquidate his estate and give the proceeds to creditors, or pay the families at least $8.5 million a year for 10 years — and 50 percent of any income over $9 million a year — to settle his debt.

While lawyers described the proposal as a viable way to help resolve the bankruptcy cases that Jones faces for himself and his company, Free Speech Systems, the attorneys for the victims slammed the Infowars founder for failing to curb his spending, change his “extravagant lifestyle,” or failing to produce financial documents in court. Jones’s personal spending between May and July of this year was $242,219, including more than $93,000 in July alone, according to previous court filings.

“Jones has failed in every way to serve as the fiduciary mandated by the Bankruptcy Code in exchange for the breathing spell he has enjoyed for almost a year,” lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote in the settlement offer filing, which The Post obtained. “His time is up.”

Vickie L. Driver, Jones’s personal bankruptcy attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning. In a Monday court hearing, Driver suggested that even though the settlement offer was only pennies on the dollar compared to the $1.5 billion he owes, the figure was still too high and that it was unrealistic that he would be able to pay it.

“There are no financials that will ever show that Mr. Jones ever made that … in 10 years,” Driver said, according to the Associated Press.

The offer comes more than a year after Sandy Hook families were awarded nearly $1.5 billion in liabilities for Jones’s false theories about the 2012 school shooting. Jones, 49, is appealing the rulings in Connecticut and Texas, arguing that he didn’t get fair trials. The order came after the families testified about years of threats and harassment from Jones’s followers, who accused family members of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the mass shooting.

After Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, filed for bankruptcy in July 2022, Jones did the same last December, marking $969 million in bankruptcy claims that he owed to 17 people in the Sandy Hook cases as “disputed.” Jones claimed his estimated debts to be between $1 billion and $10 billion, and said last year that his debts were primarily business debts and that he owed an estimated 50 to 99 creditors. At the time, he estimated his assets to be worth between $1 million and $10 million.

Within a year of filing for bankruptcy, Jones reported that he paid more than $1.3 million in debts that he owed to people classified as “insiders,” which include any relatives or business partners. Among those listed is Erika Wulff Jones, whom he married in 2017 and with whom he has a child. Alex Jones reported paying his wife more than $680,800 as part of what’s listed as a “premarital agreement.”

Jones is still broadcasting and continues to tell his Infowars audience that he has money problems, urging them to buy his products to support his cause. Jones recently asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez for permission to sell his personal possessions, such as SUVs, boats and 49 firearms, to Infowars fans to help pay “administrative claims and reduce cost to maintain certain personal property, particularly those stored in various storage facilities.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Donations to GOP drop as worries mount about the party’s finances, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered ahead of the 2024 elections.

The Republican Party’s finances are increasingly worrisome to party members, advisers to former president Donald Trump, and other operatives involved in the 2024 election effort, according to 10 people familiar with the matter.

rnc logoThe Republican National Committee disclosed that it had $9.1 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 30, the lowest amount for the RNC in any Federal Election Commission report since February 2015. That compares with about $20 million at the same point in the 2016 election cycle and about $61 million four years ago, when Trump was in the White House.

The Democratic National Committee reported having $17.7 million as of Oct. 30, almost twice as much as the Republican Party, with one year before the election.

“It’s a revenue problem,” Tennessee RNC member Oscar Brock said. “We’re going through the same efforts we always go through to raise money: the same donor meetings, retreats, digital advertising, direct mail. But the return is much lower this year. If you know the answer, I’d love to know it. The staff has managed to tighten down on expenses to keep the party from going into the red.”

Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered, according to people familiar with the party’s finances, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party details. Some donors aren’t giving to the RNC because they think that will help Trump, which they don’t want to do, these people said, while others have said they prefer to wait until 2024 to give. Some have grown frustrated with the party’s leadership, people close to major donors said.

The party cut certain expenditures this year after projected money did not come in, according to people familiar with the decisions.

An RNC spokeswoman said the party has nonetheless deployed staff in 15 swing states to start working on get-out-the-vote efforts and election monitoring. The party is also pursuing 70 lawsuits in 19 states challenging voting rules and is encouraging Republicans to use early voting and mail ballots — methods Trump and his allies have disparaged, even as McDaniel repeatedly touts the importance of the “Bank Your Vote” initiative.

ny times logoNew York Times, Members of Congress Head for the Exits, Many Citing Dysfunction, Kayla Guo, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). More than three dozen incumbents will not seek re-election next year. Some are running for other offices, while others intend to leave Congress altogether.

Eleven are running for the Senate. Five for state or local office. One for president of the United States. Another is resigning to become a university president. And more and more say they are hanging up their hats in public office altogether.

U.S. House logoMore than three dozen members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election next year, some to pursue other offices and many others simply to get out of Washington. Twelve have announced their plans just this month.

The wave of lawmakers across chambers and parties announcing they intend to leave Congress comes at a time of breathtaking dysfunction on Capitol Hill, primarily instigated by House Republicans. The House G.O.P. majority spent the past few months deposing its leader, waging a weekslong internal war to select a new speaker and struggling to keep federal funding flowing. Right-wing members have rejected any spending legislation that could become law and railed against their new leader for turning to Democrats, as his predecessor did, to avert a government shutdown.

The chaos has Republicans increasingly worried that they could lose their slim House majority next year, a concern that typically prompts a rash of retirements from the party in control. But it is not only G.O.P. lawmakers who are opting to leave; Democrats, too, are rushing for the exits, with retirements across parties this year outpacing those of the past three election cycles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are the members of Congress who are giving up their seats, setting up a 2024 fight, Robert Jimison, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  The fight for control of Congress could be heavily influenced by the already large number of members retiring or seeking higher office. Few of the departures that have been announced are expected to alter the balance of power in the closely divided House, where the vast majority of seats are gerrymandered to be safe for one of the two political parties, or in the Senate. But a handful are already putting crucial seats up for grabs.

Many of those who are leaving are expressing frustration about the polarization and paralysis that has gripped the institution particularly this year, as House Republicans, dominated by their far-right flank, have struggled to do the basic business of governing and feuded over who should lead them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mike Johnson’s rise to House speaker cements the far-right takeover of the G.O.P., Carl Hulse, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). After their party was decimated in the 2008 elections, mainstream Republican leaders believed they could harness rising far-right populist forces. Instead, they were overrun by them.

The roots of the Republican crackup this fall that paralyzed the House, fueled the unexpected rise of Speaker Mike Johnson and now threatens to force a government shutdown crisis early next year lie in a fateful choice the party made more than a decade ago that has come back to haunt its leaders.

In early 2009, congressional Republicans were staring down a long exile in the political wilderness. Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and Democrats were within reach of a filibuster-proof, 60-vote supermajority in the Senate and the largest House majority in more than 20 years after the economic crisis of 2008.

djt maga hatBut Republicans saw a glimmer of hope in the energized far-right populist movement that emerged out of a backlash to Mr. Obama — the first Black president — and his party’s aggressive economic and social agenda, which included a federal health care plan. Republicans seized on the Tea Party and associated groups, with their nativist leanings and vehemently anti-establishment impulses, as their ticket back to power.

“We benefited from the anger that was generated against the one-way legislation of the Obama years,” said Eric Cantor, the former House leader from Virginia who became the No. 2 Republican after the 2010 midterm elections catapulted the party back into the majority. “It was my way or the highway.”

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Koch Network Endorses Nikki Haley in Bid to Push G.O.P. Past Trump, Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Swan, Nov. 28, 2023. The support will fortify Ms. Haley as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for the No. 2 spot in the Republican presidential field.

nikki haley oThe political network founded by the Koch brothers is endorsing Nikki Haley, right, in the Republican presidential primary race, giving her organizational muscle and financial heft as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for second place in Iowa.

The group announced its plans in a memo on Tuesday.

The commitment by the network, Americans for Prosperity Action, bolsters Ms. Haley as the campaign enters the final seven weeks before the first nominating contest. Since the first Republican primary debate, Ms. Haley has steadily climbed in polls, and is closely competing with Mr. DeSantis for the second-place slot in Iowa. Former President Donald J. Trump remains the dominant front-runner in the race.

Ms. Haley, who has described Mr. Trump’s time as past, has gained support from donors and her candidacy has received approval from elite opinion-makers, many of whom describe her as the best alternative to Mr. Trump.

But Ms. Haley’s campaign does not have the organizational strength that Mr. DeSantis does, thanks to work the super PAC affiliated with his campaign has been doing for much of the year.

The endorsement from the super PAC established by David and Charles Koch could help change that. It will give her access to a direct-mail operation, field workers to knock on doors and people making phone calls to prospective voters in Iowa and beyond. The group also has money to spend on television advertisements.

It also helps fuel Ms. Haley’s momentum heading into the final weeks before voting begins.

Americans for Prosperity Action has been among the country’s largest spenders on anti-Trump material this year, buying online ads and sending mailers to voters in a number of states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. All told, the group has spent more than $9 million in independent expenditures opposing Mr. Trump.

One mailer in Iowa, paid for by AFP Action, shows images of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden and reads, “You can stop Biden…by letting go of Trump.”

But so far none of that spending has benefited any of his rivals, who have been busily battling each other.

  • Washington Post, Biden highlights Trump’s renewed effort to shelve Affordable Care Act, Nov. 28, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: DeSantis PAC snips and clips its way to falsehood in attacking Haley, Glenn Kessler, Nov. 28, 2023. “We know her as ‘crooked Hillary.’ But to Nikki Haley, she’s her role model — the reason she ran for office.”

— voice-over from an attack ad aired by Fight Right, Inc., a new super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), aired Nov. 21
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With former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley rising in the polls to emerge as a (distant) second-place finisher in the Republican primaries behind former president Donald Trump, allies of DeSantis have begun to attack her as a Hillary Clinton-loving liberal.

This ad — with the tagline “Nikki’s not who she says” — is the first of what the group promises will be an effort “to shed light on the failed records and leadership of Governor DeSantis’s opponents.” The ad ends by urging viewers to visit TheRealNikki.com, a website paid for by the DeSantis campaign and claiming that Haley is “supportive of every liberal cause under the sun.”

That’s a stretch. When Haley was elected governor in 2011, she was perceived as a darling of the tea party, the conservative activists who paved the way for Trump to take over the GOP. She was also U.N. ambassador under Trump.

This ad is yet another example of how attack ads are crafted to present a misleading narrative. Haley has made no secret of the fact that an appearance by Clinton at a women’s professional event in Greenville, S.C., — at a time when, by her account, many people were giving Haley reasons not to seek public office — was a galvanizing event that gave her the confidence to enter politics.

 

iowa map

ny times logoNew York Times, In Countdown to Iowa, Trump Is Coasting as DeSantis and Haley Clash, Shane Goldmacher, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are running low on time to make a statement in Iowa’s caucuses and stop Donald Trump from delivering an early knockout blow.

The Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the Republican nominating calendar, are poised to play an especially consequential role in 2024. But with only 49 days to go, Donald J. Trump’s top rivals are running out of time to catch him as Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley thrash each other in the final sprint to the starting line.

Far ahead in national polls, Mr. Trump is aiming for an emphatic victory on Jan. 15 in Iowa that could serve as an early knockout punch. He leads in public surveys in the state by a margin twice as large as the most competitive contest in the last 50 years.

ron desantis hands out

Mr. DeSantis, above, the Florida governor, is betting on Iowa to pierce Mr. Trump’s growing aura of inevitability — and to reassert himself as the main rival to short-circuit Mr. Trump’s third run for president. Mr. DeSantis, who won the backing of the state’s popular Republican governor, has been barnstorming across all of Iowa’s 99 counties, bolstered by an army of door knockers paid for by his related super PAC.

On Saturday, Mr. DeSantis will visit his final county with an event in Newton held at the Thunderdome, a venue whose name appropriately captures the increasing acrimony and intensity of the race in the state. Mr. Trump will be in Cedar Rapids that same day.

For much of the year, the DeSantis team had insisted the 2024 primary was a two-man race. But Ms. Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, has ridden the momentum of her debate performances to transform it into a two-man-plus-one-woman contest.

“The more people see of Nikki Haley the more they like her,” said Betsy Ankney, Ms. Haley’s campaign manager. “The more they see Ron DeSantis, the less they like him.”

Now Ms. Haley, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Underestimate me — that’ll be fun” to the Iowa State Fair, is seeking to snuff out Mr. DeSantis at the very start. If she can best Mr. DeSantis in Iowa, his strongest early state, her team believes Ms. Haley would be positioned to emerge as the singular Trump alternative when the calendar turns to two friendlier terrains — New Hampshire, where she has polled in second place, and her home state, South Carolina, where she served as governor.

Revealingly, Ms. Haley’s allied super PAC has spent $3.5 million on ads and other expenditures attacking Mr. DeSantis in the last two months in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to federal records, but not a dollar explicitly opposing Mr. Trump despite his dominant overall lead.

Axios, Romney: Most Democrats would be an "upgrade" from Trump, Shauneen Miranda, Nov. 26-27, 2023. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Friday he would be happy to vote for a Democrat in the 2024 presidential race, which he thinks would be an "upgrade" from former President Trump.

axios logoWhy it matters: Romney, one of Trump's most vocal critics within the GOP, has repeatedly sparred with the former president, who remains the 2024 Republican Party front-runner for the White House.

President Donald Trump officialWhat he's saying: "I'd be happy to support virtually any one of the Republicans, maybe not Vivek [Ramaswamy], but the others that are running would be acceptable to me, and I'd be happy to vote for them," Romney said Friday in an interview with CBS' Norah O'Donnell when asked who in the GOP he supports.

"I'd be happy to vote for a number of the Democrats, too. I mean, it would be an upgrade, in my opinion, from Donald Trump and perhaps also from Joe Biden," Romney said.

djt maga hatThe Utah Republican said he thinks independent candidates are likely to elect Trump and that if he were re-elected, it would be "devastating for our country and his character."

Romney also clarified he would not be running for president in 2024 — even as an independent — and would only run "perhaps if Godzilla comes in and removes all the other candidates and so forth."

washington post logoWashington Post, This lawsuit could disrupt the U.S. tax system. Key facts are in dispute, Ann E. Marimow and Julie Zauzmer Weil, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Supreme Court to hear challenge to new tax on offshore earnings that was part of Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul.

The fate of an obscure provision of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax package, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court next week, has many experts panicked over the potential to destabilize the nation’s tax system. In addition, some say the outcome could preemptively block Congress from creating a wealth tax.

But the case has also exposed questions about the accuracy of the personal story a Washington State couple presented to the court in making their constitutional challenge to the tax, a one-time levy on offshore earnings.

irs logoCharles and Kathleen Moore appear to have closer ties to the company central to the case than they disclosed in court filings. Among other things, Charles Moore served on its board for five years and made a significant cash contribution to the company, records show.

Legal advocacy groups often rely on individuals to humanize their efforts in court, and it is not the first time that those on the other side have pointed to inconsistencies between what the justices are told in filings and the realities outside the courtroom.

Inside the tactics that won Christian vendors the right to reject gay weddings

rnc logoThis time, however, questions about the legal basis for the couple’s challenge to the tax have been raised before the justices are scheduled to hear oral argument on Dec. 5. Advocates who oppose their challenge have asked the Supreme Court to ditch the case and urged the couple’s attorneys, who come from an anti-regulatory advocacy group, to correct what they say are omissions and misstatements in the record.

Mindy Herzfeld, a tax policy expert from the University of Florida who has written extensively about the case known as Moore v. United States, said the court should not decide a constitutional question based on “an inaccurate set of facts.” To do so, she wrote in a recent column in Tax Notes, “risks undermining the Court’s legitimacy and creating the impression that its docket and its decisions are too easily manipulated by politically motivated interest groups.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Nikki Haley Is Coming for Your Retirement, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). At this point, both conventional wisdom and prediction markets say that Trump has a virtual lock on the nomination. But Wall Street paul krugmanisn’t completely resigned to Trump’s inevitability; there has been a late surge in big-money support for Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina. And there is, to be fair, still a chance that Trump — who is facing many criminal charges and whose public rants have become utterly unhinged — will manage to crash and burn before securing the nomination.

So it seems worth looking at what Haley stands for.

djt maga hatFrom a political point of view, one answer might be: nothing. A recent Times profile described her as having “an ability to calibrate her message to the moment.” A less euphemistic way to put this is that she seems willing to say whatever might work to her political advantage. “Flip-flopping” doesn’t really convey the sheer cynicism with which she has shifted her rhetoric and changed her positions on everything from abortion rights to immigration to whether it’s OK to try overturning a national election.

nikki haley oAnd anyone hoping that she would govern as a moderate if she should somehow make it to the White House is surely delusional. Haley has never really shown a willingness to stand up to Republican extremists — and at this point the whole G.O.P. has been taken over by extremists.

That said, Haley has shown some consistency on issues of economic and fiscal policy. And what you should know is that her positions on these issues are pretty far to the right. In particular, she seems exceptionally explicit, even among would-be Republican nominees, in calling for an increase in the age at which Americans become eligible for Social Security — a bad idea that seems to be experiencing a revival.

social security administrationSo let’s talk about Social Security.

The first thing you should know about Social Security is that the actual numbers don’t justify the apocalyptic rhetoric one often hears, not just from the right but from self-proclaimed centrists who want to sound serious. No, the exhaustion of the system’s trust fund, currently projected to occur in roughly a decade, wouldn’t mean that benefits disappear.

It would mean that the system would need additional revenue to continue paying scheduled benefits in full. But the extra revenue required would be smaller than you probably think. The most recent long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office show Social Security outlays rising to 6.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2053 from 5.1 percent this year, not exactly an earth-shattering increase.

Anyone who says, as Haley does, that the retirement age should rise in line with increasing life expectancy is being oblivious, perhaps willfully, to the grim inequality of modern America. Until Covid struck, average life expectancy at 65, the relevant number, was indeed rising. But these gains were concentrated among Americans with relatively high incomes. Less affluent Americans — those who depend most on Social Security — have seen little rise in life expectancy, and in some cases actual declines.

So anyone invoking rising life expectancy as a reason to delay Social Security benefits is, in effect, saying that aging janitors must keep working (or be cast into extreme poverty) because bankers are living longer.

How, then, should the Social Security gap be closed? The obvious answer — which happens to be favored by a majority of voters — is to raise more revenue. Remember, America collects less revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. than almost any other advanced economy.

But Haley, of course, wants to cut income taxes.

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Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Gold Bars and Tokyo Apartments: How Money Is Flowing Out of China, Keith Bradsher and Joy Dong, Nov. 28, 2023. Chinese families are sending money overseas, a sign of unease about the country’s economic and political future. A cheaper currency is also helping exports.

China FlagAffluent Chinese have moved hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country this year, seizing on the end of Covid precautions that had almost completely sealed China’s borders for nearly three years.

They are using their savings to buy overseas apartments, stocks and insurance policies. Able to fly again to Tokyo, London and New York, Chinese travelers have bought apartments in Japan and poured money into accounts in the United States or Europe that pay higher interest than in China, where rates are low and falling.

The outbound shift of money in part indicates unease inside China about the sputtering recovery after the pandemic as well as deeper problems, like an alarming slowdown in real estate, the main storehouse of wealth for families. For some people, it is also a reaction to fears about the direction of the economy under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has cracked down on business and strengthened the government’s hand in many aspects of society.

In some cases, Chinese are improvising to get around China’s strict government controls on transferring money overseas. They have bought gold bars small enough to be scattered unobtrusively through carry-on luggage, as well as large stacks of foreign currency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why are there only 350 Americans studying in China? Vivian Wang, Nov. 28, 2023. The flow of students between the countries has been a mainstay of their relationship, even when ties have soured. Now these exchanges, too, are under threat.

On a cool Saturday morning, in a hotel basement in Beijing, throngs of young Chinese gathered to do what millions had done before them: dream of an American education.

China FlagAt a college fair organized by the United States Embassy, the students and their parents hovered over rows of booths advertising American universities. As a mascot of a bald eagle worked the crowd, they posed eagerly for photos.

But beneath the festive atmosphere thrummed a note of anxiety. Did America still want Chinese students? And were Chinese students sure they wanted to go to America?

“We see the negative news, so it’s better to be careful,” said Zhuang Tao, the father of a college senior considering graduate school in the United States, Australia and Britain. He had read the frequent headlines about gun violence, anti-Asian discrimination and, of course, tensions between the United States and China, at one of their highest levels in decades. “After all, the entire situation is a bit complicated.”

Students have been traveling between China and the United States for generations, propelled by ambition, curiosity and a belief that their time abroad could help them better their and their countries’ futures. The first Chinese student to graduate from an American university, Yung Wing, arrived at Yale in 1850 and later helped send 120 more students to America.

The trickle became a steady stream: For nearly the past two decades, Chinese students have made up the largest share of international students in the United States. And for Americans, until the coronavirus pandemic, China was the most popular destination for study abroad outside of Western Europe, according to an annual State Department-funded survey. Students have been an anchor in the two countries’ relations, even when political or economic ties have soured.

But that anchor is now under threat. For the last three years, the number of Chinese students in the United States has fallen, according to the State Department survey. The number of American students in China, meanwhile, plummeted during the pandemic to a mere 350 as of this year, the American Embassy has said, compared to more than 11,000 in 2019.

Both Beijing and Washington have acknowledged the importance of restoring exchanges. During his trip to San Francisco this month, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, declared that China was “ready to invite” 50,000 Americans to study in China over the next five years. The American ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, has insisted that the United States welcomes Chinese students.

ap logoAssociated Press, Pope punishes leading critic Cardinal Burke in second action against conservative American prelates, Nicole Winfield, Nov. 28, 2023. Pope Francis met separately on Wednesday with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and relatives of Palestinians currently in Gaza.

pope francis uncropped 3 13Pope Francis has decided to punish one of his highest-ranking critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, by revoking his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary in the second such radical action against a conservative American prelate this month, according to two people briefed on the measures.

Francis told a meeting of the heads of Vatican offices last week that he was moving against Burke because he was a source of “disunity” in the church, said one of the participants at the Nov. 20 meeting. The participant spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the contents of the encounter.

Francis said he was removing Burke’s privileges of having a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary as a retired cardinal because he was using the privileges against the church, said another person who was subsequently briefed on the pope’s measures. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the details.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vietnam Is Jailing Environmentalists Who Helped It Secure Billions, Sui-Lee Wee, Nov. 28, 2023. The government is preparing to present its energy transition plan at the U.N. climate talks as it intensifies a crackdown on environmental advocates.

vietnam flagWhen Vietnam was awarded a multibillion-dollar deal by a group of nine wealthy nations last year to work on reducing its use of coal, it agreed to regularly consult with nongovernmental organizations.

Instead, the government has arrested several prominent environmentalists from those organizations who shaped policies that helped secure the funding, prompting concerns over sending money to countries that have violated human rights.

As the country prepares to announce how it will spend the money at the United Nations climate talks that begin on Thursday, activists are saying that Vietnamese officials need to be held accountable for what they are calling a harsh crackdown against those who speak out about the country’s environmental woes.

Ngo Thi To Nhien, the director of an energy think tank, was the sixth environmental campaigner to be detained in the past two years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Battle for Influence Rages in Heart of Wagner’s Operations in Africa, lian Peltier, Photographs by Jim Huylebroek, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The death of the mercenary group’s leader has created a window of opportunity in the Central African Republic for Western powers to offer an alternative.

In palmier times, the leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, appeared at a Russian cultural center in the capital of the Central African Republic, sitting with schoolchildren and promising them free laptops.

But Mr. Prigozhin’s death in August has rattled the mercenary group’s once-cozy relations with the Central African Republic, which is now weighing offers from Russia and Western countries, including the United States, to replace Wagner as its primary security guarantor.

The outcome of this struggle could be a bellwether for the group’s future on the continent, where the Central African Republic is perhaps the most deeply enmeshed among the handful of African nations partnering with Wagner.

The Russian Defense Ministry has sought to absorb some of Wagner’s activities, while preserving its influence and maintaining its wealth of knowledge about the continent. But a senior Western diplomat said that the uncertainty around Wagner in the Central African Republic provided a “window of opportunity” for the United States and France to counter Russian influence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Leaders of Attack on Sierra Leone Armory Are Arrested, President Says, Monika Pronczuk, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Julius Maada Bio said there had been “a breach of security” at a key military barracks in the capital, Freetown.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sierra Leone Declares Nationwide Curfew After Attack on Armory, Monika Pronczuk, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). It was not yet clear who had tried to break into the military’s main armory and barracks in the capital, Freetown, or what happened after they failed.

The authorities in Sierra Leone declared a nationwide curfew on Sunday, hours after what they described as a thwarted effort by unidentified men to break into one of the West African country’s key military armories and barracks.

The country’s president, Julius Maada Bio, said early Sunday that there had been “a breach of security” at the Wilberforce military barracks in the capital, Freetown, as “some unidentified individuals attacked the military armory.”

“However, they were repelled,” Mr. Bio said on social media, “and calm has been restored.”

Mr. Bio called on the public to stay indoors, adding: “We shall continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability.”

The barracks are strategically placed near Mr. Bio’s residence, and the armory is one of the most important places where weapons are kept. According to local journalists, heavy gunfire was heard early Sunday in Freetown, and soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles could be seen setting up military blockades in some strategic parts of the city.

washington post logoWashington Post, Raped during Ethiopia’s war, survivors now rejected by their families, Katharine Houreld, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). More than 100,000 women may have been raped during the two-year civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, according to the most comprehensive study.

Shila survived three months of sexual enslavement during Ethiopia’s civil war and then the birth of a son fathered by an attacker. She told no one, maintaining that her youngest child was the result of a clandestine visit by her husband, a Tigrayan militiaman.

Then, after three long years, her husband finally returned, Shila recalled. She’d thought he was dead. When he took off his hat and she saw his silhouette in the darkness, she collapsed.

“For years, I longed for him to come home,” she said, tears sliding down her face. “But I also feared he would tell people what happened and reject me.”

More than 100,000 women may have been raped during the two-year civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, according to the most comprehensive study so far of these attacks in research conducted by the Columbia University biostatistician Kiros Berhane. And countless women who gave birth as a result are struggling with a hidden agony, often ostracized even by their families. They have been victimized twice, once during the conflict that pitted Ethiopia’s military and allied soldiers from Eritrea against Tigrayan rebels, and a second time by their own communities, even after a cease-fire a year ago quieted the hostilities.

A dozen rape survivors, most raising young children, recounted in interviews their efforts to rebuild shattered lives. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity.

During the war, all sides committed rapes, human rights groups and victims report, but the most sustained and organized violence was committed against Tigrayan women, who said they were raped by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers and by militiamen from Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

  • Washington Post, Groundbreaking smoking ban reversed in New Zealand’s swing to the right, Nov. 28, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Taiwan Continue to Fight Off Chinese Disinformation? Tiffany Hsu, Amy Chang Chien and Steven Lee Myers, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Ahead of a presidential election in January, Taiwanese fact checkers and watchdogs say they are ready for Beijing. But they are still worried.

Suspicious videos that began circulating in Taiwan this month seemed to show the country’s leader advertising cryptocurrency investments.

taiwan flagPresident Tsai Ing-wen, who has repeatedly risked Beijing’s ire by asserting her island’s autonomy, appeared to claim in the clips that the government helped develop investment software for digital currencies, using a term that is common in China but rarely used in Taiwan. Her mouth appeared blurry and her voice unfamiliar, leading Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau to deem the video to be almost certainly a deepfake — an artificially generated spoof — and potentially one created by Chinese agents.

For years, China has pummeled the Taiwanese information ecosystem with inaccurate narratives and conspiracy theories, seeking to undermine its democracy and divide its people in an effort to assert control over its neighbor. Now, as fears over Beijing’s growing aggression mount, a new wave of disinformation is heading across the strait separating Taiwan from the mainland before the pivotal election in January.

Perhaps as much as any other place, however, the tiny island is ready for the disinformation onslaught.

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Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Navy Rescues Ship From Pirate Attack in Gulf of Aden, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The United States is investigating whether Iran was involved in the incident. Hours after the attack, two missiles were fired at the Navy ship involved in the rescue.

The U.S. Navy intervened to stop the hijacking of a commercial cargo ship by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia on Sunday, after which two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward the Navy destroyer that responded to the incident, the U.S. military said.

The ballistic missiles were fired from the part of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the region. If the missiles were meant to hit the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, they fell well short of the mark: They landed in the Gulf of Aden 10 nautical miles from the American ship.

The U.S.S. Mason, and other ships from the U.S.-led counter-piracy task force that operates off the coast of Somalia, responded after the crew of the commercial ship, the Central Park, called for help. The Central Park crew reported they were under attack from an unknown entity, U.S. Central Command said.

When the coalition vessels arrived at the Central Park, they demanded the release of the ship. Five armed people fled from the ship and attempted to flee in the small boat they had used to attack the cargo ship. The U.S.S. Mason pursued the attackers and forced them to surrender, the news release said. Fox News reported the rescue earlier.

Later, at about 1:41 a.m. local time on Monday, more than 16 hours after the initial attack, two ballistic missiles were fired toward the U.S.S. Mason, which was “concluding its response” to the attack at the time.

U.S. officials would not say who was responsible for the attack and if the five-person group was acting under the orders of a state or group. But officials said that they are investigating whether Iran was involved, or if it was an attack unrelated to the regional tensions that have intensified since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which prompted Israel to launch a war against the militant group in Gaza.

Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran in the war in Yemen, attacked several commercial vessels last week in the Red Sea — a body of water next to the Gulf of Aden — including the Central Park. The Houthis and other groups backed by Iran, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, have increased attacks on Israel since Oct. 7.

Officials said it is not clear if the attackers were the same group that attempted to take the ship earlier. While the Houthi rebels struck in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden where the Central Park was attacked is far from their area of operations. One U.S. official and one former Pentagon official said Iranian involvement in the operation is being investigated.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Troops Still Train on Weapons With Known Risk of Brain Injury, Dave Philipps, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Pentagon researchers say weapons like shoulder-fired rockets expose troops to blast waves far above safety limits, but they remain in wide use.

A blast shattered the stillness of a meadow in the Ozark Mountains on an autumn afternoon. Then another, and another, and another, until the whole meadow was in flames.

Special Operations troops were training with rocket launchers again.

Each operator held a launch tube on his shoulder, a few inches from his head, then took aim and sent a rocket flying at 500 miles an hour. And each launch sent a shock wave whipping through every cell in the operator’s brain.

For generations, the military assumed that this kind of blast exposure was safe, even as evidence mounted that repetitive blasts may do serious and lasting harm.

In recent years, Congress, pressed by veterans who were exposed to these shock waves, has ordered the military to set safety limits and start tracking troops’ exposure. In response, the Pentagon created a sprawling Warfighter Brain Health Initiative to study the issue, gather data and propose corrective strategies. And last year, for the first time, it set a threshold above which a weapon blast is considered hazardous.

Despite the order, though, things have hardly changed on the ground. Training continues largely as it did before. Troops say they see little being done to limit or track blast exposure. And weapons like shoulder-fired rockets that are known to deliver a shock wave well above the safety threshold are still in wide use.

The disconnect fits a pattern that has repeated for more than a decade: Top leaders talk of the importance of protecting troops’ brains, but the military fails to take practical steps to ensure safety.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Justices Search for Middle Ground on Mandatory Sentences for Gun Crimes, Adam Liptak, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A federal law imposes a mandatory 15-year sentence for possessing a gun after committing three serious drug offenses. But which offenses count? The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday over which drug offenses trigger mandatory 15-year sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which is a kind of federal three-strikes law.

The justices had three choices. By the end of the arguments, most of them seemed to have settled on a middle ground.

The law imposes the mandatory sentences on people convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms if they had already committed three violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The question for the justices was how to determine which drug offenses count under the law, which refers to a schedule of controlled substances overseen by the attorney general.

That schedule is revised from time to time, giving rise to the puzzle in the case.

Depending on which version of the schedule applies, a state drug conviction may or may not count as a strike under the federal gun law. Lawyers in the two consolidated cases on Monday gave the justices three options for deciding which schedule applied: the one in force when the defendant committed the state drug offense, the one in place when the defendant committed the federal gun crime or the one that applied when the defendant was sentenced for the federal gun crime.

A federal appeals court ruled that the middle choice — the schedule in place when he committed the federal gun crime — was the one that counted, affirming the 15-year mandatory sentence.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court ruled that Arizona lawmakers must testify about state voting laws requiring proof of citizenship, Adam Liptak
Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Two Republican lawmakers had argued that they could not be questioned about their motives for supporting the laws, which require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that two Arizona lawmakers must testify about their reasons for supporting state laws requiring proof of citizenship for voting in federal elections.

The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. No dissents were noted.

The Justice Department, the Democratic National Committee, civil rights groups and others had challenged the state laws, saying they violated federal laws and had been enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

After Arizona’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, a Democrat, declined to defend aspects of the laws, Ben Toma, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Warren Petersen, the president of the Arizona Senate, both Republicans, intervened to defend it.

Lawmakers are ordinarily shielded by a legislative privilege from inquiries into their motives for sponsoring or voting for legislation. In September, Judge Susan R. Bolton, of the Federal District Court in Arizona, ruled that a different analysis applied when lawmakers voluntarily injected themselves into a litigation.

“The speaker and president each waived their privilege by intervening to ‘fully defend’ the voting laws and putting their motives at issue,” Judge Bolton wrote, adding that the two legislators could be compelled to testify about their activities.

At first, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked Judge Bolton’s ruling but later lifted its stay, allowing depositions of the men to proceed. The lawmakers then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“Unless the court issues an immediate stay,” they told the justices in an emergency application, “the legislative leaders will quickly find themselves between the mythical Scylla and Charybdis: They’ll either need to submit to improper depositions or refuse to do so and expose themselves to potential sanctions and contempt charges. Either choice brings serious consequences that can’t be corrected.”
In response, lawyers for the Democratic National Committee wrote that the lawmakers were trying to have it both ways by arguing that the laws were not the product of discriminatory intent but refusing to be questioned about the matter. That, they wrote, is “wholly foreign to foundational principles of our adversarial judicial system, and to basic fairness.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Quiet Blockbuster at the Supreme Court That Could Impact All Americans, Kate Shaw, Nov. 22, 2023. Some Supreme Court terms are characterized by a single blockbuster case. This term largely revolves around a single blockbuster question: Will our government retain the capacity to address the most pressing issues of our time?

That’s what’s at stake in a group of cases involving the power, capacity and in some instances the very existence of federal agencies, the entities responsible for carrying out so much of the work of government.

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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Wife of Gilgo Beach Suspect Gets a Documentary Deal, Corey Kilgannon, Nov. 28, 2023. Rex Heuermann is accused of killing three women. The commercialization of such a depraved case has rankled victims’ families.

After Rex Heuermann was arrested in July and accused of slaughtering women found bound in burlap and buried along a desolate stretch of Gilgo Beach, his family was left reeling and destitute.

With their dilapidated Massapequa Park ranch house turned inside out by investigators, Mr. Heuermann’s wife, Asa Ellerup, and their two grown children were left to sleep on mats and cook on a grill in the front yard in full view of news crews and true-crime gawkers. Things got so bad that the daughter of a West Coast serial killer created an online fund-raiser.

But where some saw evil, depravity and tragedy, media companies saw pay dirt, swooping in with lucrative bids to turn the whole thing into content.

Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBCUniversal, is paying the family to participate in a documentary series covering the family through Mr. Heuermann’s trial, which is likely to begin next year.

george floyd derek chauvin

 ny times logoNew York Times, Stabbing of Derek Chauvin Raises Questions About Inmate Safety, Glenn Thrush and Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The ex-officer, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was being held in a federal prison for high-profile inmates. He is said to be likely to survive.

The stabbing on Friday of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd in 2020, at a special unit inside a Tucson, Ariz., prison is the latest in a series of attacks against high-profile inmates in the troubled, short-staffed federal Bureau of Prisons.

The assault comes less than five months after Larry Nassar, the doctor convicted of sexually abusing young female gymnasts, was stabbed multiple times at the federal prison in Florida. It also follows the release of Justice Department reports detailing incompetence and mismanagement at federal detention centers that led to the deaths in recent years of James Bulger, the Boston gangster known as Whitey, and Jeffrey Epstein, who had been charged with sex trafficking.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, though the bureau did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. The agency said in a statement that the inmate required “life-saving measures” before being rushed to a hospital emergency room nearby. The office of Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general who prosecuted the former police officer, identified the inmate as Mr. Chauvin.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Today’s Migrant Crisis Looks Like to a Holocaust Refugee, Joseph Berger, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Read a firsthand account of one of the 140,000 Jewish refugees who fled postwar Europe and arrived in New York City.

Even with New York’s complicated history as a port for new arrivals, the photographs this summer of more than a hundred migrants sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk outside the once-elegant Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan were shocking. So were scenes of young migrants idling on sidewalks, stoops and park benches, desperate to work but legally prohibited from doing so.

For those of us who were once part of such a moment, the scenes stirred up memories and reflections on how different some things were now for new arrivals and how much they were the same. I, too, was once part of a migrant influx.

In the years after the end of World War II, New York City absorbed a similar wave of immigrants — a large majority of the 140,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors who came to America between 1946 and 1953 — and it did so comparatively smoothly and uneventfully. These immigrants were eager to get on with their lives but were still in shock or heartbroken from the brutalities they had suffered, the parents and siblings they had lost, and the hometowns they could no longer return to.

Those who had no relatives to stay with were put up in 14 hotels that had seen better days as well as in a shelter hacked out of the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street, which is now the Public Theater.

My family was among those immigrants, having spent the previous four years waiting for visas to the United States while idling in two camps for so-called displaced persons in the American zone in occupied Germany. After a rocky voyage on a merchant marine vessel called the U.S.S. General A.W. Greely, my parents, my brother and I arrived on March 3, 1950, at a pier on West 21st Street. My brother Josh was not yet 3. I was 5.

ny times logoNew York Times, Derek Chauvin Is Said to Have Been Stabbed in Federal Prison, Glenn Thrush and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was serving a sentence of more than 20 years.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd during a 2020 arrest that set off a wave of protests, was stabbed at a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed at 12:30 p.m., though the agency’s statement did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. No other inmates or prison staff were injured, and the situation was quickly contained, according to the people familiar with the situation.

Emergency medical technicians “initiated lifesaving measures” before transporting the inmate to a local hospital “for further treatment and evaluation,” bureau officials wrote. No details were immediately available on his condition, but one of the people with knowledge of the incident said that Mr. Chauvin survived the attack.

Mr. Chauvin was serving a sentence of just over two decades in federal prison after he was convicted of state murder charges and a federal charge of violating the constitutional rights of Mr. Floyd. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

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More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Cockroaches and Mountains of Trash Plague Acapulco After Hurricane Otis, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Residents complain of rashes and stomach ailments as 666,000 tons of garbage overwhelm the city. Uncollected waste after natural disasters can lead to illnesses, experts said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Love Avocados. It’s Killing Mexico’s Forests, Simon Romero and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Photographs by César Rodríguez, Nov. 28, 2023. Illegal deforestation for avocado crops points to a blood-soaked trade with the United States involving threats, abductions and killings.

In western Mexico forests are being razed at a breakneck pace and while deforestation in places like the Amazon rainforest or Borneo is driven by cattle ranching, gold mining and palm oil farms, in this hot spot, it is fueled by the voracious appetite in the United States for avocados.

A combination of interests, including criminal gangs, landowners, corrupt local officials and community leaders, are involved in clearing forests for avocado orchards, in some cases illegally seizing privately owned land. Virtually all the deforestation for avocados in the last two decades may have violated Mexican law, which prohibits “land-use change” without government authorization.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Will Skip U.N. Climate Summit, White House Official Says, Lisa Friedman and Jim Tankersley, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden has attended the past two summits and calls climate change “the ultimate threat,” but he will miss the talks beginning in Dubai on Thursday.

President Biden will not attend a major United Nations climate summit that begins Thursday in Dubai, skipping an event expected to be attended by King Charles III, Pope Francis and leaders from nearly 200 countries, a White House official said Sunday.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss the president’s schedule, did not give a reason Mr. Biden will not make an appearance at the two-week summit, known as COP28.

But senior White House aides suggested that the war between Israel and Hamas had consumed the president in recent weeks and days, as he pressed for a pause in fighting and release of hostages held by Hamas.

“They’ve got the war in the Middle East and a war in Ukraine, a bunch of things going on,” John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s special envoy for climate change, said last week. Mr. Kerry and his team will be in Dubai.

ny times logoNew York Times, Huge Turbines Will Soon Bring First Offshore Wind Power to New Yorkers, Patrick McGeehan, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). New York’s best bet for entering the era of offshore wind power is stacked up at the water’s edge in Connecticut.

The turbines will make up South Fork Wind, a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean whose completion is pivotal to Northeastern states’ hopes of switching to renewable sources of energy. Recent setbacks to several other offshore projects in the region have raised concerns about whether and when they all will be built.

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More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Women Protest Long Deployments for Soldiers in Ukraine, Neil MacFarquhar and Milana Mazaeva, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). “Make way for someone else,” a grass-roots movement demands as women challenge the argument that the mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely.

Russian FlagThe woman in the video, her face blurred, gave a blunt assessment of Russian military policy: Soldiers mobilized over a year ago to fight in Ukraine deserved to come home. Why weren’t they?

“Our mobilized became the best army in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this army should stay there to the last man,” she said. “If he did something heroic, spilled blood for his country sincerely, then maybe it was time to return to his family, make way for someone else, but that’s not happening.”

The speaker was part of a new, grass-roots movement that has been gathering steam in Russia over the past several weeks. Women in various cities are seeking to stage public protests, challenging the official argument that mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely to secure their Russian homeland.

ny times logoNew York Times, A massive storm battered southern Ukraine, causing havoc for civilians and soldiers, Marc Santora, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

A powerful wintry storm battered southern Ukraine on Monday, washing away Russian coastal defenses from some beaches on the occupied Crimean peninsula. The storm, which Ukrainian meteorologists said was among the most intense in decades, snarled supply routes for both countries’ armies and deepened the misery of tens of thousands of soldiers huddled in shallow trenches across the sprawling front line.

ukraine flagAs temperatures plunged below freezing across much of the country, hundreds of thousands of civilians were left without power in Russian-occupied territories and tens of thousands more lost power across southern Ukraine.

All the hardships that a winter storm typically delivers were compounded and complicated by the exigencies of war. A blizzard of snow, for example, stranded civilians on roads while complicating the movement of humanitarian aid to communities across Ukraine ravaged by fighting.

Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea — as less violent storms have done in the past — complicating the navigation of already dangerous shipping lanes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia held these Ukrainian teens captive. Their testimonies could be used against Putin, Siobhán O'Grady and Anastacia Galouchka, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Ukraine intends to use the teens’ testimony as evidence that Russia is systematically removing Ukrainian children from their homes and culture.

Russian FlagThe Russian missing child poster went up in Crimea soon after Rostyslav Lavrov escaped last month.

“HELP FIND,” it read. “17 years old, born 2006 … Height 160 cm, thin build, dark hair, blue eyes.”

“Anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of the teenager is asked to report this.”

The attached photo — which Lavrov said was taken several months ago when Russian authorities holding him against his will tried to issue him a Russian ID card — showed the Ukrainian teen sullen in a white shirt and tie.

He is one of three Ukrainian teenagers who fled Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea this summer and shared their experiences with The Washington Post in lengthy interviews in Kyiv and Kherson. They each described systematic efforts by Russian officials to keep them in Russian-controlled territory.

Ukraine says there are thousands of Ukrainian children like Lavrov who were forced to move to Russia or Russian-occupied territory, including Crimea, since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. What makes Lavrov exceptional is that he got out, carrying with him memories of his experience that could one day be used in court to prove Russia committed war crimes by relocating children.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Consumers, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike Changed the Labor Movement, Kurtis Lee, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The 1968 action led to greater economic mobility for Black workers. Today, union activists are trying to capture some of that spirit.

This article is from Headway, an initiative from The New York Times exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress. Headway looks for promising solutions, notable experiments and lessons from what has been tried.

Jack Walker is a union man. He drives a garbage truck in Memphis, where his route can take him barreling past shotgun-style houses along the Mississippi River and down the narrow alleyways near the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He is aware, always, of how his union protections are tied to Dr. King’s death and that of another man: his father.

Robert Walker, Mr. Walker’s father, was also a sanitation worker. On Feb. 1, 1968, he was collecting garbage when sheets of rain started pouring down. He and his colleague Echol Cole took shelter in the compactor of their truck. When a compressing piston malfunctioned, the two men were crushed. The city had no intention to pay death benefits, offering Robert Walker’s widow only $500 for funeral expenses, “if you need it,” as the official letter put it. She had five children, including Jack, and was pregnant with a sixth.

The tragedy was a culmination of slow-burning indignities for Black sanitation workers in Memphis. They earned low wages to lug heavy, open tubs of refuse to their trucks. Rotting garbage seeped onto their skin and clothes. Their white colleagues, who were often drivers, showered at the depot at the end of their shifts. But the Black collectors were forced to ride the bus or walk home in their dank clothes covered in flecks of trash and maggots.

Fed up, they called a strike. Roughly 1,300 sanitation workers began marching through the streets of Memphis. They carried signs that read “I Am a Man,” with the “Am” underlined. The strike stretched on for weeks. Even as trash began to accumulate on city streets, Memphis’s mayor wouldn’t entertain the strikers’ demands, instead sending in police officers with clubs and mace to break up marches.

The strikers’ mission and bravery spoke to Dr. King, who had embarked on a new economic justice effort, the Poor People’s Campaign. He came to Memphis in March and again in April, when, at a local church, he gave an impassioned speech that would turn out to be his last.

Two weeks after Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the Memphis City Council voted to recognize the sanitation workers’ union, promising higher wages to the largely Black work force.

“It was a first step in getting them on their feet financially,” said Lee Saunders, the current president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “It was a huge deal.”

The strike in Memphis more than five decades ago “inspired a surge of organizing and strikes, not unlike what we see today,” said William P. Jones, a history professor at the University of Minnesota who has written on race and class.

Today’s resurgence in labor activism cuts across a broad range of industries. There have been recent labor fights at, among other places, rail yards, schools, hospitals, hotels, Hollywood studios and Starbucks stores. And the issues on the bargaining table include traditional demands, like higher wages and better staffing levels, as well as protections against replacement by artificial intelligence. Unions have had remarkable success in recent months, including securing a big pay raise for Las Vegas hospitality workers who merely threatened a strike.

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Final Wave of Sex-Abuse Lawsuits as One-Year Window Closes in New York, Hurubie Meko, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Since the Adult Survivors Act was passed, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed, some aimed at politicians and others at institutions.

In the year since a one-time window opened in New York State allowing people to file sex-abuse lawsuits even after the statute of limitations had expired, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed.

Before the deadline on Thanksgiving, a flurry of attention-grabbing suits were filed against politicians — like former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Eric Adams, the mayor of New York (shown above) — and celebrities, like Sean Combs, the producer and music mogul, who had just settled a separate suit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing him of rape.

But hundreds of people have also — collectively and separately — sued institutions, including the state’s prisons, jails and prominent hospitals, for abuses they said were systematically ignored and hidden for decades. At least 479 suits contain charges of abuse at Rikers Island.

As the legislation to allow the civil suits, known as the Adult Survivors Act, approached its sunset date, the number of lawsuits filed — both in State Supreme Court and in the Court of Claims — steadily increased after a campaign to alert people to the deadline. The number of cases filed in State Supreme Court alone rose from 803 on Oct. 31 to 1,397 as of Nov. 22.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The U.S. pharmacy industry is crumbling. Here’s how to fix it, Robert Gebelhoff, Nov. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Canby Drug & Gifts, a pharmacy in rural Minnesota, is a paradox. It does good business, yet it is always on the verge of shutting down. “I’m one bad contract from closing,” says owner Mark Whittier.

His drugstore, one of a few in his county of more than 9,000 people, exemplifies the struggle many independent pharmacies face. The store is a lifeline for customers, most of whom are either on Medicaid or the state’s health-insurance program. Yet profitability is now near-impossible because of the preposterous way the United States distributes pharmaceutical drugs.

Without serious reforms, businesses such as Whittier’s could disappear.

The tectonic plates beneath retail pharmaceuticals are shifting, and drugstores are falling. The total number of drugstores has been falling since 2015, but the trend has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, which have lost about 10 percent of their pharmacies in two decades.

There are plenty of reasons for this: As for many other businesses, revenue for pharmacies cratered during the pandemic. Labor shortages, especially among pharmacists seeking better pay and working conditions, further strained operations. Meanwhile, online retailers have provided new competition and large opioid settlements have battered many chains.

But U.S. drug distribution has also greatly consolidated, granting enormous power to a few big players that have mangled the industry in the pursuit of profit. A small number of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and Optum Rx — act as intermediaries between pharmacies and the insurance companies that pay for prescription drugs. But each PBM also runs a network of pharmacies and goes to great lengths to direct customers to its preferred retail stores.

That’s right — the same corporations that are deciding where Americans should buy their drugs are often running those drugstores.

This market dominance has driven business away from independent stores. Worse, PBMs are notorious for setting low-reimbursement fees, making it difficult for pharmacies to break even. Many PBMs also impose contracts on independent pharmacies with unrealistic demands on how they dispense drugs and how their customers follow the regimens. When pharmacies fall short, they are hit with enormous fees.

Together, these forces have expanded America’s “pharmacy deserts” — swaths of the country without easy access to stores — and this situation is bound to worsen. CVS and Walgreens plan to continue shedding retail locations in the coming years. Rite Aid’s bankruptcy last month will pile on another 150-plus closures.

This could have serious effects on Americans’ health, especially among minorities. Long drives and onerous trips on public transportation make it hard for patients to stay on track with their medications. People shouldn’t have to spend an hour in a car or bus just to pick up insulin to treat diabetes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Wiped Out Hepatitis C. Now It Is Trying to Help the Rest of Africa, Stephanie Nolen, Photographs by Natalija Gormalova, Nov. 28, 2023. Effective drugs that have made the disease curable have yet to reach most of the region.

egypt flagEgypt is on track to be the first country to achieve the World Health Organization goal of eliminating hepatitis C, and it is leveraging that victory into a campaign of “health diplomacy,” pledging to donate drugs and share expertise, with the goal of treating a million African patients. It is an unusual gesture in the world of global health, where largess is typically delivered to developing countries from high-income nations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unvaccinated and Vulnerable: Children Drive Surge in Deadly Outbreaks, Stephanie Nolen, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). About 60 million “zero-dose children” have not received any vaccines and have aged out of routine immunization programs. Protecting them will require a costly vaccination blitz. Large outbreaks of diseases that primarily kill children are spreading around the world, a grim legacy of disruptions to health systems during the Covid-19 pandemic that have left more than 60 million children without a single dose of standard childhood vaccines.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2By midway through this year, 47 countries were reporting serious measles outbreaks, compared with 16 countries in June 2020. Nigeria is currently facing the largest diphtheria outbreak in its history, with more than 17,000 suspected cases and nearly 600 deaths so far. Twelve countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, are reporting circulating polio virus.

Many of the children who missed their shots have now aged out of routine immunization programs. So-called “zero-dose children” account for nearly half of all child deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses, according to Gavi, the organization that helps fund vaccination in low- and middle-income countries.

An additional 85 million children are under-immunized as a result of the pandemic — that is, they received only part of the standard course of several shots required to be fully protected from a particular disease.

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Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Free Speech, Culture

ny times logoNew York Times, At Meta, Millions of Underage Users Were an ‘Open Secret,’ States Say, Natasha Singer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Meta has received more than 1.1 million reports of users under the age of 13 on its Instagram platform since early 2019 yet it “disabled only a fraction” of those accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint against the company brought by the attorneys general of 33 states.

meta logoInstead, the social media giant “routinely continued to collect” children’s personal information, like their locations and email addresses, without parental permission, in violation of a federal children’s privacy law, according to the court filing. Meta could face hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, in civil penalties should the states prove the allegations.

“Within the company, Meta’s actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed,” the complaint said, “and zealously protected from disclosure to the public.”

The privacy charges are part of a larger federal lawsuit, filed last month by California, Colorado and 31 other states in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit accuses Meta of unfairly ensnaring young people on its Instagram and Facebook platforms while concealing internal studies showing user harms. And it seeks to force Meta to stop using certain features that the states say have harmed young users.

But much of the evidence cited by the states was blacked out by redactions in the initial filing.

Now the unsealed complaint, filed on Wednesday evening, provides new details from the states’ lawsuit. Using snippets from internal emails, employee chats and company presentations, the complaint contends that Instagram for years “coveted and pursued” underage users even as the company “failed” to comply with the children’s privacy law.

The unsealed filing said that Meta “continually failed” to make effective age-checking systems a priority and instead used approaches that enabled users under 13 to lie about their age to set up Instagram accounts. It also accused Meta executives of publicly stating in congressional testimony that the company’s age-checking process was effective and that the company removed underage accounts when it learned of them — even as the executives knew there were millions of underage users on Instagram.

“Tweens want access to Instagram, and they lie about their age to get it now,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an internal company chat in November 2021, according to the court filing.

In Senate testimony the following month, Mr. Mosseri said: “If a child is under the age of 13, they are not permitted on Instagram.”

In a statement on Saturday, Meta said that it had spent a decade working to make online experiences safe and age-appropriate for teenagers and that the states’ complaint “mischaracterizes our work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A rural post office was told to prioritize Amazon packages. Chaos ensued, Caroline O'Donovan and Jacob Bogage, Nov. 28, 2023.  Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations.

Bemidji is not the only place where postal workers say they have been overwhelmed by packages from Amazon, the ubiquitous e-commerce giant. Carriers and local officials say mail service has been disrupted in rural communities from Portland, Maine, to Washington state’s San Juan Islands.

The situation stems from a crisis at the Postal Service, which has lost $6.5 billion in the past year. The post office has had a contract with Amazon since 2013, when it started delivering packages on Sundays. But in recent years, that business has exploded as Amazon has increasingly come to rely on postal carriers to make “last-mile” deliveries in harder-to-reach rural locations.

The Postal Service considers the contract proprietary and has declined to disclose its terms. But U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said publicly that “increasing package volume” — not just from Amazon, but from FedEx and UPS as well — is key to the mail service’s financial future. In a Nov. 14 speech to the Postal Service Board of Governors, DeJoy said he wants the post office to become the “preferred delivery provider in the nation.” And in recent years, the agency has reconfigured its nationwide network of mail-sorting plants, purchased an armada of eco-friendly delivery trucks and pressed a marketing campaign in service of that goal.

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Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

 

 

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

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Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo by Samar Abu Elouf).

Destruction in Gaza (New York Times photo above by Samar Abu Elouf). Shown below in a photograph released by Thailand’s foreign ministry on Saturday are freed Thai hostages and an official, wearing a vest, posing at the Shamir Medical Center in Israel (Photo via Thailand's Foreign Ministry via Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Israel and Hamas Agree to Extend Truce, Qatar Says, Staff Reports, Nov. 27, 2023. Qatari officials, who helped negotiate the initial deal, said Israel and Hamas had agreed to pause fighting for another two days.

Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their truce for two more days, according to officials in Qatar who helped negotiate the initial cease-fire, as Israeli officials signaled that a fourth exchange of hostages and prisoners would go forward Monday.

Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, which has helped mediate the talks that led to the initial pause in fighting, said an “agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.” It did not elaborate on the terms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Hopes to Alter the Trajectory of the War as Hostages Are Released, Peter Baker, Nov. 27, 2023. President Biden said his goal was to extend the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas to obtain the release of other captives and send more aid into Gaza.

After seven weeks of struggling with a crisis that defies easy solutions, President Biden could take solace over the weekend in saving a single 4-year-old girl whose parents were killed in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

joe biden black background resized serious fileBut gratifying as it was to secure the release of Avigail Idan from her Hamas captors on Sunday, the challenge for Mr. Biden going forward is not only to free the rest of the Americans being held hostage but to use the success of recent days to alter the trajectory of the war consuming Gaza.

In brief comments on Nantucket, the Massachusetts island where he spent Thanksgiving, Mr. Biden on Sunday declared that it was “my goal, our goal” to extend the temporary pause in the war between Israel and Hamas, which is set to expire after another group of hostages is freed on Monday, so as to obtain the release of additional captives and send more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel had already indicated willingness to do that and Hamas has now done the same.

The president spent part of the weekend trying to turn that willingness into a reality, calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday, a day after consulting with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, whose government hosts some Hamas figures and has served as an intermediary with the group.

“He’s continuing to work this hour by hour to see if we can secure those additional days of pause and those additional hostages coming home to their families,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC, one of several television interviews he gave on Sunday.

In seeking to extend the pause and hostage releases, Mr. Biden has American interests to consider as well as those of Israel. Among the 240 hostages taken by Hamas, 10 are believed to be American. Among those released under a deal brokered by Mr. Biden last week to free 50 hostages, the only American to be handed over so far has been Avigail, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Israel and whose name is often spelled Abigail in U.S. media.

Two American women from that group are expected to be among the hostages set to be released on Monday in the final stage of the initial deal between Israel and Hamas, leaving seven American men in captivity. Mr. Biden hopes an extension of the pause in exchange for the release of more hostages will result in the rest of the Americans being freed. Israel has said it would extend the pause by a day for each 10 additional hostages released.

“We’ll continue to remain personally engaged to see that this deal is fully implemented and work to extend the deal as well,” Mr. Biden told reporters.

Left unspoken is what might happen after Hamas has released all the hostages it is willing to give up and the temporary truce officially expires. Mr. Netanyahu has made clear that he intends to resume the military operation to destroy Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that killed an estimated 1,200 people.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel-Hamas War: Hamas and Israel Complete 3rd Exchange of Hostages for Prisoners, Isabel Kershner, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited his country’s troops in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, three days into a pause in fighting there, and vowed that “we are continuing until the end — until victory.”

Israel Flag“Nothing will stop us,” he said in a video statement in which he wore protective gear and was surrounded by Israeli soldiers.

It was not immediately clear exactly when Mr. Netanyahu conducted his visit — information about the trip was withheld by the government until he had exited the Palestinian enclave — or precisely where he was, although he most likely traveled to the northern part of Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has established control.

palestinian flagThe trip was Mr. Netanyahu’s first to Gaza since the Israeli ground invasion began almost a month ago, according to officials. Those who traveled with him included his national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi; his military secretary, Maj. Gen. Avi Gil; and the Israeli military’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram.

Photographs released by the Israeli government showed Mr. Netanyahu — wearing a T-shirt, jeans and a khaki flak jacket and helmet — looking at a map, consulting with commanders and standing just inside a tunnel that his office said the Israeli military had recently exposed.

The pause, which began on Friday, is part of a deal that includes the release by Hamas of at least 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and increased aid for Gaza. Israel has offered to extend the pause by one day for every additional 10 hostages released. Hamas announced on Sunday evening, after Mr. Netanyahu’s visit, that it was seeking to extend the truce, which was slated to end on Tuesday.

“We are making every effort to bring back our hostages and eventually we will return them all,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Israeli officials have said about 240 people were taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7 in an attack that also killed about 1,200 people.

Some analysts have argued that the longer the cease-fire, the harder it may be for Israel to go back to fighting. But the prime minister emphasized that rooting out Hamas remained a central objective for Israel.

“We have three goals in this war: Eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and ensure that Gaza will not go back to being a threat to the state of Israel,” he said.

He added: “We are convinced that we have the force, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all of our goals for the war.”

Here’s what we know: Hamas released a total of 17 more hostages on Sunday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday. The group said it was seeking to extend the truce, which is slated to continue into Monday.

The latest release of hostages includes a 4-year-old American.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel, Hamas appear open to extending pause; agencies rush aid to Gaza, Staff Reports, Nov. 27, 2023. As the end nears for the fragile four-day pause in the Israel-Gaza conflict, officials on both sides have said they are open to extending it to exchange more of the hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said that if Hamas is “willing or able to release additional hostages, then there will be an extended pause” in combat. Hamas said on Telegram that it is seeking an extension to “increase the number of those released from imprisonment.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the pause could be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas beyond the initial 50. Hamas has released 58 hostages over the past three days, including Thai and Philippine nationals. Israel has released more than 100 imprisoned Palestinian women and teenagers in exchange. Ahead of the pause’s scheduled end on Tuesday morning, aid agencies are racing to boost deliveries to Gaza.

Key updates

  • Egyptian official says deal is close to extend pause for two days
  • 84-year-old hostage released by Hamas is in serious condition, doctor says

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Calls to Extend Truce, Complications Surround Last Planned Swap, Talya Minsberg and Yara Bayoumy, Nov. 27, 2023. Israel and Hamas were at odds over the hostages and detainees set to be released on the final day of a cease-fire, putting their truce on shaky ground.

Israel and Hamas were at odds over the hostages and prisoners set to be released on Monday, the final day of a four-day cease-fire, putting their truce on shaky ground and raising questions about whether the pause could be extended.

Israel and Hamas each signaled a willingness over the weekend to prolong their truce if it allowed for more hostages and Palestinian detainees to be freed. But both sides have taken issue with the names presented by the other for the final day of exchanges under the deal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, who said that officials from Qatar, the lead mediator, were trying to address the differences.

Here’s what we know:

  • With a four-day truce set to expire, both Israel and Hamas said they are open to extending it to allow more hostages and Palestinian detainees to be freed.
  • Qatar works to resolve both sides’ concerns on the deal’s last day.
  • Elon Musk visits Israel amid a backlash over his endorsement of an antisemitic post.
  • A father welcomes his freed son home in the West Bank.
  • Here’s what we know about the Israeli hostages released on Sunday.
  • Vermont police arrest a suspect in the shooting of 3 Palestinian students.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, In Countdown to Iowa, Trump Is Coasting as DeSantis and Haley Clash, Shane Goldmacher, Nov. 27, 2023. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are running low on time to make a statement in Iowa’s caucuses and stop Donald Trump from delivering an early knockout blow.

The Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the Republican nominating calendar, are poised to play an especially consequential role in 2024. But with only 49 days to go, Donald J. Trump’s top rivals are running out of time to catch him as Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley thrash each other in the final sprint to the starting line.

Far ahead in national polls, Mr. Trump is aiming for an emphatic victory on Jan. 15 in Iowa that could serve as an early knockout punch. He leads in public surveys in the state by a margin twice as large as the most competitive contest in the last 50 years.

Mr. DeSantis, the Florida governor, is betting on Iowa to pierce Mr. Trump’s growing aura of inevitability — and to reassert himself as the main rival to short-circuit Mr. Trump’s third run for president. Mr. DeSantis, who won the backing of the state’s popular Republican governor, has been barnstorming across all of Iowa’s 99 counties, bolstered by an army of door knockers paid for by his related super PAC.

On Saturday, Mr. DeSantis will visit his final county with an event in Newton held at the Thunderdome, a venue whose name appropriately captures the increasing acrimony and intensity of the race in the state. Mr. Trump will be in Cedar Rapids that same day.

For much of the year, the DeSantis team had insisted the 2024 primary was a two-man race. But Ms. Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, has ridden the momentum of her debate performances to transform it into a two-man-plus-one-woman contest.

“The more people see of Nikki Haley the more they like her,” said Betsy Ankney, Ms. Haley’s campaign manager. “The more they see Ron DeSantis, the less they like him.”

Now Ms. Haley, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Underestimate me — that’ll be fun” to the Iowa State Fair, is seeking to snuff out Mr. DeSantis at the very start. If she can best Mr. DeSantis in Iowa, his strongest early state, her team believes Ms. Haley would be positioned to emerge as the singular Trump alternative when the calendar turns to two friendlier terrains — New Hampshire, where she has polled in second place, and her home state, South Carolina, where she served as governor.

Revealingly, Ms. Haley’s allied super PAC has spent $3.5 million on ads and other expenditures attacking Mr. DeSantis in the last two months in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to federal records, but not a dollar explicitly opposing Mr. Trump despite his dominant overall lead.

Axios, Romney: Most Democrats would be an "upgrade" from Trump, Shauneen Miranda, Nov. 26-27, 2023. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Friday he would be happy to vote for a Democrat in the 2024 presidential race, which he thinks would be an "upgrade" from former President Trump.

axios logoWhy it matters: Romney, one of Trump's most vocal critics within the GOP, has repeatedly sparred with the former president, who remains the 2024 Republican Party front-runner for the White House.

President Donald Trump officialWhat he's saying: "I'd be happy to support virtually any one of the Republicans, maybe not Vivek [Ramaswamy], but the others that are running would be acceptable to me, and I'd be happy to vote for them," Romney said Friday in an interview with CBS' Norah O'Donnell when asked who in the GOP he supports.

"I'd be happy to vote for a number of the Democrats, too. I mean, it would be an upgrade, in my opinion, from Donald Trump and perhaps also from Joe Biden," Romney said.

djt maga hatThe Utah Republican said he thinks independent candidates are likely to elect Trump and that if he were re-elected, it would be "devastating for our country and his character."

Romney also clarified he would not be running for president in 2024 — even as an independent — and would only run "perhaps if Godzilla comes in and removes all the other candidates and so forth."

washington post logoWashington Post, This lawsuit could disrupt the U.S. tax system. Key facts are in dispute, Ann E. Marimow and Julie Zauzmer Weil, Nov. 27, 2023. Supreme Court to hear challenge to new tax on offshore earnings that was part of Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul.

The fate of an obscure provision of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax package, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court next week, has many experts panicked over the potential to destabilize the nation’s tax system. In addition, some say the outcome could preemptively block Congress from creating a wealth tax.

But the case has also exposed questions about the accuracy of the personal story a Washington State couple presented to the court in making their constitutional challenge to the tax, a one-time levy on offshore earnings.

irs logoCharles and Kathleen Moore appear to have closer ties to the company central to the case than they disclosed in court filings. Among other things, Charles Moore served on its board for five years and made a significant cash contribution to the company, records show.

Legal advocacy groups often rely on individuals to humanize their efforts in court, and it is not the first time that those on the other side have pointed to inconsistencies between what the justices are told in filings and the realities outside the courtroom.

Inside the tactics that won Christian vendors the right to reject gay weddings

rnc logoThis time, however, questions about the legal basis for the couple’s challenge to the tax have been raised before the justices are scheduled to hear oral argument on Dec. 5. Advocates who oppose their challenge have asked the Supreme Court to ditch the case and urged the couple’s attorneys, who come from an anti-regulatory advocacy group, to correct what they say are omissions and misstatements in the record.

Mindy Herzfeld, a tax policy expert from the University of Florida who has written extensively about the case known as Moore v. United States, said the court should not decide a constitutional question based on “an inaccurate set of facts.” To do so, she wrote in a recent column in Tax Notes, “risks undermining the Court’s legitimacy and creating the impression that its docket and its decisions are too easily manipulated by politically motivated interest groups.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Nikki Haley Is Coming for Your Retirement, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 27, 2023. At this point, both conventional wisdom and prediction markets say that Trump has a virtual lock on the nomination. But Wall Street paul krugmanisn’t completely resigned to Trump’s inevitability; there has been a late surge in big-money support for Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina. And there is, to be fair, still a chance that Trump — who is facing many criminal charges and whose public rants have become utterly unhinged — will manage to crash and burn before securing the nomination.

So it seems worth looking at what Haley stands for.

djt maga hatFrom a political point of view, one answer might be: nothing. A recent Times profile described her as having “an ability to calibrate her message to the moment.” A less euphemistic way to put this is that she seems willing to say whatever might work to her political advantage. “Flip-flopping” doesn’t really convey the sheer cynicism with which she has shifted her rhetoric and changed her positions on everything from abortion rights to immigration to whether it’s OK to try overturning a national election.

And anyone hoping that she would govern as a moderate if she should somehow make it to the White House is surely delusional. Haley has never really shown a willingness to stand up to Republican extremists — and at this point the whole G.O.P. has been taken over by extremists.

That said, Haley has shown some consistency on issues of economic and fiscal policy. And what you should know is that her positions on these issues are pretty far to the right. In particular, she seems exceptionally explicit, even among would-be Republican nominees, in calling for an increase in the age at which Americans become eligible for Social Security — a bad idea that seems to be experiencing a revival.

social security administrationSo let’s talk about Social Security.

The first thing you should know about Social Security is that the actual numbers don’t justify the apocalyptic rhetoric one often hears, not just from the right but from self-proclaimed centrists who want to sound serious. No, the exhaustion of the system’s trust fund, currently projected to occur in roughly a decade, wouldn’t mean that benefits disappear.

It would mean that the system would need additional revenue to continue paying scheduled benefits in full. But the extra revenue required would be smaller than you probably think. The most recent long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office show Social Security outlays rising to 6.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2053 from 5.1 percent this year, not exactly an earth-shattering increase.

Anyone who says, as Haley does, that the retirement age should rise in line with increasing life expectancy is being oblivious, perhaps willfully, to the grim inequality of modern America. Until Covid struck, average life expectancy at 65, the relevant number, was indeed rising. But these gains were concentrated among Americans with relatively high incomes. Less affluent Americans — those who depend most on Social Security — have seen little rise in life expectancy, and in some cases actual declines.

So anyone invoking rising life expectancy as a reason to delay Social Security benefits is, in effect, saying that aging janitors must keep working (or be cast into extreme poverty) because bankers are living longer.

How, then, should the Social Security gap be closed? The obvious answer — which happens to be favored by a majority of voters — is to raise more revenue. Remember, America collects less revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. than almost any other advanced economy.

But Haley, of course, wants to cut income taxes.

 

More On Israel's War With Hamas

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu and Hamas depended on each other. Both may be on the way out, Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). In 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power for a second run as Israel’s prime minister, a job he has held almost continuously since, he was confronted with a major change in the region: Hamas, a militant Islamist group, had been elected to power in the Gaza Strip three years earlier.

From the beginning, Hamas vowed to destroy Israel and, in his 2009 campaign, Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas. What happened instead was a decade and a half of uneasy coexistence, during which Netanyahu’s serial governments and Hamas’s leaders found each other useful for their own purposes.

The odd symbiosis endured — through years of escalations and accommodations, hopes of calm and periods of chaos — until now, when both Hamas and Netanyahu face a possible end to their hold on power.

Hamas leaders, after directing the attack that killed at least 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, are being bombed and hunted by an Israeli military that has pledged the group will never rule in Gaza again. In the midst of devastating attacks that have killed more than 11,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, even some Gazans have taken the rare step of publicly criticizing Hamas for the October attack and leaving civilians exposed to military onslaught.

Netanyahu, who agreed last month to share emergency war powers with his chief political rival, is facing unprecedented public rage for his failure to prevent the October attack and a disordered government response in its aftermath. Polls show 75 percent of Israelis calling for him to resign now or be replaced when the fighting stops.

 ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Went Back to the Stone Age,’ Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Hiba Yazbek, Abu Bakr Bashir and Ameera Harouda, Photographs by Samar Abu Elouf and Yousef Masoud, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Daily life in besieged Gaza revolves around finding food and water. With practically no fuel or coal, families are burning doors and window frames.

palestinian flagNamzi Mwafi, 23, has one job, day in and day out: find water for his family.

Dozens of his extended family members are sheltering together in a two-bedroom apartment in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza near the territory’s border with Egypt, he says. The oldest, his grandmother, is 68; the youngest, a cousin, is 6 months old.

To keep them alive, Mr. Mwafi says he wakes up at 4 a.m., spending hours waiting for water at a crowded filling station. Sometimes, he has to fight to keep his place in line and sometimes there is nothing left when his turn comes.

When he is lucky, he pushes his heavy trolley home through the sand and the family rations the haul to about a glass a day each.

There is practically no gas or other fuel left in Gaza, according to the United Nions agencies operating there, so some people are building makeshift clay or metal ovens to cook. Firewood and coal have also largely run out, so families are burning stripped-down doors, shutters and window frames, cardboard and grasses. Some simply do not cook, eating raw onions and eggplants instead.

“We went back to the Stone Age,” Mr. Mwafi said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hamas releases American girl with 16 other hostages, Biden says, Staff reports, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old with American and Israeli citizenship who was taken hostage on Oct. 7, was back in Israel on Sunday, President Biden said in a news conference.

The Red Cross was transporting a group of Hamas’s captives, the third of four groups planned to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in as many days, to Israeli authorities. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said the Red Cross, acting as an intermediary, was carrying 14 Israelis and three Thai nationals. In a reciprocal release, the Israeli prison service reported that 39 Palestinian prisoners were freed Sunday.

Key updates

  • Israeli-linked ship seized near Yemen
  • Israeli ambassador and Hamas express hope to release more hostages, extend pause
  • American 4-year-old girl released, Biden says
  • Biden says hostage release deal is ‘the start of a process’
  • The three Thai nationals released by Hamas on Sunday are in relatively healthy condition, Thai Prime Minister states.
  • Pirate attack on Israel-linked ship ends after naval response, firm says

 

From left, Tahseen Ahmed, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. The three students are receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds in Vermont. (Institute for Middle East Understanding, via Awartani family)

From left, Tahseen Ahmed, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. The three students are receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds in Vermont. (Institute for Middle East Understanding, via Awartani family.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Three Palestinian American students injured after Vermont shooting, Abigail Hauslohner, and Hannah Allam, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Police, who are still searching for the suspect, are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. Police in Vermont are investigating the possibility of a “hate-motivated” crime in the Saturday evening shooting of three Palestinian college students in downtown Burlington, Vt.

Burlington police said on Sunday that a “white male with a handgun” approached the three students as they walked through downtown and “without speaking” shot the three men at least four times before fleeing on foot.

“All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities,” the Burlington Police Department said in a statement. All three remain hospitalized, one with very serious injuries, the department added.

The victims’ parents identified them in a statement as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil rights advocacy group, said it believed the students were targeted because they are Palestinians. Police said that two are U.S. citizens, and one is a legal U.S. resident.

“As parents, we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot in Burlington, ” the parents said in a statement. “We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. … No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony. Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”

The ADC said the three men are students at Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College, respectively, and had gathered in Burlington to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Awartani’s grandmother.

The ADC also said that the students were wearing kaffiyehs, the traditional Arab scarf associated with Palestinians, when they were attacked.

“We have reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three victims being Arab,” the ADC statement said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The police arrested a suspect in the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont, Emma Bubola, Amanda Holpuch and Rebecca Carballo, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The three college students were on their way to dinner on Saturday night when the shooting occurred.

The suspect, identified by the police as Jason J. Eaton, 48, was expected to be arraigned Monday in connection with the shooting of the students, three men in their 20s who attend American universities. They were shot and wounded on Saturday by a white man with a handgun while they were walking near the University of Vermont, the police said. Two of the victims were wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs, a traditional headdress.

The young men told family members they were speaking a hybrid of English and Arabic before the man shot at them four times without saying anything before the attack, according to a family spokeswoman.

Two of the victims were in stable condition, the authorities said. The third sustained much more serious injuries.

In a statement after the arrest, the police said authorities had conducted a search of Mr. Eaton’s residence, adding that the shooting occurred in front of his apartment building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk meets with Netanyahu in Israel, tours kibbutz attacked by Hamas, Nov. 27, 2023. The SpaceX founder also reached a ‘principle understanding’ with Israel to operate Starlink satellites in Gaza.

Elon Musk met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Israel, where the pair toured the Kfar Azza kibbutz, one of the Jewish communities attacked by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 cross-border assault.
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After touring the scene of the violence, Musk was shown a video documenting some of the atrocities that took place, according to a conversation between the two men broadcast afterward on X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk said it was jarring to visit the site and troubling to see the joy on the faces of Hamas militants as they killed innocent people.

“It’s one thing obviously if civilians die accidentally, but it’s another thing to revel in the joy of killing civilians. … That’s evil,” Musk said.

Musk also rebuffed arguments that Israel has disproportionately killed civilians in Gaza, saying the actions of Hamas militants were intentional. “There is an important difference here, which is Israel tries to avoid killing civilians,” Musk said.

The trip comes as Musk faces widespread criticism for his decision to loosen content moderation on X, formerly Twitter, after he purchased the platform last year. Since the Hamas attack, antisemitic content has surged more than 900 percent on the platform, The Washington Post reported. Disinformation specialists have accused Musk of playing a uniquely potent role by easing moderation standards and amplifying antisemitic tropes.

Musk has also been condemned by the White House for indicating support for an antisemitic conspiracy theory on X, a move U.S. officials called an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate.” A number of major advertisers have fled the platform after their ads appeared next to pro-Nazi posts.

Musk did not directly address those allegations in his conversation with Netanyahu on Monday, but he said there is a need to “stop the propaganda that is convincing people to engage in murder.” The militants must be “neutralized,” he added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hamas Releases More Hostages, Including 4-Year Old Girl, Isabel Kershner and Vivian Yee, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Here’s what we know about the Israeli hostages released on Sunday; Hamas released 17 more hostages on Sunday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday — and said it would seek to extend a temporary cease-fire with Israel after the current four-day pause is over.

Under the deal reached last week, the cease-fire began on Friday and is slated to continue into Monday. It is the longest breaking fighting in Gaza since Oct. 7, when gunmen from Hamas and other militant groups launched a deadly attack on southern Israel.

palestinian flagIsrael has said that it is prepared to grant another day’s pause for every 10 hostages Hamas releases beyond the 50 outlined in the agreement, but the Palestinian group, which controls Gaza, had not previously responded to the offer publicly.

The statement by Hamas came hours after the Israeli prime minister’s office said 14 Israelis, including nine children, and three foreigners had been released on the third day of the agreement, under which both sides agreed to exchange Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

Avigail, the 4-year-old, a dual Israeli and U.S. citizen, and the others released on Sunday were among roughly 240 people taken to Gaza as hostages by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials.

joe biden resized o“Thank God she’s home,” President Biden said of Avigail. Members of her family previously told The New York Times that her parents, Roy Idan and Smadar Idan, had been fatally shot at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Her siblings — Michael, 9, and Amelia, 6 — survived the violence.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said multiple members of three families had been released on Sunday. TV images showed Israelis lining the road near the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, waving flags and cheering as the convoy of minibuses carrying 12 of the freed hostages made its way there.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman of the Israeli military, said another hostage, Elma Avraham, was flown by army helicopter directly from Gaza to an Israeli hospital in serious condition. The Israeli military said four others — one Israeli and three foreign nationals — had crossed into Egypt.

Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for the foreign ministry of Qatar, which helped broker the deal, said on social media that the released hostages included a Russian national and three Thai citizens.

Under the deal announced last week, Hamas agreed to free at least 50 hostages, all women and children, while Israel would release from its prisons 150 Palestinian women and minors, some of whom were detained for violent crimes. Hamas had previously also released 10 Thai citizens and one Filipino.

On Sunday night, Hamas released a statement saying that it “seeks to extend the truce after the four-day period ends.”

Just a day earlier, there were fears the agreement could be in peril: Hamas threatened on Saturday to postpone the second trade, claiming that Israel had reneged on parts of the agreement. But after an hourslong delay, the exchange went ahead with Hamas handing over 13 Israeli hostages, and Israel releasing 39 Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

An extended cease-fire could create more opportunities for other countries, particularly the United States, to pressure Israel to scale back its military goals. The Israeli response to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel has killed more than 13,000 Gazans, according to health officials there, leading to rising alarm among Israel’s allies about its campaign.

 

gaza destruction Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace

ny times logoNew York Times, Gaza civilians, under Israel’s bombardment, are being killed at a historic pace, Lauren Leatherby, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). In less than two months, more than twice as many women and children have been reported killed in Gaza than in Ukraine after two years of war.

Israel has cast the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip as a regrettable but unavoidable part of modern conflict, pointing to the heavy human toll from military campaigns the United States itself once waged in Iraq and Syria.

But a review of past conflicts and interviews with casualty and weapons experts suggest that Israel’s assault is different.

While wartime death tolls will never be exact, experts say that even a conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza show that the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century.

People are being killed in Gaza more quickly, they say, than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which were themselves widely criticized by human rights groups.

Precise comparisons of war dead are impossible, but conflict-casualty experts have been taken aback at just how many people have been reported killed in Gaza — most of them women and children — and how rapidly.

It is not just the scale of the strikes. Israel said it had engaged more 15,000 targets before reaching a brief cease-fire in recent days. It is also the nature of the weaponry itself.

Israel’s liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising, some experts say.

“It’s beyond anything that I’ve seen in my career,” said Marc Garlasco, a military adviser for the Dutch organization PAX and a former senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon. To find a historical comparison for so many large bombs in such a small area, he said, we may “have to go back to Vietnam, or the Second World War.”

In fighting during this century, by contrast, U.S. military officials often believed that the most common American aerial bomb — a 500-pound weapon — was far too large for most targets when battling the Islamic State in urban areas like Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

The Israeli military points out that Gaza presents a battlefield like few others. It is small and dense, with civilians living next to, and even on top of, Hamas combatants who rely on tunnel networks to shield themselves and their weapons, putting residents directly in the line of fire, the military says.

Given these underground networks — which the military says enabled Hamas to wage its deadly attacks on Oct. 7 — Israeli forces say they use the “smallest available ordnance” to achieve their strategic objectives in order to cause the “minimal adverse effect on civilians.”

Civilian casualties are notoriously hard to calculate, and officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip do not separate the deaths of civilians and combatants.

Researchers point instead to the roughly 10,000 women and children reported killed in Gaza as an approximate — though conservative — measure of civilian deaths in the territory. International officials and experts familiar with the way figures are compiled in Gaza say the overall numbers are generally reliable.

The Israeli military acknowledged that children, women and older people have been killed in Gaza, but said the death toll reported in Gaza could not be trusted. The military did not provide a count of its own, but said that civilians “are not the target” of its campaign.

“We do a lot in order to prevent and, where possible, minimize the killing or wounding of civilians,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. “We focus on Hamas.”

Still, researchers say the pace of deaths reported in Gaza during the Israeli bombardment has been exceptionally high.

 

thai hostages

ny times logoNew York Times, Preparations for Next Hostage Release Move Forward, Aaron Boxerman, Patrick Kingsley and Victoria Kim, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.).  There were no reports of major flare-ups in violence as the temporary cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war entered a second day. Hamas was expected to release Israeli hostages in exchange for 42 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israel FlagHamas was expected to release a new group of Israeli hostages held in Gaza on Saturday in exchange for the release of 42 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails, as a fragile temporary truce between the two sides entered its second day.

The Israeli authorities were prepared to release the 42 Palestinian prisoners and detainees once they received the Israeli hostages, Israel’s prison service said. According to Israeli and Hamas officials, one Israeli will be released for every three Palestinians in the exchanges, meaning roughly 14 Israeli hostages would most likely be freed. Israeli officials declined to comment further.

palestinian flagThe first exchange in the four-day cease-fire deal was completed Friday, with 13 Israeli hostages released from Gaza in return for 39 Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Another 10 Thai nationals and one Filipino were also freed.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement late Friday that security officials were reviewing a list of hostages slated to be released on Saturday. Over the four days of the truce — which took effect at 7 a.m. local time on Friday — at least 50 hostages are to be released by Hamas in exchange for 150 Palestinians in Israeli custody.

The hostages freed in Friday’s exchange were rushed to hospitals where medical teams assessed their well-being. Eight of the Israeli hostages were deemed to be in good condition, and another five were considered stable, according to the hospitals which received them.

Additional aid trucks were expected to enter Gaza on Saturday, after the biggest shipment of humanitarian supplies since the beginning of the war was allowed into the territory on Friday. The more than 130 trucks of aid included fuel and cooking gas, bringing a modicum of relief for the territory’s 2.2 million civilians.

The volume of aid still falls far shy of the 500 daily truckloads that had been going into the enclave before the conflict began on Oct. 7. Nearly 80 percent of Gazans have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have been closely watching news of the releases with a mix of hope and trepidation.

No Americans were among the first hostages released. President Biden said on Friday that his “hope and expectation” was that they would be free soon.

Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza and staged the attack in southern Israel that set off the war, has not directly responded to Israel’s offer to extend the cease-fire by a day for every 10 hostages released after the first 50. A top Hamas official, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Friday that his group was committed to making the truce work.

Some of the displaced Palestinians tried to return to northern Gaza from the south on foot on Friday, to check on their homes or the relatives they had left behind, despite warnings from Israeli officials not to. Israeli forces on the ground opened fire on them, according to witnesses, an Egyptian official and some of those injured. The Israeli military declined to answer questions about the shootings.

Despite the cease-fire in Gaza, Israel and militant groups in Lebanon continued to trade fire across the country’s volatile border. The Israeli military said it struck targets in Lebanon on Saturday belonging to Hezbollah, the politically powerful Lebanese armed group, after militants fired a missile at an Israeli drone.

Relevant Recent Headlines

state dept map logo Small

 

Destroying Democracies

washington post logoWashington Post, Antagonism flares as red states try to dictate how blue cities are run, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Nov. 27, 2023. Despite long advocating small government and local control, Republican governors and legislators across a significant swath of the country are increasingly overriding the actions of Democratic cities — removing elected district attorneys or threatening to strip them of power, taking over election offices and otherwise limiting local independence.

State lawmakers proposed nearly 700 bills this year to circumscribe what cities and counties can do, according to Katie Belanger, lead consultant for the Local Solutions Support Center, a national organization focused in part on ending the overreach it calls “abusive state preemption.”

The group’s tracking mostly found “conservative state legislatures responding to or anticipating actions of progressive cities,” she said, with many bills designed to bolster state restrictions on police defunding, abortion, and LGBTQ and voting rights. As of mid-October, at least 92 had passed.

In Florida, for instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed sweeping measures that empower the state attorney general to pursue election-related crimes and that require cities and counties to suspend a local ordinance if someone sues alleging it is preempted by state law. He has removed two elected Democratic prosecutors in as many years, including one who pledged not to charge people seeking abortions or transgender care.

More clashes are expected. Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry takes office in January and has promised to confront the state’s largest city, New Orleans. He already has created a committee led by a local GOP political donor and businessman to address public safety and other issues there. He has threatened to withhold state funding for the city’s water infrastructure until the DA agrees to prosecute women who violate the state’s abortion ban by seeking the procedure.
Glenda Starke wears a transgender flag as a counterprotest at the Missouri Capitol in March during a rally supporting a state ban on gender-affirming health-care legislation. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Given the presidential campaign that lies ahead in 2024, Belanger is concerned about states passing election-related laws that affect local authorities.

“Election administration has been a target for abusive preemption in the past,” she said, “and as we go into an election year, that is a trend that will grow.”

The antagonisms between red states and blue cities are all the more notable because the urban areas in the crosshairs are mostly majority-minority, with many mayors and district attorneys of color.

These actions go “squarely against the Republican philosophy of small government and more freedom,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, a Black Democrat who has struggled to pass local tobacco and gun control ordinances because of constraints enacted by Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature. “This is about common-sense democracy.”

Some of the fiercest standoffs have come in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the most expansive preemption law in the country in June, barring cities and counties from passing an array of ordinances. Opponents condemned it as the “Death Star,” saying it would imperil local residents and block worker protections like mandatory water breaks during heat waves. Abbott defended the law as crucial to reducing business regulation.

 

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

Jonathan Braun, former President Donald J. Trump, and Mr. Braun’s wife pose for a picture on a golf course in front of palm trees. Mr. Trump is giving a thumbs up and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, dark pants and a white polo shirt that says “President Donald Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Troubling Trump Pardon and a Link to the Kushners, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A commutation for a drug smuggler had broader implications than previously known, putting a new focus on how Donald Trump would use clemency powers.

Even amid the uproar over President Donald J. Trump’s freewheeling use of his pardon powers at the end of his term, one commutation stood out.

Jonathan Braun of New York had served just two and a half years of a decade-long sentence for running a massive marijuana ring, when Mr. Trump, at 12:51 a.m. on his last day in office, announced he would be freed.

Mr. Braun was, to say the least, an unusual candidate for clemency.

A Staten Islander with a history of violent threats, Mr. Braun had told a rabbi who owed him money: “I am going to make you bleed.” Mr. Braun’s family had told confidants they were willing to spend millions of dollars to get him out of prison.

At the time, Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department and federal regulators, as well as New York state authorities, were still after him for his role in an entirely separate matter: his work as a predatory lender, making what judges later found were fraudulent and usurious loans to cash-strapped small businesses.

Nearly three years later, the consequences of Mr. Braun’s commutation are becoming clearer, raising new questions about how Mr. Trump intervened in criminal justice decisions and what he could do in a second term, when he would have the power to make good on his suggestions that he would free supporters convicted of storming the Capitol and possibly even to pardon himself if convicted of the federal charges he faces.

Just months after Mr. Trump freed him, Mr. Braun returned to working as a predatory lender, according to New York State’s attorney general. Two months ago, a New York state judge barred him from working in the industry. Weeks later, a federal judge, acting on a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, imposed a nationwide ban on him.

A New York Times investigation, drawing on documents and interviews with current and former officials, and others familiar with Mr. Braun’s case, found there were even greater ramifications stemming from the commutation than previously known and revealed new details about Mr. Braun’s history and how the commutation came about.

The commutation dealt a substantial blow to an ambitious criminal investigation being led by the Justice Department’s U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan aimed at punishing members of the predatory lending industry who hurt small businesses. Mr. Braun and prosecutors were in negotiations over a cooperation deal in which he would be let out of prison in exchange for flipping on industry insiders and potentially even wearing a wire. But the commutation instantly destroyed the government’s leverage on Mr. Braun.

The investigation into the industry, and Mr. Braun’s conduct, remains open but hampered by the lack of an insider.

At multiple levels, up to the president, the justice system appeared to fail more than once to take full account of Mr. Braun’s activities. After pleading guilty to drug charges in 2011, Mr. Braun agreed to cooperate in a continuing investigation, allowing him to stay out of prison but under supervision for nine years — a period he used to establish himself as a predatory lender, making violent threats to those who owed him money, court filings show.

Since returning to predatory lending after being freed, Mr. Braun is still engaging in deceptive business tactics, regulators and customer say.

In working to secure his release, Mr. Braun’s family used a connection to Charles Kushner, the father of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, to try to get the matter before Mr. Trump. Jared Kushner’s White House office drafted the language used in the news release to announce commutations for Mr. Braun and others.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Braun said he did not know how his commutation came about.

“I believe God made it happen for me because I’m a good person and I was treated unfairly,” he said, adding that his supporters tried “multiple paths” to get him out of prison but he had no idea which one succeeded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are some takeaways from the investigation into Jonathan Braun’s pardon, Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Two days after Donald J. Trump left the White House, The New York Times published a story about how one of his last acts as president had been to commute the 10-year sentence of Jonathan Braun, a marijuana smuggler who had ongoing legal problems and a reputation for making violent threats.

In his final weeks in office, Mr. Trump had used his pardon power on behalf of a parade of loyalists, as well as scores of others who were not big political names. But few of them stood out like Mr. Braun, who was still under investigation by the Justice Department in an entirely different matter: for gouging small businesses through high-interest loans.

Mr. Braun was still under investigation by the Justice Department at the time of his pardon. Here are some key points about the case.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Trump Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

 

john earle sullivan

washington post logoWashington Post, Rioter or journalist? Man who said he was only filming Jan. 6 convicted, Tom Jackman, Nov. 17, 2023. John Earle Sullivan, above, accused by conservatives of being an ‘antifa’ insurgent, said he was just trying to blend in on Jan. 6.

As he recorded video of his journey through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, John Earle Sullivan captured himself shouting at rioters to seize the American seat of power, breaking a window inside a Senate office, and then filming the fatal shooting of rioter Ashli Babbitt outside the House chamber.

Earlier that day, a documentary filmmaker followed Sullivan and captured him helping a rioter scale a wall to reach the upper West Terrace of the Capitol, wielding a switchblade knife near the House chamber, and later musing about the Babbitt video. “Everybody’s gonna want this,” Sullivan said excitedly, according to court documents. “Nobody has it. I’m selling it, I could make millions of dollars.” Court records show that Sullivan was paid more than $90,000 for the rights to the video.

Federal prosecutors said Sullivan had been one of the thousands of rioters seeking to cause mayhem that day, and charged him with felony obstruction of an official proceeding, namely the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win. Sullivan also faced a second felony for civil disorder and five misdemeanors.

When his case landed before a jury this week, Sullivan claimed that he was simply working as a citizen journalist to document history, and all of his words and deeds indicating he was sympathetic to President Donald Trump were just a ruse to blend in with the rioters. “It’s my job to document and record history,” Sullivan testified. He said his cheers of approval for the rioters and offers to help them were merely to “say a lot of things to try and protect myself” from people he feared might turn on him if they knew his true political colors.

The jury didn’t believe him. On Thursday, after deliberating for less than four hours, they convicted Sullivan of obstructing the electoral vote count, civil disorder and five misdemeanors, and Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered him held in jail until sentencing.

Sullivan had attended and filmed other protests, and built a large following on social media starting in the summer of 2020. But his video at the Capitol drew great notoriety in the days after the Capitol attack as conservatives like Rudy Giuliani claimed Sullivan was an “antifa” agitator who helped ignite the Jan. 6 riot, rather than Trump supporters. 

John Earle Sullivan speaks to his online followers in December 2020, shortly before he traveled to D.C. for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. (John Earle Sullivan)

On the witness stand, Sullivan, 29, initially denied and then was forced to admit actions he took at the Capitol when confronted with video shot by himself or documentarian Jade Sacker. As Sullivan stood on the upper West Terrace, seemingly exulting in the mob’s violent approach, he was captured helping one rioter climb up to the terrace.

“I don’t recall it,” he said of the footage played in court. Shown it again two days later, he admitted that there were a lot of people around him watching him. But he said it was a tactic to avoid being beaten by conservatives, who he testified had been targeting him for his online posts and for his alleged role in a Utah rally where a man was shot.

“We did this s---! We took this s---!” Sullivan yelled as he walked through the Capitol with Sacker, again testifying that he was merely trying to blend in.

As the crowd besieged the main door to the House chamber, Sullivan can be heard saying, “Hey, guys, I have a knife, I have a knife, let me up.” Sullivan said he took a switchblade as protection, and claimed he had a knife so that he could move to the front of the crowd and “get the shot.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: New Trump defense motions in D.C. case expected on Monday, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). An appeals court in Washington could decide at any time whether to reimpose a limited gag order on Donald Trump in his federal election-obstruction case in D.C. The three-judge panel questioned prosecutors and defense lawyers last week about the issue, and the argument spilled over into Thanksgiving (more on this topic below).

Monday should see new Trump defense motions in the D.C. case — this time related to which witnesses he’d like to subpoena. Since his defense team argues this is a case of politically motivated, selective prosecution, we could see him seek permission from the court to subpoena Democrats and government figures he wants to put on the witness stand.

On Friday, a hearing is scheduled in the Fulton County, Ga., case, where the judge is expected to consider a raft of defense motions.

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federico klein

 

 

More On U.S. National Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Donations to GOP drop as worries mount about the party’s finances, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 27, 2023. Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered ahead of the 2024 elections.

The Republican Party’s finances are increasingly worrisome to party members, advisers to former president Donald Trump, and other operatives involved in the 2024 election effort, according to 10 people familiar with the matter.

rnc logoThe Republican National Committee disclosed that it had $9.1 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 30, the lowest amount for the RNC in any Federal Election Commission report since February 2015. That compares with about $20 million at the same point in the 2016 election cycle and about $61 million four years ago, when Trump was in the White House.

The Democratic National Committee reported having $17.7 million as of Oct. 30, almost twice as much as the Republican Party, with one year before the election.

“It’s a revenue problem,” Tennessee RNC member Oscar Brock said. “We’re going through the same efforts we always go through to raise money: the same donor meetings, retreats, digital advertising, direct mail. But the return is much lower this year. If you know the answer, I’d love to know it. The staff has managed to tighten down on expenses to keep the party from going into the red.”

Donors have not cut as many large checks to the RNC in recent years, and the party’s small-dollar program has also suffered, according to people familiar with the party’s finances, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party details. Some donors aren’t giving to the RNC because they think that will help Trump, which they don’t want to do, these people said, while others have said they prefer to wait until 2024 to give. Some have grown frustrated with the party’s leadership, people close to major donors said.

The party cut certain expenditures this year after projected money did not come in, according to people familiar with the decisions.

An RNC spokeswoman said the party has nonetheless deployed staff in 15 swing states to start working on get-out-the-vote efforts and election monitoring. The party is also pursuing 70 lawsuits in 19 states challenging voting rules and is encouraging Republicans to use early voting and mail ballots — methods Trump and his allies have disparaged, even as McDaniel repeatedly touts the importance of the “Bank Your Vote” initiative.

ny times logoNew York Times, Members of Congress Head for the Exits, Many Citing Dysfunction, Kayla Guo, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). More than three dozen incumbents will not seek re-election next year. Some are running for other offices, while others intend to leave Congress altogether.

Eleven are running for the Senate. Five for state or local office. One for president of the United States. Another is resigning to become a university president. And more and more say they are hanging up their hats in public office altogether.

U.S. House logoMore than three dozen members of Congress have announced they will not seek re-election next year, some to pursue other offices and many others simply to get out of Washington. Twelve have announced their plans just this month.

The wave of lawmakers across chambers and parties announcing they intend to leave Congress comes at a time of breathtaking dysfunction on Capitol Hill, primarily instigated by House Republicans. The House G.O.P. majority spent the past few months deposing its leader, waging a weekslong internal war to select a new speaker and struggling to keep federal funding flowing. Right-wing members have rejected any spending legislation that could become law and railed against their new leader for turning to Democrats, as his predecessor did, to avert a government shutdown.

The chaos has Republicans increasingly worried that they could lose their slim House majority next year, a concern that typically prompts a rash of retirements from the party in control. But it is not only G.O.P. lawmakers who are opting to leave; Democrats, too, are rushing for the exits, with retirements across parties this year outpacing those of the past three election cycles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are the members of Congress who are giving up their seats, setting up a 2024 fight, Robert Jimison, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  The fight for control of Congress could be heavily influenced by the already large number of members retiring or seeking higher office. Few of the departures that have been announced are expected to alter the balance of power in the closely divided House, where the vast majority of seats are gerrymandered to be safe for one of the two political parties, or in the Senate. But a handful are already putting crucial seats up for grabs.

Many of those who are leaving are expressing frustration about the polarization and paralysis that has gripped the institution particularly this year, as House Republicans, dominated by their far-right flank, have struggled to do the basic business of governing and feuded over who should lead them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mike Johnson’s rise to House speaker cements the far-right takeover of the G.O.P., Carl Hulse, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). After their party was decimated in the 2008 elections, mainstream Republican leaders believed they could harness rising far-right populist forces. Instead, they were overrun by them.

The roots of the Republican crackup this fall that paralyzed the House, fueled the unexpected rise of Speaker Mike Johnson and now threatens to force a government shutdown crisis early next year lie in a fateful choice the party made more than a decade ago that has come back to haunt its leaders.

In early 2009, congressional Republicans were staring down a long exile in the political wilderness. Barack Obama was about to assume the presidency, and Democrats were within reach of a filibuster-proof, 60-vote supermajority in the Senate and the largest House majority in more than 20 years after the economic crisis of 2008.

djt maga hatBut Republicans saw a glimmer of hope in the energized far-right populist movement that emerged out of a backlash to Mr. Obama — the first Black president — and his party’s aggressive economic and social agenda, which included a federal health care plan. Republicans seized on the Tea Party and associated groups, with their nativist leanings and vehemently anti-establishment impulses, as their ticket back to power.

“We benefited from the anger that was generated against the one-way legislation of the Obama years,” said Eric Cantor, the former House leader from Virginia who became the No. 2 Republican after the 2010 midterm elections catapulted the party back into the majority. “It was my way or the highway.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: New York’s Era of Overspending Ends With a Shudder, Mara Gay, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). After years of heady spending, the budget cuts announced by Mayor Eric Adams last week hit New York City like a punch to the gut: Most libraries would be closed on Sundays. The expansion of the city’s signature prekindergarten program would be delayed. So would efforts to improve New York’s notoriously dirty streets and keep rats at bay. The city’s police force would be pared down in coming years.

Fiscal reality has caught up with a stunned city. The brutal cuts come as Mr. Adams scrambles to fill a $7 billion budget deficit in the next year. The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan watchdog group, estimates that the budget gap could be significantly higher, closer to $10.6 billion. New Yorkers may want to brace themselves. Much deeper cuts to city services could be ahead.

How did the nation’s largest city get into this fix? Over the past decade, city government grew significantly, as did the size of its budget. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio hired tens of thousands of workers, expanding government services after years of relative austerity under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the Great Recession. Some of this spending went to important investments, like creating the city’s free prekindergarten program. Other funds were put to far more questionable use, like a disastrous $1 billion mental health initiative that never got off the ground. Mr. Bloomberg had also left office with unsettled labor contracts in the city’s municipal work force. Mr. de Blasio settled them, giving the workers significant raises.

The heavy spending far outpaced inflation but was made sustainable, for a time, by a flood of revenues that poured into City Hall from Wall Street, high income taxes and tourism, which boomed. Then the pandemic hit, bringing the economy to a standstill. Federal Covid relief kept the city going, but over the past year those funds began to dry up, and the city’s economy didn’t recover as quickly from the pandemic as other regions did. At the same time, thousands of migrants began arriving at the city’s doorstep in need of shelter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Why President Biden’s weakness among young voters should be taken seriously, Nate Cohn, Nov. 27, 2023. Could President Biden and Donald J. Trump really be locked in a close race among young voters — a group Democrats typically carry by double digits — as the recent Times/Siena polls suggest?

To many of our readers and others, it’s a little hard to believe — so hard to believe that it seems to them the polls are flat-out wrong.

Of course, it’s always possible that the polls are wrong. I’ve thought our own polling might be wrong before, and I would be very apprehensive if it were just our poll out on a limb. But this isn’t about one Times/Siena poll: Virtually every poll shows a close race between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump among young voters.

When dozens of polls all say the same thing, it’s worth taking the polling seriously. It’s easy to remember that the polling can be wrong, but it can be easy to forget that the polling is usually in the ballpark. It’s a losing game to dismiss all polling simply because it doesn’t comport with expectations.

 

Florida’s Office of Election Crimes and Security DIrector Peter Antonacci, with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, announcing arrests at the Broward County Courthouse on Aug. 18, 2022.

Florida Bulldog, When Peter Antonacci was stricken in governor’s office he lay in hallway 24 minutes before anyone noticed, Dan Christenson, Nov. 26, 2023. Peter Antonacci, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s handpicked choice last year to lead the state’s controversial new elections fraud office, collapsed and died in a hallway in the governor’s office moments after “abruptly” leaving a contentious meeting on Sept. 23, 2022.

That Antonacci, 74, was stricken in the governor’s office was kept secret at the time. Instead, authorities only said he died while at work in the Capitol building, of which the governor’s office is a part.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records released to Florida Bulldog also say Antonacci lay dead or dying on the hallway floor of the governor’s office for more than 20 minutes before anyone apparently noticed and came to his aid. More precisely, 24 minutes, in a hallway under real time video-only surveillance.

By the time a Capitol police officer arrived a minute or two later and hooked the pulseless Antonacci up to an automated external defibrillator (AED), the machine that can administer a life-saving electrical shock to victims of sudden cardiac arrest assessed Antonacci and advised that “no shock” was needed.

The meeting Antonacci attended that day was in a conference room in the governor’s office. An FDLE report says the attendees were Secretary of State James “Cord” Byrd, his general counsel Bradley McVay, FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass, FDLE Chief of Staff Shane Desguin, FDLE director of executive investigations Scott McInerney, Antonacci’s deputy Scott Strauss and two men and three women tagged only as “unidentified.” Elsewhere, however, one attendee is identified as FDLE general counsel Ryan Newman.
Secretary of State James “Cord” Byrd.

The FDLE reports, which you read here, say that cameras in the meeting room and the hallway captured video of what happened, but no audio. Investigating FDLE Agent Larry Shallar watched the video. “At approximately 1:46 p.m., Mr. Antonacci is observed standing up and walking out of the conference room [WORDS REDACTED],” his report says. “Upon exiting the conference room, Mr. Antonacci is observed staggering as he moved forward until he collapsed to the floor. Mr. Antonacci did not appear to move once he collapsed to the floor.

The meeting’s agenda and what was discussed are not mentioned in the five reports. DeSantis, with the Legislature’s approval, established the Office of Election Crimes and Security to maintain “election integrity” in the wake of ex-President Donald Trump’s drumbeat of unsupported claims that his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden was the result of voter fraud.
“At approximately 2:10 p.m. FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass is observed responding to Mr. Antonacci on the floor and initiated life saving measures (CPR; cardiopulmonary resuscitation) with the assistance of FDLE Chief of Staff Shane Desguin. At approximately 2:11 p.m. FDLE Capitol Police is observed responding to Mr. Antonacci with the AED (automated external defibrillator) and assisting with life saving measures until Leon County Emergency Medical Services arrived,” Shallar’s report says.

Florida Bulldog requested the FDLE’s public records in February after receiving a tip that Antonacci had died in the governor’s office following an argument with DeSantis. The FDLE reports, however, make no mention of DeSantis being present.
glass antonacciFDLE Commissioner Mark Glass

Detailed requests for public records about the meeting were also sent to Secretary of State James “Cord” Byrd, who attended the meeting and oversees the Office of Election Crimes and Security, and the governor’s Office of Open Government in October have yet to draw a substantive response.

The FDLE released 17 redacted pages. To justify the redactions, FDLE Assistant General Counsel Janine Robinson cited state laws that exempt from disclosure certain security and fire safety information, as well as the names of family of exempt personnel. The context of the redactions, however, did not plainly show how they qualified for exemptions. The redacted information appeared mostly to refer to the spot where Antonacci collapsed.

Security cameras video reviewed by investigating FDLE agents, and still photographs they took at the scene, were completely withheld. Robinson said they would not be made public because they are subject to the same security and fire safety exemption, or the privacy provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

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Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a  2018 Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, shown in a 2018 Washington Post photo by Matt McClain).

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the Next Seven Weeks Are So Critical in the Race for President, Michelle Cottle, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). While Americans are recovering from an orgy of overeating and Black Friday shopping, the political world is easing into the next phase of the presidential election: primary crunchtime.

Iowa is make or break for Mr. DeSantis, above right, who has gone all in on the state. This makes it especially unsettling for his team that Ms. Haley has caught up with him there in recent polling. Mr. DeSantis has long benefited from the belief by many in the G.O.P. establishment that he is the party’s most electable option: Trump but competent, as the sales pitch goes. If he places behind both Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley, then limps to a second defeat in New Hampshire — where recent polling shows him in fourth place, at best — that electability argument goes splat.

The next several weeks are basically Mr. DeSantis’s last shot at breaking through, and it’s increasingly hard to see how he does so. He has tried to walk that fine messaging line of presenting himself as the MAGA choice for a new generation. But selling Trump Lite to a base still drunk on the original has proved difficult. More problematic, early signs are that the recent consolidation of the non-MAGA part of the field, especially Senator Tim Scott’s departure, will benefit Ms. Haley more than Mr. DeSantis. Then there’s the cold reality that Meatball Ron is a lousy retail politician, a real handicap in early-voting states, where people take their face-to-face schmoozing with candidates very seriously.

That said, Team DeSantis is determined not to get outworked — which is also something Iowans take very seriously. “In Iowa,” Tom Vilsack, the state’s 40th governor, once observed, “it is not the message; it is the relationship.” In October the campaign announced it was shipping about a third of its Florida-based staff to Iowa until the caucuses. In mid-November, three top players were dispatched: the deputy campaign manager, the national political director and the communications chief, according to Politico. Additional offices are being opened across the state, and more aides are expected to be dispatched in December. He scored the endorsement of Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds. If Mr. DeSantis is smart, he’ll be shaking hands and smooching babies in the state every waking moment between now and caucus night on Jan. 15.

Ms. Haley has sought to strike more of a balance between Iowa and New Hampshire. This makes a certain sense, seeing as how the quirky Granite State, with a large number of independents who vote in the primaries, seems more fertile ground for her brand of politics than does Iowa, whose Republican base is heavy on religious conservatives. (White evangelicals do love them some Trump.) She has been toggling between events in both places, and last month her campaign announced that starting in December, it would be running an additional $10 million in ads across the two states. She recently rolled out a list of 72 endorsements from prominent political and business figures in Iowa. Her campaign has not been scrambling to flood the zone with staff members, à la Team DeSantis, perhaps because it isn’t feeling the heat quite as much.

nikki haley oMs. Haley, right, is going hard with the message that she is the face of a new generation, unburdened by Trumpian drama and, unlike Mr. DeSantis, able to unite rather than divide Americans to get things done. (Pragmatism has been a central theme in her strong debate showings.) Playing to the coalition of Trump-skeptical Republicans and independents, she is walking a clearer, cleaner path than Mr. DeSantis.

Whether she can get many Republicans to follow her is the billion-dollar question. She too needs to plant herself in Iowa and New Hampshire for the rest of this year and loudly tout her presence there to avoid looking as though she cares less than Mr. DeSantis. (Early state voters are so sensitive.) And she could use a few more breakout moments. She has been a star of the Republican debates, for instance, but she has spent more time carving up Vivek Ramaswamy — which, to be clear, has been glorious to behold — than raising doubts about Mr. Trump or even Mr. DeSantis. In January 2004, Mr. Kerry used a debate to devastating effect against Mr. Dean, confronting him with comments he had made about how he could not prejudge the guilt of Osama bin Laden for Sept. 11. “What in the world were you thinking?” Mr. Kerry asked. Mr. Dean had some lame reply about being “obligated to stand for the rule of law.” Ms. Haley has maybe two debates pre-Iowa to strike a memorable blow. While she has the disadvantage of Mr. Trump not being on the debate stage, she is nimble enough to make the most of lines like “If Donald Trump were here, I would ask him ….”

“Pressure. It changes everything,” observed Al Pacino in the deliciously cheesy horror flick “The Devil’s Advocate.” For Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis, the window for disrupting this race and making their mark is closing soon. ’Tis the season to go big or go home.

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Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Battle for Influence Rages in Heart of Wagner’s Operations in Africa, lian Peltier, Photographs by Jim Huylebroek, Nov. 27, 2023.  The death of the mercenary group’s leader has created a window of opportunity in the Central African Republic for Western powers to offer an alternative.

In palmier times, the leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, appeared at a Russian cultural center in the capital of the Central African Republic, sitting with schoolchildren and promising them free laptops.

But Mr. Prigozhin’s death in August has rattled the mercenary group’s once-cozy relations with the Central African Republic, which is now weighing offers from Russia and Western countries, including the United States, to replace Wagner as its primary security guarantor.

The outcome of this struggle could be a bellwether for the group’s future on the continent, where the Central African Republic is perhaps the most deeply enmeshed among the handful of African nations partnering with Wagner.

The Russian Defense Ministry has sought to absorb some of Wagner’s activities, while preserving its influence and maintaining its wealth of knowledge about the continent. But a senior Western diplomat said that the uncertainty around Wagner in the Central African Republic provided a “window of opportunity” for the United States and France to counter Russian influence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Leaders of Attack on Sierra Leone Armory Are Arrested, President Says, Monika Pronczuk, Nov. 27, 2023. President Julius Maada Bio said there had been “a breach of security” at a key military barracks in the capital, Freetown.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sierra Leone Declares Nationwide Curfew After Attack on Armory, Monika Pronczuk, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). It was not yet clear who had tried to break into the military’s main armory and barracks in the capital, Freetown, or what happened after they failed.

The authorities in Sierra Leone declared a nationwide curfew on Sunday, hours after what they described as a thwarted effort by unidentified men to break into one of the West African country’s key military armories and barracks.

The country’s president, Julius Maada Bio, said early Sunday that there had been “a breach of security” at the Wilberforce military barracks in the capital, Freetown, as “some unidentified individuals attacked the military armory.”

“However, they were repelled,” Mr. Bio said on social media, “and calm has been restored.”

Mr. Bio called on the public to stay indoors, adding: “We shall continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability.”

The barracks are strategically placed near Mr. Bio’s residence, and the armory is one of the most important places where weapons are kept. According to local journalists, heavy gunfire was heard early Sunday in Freetown, and soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles could be seen setting up military blockades in some strategic parts of the city.

washington post logoWashington Post, Raped during Ethiopia’s war, survivors now rejected by their families, Katharine Houreld, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). More than 100,000 women may have been raped during the two-year civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, according to the most comprehensive study.

Shila survived three months of sexual enslavement during Ethiopia’s civil war and then the birth of a son fathered by an attacker. She told no one, maintaining that her youngest child was the result of a clandestine visit by her husband, a Tigrayan militiaman.

Then, after three long years, her husband finally returned, Shila recalled. She’d thought he was dead. When he took off his hat and she saw his silhouette in the darkness, she collapsed.

“For years, I longed for him to come home,” she said, tears sliding down her face. “But I also feared he would tell people what happened and reject me.”

More than 100,000 women may have been raped during the two-year civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, according to the most comprehensive study so far of these attacks in research conducted by the Columbia University biostatistician Kiros Berhane. And countless women who gave birth as a result are struggling with a hidden agony, often ostracized even by their families. They have been victimized twice, once during the conflict that pitted Ethiopia’s military and allied soldiers from Eritrea against Tigrayan rebels, and a second time by their own communities, even after a cease-fire a year ago quieted the hostilities.

A dozen rape survivors, most raising young children, recounted in interviews their efforts to rebuild shattered lives. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity.

During the war, all sides committed rapes, human rights groups and victims report, but the most sustained and organized violence was committed against Tigrayan women, who said they were raped by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers and by militiamen from Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Taiwan Continue to Fight Off Chinese Disinformation? Tiffany Hsu, Amy Chang Chien and Steven Lee Myers, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Ahead of a presidential election in January, Taiwanese fact checkers and watchdogs say they are ready for Beijing. But they are still worried.

Suspicious videos that began circulating in Taiwan this month seemed to show the country’s leader advertising cryptocurrency investments.

taiwan flagPresident Tsai Ing-wen, who has repeatedly risked Beijing’s ire by asserting her island’s autonomy, appeared to claim in the clips that the government helped develop investment software for digital currencies, using a term that is common in China but rarely used in Taiwan. Her mouth appeared blurry and her voice unfamiliar, leading Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau to deem the video to be almost certainly a deepfake — an artificially generated spoof — and potentially one created by Chinese agents.

For years, China has pummeled the Taiwanese information ecosystem with inaccurate narratives and conspiracy theories, seeking to undermine its democracy and divide its people in an effort to assert control over its neighbor. Now, as fears over Beijing’s growing aggression mount, a new wave of disinformation is heading across the strait separating Taiwan from the mainland before the pivotal election in January.

Perhaps as much as any other place, however, the tiny island is ready for the disinformation onslaught.

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Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

Argentine presidential candidates Sergio Massa, left, and Javier Milei (file photos).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Navy Rescues Ship From Pirate Attack in Gulf of Aden, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 27, 2023.  The United States is investigating whether Iran was involved in the incident. Hours after the attack, two missiles were fired at the Navy ship involved in the rescue.

The U.S. Navy intervened to stop the hijacking of a commercial cargo ship by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia on Sunday, after which two ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen toward the Navy destroyer that responded to the incident, the U.S. military said.

The ballistic missiles were fired from the part of Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to a statement released by U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the region. If the missiles were meant to hit the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, they fell well short of the mark: They landed in the Gulf of Aden 10 nautical miles from the American ship.

The U.S.S. Mason, and other ships from the U.S.-led counter-piracy task force that operates off the coast of Somalia, responded after the crew of the commercial ship, the Central Park, called for help. The Central Park crew reported they were under attack from an unknown entity, U.S. Central Command said.

When the coalition vessels arrived at the Central Park, they demanded the release of the ship. Five armed people fled from the ship and attempted to flee in the small boat they had used to attack the cargo ship. The U.S.S. Mason pursued the attackers and forced them to surrender, the news release said. Fox News reported the rescue earlier.

Later, at about 1:41 a.m. local time on Monday, more than 16 hours after the initial attack, two ballistic missiles were fired toward the U.S.S. Mason, which was “concluding its response” to the attack at the time.

U.S. officials would not say who was responsible for the attack and if the five-person group was acting under the orders of a state or group. But officials said that they are investigating whether Iran was involved, or if it was an attack unrelated to the regional tensions that have intensified since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which prompted Israel to launch a war against the militant group in Gaza.

Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran in the war in Yemen, attacked several commercial vessels last week in the Red Sea — a body of water next to the Gulf of Aden — including the Central Park. The Houthis and other groups backed by Iran, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, have increased attacks on Israel since Oct. 7.

Officials said it is not clear if the attackers were the same group that attempted to take the ship earlier. While the Houthi rebels struck in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden where the Central Park was attacked is far from their area of operations. One U.S. official and one former Pentagon official said Iranian involvement in the operation is being investigated.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Troops Still Train on Weapons With Known Risk of Brain Injury, Dave Philipps, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.).  Pentagon researchers say weapons like shoulder-fired rockets expose troops to blast waves far above safety limits, but they remain in wide use.

A blast shattered the stillness of a meadow in the Ozark Mountains on an autumn afternoon. Then another, and another, and another, until the whole meadow was in flames.

Special Operations troops were training with rocket launchers again.

Each operator held a launch tube on his shoulder, a few inches from his head, then took aim and sent a rocket flying at 500 miles an hour. And each launch sent a shock wave whipping through every cell in the operator’s brain.

For generations, the military assumed that this kind of blast exposure was safe, even as evidence mounted that repetitive blasts may do serious and lasting harm.

In recent years, Congress, pressed by veterans who were exposed to these shock waves, has ordered the military to set safety limits and start tracking troops’ exposure. In response, the Pentagon created a sprawling Warfighter Brain Health Initiative to study the issue, gather data and propose corrective strategies. And last year, for the first time, it set a threshold above which a weapon blast is considered hazardous.

Despite the order, though, things have hardly changed on the ground. Training continues largely as it did before. Troops say they see little being done to limit or track blast exposure. And weapons like shoulder-fired rockets that are known to deliver a shock wave well above the safety threshold are still in wide use.

The disconnect fits a pattern that has repeated for more than a decade: Top leaders talk of the importance of protecting troops’ brains, but the military fails to take practical steps to ensure safety.

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U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Justices Search for Middle Ground on Mandatory Sentences for Gun Crimes, Adam Liptak, Nov. 27, 2023. A federal law imposes a mandatory 15-year sentence for possessing a gun after committing three serious drug offenses. But which offenses count? The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday over which drug offenses trigger mandatory 15-year sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which is a kind of federal three-strikes law.

The justices had three choices. By the end of the arguments, most of them seemed to have settled on a middle ground.

The law imposes the mandatory sentences on people convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms if they had already committed three violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The question for the justices was how to determine which drug offenses count under the law, which refers to a schedule of controlled substances overseen by the attorney general.

That schedule is revised from time to time, giving rise to the puzzle in the case.

Depending on which version of the schedule applies, a state drug conviction may or may not count as a strike under the federal gun law. Lawyers in the two consolidated cases on Monday gave the justices three options for deciding which schedule applied: the one in force when the defendant committed the state drug offense, the one in place when the defendant committed the federal gun crime or the one that applied when the defendant was sentenced for the federal gun crime.

A federal appeals court ruled that the middle choice — the schedule in place when he committed the federal gun crime — was the one that counted, affirming the 15-year mandatory sentence.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court ruled that Arizona lawmakers must testify about state voting laws requiring proof of citizenship, Adam Liptak
Nov. 27, 2023. Two Republican lawmakers had argued that they could not be questioned about their motives for supporting the laws, which require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that two Arizona lawmakers must testify about their reasons for supporting state laws requiring proof of citizenship for voting in federal elections.

The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. No dissents were noted.

The Justice Department, the Democratic National Committee, civil rights groups and others had challenged the state laws, saying they violated federal laws and had been enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

After Arizona’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, a Democrat, declined to defend aspects of the laws, Ben Toma, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Warren Petersen, the president of the Arizona Senate, both Republicans, intervened to defend it.

Lawmakers are ordinarily shielded by a legislative privilege from inquiries into their motives for sponsoring or voting for legislation. In September, Judge Susan R. Bolton, of the Federal District Court in Arizona, ruled that a different analysis applied when lawmakers voluntarily injected themselves into a litigation.

“The speaker and president each waived their privilege by intervening to ‘fully defend’ the voting laws and putting their motives at issue,” Judge Bolton wrote, adding that the two legislators could be compelled to testify about their activities.

At first, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked Judge Bolton’s ruling but later lifted its stay, allowing depositions of the men to proceed. The lawmakers then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

“Unless the court issues an immediate stay,” they told the justices in an emergency application, “the legislative leaders will quickly find themselves between the mythical Scylla and Charybdis: They’ll either need to submit to improper depositions or refuse to do so and expose themselves to potential sanctions and contempt charges. Either choice brings serious consequences that can’t be corrected.”
In response, lawyers for the Democratic National Committee wrote that the lawmakers were trying to have it both ways by arguing that the laws were not the product of discriminatory intent but refusing to be questioned about the matter. That, they wrote, is “wholly foreign to foundational principles of our adversarial judicial system, and to basic fairness.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Quiet Blockbuster at the Supreme Court That Could Impact All Americans, Kate Shaw, Nov. 22, 2023. Some Supreme Court terms are characterized by a single blockbuster case. This term largely revolves around a single blockbuster question: Will our government retain the capacity to address the most pressing issues of our time?

That’s what’s at stake in a group of cases involving the power, capacity and in some instances the very existence of federal agencies, the entities responsible for carrying out so much of the work of government.

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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left, and his billionaire friend and benefactor Harlan Crow (file photos).

 

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

 

george floyd derek chauvin

 ny times logoNew York Times, Stabbing of Derek Chauvin Raises Questions About Inmate Safety, Glenn Thrush and Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The ex-officer, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was being held in a federal prison for high-profile inmates. He is said to be likely to survive.

The stabbing on Friday of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd in 2020, at a special unit inside a Tucson, Ariz., prison is the latest in a series of attacks against high-profile inmates in the troubled, short-staffed federal Bureau of Prisons.

The assault comes less than five months after Larry Nassar, the doctor convicted of sexually abusing young female gymnasts, was stabbed multiple times at the federal prison in Florida. It also follows the release of Justice Department reports detailing incompetence and mismanagement at federal detention centers that led to the deaths in recent years of James Bulger, the Boston gangster known as Whitey, and Jeffrey Epstein, who had been charged with sex trafficking.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, though the bureau did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. The agency said in a statement that the inmate required “life-saving measures” before being rushed to a hospital emergency room nearby. The office of Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general who prosecuted the former police officer, identified the inmate as Mr. Chauvin.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Today’s Migrant Crisis Looks Like to a Holocaust Refugee, Joseph Berger, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Read a firsthand account of one of the 140,000 Jewish refugees who fled postwar Europe and arrived in New York City.

Even with New York’s complicated history as a port for new arrivals, the photographs this summer of more than a hundred migrants sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk outside the once-elegant Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan were shocking. So were scenes of young migrants idling on sidewalks, stoops and park benches, desperate to work but legally prohibited from doing so.

For those of us who were once part of such a moment, the scenes stirred up memories and reflections on how different some things were now for new arrivals and how much they were the same. I, too, was once part of a migrant influx.

In the years after the end of World War II, New York City absorbed a similar wave of immigrants — a large majority of the 140,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors who came to America between 1946 and 1953 — and it did so comparatively smoothly and uneventfully. These immigrants were eager to get on with their lives but were still in shock or heartbroken from the brutalities they had suffered, the parents and siblings they had lost, and the hometowns they could no longer return to.

Those who had no relatives to stay with were put up in 14 hotels that had seen better days as well as in a shelter hacked out of the former Astor Library on Lafayette Street, which is now the Public Theater.

My family was among those immigrants, having spent the previous four years waiting for visas to the United States while idling in two camps for so-called displaced persons in the American zone in occupied Germany. After a rocky voyage on a merchant marine vessel called the U.S.S. General A.W. Greely, my parents, my brother and I arrived on March 3, 1950, at a pier on West 21st Street. My brother Josh was not yet 3. I was 5.

ny times logoNew York Times, Derek Chauvin Is Said to Have Been Stabbed in Federal Prison, Glenn Thrush and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was serving a sentence of more than 20 years.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd during a 2020 arrest that set off a wave of protests, was stabbed at a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that an inmate at the Tucson prison was stabbed at 12:30 p.m., though the agency’s statement did not identify Mr. Chauvin, 47, by name. No other inmates or prison staff were injured, and the situation was quickly contained, according to the people familiar with the situation.

Emergency medical technicians “initiated lifesaving measures” before transporting the inmate to a local hospital “for further treatment and evaluation,” bureau officials wrote. No details were immediately available on his condition, but one of the people with knowledge of the incident said that Mr. Chauvin survived the attack.

Mr. Chauvin was serving a sentence of just over two decades in federal prison after he was convicted of state murder charges and a federal charge of violating the constitutional rights of Mr. Floyd. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

  • New York Times, How 1.2 Million Marijuana Arrests Will Shape New York’s Legal Market, Nov. 25, 2023.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Binance crypto chief Changpeng Zhao pleads guilty to federal charges, Eli Tan and Devlin Barrett, Nov. 22, 2023 (print ed.). Zhao’s plea and exit as chief executive marks the end of an era for one of the crypto industry’s longest standing titans.

changpeng zhao apChangpeng Zhao, founder of the world’s largest crypto exchange (and shown in a file photo via the Associated Press), pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating the Bank Secrecy Act and has agreed to step down as chief executive of Binance, which will pay a $4.3 billion fine, according to court documents.

The plea agreement marks the second time this month that a giant of the global cryptocurrency market has been felled by federal charges. Zhao faces a prison sentence of around 18 months, according to sentencing guidelines.

Justice Department log circularAs part of the plea agreement, Zhao is barred from working with the exchange for three years, according to a court filing. He appeared in federal court in Seattle on Tuesday and will be fined $50 million. The company also entered a guilty plea to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, as well as failing to register as a money transfer business and violating sanctions law.

The deal ends the Justice Department’s three-year investigation of Binance and comes months after the firm was accused by regulators of operating as an unregistered securities exchange.

Zhao’s departure marks the end of an era for one of the crypto industry’s longest-standing titans, who sparred with regulators for years. Zhao was also an original investor in FTX, the beleaguered crypto exchange founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted at trial of seven counts of fraud and money laundering earlier this month.

"Today, I stepped down as CEO of Binance,” Zhao said in a lengthy post on X, formerly Twitter, that did not mention his guilty plea but said Richard Teng, the firm’s former Global Head of Regional Markets, had been named chief executive. “I made mistakes, and I must take responsibility. This is best for our community, for Binance, and for myself.”

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More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Cockroaches and Mountains of Trash Plague Acapulco After Hurricane Otis, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Residents complain of rashes and stomach ailments as 666,000 tons of garbage overwhelm the city. Uncollected waste after natural disasters can lead to illnesses, experts said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Will Skip U.N. Climate Summit, White House Official Says, Lisa Friedman and Jim Tankersley, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden has attended the past two summits and calls climate change “the ultimate threat,” but he will miss the talks beginning in Dubai on Thursday.

President Biden will not attend a major United Nations climate summit that begins Thursday in Dubai, skipping an event expected to be attended by King Charles III, Pope Francis and leaders from nearly 200 countries, a White House official said Sunday.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss the president’s schedule, did not give a reason Mr. Biden will not make an appearance at the two-week summit, known as COP28.

But senior White House aides suggested that the war between Israel and Hamas had consumed the president in recent weeks and days, as he pressed for a pause in fighting and release of hostages held by Hamas.

“They’ve got the war in the Middle East and a war in Ukraine, a bunch of things going on,” John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s special envoy for climate change, said last week. Mr. Kerry and his team will be in Dubai.

ny times logoNew York Times, Huge Turbines Will Soon Bring First Offshore Wind Power to New Yorkers, Patrick McGeehan, Nov. 27, 2023. New York’s best bet for entering the era of offshore wind power is stacked up at the water’s edge in Connecticut.

The turbines will make up South Fork Wind, a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean whose completion is pivotal to Northeastern states’ hopes of switching to renewable sources of energy. Recent setbacks to several other offshore projects in the region have raised concerns about whether and when they all will be built.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fire Season in Australia Starts, Early and Ominous, Yan Zhuang, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Though experts do not think that this season will be the worst yet, they also warn that the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future.

It is not yet summer, but Australia’s fire season is well underway, in the latest example of how climate change is altering the rhythms of life across the Earth. Stoked by the El Niño weather pattern, it is the first dry and hot year since the summer of 2019-2020. It is expected to be the worst fire season since that period, when nearly 500 people died from direct fire exposure and smoke inhalation, and tens of thousands of acres were charred.

washington post logo Washington Post, Extreme Weather: What drought in the Amazon means for the planet, Nicolás Rivero, Nov. 23, 2023 (print ed.). The Amazon — the lush, tropical basin that holds the world’s biggest river, rainforest and a fifth of its fresh water — is running dry.

brazil flag wavingThe region is entering its fifth month of a drought that has been particularly punishing in the northern reaches of the rainforest, in the region around the city of Manaus. The Rio Negro, a northern Amazon tributary, fell to the lowest levels in its recorded history last month. Wildfires have advanced where waterways have retreated.

“In my lifetime looking at drought impacts and fires, I’ve never seen so many wildfires happening so close to Manaus, a region that was not considered that flammable — or flammable at all — in the past,” said Paulo Brando, an associate professor at the Yale School of the Environment.

The effects of the drought are rippling through the forest. Travel and commerce along the river system have slowed to a crawl. Brazil shut down its fourth-biggest hydroelectric plant. Riverside cities and towns are rationing drinking water. Key fish species have struggled to spawn, threatening local food supplies, and endangered pink dolphins have washed up dead on the riverbanks.

“I never thought I’d see the bottom of this river that I’ve crossed every day for 14 years, and here I am looking at the bottom now,” said Taciana Coutinho, whose boat commute to work grew twice as long as the Amazon dwindled.

As the rainy season returns, river levels are starting to recover. But scientists are predicting below-average rainfall that could leave the region vulnerable again next year.

This year’s disaster follows damaging droughts in 2005, 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2020. Each successive blow — combined with ongoing deforestation and rising temperatures — chips away at the Amazon’s ability to bounce back and puts it closer to a tipping point at which parts of the rainforest could permanently transform into a savanna.

“The forest might be recovering from one drought and then get hit by another while it’s still recovering,” said Chris Boulton, a research fellow at the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute and lead author of a 2022 study on Amazonian tipping points. “If that happens, it can take even longer to get back to normal, and eventually it reaches a point where it can’t get back to normality.”

A degraded Amazon would have big consequences for the world’s climate. The ancient forest stores 123 billion metric tons of carbon — more than three times as much as humans emitted last year — and its intact western region pulls millions of tons of carbon out of the atmosphere each year. But wildfires and deforestation have turned the eastern fringe of the forest into a net carbon emitter.

The rest of the forest could face the same fate.

“The global impact of that is very, very, very risky,” said Carlos Nobre, an earth system scientist at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Advanced Studies. “When the forest is losing more carbon than it is absorbing from the atmosphere, that shows we’re on the edge of this tipping point.”
On the Rio Negro, pictured Oct. 28, wildfires have advanced where waterways have retreated. (Andre Coelho/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
A rainforest on the brink

This year’s drought is linked to a strong El Niño, a climate pattern that often leads to drier conditions in the Amazon. Rising temperatures from human-caused climate change are probably intensifying the drought by speeding up evaporation of water from land surfaces. As summer and fall temperatures have sharply risen in Brazil in recent decades, average rainfall over the country has seen a steep decline.

Drought conditions over the rainforest region have reached the most extreme level over the last three months.

Big droughts used to rarely hit the Amazon — about once every 20 years or so, according to Nobre. But, due to climate change, they’ve come more frequently. “Unfortunately, in the last 20 years, this is becoming two strong droughts per decade,” he said. “That’s very much linked to global warming.”

Deforestation can also make droughts worse by making conditions drier.

The Amazon is so vast that it makes its own rain. Wet air from the Atlantic moves over land and dumps rain near the coast, watering the edges of the forest. The dense mass of vegetation releases moisture back into the air through a process called evapotranspiration. As winds blow that moist air deeper inland, more rain develops. The process repeats across the entire forest.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Is COP28? And Other Questions About the Big U.N. Climate Summit, Lisa Friedman, Nov. 20, 2023.  Diplomats and leaders will gather in Dubai for United Nations climate talks. Here are some key facts.

Two facts loom over United Nations climate talks that begin Nov. 30 in Dubai: the planet is careening toward climate disaster, and governments are acting too slowly to avert the crisis.

Diplomats from nearly 200 countries, and many heads of state and government, will gather to try to draft a plan to accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels because burning them is dangerously heating Earth.

The two-week conference is convened annually by the United Nations.

At last year’s summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, nations agreed to establish a fund to help poor, vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters made worse by the greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere by industrialized nations. But they made little progress in terms of cutting those emissions. A proposal to phase out fossil fuels was stymied by countries that produce and use gas, oil and coal. And Egypt, the host country, made deals on the sidelines of the summit to sell natural gas to Europe.

This year the United Arab Emirates, the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, is hosting the climate talks. That has drawn the anger of many activists, complicating the negotiations. The conference also is happening against a backdrop of geopolitical turmoil including wars the Middle East and Ukraine, making cooperation between nations even more difficult.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Groundwater Dwindles, Powerful Players Block Change, Christopher Flavelle, Data analysis and graphics by Mira Rojanasakul, Nov. 24, 2023 (interactive). Here are some of the people fighting efforts to conserve a vital resource that’s disappearing across the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Extreme Weather: What drought in the Amazon means for the planet, Nicolás Rivero, Nov. 23, 2023 (print ed.). The Amazon — the lush, tropical basin that holds the world’s biggest river, rainforest and a fifth of its fresh water — is running dry.

The region is entering its fifth month of a drought that has been particularly punishing in the northern reaches of the rainforest, in the region around the city of Manaus. The Rio Negro, a northern Amazon tributary, fell to the lowest levels in its recorded history last month. Wildfires have advanced where waterways have retreated.
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“In my lifetime looking at drought impacts and fires, I’ve never seen so many wildfires happening so close to Manaus, a region that was not considered that flammable — or flammable at all — in the past,” said Paulo Brando, an associate professor at the Yale School of the Environment.

The effects of the drought are rippling through the forest. Travel and commerce along the river system have slowed to a crawl. Brazil shut down its fourth-biggest hydroelectric plant. Riverside cities and towns are rationing drinking water. Key fish species have struggled to spawn, threatening local food supplies, and endangered pink dolphins have washed up dead on the riverbanks.

“I never thought I’d see the bottom of this river that I’ve crossed every day for 14 years, and here I am looking at the bottom now,” said Taciana Coutinho, whose boat commute to work grew twice as long as the Amazon dwindled.

As the rainy season returns, river levels are starting to recover. But scientists are predicting below-average rainfall that could leave the region vulnerable again next year.

This year’s disaster follows damaging droughts in 2005, 2010, 2015, 2016 and 2020. Each successive blow — combined with ongoing deforestation and rising temperatures — chips away at the Amazon’s ability to bounce back and puts it closer to a tipping point at which parts of the rainforest could permanently transform into a savanna.

“The forest might be recovering from one drought and then get hit by another while it’s still recovering,” said Chris Boulton, a research fellow at the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute and lead author of a 2022 study on Amazonian tipping points. “If that happens, it can take even longer to get back to normal, and eventually it reaches a point where it can’t get back to normality.”

A degraded Amazon would have big consequences for the world’s climate. The ancient forest stores 123 billion metric tons of carbon — more than three times as much as humans emitted last year — and its intact western region pulls millions of tons of carbon out of the atmosphere each year. But wildfires and deforestation have turned the eastern fringe of the forest into a net carbon emitter.

The rest of the forest could face the same fate.

“The global impact of that is very, very, very risky,” said Carlos Nobre, an earth system scientist at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Advanced Studies. “When the forest is losing more carbon than it is absorbing from the atmosphere, that shows we’re on the edge of this tipping point.”
On the Rio Negro, pictured Oct. 28, wildfires have advanced where waterways have retreated. (Andre Coelho/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
A rainforest on the brink

This year’s drought is linked to a strong El Niño, a climate pattern that often leads to drier conditions in the Amazon. Rising temperatures from human-caused climate change are probably intensifying the drought by speeding up evaporation of water from land surfaces. As summer and fall temperatures have sharply risen in Brazil in recent decades, average rainfall over the country has seen a steep decline.

Drought conditions over the rainforest region have reached the most extreme level over the last three months.

Big droughts used to rarely hit the Amazon — about once every 20 years or so, according to Nobre. But, due to climate change, they’ve come more frequently. “Unfortunately, in the last 20 years, this is becoming two strong droughts per decade,” he said. “That’s very much linked to global warming.”

Deforestation can also make droughts worse by making conditions drier.

The Amazon is so vast that it makes its own rain. Wet air from the Atlantic moves over land and dumps rain near the coast, watering the edges of the forest. The dense mass of vegetation releases moisture back into the air through a process called evapotranspiration. As winds blow that moist air deeper inland, more rain develops. The process repeats across the entire forest.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Women Protest Long Deployments for Soldiers in Ukraine, Neil MacFarquhar and Milana Mazaeva, Nov. 27, 2023. “Make way for someone else,” a grass-roots movement demands as women challenge the argument that the mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely.

Russian FlagThe woman in the video, her face blurred, gave a blunt assessment of Russian military policy: Soldiers mobilized over a year ago to fight in Ukraine deserved to come home. Why weren’t they?

“Our mobilized became the best army in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this army should stay there to the last man,” she said. “If he did something heroic, spilled blood for his country sincerely, then maybe it was time to return to his family, make way for someone else, but that’s not happening.”

The speaker was part of a new, grass-roots movement that has been gathering steam in Russia over the past several weeks. Women in various cities are seeking to stage public protests, challenging the official argument that mobilized troops are needed in combat indefinitely to secure their Russian homeland.

ny times logoNew York Times, A massive storm battered southern Ukraine, causing havoc for civilians and soldiers, Marc Santora, Nov. 27, 2023. Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

A powerful wintry storm battered southern Ukraine on Monday, washing away Russian coastal defenses from some beaches on the occupied Crimean peninsula. The storm, which Ukrainian meteorologists said was among the most intense in decades, snarled supply routes for both countries’ armies and deepened the misery of tens of thousands of soldiers huddled in shallow trenches across the sprawling front line.

ukraine flagAs temperatures plunged below freezing across much of the country, hundreds of thousands of civilians were left without power in Russian-occupied territories and tens of thousands more lost power across southern Ukraine.

All the hardships that a winter storm typically delivers were compounded and complicated by the exigencies of war. A blizzard of snow, for example, stranded civilians on roads while complicating the movement of humanitarian aid to communities across Ukraine ravaged by fighting.

Violent waves stirred by hurricane-force winds threatened to tear maritime mines from their moorings in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea — as less violent storms have done in the past — complicating the navigation of already dangerous shipping lanes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia held these Ukrainian teens captive. Their testimonies could be used against Putin, Siobhán O'Grady and Anastacia Galouchka, Nov. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Ukraine intends to use the teens’ testimony as evidence that Russia is systematically removing Ukrainian children from their homes and culture.

Russian FlagThe Russian missing child poster went up in Crimea soon after Rostyslav Lavrov escaped last month.

“HELP FIND,” it read. “17 years old, born 2006 … Height 160 cm, thin build, dark hair, blue eyes.”

“Anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of the teenager is asked to report this.”

The attached photo — which Lavrov said was taken several months ago when Russian authorities holding him against his will tried to issue him a Russian ID card — showed the Ukrainian teen sullen in a white shirt and tie.

He is one of three Ukrainian teenagers who fled Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea this summer and shared their experiences with The Washington Post in lengthy interviews in Kyiv and Kherson. They each described systematic efforts by Russian officials to keep them in Russian-controlled territory.

Ukraine says there are thousands of Ukrainian children like Lavrov who were forced to move to Russia or Russian-occupied territory, including Crimea, since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. What makes Lavrov exceptional is that he got out, carrying with him memories of his experience that could one day be used in court to prove Russia committed war crimes by relocating children.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Consumers, High Tech

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike Changed the Labor Movement, Kurtis Lee, Nov. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The 1968 action led to greater economic mobility for Black workers. Today, union activists are trying to capture some of that spirit.

This article is from Headway, an initiative from The New York Times exploring the world’s challenges through the lens of progress. Headway looks for promising solutions, notable experiments and lessons from what has been tried.

Jack Walker is a union man. He drives a garbage truck in Memphis, where his route can take him barreling past shotgun-style houses along the Mississippi River and down the narrow alleyways near the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He is aware, always, of how his union protections are tied to Dr. King’s death and that of another man: his father.

Robert Walker, Mr. Walker’s father, was also a sanitation worker. On Feb. 1, 1968, he was collecting garbage when sheets of rain started pouring down. He and his colleague Echol Cole took shelter in the compactor of their truck. When a compressing piston malfunctioned, the two men were crushed. The city had no intention to pay death benefits, offering Robert Walker’s widow only $500 for funeral expenses, “if you need it,” as the official letter put it. She had five children, including Jack, and was pregnant with a sixth.

The tragedy was a culmination of slow-burning indignities for Black sanitation workers in Memphis. They earned low wages to lug heavy, open tubs of refuse to their trucks. Rotting garbage seeped onto their skin and clothes. Their white colleagues, who were often drivers, showered at the depot at the end of their shifts. But the Black collectors were forced to ride the bus or walk home in their dank clothes covered in flecks of trash and maggots.

Fed up, they called a strike. Roughly 1,300 sanitation workers began marching through the streets of Memphis. They carried signs that read “I Am a Man,” with the “Am” underlined. The strike stretched on for weeks. Even as trash began to accumulate on city streets, Memphis’s mayor wouldn’t entertain the strikers’ demands, instead sending in police officers with clubs and mace to break up marches.

The strikers’ mission and bravery spoke to Dr. King, who had embarked on a new economic justice effort, the Poor People’s Campaign. He came to Memphis in March and again in April, when, at a local church, he gave an impassioned speech that would turn out to be his last.

Two weeks after Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the Memphis City Council voted to recognize the sanitation workers’ union, promising higher wages to the largely Black work force.

“It was a first step in getting them on their feet financially,” said Lee Saunders, the current president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “It was a huge deal.”

The strike in Memphis more than five decades ago “inspired a surge of organizing and strikes, not unlike what we see today,” said William P. Jones, a history professor at the University of Minnesota who has written on race and class.

Today’s resurgence in labor activism cuts across a broad range of industries. There have been recent labor fights at, among other places, rail yards, schools, hospitals, hotels, Hollywood studios and Starbucks stores. And the issues on the bargaining table include traditional demands, like higher wages and better staffing levels, as well as protections against replacement by artificial intelligence. Unions have had remarkable success in recent months, including securing a big pay raise for Las Vegas hospitality workers who merely threatened a strike.

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U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

ny times logoNew York Times, A Final Wave of Sex-Abuse Lawsuits as One-Year Window Closes in New York, Hurubie Meko, Nov. 27, 2023. Since the Adult Survivors Act was passed, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed, some aimed at politicians and others at institutions.

In the year since a one-time window opened in New York State allowing people to file sex-abuse lawsuits even after the statute of limitations had expired, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed.

Before the deadline on Thanksgiving, a flurry of attention-grabbing suits were filed against politicians — like former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Eric Adams, the mayor of New York — and celebrities, like Sean Combs, the producer and music mogul, who had just settled a separate suit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing him of rape.

But hundreds of people have also — collectively and separately — sued institutions, including the state’s prisons, jails and prominent hospitals, for abuses they said were systematically ignored and hidden for decades. At least 479 suits contain charges of abuse at Rikers Island.

As the legislation to allow the civil suits, known as the Adult Survivors Act, approached its sunset date, the number of lawsuits filed — both in State Supreme Court and in the Court of Claims — steadily increased after a campaign to alert people to the deadline. The number of cases filed in State Supreme Court alone rose from 803 on Oct. 31 to 1,397 as of Nov. 22.

cuba gooding

washington post logoWashington Post, Legal deadline prompts a slew of celebrity sexual assault lawsuits, Anne Branigin, Nov. 24, 2023 (print ed.). As New York’s Adult Survivors Act is set to expire Friday, last-minute claims have been made this week against Axl Rose, Jamie Foxx and Cuba Gooding Jr. (shown above.)

The list keeps growing: hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, actor Jamie Foxx, rock star Axl Rose, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr., celebrity photographer Terry Richardson, music executive L.A. Reid.

In the past month, a slew of sexual assault lawsuits has been filed against high-profile men in the entertainment industry for alleged abuse that took place years — and in some cases, decades — ago. The cases have been filed under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law signed in 2022 that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for filing a sexual assault complaint, allowing survivors one year to file suits against their alleged abusers, regardless of when the alleged abuse happened.

The act is set to expire Friday, prompting a flurry of last-minute complaints and summonses as survivors seek remedy for abuses they say they experienced as adults. On Wednesday alone, Rose and actors Gooding and Foxx were hit with lawsuits filed under the act. And in a last-minute filing Thursday, Combs was accused of another sexual assault. (R&B singer Cassie sued him earlier this month; the pair settled out of court the next day.)

Rose was accused of sexual assault by former Penthouse model Sheila Kennedy, who claims that Rose attacked and raped her in a New York hotel room in 1989.

Meanwhile, two women filed separate suits against Gooding, both alleging sexual assault and battery, one in 2018 and one in 2019. The 2019 claim involves a groping incident that Gooding pleaded guilty to last year. (The actor described it as “non-consensual physical contact” at a hearing, according to the lawsuit.)

Gooding settled another Adult Survivors Act lawsuit in June with a woman who accused him of raping her in 2013.

Foxx, whose legal name is Eric Marlon Bishop, was also accused of sexual assault, in an alleged incident that took place at a New York bar in 2015. That complaint, filed on behalf of “Jane Doe,” alleges that Foxx pulled her to a secluded area of the establishment and began fondling her without her consent, while a nearby security guard who witnessed the encounter walked away.

“The alleged incident never happened,” a spokesman for Foxx told Deadline on Thursday, claiming that the person had filed “a nearly identical lawsuit in Brooklyn” in 2020 that was dismissed.

In the past year, more than 2,500 lawsuits tied to the Adult Survivors Act have been filed, according to the Associated Press, which noted that most of the alleged abuse occurred at state prisons and local jails.

But the ones that have drawn the most attention have been those filed against public figures.

In October, actress Julia Ormond filed one such suit against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, 71, who is serving a 39-year sentence for rape and sexual assault in a New York state prison. Actor-comedian Russell Brand, former president Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein’s estate have also been hit with these lawsuits.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell, however, came Nov. 16, when Cassie accused her former partner Combs of sustained physical and sexual abuse during the course of their relationship, which lasted more than a decade.

Cassie, whose legal name is Casandra Ventura, signed to Combs’s Bad Boy record label when she was 19; Combs was 37 at the time. In the suit, the singer alleged that Combs introduced her to “a lifestyle of excessive alcohol and substance abuse,” often beat her, forced her to engage in sex acts with male sex workers and raped her when she attempted to leave him. Because of the graphic nature of the allegations, the 35-page complaint came with an unusual “trigger warning.”

At the time of the filing, Cassie referenced the Adult Survivors Act, saying in a prepared statement that with the act’s expiration fast approaching, “it became clear that this was an opportunity to speak up about the trauma I have experienced and that I will be recovering from for the rest of my life.”

Combs ended up settling the suit with Cassie one day later: “We have decided to resolve this matter amicably. I wish Cassie and her family all the best,” the producer-rapper said in a statement.

Days later, Harve Pierre, the former president of Bad Boy Records, was accused of grooming and sexually assaulting his assistant. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of “Jane Doe,” claims that Pierre “used his position of authority as plaintiff’s boss to groom, exploit, and sexually assault” the person, sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions between 2016 and 2017. Bad Boy Entertainment, Bad Boy Records and Combs Enterprises were also named as co-defendants for alleged negligence and gender violence.

“The allegations are from many years ago that were never brought to the attention of the company,” a spokesman for Bad Boy Entertainment said in a statement Thursday, adding: “We are now investigating the allegations, and our top priority is the safety and well-being of our employees.”

 

eric adams serious nydn

Politico, Eric Adams accused of sexual assault in 1993 in new legal filing, Emily Ngo, Nov. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The NYC mayor (shown in a New York Daily News photo) denies knowing the plaintiff, who alleges assault by Adams 30 years ago.

politico CustomNew York City Mayor Eric Adams has been accused of sexual assault 30 years ago in a new legal claim filed under the Adult Survivors Act.

The accusations are the latest troubles for the mayor of the nation’s largest city as he also deals with a federal investigation into his campaign finances.

The civil summons alleges Adams, a former NYPD officer, sexually assaulted the plaintiff when they worked as city employees in 1993. The summons was filed late Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan and first reported by the Messenger news outlet.

The mayor, through a spokesperson, denied knowing the plaintiff, whose name was being withheld by POLITICO.

“If they ever met, he doesn’t recall it,” a City Hall spokesperson said in a statement. “But he would never do anything to physically harm another person and vigorously denies any such claim.”

Later, Adams stressed the same points to reporters.

“It absolutely did not happen. I don’t recall ever meeting this person. And I would never harm anyone in that magnitude. It did not happen,” Adams said. “It’s going to go its course; it’s going take its process. But it did not happen. And that is not who I am, and that’s who I have never been in my professional life.”

An attorney for the plaintiff did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The court filing names Adams, New York City, the transit bureau of the New York Police Department and the Guardian Association of the NYPD as defendants.

The plaintiff seeks at least $5 million in damages, according to the summons.

“The claims brought here allege intentional and negligent acts and omissions for physical, psychological, and other injuries suffered as a result of conduct that would constitute sexual offenses,” the document reads.

The three-page summons contained few other details about the alleged assault. It is expected to be followed by a fuller legal complaint.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Cuomo Faces Sex Abuse Suit From Ex-Aide Who Says He Groped Her, Benjamin Weiser and Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The aide, Brittany Commisso, is bringing the case under the Adult Survivors Act, which permits people who say they were abused long ago to seek redress. Mr. Cuomo denied wrongdoing.

Brittany Commisso, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York who accused him of groping her in late 2020, is suing him under the state’s Adult Survivors Act for what she described as “pervasive abusive conduct,” according to court papers.

In the papers, Ms. Commisso accused Mr. Cuomo of “continuous sexual harassment” and of retaliating against her after she refused his advances and reported his conduct.

Ms. Commisso’s allegations against Mr. Cuomo are not new, and he has long denied them.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Abortions Did the Post-Roe Bans Prevent? Margot Sanger-Katz and Claire Cain Miller, Nov. 23, 2023 (print ed.). The first data on births since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year shows that almost a quarter of women who could have gotten abortions have carried to term.

The first data on births since Roe v. Wade was overturned shows how much abortion bans have had their intended effect: Births increased in every state with a ban, an analysis of the data shows.

By comparing birth statistics in states before and after the bans passed, researchers estimated that the laws caused around 32,000 annual births, based on the first six months of 2023, a relatively small increase that was in line with overall expectations.

Until now, studies have shown that many women in states with bans have ended their pregnancies anyway, by traveling to other states or ordering pills online. What they have been unable to show is how many women have not done so, and carried their pregnancies to term. The new analysis, published Friday as a working paper by the Institute of Labor Economics, found that in the first six months of the year, between one-fifth and one-fourth of women living in states with bans — who may have otherwise sought an abortion — did not get one.

“The importance of our results is when you take away access, it can affect fertility,” said Daniel Dench, an economist at Georgia Tech and an author of the paper with Mayra Pineda-Torres of Georgia Tech and Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College. “When you make it harder, women can’t always get out of states to obtain abortion.”

Overall, data suggests that the number of legal abortions nationwide has stayed steady or slightly increased since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, despite abortion bans in what are now 14 states. This is probably because of new clinics that opened in states where it is legal, and the emergence of new ways to order abortion pills online, expanding access for both women who traveled to those states and those who lived there.

“This is an inequality story,” Professor Myers said. “Most people are getting out of ban states, one way or another, and more people in protected states are getting abortions. And at the same time, this shows something those data cannot show: There’s a significant minority of people in ban states that do get trapped.”

The researchers used birth data, by age and race, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005 through June 2023. They used a statistical method that compared states with similar trends in births before the Dobbs decision to estimate how much a ban changed the expected birthrate. This increased their certainty that the change was because of the policy and not other factors.

They found that births increased 2.3 percent, on average, in states with bans relative to states where abortion remained legal.

The analysis showed that the increased births were disproportionately among women in their 20s and Black and Hispanic women, which researchers said could be because these groups tend to be poorer, making it harder to travel. They are also the demographic groups that have tended to be more likely to seek abortions.

ny times logoNew York Times, When Does Life Stop? A New Way of Harvesting Organs Divides Doctors, Joseph Goldstein, Nov. 22, 2023. The technique restarts circulation after an organ donor is declared dead. But first surgeons cut off blood flow to the brain. One surgeon called it “creepy.”

A new method for retrieving hearts from organ donors has ignited a debate over the surprisingly blurry line between life and death in a hospital — and whether there is any possibility that donors might still experience some trace of consciousness or pain as their organs are harvested.

The new method has divided major hospitals in New York City and beyond. It has been championed by NYU Langone Health in Manhattan, which says it became the first hospital in the United States in 2020 to try the new method. But NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, which has the city’s largest organ transplant program, has rejected the technique after an ethics committee there examined the issue.

If adopted more widely, the method will significantly increase the number of hearts available for transplantation, saving lives.

The reason is that most heart donors currently come from a small category of deaths: donors who have been declared brain dead often after a traumatic incident like a car accident. But they remain on life support — their heart beats, and their blood circulates, bringing oxygen to their organs — until a transplant team recovers their organs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Accusations of body-shaming, verbal abuse, fits of anger: Beneath NCAA gymnastics’ glow, a ‘toxic’ culture, Molly Hensley-Clancy and Emily Giambalvo, Nov. 22, 2023 (print ed.). To young gymnasts, women’s college gymnastics looked like a joyous reprieve from the elite youth version of the sport, where injury, body-shaming and verbal abuse were expected. Then they arrived on campus and found the same toxicity.

Women’s college gymnastics has exploded in popularity in recent years, gaining television viewers, crowds and social media followers in droves. The NCAA championships last spring drew more than 1 million viewers on ESPN, its most ever, and in the era of athletes profiting from their brands, some gymnasts rank among the highest earners of any college sport, men or women.

But for some athletes, the reality of NCAA gymnastics has been sharply at odds with the sport’s public image, an examination by The Post found. In interviews and investigative records, gymnasts described “toxic” environments in which they were targeted by coaches, ignored by institutions and ostracized by teammates for speaking up. Coaches, a dozen gymnasts told The Post, created environments in which gymnasts felt unsafe and unsupported and where their mental health degraded. Some said they were even driven from the sport because of it.

Some allegations, like at Utah, have previously spilled into public view. At San Jose State, gymnasts told the Mercury News that their former coach had verbally abused and body-shamed them. The coach had been investigated in 2018, the newspaper reported, but denied the allegations and was allowed to retire with his pension and praise from the university. And at Penn State, one coach was fired and another resigned in the wake of 2016 allegations of emotional abuse and body-shaming from former gymnasts.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The U.S. pharmacy industry is crumbling. Here’s how to fix it, Robert Gebelhoff, Nov. 27, 2023. Canby Drug & Gifts, a pharmacy in rural Minnesota, is a paradox. It does good business, yet it is always on the verge of shutting down. “I’m one bad contract from closing,” says owner Mark Whittier.

His drugstore, one of a few in his county of more than 9,000 people, exemplifies the struggle many independent pharmacies face. The store is a lifeline for customers, most of whom are either on Medicaid or the state’s health-insurance program. Yet profitability is now near-impossible because of the preposterous way the United States distributes pharmaceutical drugs.

Without serious reforms, businesses such as Whittier’s could disappear.

The tectonic plates beneath retail pharmaceuticals are shifting, and drugstores are falling. The total number of drugstores has been falling since 2015, but the trend has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, which have lost about 10 percent of their pharmacies in two decades.

There are plenty of reasons for this: As for many other businesses, revenue for pharmacies cratered during the pandemic. Labor shortages, especially among pharmacists seeking better pay and working conditions, further strained operations. Meanwhile, online retailers have provided new competition and large opioid settlements have battered many chains.

But U.S. drug distribution has also greatly consolidated, granting enormous power to a few big players that have mangled the industry in the pursuit of profit. A small number of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) — Express Scripts, CVS Caremark and Optum Rx — act as intermediaries between pharmacies and the insurance companies that pay for prescription drugs. But each PBM also runs a network of pharmacies and goes to great lengths to direct customers to its preferred retail stores.

That’s right — the same corporations that are deciding where Americans should buy their drugs are often running those drugstores.

This market dominance has driven business away from independent stores. Worse, PBMs are notorious for setting low-reimbursement fees, making it difficult for pharmacies to break even. Many PBMs also impose contracts on independent pharmacies with unrealistic demands on how they dispense drugs and how their customers follow the regimens. When pharmacies fall short, they are hit with enormous fees.

Together, these forces have expanded America’s “pharmacy deserts” — swaths of the country without easy access to stores — and this situation is bound to worsen. CVS and Walgreens plan to continue shedding retail locations in the coming years. Rite Aid’s bankruptcy last month will pile on another 150-plus closures.

This could have serious effects on Americans’ health, especially among minorities. Long drives and onerous trips on public transportation make it hard for patients to stay on track with their medications. People shouldn’t have to spend an hou