April News

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and April 2024 news and views

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

 

April 30

Top Headlines

 

President Joe Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City last year. Administration officials have refused to give any timeline on whether Mr. Biden could announce an order shutting down asylum at the border (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

More On Trump Trials, Probes, Allies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

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

 

U.S. Student Protests

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Russian Terror Attacks, Hostages

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

climate change photo

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

GOP Claims Against Bidens

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

 

U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Space

 

U.S. Baltimore Bridge Collapse

 

U.S. Education, Religion, Media, High Tech, Free Speech, Culture

 

Top Stories

 

President Joe Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City last year. Administration officials have refused to give any timeline on whether Mr. Biden could announce an order shutting down asylum at the border (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden and Mexico’s President Vow Combined Action on Illegal Immigration, Michael D. Shear and Hamed Aleaziz, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden is under intense political pressure, including from within his own party, to address migration before the election.

President Biden and the president of Mexico on Monday vowed combined action to prevent illegal immigration as Mr. Biden remains under intense political pressure from all sides to address the impact of surging border crossings ahead of the presidential election this year.

ICE logo

In a joint statement, Mr. Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said they had ordered their national security aides to “work together to immediately implement concrete measures to significantly reduce irregular border crossings while protecting human rights.”

The statement, which followed a phone call between the two leaders on Sunday, did not specify any actions under consideration. A senior administration official declined to elaborate on what the United States and Mexico might “immediately implement.” But the official said the possibilities under discussion included stronger enforcement measures to prevent railways, buses and airports from being used for illegal border crossing and more flights taking migrants back to their home countries.

The issue could be a deciding factor in whether Mr. Biden stays in the Oval Office for another four years. Polls of both Republicans and Democrats in recent months indicate that the situation at the border is a serious concern. And even some of the president’s most fervent supporters in liberal cities are demanding that he do something to stanch the flow of migrants.

The president’s latest plan to do that — with a highly restrictive immigration bill that had some bipartisan support — fell apart over the last several months as Republicans in the House blocked it. Mr. Biden had called for the legislation to be passed alongside financial aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, but when Congress finally reached a deal on the funding earlier this month, the border legislation was not included.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Team Sees Narrow Window for Deal on Cease-Fire and Hostages in Gaza, Peter Baker, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Factors have converged to make this a moment when President Biden may be able to break through the stalemate, advisers say. But their optimism has been dashed before.

President Biden and his national security team see a narrow window to finally seal an agreement that would at least temporarily halt the war in Gaza and possibly end it for good even as they deflect pressure from college campus protests to abandon Israel in its fight against Hamas.

Israel FlagSeveral factors converging at once have renewed the administration’s hopes that it can break through the stalemate in the next week or two. Mr. Biden’s team wants to capitalize on the successful defense of Israel from Iranian attack, rising public pressure in Israel to free the hostages and Saudi eagerness for a new diplomatic and security initiative.

palestinian flagThe window may be short. The president’s advisers are pressing for a cease-fire deal before Israel can begin its long-threatened assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, an operation with the potential for many civilian casualties that could thwart any short-term chances of peace. But administration officials have gone down this road before over the last several months, repeatedly expressing optimism only to see the chances for a deal collapse.

The administration is testing its proposition with a renewed push in the region. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, where he promoted a new “extraordinarily generous” offer by Israel, which signaled that it is now willing to accept the release of fewer hostages in the first stage of an agreement, 33 instead of 40.

 

juan merchan djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Trial Live Updates Judge in N.Y. hush money trial finds Trump in contempt for his public statements, Staff Reports, April 30, 2024. The judge in Trump’s N.Y. hush money trial Tuesday found the former president in contempt for his critical public statements as proceedings entered their third week.

“The court finds the people have met their burden of proof and have demonstrated contempt. Mr. Trump is fined $1,000 on each of those two,” Justice Juan Merchan said in his written decision, referring to one set of alleged gag order violations.

The trial’s third witness — Gary Farro, a banker who worked with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen — has resumed testifying. Prosecutors had not said in open court by the close of Friday’s session whom the next witness will be after Farro.

Last week, the trial was largely dominated by testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Former Trump assistant Rhona Graff also briefly took the stand.

ny times logoNew York Times, 8 Officers Are Shot, 4 Fatally, While Serving Warrant in Charlotte, N.C., Sopan Deb, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Eduardo Medina and Remy Tumin, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Three of the four who were killed were part of a U.S. Marshals task force. It was one of the deadliest days for law enforcement in recent years.

Eight law officers were shot on Monday, four fatally, as a U.S. Marshals fugitive task force tried to serve a warrant in Charlotte, N.C., the police said, in one of the deadliest days for law enforcement in recent years.

Around 1:30 p.m., members of the task force went to serve a warrant on a person for being a felon in possession of a firearm, Johnny Jennings, the chief of police of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said at a news conference Monday evening.

When they approached the residence, the suspect, later identified as Terry Clark Hughes Jr., fired at them, the police said. The officers returned fire and struck Mr. Hughes, 39. He was later pronounced dead in the front yard of the residence.

As the police approached the shooter, Chief Jennings told reporters, the officers were met with more gunfire from inside the home. After a long standoff, two women in the home were taken to a police station to be interviewed, the police later said in a statement.

“Today is an absolute tragic day for the city of Charlotte and for the profession of law enforcement,” Chief Jennings said. “Today, we lost some heroes that are out simply trying to keep our community safe.”

In all, four members of the task force were shot, three of whom died. The North Carolina Department of Adult Correction said in a statement that two of its veteran officers, Sam Poloche and Alden Elliott, were killed. The U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that one of its deputy marshals was among those killed. The task force is made up of officers from multiple agencies.

In a statement on Monday night, President Biden shared his condolences with the families of the officers who had been killed and injured in the shootout. “They are heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice, rushing into harm’s way to protect us,” he said. “We mourn for them and their loved ones. And we pray for the recoveries of the courageous officers who were wounded.”

The president urged leaders in Congress to take action “to combat the scourge of gun violence” by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and by passing universal background checks, among other measures. “Enough is enough,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Drowning South: A hidden force supercharged this Alabama flood — and threatens the American South, Chris Mooney, John Muyskens, Kevin Crowe and Brianna Sacks, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Longtime residents said a 2023 flood in southern Alabama was unlike anything they had ever seen

alabama state mapOn June 19, southern Mobile County, Ala., experienced torrential rain and severe flooding. Roads and some homes near the Fowl River were submerged.

But this was no ordinary flood.

What the residents and rescuers of the Fowl River region faced on that day was part of a dangerous phenomenon reshaping the southern United States: Rapidly rising seas are combining with storms to generate epic floods, threatening lives, property and livelihoods.

In the Fowl River’s case, unusually high tides slowed floodwaters as they went downstream to drain. This increased the water’s depth and flooded a wide expanse — even several miles upstream. The result was deluged roads, washed out cars and damaged houses from a flood that was larger, deeper and longer-lasting due to rising seas.

These supercharged floods are one of the most pernicious impacts of an unexpected surge in sea levels across the U.S. Gulf and southeast coasts — with the ocean rising an average of 6 inches since 2010, one of the fastest such changes in the world, according to a Washington Post examination of how sea level rise is affecting the region.

The Post’s analysis found that sea levels at a tide gauge near the Fowl River rose four times faster in 2010 to 2023 than over the previous four decades.

The rapid burst of sea level rise has struck a region spanning from Brownsville, Tex., to Cape Hatteras, N.C., where coastal counties are home to 28 million people. Outdated infrastructure built to manage water, some of it over a century old, cannot keep up. As a result, the seas are swallowing coastal land, damaging property, submerging septic tanks and making key roads increasingly impassable.

These analyses showed how much the ocean is rising and how it’s affecting flooding across this region, a preview of what other parts of the United States and the world that are affected by sea level rise will face in coming decades.

Key findings

  • The ocean off the U.S. Gulf and Southern Atlantic coasts has, since 2010, risen at about triple the rate experienced during the previous 30 years. In just the Gulf of Mexico, sea levels rose at twice the global rate over the past 14 years.
  • There are now more dangerous rain-driven and flash floods reported within 10 miles of the coast in the region. Their numbers increased by 42 percent from 2007 to 2022 — a total of 2,800 events, according to a Post analysis of National Weather Service data.
  • The Fowl River flood was caused by intense but not record-breaking thunderstorms that collided with high tides, according to Webb’s analysis. Working together, they caused the river to spill miles inland. The higher seas of today, compared with sea levels in 1967, would have increased the volume of the flood by nearly 10 percent of the river in its normal state, the analysis showed.
  • Human-caused climate change is driving an acceleration of sea level rise globally, largely because of the faster melting of the globe’s giant sheets of ice. Scientists do not know for certain why this region is experiencing a surge in sea levels beyond the global average, but one theory is that naturally occurring ocean currents are moving ever-warmer ocean water deep into the Gulf. This warm water expands and causes seas to rise. This comes on top of sinking land, which has long exacerbated sea level rise in the region.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi meet in 2022 (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

U.S. President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi meet in 2022 (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: An assassination plot on American soil reveals a darker side of Modi’s India, Greg Miller, Gerry Shih and Ellen Nakashima, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). India’s intelligence service has aggressively targeted Indian diaspora populations in Asia, Europe and North America, officials said.

The White House went to extraordinary lengths last year to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a state visit meant to bolster ties with an ascendant power and potential partner against China.

india flag mapTables on the South Lawn were decorated with lotus blooms, the symbol of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. A chef was flown in from California to preside over a vegetarian menu. President Biden extolled the shared values of a relationship “built on mutual trust, candor and respect.”

But even as the Indian leader was basking in U.S. adulation on June 22, an officer in India’s intelligence service was relaying final instructions to a hired hit team to kill one of Modi’s most vocal critics in the United States.

The assassination is a “priority now,” wrote Vikram Yadav, an officer in India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, according to current and former U.S. and Indian security officials.

Yadav forwarded details about the target, Sikh activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, including his New York address, according to the officials and a U.S. indictment. As soon as the would-be assassins could confirm that Pannun, a U.S. citizen, was home, “it will be a go ahead from us.”

Yadav’s identity and affiliation, which have not previously been reported, provide the most explicit evidence to date that the assassination plan — ultimately thwarted by U.S. authorities — was directed from within the Indian spy service. Higher-ranking RAW officials have also been implicated, according to current and former Western security officials, as part of a sprawling investigation by the CIA, FBI and other agencies that has mapped potential links to Modi’s inner circle.

ny times logoNew York Times, Many Ukrainian Prisoners of War Show Signs of Trauma and Sexual Violence, Carlotta Gall and Oleksandr Chubko, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Some are still suffering with physical and psychological wounds from torture by their Russian captors. But soldiers are being sent back to active duty.

ukraine flagThe Ukrainian marine infantryman endured nine months of physical and psychological torture as a Russian prisoner of war, but was allotted only three months of rest and rehabilitation before being ordered back to his unit.

Russian FlagThe infantryman, who asked to be identified only by his call sign, Smiley, returned to duty willingly. But it was only when he underwent intensive combat training in the weeks after that the depth and range of his injuries, both psychological and physical, began to surface.

“I started having flashbacks, and nightmares,” he said. “I would only sleep for two hours and wake up with my sleeping bag soaking wet.” He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and referred for psychological care, and is still receiving treatment.

Ukraine is just beginning to understand the lasting effects of the traumas its prisoners of war experienced in Russian captivity, but it has been failing to treat them properly and returning them to duty too early, say former prisoners, officials and psychologists familiar with individual cases.

Nearly 3,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been released from Russia in prisoner exchanges since the 2022 invasion began. More than 10,000 more remain in Russian custody, some of whom have endured two years of conditions that a United Nations expert described as horrific.

The Ukrainian government’s rehabilitation program, which has usually involved two months in a sanitarium and a month at home, is inadequate, critics say, and the traumas suffered by Ukrainian prisoners are growing with the length and severity of the abuse they are being subjected to as the war drags on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Abortion Ban to Take Effect, Cutting Off Major Access Point, Patricia Mazzeim, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). The state has dozens of clinics that serve thousands of women a year. The six-week ban, taking effect Wednesday, will require most to travel much farther.

Florida has long played a significant role in the American abortion landscape, with dozens of clinics providing the procedure to tens of thousands of residents a year while also taking in patients from across the Southeast.

That era will end, at least for now, on Wednesday, when a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy will take effect. The strict new law will replace a 15-week ban and require most Floridians and other Southerners seeking the procedure to travel to Virginia or farther.

Almost every other state in the region banned or sharply restricted abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022; many had few abortion providers even before the ruling. North Carolina still allows abortions up to 12 weeks, but with a 72-hour waiting period that makes it a less practical option for out-of-state patients.

“The surrounding states have been desperate to find a place to go within a reasonable distance,” said Kelly Flynn, the president and chief executive of A Woman’s Choice, a network of abortion clinics, including one in Jacksonville, Fla., “and we have been that place.”

Instead of the number of abortions in Florida decreasing after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 15-week ban into law in April 2022, as proponents had hoped, it went up because more patients were coming from Southern states with more restrictions or near-total bans.

Florida, the third-largest state by population, has about 50 clinics and last year provided some 84,000 abortions; nearly 8,000 of them were for women from outside the state. Until July 2022, Florida allowed abortions until about 24 weeks.

 

New York City Police enter second-story of Columbia University building to arrest protesters on the evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024 (New York Times photo by Bing Guan). New York City Police enter second-story of Columbia University building to arrest protesters on the evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024 (New York Times photo by Bing Guan).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Police Arrest Protesters Occupying Columbia Campus Building, Eryn Davis, Liset Cruz, Karla Marie Sanford and Anna Betts, April 30, 2024. Officers in riot gear removed demonstrators who had seized columbia logoHamilton Hall, a building with a history of student takeovers. Scores of other arrests were made on campuses across the country.

Here are the latest developments.

  • Hundreds of police officers in riot gear arrested dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Columbia University on Tuesday night, about 20 hours after protesters had seized a campus building. The occupation further escalated the crisis that has consumed the school and ignited student activism on dozens of campuses nationwide.
  • The officers broke a second-floor window to enter the occupied building, Hamilton Hall, then led demonstrators in zip ties onto law enforcement buses parked near campus. In a statement, the university said the building had been “vandalized and blockaded,” leaving administrators with “no choice” but to call the police to campus for the second time in less than two weeks.
  • “We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation,” the statement added.
  • nemat minouche shafikColumbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, right, said in a letter to the New York Police Department that her decision to request its intervention had been made with the support of the university’s trustees, and that the actions of demonstrators “have become a magnet for protesters outside our gates, which creates significant risk to our campus.”
  • She asked the police to maintain a presence on campus through at least May 17 to prevent further encampments or occupations.

The latest action came nearly two weeks after the police arrested more than 100 protesters who had set up tents on the Upper Manhattan campus. Officials did not immediately say how many had been arrested on Tuesday night.

The arrests on April 18 outraged many faculty members and students, who almost immediately pitched new tents. Since then, the encampment has grown to be larger than the original.

The university closed the campus Tuesday to everyone but students who live there, as well as employees who provide essential services, and said it would move to expel any students who had occupied Hamilton Hall, a building with a history of student takeovers.

What’s happening elsewhere:

  • Clashes over the war in Gaza continued to escalate Tuesday, with police officers pepper spraying protesters to prevent the takeover of a building at the City College of New York. Pepper spray was also used this week on demonstrators in Richmond, Va., and Austin, Texas.
  • In Oregon, demonstrators who took over a library at Portland State overnight used wood pallets and other supplies to erect fortifications around the building’s entrance. University officials on Tuesday urged them to leave the library, which was covered in pro-Palestinian messages, and requested help from the police.
  • Police officers moved into an encampment at U.N.C. Chapel Hill early Tuesday and arrested about 30 people, school officials said. Protesters returned later in the day, mowing down a barrier to rejoin the encampment and replacing an American flag at the center of campus with a Palestinian one.
  • There were signs that the disruption might be waning elsewhere. The police managed to end the eight-day occupation of an administration building at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, and Brown students dismantled their encampment after administrators agreed to consider their demands.

More than 1,000 protesters have been taken into custody on U.S. campuses since the original roundup at Columbia on April 18, according to a tally by The New York Times. Here’s where the arrests have happened.

Politico, Court tosses map that created second Black House district in Louisiana, Zach Montellaro, April 30, 2024. The politico Customruling, if it stands, could be a win for Republicans, since Democrats were almost certain to win the newly drawn district. Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) saw his congressional seat carved up earlier this year to create a second majority-Black district in Louisiana.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, attended a joint ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, April 29, 2024 (Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein).

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, attended a joint ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, April 29, 2024 (Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein).

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis: Israel Appears to Soften Stance in Cease-Fire Talks, Staff Reports, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Israel would accept fewer freed hostages in the first phase of a new Gaza truce, officials said. The U.S. secretary of state is visiting the region.

Israel has reduced the number of hostages that it wants Hamas to free during the first phase of a new truce in Gaza, according to three Israeli officials, offering a hint of hope for cease-fire negotiations that could restart as soon as Tuesday.

Israel FlagFor months, Israel had demanded that Hamas release at least 40 hostages — women, older people and those who are seriously ill — in order to secure a new truce. Now the Israeli government is prepared to settle for 33, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive matter.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Arab officials on Monday in Saudi Arabia about the war between Israel and Hamas and the difficult issues it has created, from humanitarian aid to hostages. Mr. Blinken plans to travel to Jordan and Israel on Tuesday.

After landing in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, shortly after dawn, Mr. Blinken met with Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, and then with foreign ministers and a top foreign policy adviser from five other Arab nations in the Persian Gulf that, along with Saudi Arabia, form the Gulf Cooperation Council. Prince Faisal was also part of that second meeting.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel has reduced the number of hostages that it wants freed during the first phase of a new truce in Gaza, officials said. Hamas has not commented on the proposal.
  • Israel will accept the release of 33 hostages at the start of a truce, officials say.
  • Blinken meets with Arab officials to discuss Gaza and postwar plans.
  • In northern Israel, the threat from Hezbollah drives a hospital underground.
  • World Central Kitchen plans to resume working in Gaza.
  • Israeli officials believe the International Criminal Court is preparing arrest warrants over the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Anger Grows Over Gaza, Arab Leaders Push Back on Protests, Vivian Yee, Vivian Nereim and Emad Mekay, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). The war has led to demonstrations across the Arab world. The numerous arrests suggest that governments are fearful of the outrage turning on them.

egypt flagLike other governments across the Middle East, Egypt has not been shy about its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its denunciations of Israel over the war in Gaza are loud and constant. State media outlets broadcast images of long lines of aid trucks waiting to cross from Egypt into Gaza, spotlighting Egypt’s role as the sole conduit for most of the limited aid entering the besieged territory.

palestinian flagEarlier this month, however, when hundreds of people gathered in downtown Cairo to demonstrate in solidarity with Gaza, Egyptian security officers swooped in, arresting 14 protesters, according to their lawyer. Back in October, the government had organized pro-Palestinian rallies of its own. Yet at those, too, it detained dozens of people after protesters chanted slogans critical of the government. More than 50 of them remain behind bars, their lawyers say.

It was a pattern that has repeated itself around the region since Israel, responding to an attack by Hamas, began a six-month war in Gaza: Arab citizens’ grief and fury over Gaza’s plight running headlong into official repression when that outrage takes aim at their own leaders. In some countries, even public display of pro-Palestinian sentiment is enough to risk arrest.

Out of step with their people on matters of economic opportunity and political freedoms, some governments in the Arab world have long faced added discontent over their ties with Israel and its chief backer, the United States. Now the Gaza war — and what many Arabs see as their own governments’ complicity — has driven an old wedge between rulers and the ruled with new force.

Morocco is prosecuting dozens of people arrested at pro-Palestinian protests or detained for social media posts criticizing the kingdom’s rapprochement with Israel. In Saudi Arabia, which is pursuing a normalization deal with Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, which has already struck one, the authorities have displayed such hypersensitivity to any hint of opposition that many people are too frightened to speak on the issue.

And Jordan’s government, caught between its majority-Palestinian population and its close cooperation with Israel and the United States, has arrested at least 1,500 people since early October, according to Amnesty International. That includes about 500 in March, when huge protests were held outside the Israeli Embassy in Amman.

Relevant Recent Headlines

aharon haliva

 

More Trump-Related News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Flirting With Quack Economics, Paul Krugman, right, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). I wish paul krugmanpeople would stop calling Donald Trump a populist. He has, after all, never demonstrated any inclination to help working Americans, and his economic policies really didn’t help — his 2017 tax cut, in particular, was a giveaway to the wealthy.

But his behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic showed that he’s as addicted to magical thinking and denial of reality as any petty strongman or dictator, which makes it all too likely that he might preside over the type of problems that result when policies are based on quack economics.

Now, destructive economic policy isn’t the thing that alarms me the most about Trump’s potential return to power. Prospects for retaliation against his political opponents, huge detention camps for undocumented immigrants and more loom much larger in my mind. Still, it does seem worth noting that even as Republicans denounce President Biden for the inflation that occurred on his watch, Trump’s advisers have been floating policy ideas that could be far more inflationary than anything that has happened so far.

The details of these bad ideas are probably less important than the mind-set they reveal, one that rejects hard-learned lessons from the past and buys into economic fantasies.

And how would Trump respond if things went wrong? Remember, he suggested we look into fighting Covid by injecting disinfectant. Why expect him to be any less inclined to magical thinking in dealing with, say, a new surge in inflation?

Politico, Donald Trump held in contempt for violating gag order in New York trial, Ben Feuerherd and Erica Orden, April 30, 2024. The judge fined Trump $9,000 for nine violations — and threatened him with jail time if he continues to violate the gag order.

The judge ordered Trump to pay a $9,000 fine — $1,000 for each violation. And he warned Trump that additional violations could land him in jail.

“Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment,” the judge wrote in an eight-page decision.

Before the hush money trial began in mid-April, the judge issued a gag order that bars Trump from publicly commenting about likely witnesses, jurors and other people involved in the case.

Prosecutors accused Trump of repeatedly violating the gag in the days leading up to the trial and during the trial itself. Trump posted social media messages attacking people including Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, who are expected to be key witnesses for the prosecution.


djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Never Sounded Like This, Charles Homans, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). No major U.S. presidential candidate has talked like Donald Trump now does at his rallies — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even himself.

Trump’s critics were right in 2016 to observe the grim novelty of his politics: their ideology of national pessimism, their open demagoguery and clear affinities with the far right, their blunt division of the country into us and them in a way that no major party’s presidential nominee had dared for decades. But Trump’s great accomplishment, one that was less visible from a distance but immediately apparent at his rallies, was the us that he conjured there: the way his supporters saw not only him but one another, and saw in themselves a movement.

That us is still there in Trump’s 2024 speeches. But it is not really the main character anymore. These speeches, and the events that surround them, are about them — what they have done to Trump, and what Trump intends to do in return.

As with everything about Trump, what was once revolutionary has become institutionalized. The insult-comic riffs and winding tours through the headlines are more constrained and repetitive now, his performer’s instincts duller than they once were. The brutalist building blocks of the prepared speech, its stock-photo celebrations of national triumphs (“We stand on the shoulders of American heroes who crossed the ocean, settled the continent, tamed the wilderness, laid down the railroads, raised up those great beautiful skyscrapers … ”) and lamentations of national decline, now stand out in clearer relief.

They build to a rhetorical climax that is echoed from one speech to the next. In Claremont, N.H., in November, he said:

"2024 is our final battle. With you at my side — and you’ve been at my side from the beginning — we will demolish the deep state. We’ll expel, we’re going to expel, those horrible, horrible warmongers from our government. They want to fight everybody. They want to kill people all over the place. Places we’ve never heard about before. Places that want to be left alone."

No major American presidential candidate has talked like this — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even Trump himself. Before November 2020, his speeches, for all their boundary crossings, stopped short of the language of “vermin” and “enemies within.”

When I asked the political historian Federico Finchelstein what he made of the speech, he replied bluntly: “This is how fascists campaign.”

 

Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022.Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022

MSNBC, Judge Luttig blasts SCOTUS for avoiding ‘key question’ at the heart of Trump immunity case, Ali Velshi, April msnbc logo Custom28, 2024. Former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig joins Ali Velshi to discuss his takeaways from this week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on former President Donald Trump's presidential immunity claim, which many believe will lead to more delays in Trump’s federal criminal cases, and potentially impact the future of the presidency itself.

"That this absurd argument is even being made before the Supreme Court is an embarrassment to the Constitution and to our country,” Judge Luttig says. Judge Luttig also criticizes the Supreme Court for avoiding the “straightforward, key question” about the case itself, and explains what decision he believes the justices are most likely to make.

  • Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok

 

 

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Conservative Justices Take Argument Over Trump’s Immunity in Unexpected Direction, Adam Liptak, right, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing was memorable for its discussion of coups, assassinations and adam liptakinternments — but very little about the former president’s conduct.

Before the Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday on former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution, his stance was widely seen as a brazen and cynical bid to delay his trial. The practical question in the case, it was thought, was not whether the court would rule against him but whether it would act quickly enough to allow the trial to go forward before the 2024 election.

Instead, members of the court’s conservative majority treated Mr. Trump’s assertion that he could not face charges that he tried to subvert the 2020 election as a weighty and difficult question. They did so, said Pamela Karlan, a law professor at Stanford, by averting their eyes from Mr. Trump’s conduct.

“What struck me most about the case was the relentless efforts by several of the justices on the conservative side not to focus on, consider or even acknowledge the facts of the actual case in front of them,” she said.

They said as much. “I’m not discussing the particular facts of this case,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, samuel alito oinstead positing an alternate reality in which a grant of immunity “is required for the functioning of a stable democratic society, which is something that we all want.”

Immunity is needed, he said, to make sure the incumbent president has reason to “leave office peacefully” after losing an election.

Justice Alito, left, explained: “If an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took a more straightforward approach. “If the potential for criminal liability is taken off the table, wouldn’t there be a significant risk that future presidents would be emboldened to commit crimes with abandon while they’re in office?” she asked.

Supreme Court arguments are usually dignified and staid, weighed down by impenetrable jargon and focused on subtle shifts in legal doctrine. Thursday’s argument was different.

It featured “some jaw-dropping moments,” said Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University.

Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell, said that “the apparent lack of self-awareness on the part of some of the conservative justices was startling.” He noted that “Justice Alito worried about a hypothetical future president attempting to hold onto power in response to the risk of prosecution, while paying no attention to the actual former president who held onto power and now seeks to escape prosecution.”

In the real world, Professor Karlan said, “it’s really hard to imagine a ‘stable democratic society,’ to use Justice Alito’s word, where someone who did what Donald Trump is alleged to have done leading up to Jan. 6 faces no criminal consequences for his acts.”

Indeed, she said, “if Donald Trump is a harbinger of presidents to come, and from now on presidents refuse to leave office and engage in efforts to undermine the democratic process, we’ve lost our democracy regardless what the Supreme Court decides.”

The conservative justices did not seem concerned that Mr. Trump’s lawyer, D. John Sauer, said his client was free during his presidency to commit lawless acts, subject to prosecution only after impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate. (There have been four presidential impeachments, two of Mr. Trump, and no convictions.)

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

Politico, Greene’s bid to topple Johnson veers closer to backfiring, Jordain Carney and Olivia Beavers, April 30, 2024.   The Georgia Republican now has to make a choice: Either don’t call the ouster vote, or force one and watch it fail. Both options risk hurting her politically.

politico CustomMarjorie Taylor Greene’s push to fire Speaker Mike Johnson is firmly on track to fail, but her vow to plow forward anyway is raising a new question: Is she hurting herself more than him?

Greene wanted to ride a groundswell of new intra-GOP support back into Washington this week. Instead, not only did she fail to grow her ranks of anti-Johnson rebels over the week-long recess, but House Democrats announced that they would help block her effort — and her Republican colleagues began openly forecasting its demise.

It’s a palpable blow for Greene after she previewed her plans to force a vote on ousting Johnson more than a month ago. At that time, she set two red lines she warned the speaker not to cross: calling up government surveillance mike johnson olegislation without major changes and taking up aid to Ukraine. Johnson, right, did both, playing a major role in getting the packages to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Perhaps the biggest sign that Greene’s mutiny is losing steam, however, is how House GOP leaders plan to deal with it. In a move meant to defang her threat after it has hung over the House for weeks, Johnson’s team is leaning towards calling for quick action to dispense with her proposal to fire the speaker as soon as she tries to force a vote on it, according to three Republicans familiar with the talks who were granted anonymity to speak candidly.

djt maga hatThe Georgia firebrand could still score a symbolic win on the floor if she keeps pushing ahead, since Democrats’ public plan to protect Johnson frees up other hard-line Republicans to support her ouster plan. That would simply give more conservatives bragging rights with the party base, however, not bring Greene any closer to toppling the speaker.

And whatever fodder Greene and her allies might get from watching Democrats save Johnson, many fellow Republicans indicated that at this point, she risks further alienating herself while his speakership likely survives until November. Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) summed up Greene’s effort as “dead.” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said he was inundated with pressure back in their home state — but the requests were to get Greene to back down from her “dumb move,” not to join her.

“Everybody said, you know, ‘Can you do something to stop her from doing this?’ They did not want this to happen. They like Mike,” Loudermilk said of his constituents in a brief interview.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m a Grown Man Running Against a 6-Year-Old’: Biden Lets Trump Jokes Fly, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Minho Kim and Zach Montague, Katie Glueck, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden roasted former President Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Outside, pro-Palestinian protesters rallied.

President Biden didn’t waste time.

Just minutes into his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, Mr. Biden launched into the issues dominating the 2024 election, including his age and former President Donald J. Trump’s hush-money trial in New York.

“The 2024 election’s in full swing and yes, age is an issue,” Mr. Biden said in a roughly 10-minute speech. “I’m a grown man running against a 6-year-old.”

“Donald has had a few tough days lately. You might call it ‘stormy’ weather,” Mr. Biden said, an oblique reference to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claims to have had sex with Mr. Trump in 2006 and received a hush-money payment in the days before the 2016 election, a deal at the center of his New York trial.

The comments, even as part of a roast, were notable given Mr. Biden has forbidden his aides to talk publicly about Mr. Trump’s legal troubles. But they also came as Mr. Biden has ramped up his attacks on Mr. Trump, sharpening the split-screen between a president on the campaign trail and a former president spending his days in a courtroom.

The annual dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel provided a break to journalists and government officials from their normal jousting for a night of glitz and gossip in celebration of the free press. Mr. Biden, who has held fewer news conferences than his predecessors, extended his roast to the journalists gathered for the dinner.

“Some of you complained that I don’t take enough of your questions,” Mr. Biden said. “No comment.”

“The New York Times issued a statement blasting me for ‘actively and effectively avoiding independent journalists,’” Mr. Biden said. “Hey, if that’s what it takes to get The New York Times to say I’m active and effective, I’m for it.”

Hartmann Report, Opinion: Why Democratic Voters Won’t Accept Republican Defectors, Thom Hartmann, right, April 29, 2024. thom hartmannWhy are Great Britain Conservative Members of Parliament welcomed into the Labour Party, but here in the US it’s almost impossible for a Republican to successfully become a Democrat?

Last week Dan Poulter, a Conservative Party member of Great Britain’s Parliament, abandoned the Tories to become a member of the progressive Labour Party. In 2022, Christian Wakeford similarly left the Tories to join Labour, the equivalent of an American Republican member of Congress being welcomed into the Democratic Party.

The last time a Republican member of the US Congress became a Democrat was New York’s Michael Forbes, who made the switch more than two decades ago in 1999. Democrats in his district overwhelmingly rejected him in the 2000 election: although he raised and spent $1.4 million to hold his seat, he was defeated by a 71-year-old librarian who’d raised and spent a mere $40,000.

Why would it be that in Great Britain Conservative Members of Parliament are welcomed into the Labour Party, but here in the US it’s almost impossible for a Republican to successfully become a Democrat?

Turns out, there’s a reason. British conservatives and American Republicans are qualitatively different: the British equivalent of our Supreme Court never legalized political bribery.

Because corrupt Republicans on the Court legalized political bribery, most recently with Citizens United, we have:

— Republicans who take money from the NRA and gun manufacturers blocking an assault weapons ban and pushing for more guns in our communities and schools.
— Republicans who take money from the fossil fuel industry denying climate change and sabotaging efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
— Republicans who take money from the Pharma industry fighting Biden’s efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices while working to protect the industry’s obscene profits.
— Republicans who take money from the for-profit health insurance industry obstructing all efforts to create a national single-payer system that would save Americans as much as half of what we spend on healthcare.
— Republicans who take money from billionaires fighting to protect Reagan’s, Bush’s, and Trump’s multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts and now arguing for more gifts to the morbidly rich.
— Republicans who take money from the banking industry preventing even one single banker from going to prison when they crashed the US economy during the last year of George W. Bush’s administration, despite massive evidence of fraud.
— Republicans who take money from the private prison industry writing laws to increase criminal penalties for pretty much everything.
— Republicans who take money from the tobacco and alcohol industries fighting decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level.
— Republicans who take money from the investment industry fighting efforts to regulate investment advisors who routinely rip off retirees.
— Republicans who take money from defense contractors promoting illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
— Republicans who take money from the private school industry passing universal voucher laws in the states, gutting public schools.
— Republicans who take money from the lending industry preventing students from declaring bankruptcy on student debt.

In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party — while still hewing to neoliberalism and austerity politics — hasn’t been completely corrupted because there are still enforceable limits on campaign spending in the UK. A political party can’t spend more than £54,010 for each individual constituency (like a Congressional district here), and an individual candidate can’t spend more than £49,000 in the 55 months leading up to the next election.

The result is that British Members of Parliament are more generally forced to respond to constituents and voters instead of billionaires and Britain’s largest corporations. A cabinet member in the Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for example, just came out this weekend bragging about how they’d increased spending for the National Health Service.

ny times logoNew York Times, College Protests Over Gaza Deepen Democratic Rifts, Katie Glueck, April 29, 2024 (print ed.).  Scenes of chaos unfolding on campuses across the U.S. are stoking internal divisions and carry political risk as a major election year unfolds.

palestinian flagNearly seven months after the Israel-Hamas war began, the demonstrations convulsing college campuses nationwide are exposing fresh tensions within the Democratic Party over how to balance free speech protections and support for Gazans with concerns that some Jewish Americans are raising about antisemitism.

democratic donkey logoFrom New York and Los Angeles to Atlanta and Austin, a surge in student activism has manifested in protest encampments and other demonstrations, drawing significant police crackdowns and sometimes appearing to attract outside agitators. The protests also have emerged as the latest flashpoint in the internal Democratic debate over the war.

As scenes of campus turmoil play out across the country in the final days of the school year, the moment also carries political risk for a party that has harnessed promises of stability and normalcy to win critical recent elections, and faces a challenging battle for control of the government in the fall.

“The real question is, can the Democrats again portray themselves as the steady hand at the helm?” said Dan Sena, a veteran Democratic strategist. “Things that create national chaos like this make that harder to do.”

Mr. Sena and other Democrats have argued that Americans have good reason to associate their opponents with chaos: Former President Donald J. Trump faces multiple criminal cases; the narrow, fractious House Republican majority has its own divisions concerning Israel and free speech; some Republicans have urged National Guard deployments to college campuses; and for years, Republicans have faced criticism over antisemitism in their own ranks.

But since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and the Israeli military response that has killed more than 30,000 people, according to local authorities, the fight over American policy toward Israel has been especially pronounced on the left.

ny times logoNew York Times, University leaders have had to confront a central question: When does a demonstration cross the line? Patricia Mazzei, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Amid a dizzying array of standoffs involving pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments at colleges, schools that cracked down on protesters over the weekend have given varying justifications for their actions, while others sent mixed signals with their inaction.

Behind it all was a central question confronting university leaders across the country: When does a demonstration cross the line?

Colleges have cited property damage, outside provocateurs, antisemitic expressions or just failures to heed warnings as reasons to clear encampments and arrest students. Student groups have strongly denied or questioned many of those claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Abortion and the Border, Arizona Becomes a 2024 Political Hothouse, Jack Healy, Kellen Browning and Michael Wines, April 29, 2024. A battle over abortion bans and criminal charges against allies of former President Trump are raising the state’s election-year profile.

To see the battle lines over Arizona’s political future, head to a patch of dirt along the Carefree Highway on the edge of Phoenix, where the state’s big ambitions and bitter grievances are separated by a wire fence.

On one side, a silvery new microchip factory is sprouting from the desert, part of a $50 billion technology investment by the Biden administration expected to create tens of thousands of jobs and make Arizona a new tech powerhouse. New hires from across the country and abroad are snapping up just-built Spanish-tiled houses nearby, and schools are already adding semiconductor trainings.

But on the other side of the fence, roadside vendors are doing brisk business opposing President Biden. Each morning, they hoist Confederate flags and lay out tables of Trump hats and crude banners deriding Mr. Biden. “I don’t give him credit for anything,” said Mike Conley, 73, a transplant from California who sells ammunition from the bed of his pickup.

Arizona feels like a place where nearly all of 2024’s pivotal political clashes are converging. It is a border state bristling with active fault lines on abortion, inflation, immigration and election conspiracies, where vast demographic changes have shifted Arizona from reliably Republican and seldom contested in national politics to a desert hothouse. Everything is up for grabs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Close Examination of the Most Infamous Public Toilet in America, Ezra Klein, right, April 28, 2024. In a ezra klein twitterrecent sunny Sunday, residents of San Francisco’s Noe Valley gathered to celebrate the opening of a toilet. But not just any toilet. This was the nation’s most infamous public toilet.

In 2022, my colleague Heather Knight, then at The San Francisco Chronicle, noticed the projected price tag on the commode: $1.7 million, which Assemblyman Matt Haney had secured from the state. This was business as usual in San Francisco. Other public toilets had cost about the same. Local officials were planning a celebration. But Knight’s article set off a furor. Gov. Gavin Newsom clawed back the money. The party was canceled. Haney denounced the project he had made possible: “The cost is insane. The process is insane. The amount of time it takes is insane.” He wanted answers.

Phil Ginsburg, the general manager of San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department, responded with a letter that is a masterpiece of coiled bureaucratic fury. He told Haney that the department had been “pleasantly surprised” by the “unexpected allocation” of $1.7 million for the Noe bathroom. “Until now,” Ginsburg wrote, “we have not received any questions from you on the estimate.”

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump Endorses Kristi Noem's Puppy Killing Book, Troy Matthews, April 27, 2024.  MAGA are literally the party of killing puppies. 

mtn meidas touch networkDonald Trump left a positive review on Amazon for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's new book to be released next month, wherein Noem describes shooting her own family puppy in a gravel pit on her ranch. In her book, No Going Back, Noem describes her dog Cricket, a 14-month-old Wirehair Pointer, as "untrainable," and "less than worthless as a hunting dog," and said she "hated that dog."

joe biden resized oAfter murdering her puppy, Noem describes how she then immediately proceeded to also kill her family's goat, because she had "another unpleasant job that needed to be done." Noem said the goat smelled "disgusting, musky, rancid," and would chase her children around all day because it hadn't been castrated. Rather than just washing the animal and getting it fixed, Noem literally dragged the goat to the same pit wherein she had just ended Cricket, and proceeded to shoot the goat as well.

republican elephant logoAfter killing both animals, Noem describes how she quickly realized a horrified construction crew had been watching her the entire time. Shortly thereafter her daughter returned home from school and asked, "Hey, where's Cricket?"

In a review on Amazon, Donald Trump, who was famously the only President in history to not have a pet in the White House, calls the book a "winner," and says it "lays out a fantastic plan to make American great again."

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Matt Gaetz has Republican Challenger, Ron Filipkowski, April 29, 2024. Kevin McCarthy's revenge tour continues.

mtn meidas touch networkFormer Naval Aviator Aaron Dimmock filed to run in the Republican primary against Matt Gaetz in Florida's 1st Congressional district on the very last day of the deadline. He is rumored to be backed by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his allies.

kevin mccarthyMcCarthy, right, has been on a revenge tour targeting the small band of Republican rebels who voted to oust him from the Speakership, and there is nobody McCarthy would like to take out more than their ringleader Matt Gaetz. Their feud has been nasty and well-publicized, with McCarthy alleging that Gaetz only wanted to oust him because he refused to halt the Ethics Committee investigation into Gaetz allegedly paying for sex from an underaged girl.

djt maga hatMcCarthy is also openly backing a primary challenger to Nancy Mace, who joined Gaetz as a leader of the movement to topple McCarthy. Mace posted a video attacking McCarthy where she said he was "a bitter mean-girl on a revenge tour." McCarthy responded that Mace needs to "seek help" for psychiatric issues.

Now apparently McCarthy is after Gaetz.

republican elephant logoAlthough Gaetz has fended off Republican challengers before, Dimmock's financial backing and service in the Navy could give him a decent shot. The 1st District has a huge percentage of military veterans who have retired there and active service members since two large military bases are located in the district -Eglin Air Force Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station. The district was previously represented by Joe Scarborough.

Dimmock is a retired Navy Commander who is currently the Director of the University of West Florida's Leadership Center.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nobody Saw Andy Kim Coming. That’s What He Was Counting On, Christopher Maag, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Kim, the New Jersey congressman, has become the odds-on favorite to win Robert Menendez’s Senate seat. His strategy? Don’t ask anyone for permission.

Facing federal charges that he accepted bribes, including cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz, Senator Robert Menendez announced on Friday, Sept. 22, that he would not resign.

A day later, Andy Kim, a little-known Democratic congressman from southern New Jersey, gathered his top advisers for a conference call. Everyone present assumed that Mr. Kim would announce his intention to challenge Mr. Menendez for his Senate seat.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Explosion in Afghanistan Nearly Killed Him. Now, It’s Inspiring His Senate Bid, Kellen Browning, April 28, 2024. Sam Brown, a veteran and former Army captain, was left permanently scarred from a Taliban bomb in 2008. Can his military service drive a successful political campaign in Nevada?

Lying in an Afghan desert, engulfed in flames and soaked in diesel fuel, Sam Brown realized he was about to die.

republican elephant logoIt was September 2008, and Mr. Brown, who was a U.S. Army lieutenant at the time, had been leading his platoon to the aid of fellow soldiers who had been ambushed by the Taliban. Then, his Humvee struck a roadside bomb. In an explosion of fire and concussive sound, Mr. Brown’s life was forever changed.

“I remember laying there, facedown in the dirt in the Kandahar desert, trying to scoop dirt over myself to smother the flames and having no success, and thinking to myself: How long will it take to burn to death? What happens as I die?” Mr. Brown recalled in an interview with The New York Times. “And then literally making the decision to give up the will to live.”

But he survived. A fellow soldier, also injured in the blast, saved Mr. Brown, and his platoon provided first aid until he could be evacuated to a hospital. At a burn unit in Texas, he underwent more than 30 surgeries over a three-year recovery, and he was left permanently scarred.

Now, Mr. Brown, 40, who medically retired as a captain, is the leading Republican seeking to challenge Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, in what is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle, with the potential to determine control of the chamber.

At campaign stops, Mr. Brown does not dwell on his dramatic history, focusing instead on inflation, which many Nevadans have felt acutely, and on the border. But his experience is a central part of his appeals to supporters as he works to raise the kind of money needed to run a statewide campaign against a well-funded incumbent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Louisiana Will Get a New City After a Yearslong Court Battle, Rick Rojas, Katie Glueck, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). A part of Baton Rouge will become the city of St. George. Critics said the separation of the white, wealthier enclave could have devastating consequences.

louisiana map horizontalThe original plan was to start a school district. That didn’t work. So a group of residents in a sprawling unincorporated suburb of Baton Rouge, La., expanded their idea: Create a city of their own, called St. George.

In 2015, they collected signatures to bring their proposal up for a vote, but didn’t get enough. In 2019, they tried again. This time, they made it to a ballot and won the election, only to be stalled by a lengthy court battle.

But the Louisiana Supreme Court cleared the way on Friday for the formation of St. George, a city of nearly 100,000 people that joins the ranks of the state’s largest cities, falling between Lafayette and Lake Charles in population. It is the first city to be incorporated in Louisiana in nearly two decades.

A majority of justices found that lower courts had erred in blocking the city’s creation over concerns of its financial viability.

But its opponents — including parish leaders, as well as a powerful cross-section of business and civic leaders — contended that the complaints driving the campaign were unfounded and unfair. They argued that the plan for a new city was poorly conceived and would cause turbulence for the parish as a whole, rather than improve anyone’s quality of life.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Student Protests

ny times logoNew York Times, The Student Protests Churning Across the Country, Staff Reports, April 30, 2024. Despite hundreds of arrests and threats of disciplinary action, pro-Palestinian demonstrations have continued into a third week.

As the academic year comes to a close, tensions continue to rise at pro-Palestinian student encampments at college campuses nationwide. Some universities are increasing security measures, including deploying police to remove demonstrators.

Since April 18, when at least 108 protesters were arrested at Columbia University, there have been over 800 arrests at nearly two dozen campuses. Arrests have continued into Tuesday.

On Monday night, protesters at Columbia took over Hamilton Hall. After the demonstrators took over the building, administrators closed the campus to everyone but students living in the dormitories and essential staff members. On the West Coast, at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, protesters were barricaded inside Siemens Hall for more than a week.

Here are the latest photos and video from the protests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia Starts Suspending Students and Reiterates Protest Must End, Eryn Davis, Liset Cruz, Karla Marie Sanford and John Yoon, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). The move reflects the difficult balance university administrators are seeking to strike as they try to avoid bringing back the police.

columbia logoProtesters occupied a building on Columbia’s main campus early Tuesday, escalating tensions at the university after weeks of walkouts, encampments and outdoor gatherings by pro-Palestinian demonstrators that had led to suspensions and more than a hundred arrests.

Hamilton Hall, a building with a history of student takeovers, was seized shortly after demonstrators marched around the Manhattan campus to chants of “Free Palestine.” Hours earlier, administrators had begun suspending students who refused to leave an encampment. The university closed the campus to everyone but students who live in one of seven dorms on campus and employees who provide essential services.

Similar escalations in pro-Palestinian protests occurred at campuses on the West Coast on Monday night. At California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, the police made arrests as protesters kept Siemens Hall barricaded for more than a week. At Portland State University in Oregon, students took over a library.
Here’s what you need to know:

Columbia’s encampment has been in place for nearly two weeks. Many protesters left it on Monday as the university’s deadline for doing so neared. By late afternoon on Monday, there were several dozen students and about 80 tents remaining.

Outside Columbia’s gates on Tuesday morning, reporters outnumbered students. But a few protesters were seen sitting on a walkway outside Hamilton Hall, and a “Free Palestine” banner hung from a window of the building facing Amsterdam Avenue.

The Columbia student organization behind the encampment, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, said that “an autonomous group” had taken over Hamilton Hall and would remain inside until the university conceded to C.U.A.D.’s demands, which include divestment from companies doing business in Israel.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y.U. will move to discipline students who remain in a pro-Palestinian encampment, the university said, Maia Coleman and Lola Fadulu, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). The university had set a noon deadline for an end to overnight stays at the site, but students remained there on Monday afternoon.

New York University officials will move to discipline student demonstrators who remain in a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, the university announced in a statement on Monday.

The encampment was erected on Friday, as similar sites spread on college campuses across the country, following Columbia University’s lead. Students removed their tents on Friday as N.Y.U. demanded but continued to stay overnight at the encampment.

On Sunday night, college officials presented the protesters with two options: end the overnight stays “without consequences” or stay and possibly face “conduct charges,” according to the statement. School leaders extended the deadline to respond to noon on Monday.

By Monday afternoon, students had not responded and had remained at the site, John Beckman, a university spokesman, said in the statement. “Accordingly and regrettably, N.Y.U. is moving forward with disciplinary processes,” he said.

College officials did not immediately respond to a request for more details about what the “disciplinary processes” would entail.

Dylan Hernandez, a student who is a spokesman for the N.Y.U. Palestine Solidarity Coalition, said Monday that the university was not “arguing on a good-faith basis, even though it purports to do so.”

He said officials were saying they were negotiating with demonstrators while also “threatening” them with sweeps, sending in the police and disciplinary action.

“The position of the students is that they will not move until N.Y.U. shows good faith,” Mr. Hernandez added. “It would be an honor for us to be the targets of disciplinary measures for standing in solidarity with Palestine.”.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Round of Arrests at University of Texas as Protesters Defy Governor, Neelam Bohra and J. David Goodman, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Days after a crackdown on pro-Palestinian protesters, at least 50 people were arrested after new tents were erected on the Austin campus.

Police officers from the University of Texas at Austin and state troopers in riot gear swept in on Monday to clear a small number of tents erected on campus by pro-Palestinian protesters, arresting dozens of people and briefly deploying pepper spray against demonstrators who were chanting “Off our campus!” and trying to block law enforcement vehicles.

Officers cleared the small encampment within three hours, arresting about 50 people, but then found themselves confronting an even larger crowd near the edge of the university’s central mall, where the tents had been erected.

After a brief standoff, the police backed up and allowed the crowd to pass back onto the mall. Some students returned to the spot where the short-lived encampment had been reduced to a tangled pile of tarps, trash and folding tables.

The encampment and subsequent eruption of support from a large number of students was a direct challenge to both university leaders and Gov. Greg Abbott who last week moved swiftly to stamp out a much larger gathering at the state’s flagship university, a crackdown that led to more than 50 arrests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Ilhan Omar drew criticism for suggesting some Jewish students are “pro-genocide,” Maggie Astor, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Representative Ilhan Omar made the comments at Columbia University, where her daughter was among the students arrested protesting against Israel’s actions in Gaza. The protests have drawn visits by leaders across the political spectrum.

Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, whose daughter was among the students arrested at a Columbia University protest encampment against Israel’s actions in Gaza, suggested while visiting the protesters on campus last week that some Jewish students supported genocide.

Ms. Omar, a Democrat, was rejecting the argument that the protests were antisemitic, noting that many of the participants were Jewish.

“I think it is really unfortunate that people don’t care about the fact that all Jewish kids should be kept safe, and that we should not have to tolerate antisemitism or bigotry for all Jewish students, whether they’re pro-genocide or anti-genocide,” she said.

Earlier in the week, the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, used his own visit to Columbia to suggest that President Biden should summon the National Guard to college campuses, a prospect that brought to mind the National Guard’s killing of four unarmed student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio during the Vietnam War. He was accompanied by his Republican colleague Anthony D’Esposito, who accused the pro-Palestinian protesters of being “proud that you’ve been endorsed by Hamas.”

Representative Jared Moskowitz of Florida, who came to Columbia with other Democrats who support Israel, likened some protesters to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

And at Washington University in St. Louis, the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein joined a demonstration and was arrested along with dozens of other protesters.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

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 Magazine, How ‘History and Tradition’ Rulings Are Changing American Law, Emily Bazelon, April 29, 2024. A new legal standard is gaining traction among conservative judges — one that might turn back the clock on drag shows, gun restrictions and more.

Though originalism in practice never lived up to this promise, because judges used it inconsistently or to reach the results they preferred, “history and tradition,” unlatched from any one moment, is even more pliable and indeterminate. It lets judges choose from a vast array of sources, which makes it easy to cherry-pick.

Skeptics of the history-and-tradition standard received some validation from an unlikely source. At a talk at Catholic University’s law school in September 2023, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a former Scalia clerk who joined Alito’s opinion in Dobbs, used an old saying to warn that a judge’s hunt for historical sources could be like “looking over a crowd and picking out your friends.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Oral argument on immunity hints at another Trump trial — but not soon, Ruth Marcus, right, April 26, ruth marcus twitter Custom2024 (print ed.). If there was any chance of Donald Trump being prosecuted before the next presidential election for trying to interfere in the previous one, that prospect looks even more dim after nearly three hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The conservative justices’ professed concerns over the implications of their rulings for imaginary future presidents, in imaginary future proceedings, seemed more important to them than bringing Trump to justice.

First, there is certainly no prospect of a speedy decision. The issues as hashed out before the justices, and the evident division among them, all but guarantee there will be no ruling until the court finishes up its work in late June or early July.

The New Republic via TribeLaw and X, The Alito Four seem convinced that “the sanctity of the Court and the laws and norms of our democracy" will protect them, Laurence Tribe,  Anyone who has spent 10 minutes studying how democracies collapse knows this is idiotic, but it stems from the justices’ own hubristic belief that the Court is so powerful and respected that it is immune to everything.

They believe the respect for the institution will ensure their power endures.” That’s just dumb.

Meidas Touch Network, Trump panics over Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In Late Night Rant, Jordy Meiselas, April 26, 2024.Trump is getting increasingly nervous. Donald Trump is actively panicking this evening over Robert F. Kennedy Jr. possibly taking support away from him at the polls this November. In a new post on Truth Social, Donald Trump wrote:

mtn meidas touch networkRFK Jr. is a Democrat “Plant,” a Radical Left Liberal who’s been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the Worst President in the History of the United States, get Re-Elected,” Trump posted. “A vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him. Junior’ is totally Anti-Gun, an Extreme Environmentalist who makes the Green New Scammers look Conservative, a Big Time Taxer and Open Border Advocate and Anti-military/Vet.

ICE logoTrump went on to attack Kennedy's family along with Kennedy's new Vice Presidential pick Nicole Shanahan.

Trump concluded his rant about RFK Jr. by talking about RFK's anti-vaccine history (even though Trump's supporters have peddled many of the same conspiracies as it relates to the COVID vaccine). Overall, Trump is not having a good evening despite it being Melania's birthday. Trump is spending his days in the courtroom and his nights ranting on Truth Social.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Conservative Justices Signal Support for States Defying Emergency Abortion Exceptions, Troy Matthews, April 25, 2024. Several States are hedging on providing exceptions for abortions for medical necessity.

mtn meidas touch networkThe U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a federal challenge to Idaho's total abortion ban law on Wednesday, during which the conservative Justices on the court seemed skeptical that states with total abortion bans are violating federal emergency healthcare protections.

Shortly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in June 2022 which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Biden Administration issued direction that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), a law which governs doctors' actions in an emergency room, can effectively overrule state abortion bans and allow doctors to perform an abortion if the mother's life is in danger.

Under EMTALA, hospitals that accept Medicare must provide emergency care, including abortions, to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Idaho maintained before the court they held their own standards of care for medical emergencies that should not be subject to federal rules.

During arguments, conservatives on the court repeatedly pushed back on the Biden Administration's interpretation of EMTALA, expressing skepticism in a one-size-fits-all federal requirement for emergency medical treatment.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, seemed to side with Idaho stating, “How can you impose restrictions on what Idaho can criminalize, simply because hospitals in Idaho have chosen to participate in Medicare?"

Counsel for Idaho Joshua N. Turner maintained that Idaho does require doctors to intervene in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, but could not directly define what that meant. Idaho and other total abortion ban states seem to hold to the standard that a woman must be on the verge of death before a doctor can perform an abortion as an intervention, which forces to doctors to refuse interventions even when an abortion is clearly required based on their own medical judgement.

The liberal Justices on the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed horrified that Idaho was hedging on the emergency abortion exception, citing several real life examples of women who were denied abortion care by doctors who were unsure their case met the standard for an emergency abortion and were sent home, only to suffer severe side-effects including hemorrhaging and eventual hysterectomies as a result of delaying care.

Kagan also discussed the ramifications for women who seek abortions not just to save their own lives, but also to save their fertility, in cases when a miscarriage may damage reproductive organs. The Idaho standard does not necessarily permit abortions in such cases.

“Within these rare cases, there’s a significant number where the woman’s life is not in peril, but she’s going to lose her reproductive organs. She’s going to lose the ability to have children in the future unless an abortion takes place,” Kagan said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said she was "kind of shocked" to hear Idaho hedging on permitting abortion to save fertility. Turner maintained that doctors in Idaho were permitted to use "good faith judgements" in such cases, but Coney Barrett then presented the crux of the medical exception question: "What if a prosecutor thinks differently," she asked, highlighting the fact that abortion bans put the authority to determine who may receive an abortion in the hands of prosecutors and judges, not doctors.

Idaho's abortion ban imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for performing abortions without exceptions for rape or incest.

Given the history of this Supreme Court's interpretation on abortion rights, it does not seem farfetched that they may rule that states have the right to impose their own criminal standard for abortions, including prosecuting doctors for performing an abortion even if it is to save the life of the mother.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok, April 28, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkThere will be at least 5 or even 6 votes at the United States Supreme Court to give TRUMP IMMUNITY from at least some of the allegations and crimes in the Special Counsel’s DC Election interference case, and cause a delay that will prevent the case from being tried before November.

Michael Popok analyzes the oral argument, and, without blowing smoke or sunshine, gives you his best estimate of what the Court’s opinion is likely to look like when it’s issued in June.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Emergency Abortion Access, Justices Seem Sharply Divided, Abbie VanSickle, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The case, which could reverberate beyond Idaho to over a dozen other states with abortion bans, is the second time in less than a month that the justices have heard an abortion case.

The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on Wednesday over whether Idaho’s near-total abortion ban overrides a federal law that protects patients who need emergency care in a case that could determine access to abortions in emergency rooms across the country.

In a lively argument, questions by the justices suggested a divide along ideological lines, as well as a possible split by gender on the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, appeared skeptical that Idaho’s law, which bars doctors from providing abortions unless a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of ectopic or molar pregnancies, superseded the federal law.

The argument also raised a broader question about whether some of the conservative justices, particularly Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., may be prepared to embrace language of fetal personhood, that is, the notion that a fetus would have the same rights at the pregnant woman.

The clash between the Idaho and federal laws affects only the sliver of women who face dire medical complications during pregnancy. But a broad decision by the court could have implications for about 14 states that have enacted near-total bans on abortion since the court overturned a constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.

The dispute is the second time in less than a month that the Supreme Court is grappling with abortion. It is a potent reminder that even after Justice Alito vowed in 2022 that the issue of abortion would return to elected representatives in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it continues to make its way back to the court. In late March, the justices considered the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone.

The federal law at issue, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, enacted by Congress in 1986, mandates that hospitals receiving federal funds provide patients with stabilizing care.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

 

john earle sullivan

Politico, Judge sentences Jan. 6 ‘chaos agent’ to 6 years in jail, Kyle Cheney, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors described John Sullivan, above, as a “one-man show” who found common cause with anyone seeking to “tear it all down.”

politico CustomJohn Sullivan traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to foment conflict with supporters of then-President Donald Trump. On Friday, he was sentenced to six years in federal prison for leading them into the Capitol, filming the shooting death of rioter Ashli Babbitt and then selling his footage to news organizations while claiming to be a journalist.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth called Sullivan a “chaos agent” unique among Jan. 6 defendants for exploiting the pro-Trump mob despite disclaiming the belief that the 2020 election was stolen.

Lamberth said, for Sullivan, “violence was an end unto itself.” And he chastised Sullivan for falsely claiming he was documenting the riot as a journalist, selling his footage to news outlets for more than $90,000.

The sentence closes one of the oddest Jan. 6 cases. Sullivan was arrested shortly after the riot, and prosecutors initially described him as a supporter of causes like “Black Lives Matter” and the anti-facism movement. His presence in the mob helped foment baseless claims of some Trump allies that the riot was sparked by anti-Trump agitators.

djt maga hatProsecutors said Friday that Sullivan traveled to Washington intending to confront “fascist” Trump supporters. But they said when he realized the mob was preparing to storm the Capitol, he decided to exploit it to carry out his own anti-government agenda. Armed with a megaphone, Sullivan rallied the crowd to push past police.

Sullivan made his way to the “vanguard” of the mob, Lamberth noted, and twice offered a four-inch blade he was carrying to other rioters. He ended up just feet behind Babbitt before she was shot trying to climb through a window into the Speaker’s Lobby off the House chamber. Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, was present in the courtroom Friday as Lamberth announced his sentence.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had sought a more-than-seven-year sentence, saying that although Sullivan claimed to espouse “noble” goals like racial equality, he attempted to fulfill them in “completely unlawful and egregious” ways. They said despite cloaking himself as a supporter of far-left organizations, Sullivan was a “one-man show” who found common cause with anyone seeking to “tear it all down.”

Sullivan tearfully apologized for his conduct before lamenting what he described as abysmal conditions in the D.C. jail, where he’s been confined for five months since he was convicted by a jury. His attorney emphasized that Sullivan has faced uniquely challenging conditions in jail because while he’s confined to a wing meant to house Jan. 6 defendants, he’s been kept in isolation because other convicted rioters view him as hostile to their beliefs.

Sullivan’s father, who also spoke during the sentencing, noted that Sullivan was the oldest of four adopted children, had become an Eagle Scout and once trained to become an Olympic speedskater, describing him as a thoughtful and selfless member of the community.

Lamberth has long criticized conditions at the D.C. jail and has even once held officials there in contempt for their handling of another Jan. 6 defendant’s case. He told Sullivan he continues to “deplore” the way inmates are treated there and agreed to recommend that Sullivan serve his sentence in a low-security facility near his Utah home.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Aggressive and Expensive Legal Team Defending Eric Adams, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, April 29, 2024. With New York’s mayor and his top aides facing several investigations, he is amassing a team of high-powered lawyers paid by his donors and taxpayers.

eric adams serious nydnNot long after Eric Adams, above, became the mayor of New York City, he quickly rewarded a cadre of loyalists with plum jobs in his administration. Now Mr. Adams is casting favor upon a new set of people looking out for his interests: defense lawyers.

A high-powered team from the law firm WilmerHale is representing the mayor in an investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York over potential ties between his campaign and the Turkish government. The firm has already been paid more than $730,000 by the mayor’s five-month-old legal defense fund.

Mr. Adams intends to bring aboard Randy Mastro, a lawyer known for his aggressive tactics and roster of contentious clients and causes, to represent him as the city’s corporation counsel. Mr. Mastro would earn roughly $250,000 a year and would replace Sylvia Hinds-Radix, a former judge who has a more reserved style.

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tennessee map

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, In Atlanta, Vice President Kamala Harris began a national tour to energize Black voters in battleground states, Maya King, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Speaking in Atlanta, the vice president began a national tour to highlight how the Biden administration is trying to help Black Americans economically.

biden harris 2024 logoVice President Kamala Harris made a new effort to energize Black voters in battleground states on Monday, visiting Atlanta for the kickoff of a national economic tour that will highlight how the Biden administration says its policies are helping a constituency that will be vital to Democrats’ success in November.

Speaking to a largely Black crowd of about 400 people, Ms. Harris laid out ways that she and President Biden have sought to improve Black Americans’ upward mobility and help them realize their business ambitions. A chief objective of the tour, she said, was to let Black business owners and entrepreneurs know about the resources available to them.

“I need the help of the leaders who are here to get the word out so people know what is available to them,” she said during a conversation at the Georgia International Convention Center with Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of the financial literacy podcast “Earn Your Leisure,” which offers business advice to its more than two million listeners, a majority of whom are Black.

Explaining how government policies have widened the racial wealth gap over the years, Ms. Harris pointed to the Biden administration’s attempts to try to narrow it, including small-business grants and efforts to forgive student loans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Surprise Tactics and Legal Threats: Inside R.F.K. Jr.’s Ballot Access Fight, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s effort to get on the ballot in 50 states has already cost millions, federal campaign finance records show.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign mounts a bruising state-by-state battle for ballot access, he has often credited enthusiastic volunteers and grass-roots backers with driving the effort.

In fact, the operation has become increasingly reliant on consultants and paid petitioners whose signature-gathering work has yielded mixed results and raised questions of impropriety, even among Mr. Kennedy’s fans. In order to get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in all 50 states, as is his goal, his campaign has deployed a multipart strategy: aggressive legal action, shrewd political alliances and surprise filing tactics meant to slow or prevent challenges.

In most states, Mr. Kennedy, 70, an environmental lawyer and heir to an American political dynasty, must produce thousands of signatures, under rules that are varied, intricate and confusing at times even to the local officials administering elections. The effort has already cost his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a supporting super PAC at least $2.4 million more, federal campaign finance records show. It has involved a number of professionals who specialize in getting people on the ground with clipboards and petitions, and helping candidates navigate the complicated process. Their success is what will make or break Mr. Kennedy’s campaign.
Where Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is on the ballot

This month, Mr. Kennedy got on the ballot in Michigan, a key presidential battleground, by securing the nomination of a minor political party. He will soon officially be on the ballot in Hawaii, having overcome a challenge from the local Democratic Party. As of Sunday, the campaign says it has gathered enough signatures to submit petitions in six other states, including New Hampshire, Nevada and North Carolina, with more expected to be announced this week.

“Ballot access is existential for any campaign. It is also essential for a healthy and prosperous democracy,” said Stefanie Spear, a spokeswoman for the campaign. “The Kennedy-Shanahan ticket will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We have the field teams, volunteers, legal teams, paid circulators, supporters and strategists ready to get the job done.”

It is unclear whether Mr. Kennedy’s presence on the ballot poses a greater electoral threat to President Biden or former President Donald J. Trump. Polls suggest he could draw votes from both major-party candidates in the general election. But the Democratic Party is more openly concerned with Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy, and has dedicated national legal and public-relations teams to tempering his influence.

 

“We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral (Associated Press photo by Jeff Dean).

 “We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral (Associated Press photo by Jeff Dean).

Politico, ‘You can’t shoot your dog and then be VP’: Dems, GOP bash Kristi Noem over memoir, Gregory Svirnovskiy, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). The South Dakota governor, shown above, has seen her political caché skyrocket in recent years and is reportedly a top contender to become Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate.

politico CustomBoth Democrats and Republicans are piling on after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem revealed in her upcoming memoir that she shot and killed her 14-month-old puppy named Cricket because of the dog’s alleged misbehavior.

The mother of three and former congress member has seen her political caché skyrocket in recent years and was reportedly a top contender to become Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate. But as the gruesome tale, first reported by The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly, picked up steam on Friday, so did questions about Noem’s vice presidential chances.

In her new memoir, Noem writes that she unsuccessfully tried to channel Cricket’s puppy energy into hunting pheasant. Instead, Cricket went “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life.” On the way home from hunting, Noem writes, the dog escaped her truck and attacked a local family’s chickens, behaving “like an untrainable assassin.”

Noem says she led the wirehaired pointer to a gravel pit and ended its life.

Politico, Kristi Noem defends dog slaying as ‘responsible,’ Kelly Garrity, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). The story of Noem shooting and killing her 14-month-old puppy has taken a toll on the potential VP pick’s public image.

Amid waves of backlash from both sides of the aisle, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Sunday defended her decision to shoot and kill her 14-month-old puppy named Cricket years ago.

politico Custom“I can understand why some people are upset about a 20 year old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book — No Going Back,” Noem wrote on TruthSocial.

“The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down. Given that Cricket had shown aggressive behavior toward people by biting them, I decided what I did,” she added.

Noem, until recently widely viewed as a top contender to share the Republican ticket with former President Donald Trump, laid out the decision to kill the pup in her forthcoming memoir “No Going Back,” in a startling anecdote first picked up on by The Guardian. The book is set to be released May 7; publicity for it says “this book is packed with surprising stories and practical lessons.”

In the book, Noem says she tried to focus the wirehaired pointer’s “aggressive personality” into hunting. But things didn’t go as planned — Cricket went “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life,” and later attacked a neighbor’s chickens. So Noem led the dog to a gravel pit and shot it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump turned on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. amid concerns Mr. Kennedy could attract Republican voters, Neil Vigdor, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). The former president called Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a ‘Democrat plant’ and attacked his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, who gave $2 million to the Kennedy campaign.

Former President Donald J. Trump is sharpening his attacks on the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as new polls show an overlap between their core supporters.

In a series of posts on his Truth Social media platform on Friday night, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, took aim at both Mr. Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy Silicon Valley lawyer and investor.

“RFK Jr. is a Democrat ‘Plant,’ a Radical Left Liberal who’s been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the Worst President in the History of the United States, get Re-Elected,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Trump, who had privately discussed the idea of Mr. Kennedy as a running mate, echoed what Democrats have been saying for months about Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy — that it could swing the election. He also appeared to be adopting a new derisive nickname for him.

“A Vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy fired back on Saturday in his own social media post.

“When frightened men take to social media they risk descending into vitriol, which makes them sound unhinged,” he wrote on X. “President Trump’s rant against me is a barely coherent barrage of wild and inaccurate claims that should best be resolved in the American tradition of presidential debate.”

Mr. Kennedy further attempted to goad the former president.

“Instead of lobbing poisonous bombs from the safety of his bunker, let’s hear President Trump defend his record to me mano-a-mano by respectful, congenial debate,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump also took a swipe at Mr. Kennedy’s running mate, Ms. Shanahan, who gave $2 million out of the $5.4 million that Mr. Kennedy raised in March. Until last year, she was married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Mr. Trump referred to her as the “V.P. Candidate that nobody ever heard of” and denigrated her business credentials.

“Her business was doing surgery on her husband’s wallet!” Mr. Trump wrote in a post. “She’s more Liberal than Junior’ by far, not a serious person, and only a Pot of Cash to help get her No Chance Candidate on the Ballot … ”

Mr. Trump’s barbs signaled a potential change in strategy by the former president, who Democratic allies of President Biden and political observers have for months suggested could benefit from having Mr. Kennedy, the liberal scion, in the race.

ny times logoNew York Times, Allies of Donald Trump are said to be devising plans to reduce the Federal Reserve’s independence if he is re-elected, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The Wall Street Journal reports that allies of Donald Trump are devising ways of watering down the central bank’s independence if he is re-elected president.

If true, that change would represent the biggest shake-up in U.S. monetary policy in decades. But it also raises questions about whether such a plan is possible — or whether Trump’s Wall Street supporters would back it.

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President Biden with Kennedy family members during a Philadelphia campaign Thursday, April 18, 2024 (Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman).

President Biden with Kennedy family members during a Philadelphia campaign Thursday, April 18, 2024 (Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman).

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Abrupt U-Turns Are Defining U.S. Environmental Regulations, Coral Davenport, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The polarization of politics means that rules are imposed, gutted and restored with each election. Experts say that’s bad for the economy.

The Biden administration’s move on Thursday to strictly limit pollution from coal-burning power plants is a major policy shift. But in many ways it’s one more hairpin turn in a zigzag approach to environmental regulation in the United States, a pattern that has grown more extreme as the political landscape has become more polarized.

Nearly a decade ago, President Barack Obama was the Democrat who tried to force power plants to stop burning coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. His Republican successor, Donald J. Trump, effectively reversed that plan. Now President Biden is trying once more to put an end to carbon emissions from coal plants. But Mr. Trump, who is running to replace Mr. Biden, has promised that he will again delete those plans if he wins in November.

The country’s participation in the Paris climate accord has followed the same swerving path: Under Mr. Obama, the United States joined the global commitment to fight climate change, only for Mr. Trump to pull the U.S. out of it, and for Mr. Biden to rejoin. If Mr. Trump wins the presidency, he is likely to exit the accord. Again.

Government policies have always shifted between Democratic and Republican administrations, but they have generally stayed in place and have been tightened or loosened along a spectrum, depending on the occupant of the White House.

But in the last decade, environmental rules in particular have been caught in a cycle of erase-and-replace whiplash.

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Major Climate Policies Trump Would Probably Reverse if Elected, Lisa Friedman, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). He has called for increased oil production and said that electric vehicles will result in an ‘assassination’ of jobs.

Former President Donald J. Trump has vowed to “cancel” President Biden’s policies for cutting pollution from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, “terminate” efforts to encourage electric vehicles, and “develop the liquid gold that is right under our feet” by promoting oil and gas.

Those changes and others that Mr. Trump has promised, if he were to win the presidency again, represent a 180-degree shift from Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.

When he was president, Mr. Trump reversed more than 100 environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration. Mr. Biden has in turn reversed much of Mr. Trump’s agenda.

But climate advocates argue a second Trump term would be far more damaging than his first, because the window to keep rising global temperatures to relatively safe levels is rapidly closing.

“It would become an all-out assault on any possible progress on climate change,” said Pete Maysmith, the senior vice president of campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.

Senior Republicans don’t necessarily disagree. Michael McKenna, who worked in the Trump White House and is supporting Mr. Trump’s bid for a second term, said the approach to climate change would likely be one of “indifference.”

“I doubt very seriously we’re going to spend any time working on it,” Mr. McKenna said. To the contrary, he said, the Biden administration’s climate regulations would be “in trouble.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Severely Limits Pollution From Coal Burning Power Plants, Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). New regulations could spell the end for electric plants that burn coal, the fossil fuel that powered the country for more than a century.

The Biden administration on Thursday placed the final cornerstone of its plan to tackle climate change: a regulation that would force the nation’s coal-fired power plants to virtually eliminate the planet-warming pollution that they release into the air or shut down.

The regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency requires coal plants in the United States to reduce 90 percent of their greenhouse pollution by 2039, one year earlier than the agency had initially proposed. The compressed timeline was welcomed by climate activists but condemned by coal executives who said the new standards would be impossible to meet.

The E.P.A. also imposed three additional regulations on coal-burning power plants, including stricter limits on emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin linked to developmental damage in children, from plants that burn lignite coal, the lowest grade of coal. The rules also more tightly restrict the seepage of toxic ash from coal plants into water supplies and limit the discharge of wastewater from coal plants.

Taken together, the regulations could deliver a death blow in the United States to coal, the fuel that powered the country for much of the last century but has caused global environmental damage. When burned, coal emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel source.

The new rules regarding power plants come weeks after the administration’s other major climate regulations to limit emissions from cars and large trucks in a way that is designed to speed the adoption of electric vehicles. Transportation and electric power are the two largest sources in the United States of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

President Biden wants to cut that pollution by about 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of this decade, and to eliminate emissions from the power sector by 2035.

The coal industry in the United States has been on a precipitous decline for over a decade, as environmental regulations and a boom in natural gas, wind and solar power made it more expensive to burn coal, and power generation shifted toward those cheaper, cleaner sources of electricity. In 2023, coal-fired power plants generated 16.2 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, down from a peak of 52 percent in 1990. There are about 200 coal-burning power plants still operating, with many concentrated in Pennsylvania, Texas and Indiana.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Biden administration also finalized a rule meant to speed up permits for power transmission lines, Brad Plumer, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Biden administration on Thursday finalized a rule meant to speed up federal permits for major transmission lines, part of a broader push to expand America’s electric grids.

Administration officials are increasingly worried that their plans to fight climate change could falter unless the nation can quickly add vast amounts of grid capacity to handle more wind and solar power and to better tolerate extreme weather. The pace of construction for high-voltage power lines has sharply slowed since 2013, and building new lines can take a decade or more because of permitting delays and local opposition.

The Energy Department is trying to use the limited tools at its disposal to pour roughly $20 billion into grid upgrades and to streamline approvals for new lines. But experts say a rapid, large-scale grid expansion may ultimately depend on Congress.

Under the rule announced on Thursday, the Energy Department would take over as the lead agency in charge of federal environmental reviews for certain interstate power lines and would aim to issue necessary permits within two years. Currently, the federal approval process can take four years or more and often involves multiple agencies each conducting their own separate reviews.

“We need to build new transmission projects more quickly, as everybody knows,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. The new reforms are “a huge improvement from the status quo, where developers routinely have to navigate several independent permitting processes throughout the federal government.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Mining Giant BHP Makes $39 Billion Bid for Rival Anglo American, Melissa Eddy, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). pril 25, 2024. The deal would create one of the largest copper miners at a time when demand is soaring for the metal used in many green technologies.

BHP Group, the world’s largest mining company, has proposed a takeover of its rival Anglo American, in a deal that has the potential to shake up the industry at a time when demand for copper is soaring.

BHP said on Thursday that it had approached Anglo with a bid valued at 31.1 billion pounds, or $39 billion, in what would be one of the most significant deals in the industry in years. If successful, the acquisition would create the world’s largest miner of copper at a time of growing global hunger for the metal, which is essential to the green-energy transition.

Anglo confirmed that it had received an “unsolicited, nonbinding and highly conditional combination proposal from BHP” and that its board was reviewing the offer with its advisers. BHP, which has headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, offered Anglo’s shareholders just over 25 pounds per share, more than 10 percent above Wednesday’s closing stock price.

Anglo, which is based in London, owns large copper operations in Chile and Peru, as well as 85 percent of De Beers Group, the world’s leading diamond company. It has been viewed as a potential takeover target for the world’s largest miners, especially following a 94 percent plunge in annual profit and a series of write-downs in February.

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More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Surrounded by Fighters and Haunted by Famine, Sudan City Fears Worst, Declan Walsh, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Rapid Support Forces, a powerful paramilitary group, has encircled El Fasher, the last remaining obstacle to its domination of the Darfur region.

sudan sudanese flag on the map of africaFears of renewed ethnic slaughter in the Sudanese region of Darfur, where genocidal violence killed as many as 300,000 people two decades ago, have soared in recent days, with a looming assault on an embattled city that is already threatened by famine.

The contest for control of El Fasher, the last city held by Sudan’s military in Darfur, has prompted alarmed warnings from American and United Nations officials who fear that mass bloodshed may be imminent. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, told reporters on Monday that the city was “on the precipice of a large-scale massacre.”

sudan flagpngEl Fasher is the latest flashpoint in a year-old civil war between Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful paramilitary group that the military once nurtured and is now its bitter rival for power. The conflict has devastated one of Africa’s largest countries and created a vast humanitarian crisis that U.N. officials say is one of the biggest in decades.

The crisis also brings a sharp focus on the role of foreign powers accused of fueling the fight, especially the United Arab Emirates.

Since April 14, fighters loyal to the Rapid Support Forces, or R.S.F., have surrounded El Fasher in preparation for what the U.N. has called an “imminent assault.” El Fasher, the former capital of the precolonial kingdom of Darfur, has about 1.8 million inhabitants, including hundreds of thousands who fled earlier waves of fighting.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Strong U.S. Dollar Weighs on the World, Joe Rennison and Karl Russell, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Two-thirds of the roughly 150 currencies have weakened against the dollar, whose strength stems from high interest rates because of stubborn inflation.

Every major currency in the world has fallen against the U.S. dollar this year, an unusually broad shift with the potential for serious consequences across the global economy.

Two-thirds of the roughly 150 currencies tracked by Bloomberg have weakened against the dollar, whose recent strength stems from a shift in expectations about when and by how much the Federal Reserve may cut its benchmark interest rate, which sits around a 20-year high.

High Fed rates, a response to stubborn inflation, mean that American assets offer better returns than much of the world, and investors need dollars to buy them. In recent months, money has flowed into the United States with a force that’s being felt by policymakers, politicians and people from Brussels to Beijing, Toronto to Tokyo.

The dollar index, a common way to gauge the general strength of the U.S. currency against a basket of its major trading partners, is hovering at levels last seen in the early 2000s (when U.S. interest rates were also similarly high).

The yen is at a 34-year low against the U.S. dollar. The euro and Canadian dollar are sagging. The Chinese yuan has shown notable signs of weakness, despite officials’ stated intent to stabilize it.

“It has never been truer that the Fed is the world’s central bank,” said Jesse Rogers, an economist at Moody’s Analytics.

When the dollar strengthens, the effects can be fast and far-reaching.

The dollar is on one side of nearly 90 percent of all foreign exchange transactions. A strengthening U.S. currency intensifies inflation abroad, as countries need to swap more of their own currencies for the same amount of dollar-denominated goods, which includes imports from the United States as well as globally traded commodities, like oil, often priced in dollars. Countries that have borrowed in dollars also face higher interest bills.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Mulling Resignation, Spain’s Leader Says He’ll Stay On, Jason Horowitz and Rachel Chaundler, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had considered stepping down over corruption accusations against his wife that he said were a smear.

pedro sánchez 2023 wPrime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain, right, declared on Monday that he would not resign, nearly a week after publicly raising the possibility in response to corruption accusations against his wife that he and other officials denounced as a smear campaign.

The decision by Mr. Sánchez, who has repeatedly astonished his supporters and frustrated his conservative critics with his knack for political survival, is a momentous one for him, his country and all of Europe.

spain flag CustomMr. Sánchez inspired anxiety, bewilderment and right-wing hopes last week when he responded to the opening of a judicial investigation into his wife by canceling his public schedule and issuing an emotional public letter. He wrote that harassment against his family had become intolerable and that he was considering quitting.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know as First Trial in Alleged Coup Plot in Germany Begins, Christopher F. Schuetze, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). A year and a half after police and intelligence officers in Germany uncovered a plot to overthrow the country’s government and replace its chancellor, the first of three trials in the sprawling case began on Monday in Stuttgart.

german flagMost of the would-be insurrectionists were arrested in December 2022, when heavily armed German police officers stormed houses, apartments, offices and a remote royal hunting lodge and made dozens of arrests.

Those charged included a dentist, a clairvoyant, an amateur pilot and a man running a large QAnon telegram group. The German authorities contend that their figurehead was Heinrich XIII Prince of Reuss, an obscure and conspiracy-minded aristocrat who would have been made chancellor if the coup had succeeded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Humza Yousaf Resigns as Scotland’s First Minister, Stephen Castle, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Yousaf, the leader of the Scottish National Party, announced that he was stepping down, days after the collapse of his coalition government.

Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, resigned on Monday in the latest setback for his Scottish National Party, which has been engulfed in a slow-burn crisis over a funding scandal that erupted after its popular leader Nicola Sturgeon stepped down last year.

Mr. Yousaf’s departure had looked increasingly inevitable after he gambled last week by ending a power sharing deal with the Scottish Green Party, angering its leaders and leaving him at the head of a minority government without obvious allies. His opponents then pressed for two motions of no confidence, which were expected to take place later this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Cuba, ‘Filthy’ Capitalists Become an Economic Lifeline, David C. Adams, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). The country’s Communist revolution made private businesses largely illegal. Today, they are proliferating, while the socialist economy craters.

cuba flag saving CustomToday Cuba is confronting its worst financial crisis in decades, driven by government inefficiency and mismanagement and a decades-long U.S. economic embargo that has led to a collapse in domestic production, rising inflation, constant power outages and shortages of fuel, meat and other necessities.

So the island’s communist leaders are turning back the clock and embracing private entrepreneurs, a class of people they once vilified as “filthy” capitalists.

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, Dam Collapses in Western Kenya, Killing at Least 40, April 29, 2024.  The kenya flagcountry has been pummeled by heavy rains that have caused widespread flooding, part of a broader deluge that has devastated segments of East Africa.

ny times logoNew York Times, Asylum Seekers Already in U.K. Say Rwanda Law Creates New Anxiety, Megan Specia and Emma Bubola, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). For the tens of thousands of people trying to claim refugee status in Britain, a new law brings the possibility of deportation to central Africa closer.

United Kingdom flagOn a cold spring day last month, Mohsen, a 36-year-old from Iran, woke before dawn and was hurried by smugglers onto a rubber boat on the coast of France.

The water was calm and the sky clear, but he knew the risks of the journey he was about to make, he said. Since 2018, at least 72 people have drowned in the Channel while attempting crossings, according to the International Organization for Migration.

He fled Iran, he said, because police officers came to his home last year threatening to arrest him after he took part in anti-government protests.

Mohsen, who asked to be identified only by his first name over concerns that having his full name published could affect his asylum claim, said he was willing to risk drowning for the chance of a new life in Britain. And he boarded the boat even though he knew about the British government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda, which was first announced in 2022.

“What can I do? What other option did I have?” he said. “Honestly, I am worried, especially after Monday. Every day, the rules seem to change.”

On Monday, Britain’s Conservative government passed a contentious law intended to clear the way for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin in the summer despite an earlier ruling by Britain’s Supreme Court that deemed the country unsafe for refugees. For months, the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill, with a former Conservative chancellor saying that ignoring the country’s highest court set “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

rwanda flag mapUnder the plan, some asylum seekers will have their claims heard in Rwanda, and, even if approved, they would be resettled there and not allowed to live in Britain. Anyone who arrived in Britain after Jan. 1, 2022, and traveled by dangerous means, like small boats or covertly in trucks, or came via a “safe third country,” could be sent to Rwanda, according to government guidance. The law and other recent government policies mean there are now very few ways to claim asylum in Britain, with some exceptions including for Ukrainians and people from Hong Kong.

Charities and rights groups that support asylum seekers say many have expressed concern about Rwanda’s troubled human rights record and that fears of being sent away had added to the anxiety of living in limbo for months or even years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran expands public crackdown on women and girls, sparking public anger, Susannah George, Nilo Tabrizy and Jonathan Baran, April 25, 2024. With global attention focused on Iran’s escalating conflict with Israel, Tehran has intensified its domestic crackdown on women, giving police expanded powers to enforce conservative dress codes.

Iran FlagThe new wave of repression appears to be one of the most significant efforts to roll back perceived social gains in the aftermath of the 2022 protest movement — a months-long uprising that challenged gender segregation and clerical rule. Some Iranians suspect the government is using fears of regional war as cover to tighten its grip at home; others say it’s just the latest salvo in a long-running campaign aimed at extinguishing all forms of dissent.

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian War Goals

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: Ukraine Retreats From Villages on Eastern Front as It Awaits U.S. Aid, Constant Méheut, April 29, 2024. Ukraine’s top commander said his troops were facing a dire situation as Russia tried to push its advantage before an American military package arrives.

ukraine flagRussian troops have captured or entered around a half-dozen villages on Ukraine’s eastern front over the past week, highlighting the deteriorating situation in the region for outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainian forces as they wait for long-needed American military aid.

“The situation at the front has worsened,” Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top commander, said in a statement on Sunday in which he announced that his troops had retreated from two villages west of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold in the east that Russia seized earlier this year, and another village further south.

Russian FlagMilitary experts say Moscow’s recent advances reflect its desire to exploit a window of opportunity to press ahead with attacks before the first batch of a new American military aid package arrives in Ukraine to help relieve its troops.

Congress recently approved $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine, and President Biden signed it last week, vowing to expedite the shipment of arms.

“In an attempt to seize the strategic initiative and break through the front line, the enemy has focused its main efforts on several areas, creating a significant advantage in forces and means,” General Syrsky said on Sunday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Is Denying Consular Services to Men Who Leave Country, Maria Varenikova, April 26, 2024. New guidance carries a clear message to men abroad who may be avoiding the draft: You don’t get the benefit of state services if you don’t join the fight.

ukraine flagUkrainian officials have taken several steps in recent weeks to swell the ranks of an army depleted by more than two years of grueling combat. The government passed a new mobilization bill aimed at increasing troop numbers and has stepped up border patrols to catch draft dodgers.

Now, officials are targeting men who have already left the country. This week the government announced that Ukrainian embassies had suspended issuing new passports and providing other consular services for military-age men living abroad.

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 were prohibited from leaving the country after the start of Russia’s invasion in 2022, but some were abroad before the rule took effect and others have left illegally since then.

By suspending consular services, the government said, it was responding to demands for fairness in society.

The new rules will remain in place until a new mobilization law takes effect on May 18. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that it was still working out the details about what services would be provided after the broader mobilization law went into effect, but its message was clear: If you are healthy and can fight, come home and join the military.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Western Ukraine, a Community Wrestles With Patriotism or Survival, Natalia Yermak, Photographs by Brendan Hoffman, April 26, 2024. Communities that were steadfast in their commitment to the war effort have been shaken by the unending violence on the front line.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘A Good Day for World Peace’: Biden Signs Aid Bill for Ukraine and Israel, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The $95.3 billion measure comes after months of gridlock in Congress that put the centerpiece of President Biden’s foreign policy in jeopardy.

President Biden signed a $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia’s military assault after months of congressional gridlock put the centerpiece of the White House’s foreign policy in jeopardy.

“It’s a good day for world peace,” Mr. Biden said from the State Dining Room of the White House. “It’s going to make America safer, it’s going to make the world safer, and it continues America’s leadership in the world and everyone knows it.”

ukraine flagThe Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve the package on Tuesday night, a sign of bipartisan support after increasingly divisive politics raised questions on Capitol Hill and among U.S. allies over whether the United States would continue to back Kyiv. The 79-to-18 vote provided Mr. Biden another legislative accomplishment to point to, even in the face of an obstructionist House.

Within minutes of the vote, Mr. Biden said he would sign the bill into law “so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week.”

Israel FlagBut even as he hailed the package on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said the process should have “been easier, and should have gotten there sooner.”

“It was a difficult path,” he added, saying that those on the ground in Ukraine had cheered the news. “But in the end we did what America always does. We rose to the moment.”

The measure comes as Mr. Biden faces backlash in the United States over his support for Israel in the war in Gaza. The Israeli government’s campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people and created a hunger crisis there.

“My commitment to Israel,” Mr. Biden said, “is ironclad.”

palestinian flagMr. Biden’s critics on the left are angry about his willingness to provide more weapons to Israel, though the legislation also includes $1 billion for humanitarian aid that the president said will be rushed to Gaza.

“Israel must make sure this aid reaches all of the Palestinians in Gaza, without delay,” Mr. Biden said.

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ny times logoNew York Times, NATO Puts on a Show of Force in the Shadow of Russia’s War, Helene Cooper, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The alliance’s largest exercises offer a preview of what the opening of a Great Power conflict could look like. How it ends is a different story.

About 90,000 NATO troops have been training in Europe this spring for the Great Power war that most hope will never come: a clash between Russia and the West with potentially catastrophic consequences.

In Estonia, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Liberty, N.C., jumped out of planes alongside soldiers from Colchester Garrison in Essex, Britain, for “forcible entry” operations. In Lithuania, German soldiers arrived as a brigade stationed outside Germany on a permanent basis for the first time since World War II.

And on the A4 autobahn in eastern Germany, a U.S. Army captain and his Macedonian counterpart rushed toward the Suwalki Gap — the place many war planners predict will be the flashpoint for a NATO war with Russia — hoping the overheated radiator on their Stryker armored combat vehicle wouldn’t kill the engine.

All are part of what is supposed to be a tremendous show of force by NATO, its largest since the start of the Cold War, that is meant to send a sharp message to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that his ambitions must not venture beyond Ukraine.

But it is also a preview of what the opening beats of a modern Great Power conflict could look like. If NATO and Russia went to war, American and allied troops would initially rush to the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — NATO’s “Eastern Flank”— to try to block penetration by a Russian force.

How that war would end, and how many people might die, is a different story. Tens of millions of people were killed in World War II. This time, the stakes have never been higher. Mr. Putin has brought up the potential for nuclear war several times since Russia invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Ukraine-born congresswoman voted no on aid. Her hometown feels betrayed, Siobhán O'Grady, Anastacia Galouchka and Marianna Sotomayor, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Chernihiv: In this small city north of Kyiv where Rep. Victoria victoria spartz oSpartz (R-Ind.) grew up, locals once lauded her as one of their own — proud of the studious girl with blonde pigtails who moved to America and became the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress.

But after Spartz, right, voted against a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine last week, that pride for some turned to anger and a sense of betrayal — feelings made more raw because her “no” vote came days after Chernihiv was bombed during morning rush hour, killing 18 people.

ukraine flag“She is not Ukrainian anymore, and I see this,” said Natalia Khmelnytska, 50, a teacher at School Number 15, where Spartz studied, and who lives in the apartment block where the congresswoman grew up. “We are disappointed. We are frustrated.”

“At first we were very proud of her and we thought she wanted to support us,” Khmelnytska added. “But now we see that politics and careers are higher than our interests.”

djt maga hatValentyna Rudenok, 65, a history teacher who was a librarian when Spartz studied at the school and remembers sneaking the teenager extra books, said she was proud to learn a former student was elected to Congress. But Rudenok said she is upset by Spartz’s vote.

“When we read about it, we just didn’t understand — it was like she became a different person,” she said. “It was shocking because this woman got so far in her life and is in a position where she could actually influence and help our one city or our one school in which she was educated.”

In the past two years, eight graduates of School 15 have been killed fighting on the front lines. Russian strikes have broken 88 of the building’s windows. Administrators set up a museum on the first floor to display evidence of the war collected by students: shell fragments, a piece of a Russian airplane, a dead Russian soldier’s uniform.

On Capitol Hill, even among Republicans, Spartz is known to be erratic.

First elected in 2020 as a supporter of President Donald Trump, she announced last year that she would not run again, only to reverse her decision a year later, citing her upbringing “under tyranny” as a motivation. She now faces a competitive primary; one challenger has aired television ads accusing her of putting “Ukraine first” over securing the U.S. border.

Spartz’s “no” vote was the latest twist in her transformation from a pro-Ukraine advocate who toured war wreckage in her hometown to a critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in line with the GOP’s most right-wing camp.

In an email, she defended her vote, saying she is proud of her heritage but that it is “actually offensive and un-American to think that as an American my loyalty would not be to the people who elected me to represent them and to my family and children back home in Indiana, but to some foreign government in the country I left 24 years ago.”

Her history, however, is inseparable from Ukraine’s and she has used it repeatedly to her advantage.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle for a Hilltop Fortress in Eastern Ukraine, Explained, Marc Santora, April 25, 2024. Chasiv Yar has been under relentless attack by Russian forces. Controlling the town would put them in striking distance of crucial Ukrainian operational centers.

Russian forces have razed dozens of towns and cities in Ukraine over the past 26 months — killing thousands of civilians, forcing millions from their homes and leaving a trail of destruction that is impossible to calculate.

Sievierodonetsk. Bakhmut. Avdiivka. Cities and towns little known to the world have become the scorched-earth battlegrounds where two armies clashed for months to bloody effect before the Russians finally prevailed.

Now Russian forces have set their sight on Chasiv Yar, a hilltop fortress town in eastern Ukraine. The campaign is part of an intense effort by Russia to achieve what could be its most operationally significant advance since the first summer of the war in 2022.

Chasiv Yar covers only about five square miles, but if the Russians can seize it they will control commanding heights that will allow them to directly target the main agglomeration of cities still under Kyiv’s control in the Donetsk region. That includes the headquarters of the Ukrainian eastern command in Kramatorsk.

It would also put Russian troops within around 10 miles of Kostiantynivka, the main supply juncture for Ukrainian forces across much of the eastern front.

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

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Former NSA worker sentenced for selling secrets, Staff Report, April 30, 2024. Jareh Sebastian Dalke was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison.

A former National Security Agency employee who sold classified information to an undercover FBI agent he believed to be a Russian official was sentenced Monday to nearly 22 years in prison, the penalty requested by government prosecutors.

politico CustomU.S. District Judge Raymond Moore said he could have put Jareh Sebastian Dalke, 32, behind bars for even longer, calling the 262-month sentence “mercy” for what he saw as a calculated action to take the job at the NSA in order to be able to sell national security secrets.

“This was blatant. It was brazen and, in my mind, it was deliberate. It was a betrayal, and it was as close to treasonous as you can get,” Moore said.

Dalke’s attorneys had asked for the Army veteran, who pleaded guilty to espionage charges last fall in a deal with prosecutors, to be sentenced to 14 years in prison, in part because the information did not end up in enemy hands and cause damage. Assistant federal public defender David Kraut also argued for a lighter sentence because he said Dalke had suffered a traumatic brain injury, had attempted suicide four times, and had experienced trauma as a child, including witnessing domestic violence and substance abuse. Research has shown that kind of childhood trauma increases the risk of people later engaging in dangerous behavior, he said.

Later, Dalke, who said he was “remorseful and ashamed”, told Moore he had also suffered PTSD, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

He denied being motivated by ideology or earning money by agreeing to sell the secrets. Dalke also suggested he had an idea that he was actually communicating with law enforcement but was attracted to the thrill of what he was doing.

But Moore said he was skeptical of Dalke’s claims about his conditions since the defense did not provide any expert opinions or hospital records.

According to court documents, Dalke, who worked at the NSA for about a month, told the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to “cause change” after questioning the United States’ role in causing damage to the world, but he also said he was $237,000 in debt. He also allegedly said he had decided to work with Russia because his heritage “ties back to your country.”

Dalke was initially paid $16,499 in cryptocurrency for excerpts of some documents that he passed on to the agent to show what he had, and then he offered to sell the rest of the information he had for $85,000, according to the plea deal.

The agent directed him to go to Denver’s downtown train station on Sept. 28, 2022, and send the documents using a secure digital connection during a four-hour window. Dalke arrived with his laptop and first used the connection to send a thank you letter that opened and closed in Russian and in which he said he looked “forward to our friendship and shared benefit,” according to the plea deal. Moments after he used his laptop to transfer all the files, FBI agents arrested him.

According to the indictment, the information Dalke sought to give to Russia included a threat assessment of the military offensive capabilities of a third, unnamed country. It also includes a description of sensitive U.S. defense capabilities, some of which relates to that same foreign country.

ny times logoNew York Times, Antony Blinken and Xi Jinping Make Small Progress Amid a Larger Gap, Ana Swanson and Vivian Wang, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Meeting in Beijing, the U.S. secretary of state and the Chinese leader struck conciliatory notes. But there was no hiding their governments’ core differences.

The areas where the United States and China can work together seem to be shrinking fast, and the risks of confrontation are growing. But it was clear on Friday that both countries are trying to salvage what they can.

Preserving some semblance of cooperation — and the difficulty of doing so — was at the heart of a meeting between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Friday. It was the latest effort by the rivals to keep communications open even as disputes escalate over trade, national security and geopolitical frictions.

Officials in both countries said they had made progress on a few smaller, pragmatic fronts, including setting up the first U.S.-China talks on artificial intelligence in the coming weeks. They also said they would continue improving communications between their militaries and increase cultural exchanges.

But on fundamental strategic issues, each side held little hope of moving the other, and they appeared wary of the possibility of sliding into further conflict.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Pacific Arsenal to Counter China, John Ismay, Edward Wong and Pablo Robles, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). With missiles, submarines and alliances, President Biden’s administration has built a presence in the region to rein in Beijing’s expansionist goals.

Since the start of his administration, President Biden has undertaken a strategy to expand American military access to bases in allied nations across the Asia-Pacific region and to deploy a range of new weapons systems there. He has also said the U.S. military would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden signed a $95-billion supplemental military aid and spending bill that Congress had just passed and that includes $8.1 billion to counter China in the region. And Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Shanghai and Beijing this week for meetings in which he planned to raise China’s aggressive actions around Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Earlier in April, the leaders of the Philippines and Japan met with Mr. Biden at the White House for the first such summit among the three countries. They announced enhanced defense cooperation, including naval training and exercises, planned jointly and with other partners. Last year, the Biden administration forged a new three-way defense pact with Japan and South Korea.
“In 2023, we drove the most transformative year for U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in a statement following an interview.

The main change, he said, is having American forces distributed in smaller, more mobile units across a wide arc of the region rather than being concentrated at large bases in northeast Asia. That is largely intended to counter China’s efforts to build up forces that can target aircraft carriers or U.S. military outposts on Okinawa or Guam.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blinken Tours China to Promote Some Ties, While the U.S. Severs Others, Ana Swanson, April 25, 2024.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip comes as tensions over economic ties are running high, threatening to disrupt a fragile cooperation.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cheered on the sidelines at a basketball game in Shanghai on Wednesday night, and spent Thursday chatting with students at New York University’s Shanghai campus and meeting American business owners. It all went to emphasize the kind of economic, educational and cultural ties that the United States is pointedly holding up as beneficial for both countries.

But hanging over those pleasantries during his visit to China this week are several steps the U.S. is taking to sever economic ties in areas where the Biden administration says they threaten American interests. And those will be the focus of greater attention from Chinese officials, as well.

Even as the Biden administration tries to stabilize the relationship with China, it is advancing several economic measures that would curb China’s access to the U.S. economy and technology. It is poised to raise tariffs on Chinese steel, solar panels and other crucial products to try to protect American factories from cheap imports. It is weighing further restrictions on China’s access to advanced semiconductors to try to keep Beijing from developing sophisticated artificial intelligence that could be used on the battlefield.

This week, Congress also passed legislation that would force ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, to sell its stake in the app within nine to 12 months or leave the United States altogether. The president signed it on Wednesday, though the measure is likely to be challenged in court.

Mr. Blinken’s visit, which was expected to take him to Beijing on Friday for high-level government meetings, had a much more cordial tone than the trip he made to China last year. That trip was the first after a Chinese spy balloon traveled across the United States, tipping the American public into an uproar.

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More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

 

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltimore Says Owner of Ship That Hit Key Bridge Was Negligent, Mike Ives, April 23, 2024. The owner and manager of the cargo ship that downed the Francis Scott Key Bridge asked a judge to exonerate them from liability. The city argued otherwise.

The City of Baltimore has said that the owner and manager of the cargo ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month are directly responsible for the accident and should not be allowed to avoid legal liability, according to court documents filed on Monday.

The 985-foot-long ship hit the bridge in the early hours of March 26 after leaving the Port of Baltimore and losing power to its engine and navigation equipment. The bridge collapsed moments later, killing six construction workers, forcing the port to close and disrupting the shipping industry up and down the East Coast.

A federal investigation into the accident could take years. In the meantime, the ship’s owner and operator, both based in Singapore, have asked a federal judge in Maryland to exonerate them from liability for any related losses or damages.

In early April, lawyers for the ship’s owner, Grace Ocean, and its manager, Synergy Marine, said in a court filing that the accident had not resulted from “any fault, neglect or want of care” on the companies’ part.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trains, Trucks and Tractors: The Race to Reroute Goods From Baltimore, Peter Eavis, April 17, 2024. Since the collapse of the Key Bridge, other ports have absorbed the cargo previously handled in Baltimore. But parts of the supply chain are struggling.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal criminal investigation opened into Key Bridge crash, Katie Mettler, Devlin Barrett, Danny Nguyen and Peter Hermann, April 16, 2024 (print ed.).  The FBI confirmed that its agents were on the container ship Dali this morning as it investigates the cause of a deadly incident in the Port of Baltimore last month.

FBI logoThe FBI has opened a criminal investigation focusing on the massive container ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month — a probe that will look at least in part at whether the crew left the port knowing the vessel had serious systems problems, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Authorities are reviewing the events leading up to the moment when the Dali, a 985-foot Singapore-flagged ship, lost power while leaving the Port of Baltimore and slammed into one of the bridge’s support pillars, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe.

On Monday morning, federal agents appeared to board the ship to conduct a search. Less than an hour after the sun rose at 6:30 a.m., a succession of three boats pulled to the port side of the Dali. About 6:50 a.m. Monday, people wearing yellow or orange life jackets entered the Dali through a lower door and climbed a ladder to the ship’s bow. About a half-hour later, nearly a dozen more people wearing dark clothing pulled up in a smaller boat and climbed aboard.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens of Major Bridges Lack Shields to Block Wayward Ships, Mike Baker, Anjali Singhvi, Helmuth Rosales, David W. Chen and Elena Shao, Featured April 7, 2024 (interactive). The collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore has prompted a reassessment of critical bridges in the U.S. that may be similarly vulnerable to a ship strike.

Bridges across the country carry similar deficiencies. At 309 major bridges on navigable waterways in the United States, inspections in recent years have found protection systems around bridge foundations that were deteriorating, potentially outdated or nonexistent, leaving the structures perilously exposed to ship strikes.

The MSC Flavia, a container ship larger than the one that hit the Key Bridge in Baltimore, passes under the Lewis and Clark Bridge between two piers with little protection. “If a ship hits one of those piers, it’s gone,” said Jerry Reagor, a semiretired contractor who lives near the bridge and has spent years pressing transportation officials to install new protections. The state views the risk of calamity as low and the cost of preventing it to be high.

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U.S. Immigration News

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Rancher Accused of Killing Migrant Won’t Be Retried After Mistrial, Jesus Jiménez, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). George Alan Kelly was accused of murdering Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, an unarmed migrant from Mexico, on his 170-acre ranch last year. Prosecutors in Arizona said on Monday that they would not retry a rancher who was charged with murdering an unarmed migrant on his property last year after a mistrial was declared last week.

Jurors were not able to reach a unanimous verdict in the case against George Kelly, 75, who fatally shot at Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, on his 170-acre ranch in Kino Springs, Ariz., after Mr. Cuen-Buitimea crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in January 2023. Judge Thomas Fink of Santa Cruz County Superior Court declared a mistrial on April 22.

The Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Monday that “because of the unique circumstances and challenges surrounding” the case, Mr. Kelly would not be retried.

“However, our office’s decision in this case should not be construed as a position on future cases of this type,” the office said. “Our office is mandated by statute to prosecute criminal acts, and we take that statutory mandate seriously.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Dismisses Impeachment Charges Against Mayorkas Without a Trial, Luke Broadwater, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats swept aside charges accusing Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, of refusing to enforce immigration laws and breaching public trust.

alejandro mayorkasThe Senate on Wednesday dismissed the impeachment case against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, right, the homeland security secretary, voting along party lines before his trial got underway to sweep aside two charges accusing him of failing to enforce immigration laws and breaching the public trust.

By a vote of 51 to 48, with one senator voting “present,” the Senate ruled that the first charge was unconstitutional because it failed to meet the constitutional bar of a high crime or misdemeanor. Republicans united in opposition except for Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the lone “present” vote, while Democrats were unanimous in favor.

Ms. Murkowski joined her party in voting against dismissal of the second count on the same grounds; it fell along party lines on a 51-to-49 vote.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, moved to dismiss each charge, arguing that a cabinet member cannot be impeached and removed merely for carrying out the policies of the administration he serves.

“To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” Mr. Schumer said.

It took only about three hours for the Senate to dispense with the matter.

Republicans, for their part, warned that the dangerous precedent was the one that Democrats set by moving to skip an impeachment trial altogether, which they argued was a shirking of the Senate’s constitutional duty. They tried several times to delay the dismissal, failing on a series of party-line votes.

“Tabling articles of impeachment would be unprecedented in the history of the Senate — it’s as simple as that,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

Republican senators were outraged at Mr. Schumer’s maneuvering. Some accused him of degrading the institution of the Senate and the Constitution itself. Others beat their desks as they called for a delay of the trial for two weeks, until next month or even until after the November election. They accused Mr. Mayorkas of lying to Congress and impeding Republican investigations.

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Claims Against Biden Family

 

hunter biden abbe Lowell 1 10 2024Businessman Hunter Biden, left, President Biden's son and a defendant in two federal indictments, confers with his attorney Abbe Lowell at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this winter at which Biden made a surprise offer to testify publicly.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Hunter Biden Intends To Sue Fox News: Report, Jordy Meiselas, April 29, 2024. The lawsuit is expected imminently.

mtn meidas touch networkAccording to a new report by NBC News, Hunter Biden is preparing to file a lawsuit against Fox News "imminently." NBC News obtained a letter from earlier this month that put Fox News Channel and Fox News Digital on notice for the network's alleged “conspiracy and subsequent actions to defame Mr. Biden and paint him in a false light, the unlicensed commercial exploitation of his image, name, and likeness, and the unlawful publication of hacked intimate images of him.”

This latest news comes as Fox News has repeatedly brought on guests that have attacked Hunter Biden. It also comes at a precarious time for the network. Recently, Fox News agreed to pay nearly $800 million to Dominion Voting Systems following the company's defamation claims. Fox also agreed to pay $12 million in a separate settlement with a former employee, and is currently facing a massive, $2.7 billion lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, another voting-related company. That lawsuit stems from similar allegations as the Dominion suit.

Biden's attorney, Mark Geragos, gave the following statement to NBC News regarding the possibility of a lawsuit against Fox News:

“For the last five years, Fox News has relentlessly attacked Hunter Biden and made him a caricature in order to boost ratings and for its financial gain. The recent indictment of FBI informant Smirnov has exposed the conspiracy of disinformation that has been fueled by Fox, enabled by their paid agents and monetized by the Fox enterprise. We plan on holding them accountable.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. declines to give Biden-Hur audio recordings to House panel, Devlin Barrett, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Officials said lawmakers already have transcripts of the classified documents interviews, suggested lawmakers are seeking the audio to score political points.

Carlos Uriarte, a senior Justice Department official, sent the letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Their demand for the recordings, after already having the transcripts, “indicates that the Committees’ interest may not be in receiving information in service of legitimate oversight or investigatory functions, but to serve political purposes that should have no role in the treatment of law enforcement files,” Uriarte wrote in the letter sent on Monday.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by Defendant's psychiatrist).

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by defendant's psychiatrist).

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

harvey weinstein 10 4 2022 pool etienne laurent

ny times logoNew York Times, How a New Trial for Harvey Weinstein Could Again Test the Legal System, Jan Ransom and Hurubie Meko, April 28, 2024. A new jury would hear from one or both of the women whom he was convicted of assaulting, in what analysts said would be a much narrower and weaker case.

As one of Harvey Weinstein’s key accusers took the witness stand during his trial in New York, she broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. After a brief break, she still could not compose herself. The trial was adjourned for the day. Hyperventilating, the woman was ushered out and her piercing screams bellowed out from a back room.

The episode was one of many tense moments in the highly publicized, weekslong trial of the former Hollywood titan (shown above) in 2020. Now, they may happen all over again.

On Thursday, New York’s highest court ruled that the trial judge who presided over the sex crimes case in Manhattan erred when he let several women testify that Mr. Weinstein had assaulted them, even though their accusations were not part of the charges brought against the producer. The appeals court ordered a new trial.

But the original trial in 2020 against Mr. Weinstein was about much more than one man’s guilt. It had morphed into something more, as his accusers sparked the global #MeToo movement: Prosecutors were trying to prove not only that Mr. Weinstein was a sexual predator, but also that the justice system was both willing and able to hold powerful men accountable for their treatment of women.

The new ruling may do little to change the public’s perception of Mr. Weinstein, who is still notorious and behind bars and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sex crimes in California.

For some, however, it raised new doubts about the legal system’s ability to hold influential people like him responsible.

Mr. Weinstein had been serving his sentence in an upstate New York prison when his conviction was overturned. He was transferred on Friday to the Rikers Island jail complex to await a new trial. On Friday night, Mr. Weinstein, whose health has been poor, was transferred to the Bellevue Hospital Center’s prison ward for testing, his lawyer and jail officials said.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, said the office would do “everything in our power” to retry Mr. Weinstein. But for a case that many legal experts said was shaky from the start, it is unclear what a new trial would look like.

The initial criminal indictment charged Mr. Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women. Still, three other women were permitted to testify as Molineux witnesses, who are called on to show a defendant’s pattern of behavior. The case turned solely on whether a jury would believe the women’s testimony. Prosecutors did not have any physical evidence to support the women’s accounts. Mr. Weinstein, prosecutors said, was a predator who used his power in the film industry to prey on women.

Yet the district attorney’s office had to help jurors understand the complex relationships that sometimes exist between victim and abuser: The two main accusers had maintained friendships with Mr. Weinstein after the alleged assaults, and one of them even had some consensual sexual encounters with him. Mr. Weinstein has said that all of the encounters were consensual.

Unless new accusers — who may be called as witnesses at the second trial — come forward, prosecutors would have to rely on the testimony of one or both of the women Mr. Weinstein was initially convicted of assaulting.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. court overturns Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction, orders new trial, Samantha Chery, April 25, 2024. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction was overturned Thursday by the New York Court of Appeals, a shocking reversal of a landmark case that helped launch the #MeToo movement.

The court ordered a retrial, ruling that the judge in Weinstein’s original trial improperly allowed testimony about allegations that weren’t part of the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, How an inclusive gym brand became a battlefield over LGBTQ rights, Taylor Lorenz and Gus Garcia-Roberts, April 28, 2024. More than 50 Planet Fitness locations have been evacuated because of bomb threats in recent weeks after online criticism from an anti-trans activist.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the opaque world of IVF, where errors are rarely made public, Lenny Bernstein and Yeganeh Torbati, April 28, 2024. Errors and accidents often go unreported in the burgeoning fertility industry, which is largely self-policed and not mandated to notify even patients of mistakes.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

Politico, This liberal crusader helped convince America Covid came from a lab, Carmen Paun, April 30, 2024. Gary Ruskin, founder of U.S. Right to Know, says the government is covering it up.

politico CustomCongressional Republicans are banking on a blockbuster hearing Wednesday on the origins of Covid-19 to show once and for all that U.S. scientists, working with a Chinese lab, caused a devastating pandemic.

To counter the view of many scientists that Covid originated naturally among wild animals, the Republicans will rely on evidence uncovered by a tiny nonprofit in Oakland, California, led by a disciple of consumer activist Ralph Nader.

U.S. Right to Know and its founder, Gary Ruskin, have proven “more successful than any of us in getting information from the administration,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) after introducing Ruskin at a March hearing.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Lags Behind Other Countries in Hepatitis-C Treatment, Ted Alcorn, April 28, 2024. Despite an arsenal of drugs, many Americans are still unaware of their infections until it’s too late. A Biden administration initiative is languishing.

In the 10 years since the drugmaker Gilead debuted a revolutionary treatment for hepatitis C, a wave of new therapies have been used to cure millions of people around the world of the blood-borne virus.

Today, 15 countries, including Egypt, Canada and Australia, are on track to eliminate hepatitis C during this decade, according to the Center for Disease Analysis Foundation, a nonprofit. Each has pursued a dogged national screening and treatment campaign.

But the arsenal of drugs, which have generated tens of billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies, has not brought the United States any closer to eradicating the disease.

Spread through the blood including IV drug use, hepatitis C causes liver inflammation, though people may not display symptoms for years. Only a fraction of Americans with the virus are aware of the infection, even as many develop the fatal disease.

A course of medications lasting eight to 12 weeks is straightforward. But the most at-risk, including those who are incarcerated, uninsured or homeless, have difficulty navigating the American health system to get treatment.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Consumers

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fed’s Favorite Inflation Index Remained Stubborn in March, Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman, April 26, 2024. Hopes for substantial cuts in interest rates are fading as inflation shows more staying power than expected.

The latest Personal Consumption Expenditures index reading could keep the Fed on a cautious path as it considers when to lower borrowing costs.

The overall inflation index rose by 2.7 percent in the year through March, up from 2.5 percent in February and slightly more than economists had expected.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Class of 2024, It’s Not in Your Head: The Job Market Is Tough, Peter Coy, April 30, 2024 (print ed.). Here is a brutal fact for the college class of 2024: There aren’t enough college-level jobs out there for all of you.

Some of you will snag them. Others will have to settle for jobs that don’t require a college education. And history shows that many of those who start out in a job that doesn’t require a college education are still toiling in that kind of job a decade later.

The best way to avoid underemployment is to pick a major that employers want and to complete an internship, Burning Glass found. If you didn’t do those things and you’re a few weeks from commencement without a job lined up … um, potentially not good.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: "If Only!"— Pro-Trump Host Expresses Desire for Allowing Only White Men to Vote, J.D. Wolf, April 30, 2024. Ben Bergquam is a reporter for Real America's Voice.

mtn meidas touch networkBen Bergquam is one of Trump and MAGA Republicans' voices in right wing media. He's covers Trump rallies, MAGA events, the border, and protests. In 2019, Bergquam was present with Marjorie Taylor Greene when their group confronted AOC's office and Greene kept flipping the mail slot on AOC's office door.

On his Instagram Story Wednesday, Bergquam shared a map of the United States indicating a resulting Trump victory if only white men were allowed to vote. Bergquam added the comment "if only" to the original post, implying approval of allowing only white men to vote and thus resulting in a Trump victory.

djt maga hatMAGA Republicans are often criticized for being racist. During a 2019 interview panel with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Bergquam once joked about putting on blackface to get into the White House.

Bergquam, who has been part of the MAGA scene for a long time, has tons of pro-Trump pictures and on his social media pages. Here is Bergquam at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club and residence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Network Retracts False Story About Key Witness in Trump Trial, Maggie Haberman and Katie Robertson, April 29, 2024. Michael D. Cohen’s lawyers took on OAN over the false story. The settlement came as right-wing news outlets face a barrage of defamation suits.

One America News, a right-wing cable news network, on Monday retracted a report claiming that Donald J. Trump’s former fixer had been the person who actually had an affair with the porn star whose claims of a sexual relationship with Mr. Trump are key to his criminal trial.

The retraction came after the fixer, Michael D. Cohen, hired a leading defamation lawyer to address the false report, which was posted on the network’s website on March 27.

The lawyer, Justin Nelson, had represented Dominion Voting Systems in a suit against Fox News that cost that network $787.5 million to settle. Mr. Nelson worked with Mr. Cohen’s longtime lawyer, Danya Perry, in what was a remarkably quick about-face by OAN.

There are no monetary damages, but the story is being removed from the website “and all social media,” the network said in a statement on Monday.

“This retraction is part of a settlement reached with Michael Cohen,” the statement said. “OAN apologizes to Mr. Cohen for any harm the publication may have caused him.”

ny times logoNew York Times, With Paramount in Chaos and Its Future Uncertain, Its Chief Steps Down, Benjamin Mullin and Lauren Hirsch, April 29, 2024. Bob Bakish was once a staunch ally of Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder. His departure comes as the company considers a major merger.

Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Paramount, has tried to resist the erosion of her media empire over the last decade as she confronted the death of cable TV, the rise of streaming and even a failed boardroom coup from a longtime ally.

By her side through it all has been Bob Bakish, Paramount’s chief executive. For years, she saw him as a loyal lieutenant who could navigate the treacherous entertainment industry with the financial dexterity of the management consultant he once was. As Paramount’s share price sagged, she was patient with him — even as she steered the company toward an eventual sale that he had reservations about.

That patience officially ran out on Monday.

Mr. Bakish is stepping down effective immediately, Paramount announced on Monday, a stunning shake-up in the top ranks of the company as it considers a major merger.

Mr. Bakish, 60, will be replaced by an “office of the C.E.O.” run by three executives: Brian Robbins, head of the Paramount movie studio; George Cheeks, chief executive of Paramount’s CBS division; and Chris McCarthy, chief executive of Showtime and MTV Entertainment Studios.

Looming over Mr. Bakish’s exit are broader questions about the future of Paramount. Like many media companies, Paramount has struggled in recent years to get its streaming business off the ground as audiences for its cable channels have diminished. As a result, it has long been considered an acquisition target by rivals looking to build up their content libraries and increase their leverage in cable negotiations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Can Nonprofit News Save the South From Itself? Margaret Renkl, April 29, 2024. When I moved here in 1987, Nashville had two daily newspapers: a morning paper, The Tennessean, whose editorial page leaned left; and an evening paper, the Nashville Banner, whose editorial page leaned right. I still a subscribe to The Tennessean, but the Banner is long gone. In 1998, The Tennessean bought its longtime competitor and shut it down.

I recall with fondness that venerable newspaper, no matter that its editorial page did not align with my own politics. Some of the local journalists I most admire got their start at the Banner. And a city with competing newsrooms, each determined to get the news first and to get it right, is protected by a powerful bulwark against extremism and governmental mischief. In a democracy, the only way to be sure there isn’t a fox watching the henhouse is to set a whole bunch of reporters the task of watching the foxes.

Today less than a dozen U.S. cities have two competing daily newspapers, and many communities have no local news source at all. Nashville, like many other midsize cities, still has television news channels, an alternative newsweekly (the Nashville Scene) and various online publications to do some of that henhouse-watching. Nevertheless, the combined ranks of reporters covering crucial beats like state and local politics, education, criminal justice and the like, are dramatically smaller than they were in the days when the Tennessean and the Banner, each fully staffed and fully funded, were scrapping for scoops.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

April 29

Top Headlines

Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

world central kitchen

 

More On Trump Trials, Probes, Allies

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.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

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

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Russian Terror Attacks, Hostages

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

climate change photo

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

GOP Claims Against Bidens

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

 

U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Space

 

U.S. Baltimore Bridge Collapse

 

U.S. Education, Religion, Media, High Tech, Free Speech, Culture

 

Top Stories

Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022.Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022

MSNBC, Judge Luttig blasts SCOTUS for avoiding ‘key question’ at the heart of Trump immunity case, Ali Velshi, April msnbc logo Custom28, 2024. Former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig joins Ali Velshi to discuss his takeaways from this week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on former President Donald Trump's presidential immunity claim, which many believe will lead to more delays in Trump’s federal criminal cases, and potentially impact the future of the presidency itself.

"That this absurd argument is even being made before the Supreme Court is an embarrassment to the Constitution and to our country,” Judge Luttig says. Judge Luttig also criticizes the Supreme Court for avoiding the “straightforward, key question” about the case itself, and explains what decision he believes the justices are most likely to make.

  • Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok

 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, attended a joint ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, April 29, 2024 (Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein).

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, attended a joint ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, April 29, 2024 (Pool photo by Evelyn Hockstein).

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis: Israel Appears to Soften Stance in Cease-Fire Talks, Staff Reports, April 29, 2024. Israel would accept fewer freed hostages in the first phase of a new Gaza truce, officials said. The U.S. secretary of state is visiting the region.

Israel has reduced the number of hostages that it wants Hamas to free during the first phase of a new truce in Gaza, according to three Israeli officials, offering a hint of hope for cease-fire negotiations that could restart as soon as Tuesday.

Israel FlagFor months, Israel had demanded that Hamas release at least 40 hostages — women, older people and those who are seriously ill — in order to secure a new truce. Now the Israeli government is prepared to settle for 33, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive matter.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Arab officials on Monday in Saudi Arabia about the war between Israel and Hamas and the difficult issues it has created, from humanitarian aid to hostages. Mr. Blinken plans to travel to Jordan and Israel on Tuesday.

After landing in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, shortly after dawn, Mr. Blinken met with Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, and then with foreign ministers and a top foreign policy adviser from five other Arab nations in the Persian Gulf that, along with Saudi Arabia, form the Gulf Cooperation Council. Prince Faisal was also part of that second meeting.

Here’s what we know:

  • Israel has reduced the number of hostages that it wants freed during the first phase of a new truce in Gaza, officials said. Hamas has not commented on the proposal.
  • Israel will accept the release of 33 hostages at the start of a truce, officials say.
  • Blinken meets with Arab officials to discuss Gaza and postwar plans.
  • In northern Israel, the threat from Hezbollah drives a hospital underground.
  • World Central Kitchen plans to resume working in Gaza.
  • Israeli officials believe the International Criminal Court is preparing arrest warrants over the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Anger Grows Over Gaza, Arab Leaders Push Back on Protests, Vivian Yee, Vivian Nereim and Emad Mekay, April 29, 2024. The war has led to demonstrations across the Arab world. The numerous arrests suggest that governments are fearful of the outrage turning on them.

egypt flagLike other governments across the Middle East, Egypt has not been shy about its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its denunciations of Israel over the war in Gaza are loud and constant. State media outlets broadcast images of long lines of aid trucks waiting to cross from Egypt into Gaza, spotlighting Egypt’s role as the sole conduit for most of the limited aid entering the besieged territory.

palestinian flagEarlier this month, however, when hundreds of people gathered in downtown Cairo to demonstrate in solidarity with Gaza, Egyptian security officers swooped in, arresting 14 protesters, according to their lawyer. Back in October, the government had organized pro-Palestinian rallies of its own. Yet at those, too, it detained dozens of people after protesters chanted slogans critical of the government. More than 50 of them remain behind bars, their lawyers say.

It was a pattern that has repeated itself around the region since Israel, responding to an attack by Hamas, began a six-month war in Gaza: Arab citizens’ grief and fury over Gaza’s plight running headlong into official repression when that outrage takes aim at their own leaders. In some countries, even public display of pro-Palestinian sentiment is enough to risk arrest.

Out of step with their people on matters of economic opportunity and political freedoms, some governments in the Arab world have long faced added discontent over their ties with Israel and its chief backer, the United States. Now the Gaza war — and what many Arabs see as their own governments’ complicity — has driven an old wedge between rulers and the ruled with new force.

Morocco is prosecuting dozens of people arrested at pro-Palestinian protests or detained for social media posts criticizing the kingdom’s rapprochement with Israel. In Saudi Arabia, which is pursuing a normalization deal with Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, which has already struck one, the authorities have displayed such hypersensitivity to any hint of opposition that many people are too frightened to speak on the issue.

And Jordan’s government, caught between its majority-Palestinian population and its close cooperation with Israel and the United States, has arrested at least 1,500 people since early October, according to Amnesty International. That includes about 500 in March, when huge protests were held outside the Israeli Embassy in Amman.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Israel Has a Choice to Make: Rafah or Riyadh, Thomas L. Friedman, right,  April 28, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. tom friedman twitterdiplomacy to end the Gaza war and forge a new relationship with Saudi Arabia has been converging in recent weeks into a single giant choice for Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: What do you want more — Rafah or Riyadh?

Do you want to mount a full-scale invasion of Rafah to try to finish off Hamas — if that is even possible — without offering any Israeli exit strategy from Gaza or any political horizon for a two-state solution with non-Hamas-led Palestinians? If you go this route, it will only compound Israel’s global isolation and force a real breach with the Biden administration.

Or do you want normalization with Saudi Arabia, an Arab peacekeeping force for Gaza and a U.S.-led security alliance against Iran? This would come with a different price: a commitment from your government to work toward a Palestinian state with a reformed Palestinian Authority — but with the benefit of embedding Israel in the widest U.S.-Arab-Israeli defense coalition the Jewish state has ever enjoyed and the biggest bridge to the rest of the Muslim world Israel has ever been offered, while creating at least some hope that the conflict with the Palestinians will not be a “forever war.’’

This is one of the most fateful choices Israel has ever had to make. And what I find both disturbing and depressing is that there is no major Israeli leader today in the ruling coalition, the opposition or the military who is consistently helping Israelis understand that choice — a global pariah or a Middle East partner — or explaining why it should choose the second.

I appreciate how traumatized Israelis are by the vicious Hamas murders, rapes and kidnappings of Oct. 7. It is not surprising to me that many people there just want revenge, and their hearts have hardened to a degree that they can’t see or care about all of the civilians, including thousands of children, who have been killed in Gaza as Israel has plowed through to try to eliminate Hamas. All of this has been further hardened by Hamas’s refusal so far to release the remaining hostages.

But revenge is not a strategy. It is pure insanity that Israel is now more than six months into this war and the Israeli military leadership — and virtually the entire political class — has allowed Netanyahu to continue to pursue a “total victory” there, including probably soon plunging deep into Rafah, without any exit plan or Arab partner lined up to step in once the war ends. If Israel ends up with an indefinite occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank, it would be a toxic military, economic and moral overstretch that would delight Israel’s most dangerous foe, Iran, and repel all its allies in the West and the Arab world.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Drowning South: A hidden force supercharged this Alabama flood — and threatens the American South, Chris Mooney, John Muyskens, Kevin Crowe and Brianna Sacks, April 29, 2024. Longtime residents said a 2023 flood in southern Alabama was unlike anything they had ever seen

alabama state mapOn June 19, southern Mobile County, Ala., experienced torrential rain and severe flooding. Roads and some homes near the Fowl River were submerged.

But this was no ordinary flood.

What the residents and rescuers of the Fowl River region faced on that day was part of a dangerous phenomenon reshaping the southern United States: Rapidly rising seas are combining with storms to generate epic floods, threatening lives, property and livelihoods.

In the Fowl River’s case, unusually high tides slowed floodwaters as they went downstream to drain. This increased the water’s depth and flooded a wide expanse — even several miles upstream. The result was deluged roads, washed out cars and damaged houses from a flood that was larger, deeper and longer-lasting due to rising seas.

These supercharged floods are one of the most pernicious impacts of an unexpected surge in sea levels across the U.S. Gulf and southeast coasts — with the ocean rising an average of 6 inches since 2010, one of the fastest such changes in the world, according to a Washington Post examination of how sea level rise is affecting the region.

The Post’s analysis found that sea levels at a tide gauge near the Fowl River rose four times faster in 2010 to 2023 than over the previous four decades.

The rapid burst of sea level rise has struck a region spanning from Brownsville, Tex., to Cape Hatteras, N.C., where coastal counties are home to 28 million people. Outdated infrastructure built to manage water, some of it over a century old, cannot keep up. As a result, the seas are swallowing coastal land, damaging property, submerging septic tanks and making key roads increasingly impassable.

These analyses showed how much the ocean is rising and how it’s affecting flooding across this region, a preview of what other parts of the United States and the world that are affected by sea level rise will face in coming decades.

Key findings

  • The ocean off the U.S. Gulf and Southern Atlantic coasts has, since 2010, risen at about triple the rate experienced during the previous 30 years. In just the Gulf of Mexico, sea levels rose at twice the global rate over the past 14 years.
  • There are now more dangerous rain-driven and flash floods reported within 10 miles of the coast in the region. Their numbers increased by 42 percent from 2007 to 2022 — a total of 2,800 events, according to a Post analysis of National Weather Service data.
  • The Fowl River flood was caused by intense but not record-breaking thunderstorms that collided with high tides, according to Webb’s analysis. Working together, they caused the river to spill miles inland. The higher seas of today, compared with sea levels in 1967, would have increased the volume of the flood by nearly 10 percent of the river in its normal state, the analysis showed.
  • Human-caused climate change is driving an acceleration of sea level rise globally, largely because of the faster melting of the globe’s giant sheets of ice. Scientists do not know for certain why this region is experiencing a surge in sea levels beyond the global average, but one theory is that naturally occurring ocean currents are moving ever-warmer ocean water deep into the Gulf. This warm water expands and causes seas to rise. This comes on top of sinking land, which has long exacerbated sea level rise in the region.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi meet in 2022 (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

U.S. President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi meet in 2022 (New York Times photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: An assassination plot on American soil reveals a darker side of Modi’s India, Greg Miller, Gerry Shih and Ellen Nakashima, April 29, 2024. India’s intelligence service has aggressively targeted Indian diaspora populations in Asia, Europe and North America, officials said.

The White House went to extraordinary lengths last year to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a state visit meant to bolster ties with an ascendant power and potential partner against China.

india flag mapTables on the South Lawn were decorated with lotus blooms, the symbol of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. A chef was flown in from California to preside over a vegetarian menu. President Biden extolled the shared values of a relationship “built on mutual trust, candor and respect.”

But even as the Indian leader was basking in U.S. adulation on June 22, an officer in India’s intelligence service was relaying final instructions to a hired hit team to kill one of Modi’s most vocal critics in the United States.

The assassination is a “priority now,” wrote Vikram Yadav, an officer in India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, according to current and former U.S. and Indian security officials.

Yadav forwarded details about the target, Sikh activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, including his New York address, according to the officials and a U.S. indictment. As soon as the would-be assassins could confirm that Pannun, a U.S. citizen, was home, “it will be a go ahead from us.”

Yadav’s identity and affiliation, which have not previously been reported, provide the most explicit evidence to date that the assassination plan — ultimately thwarted by U.S. authorities — was directed from within the Indian spy service. Higher-ranking RAW officials have also been implicated, according to current and former Western security officials, as part of a sprawling investigation by the CIA, FBI and other agencies that has mapped potential links to Modi’s inner circle.

ny times logoNew York Times, Many Ukrainian Prisoners of War Show Signs of Trauma and Sexual Violence, Carlotta Gall and Oleksandr Chubko, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Some are still suffering with physical and psychological wounds from torture by their Russian captors. But soldiers are being sent back to active duty.

ukraine flagThe Ukrainian marine infantryman endured nine months of physical and psychological torture as a Russian prisoner of war, but was allotted only three months of rest and rehabilitation before being ordered back to his unit.

Russian FlagThe infantryman, who asked to be identified only by his call sign, Smiley, returned to duty willingly. But it was only when he underwent intensive combat training in the weeks after that the depth and range of his injuries, both psychological and physical, began to surface.

“I started having flashbacks, and nightmares,” he said. “I would only sleep for two hours and wake up with my sleeping bag soaking wet.” He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and referred for psychological care, and is still receiving treatment.

Ukraine is just beginning to understand the lasting effects of the traumas its prisoners of war experienced in Russian captivity, but it has been failing to treat them properly and returning them to duty too early, say former prisoners, officials and psychologists familiar with individual cases.

Nearly 3,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been released from Russia in prisoner exchanges since the 2022 invasion began. More than 10,000 more remain in Russian custody, some of whom have endured two years of conditions that a United Nations expert described as horrific.

The Ukrainian government’s rehabilitation program, which has usually involved two months in a sanitarium and a month at home, is inadequate, critics say, and the traumas suffered by Ukrainian prisoners are growing with the length and severity of the abuse they are being subjected to as the war drags on.

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Abortion Ban to Take Effect, Cutting Off Major Access Point, Patricia Mazzeim, April 29, 2024. The state has dozens of clinics that serve thousands of women a year. The six-week ban, taking effect Wednesday, will require most to travel much farther.

Florida has long played a significant role in the American abortion landscape, with dozens of clinics providing the procedure to tens of thousands of residents a year while also taking in patients from across the Southeast.

That era will end, at least for now, on Wednesday, when a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy will take effect. The strict new law will replace a 15-week ban and require most Floridians and other Southerners seeking the procedure to travel to Virginia or farther.

Almost every other state in the region banned or sharply restricted abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022; many had few abortion providers even before the ruling. North Carolina still allows abortions up to 12 weeks, but with a 72-hour waiting period that makes it a less practical option for out-of-state patients.

“The surrounding states have been desperate to find a place to go within a reasonable distance,” said Kelly Flynn, the president and chief executive of A Woman’s Choice, a network of abortion clinics, including one in Jacksonville, Fla., “and we have been that place.”

Instead of the number of abortions in Florida decreasing after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 15-week ban into law in April 2022, as proponents had hoped, it went up because more patients were coming from Southern states with more restrictions or near-total bans.

Florida, the third-largest state by population, has about 50 clinics and last year provided some 84,000 abortions; nearly 8,000 of them were for women from outside the state. Until July 2022, Florida allowed abortions until about 24 weeks.

“We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral (Associated Press photo by Jeff Dean).

 “We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral (Associated Press photo by Jeff Dean).

Politico, ‘You can’t shoot your dog and then be VP’: Dems, GOP bash Kristi Noem over memoir, Gregory Svirnovskiy, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). The South Dakota governor, shown above, has seen her political caché skyrocket in recent years and is reportedly a top contender to become Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate.

politico CustomBoth Democrats and Republicans are piling on after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem revealed in her upcoming memoir that she shot and killed her 14-month-old puppy named Cricket because of the dog’s alleged misbehavior.

The mother of three and former congress member has seen her political caché skyrocket in recent years and was reportedly a top contender to become Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate. But as the gruesome tale, first reported by The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly, picked up steam on Friday, so did questions about Noem’s vice presidential chances.

In her new memoir, Noem writes that she unsuccessfully tried to channel Cricket’s puppy energy into hunting pheasant. Instead, Cricket went “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life.” On the way home from hunting, Noem writes, the dog escaped her truck and attacked a local family’s chickens, behaving “like an untrainable assassin.”

Noem says she led the wirehaired pointer to a gravel pit and ended its life.

“We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral.

According to The Guardian, Noem relayed the grisly story to illustrate her willingness to do “difficult, messy and ugly” things when necessary. Instead, the story has prompted pushback from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“Post a picture with your dog that doesn’t involve shooting them and throwing them in a gravel pit,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Alongside it was a picture of Walz feeding his dog a treat.

“Ready for the weekend,” quipped the Biden-Harris campaign account, alongside pictures of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris happily playing with their dogs.

MAGA media personality and Trump ally Laura Loomer offered even harsher criticism, saying the ugly chapter was disqualifying for Noem’s vice presidential chances.

“She can’t be VP now,” Loomer tweeted. “You can’t shoot your dog and then be VP."

Politico, Kristi Noem defends dog slaying as ‘responsible,’ Kelly Garrity, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). The story of Noem shooting and killing her 14-month-old puppy has taken a toll on the potential VP pick’s public image.

Amid waves of backlash from both sides of the aisle, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Sunday defended her decision to shoot and kill her 14-month-old puppy named Cricket years ago.

politico Custom“I can understand why some people are upset about a 20 year old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book — No Going Back,” Noem wrote on TruthSocial.

“The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down. Given that Cricket had shown aggressive behavior toward people by biting them, I decided what I did,” she added.

Noem, until recently widely viewed as a top contender to share the Republican ticket with former President Donald Trump, laid out the decision to kill the pup in her forthcoming memoir “No Going Back,” in a startling anecdote first picked up on by The Guardian. The book is set to be released May 7; publicity for it says “this book is packed with surprising stories and practical lessons.”

In the book, Noem says she tried to focus the wirehaired pointer’s “aggressive personality” into hunting. But things didn’t go as planned — Cricket went “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life,” and later attacked a neighbor’s chickens. So Noem led the dog to a gravel pit and shot it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump turned on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. amid concerns Mr. Kennedy could attract Republican voters, Neil Vigdor, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). The former president called Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a ‘Democrat plant’ and attacked his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, who gave $2 million to the Kennedy campaign.

Former President Donald J. Trump is sharpening his attacks on the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as new polls show an overlap between their core supporters.

In a series of posts on his Truth Social media platform on Friday night, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, took aim at both Mr. Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy Silicon Valley lawyer and investor.

“RFK Jr. is a Democrat ‘Plant,’ a Radical Left Liberal who’s been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the Worst President in the History of the United States, get Re-Elected,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Trump, who had privately discussed the idea of Mr. Kennedy as a running mate, echoed what Democrats have been saying for months about Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy — that it could swing the election. He also appeared to be adopting a new derisive nickname for him.

“A Vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy fired back on Saturday in his own social media post.

“When frightened men take to social media they risk descending into vitriol, which makes them sound unhinged,” he wrote on X. “President Trump’s rant against me is a barely coherent barrage of wild and inaccurate claims that should best be resolved in the American tradition of presidential debate.”

Mr. Kennedy further attempted to goad the former president.

“Instead of lobbing poisonous bombs from the safety of his bunker, let’s hear President Trump defend his record to me mano-a-mano by respectful, congenial debate,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump also took a swipe at Mr. Kennedy’s running mate, Ms. Shanahan, who gave $2 million out of the $5.4 million that Mr. Kennedy raised in March. Until last year, she was married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Mr. Trump referred to her as the “V.P. Candidate that nobody ever heard of” and denigrated her business credentials.

“Her business was doing surgery on her husband’s wallet!” Mr. Trump wrote in a post. “She’s more Liberal than Junior’ by far, not a serious person, and only a Pot of Cash to help get her No Chance Candidate on the Ballot … ”

Mr. Trump’s barbs signaled a potential change in strategy by the former president, who Democratic allies of President Biden and political observers have for months suggested could benefit from having Mr. Kennedy, the liberal scion, in the race.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Dan Rather makes his first return to CBS News in 18 years, Staff report, April 28-29, 2024. dan rather 2017“Without apology or explanation, I miss CBS,” Rather (shown in a 2017 photo) told correspondent Lee Cowan during an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning" on April, 28, 2024.

politico CustomDan Rather returned to the CBS News airwaves for the first time since his bitter exit 18 years ago, appearing in a reflective interview on “CBS Sunday Morning” days before the debut of a Netflix documentary on the 92-year-old newsman’s life.

After 44 years at the network, 24 as anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” Rather left under a cloud following a botched investigation into then-President George W. Bush’s military record. Rather signed off as anchor for the last time on March 9, 2005, and exited the network when his contract ended 15 months later.

With continued enmity between him and since-deposed CBS chief Leslie Moonves, Rather essentially became a nonperson at the news division he dominated for decades.

“Without apology or explanation, I miss CBS,” Rather told correspondent Lee Cowan in the interview that aired Sunday. “I’ve missed it since the day I left.”

cbs news logoRather escaped official blame for the report that questioned Bush’s Vietnam War-era National Guard service but, as the anchor who introduced it, was identified with it. CBS could not vouch for the authenticity of some documents upon which the report was based, although many people involved in the story still believe it was true.

In the documentary “Rather,” debuting Wednesday on Netflix, Rather said he thought he would survive the incident, but his wife, Jean, told him, “You got into a fight with the president of the United States during his reelection campaign. What did you think was going to happen?”

Rather did not retire after leaving CBS, doing investigative journalism and rock star interviews for HDNet, a digital cable and satellite television network. Over the past few years, he has become known to a new generation as a tart-talking presence on social media.

This past week, he posted on X during former President Trump’s hush money trial: “Is it just me or did today seem sleazy even for Donald Trump?”

“You either get engaged and you get engaged in the new terms ... or you’re out of the game,” Rather said in the CBS interview, filmed at his home in Texas. “And I wanted to stay in the game.”

The Netflix documentary traces his career from coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam War and Watergate, through his anchor years and beyond. It includes some of the then tightly-wound Rather’s odder incidents, including an assault in New York City by someone saying, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth,” then later appearing onstage with R.E.M. when the group performed its song of the same name.

In both the documentary and in the CBS interview, Rather bypasses his career when talk turned to his legacy.

“In the end, whatever remains of one’s life — family, friends — those are going to be the things for which you’re remembered,” he said.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

world central kitchen

washington post logoWashington Post, World Central Kitchen will resume aid work in Gaza on Monday, Tim Carman, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Three days after an emotional ceremony at Washington National Cathedral in which World Central Kitchen celebrated the seven workers killed in an Israeli airstrike, the organization announced it would resume operations in Gaza, where more than 1 million Palestinians face catastrophic levels of hunger.

In an announcement sent to the media Sunday, WCK said it will resume humanitarian work Monday with a “Palestinian team delivering food to address wide-spread hunger, including in the north.” It was not clear whether WCK would continue to allow staff and outside contractors to enter Gaza as part of its renewed operations.

“The majority of our Gaza operation has always been Palestinians feeding Palestinians,” said Linda Roth, chief communications officer for WCK, when asked by The Washington Post. “Our model, as you know, is one of community engagement. We have hundreds of Palestinians employed as contractors and hundreds more volunteering. They want to get back to work.”
A memorial for Damian Soból in Przemysl, Poland, on April 4. He was among the seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in an Israeli airstrike. (Darek Delmanowicz/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

world central kitchen victims

Late on April 1, an Israeli airstrike hit a WCK convoy, killing all seven people (shown above) inside three vehicles, two of which were armored. Among those killed were four members of WCK’s relief team: Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, a 43-year-old Australian; Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, a 25-year-old Palestinian; Damian Soból, a 35-year-old from Poland; and Jacob Flickinger, a 33-year-old dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. The other three victims — John Chapman, 57; James Henderson, 33; and James Kirby, 47 — were British nationals contracted to WCK’s security team.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Officials Believe I.C.C. Is Preparing Arrest Warrants Over War, Kellen Browning, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Israeli and foreign officials say it appears the International Criminal Court is preparing to move against top Israeli and Hamas officials.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss a possible cease-fire and hostage deal, April 28, 2024.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Top Qatari official urges Israel and Hamas to do more to reach cease-fire deal, Staff Report, April 28-29, 2024. Qatar, which hosts Hamas headquarters in Doha, has been a key intermediary throughout the Israel-Hamas war.

politico CustomA senior Qatari official has urged both Israel and Hamas to show “more commitment and more seriousness” in cease-fire negotiations in interviews with Israeli media, as pressure builds on both sides to move toward a deal that would set Israeli hostages free and bring potential respite in the nearly 7-month-long war in Gaza.

The interviews with liberal daily Haaretz and Israeli public broadcaster Kan were published and aired Saturday evening. They came as Israel still promises to invade Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah despite global concern for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sheltering there, and as the sides are exchanging proposals surrounding a cease-fire deal.

Qatar, which hosts Hamas headquarters in Doha, has been a key intermediary throughout the Israel-Hamas war. Along with the U.S. and Egypt, Qatar was instrumental in helping negotiate a brief halt to the fighting in November that led to the release of dozens of hostages.

The sides have held numerous rounds of negotiations since, none of which produced an additional truce. In a sign of its frustration, Qatar earlier this month said it was reassessing its role as mediator.

In the interviews, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari expressed disappointment in both Hamas and Israel, saying each side has made its decisions based on political interests and not with the good of civilians in mind.

“We were hoping to see more commitment and more seriousness on both sides,” he told Haaretz.

He did not reveal details of the current state of the talks, other than to say they have “effectively stopped,” with “both sides entrenched in their positions.”

“If there is a renewed sense of commitment on both sides, I’m sure we can reach a deal,” he said.

The Israeli journalists conducted the interviews in Qatar, which has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

Relations between Qatar and Israel have been strained throughout the war, as some politicians in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have criticized Qatar for not putting enough pressure on Hamas.

Israeli legislators have also cleared the way for the country to expel Al Jazeera, the Qatar-owned broadcaster.

Al-Ansari’s remarks came after an Egyptian delegation had discussed with Israeli officials a “new vision” for a prolonged cease-fire in Gaza, according to an Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the developments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Even With Gaza Under Siege, Some Are Imagining Its Reconstruction, Peter S. Goodman, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). International development agencies have been meeting with Middle East business interests and urban planners to map out a future for the territory.

palestinian flagThe group is clear that the most pressing work is the delivery of food, water, health care and emergency shelter to the residents of Gaza, who are now contending with catastrophe. But the primary focus of their plan is on the rebuilding that would unfold over the following decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis Updates: The United States and France have sent their top diplomats to the Middle East for new talks about the war in Gaza, Staff Reports, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). The United States and France have sent their top diplomats to the Middle East in yet another attempt to try to find a pathway to secure a cease-fire in Gaza and lower tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia in Lebanon.

Israel FlagSecretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday for talks with top Arab officials about the war in Gaza. Saudi Arabia is hosting a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum, and top Arab officials, including Mr. Blinken’s diplomatic counterparts, are attending. They include seniorministers from Qatar and Egypt, which have been the two Arab mediators in multiple rounds of talks over a potential hostage agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The French foreign minister, Stéphane Séjourné, was also expected to head to Riyadh on the heels of a visit to Lebanon aimed at staving off any further escalation between Hezbollah and Israel.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will join other officials in Riyadh to discuss hostages, a potential cease-fire and humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • France’s foreign minister is in Lebanon first to discuss tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.
  • Thousands rally in Tel Aviv in support of hostages.
  • Hamas releases video of two more hostages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Crackdowns at 4 College Protests Lead to More Than 200 Arrests, Anna Betts, Matthew Eadie and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated April 28, 2024. The police made arrests at Washington University in St. Louis, Northeastern, Arizona State and Indiana, as schools moved to quell pro-Palestinian encampments.

More than 200 protesters were arrested on Saturday at Northeastern University, Arizona State University, Indiana University and Washington University in St. Louis, according to officials, as colleges across the country struggle to quell growing pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments on campus.

More than 700 protesters have been arrested on U.S. campuses since April 18, when Columbia University had the New York Police Department clear a protest encampment there. In several cases, most of those who were arrested have been released.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Colleges Have Gone Off the Deep End. There Is a Way Out, David French, right, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Watching david french croppedthe protests and experiencing the shout-downs changed the course of my career. I was both enthralled by the power of protest and repulsed by the efforts to silence dissenters.

Given the immense cultural influence of American higher education, I agreed with the Supreme Court’s famous words in the 1957 case Sweezy v. New Hampshire: “Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise, our civilization will stagnate and die.” Those words, combined with my own negative encounters at Harvard, helped define my legal career. From that point forward, I would defend free speech.

There is profound confusion on campus right now around the distinctions between free speech, civil disobedience and lawlessness. At the same time, some schools also seem confused about their fundamental academic mission. Does the university believe it should be neutral toward campus activism — protecting it as an exercise of the students’ constitutional rights and academic freedoms, but not cooperating with student activists to advance shared goals — or does it incorporate activism as part of the educational process itself, including by coordinating with the protesters and encouraging their activism?

The simplest way of outlining the ideal university policy toward protest is to say that it should protect free speech, respect civil disobedience and uphold the rule of law. That means universities should protect the rights of students and faculty on a viewpoint-neutral basis, and they should endeavor to make sure that every member of the campus community has the same access to campus facilities and resources.

That also means showing no favoritism between competing ideological groups in access to classrooms, in the imposition of campus penalties and in access to educational opportunities. All groups should have equal rights to engage in the full range of protected speech, including by engaging in rhetoric that’s hateful to express and painful to hear. Public chants like “globalize the intifada” may be repugnant to many ears, but they’re clearly protected by the First Amendment at public universities and by policies protecting free speech and academic freedom at most private universities.

Still, reasonable time, place and manner restrictions are indispensable in this context. Time, place and manner restrictions are content-neutral legal rules that enable a diverse community to share the same space and enjoy equal rights.

 

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana).

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis: U.N. Official Presses for Urgent Action on Gaza Aid, Staff Reports, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. aid coordinator for Gaza, said Israel had taken steps to improve relief deliveries but called for further measures.

The U.N.’s top coordinator for humanitarian aid for Gaza has said that Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of relief supplies to the enclave but warned that much more must be done to meet the vast need there.

Israel FlagIsrael has announced efforts to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including by opening an additional border crossing and by accepting shipments at a nearby port. But the United Nations has warned with increasing urgency that a famine is looming and that deliveries still fall short of the level needed to stop the spread of starvation.

Relevant Recent Headlines

aharon haliva

 

More Trump-Related News

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Never Sounded Like This, Charles Homans, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). No major U.S. presidential candidate has talked like Donald Trump now does at his rallies — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even himself.

Trump’s critics were right in 2016 to observe the grim novelty of his politics: their ideology of national pessimism, their open demagoguery and clear affinities with the far right, their blunt division of the country into us and them in a way that no major party’s presidential nominee had dared for decades. But Trump’s great accomplishment, one that was less visible from a distance but immediately apparent at his rallies, was the us that he conjured there: the way his supporters saw not only him but one another, and saw in themselves a movement.

That us is still there in Trump’s 2024 speeches. But it is not really the main character anymore. These speeches, and the events that surround them, are about them — what they have done to Trump, and what Trump intends to do in return.

As with everything about Trump, what was once revolutionary has become institutionalized. The insult-comic riffs and winding tours through the headlines are more constrained and repetitive now, his performer’s instincts duller than they once were. The brutalist building blocks of the prepared speech, its stock-photo celebrations of national triumphs (“We stand on the shoulders of American heroes who crossed the ocean, settled the continent, tamed the wilderness, laid down the railroads, raised up those great beautiful skyscrapers … ”) and lamentations of national decline, now stand out in clearer relief.

They build to a rhetorical climax that is echoed from one speech to the next. In Claremont, N.H., in November, he said:

"2024 is our final battle. With you at my side — and you’ve been at my side from the beginning — we will demolish the deep state. We’ll expel, we’re going to expel, those horrible, horrible warmongers from our government. They want to fight everybody. They want to kill people all over the place. Places we’ve never heard about before. Places that want to be left alone."

No major American presidential candidate has talked like this — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even Trump himself. Before November 2020, his speeches, for all their boundary crossings, stopped short of the language of “vermin” and “enemies within.”

When I asked the political historian Federico Finchelstein what he made of the speech, he replied bluntly: “This is how fascists campaign.”

 

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Conservative Justices Take Argument Over Trump’s Immunity in Unexpected Direction, Adam Liptak, right, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing was memorable for its discussion of coups, assassinations and adam liptakinternments — but very little about the former president’s conduct.

Before the Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday on former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution, his stance was widely seen as a brazen and cynical bid to delay his trial. The practical question in the case, it was thought, was not whether the court would rule against him but whether it would act quickly enough to allow the trial to go forward before the 2024 election.

Instead, members of the court’s conservative majority treated Mr. Trump’s assertion that he could not face charges that he tried to subvert the 2020 election as a weighty and difficult question. They did so, said Pamela Karlan, a law professor at Stanford, by averting their eyes from Mr. Trump’s conduct.

“What struck me most about the case was the relentless efforts by several of the justices on the conservative side not to focus on, consider or even acknowledge the facts of the actual case in front of them,” she said.

They said as much. “I’m not discussing the particular facts of this case,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, samuel alito oinstead positing an alternate reality in which a grant of immunity “is required for the functioning of a stable democratic society, which is something that we all want.”

Immunity is needed, he said, to make sure the incumbent president has reason to “leave office peacefully” after losing an election.

Justice Alito, left, explained: “If an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took a more straightforward approach. “If the potential for criminal liability is taken off the table, wouldn’t there be a significant risk that future presidents would be emboldened to commit crimes with abandon while they’re in office?” she asked.

Supreme Court arguments are usually dignified and staid, weighed down by impenetrable jargon and focused on subtle shifts in legal doctrine. Thursday’s argument was different.

It featured “some jaw-dropping moments,” said Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University.

Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell, said that “the apparent lack of self-awareness on the part of some of the conservative justices was startling.” He noted that “Justice Alito worried about a hypothetical future president attempting to hold onto power in response to the risk of prosecution, while paying no attention to the actual former president who held onto power and now seeks to escape prosecution.”

In the real world, Professor Karlan said, “it’s really hard to imagine a ‘stable democratic society,’ to use Justice Alito’s word, where someone who did what Donald Trump is alleged to have done leading up to Jan. 6 faces no criminal consequences for his acts.”

Indeed, she said, “if Donald Trump is a harbinger of presidents to come, and from now on presidents refuse to leave office and engage in efforts to undermine the democratic process, we’ve lost our democracy regardless what the Supreme Court decides.”

The conservative justices did not seem concerned that Mr. Trump’s lawyer, D. John Sauer, said his client was free during his presidency to commit lawless acts, subject to prosecution only after impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate. (There have been four presidential impeachments, two of Mr. Trump, and no convictions.)

 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Supreme Court seems poised to allow Trump Jan. 6 trial, but not immediately, Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday appeared ready to reject Donald Trump’s sweeping claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election, but in a way that is likely to significantly delay his stalled federal trial in the nation’s capital.

In nearly three hours of oral argument, both conservative and liberal justices grappled with the historic significance of the case, which will set boundaries for presidential power in the future even as it impacts whether Trump will face trial in D.C. before this year’s presidential election — in which he is the likely Republican nominee.

Trump, who is already on trial this week in a separate New York case involving business records connected to a hush money payment, was known for breaking norms while in the White House. He faces two other criminal cases as well, and is the first former president to be indicted. But again and again on Thursday, members of the high court noted that their decision, expected by late June or early July, will not just affect him.

“We are writing a rule for the ages,” said Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

“This case has huge implications for the presidency, for the future of the presidency, for the future of the country,” added Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The court seemed unlikely to fully embrace either Trump’s broad claim of immunity or the special counsel’s position that former presidents have no guarantee of immunity for their official acts. Instead, a majority of justices seemed to be looking for a way to provide more narrow protections for a president’s core constitutional duties, with some of the conservative justices especially concerned about hampering the power of future presidents.

In contrast, the court’s three liberals emphasized that a president is not above the law. They seemed to reject the idea of immunity from prosecution, expressing fears about giving a president unbounded power to commit crimes from the White House.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:  It's all about respect, not cults of personality or intolerance, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, April 28, 2024. Howard Stern and I are roughly the same age, We were both born in 1954 a few months apart. We also grew up in racially-mixed suburbia, he in Roosevelt, Long Island, myself in Levittown, New Jersey (later renamed Willingboro, its colonial era name).

wayne madesen report logoMy earliest teachers ingrained in me and my fellow students a healthy respect for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, as well as leaders like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and both Presidents Roosevelt. Seperate federal holidays were observed for Washington and Lincoln in February, which meant two days off from school. Our town's Fourth of July parades featured veterans of World War I.

Stern's very respectful interview of President Biden on his Sirius radio show might, at first, seem surprising for someone known as the once shockiest of shock jock deejays. It's not at all. Stern, myself, and most decent Americans around our age, recall the respect we and our parents had for our senior statesmen. That respect even trickled down to our governors. For Stern, it was Nelson Rockefeller of New York and for me, Governor Richard Hughes of New Jersey. As those of our age reached our teens and faced possible conscription into the Army for the meat grinder of Vietnam, the respect for presidents like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon rapidly declined into nothing but contempt. For LBJ and Tricky Dick, that disdain was richly deserved.

Now we are faced with another contemptuous candidate for president, the former occupier of the Oval Office who backed an insurrection and attempted coup against the United States. He is someone who has vowed to round up his political opponents and even have them executed -- that is, if we are to believe Donald Trump attorney John Sauer who argued for the ex-president's virtual total immunity from prosecution before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is nothing wrong with showing respect to public servants like Biden, who first entered the U.S. Senate in 1973 following the tragic deaths of his wife and young daughter in a December 1972 pre-Christmas traffic accident in Wilmington, Delaware.

The respect we once paid to Ike and JFK had much to do with their wartime service. Kennedy, like Biden, suffered a personal tragedy when his and the First Lady's infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died two days after birth on August 9, 1963. Franklin Roosevelt's coping with polio while commanding U.S. forces during World War II earned him the respect of the nation. We should be grateful that we have a senior and experienced statesman like Biden in office. It's sometimes hard to believe but FDR was only 63 when he died in office in 1945. Teddy Roosevelt was only 60 when he died 1919, the same age that Calvin Coolidge was when he died in 1933.

Many countries were able to rely on their senior statesmen, who, like Biden, stood up to save their nations in times of distress and turmoil. A war weary Winston Churchill, who was turned out of office in 1945, returned to Number 10 Downing Street in 1951 at the age of 77, the same age as Trump is today. The difference between an elder statesman like Churchill and a grifter like Trump is that Churchill's main goal in 1951 was to build 300,000 new houses per year for Britons, many of them veterans of World War. It would have never crossed Churchill's mind to refer to those who helped save Britain "losers and suckers." But that is the difference between an elder statesman like Churchill and low-life reprobates and scoundrels like Trump.

Elder statesmen who have given their all, including their lives in some cases, deserve respect and not disgusting insults from those who have never once in their miserable lives lent a helping hand to others. In order to steer India toward peaceful independence from Britain, Mahatma Gandhi, at the age of 78, embarked on a dangerous path of avoiding bloody inter-communal religious strife in his nascent nation. Gandhi paid for his selfless acts with his life, falling victim to gunfire from a Hindu nationalist extremist in 1948.

Another selfless act was displayed by the wartime leader of the Greek government-in-exile, George Papandreou. Elected prime minister in 1964 at the age of 76, Papandreou confronted the Greek military and King in an attempt to thwart their right-wing anti-constitutional subversive moves. Papandreou, who had served in Greek governments since 1923, was overthrown in a royalist-backed military coup in 1967. During his house arrest, Papandreou died at

There is no surprise that Trump supporters treat Biden with ageist contempt even though their cult leader, at the age of 77, constantly utters forth indecipherable babble and farts himself awake during his New York trial. There is a difference between Trump and other senior citizens who have served as leaders of their nations in times of stress and dysfunction. Trump is a carnival act who only lives for the spotlight and the grift. Biden, on the other hand, could have spent the rest of his life in Delaware, walking the beach and giving lectures to students at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead, he saw where Trump was taking the nation during a catastrophic pandemic. Biden will eventually be considered one of America's greatest presidents and future historians will rank him alongside FDR, Churchill, De Gaulle, Adenauer, and Mandela. Trump will co-exist in the history books with the names Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, and Kim Jong Un.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok, April 28, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkThere will be at least 5 or even 6 votes at the United States Supreme Court to give TRUMP IMMUNITY from at least some of the allegations and crimes in the Special Counsel’s DC Election interference case, and cause a delay that will prevent the case from being tried before November.

Michael Popok analyzes the oral argument, and, without blowing smoke or sunshine, gives you his best estimate of what the Court’s opinion is likely to look like when it’s issued in June.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The chief justice hated Trump appeals court decision, and other takeaways, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court spent hours Thursday morning debating former president Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for allegedly conspiring to undo the results of the 2020 election. The ruling, which could come in June, could do far more than chart the course of Trump’s case; it may forever alter the boundaries of presidential power.

“We’re writing a rule for the ages,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

The justices seemed to generally agree, in broad terms, that Trump does not have blanket immunity

john roberts oThe chief justice does not like the appeals court ruling on this issue. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. slammed the sweeping decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that denied Trump’s immunity claim. If a majority of the nine-justice panel agrees with him, that could push Trump’s trial well past the election.

Roberts, left, characterized the February decision reached by the appeals court as saying in essence that “a former president can be prosecuted because he’s being prosecuted.” He called that “circular” reasoning and added, “it concerns me.”

The chief justice then floated a proposal that could make the entire issue more complicated and time-consuming, rather than less.

“Now, you know how easy it is in many cases for a prosecutor to get a grand jury to bring an indictment,” Roberts said. “Why shouldn’t we either send it back to the Court of Appeals or issue an opinion making clear that that’s not the law?”

If the Supreme Court did send the question of presidential immunity back to the appeals court, that would probably eat up weeks or months — potentially opening a can of legal worms that could take a lot of time for judicial debate and decisions.

The Supreme Court ruling is considered hugely important to Trump’s political and legal chances, but conservative justices kept insisting they were more worried about all future White House officeholders than the specific fate of the 45th president.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said their ruling will have “huge implications” for the future of the presidency, and the country, adding: “I’m not as concerned about the here and now, I’m more concerned about the future.”

Kavanaugh said he was worried that the trend of prosecutors investigating presidents is only growing. “It’s not going to stop, it’s going to cycle back and be used against the current president and the next president and the next president after that,” he said.

The three liberal justices also focused much of their attention on the future implications of an immunity ruling — but they worried most that granting Trump protection in this case would subvert the very premise of the founding of the United States, to escape the tyranny of kings.

 

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair.

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair from election finance officials and the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Trump’s Trial, the Defense Tries to Knock Down the Allegation of a Plot, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). As The National Enquirer’s former publisher returned to the stand, defense lawyers tried to discredit the idea there was a plan to protect Donald Trump.

david pecker croppedDavid Pecker, right, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, is set to return to the stand for a fourth day. Defense lawyers have tried to undercut his testimony about a conspiracy to bury negative stories and help elect Donald J. Trump.

The criminal trial of Donald J. Trump on Friday will feature the continued cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness, David Pecker, as defense lawyers try to discredit the idea that there had been a plot to protect Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

On Thursday, Mr. Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, described his own involvement in the suppression of the stories of two women who claimed to have had sex with Mr. Trump: Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose 2016 hush-money payoff is at the root of the prosecution’s case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Number of Trump Allies Facing Election Interference Charges Keeps Growing, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors are sending a warning as Donald Trump and his supporters spread conspiracy theories: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Fifty-three people who tried to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election have now been criminally charged.

The indictments have been brought in four swing states that will be crucial to the upcoming election, most recently on kris mayes oWednesday in Arizona, where Kris Mayes, right, the Democratic attorney general, said that she could “not allow American democracy to be undermined.” The message she and other prosecutors are sending represents a warning as Mr. Trump and his supporters continue to spread election conspiracy theories ahead of another presidential contest: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Mr. Trump’s own legal complications are also growing. On Wednesday, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in election interference investigations in both Arizona and Michigan. He has already been charged in Georgia while facing two federal prosecutions and a criminal trial in Manhattan related to hush money payments made to a porn star.

What’s more, Mr. Trump’s top legal strategist, Boris Epshteyn, was indicted in Arizona on Wednesday.

There remains a possibility that Mr. Trump’s aides and allies will be put on trial for manipulating an election on his behalf, while he is not. If he is re-elected president in November, the federal courts, or even Congress, could shield him from having to face trial in the Georgia election interference case, at least while he is in office, on the grounds that a president sitting in an Atlanta courtroom for weeks or months would be unable to carry out his constitutional duties.

He could also use his executive powers to halt the two federal cases against him.

“I assume, should these constitutional concerns about putting Trump on trial while president play out, there would be efforts to sever the other defendants, and no reason for the trials as to those defendants not to proceed,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University.

Democrats are leading all of the state prosecutions, though they have moved slowly. None of the cases are likely to come to trial before the election, a reality that has frustrated many on the left. While Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has been investigating since early 2021, her racketeering case has been slowed by its scope and complexity, and by efforts to disqualify her.

Ms. Willis brought charges last August against Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies and advisers, laying out a number of ways she said they had conspired to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss in the state.

Cases in Michigan and Nevada have focused solely on the Republicans whom the Trump campaign deployed as fake electors in those states. Having slates of people claiming to be electors for Mr. Trump was an integral part of the effort to keep him in office after his loss at the polls in 2020.

Ms. Mayes charged all 11 people who served as fake Arizona electors, and seven Trump advisers. Four of those advisers now face charges in both Georgia and Arizona: Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Mike Roman, a former Trump campaign operative who played a leading role in the fake electors scheme; and John Eastman, a legal architect of the elector plan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Is another Trump coup case really necessary? Yes. Arizona matters, Jennifer Rubin, April 28, 2024. An Arizona grand jury last week indicted for conspiracy, fraud and forgery 11 phony electors plus seven associates and lawyers involved in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Trump was included as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Arizona follows Georgia, Michigan and Nevada in holding to account politicians who sought to replace Biden’s legitimate electors.

You might be asking: Do we really need all these Trump coup cases? Yes, and here are four major reasons.

 

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Politico, Arizona grand jury indicts Meadows, Giuliani, other Trump allies for 2020 election interference, Kyle Cheney and Betsy ICE logoWoodruff Swan, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The former president is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

politico CustomAn Arizona grand jury has indicted 18 allies of Donald Trump for their efforts to subvert the 2020 election — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Boris Epshteyn.

arizona mapThe indictment, which includes felony counts of conspiracy, fraud and forgery, also describes Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.

“Defendants and unindicted coconspirators schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency to keep Unindicted Coconspirator 1 in office against the will of Arizona’s voters,” the 58-page indictment reads.

djt maga hatThe names of seven of the defendants, including Meadows, Giuliani and Epshteyn, are redacted, but the document makes clear who they are by describing their roles. Others include attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb, as well as Trump 2020 campaign operative Mike Roman.

Ken Chesebro, an attorney who helped devise Trump’s post-election strategy, is described as “unindicted coconspirator 4.”

The only defendants whose names are visible in the version of the indictment released by the Arizona attorney general’s office Wednesday evening are the 11 Republicans who falsely posed as the state’s presidential electors despite Joe Biden’s narrow victory there. Among them: former Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, state senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, and Arizona’s RNC committeeman Tyler Bowyer.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has been helming the aggressive investigation. Though she initially appeared to be focused primarily on the false electors, in recent months it became clear that the scope of the probe was broader than previously understood and swept up prominent Trump allies at the national level.

Mayes is the fifth prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the sprawling, multi-state bid by Trump and his allies to upend the 2020 results. Special counsel Jack Smith has charged Trump with federal crimes for those efforts. Prosecutors in Georgia have charged Trump and many of his allies for their efforts to overturn the results in that state, including the fake electors plot. Prosecutors in Michigan and Nevada have also charged Republicans who posed as fake electors in those states.

Michigan prosecutors revealed Wednesday that Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in their own investigation as well. And many of the newly charged defendants in Arizona, including Meadows, Giuliani, Eastman and Ellis, were charged in the Georgia case. Ellis pleaded guilty in Georgia and avoided jail time, while Meadows, Giuliani and Eastman have pleaded not guilty.

The charges against Bobb are notable because she was recently elevated to a senior position at the Republican National Committee focused on “election integrity.”

Mayes was elected as Arizona’s attorney general in 2022, replacing a Republican. As a result, her probe of the 2020 election plot got off to a later start than those of her counterparts in other states, but it recently appeared to be gathering momentum, with numerous witnesses receiving subpoenas to appear before the grand jury, including several of the false electors. Hoffman, one of the state lawmakers to face charges, appeared before the grand jury on April 8 and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Mayes also subpoenaed several figures in Trump’s national orbit, including two Republican members of Congress, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who played vocal roles in Trump’s bid to overturn the election. Neither Gosar nor Biggs, however, were considered targets of the probe, and they were not charged in the indictment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Trial Could Bring a Rarity: Consequences for His Words, Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 28, 2024. Donald Trump has spent decades spewing thousands of words and contradicting himself. That tendency is working against him in his Manhattan criminal case.

“So that’s not true? That’s not true?”

The judge in control of Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial had just cut off the former president’s lawyer, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche had been in the midst of defending a social media post in which his client wrote that a statement that had been public for years “WAS JUST FOUND!”

Mr. Blanche had already acknowledged during the Tuesday hearing that Mr. Trump’s post was false. But the judge, Juan M. Merchan, wasn’t satisfied.

“I need to understand,” Justice Merchan said, glaring down at the lawyer from the bench, “what I am dealing with.”

The question of what is true — or at least what can be proven — is at the heart of any trial. But this particular defendant, accused by the Manhattan district attorney’s office of falsifying business records to conceal a sex scandal, has spent five decades spewing thousands and thousands of words, sometimes contradicting himself within minutes, sometimes within the same breath, with little concern for the consequences of what he said.

Mr. Trump has treated his own words as disposable commodities, intended for single use, and not necessarily indicative of any deeply held beliefs. And his tendency to pile phrases on top of one another has often worked to his benefit, amusing or engaging his supporters — sometimes spurring threats and even violence — while distracting, enraging or just plain disorienting his critics and adversaries.

If Mr. Blanche seemed unconcerned at the hearing that he was telling a criminal judge that his client had said something false, it may have been simply because the routine has become so familiar.

Mr. Trump’s career-long habit of a ready-fire-aim stream of consciousness — on social media, on television, to newspaper reporters, to rally attendees — can now be held against him by prosecutors and a judge who has genuine power over him.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold the former president in criminal contempt for violating a gag order that bars him from attacking witnesses, which they argued was necessary given that his previous attacks had “resulted in credible threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation.” Justice Merchan’s questioning of the truth of what Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social was one of several episodes that have brought into stark relief how talking constantly in public — which made Mr. Trump a tabloid fixture and then a reality-television star — has been working against him lately.

Eventually, the case could threaten not only Mr. Trump’s freedom but also the central tenets of a lifelong ethos ever-present in the former president’s patter: a convenient disregard for the truth, the blunt denial of anything damaging and a stubborn insistence that his adversaries are always acting in bad faith.

The consequences so far have been minimal. Prosecutors told the judge at the contempt hearing Tuesday that for now, they were not seeking jail time for comments that mostly targeted two key witnesses: Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, and Ms. Daniels, the porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump and whom Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to keep silent weeks before the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump is less moved by threats of being fined. Still, when he faced a similar punishment in a civil fraud trial late last year, he slowed his attacks on a court official after the penalties mounted.

 

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m a Grown Man Running Against a 6-Year-Old’: Biden Lets Trump Jokes Fly, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Minho Kim and Zach Montague, Katie Glueck, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden roasted former President Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Outside, pro-Palestinian protesters rallied.

President Biden didn’t waste time.

Just minutes into his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, Mr. Biden launched into the issues dominating the 2024 election, including his age and former President Donald J. Trump’s hush-money trial in New York.

“The 2024 election’s in full swing and yes, age is an issue,” Mr. Biden said in a roughly 10-minute speech. “I’m a grown man running against a 6-year-old.”

“Donald has had a few tough days lately. You might call it ‘stormy’ weather,” Mr. Biden said, an oblique reference to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claims to have had sex with Mr. Trump in 2006 and received a hush-money payment in the days before the 2016 election, a deal at the center of his New York trial.

The comments, even as part of a roast, were notable given Mr. Biden has forbidden his aides to talk publicly about Mr. Trump’s legal troubles. But they also came as Mr. Biden has ramped up his attacks on Mr. Trump, sharpening the split-screen between a president on the campaign trail and a former president spending his days in a courtroom.

The annual dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel provided a break to journalists and government officials from their normal jousting for a night of glitz and gossip in celebration of the free press. Mr. Biden, who has held fewer news conferences than his predecessors, extended his roast to the journalists gathered for the dinner.

“Some of you complained that I don’t take enough of your questions,” Mr. Biden said. “No comment.”

“The New York Times issued a statement blasting me for ‘actively and effectively avoiding independent journalists,’” Mr. Biden said. “Hey, if that’s what it takes to get The New York Times to say I’m active and effective, I’m for it.”

Hartmann Report, Opinion: Why Democratic Voters Won’t Accept Republican Defectors, Thom Hartmann, right, April 29, 2024. thom hartmannWhy are Great Britain Conservative Members of Parliament welcomed into the Labour Party, but here in the US it’s almost impossible for a Republican to successfully become a Democrat?

Last week Dan Poulter, a Conservative Party member of Great Britain’s Parliament, abandoned the Tories to become a member of the progressive Labour Party. In 2022, Christian Wakeford similarly left the Tories to join Labour, the equivalent of an American Republican member of Congress being welcomed into the Democratic Party.

The last time a Republican member of the US Congress became a Democrat was New York’s Michael Forbes, who made the switch more than two decades ago in 1999. Democrats in his district overwhelmingly rejected him in the 2000 election: although he raised and spent $1.4 million to hold his seat, he was defeated by a 71-year-old librarian who’d raised and spent a mere $40,000.

Why would it be that in Great Britain Conservative Members of Parliament are welcomed into the Labour Party, but here in the US it’s almost impossible for a Republican to successfully become a Democrat?

Turns out, there’s a reason. British conservatives and American Republicans are qualitatively different: the British equivalent of our Supreme Court never legalized political bribery.

Because corrupt Republicans on the Court legalized political bribery, most recently with Citizens United, we have:

— Republicans who take money from the NRA and gun manufacturers blocking an assault weapons ban and pushing for more guns in our communities and schools.
— Republicans who take money from the fossil fuel industry denying climate change and sabotaging efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
— Republicans who take money from the Pharma industry fighting Biden’s efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices while working to protect the industry’s obscene profits.
— Republicans who take money from the for-profit health insurance industry obstructing all efforts to create a national single-payer system that would save Americans as much as half of what we spend on healthcare.
— Republicans who take money from billionaires fighting to protect Reagan’s, Bush’s, and Trump’s multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts and now arguing for more gifts to the morbidly rich.
— Republicans who take money from the banking industry preventing even one single banker from going to prison when they crashed the US economy during the last year of George W. Bush’s administration, despite massive evidence of fraud.
— Republicans who take money from the private prison industry writing laws to increase criminal penalties for pretty much everything.
— Republicans who take money from the tobacco and alcohol industries fighting decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level.
— Republicans who take money from the investment industry fighting efforts to regulate investment advisors who routinely rip off retirees.
— Republicans who take money from defense contractors promoting illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
— Republicans who take money from the private school industry passing universal voucher laws in the states, gutting public schools.
— Republicans who take money from the lending industry preventing students from declaring bankruptcy on student debt.

In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party — while still hewing to neoliberalism and austerity politics — hasn’t been completely corrupted because there are still enforceable limits on campaign spending in the UK. A political party can’t spend more than £54,010 for each individual constituency (like a Congressional district here), and an individual candidate can’t spend more than £49,000 in the 55 months leading up to the next election.

The result is that British Members of Parliament are more generally forced to respond to constituents and voters instead of billionaires and Britain’s largest corporations. A cabinet member in the Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for example, just came out this weekend bragging about how they’d increased spending for the National Health Service.

ny times logoNew York Times, College Protests Over Gaza Deepen Democratic Rifts, Katie Glueck, April 29, 2024 (print ed.).  Scenes of chaos unfolding on campuses across the U.S. are stoking internal divisions and carry political risk as a major election year unfolds.

palestinian flagNearly seven months after the Israel-Hamas war began, the demonstrations convulsing college campuses nationwide are exposing fresh tensions within the Democratic Party over how to balance free speech protections and support for Gazans with concerns that some Jewish Americans are raising about antisemitism.

democratic donkey logoFrom New York and Los Angeles to Atlanta and Austin, a surge in student activism has manifested in protest encampments and other demonstrations, drawing significant police crackdowns and sometimes appearing to attract outside agitators. The protests also have emerged as the latest flashpoint in the internal Democratic debate over the war.

As scenes of campus turmoil play out across the country in the final days of the school year, the moment also carries political risk for a party that has harnessed promises of stability and normalcy to win critical recent elections, and faces a challenging battle for control of the government in the fall.

“The real question is, can the Democrats again portray themselves as the steady hand at the helm?” said Dan Sena, a veteran Democratic strategist. “Things that create national chaos like this make that harder to do.”

Mr. Sena and other Democrats have argued that Americans have good reason to associate their opponents with chaos: Former President Donald J. Trump faces multiple criminal cases; the narrow, fractious House Republican majority has its own divisions concerning Israel and free speech; some Republicans have urged National Guard deployments to college campuses; and for years, Republicans have faced criticism over antisemitism in their own ranks.

But since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and the Israeli military response that has killed more than 30,000 people, according to local authorities, the fight over American policy toward Israel has been especially pronounced on the left.

ny times logoNew York Times, University leaders have had to confront a central question: When does a demonstration cross the line? Patricia Mazzei, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Amid a dizzying array of standoffs involving pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments at colleges, schools that cracked down on protesters over the weekend have given varying justifications for their actions, while others sent mixed signals with their inaction.

Behind it all was a central question confronting university leaders across the country: When does a demonstration cross the line?

Colleges have cited property damage, outside provocateurs, antisemitic expressions or just failures to heed warnings as reasons to clear encampments and arrest students. Student groups have strongly denied or questioned many of those claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Abortion and the Border, Arizona Becomes a 2024 Political Hothouse, Jack Healy, Kellen Browning and Michael Wines, April 29, 2024. A battle over abortion bans and criminal charges against allies of former President Trump are raising the state’s election-year profile.

To see the battle lines over Arizona’s political future, head to a patch of dirt along the Carefree Highway on the edge of Phoenix, where the state’s big ambitions and bitter grievances are separated by a wire fence.

On one side, a silvery new microchip factory is sprouting from the desert, part of a $50 billion technology investment by the Biden administration expected to create tens of thousands of jobs and make Arizona a new tech powerhouse. New hires from across the country and abroad are snapping up just-built Spanish-tiled houses nearby, and schools are already adding semiconductor trainings.

But on the other side of the fence, roadside vendors are doing brisk business opposing President Biden. Each morning, they hoist Confederate flags and lay out tables of Trump hats and crude banners deriding Mr. Biden. “I don’t give him credit for anything,” said Mike Conley, 73, a transplant from California who sells ammunition from the bed of his pickup.

Arizona feels like a place where nearly all of 2024’s pivotal political clashes are converging. It is a border state bristling with active fault lines on abortion, inflation, immigration and election conspiracies, where vast demographic changes have shifted Arizona from reliably Republican and seldom contested in national politics to a desert hothouse. Everything is up for grabs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Close Examination of the Most Infamous Public Toilet in America, Ezra Klein, right, April 28, 2024. In a ezra klein twitterrecent sunny Sunday, residents of San Francisco’s Noe Valley gathered to celebrate the opening of a toilet. But not just any toilet. This was the nation’s most infamous public toilet.

In 2022, my colleague Heather Knight, then at The San Francisco Chronicle, noticed the projected price tag on the commode: $1.7 million, which Assemblyman Matt Haney had secured from the state. This was business as usual in San Francisco. Other public toilets had cost about the same. Local officials were planning a celebration. But Knight’s article set off a furor. Gov. Gavin Newsom clawed back the money. The party was canceled. Haney denounced the project he had made possible: “The cost is insane. The process is insane. The amount of time it takes is insane.” He wanted answers.

Phil Ginsburg, the general manager of San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department, responded with a letter that is a masterpiece of coiled bureaucratic fury. He told Haney that the department had been “pleasantly surprised” by the “unexpected allocation” of $1.7 million for the Noe bathroom. “Until now,” Ginsburg wrote, “we have not received any questions from you on the estimate.”

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Trump Endorses Kristi Noem's Puppy Killing Book, Troy Matthews, April 27, 2024.  MAGA are literally the party of killing puppies. 

mtn meidas touch networkDonald Trump left a positive review on Amazon for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's new book to be released next month, wherein Noem describes shooting her own family puppy in a gravel pit on her ranch. In her book, No Going Back, Noem describes her dog Cricket, a 14-month-old Wirehair Pointer, as "untrainable," and "less than worthless as a hunting dog," and said she "hated that dog."

joe biden resized oAfter murdering her puppy, Noem describes how she then immediately proceeded to also kill her family's goat, because she had "another unpleasant job that needed to be done." Noem said the goat smelled "disgusting, musky, rancid," and would chase her children around all day because it hadn't been castrated. Rather than just washing the animal and getting it fixed, Noem literally dragged the goat to the same pit wherein she had just ended Cricket, and proceeded to shoot the goat as well.

republican elephant logoAfter killing both animals, Noem describes how she quickly realized a horrified construction crew had been watching her the entire time. Shortly thereafter her daughter returned home from school and asked, "Hey, where's Cricket?"

In a review on Amazon, Donald Trump, who was famously the only President in history to not have a pet in the White House, calls the book a "winner," and says it "lays out a fantastic plan to make American great again."

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Matt Gaetz has Republican Challenger, Ron Filipkowski, April 29, 2024. Kevin McCarthy's revenge tour continues.

mtn meidas touch networkFormer Naval Aviator Aaron Dimmock filed to run in the Republican primary against Matt Gaetz in Florida's 1st Congressional district on the very last day of the deadline. He is rumored to be backed by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his allies.

kevin mccarthyMcCarthy, right, has been on a revenge tour targeting the small band of Republican rebels who voted to oust him from the Speakership, and there is nobody McCarthy would like to take out more than their ringleader Matt Gaetz. Their feud has been nasty and well-publicized, with McCarthy alleging that Gaetz only wanted to oust him because he refused to halt the Ethics Committee investigation into Gaetz allegedly paying for sex from an underaged girl.

djt maga hatMcCarthy is also openly backing a primary challenger to Nancy Mace, who joined Gaetz as a leader of the movement to topple McCarthy. Mace posted a video attacking McCarthy where she said he was "a bitter mean-girl on a revenge tour." McCarthy responded that Mace needs to "seek help" for psychiatric issues.

Now apparently McCarthy is after Gaetz.

republican elephant logoAlthough Gaetz has fended off Republican challengers before, Dimmock's financial backing and service in the Navy could give him a decent shot. The 1st District has a huge percentage of military veterans who have retired there and active service members since two large military bases are located in the district -Eglin Air Force Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station. The district was previously represented by Joe Scarborough.

Dimmock is a retired Navy Commander who is currently the Director of the University of West Florida's Leadership Center.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nobody Saw Andy Kim Coming. That’s What He Was Counting On, Christopher Maag, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Kim, the New Jersey congressman, has become the odds-on favorite to win Robert Menendez’s Senate seat. His strategy? Don’t ask anyone for permission.

Facing federal charges that he accepted bribes, including cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz, Senator Robert Menendez announced on Friday, Sept. 22, that he would not resign.

A day later, Andy Kim, a little-known Democratic congressman from southern New Jersey, gathered his top advisers for a conference call. Everyone present assumed that Mr. Kim would announce his intention to challenge Mr. Menendez for his Senate seat.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Explosion in Afghanistan Nearly Killed Him. Now, It’s Inspiring His Senate Bid, Kellen Browning, April 28, 2024. Sam Brown, a veteran and former Army captain, was left permanently scarred from a Taliban bomb in 2008. Can his military service drive a successful political campaign in Nevada?

Lying in an Afghan desert, engulfed in flames and soaked in diesel fuel, Sam Brown realized he was about to die.

republican elephant logoIt was September 2008, and Mr. Brown, who was a U.S. Army lieutenant at the time, had been leading his platoon to the aid of fellow soldiers who had been ambushed by the Taliban. Then, his Humvee struck a roadside bomb. In an explosion of fire and concussive sound, Mr. Brown’s life was forever changed.

“I remember laying there, facedown in the dirt in the Kandahar desert, trying to scoop dirt over myself to smother the flames and having no success, and thinking to myself: How long will it take to burn to death? What happens as I die?” Mr. Brown recalled in an interview with The New York Times. “And then literally making the decision to give up the will to live.”

But he survived. A fellow soldier, also injured in the blast, saved Mr. Brown, and his platoon provided first aid until he could be evacuated to a hospital. At a burn unit in Texas, he underwent more than 30 surgeries over a three-year recovery, and he was left permanently scarred.

Now, Mr. Brown, 40, who medically retired as a captain, is the leading Republican seeking to challenge Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, in what is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle, with the potential to determine control of the chamber.

At campaign stops, Mr. Brown does not dwell on his dramatic history, focusing instead on inflation, which many Nevadans have felt acutely, and on the border. But his experience is a central part of his appeals to supporters as he works to raise the kind of money needed to run a statewide campaign against a well-funded incumbent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Louisiana Will Get a New City After a Yearslong Court Battle, Rick Rojas, Katie Glueck, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). A part of Baton Rouge will become the city of St. George. Critics said the separation of the white, wealthier enclave could have devastating consequences.

louisiana map horizontalThe original plan was to start a school district. That didn’t work. So a group of residents in a sprawling unincorporated suburb of Baton Rouge, La., expanded their idea: Create a city of their own, called St. George.

In 2015, they collected signatures to bring their proposal up for a vote, but didn’t get enough. In 2019, they tried again. This time, they made it to a ballot and won the election, only to be stalled by a lengthy court battle.

But the Louisiana Supreme Court cleared the way on Friday for the formation of St. George, a city of nearly 100,000 people that joins the ranks of the state’s largest cities, falling between Lafayette and Lake Charles in population. It is the first city to be incorporated in Louisiana in nearly two decades.

A majority of justices found that lower courts had erred in blocking the city’s creation over concerns of its financial viability.

But its opponents — including parish leaders, as well as a powerful cross-section of business and civic leaders — contended that the complaints driving the campaign were unfounded and unfair. They argued that the plan for a new city was poorly conceived and would cause turbulence for the parish as a whole, rather than improve anyone’s quality of life.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

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 Magazine, How ‘History and Tradition’ Rulings Are Changing American Law, Emily Bazelon, April 29, 2024. A new legal standard is gaining traction among conservative judges — one that might turn back the clock on drag shows, gun restrictions and more.

Though originalism in practice never lived up to this promise, because judges used it inconsistently or to reach the results they preferred, “history and tradition,” unlatched from any one moment, is even more pliable and indeterminate. It lets judges choose from a vast array of sources, which makes it easy to cherry-pick.

Skeptics of the history-and-tradition standard received some validation from an unlikely source. At a talk at Catholic University’s law school in September 2023, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a former Scalia clerk who joined Alito’s opinion in Dobbs, used an old saying to warn that a judge’s hunt for historical sources could be like “looking over a crowd and picking out your friends.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Oral argument on immunity hints at another Trump trial — but not soon, Ruth Marcus, right, April 26, ruth marcus twitter Custom2024 (print ed.). If there was any chance of Donald Trump being prosecuted before the next presidential election for trying to interfere in the previous one, that prospect looks even more dim after nearly three hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The conservative justices’ professed concerns over the implications of their rulings for imaginary future presidents, in imaginary future proceedings, seemed more important to them than bringing Trump to justice.

First, there is certainly no prospect of a speedy decision. The issues as hashed out before the justices, and the evident division among them, all but guarantee there will be no ruling until the court finishes up its work in late June or early July.

The New Republic via TribeLaw and X, The Alito Four seem convinced that “the sanctity of the Court and the laws and norms of our democracy" will protect them, Laurence Tribe,  Anyone who has spent 10 minutes studying how democracies collapse knows this is idiotic, but it stems from the justices’ own hubristic belief that the Court is so powerful and respected that it is immune to everything.

They believe the respect for the institution will ensure their power endures.” That’s just dumb.

Meidas Touch Network, Trump panics over Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In Late Night Rant, Jordy Meiselas, April 26, 2024.Trump is getting increasingly nervous. Donald Trump is actively panicking this evening over Robert F. Kennedy Jr. possibly taking support away from him at the polls this November. In a new post on Truth Social, Donald Trump wrote:

mtn meidas touch networkRFK Jr. is a Democrat “Plant,” a Radical Left Liberal who’s been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the Worst President in the History of the United States, get Re-Elected,” Trump posted. “A vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him. Junior’ is totally Anti-Gun, an Extreme Environmentalist who makes the Green New Scammers look Conservative, a Big Time Taxer and Open Border Advocate and Anti-military/Vet.

ICE logoTrump went on to attack Kennedy's family along with Kennedy's new Vice Presidential pick Nicole Shanahan.

Trump concluded his rant about RFK Jr. by talking about RFK's anti-vaccine history (even though Trump's supporters have peddled many of the same conspiracies as it relates to the COVID vaccine). Overall, Trump is not having a good evening despite it being Melania's birthday. Trump is spending his days in the courtroom and his nights ranting on Truth Social.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Conservative Justices Signal Support for States Defying Emergency Abortion Exceptions, Troy Matthews, April 25, 2024. Several States are hedging on providing exceptions for abortions for medical necessity.

mtn meidas touch networkThe U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a federal challenge to Idaho's total abortion ban law on Wednesday, during which the conservative Justices on the court seemed skeptical that states with total abortion bans are violating federal emergency healthcare protections.

Shortly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in June 2022 which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Biden Administration issued direction that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), a law which governs doctors' actions in an emergency room, can effectively overrule state abortion bans and allow doctors to perform an abortion if the mother's life is in danger.

Under EMTALA, hospitals that accept Medicare must provide emergency care, including abortions, to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Idaho maintained before the court they held their own standards of care for medical emergencies that should not be subject to federal rules.

During arguments, conservatives on the court repeatedly pushed back on the Biden Administration's interpretation of EMTALA, expressing skepticism in a one-size-fits-all federal requirement for emergency medical treatment.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, seemed to side with Idaho stating, “How can you impose restrictions on what Idaho can criminalize, simply because hospitals in Idaho have chosen to participate in Medicare?"

Counsel for Idaho Joshua N. Turner maintained that Idaho does require doctors to intervene in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, but could not directly define what that meant. Idaho and other total abortion ban states seem to hold to the standard that a woman must be on the verge of death before a doctor can perform an abortion as an intervention, which forces to doctors to refuse interventions even when an abortion is clearly required based on their own medical judgement.

The liberal Justices on the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed horrified that Idaho was hedging on the emergency abortion exception, citing several real life examples of women who were denied abortion care by doctors who were unsure their case met the standard for an emergency abortion and were sent home, only to suffer severe side-effects including hemorrhaging and eventual hysterectomies as a result of delaying care.

Kagan also discussed the ramifications for women who seek abortions not just to save their own lives, but also to save their fertility, in cases when a miscarriage may damage reproductive organs. The Idaho standard does not necessarily permit abortions in such cases.

“Within these rare cases, there’s a significant number where the woman’s life is not in peril, but she’s going to lose her reproductive organs. She’s going to lose the ability to have children in the future unless an abortion takes place,” Kagan said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said she was "kind of shocked" to hear Idaho hedging on permitting abortion to save fertility. Turner maintained that doctors in Idaho were permitted to use "good faith judgements" in such cases, but Coney Barrett then presented the crux of the medical exception question: "What if a prosecutor thinks differently," she asked, highlighting the fact that abortion bans put the authority to determine who may receive an abortion in the hands of prosecutors and judges, not doctors.

Idaho's abortion ban imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for performing abortions without exceptions for rape or incest.

Given the history of this Supreme Court's interpretation on abortion rights, it does not seem farfetched that they may rule that states have the right to impose their own criminal standard for abortions, including prosecuting doctors for performing an abortion even if it is to save the life of the mother.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok, April 28, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkThere will be at least 5 or even 6 votes at the United States Supreme Court to give TRUMP IMMUNITY from at least some of the allegations and crimes in the Special Counsel’s DC Election interference case, and cause a delay that will prevent the case from being tried before November.

Michael Popok analyzes the oral argument, and, without blowing smoke or sunshine, gives you his best estimate of what the Court’s opinion is likely to look like when it’s issued in June.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Emergency Abortion Access, Justices Seem Sharply Divided, Abbie VanSickle, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The case, which could reverberate beyond Idaho to over a dozen other states with abortion bans, is the second time in less than a month that the justices have heard an abortion case.

The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on Wednesday over whether Idaho’s near-total abortion ban overrides a federal law that protects patients who need emergency care in a case that could determine access to abortions in emergency rooms across the country.

In a lively argument, questions by the justices suggested a divide along ideological lines, as well as a possible split by gender on the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, appeared skeptical that Idaho’s law, which bars doctors from providing abortions unless a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of ectopic or molar pregnancies, superseded the federal law.

The argument also raised a broader question about whether some of the conservative justices, particularly Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., may be prepared to embrace language of fetal personhood, that is, the notion that a fetus would have the same rights at the pregnant woman.

The clash between the Idaho and federal laws affects only the sliver of women who face dire medical complications during pregnancy. But a broad decision by the court could have implications for about 14 states that have enacted near-total bans on abortion since the court overturned a constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.

The dispute is the second time in less than a month that the Supreme Court is grappling with abortion. It is a potent reminder that even after Justice Alito vowed in 2022 that the issue of abortion would return to elected representatives in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it continues to make its way back to the court. In late March, the justices considered the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone.

The federal law at issue, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, enacted by Congress in 1986, mandates that hospitals receiving federal funds provide patients with stabilizing care.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

Politico, Judge sentences Jan. 6 ‘chaos agent’ to 6 years in jail, Kyle Cheney, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors described John Sullivan as a “one-man show” who found common cause with anyone seeking to “tear it all down.”

politico CustomJohn Sullivan traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to foment conflict with supporters of then-President Donald Trump. On Friday, he was sentenced to six years in federal prison for leading them into the Capitol, filming the shooting death of rioter Ashli Babbitt and then selling his footage to news organizations while claiming to be a journalist.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth called Sullivan a “chaos agent” unique among Jan. 6 defendants for exploiting the pro-Trump mob despite disclaiming the belief that the 2020 election was stolen.

Lamberth said, for Sullivan, “violence was an end unto itself.” And he chastised Sullivan for falsely claiming he was documenting the riot as a journalist, selling his footage to news outlets for more than $90,000.

The sentence closes one of the oddest Jan. 6 cases. Sullivan was arrested shortly after the riot, and prosecutors initially described him as a supporter of causes like “Black Lives Matter” and the anti-facism movement. His presence in the mob helped foment baseless claims of some Trump allies that the riot was sparked by anti-Trump agitators.

djt maga hatProsecutors said Friday that Sullivan traveled to Washington intending to confront “fascist” Trump supporters. But they said when he realized the mob was preparing to storm the Capitol, he decided to exploit it to carry out his own anti-government agenda. Armed with a megaphone, Sullivan rallied the crowd to push past police.

Sullivan made his way to the “vanguard” of the mob, Lamberth noted, and twice offered a four-inch blade he was carrying to other rioters. He ended up just feet behind Babbitt before she was shot trying to climb through a window into the Speaker’s Lobby off the House chamber. Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, was present in the courtroom Friday as Lamberth announced his sentence.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had sought a more-than-seven-year sentence, saying that although Sullivan claimed to espouse “noble” goals like racial equality, he attempted to fulfill them in “completely unlawful and egregious” ways. They said despite cloaking himself as a supporter of far-left organizations, Sullivan was a “one-man show” who found common cause with anyone seeking to “tear it all down.”

Sullivan tearfully apologized for his conduct before lamenting what he described as abysmal conditions in the D.C. jail, where he’s been confined for five months since he was convicted by a jury. His attorney emphasized that Sullivan has faced uniquely challenging conditions in jail because while he’s confined to a wing meant to house Jan. 6 defendants, he’s been kept in isolation because other convicted rioters view him as hostile to their beliefs.

Sullivan’s father, who also spoke during the sentencing, noted that Sullivan was the oldest of four adopted children, had become an Eagle Scout and once trained to become an Olympic speedskater, describing him as a thoughtful and selfless member of the community.

Lamberth has long criticized conditions at the D.C. jail and has even once held officials there in contempt for their handling of another Jan. 6 defendant’s case. He told Sullivan he continues to “deplore” the way inmates are treated there and agreed to recommend that Sullivan serve his sentence in a low-security facility near his Utah home.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Aggressive and Expensive Legal Team Defending Eric Adams, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, April 29, 2024. With New York’s mayor and his top aides facing several investigations, he is amassing a team of high-powered lawyers paid by his donors and taxpayers.

Not long after Eric Adams became the mayor of New York City, he quickly rewarded a cadre of loyalists with plum jobs in his administration. Now Mr. Adams is casting favor upon a new set of people looking out for his interests: defense lawyers.

A high-powered team from the law firm WilmerHale is representing the mayor in an investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York over potential ties between his campaign and the Turkish government. The firm has already been paid more than $730,000 by the mayor’s five-month-old legal defense fund.

Mr. Adams intends to bring aboard Randy Mastro, a lawyer known for his aggressive tactics and roster of contentious clients and causes, to represent him as the city’s corporation counsel. Mr. Mastro would earn roughly $250,000 a year and would replace Sylvia Hinds-Radix, a former judge who has a more reserved style.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuits test Tesla claim that drivers are solely responsible for crashes, Trisha Thadani, April 28, 2024. Evidence emerging in the Tesla Autopilot cases — including dash-cam video obtained by The Washington Post — offers sometimes-shocking details. As CEO Elon Musk stakes the future of Tesla on autonomous driving, lawyers from California to Florida are picking apart the company’s most common driver assistance technology in painstaking detail, arguing that Autopilot is not safe for widespread use by the public.

At least eight lawsuits headed to trial in the coming year — including two that haven’t been previously reported — involve fatal or otherwise serious crashes that occurred while the driver was allegedly relying on Autopilot. The complaints argue that Tesla exaggerated the capabilities of the feature, which controls steering, speed and other actions typically left to the driver. As a result, the lawsuits claim, the company created a false sense of complacency that led the drivers to tragedy.

Evidence emerging in the cases — including dash-cam video obtained by The Washington Post — offers sometimes-shocking details: In Phoenix, a woman allegedly relying on Autopilot plows into a disabled car and is then struck and killed by another vehicle after exiting her Tesla. In Tennessee, an intoxicated man allegedly using Autopilot drives down the wrong side of the road for several minutes before barreling into an oncoming car, killing the 20-year-old inside.

Tesla maintains that it is not liable for the crashes because the driver is ultimately in control of the vehicle. But that contention is coming under increasing pressure, including from federal regulators. Late Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a new review of Autopilot, signaling concern that a December recall failed to significantly improve misuse of the technology and that drivers are misled into thinking the “automation has greater capabilities than it does.”tennessee map

ny times logoNew York Times, Tennessee Parents Question Whether Arming Teachers Is the Answer, Jamie McGee and Rick Rojas, April 25, 2024. Supporters of new legislation to allow some teachers to carry firearms say it will make the state’s schools safer. Many parents and educators are not convinced.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Surprise Tactics and Legal Threats: Inside R.F.K. Jr.’s Ballot Access Fight, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 29, 2024. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s effort to get on the ballot in 50 states has already cost millions, federal campaign finance records show.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential campaign mounts a bruising state-by-state battle for ballot access, he has often credited enthusiastic volunteers and grass-roots backers with driving the effort.

In fact, the operation has become increasingly reliant on consultants and paid petitioners whose signature-gathering work has yielded mixed results and raised questions of impropriety, even among Mr. Kennedy’s fans. In order to get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in all 50 states, as is his goal, his campaign has deployed a multipart strategy: aggressive legal action, shrewd political alliances and surprise filing tactics meant to slow or prevent challenges.

In most states, Mr. Kennedy, 70, an environmental lawyer and heir to an American political dynasty, must produce thousands of signatures, under rules that are varied, intricate and confusing at times even to the local officials administering elections. The effort has already cost his campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a supporting super PAC at least $2.4 million more, federal campaign finance records show. It has involved a number of professionals who specialize in getting people on the ground with clipboards and petitions, and helping candidates navigate the complicated process. Their success is what will make or break Mr. Kennedy’s campaign.
Where Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is on the ballot

This month, Mr. Kennedy got on the ballot in Michigan, a key presidential battleground, by securing the nomination of a minor political party. He will soon officially be on the ballot in Hawaii, having overcome a challenge from the local Democratic Party. As of Sunday, the campaign says it has gathered enough signatures to submit petitions in six other states, including New Hampshire, Nevada and North Carolina, with more expected to be announced this week.

“Ballot access is existential for any campaign. It is also essential for a healthy and prosperous democracy,” said Stefanie Spear, a spokeswoman for the campaign. “The Kennedy-Shanahan ticket will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We have the field teams, volunteers, legal teams, paid circulators, supporters and strategists ready to get the job done.”

It is unclear whether Mr. Kennedy’s presence on the ballot poses a greater electoral threat to President Biden or former President Donald J. Trump. Polls suggest he could draw votes from both major-party candidates in the general election. But the Democratic Party is more openly concerned with Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy, and has dedicated national legal and public-relations teams to tempering his influence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Allies of Donald Trump are said to be devising plans to reduce the Federal Reserve’s independence if he is re-elected, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The Wall Street Journal reports that allies of Donald Trump are devising ways of watering down the central bank’s independence if he is re-elected president.

If true, that change would represent the biggest shake-up in U.S. monetary policy in decades. But it also raises questions about whether such a plan is possible — or whether Trump’s Wall Street supporters would back it.

Both big and small changes are on the table, according to The Journal, which cites unidentified sources. Among the most consequential would be asserting that Trump had the authority to oust Jay Powell as Fed chair before Powell’s term is up in 2025. While Trump gave Powell the job in 2017, he has since soured on his pick for raising rates, and has publicly said he wouldn’t give Powell a second term.

Smaller changes include allowing the White House to review Fed rules and using the Treasury Department to keep the central bank on a tighter leash.

The overall goal is to give Trump what he wants: more say on interest rates. Trump allies have discussed requiring candidates to lead the Fed to informally consult with him on such decisions and essentially act as the president’s advocate on the institution’s rate-setting committee.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: MAGA Republican Operatives Embedded in Trump "Union Worker" Pre-Trial Event, J.D. Wolf, April 25, 2024. Trump continues pattern of campaign controlled, MAGA operative embedded ops.

mtn meidas touch networkTrump's campaign has done it again. This time Trump's campaign, apparently in reaction to another major union endorsing Biden, organized a group of union members for a Trump photo op.

While some of the people were wearing union clothing and there were definitely Trump supporters in the crowd, there were also embedded operatives spotted by MeidasTouch. Trump's spokesperson Caroline Leavitt called Trump's pre-trial event, a "meeting with union workers on the job."

 

President Biden with Kennedy family members during a Philadelphia campaign Thursday, April 18, 2024 (Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman).

President Biden with Kennedy family members during a Philadelphia campaign Thursday, April 18, 2024 (Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman).

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy family members’ embrace carries deeper meaning for Biden, Tyler Pager, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). Biden has longstanding ties to the family of the only other Catholic president, sharing politics and tragedy.

Growing up in a proud Irish Catholic middle-class family, Joe Biden’s family idolized the Kennedys. They saw the Kennedys — successful, wealthy, attractive Irish Catholics — as the embodiment of the American Dream. Biden says Robert F. Kennedy Sr., whose bust sits in the Oval Office, inspired him to become a public defender and ultimately run for office.

“The Kennedys were, as a group, the people he patterned his life after,” said former senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), who was Biden’s longtime chief of staff and remains his close friend. “Not just his political life, but his life.”

So when the Kennedy family rallied behind Biden last week in Philadelphia with a full-throated endorsement of his reelection campaign, pointedly choosing him over one of their own — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent — it was not just politically helpful. It was a hugely personal victory for Biden, too.

washington post logoWashington Post, Group backing RFK Jr. spent more than $2 million on abandoned ballot effort, Michael Scherer,
April 21, 2024. American Values 2024 is the latest group to struggle using unlimited donations from the very wealthy to subsidize traditional presidential campaign expenses.

A super PAC backing independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent more than $2.4 million on a now-abandoned plan to gather signatures to help him achieve ballot access, without producing anything that will be used by the Kennedy campaign, according to new campaign finance disclosures.
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American Values 2024 announced in December that it would spend between $10 million and $15 million to collect signatures for Kennedy’s ballot access in 10 states. The group then expanded the list to 15 states in February, when the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission arguing that the plan violated campaign finance laws.

Weeks later, group co-founder Tony Lyons announced a sudden end to the program because, he said, the campaign had signaled publicly it was “pursuing ballot access in all states.” Lyons said Friday in a statement to The Washington Post that none of the signatures collected by the PAC, including completed petitions for Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina and Georgia, were given to the campaign.

“While our PAC could legally gather signatures, we saw no purpose in competing with the campaign. It has become clear that they didn’t and don’t need our help,” Lyons said. “As a result, our priorities have shifted, at least for now, toward countering the DNC’s desperate attempts to mislead the public with respect to Mr. Kennedy’s character and policies.”

Carlos Sierra, a Kennedy campaign organizer, told other Kennedy backers in a Zoom call this month, that the super PAC’s signatures in Arizona would not be used, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Post.

“We are going to be getting Arizona all over again, so those of you that are on this call from Arizona, we are going to have to go back and get those signatures, so don’t think it is over yet. It is not,” Sierra said.

The Natural Law Party announced Thursday that Kennedy would appear on its Michigan ballot line, which the Michigan secretary of state’s office confirmed would give him ballot access in that state, making further signatures there unnecessary. The Kennedy campaign has also scheduled events to continue signature-gathering in South Carolina and Georgia, according to its website.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Abrupt U-Turns Are Defining U.S. Environmental Regulations, Coral Davenport, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The polarization of politics means that rules are imposed, gutted and restored with each election. Experts say that’s bad for the economy.

The Biden administration’s move on Thursday to strictly limit pollution from coal-burning power plants is a major policy shift. But in many ways it’s one more hairpin turn in a zigzag approach to environmental regulation in the United States, a pattern that has grown more extreme as the political landscape has become more polarized.

Nearly a decade ago, President Barack Obama was the Democrat who tried to force power plants to stop burning coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. His Republican successor, Donald J. Trump, effectively reversed that plan. Now President Biden is trying once more to put an end to carbon emissions from coal plants. But Mr. Trump, who is running to replace Mr. Biden, has promised that he will again delete those plans if he wins in November.

The country’s participation in the Paris climate accord has followed the same swerving path: Under Mr. Obama, the United States joined the global commitment to fight climate change, only for Mr. Trump to pull the U.S. out of it, and for Mr. Biden to rejoin. If Mr. Trump wins the presidency, he is likely to exit the accord. Again.

Government policies have always shifted between Democratic and Republican administrations, but they have generally stayed in place and have been tightened or loosened along a spectrum, depending on the occupant of the White House.

But in the last decade, environmental rules in particular have been caught in a cycle of erase-and-replace whiplash.

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Major Climate Policies Trump Would Probably Reverse if Elected, Lisa Friedman, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). He has called for increased oil production and said that electric vehicles will result in an ‘assassination’ of jobs.

Former President Donald J. Trump has vowed to “cancel” President Biden’s policies for cutting pollution from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, “terminate” efforts to encourage electric vehicles, and “develop the liquid gold that is right under our feet” by promoting oil and gas.

Those changes and others that Mr. Trump has promised, if he were to win the presidency again, represent a 180-degree shift from Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.

When he was president, Mr. Trump reversed more than 100 environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration. Mr. Biden has in turn reversed much of Mr. Trump’s agenda.

But climate advocates argue a second Trump term would be far more damaging than his first, because the window to keep rising global temperatures to relatively safe levels is rapidly closing.

“It would become an all-out assault on any possible progress on climate change,” said Pete Maysmith, the senior vice president of campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.

Senior Republicans don’t necessarily disagree. Michael McKenna, who worked in the Trump White House and is supporting Mr. Trump’s bid for a second term, said the approach to climate change would likely be one of “indifference.”

“I doubt very seriously we’re going to spend any time working on it,” Mr. McKenna said. To the contrary, he said, the Biden administration’s climate regulations would be “in trouble.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Severely Limits Pollution From Coal Burning Power Plants, Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). New regulations could spell the end for electric plants that burn coal, the fossil fuel that powered the country for more than a century.

The Biden administration on Thursday placed the final cornerstone of its plan to tackle climate change: a regulation that would force the nation’s coal-fired power plants to virtually eliminate the planet-warming pollution that they release into the air or shut down.

The regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency requires coal plants in the United States to reduce 90 percent of their greenhouse pollution by 2039, one year earlier than the agency had initially proposed. The compressed timeline was welcomed by climate activists but condemned by coal executives who said the new standards would be impossible to meet.

The E.P.A. also imposed three additional regulations on coal-burning power plants, including stricter limits on emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin linked to developmental damage in children, from plants that burn lignite coal, the lowest grade of coal. The rules also more tightly restrict the seepage of toxic ash from coal plants into water supplies and limit the discharge of wastewater from coal plants.

Taken together, the regulations could deliver a death blow in the United States to coal, the fuel that powered the country for much of the last century but has caused global environmental damage. When burned, coal emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel source.

The new rules regarding power plants come weeks after the administration’s other major climate regulations to limit emissions from cars and large trucks in a way that is designed to speed the adoption of electric vehicles. Transportation and electric power are the two largest sources in the United States of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

President Biden wants to cut that pollution by about 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of this decade, and to eliminate emissions from the power sector by 2035.

The coal industry in the United States has been on a precipitous decline for over a decade, as environmental regulations and a boom in natural gas, wind and solar power made it more expensive to burn coal, and power generation shifted toward those cheaper, cleaner sources of electricity. In 2023, coal-fired power plants generated 16.2 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, down from a peak of 52 percent in 1990. There are about 200 coal-burning power plants still operating, with many concentrated in Pennsylvania, Texas and Indiana.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Biden administration also finalized a rule meant to speed up permits for power transmission lines, Brad Plumer, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Biden administration on Thursday finalized a rule meant to speed up federal permits for major transmission lines, part of a broader push to expand America’s electric grids.

Administration officials are increasingly worried that their plans to fight climate change could falter unless the nation can quickly add vast amounts of grid capacity to handle more wind and solar power and to better tolerate extreme weather. The pace of construction for high-voltage power lines has sharply slowed since 2013, and building new lines can take a decade or more because of permitting delays and local opposition.

The Energy Department is trying to use the limited tools at its disposal to pour roughly $20 billion into grid upgrades and to streamline approvals for new lines. But experts say a rapid, large-scale grid expansion may ultimately depend on Congress.

Under the rule announced on Thursday, the Energy Department would take over as the lead agency in charge of federal environmental reviews for certain interstate power lines and would aim to issue necessary permits within two years. Currently, the federal approval process can take four years or more and often involves multiple agencies each conducting their own separate reviews.

“We need to build new transmission projects more quickly, as everybody knows,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. The new reforms are “a huge improvement from the status quo, where developers routinely have to navigate several independent permitting processes throughout the federal government.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Mining Giant BHP Makes $39 Billion Bid for Rival Anglo American, Melissa Eddy, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). pril 25, 2024. The deal would create one of the largest copper miners at a time when demand is soaring for the metal used in many green technologies.

BHP Group, the world’s largest mining company, has proposed a takeover of its rival Anglo American, in a deal that has the potential to shake up the industry at a time when demand for copper is soaring.

BHP said on Thursday that it had approached Anglo with a bid valued at 31.1 billion pounds, or $39 billion, in what would be one of the most significant deals in the industry in years. If successful, the acquisition would create the world’s largest miner of copper at a time of growing global hunger for the metal, which is essential to the green-energy transition.

Anglo confirmed that it had received an “unsolicited, nonbinding and highly conditional combination proposal from BHP” and that its board was reviewing the offer with its advisers. BHP, which has headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, offered Anglo’s shareholders just over 25 pounds per share, more than 10 percent above Wednesday’s closing stock price.

Anglo, which is based in London, owns large copper operations in Chile and Peru, as well as 85 percent of De Beers Group, the world’s leading diamond company. It has been viewed as a potential takeover target for the world’s largest miners, especially following a 94 percent plunge in annual profit and a series of write-downs in February.

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More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, After Mulling Resignation, Spain’s Leader Says He’ll Stay On, Jason Horowitz and Rachel Chaundler, April 29, 2024. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had considered stepping down over corruption accusations against his wife that he said were a smear.

pedro sánchez 2023 wPrime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain, right, declared on Monday that he would not resign, nearly a week after publicly raising the possibility in response to corruption accusations against his wife that he and other officials denounced as a smear campaign.

The decision by Mr. Sánchez, who has repeatedly astonished his supporters and frustrated his conservative critics with his knack for political survival, is a momentous one for him, his country and all of Europe.

spain flag CustomMr. Sánchez inspired anxiety, bewilderment and right-wing hopes last week when he responded to the opening of a judicial investigation into his wife by canceling his public schedule and issuing an emotional public letter. He wrote that harassment against his family had become intolerable and that he was considering quitting.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know as First Trial in Alleged Coup Plot in Germany Begins, Christopher F. Schuetze, April 29, 2024. A year and a half after police and intelligence officers in Germany uncovered a plot to overthrow the country’s government and replace its chancellor, the first of three trials in the sprawling case began on Monday in Stuttgart.

german flagMost of the would-be insurrectionists were arrested in December 2022, when heavily armed German police officers stormed houses, apartments, offices and a remote royal hunting lodge and made dozens of arrests.

Those charged included a dentist, a clairvoyant, an amateur pilot and a man running a large QAnon telegram group. The German authorities contend that their figurehead was Heinrich XIII Prince of Reuss, an obscure and conspiracy-minded aristocrat who would have been made chancellor if the coup had succeeded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Humza Yousaf Resigns as Scotland’s First Minister, Stephen Castle, April 29, 2024. Mr. Yousaf, the leader of the Scottish National Party, announced that he was stepping down, days after the collapse of his coalition government.

Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, resigned on Monday in the latest setback for his Scottish National Party, which has been engulfed in a slow-burn crisis over a funding scandal that erupted after its popular leader Nicola Sturgeon stepped down last year.

Mr. Yousaf’s departure had looked increasingly inevitable after he gambled last week by ending a power sharing deal with the Scottish Green Party, angering its leaders and leaving him at the head of a minority government without obvious allies. His opponents then pressed for two motions of no confidence, which were expected to take place later this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Cuba, ‘Filthy’ Capitalists Become an Economic Lifeline, David C. Adams, April 29, 2024. The country’s Communist revolution made private businesses largely illegal. Today, they are proliferating, while the socialist economy craters.

Today Cuba is confronting its worst financial crisis in decades, driven by government inefficiency and mismanagement and a decades-long U.S. economic embargo that has led to a collapse in domestic production, rising inflation, constant power outages and shortages of fuel, meat and other necessities.

So the island’s communist leaders are turning back the clock and embracing private entrepreneurs, a class of people they once vilified as “filthy” capitalists.

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, Dam Collapses in Western Kenya, Killing at Least 40, April 29, 2024.  The kenya flagcountry has been pummeled by heavy rains that have caused widespread flooding, part of a broader deluge that has devastated segments of East Africa.

ny times logoNew York Times, Asylum Seekers Already in U.K. Say Rwanda Law Creates New Anxiety, Megan Specia and Emma Bubola, April 29, 2024 (print ed.). For the tens of thousands of people trying to claim refugee status in Britain, a new law brings the possibility of deportation to central Africa closer.

United Kingdom flagOn a cold spring day last month, Mohsen, a 36-year-old from Iran, woke before dawn and was hurried by smugglers onto a rubber boat on the coast of France.

The water was calm and the sky clear, but he knew the risks of the journey he was about to make, he said. Since 2018, at least 72 people have drowned in the Channel while attempting crossings, according to the International Organization for Migration.

He fled Iran, he said, because police officers came to his home last year threatening to arrest him after he took part in anti-government protests.

Mohsen, who asked to be identified only by his first name over concerns that having his full name published could affect his asylum claim, said he was willing to risk drowning for the chance of a new life in Britain. And he boarded the boat even though he knew about the British government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda, which was first announced in 2022.

“What can I do? What other option did I have?” he said. “Honestly, I am worried, especially after Monday. Every day, the rules seem to change.”

On Monday, Britain’s Conservative government passed a contentious law intended to clear the way for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin in the summer despite an earlier ruling by Britain’s Supreme Court that deemed the country unsafe for refugees. For months, the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill, with a former Conservative chancellor saying that ignoring the country’s highest court set “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

rwanda flag mapUnder the plan, some asylum seekers will have their claims heard in Rwanda, and, even if approved, they would be resettled there and not allowed to live in Britain. Anyone who arrived in Britain after Jan. 1, 2022, and traveled by dangerous means, like small boats or covertly in trucks, or came via a “safe third country,” could be sent to Rwanda, according to government guidance. The law and other recent government policies mean there are now very few ways to claim asylum in Britain, with some exceptions including for Ukrainians and people from Hong Kong.

Charities and rights groups that support asylum seekers say many have expressed concern about Rwanda’s troubled human rights record and that fears of being sent away had added to the anxiety of living in limbo for months or even years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran expands public crackdown on women and girls, sparking public anger, Susannah George, Nilo Tabrizy and Jonathan Baran, April 25, 2024. With global attention focused on Iran’s escalating conflict with Israel, Tehran has intensified its domestic crackdown on women, giving police expanded powers to enforce conservative dress codes.

Iran FlagThe new wave of repression appears to be one of the most significant efforts to roll back perceived social gains in the aftermath of the 2022 protest movement — a months-long uprising that challenged gender segregation and clerical rule. Some Iranians suspect the government is using fears of regional war as cover to tighten its grip at home; others say it’s just the latest salvo in a long-running campaign aimed at extinguishing all forms of dissent.

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian War Goals

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine War: Ukraine Retreats From Villages on Eastern Front as It Awaits U.S. Aid, Constant Méheut, April 29, 2024. Ukraine’s top commander said his troops were facing a dire situation as Russia tried to push its advantage before an American military package arrives.

ukraine flagRussian troops have captured or entered around a half-dozen villages on Ukraine’s eastern front over the past week, highlighting the deteriorating situation in the region for outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainian forces as they wait for long-needed American military aid.

“The situation at the front has worsened,” Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top commander, said in a statement on Sunday in which he announced that his troops had retreated from two villages west of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold in the east that Russia seized earlier this year, and another village further south.

Russian FlagMilitary experts say Moscow’s recent advances reflect its desire to exploit a window of opportunity to press ahead with attacks before the first batch of a new American military aid package arrives in Ukraine to help relieve its troops.

Congress recently approved $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine, and President Biden signed it last week, vowing to expedite the shipment of arms.

“In an attempt to seize the strategic initiative and break through the front line, the enemy has focused its main efforts on several areas, creating a significant advantage in forces and means,” General Syrsky said on Sunday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Is Denying Consular Services to Men Who Leave Country, Maria Varenikova, April 26, 2024. New guidance carries a clear message to men abroad who may be avoiding the draft: You don’t get the benefit of state services if you don’t join the fight.

ukraine flagUkrainian officials have taken several steps in recent weeks to swell the ranks of an army depleted by more than two years of grueling combat. The government passed a new mobilization bill aimed at increasing troop numbers and has stepped up border patrols to catch draft dodgers.

Now, officials are targeting men who have already left the country. This week the government announced that Ukrainian embassies had suspended issuing new passports and providing other consular services for military-age men living abroad.

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 were prohibited from leaving the country after the start of Russia’s invasion in 2022, but some were abroad before the rule took effect and others have left illegally since then.

By suspending consular services, the government said, it was responding to demands for fairness in society.

The new rules will remain in place until a new mobilization law takes effect on May 18. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that it was still working out the details about what services would be provided after the broader mobilization law went into effect, but its message was clear: If you are healthy and can fight, come home and join the military.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Western Ukraine, a Community Wrestles With Patriotism or Survival, Natalia Yermak, Photographs by Brendan Hoffman, April 26, 2024. Communities that were steadfast in their commitment to the war effort have been shaken by the unending violence on the front line.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘A Good Day for World Peace’: Biden Signs Aid Bill for Ukraine and Israel, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The $95.3 billion measure comes after months of gridlock in Congress that put the centerpiece of President Biden’s foreign policy in jeopardy.

President Biden signed a $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia’s military assault after months of congressional gridlock put the centerpiece of the White House’s foreign policy in jeopardy.

“It’s a good day for world peace,” Mr. Biden said from the State Dining Room of the White House. “It’s going to make America safer, it’s going to make the world safer, and it continues America’s leadership in the world and everyone knows it.”

ukraine flagThe Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve the package on Tuesday night, a sign of bipartisan support after increasingly divisive politics raised questions on Capitol Hill and among U.S. allies over whether the United States would continue to back Kyiv. The 79-to-18 vote provided Mr. Biden another legislative accomplishment to point to, even in the face of an obstructionist House.

Within minutes of the vote, Mr. Biden said he would sign the bill into law “so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week.”

Israel FlagBut even as he hailed the package on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said the process should have “been easier, and should have gotten there sooner.”

“It was a difficult path,” he added, saying that those on the ground in Ukraine had cheered the news. “But in the end we did what America always does. We rose to the moment.”

The measure comes as Mr. Biden faces backlash in the United States over his support for Israel in the war in Gaza. The Israeli government’s campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people and created a hunger crisis there.

“My commitment to Israel,” Mr. Biden said, “is ironclad.”

palestinian flagMr. Biden’s critics on the left are angry about his willingness to provide more weapons to Israel, though the legislation also includes $1 billion for humanitarian aid that the president said will be rushed to Gaza.

“Israel must make sure this aid reaches all of the Palestinians in Gaza, without delay,” Mr. Biden said.

nato logo flags name

ny times logoNew York Times, NATO Puts on a Show of Force in the Shadow of Russia’s War, Helene Cooper, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The alliance’s largest exercises offer a preview of what the opening of a Great Power conflict could look like. How it ends is a different story.

About 90,000 NATO troops have been training in Europe this spring for the Great Power war that most hope will never come: a clash between Russia and the West with potentially catastrophic consequences.

In Estonia, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Liberty, N.C., jumped out of planes alongside soldiers from Colchester Garrison in Essex, Britain, for “forcible entry” operations. In Lithuania, German soldiers arrived as a brigade stationed outside Germany on a permanent basis for the first time since World War II.

And on the A4 autobahn in eastern Germany, a U.S. Army captain and his Macedonian counterpart rushed toward the Suwalki Gap — the place many war planners predict will be the flashpoint for a NATO war with Russia — hoping the overheated radiator on their Stryker armored combat vehicle wouldn’t kill the engine.

All are part of what is supposed to be a tremendous show of force by NATO, its largest since the start of the Cold War, that is meant to send a sharp message to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that his ambitions must not venture beyond Ukraine.

But it is also a preview of what the opening beats of a modern Great Power conflict could look like. If NATO and Russia went to war, American and allied troops would initially rush to the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — NATO’s “Eastern Flank”— to try to block penetration by a Russian force.

How that war would end, and how many people might die, is a different story. Tens of millions of people were killed in World War II. This time, the stakes have never been higher. Mr. Putin has brought up the potential for nuclear war several times since Russia invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Ukraine-born congresswoman voted no on aid. Her hometown feels betrayed, Siobhán O'Grady, Anastacia Galouchka and Marianna Sotomayor, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Chernihiv: In this small city north of Kyiv where Rep. Victoria victoria spartz oSpartz (R-Ind.) grew up, locals once lauded her as one of their own — proud of the studious girl with blonde pigtails who moved to America and became the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress.

But after Spartz, right, voted against a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine last week, that pride for some turned to anger and a sense of betrayal — feelings made more raw because her “no” vote came days after Chernihiv was bombed during morning rush hour, killing 18 people.

ukraine flag“She is not Ukrainian anymore, and I see this,” said Natalia Khmelnytska, 50, a teacher at School Number 15, where Spartz studied, and who lives in the apartment block where the congresswoman grew up. “We are disappointed. We are frustrated.”

“At first we were very proud of her and we thought she wanted to support us,” Khmelnytska added. “But now we see that politics and careers are higher than our interests.”

djt maga hatValentyna Rudenok, 65, a history teacher who was a librarian when Spartz studied at the school and remembers sneaking the teenager extra books, said she was proud to learn a former student was elected to Congress. But Rudenok said she is upset by Spartz’s vote.

“When we read about it, we just didn’t understand — it was like she became a different person,” she said. “It was shocking because this woman got so far in her life and is in a position where she could actually influence and help our one city or our one school in which she was educated.”

In the past two years, eight graduates of School 15 have been killed fighting on the front lines. Russian strikes have broken 88 of the building’s windows. Administrators set up a museum on the first floor to display evidence of the war collected by students: shell fragments, a piece of a Russian airplane, a dead Russian soldier’s uniform.

On Capitol Hill, even among Republicans, Spartz is known to be erratic.

First elected in 2020 as a supporter of President Donald Trump, she announced last year that she would not run again, only to reverse her decision a year later, citing her upbringing “under tyranny” as a motivation. She now faces a competitive primary; one challenger has aired television ads accusing her of putting “Ukraine first” over securing the U.S. border.

Spartz’s “no” vote was the latest twist in her transformation from a pro-Ukraine advocate who toured war wreckage in her hometown to a critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in line with the GOP’s most right-wing camp.

In an email, she defended her vote, saying she is proud of her heritage but that it is “actually offensive and un-American to think that as an American my loyalty would not be to the people who elected me to represent them and to my family and children back home in Indiana, but to some foreign government in the country I left 24 years ago.”

Her history, however, is inseparable from Ukraine’s and she has used it repeatedly to her advantage.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle for a Hilltop Fortress in Eastern Ukraine, Explained, Marc Santora, April 25, 2024. Chasiv Yar has been under relentless attack by Russian forces. Controlling the town would put them in striking distance of crucial Ukrainian operational centers.

Russian forces have razed dozens of towns and cities in Ukraine over the past 26 months — killing thousands of civilians, forcing millions from their homes and leaving a trail of destruction that is impossible to calculate.

Sievierodonetsk. Bakhmut. Avdiivka. Cities and towns little known to the world have become the scorched-earth battlegrounds where two armies clashed for months to bloody effect before the Russians finally prevailed.

Now Russian forces have set their sight on Chasiv Yar, a hilltop fortress town in eastern Ukraine. The campaign is part of an intense effort by Russia to achieve what could be its most operationally significant advance since the first summer of the war in 2022.

Chasiv Yar covers only about five square miles, but if the Russians can seize it they will control commanding heights that will allow them to directly target the main agglomeration of cities still under Kyiv’s control in the Donetsk region. That includes the headquarters of the Ukrainian eastern command in Kramatorsk.

It would also put Russian troops within around 10 miles of Kostiantynivka, the main supply juncture for Ukrainian forces across much of the eastern front.

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Antony Blinken and Xi Jinping Make Small Progress Amid a Larger Gap, Ana Swanson and Vivian Wang, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Meeting in Beijing, the U.S. secretary of state and the Chinese leader struck conciliatory notes. But there was no hiding their governments’ core differences.

The areas where the United States and China can work together seem to be shrinking fast, and the risks of confrontation are growing. But it was clear on Friday that both countries are trying to salvage what they can.

Preserving some semblance of cooperation — and the difficulty of doing so — was at the heart of a meeting between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Friday. It was the latest effort by the rivals to keep communications open even as disputes escalate over trade, national security and geopolitical frictions.

Officials in both countries said they had made progress on a few smaller, pragmatic fronts, including setting up the first U.S.-China talks on artificial intelligence in the coming weeks. They also said they would continue improving communications between their militaries and increase cultural exchanges.

But on fundamental strategic issues, each side held little hope of moving the other, and they appeared wary of the possibility of sliding into further conflict.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Pacific Arsenal to Counter China, John Ismay, Edward Wong and Pablo Robles, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). With missiles, submarines and alliances, President Biden’s administration has built a presence in the region to rein in Beijing’s expansionist goals.

Since the start of his administration, President Biden has undertaken a strategy to expand American military access to bases in allied nations across the Asia-Pacific region and to deploy a range of new weapons systems there. He has also said the U.S. military would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden signed a $95-billion supplemental military aid and spending bill that Congress had just passed and that includes $8.1 billion to counter China in the region. And Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Shanghai and Beijing this week for meetings in which he planned to raise China’s aggressive actions around Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Earlier in April, the leaders of the Philippines and Japan met with Mr. Biden at the White House for the first such summit among the three countries. They announced enhanced defense cooperation, including naval training and exercises, planned jointly and with other partners. Last year, the Biden administration forged a new three-way defense pact with Japan and South Korea.
“In 2023, we drove the most transformative year for U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in a statement following an interview.

The main change, he said, is having American forces distributed in smaller, more mobile units across a wide arc of the region rather than being concentrated at large bases in northeast Asia. That is largely intended to counter China’s efforts to build up forces that can target aircraft carriers or U.S. military outposts on Okinawa or Guam.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blinken Tours China to Promote Some Ties, While the U.S. Severs Others, Ana Swanson, April 25, 2024.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip comes as tensions over economic ties are running high, threatening to disrupt a fragile cooperation.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cheered on the sidelines at a basketball game in Shanghai on Wednesday night, and spent Thursday chatting with students at New York University’s Shanghai campus and meeting American business owners. It all went to emphasize the kind of economic, educational and cultural ties that the United States is pointedly holding up as beneficial for both countries.

But hanging over those pleasantries during his visit to China this week are several steps the U.S. is taking to sever economic ties in areas where the Biden administration says they threaten American interests. And those will be the focus of greater attention from Chinese officials, as well.

Even as the Biden administration tries to stabilize the relationship with China, it is advancing several economic measures that would curb China’s access to the U.S. economy and technology. It is poised to raise tariffs on Chinese steel, solar panels and other crucial products to try to protect American factories from cheap imports. It is weighing further restrictions on China’s access to advanced semiconductors to try to keep Beijing from developing sophisticated artificial intelligence that could be used on the battlefield.

This week, Congress also passed legislation that would force ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, to sell its stake in the app within nine to 12 months or leave the United States altogether. The president signed it on Wednesday, though the measure is likely to be challenged in court.

Mr. Blinken’s visit, which was expected to take him to Beijing on Friday for high-level government meetings, had a much more cordial tone than the trip he made to China last year. That trip was the first after a Chinese spy balloon traveled across the United States, tipping the American public into an uproar.

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More On Social Media Political Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, The House is moving toward a vote on a measure that would ban TikTok in the United States unless ByteDance sells it, David McCabe and Sapna Maheshwari, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The House on Wednesday tiktok logo Custommade another push to force through legislation that would require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States, accelerating an effort to disrupt the popular social media app.

Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that he intends to package the measure, a modified version of a stand-alone bill that the House passed last month, with foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

U.S. House logoWhile the new legislation would still require TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app to owners that resolved national security concerns, it includes an option to extend the deadline for a sale to nine months from the original six months, according to text of the legislation released by House leadership. The president could extend the deadline by another 90 days if progress toward a sale was being made.

House lawmakers are expected to vote Saturday on a package of legislation that includes the TikTok ban and other bills popular with Republicans, a maneuver intended to induce lawmakers to vote for the foreign aid. If the package passes, the measures will be sent as a single bill to the Senate, which could vote soon after. President Biden has said he’ll sign TikTok legislation into law if it reaches his desk.

China FlagThe move “to package TikTok is definitely unusual, but it could succeed,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst for the financial services firm TD Cowen. He added that “it’s a bit of brinkmanship” to try to force an up-or-down vote without further negotiation with the Senate.

ny times logoNew York Times, How an Obscure Chinese Real Estate Start-Up Paved the Way to TikTok, Mara Hvistendahl and Lauren Hirsch, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  Court records tell a story about the birth of ByteDance, its bumpy road to success and the role of the Republican megadonor Jeff Yass’s firm.

In 2009, long before Jeff Yass became a Republican megadonor, his firm, Susquehanna International Group, invested in a Chinese real estate start-up that boasted a sophisticated search algorithm.

tiktok logo CustomThe company, 99Fang, promised to help buyers find their perfect homes. Behind the scenes, employees of a Chinese subsidiary of Mr. Yass’s firm were so deeply involved, records show, that they conceived the idea for the company and handpicked its chief executive. They said in one email that he was not the company’s “real founder.”

As a real estate venture, 99Fang ultimately fizzled. But it was significant, according to a lawsuit by former Susquehanna contractors, because of what it spawned. They say that 99Fang’s chief executive — and the search technology — resurfaced at another Susquehanna venture: ByteDance.

China FlagByteDance, the owner of TikTok, is now one of the world’s most highly valued start-ups, worth $225 billion, according to CB Insights, a firm that tracks venture capital. ByteDance is also at the center of a tempest on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers see the company as a threat to American security. They are considering a bill that could break up the company. The man picked by Susquehanna to run the housing site, Zhang Yiming, became ByteDance’s founder.

Court documents reveal a complex origin story for ByteDance and TikTok. The records include emails, chat messages and memos from inside Susquehanna. They describe a middling business experiment, founder-investor tension and, ultimately, a powerful search engine that just needed a purpose.

The records also show that Mr. Yass’s firm was more deeply involved in TikTok’s genesis than previously known. It has been widely reported in The New York Times and elsewhere that Susquehanna owns roughly 15 percent of ByteDance, but the documents make clear that the firm was no passive investor. It nurtured Mr. Zhang’s career and signed off on the idea for the company.

Susquehanna has tens of billions of dollars at stake as lawmakers debate whether TikTok gives its Chinese owner the power to sow discord and spread disinformation among Americans. As Susquehanna’s founder, Mr. Yass potentially has billions riding on the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Yass, a former professional poker player, is also the single largest donor this election cycle, with more than $46 million in contributions through the end of last year, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics.

Susquehanna has turned over Mr. Yass’s emails as part of the case, according to court documents. But those emails are not included in the trove that was made public, leaving Mr. Yass’s personal involvement in ByteDance’s formation unknown.

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google fired 28 employees involved in the protest of an Israeli cloud contract, Nico Grant, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The dismissals escalated longstanding tensions between company leaders and activist employees opposed to supplying technology to Israel’s government.

google logo customGoogle on Wednesday fired 28 workers after dozens of employees participated in sit-ins at the company’s New York and Sunnyvale, Calif., offices to protest the company’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

A day earlier, nine employees were arrested on charges of trespassing at the two offices.

Israel Flag“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

Years before the dismissals, tensions had been simmering between the company’s management and some activist employees over Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Google and Amazon deal to supply the Israeli government with cloud services, such as artificial intelligence.

That discord had deepened since the war in Gaza began in October. Google recently fired an employee who disrupted an Israeli technology conference in New York. And the company is even planning to make changes to a corporate forum because employees were bickering about the conflict.

Google said it would continue to investigate the Tuesday protests. In Sunnyvale, employees refused to leave the office of Thomas Kurian, the chief executive of Google Cloud.

Google employees affiliated with the group that organized the sit-ins, called No Tech For Apartheid, said in a statement that the firings were “a flagrant act of retaliation.”

“Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor,” the employees said. They added that some of the employees Google fired had not participated in the sit-ins.

The Nimbus contract, announced in 2021, was to supply various Israeli government ministries with cloud software. Since the contract’s inception, some Google employees have expressed concern that the company was aiding Israel’s military.

A Google spokeswoman said that Nimbus “is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

In 2018, Google workers successfully pushed the company to end a deal with the U.S. Defense Department. Called Project Maven, it would have helped the military analyze drone videos.

Employees who have taken part in Nimbus activism said in their statement that they would continue protesting “until the company drops Project Nimbus.”

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

ny times logoNew York Times, How A.I. Tools Could Change India’s Elections, Suhasini Raj, April 18, 2024. Avatars are addressing voters by name, in whichever language they speak. Experts see potential for misuse in a country already rife with disinformation.

For a glimpse of where artificial intelligence is headed in election campaigns, look to India, the world’s largest democracy, as it starts heading to the polls on Friday.

An A.I.-generated version of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has been shared on WhatsApp shows the possibilities for hyperpersonalized outreach in a country with nearly a billion voters. In the video — a demo clip whose source is unclear — Mr. Modi’s avatar addresses a series of voters directly, by name.

ny times logoNew York Times, Legal Fight Over Trump Media’s Ownership Adds to Its Woes, Matthew Goldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  Two ex-contestants on “The Apprentice” sold Donald Trump on the idea of a social media platform. Now, the company and the pair are wrangling over their stake.

Twenty years ago, Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky met Donald J. Trump as contestants on his reality TV show, “The Apprentice” — a connection that led them to help launch the former president’s social media platform, Truth Social, with his blessing.

Now, they might as well be starring in an episode of “Family Feud.”

For weeks, Mr. Moss and Mr. Litinsky have been fighting with Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social, over their roughly 8 percent stake in the company. In February, they sued the company, claiming that Trump Media — which made its trading debut last month at an $8 billion valuation — was trying to deprive them of the full value of their shares. Now they also claim the company is trying to prevent them from selling those shares.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Apps Falter, David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s social media platform has outdistanced similar conservative sites such as Parler and Gettr, even as it lags far behind X and others.

After former President Donald J. Trump was kicked off Twitter in 2021, conservative entrepreneurs rushed to promote social media alternatives tailored to him and his supporters.

There were Parler and Gab, Twitter-like sites popular among the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Then came Gettr, a social media app created by one of Mr. Trump’s former advisers.

That crowded field has now narrowed, giving an edge to Truth Social, the platform that Mr. Trump’s company owns and where he is the main attraction.

In March, Truth Social recorded 1.5 million unique visitors in the United States as its parent company started trading on the public markets, up 130 percent from the previous month, according to Similarweb, a data firm that tracks web traffic. While the app’s visitor count was minuscule compared with mainstream social sites, it was 13 times the size of the combined total recorded by Parler and Gettr.

 

More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

 

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltimore Says Owner of Ship That Hit Key Bridge Was Negligent, Mike Ives, April 23, 2024. The owner and manager of the cargo ship that downed the Francis Scott Key Bridge asked a judge to exonerate them from liability. The city argued otherwise.

The City of Baltimore has said that the owner and manager of the cargo ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month are directly responsible for the accident and should not be allowed to avoid legal liability, according to court documents filed on Monday.

The 985-foot-long ship hit the bridge in the early hours of March 26 after leaving the Port of Baltimore and losing power to its engine and navigation equipment. The bridge collapsed moments later, killing six construction workers, forcing the port to close and disrupting the shipping industry up and down the East Coast.

A federal investigation into the accident could take years. In the meantime, the ship’s owner and operator, both based in Singapore, have asked a federal judge in Maryland to exonerate them from liability for any related losses or damages.

In early April, lawyers for the ship’s owner, Grace Ocean, and its manager, Synergy Marine, said in a court filing that the accident had not resulted from “any fault, neglect or want of care” on the companies’ part.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trains, Trucks and Tractors: The Race to Reroute Goods From Baltimore, Peter Eavis, April 17, 2024. Since the collapse of the Key Bridge, other ports have absorbed the cargo previously handled in Baltimore. But parts of the supply chain are struggling.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal criminal investigation opened into Key Bridge crash, Katie Mettler, Devlin Barrett, Danny Nguyen and Peter Hermann, April 16, 2024 (print ed.).  The FBI confirmed that its agents were on the container ship Dali this morning as it investigates the cause of a deadly incident in the Port of Baltimore last month.

FBI logoThe FBI has opened a criminal investigation focusing on the massive container ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month — a probe that will look at least in part at whether the crew left the port knowing the vessel had serious systems problems, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Authorities are reviewing the events leading up to the moment when the Dali, a 985-foot Singapore-flagged ship, lost power while leaving the Port of Baltimore and slammed into one of the bridge’s support pillars, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe.

On Monday morning, federal agents appeared to board the ship to conduct a search. Less than an hour after the sun rose at 6:30 a.m., a succession of three boats pulled to the port side of the Dali. About 6:50 a.m. Monday, people wearing yellow or orange life jackets entered the Dali through a lower door and climbed a ladder to the ship’s bow. About a half-hour later, nearly a dozen more people wearing dark clothing pulled up in a smaller boat and climbed aboard.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens of Major Bridges Lack Shields to Block Wayward Ships, Mike Baker, Anjali Singhvi, Helmuth Rosales, David W. Chen and Elena Shao, Featured April 7, 2024 (interactive). The collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore has prompted a reassessment of critical bridges in the U.S. that may be similarly vulnerable to a ship strike.

Bridges across the country carry similar deficiencies. At 309 major bridges on navigable waterways in the United States, inspections in recent years have found protection systems around bridge foundations that were deteriorating, potentially outdated or nonexistent, leaving the structures perilously exposed to ship strikes.

The MSC Flavia, a container ship larger than the one that hit the Key Bridge in Baltimore, passes under the Lewis and Clark Bridge between two piers with little protection. “If a ship hits one of those piers, it’s gone,” said Jerry Reagor, a semiretired contractor who lives near the bridge and has spent years pressing transportation officials to install new protections. The state views the risk of calamity as low and the cost of preventing it to be high.

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U.S. Immigration News

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ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Dismisses Impeachment Charges Against Mayorkas Without a Trial, Luke Broadwater, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats swept aside charges accusing Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, of refusing to enforce immigration laws and breaching public trust.

alejandro mayorkasThe Senate on Wednesday dismissed the impeachment case against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, right, the homeland security secretary, voting along party lines before his trial got underway to sweep aside two charges accusing him of failing to enforce immigration laws and breaching the public trust.

By a vote of 51 to 48, with one senator voting “present,” the Senate ruled that the first charge was unconstitutional because it failed to meet the constitutional bar of a high crime or misdemeanor. Republicans united in opposition except for Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the lone “present” vote, while Democrats were unanimous in favor.

Ms. Murkowski joined her party in voting against dismissal of the second count on the same grounds; it fell along party lines on a 51-to-49 vote.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, moved to dismiss each charge, arguing that a cabinet member cannot be impeached and removed merely for carrying out the policies of the administration he serves.

“To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” Mr. Schumer said.

It took only about three hours for the Senate to dispense with the matter.

Republicans, for their part, warned that the dangerous precedent was the one that Democrats set by moving to skip an impeachment trial altogether, which they argued was a shirking of the Senate’s constitutional duty. They tried several times to delay the dismissal, failing on a series of party-line votes.

“Tabling articles of impeachment would be unprecedented in the history of the Senate — it’s as simple as that,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

Republican senators were outraged at Mr. Schumer’s maneuvering. Some accused him of degrading the institution of the Senate and the Constitution itself. Others beat their desks as they called for a delay of the trial for two weeks, until next month or even until after the November election. They accused Mr. Mayorkas of lying to Congress and impeding Republican investigations.

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Claims Against Biden Family

 

hunter biden abbe Lowell 1 10 2024Businessman Hunter Biden, left, President Biden's son and a defendant in two federal indictments, confers with his attorney Abbe Lowell at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this winter at which Biden made a surprise offer to testify publicly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. declines to give Biden-Hur audio recordings to House panel, Devlin Barrett, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Officials said lawmakers already have transcripts of the classified documents interviews, suggested lawmakers are seeking the audio to score political points.

Carlos Uriarte, a senior Justice Department official, sent the letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Their demand for the recordings, after already having the transcripts, “indicates that the Committees’ interest may not be in receiving information in service of legitimate oversight or investigatory functions, but to serve political purposes that should have no role in the treatment of law enforcement files,” Uriarte wrote in the letter sent on Monday.

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U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by Defendant's psychiatrist).

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by defendant's psychiatrist).

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

harvey weinstein 10 4 2022 pool etienne laurent

ny times logoNew York Times, How a New Trial for Harvey Weinstein Could Again Test the Legal System, Jan Ransom and Hurubie Meko, April 28, 2024. A new jury would hear from one or both of the women whom he was convicted of assaulting, in what analysts said would be a much narrower and weaker case.

As one of Harvey Weinstein’s key accusers took the witness stand during his trial in New York, she broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. After a brief break, she still could not compose herself. The trial was adjourned for the day. Hyperventilating, the woman was ushered out and her piercing screams bellowed out from a back room.

The episode was one of many tense moments in the highly publicized, weekslong trial of the former Hollywood titan (shown above) in 2020. Now, they may happen all over again.

On Thursday, New York’s highest court ruled that the trial judge who presided over the sex crimes case in Manhattan erred when he let several women testify that Mr. Weinstein had assaulted them, even though their accusations were not part of the charges brought against the producer. The appeals court ordered a new trial.

But the original trial in 2020 against Mr. Weinstein was about much more than one man’s guilt. It had morphed into something more, as his accusers sparked the global #MeToo movement: Prosecutors were trying to prove not only that Mr. Weinstein was a sexual predator, but also that the justice system was both willing and able to hold powerful men accountable for their treatment of women.

The new ruling may do little to change the public’s perception of Mr. Weinstein, who is still notorious and behind bars and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sex crimes in California.

For some, however, it raised new doubts about the legal system’s ability to hold influential people like him responsible.

Mr. Weinstein had been serving his sentence in an upstate New York prison when his conviction was overturned. He was transferred on Friday to the Rikers Island jail complex to await a new trial. On Friday night, Mr. Weinstein, whose health has been poor, was transferred to the Bellevue Hospital Center’s prison ward for testing, his lawyer and jail officials said.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, said the office would do “everything in our power” to retry Mr. Weinstein. But for a case that many legal experts said was shaky from the start, it is unclear what a new trial would look like.

The initial criminal indictment charged Mr. Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women. Still, three other women were permitted to testify as Molineux witnesses, who are called on to show a defendant’s pattern of behavior. The case turned solely on whether a jury would believe the women’s testimony. Prosecutors did not have any physical evidence to support the women’s accounts. Mr. Weinstein, prosecutors said, was a predator who used his power in the film industry to prey on women.

Yet the district attorney’s office had to help jurors understand the complex relationships that sometimes exist between victim and abuser: The two main accusers had maintained friendships with Mr. Weinstein after the alleged assaults, and one of them even had some consensual sexual encounters with him. Mr. Weinstein has said that all of the encounters were consensual.

Unless new accusers — who may be called as witnesses at the second trial — come forward, prosecutors would have to rely on the testimony of one or both of the women Mr. Weinstein was initially convicted of assaulting.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. court overturns Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction, orders new trial, Samantha Chery, April 25, 2024. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction was overturned Thursday by the New York Court of Appeals, a shocking reversal of a landmark case that helped launch the #MeToo movement.

The court ordered a retrial, ruling that the judge in Weinstein’s original trial improperly allowed testimony about allegations that weren’t part of the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, How an inclusive gym brand became a battlefield over LGBTQ rights, Taylor Lorenz and Gus Garcia-Roberts, April 28, 2024. More than 50 Planet Fitness locations have been evacuated because of bomb threats in recent weeks after online criticism from an anti-trans activist.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the opaque world of IVF, where errors are rarely made public, Lenny Bernstein and Yeganeh Torbati, April 28, 2024. Errors and accidents often go unreported in the burgeoning fertility industry, which is largely self-policed and not mandated to notify even patients of mistakes.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Lags Behind Other Countries in Hepatitis-C Treatment, Ted Alcorn, April 28, 2024.  Despite an arsenal of drugs, many Americans are still unaware of their infections until it’s too late. A Biden administration initiative is languishing.

In the 10 years since the drugmaker Gilead debuted a revolutionary treatment for hepatitis C, a wave of new therapies have been used to cure millions of people around the world of the blood-borne virus.

Today, 15 countries, including Egypt, Canada and Australia, are on track to eliminate hepatitis C during this decade, according to the Center for Disease Analysis Foundation, a nonprofit. Each has pursued a dogged national screening and treatment campaign.

But the arsenal of drugs, which have generated tens of billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies, has not brought the United States any closer to eradicating the disease.

Spread through the blood including IV drug use, hepatitis C causes liver inflammation, though people may not display symptoms for years. Only a fraction of Americans with the virus are aware of the infection, even as many develop the fatal disease.

A course of medications lasting eight to 12 weeks is straightforward. But the most at-risk, including those who are incarcerated, uninsured or homeless, have difficulty navigating the American health system to get treatment.

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U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Consumers

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fed’s Favorite Inflation Index Remained Stubborn in March, Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman, April 26, 2024. Hopes for substantial cuts in interest rates are fading as inflation shows more staying power than expected.

The latest Personal Consumption Expenditures index reading could keep the Fed on a cautious path as it considers when to lower borrowing costs.

The overall inflation index rose by 2.7 percent in the year through March, up from 2.5 percent in February and slightly more than economists had expected.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Inflation This High, Nobody Knows What a Dollar Is Worth, April 26, 2024. Strong reactions to rising prices and misunderstandings about the value of money are rampant, our columnist says.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economic growth slowed in first quarter as consumer spending starts scaling back, Abha Bhattarai, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. economic growth slowed in the first three months of the year, with gross domestic product growing at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent, as consumers began gradually pulling back.

GDP was down sharply from the 3.4 percent annual rate in the last quarter of 2023, and is at its lowest reading in a year and half, according to data released this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The latest deceleration reflects weakening household and government spending, and it came in below expectations. Exports also slowed at the beginning of the year, dragging down growth. GDP, the sum of all of the goods and services produced in the country, is the broadest measure of the economy.

“Growth is slowing, but clearly the economy is still on a solid path,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide, which recently scrapped its recession forecast for the year. “We’ve had very strong job growth that’s fueling higher incomes, giving people the money to go out and spend. But that’s also kept inflation high, so honestly a little bit of cooling is good news.”

ny times logoNew York Times, VW Workers in Tennessee Vote to Join Union, a Labor Milestone, Noam Scheiber, April 21, 2024 (print ed.). The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is set to become the first unionized auto factory in the South not owned by one of Detroit’s Big Three. By voting to join the United Automobile Workers, Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have given the union something it has never had: a factory-wide foothold at a major foreign automaker in the South.

The result, in an election that ended on Friday, will enable the union to bargain for better wages and benefits. Now the question is what difference it will make beyond the Volkswagen plant.

Labor experts said success at VW might position the union to replicate its showing at other auto manufacturers throughout the South, the least unionized region of the country. Some argued that the win could help set off a rise in union membership at other companies that exceeds the uptick of the past few years, when unions won elections at Starbucks and Amazon locations.

“It’s a big vote, symbolically and substantively,” said Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist who studies labor at Washington University in St. Louis.

The next test for the U.A.W. will come in a vote in mid-May at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.

ny times logoNew York Times, I.M.F. Sees Steady Global Growth but Warns of Rising Protectionism, Alan Rappeport, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The International Monetary Fund offered an upbeat economic outlook but said that new trade barriers and escalating wars could worsen inflation.

The global economy is approaching a soft landing after several years of geopolitical and economic turmoil, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday. But it warned that risks remain, including stubborn inflation, the threat of escalating global conflicts and rising protectionism.

In its latest World Economic Outlook report, the I.M.F. projected global output to hold steady at 3.2 percent in 2024, unchanged from 2023. Although the pace of the expansion is tepid by historical standards, the I.M.F. said that global economic activity has been surprisingly resilient given that central banks aggressively raised interest rates to tame inflation and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East further disrupt supply chains.

The forecasts came as policymakers from around the world began arriving in Washington for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The outlook is brighter from just a year ago, when the I.M.F. was warning of underlying “turbulence” and a multitude of risks.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Can Nonprofit News Save the South From Itself? Margaret Renkl, April 29, 2024. When I moved here in 1987, Nashville had two daily newspapers: a morning paper, The Tennessean, whose editorial page leaned left; and an evening paper, the Nashville Banner, whose editorial page leaned right. I still a subscribe to The Tennessean, but the Banner is long gone. In 1998, The Tennessean bought its longtime competitor and shut it down.

I recall with fondness that venerable newspaper, no matter that its editorial page did not align with my own politics. Some of the local journalists I most admire got their start at the Banner. And a city with competing newsrooms, each determined to get the news first and to get it right, is protected by a powerful bulwark against extremism and governmental mischief. In a democracy, the only way to be sure there isn’t a fox watching the henhouse is to set a whole bunch of reporters the task of watching the foxes.

Today less than a dozen U.S. cities have two competing daily newspapers, and many communities have no local news source at all. Nashville, like many other midsize cities, still has television news channels, an alternative newsweekly (the Nashville Scene) and various online publications to do some of that henhouse-watching. Nevertheless, the combined ranks of reporters covering crucial beats like state and local politics, education, criminal justice and the like, are dramatically smaller than they were in the days when the Tennessean and the Banner, each fully staffed and fully funded, were scrapping for scoops.

ny times logoNew York Times, A.I. Start-Ups Face a Rough Financial Reality Check, Cade Metz, Karen Weise and Tripp Mickle, April 29, 2024. The table stakes for small companies to compete with the likes of Microsoft and Google are in the billions of dollars. And even that may not be enough.

ny times logoNew York Times, Saudi Arabia is pouring money into the race to become an A.I. superpower, Adam Satariano and Paul Mozur, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). The oil-rich kingdom is plowing money into glitzy events, computing power and artificial intelligence research, putting it in the middle of an escalating U.S.-China struggle for technological influence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia Senate Is Redrafting a Resolution to Admonish Its President, Stephanie Saul, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Fearing the repercussions of a censure vote against Nemat Shafik, the university body plans to vote instead on a watered-down proposal, some members said.

columbia logoColumbia’s university senate, fearing the repercussions of a censure vote against the school’s president, Nemat Shafik, plans instead to vote on a watered-down resolution expressing displeasure with a series of her nemat minouche shafikdecisions, including summoning the police last week to arrest protesting students on campus.

Senators worried that a censure vote could result in Dr. Shafik’s removal at a time of crisis. And some feared that such a vote would be perceived as yielding to Republican lawmakers who had called for her resignation, according to interviews with several members of the university senate who attended a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, some of whom requested anonymity to talk about a private meeting.

The university senate is scheduled to meet again on Friday to vote on a resolution.

Carol Garber, a senate member, was among those who questioned the perception of a censure vote with so much political pressure to remove Dr. Shafik.

“It really isn’t a precedent any university wants to set,” said Dr. Garber, a professor of behavioral sciences. “We shouldn’t be bullied by someone in Congress."

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April 28

Top Headlines

Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

world central kitchen

 

More On Trump Trials, Probes, Allies

 

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.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

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

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Russian Terror Attacks, Hostages

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

climate change photo

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

GOP Claims Against Bidens

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

 

U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Space

 

U.S. Baltimore Bridge Collapse

 

U.S. Education, Religion, Media, High Tech, Free Speech, Culture

 

Top Stories

Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022.Retired federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig, a prominent Republican conservative regarded as a finalist for the Supreme Court Chief Justice post awarded instead to his friend and longtime colleague John Roberts, testifying before the U.S. House Jan. 6 hearing on June 16, 2022

MSNBC, Judge Luttig blasts SCOTUS for avoiding ‘key question’ at the heart of Trump immunity case, Ali Velshi, April msnbc logo Custom28, 2024. Former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig joins Ali Velshi to discuss his takeaways from this week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on former President Donald Trump's presidential immunity claim, which many believe will lead to more delays in Trump’s federal criminal cases, and potentially impact the future of the presidency itself.

"That this absurd argument is even being made before the Supreme Court is an embarrassment to the Constitution and to our country,” Judge Luttig says. Judge Luttig also criticizes the Supreme Court for avoiding the “straightforward, key question” about the case itself, and explains what decision he believes the justices are most likely to make.

 

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Never Sounded Like This, Charles Homans, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). No major U.S. presidential candidate has talked like Donald Trump now does at his rallies — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even himself.

Trump’s critics were right in 2016 to observe the grim novelty of his politics: their ideology of national pessimism, their open demagoguery and clear affinities with the far right, their blunt division of the country into us and them in a way that no major party’s presidential nominee had dared for decades. But Trump’s great accomplishment, one that was less visible from a distance but immediately apparent at his rallies, was the us that he conjured there: the way his supporters saw not only him but one another, and saw in themselves a movement.

That us is still there in Trump’s 2024 speeches. But it is not really the main character anymore. These speeches, and the events that surround them, are about them — what they have done to Trump, and what Trump intends to do in return.

As with everything about Trump, what was once revolutionary has become institutionalized. The insult-comic riffs and winding tours through the headlines are more constrained and repetitive now, his performer’s instincts duller than they once were. The brutalist building blocks of the prepared speech, its stock-photo celebrations of national triumphs (“We stand on the shoulders of American heroes who crossed the ocean, settled the continent, tamed the wilderness, laid down the railroads, raised up those great beautiful skyscrapers … ”) and lamentations of national decline, now stand out in clearer relief.

They build to a rhetorical climax that is echoed from one speech to the next. In Claremont, N.H., in November, he said:

"2024 is our final battle. With you at my side — and you’ve been at my side from the beginning — we will demolish the deep state. We’ll expel, we’re going to expel, those horrible, horrible warmongers from our government. They want to fight everybody. They want to kill people all over the place. Places we’ve never heard about before. Places that want to be left alone."

No major American presidential candidate has talked like this — not Richard Nixon, not George Wallace, not even Trump himself. Before November 2020, his speeches, for all their boundary crossings, stopped short of the language of “vermin” and “enemies within.”

When I asked the political historian Federico Finchelstein what he made of the speech, he replied bluntly: “This is how fascists campaign.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Israel Has a Choice to Make: Rafah or Riyadh, Thomas L. Friedman, right,  April 28, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. tom friedman twitterdiplomacy to end the Gaza war and forge a new relationship with Saudi Arabia has been converging in recent weeks into a single giant choice for Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: What do you want more — Rafah or Riyadh?

Do you want to mount a full-scale invasion of Rafah to try to finish off Hamas — if that is even possible — without offering any Israeli exit strategy from Gaza or any political horizon for a two-state solution with non-Hamas-led Palestinians? If you go this route, it will only compound Israel’s global isolation and force a real breach with the Biden administration.

Or do you want normalization with Saudi Arabia, an Arab peacekeeping force for Gaza and a U.S.-led security alliance against Iran? This would come with a different price: a commitment from your government to work toward a Palestinian state with a reformed Palestinian Authority — but with the benefit of embedding Israel in the widest U.S.-Arab-Israeli defense coalition the Jewish state has ever enjoyed and the biggest bridge to the rest of the Muslim world Israel has ever been offered, while creating at least some hope that the conflict with the Palestinians will not be a “forever war.’’

This is one of the most fateful choices Israel has ever had to make. And what I find both disturbing and depressing is that there is no major Israeli leader today in the ruling coalition, the opposition or the military who is consistently helping Israelis understand that choice — a global pariah or a Middle East partner — or explaining why it should choose the second.

I appreciate how traumatized Israelis are by the vicious Hamas murders, rapes and kidnappings of Oct. 7. It is not surprising to me that many people there just want revenge, and their hearts have hardened to a degree that they can’t see or care about all of the civilians, including thousands of children, who have been killed in Gaza as Israel has plowed through to try to eliminate Hamas. All of this has been further hardened by Hamas’s refusal so far to release the remaining hostages.

But revenge is not a strategy. It is pure insanity that Israel is now more than six months into this war and the Israeli military leadership — and virtually the entire political class — has allowed Netanyahu to continue to pursue a “total victory” there, including probably soon plunging deep into Rafah, without any exit plan or Arab partner lined up to step in once the war ends. If Israel ends up with an indefinite occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank, it would be a toxic military, economic and moral overstretch that would delight Israel’s most dangerous foe, Iran, and repel all its allies in the West and the Arab world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Many Ukrainian Prisoners of War Show Signs of Trauma and Sexual Violence, Carlotta Gall and Oleksandr Chubko, April 28, 2024. Some are still suffering with physical and psychological wounds from torture by their Russian captors. But soldiers are being sent back to active duty.

ukraine flagThe Ukrainian marine infantryman endured nine months of physical and psychological torture as a Russian prisoner of war, but was allotted only three months of rest and rehabilitation before being ordered back to his unit.

Russian FlagThe infantryman, who asked to be identified only by his call sign, Smiley, returned to duty willingly. But it was only when he underwent intensive combat training in the weeks after that the depth and range of his injuries, both psychological and physical, began to surface.

“I started having flashbacks, and nightmares,” he said. “I would only sleep for two hours and wake up with my sleeping bag soaking wet.” He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and referred for psychological care, and is still receiving treatment.

Ukraine is just beginning to understand the lasting effects of the traumas its prisoners of war experienced in Russian captivity, but it has been failing to treat them properly and returning them to duty too early, say former prisoners, officials and psychologists familiar with individual cases.

Nearly 3,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been released from Russia in prisoner exchanges since the 2022 invasion began. More than 10,000 more remain in Russian custody, some of whom have endured two years of conditions that a United Nations expert described as horrific.

The Ukrainian government’s rehabilitation program, which has usually involved two months in a sanitarium and a month at home, is inadequate, critics say, and the traumas suffered by Ukrainian prisoners are growing with the length and severity of the abuse they are being subjected to as the war drags on.

“We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral (Associated Press photo by Jeff Dean).

 “We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral (Associated Press photo by Jeff Dean).

Politico, ‘You can’t shoot your dog and then be VP’: Dems, GOP bash Kristi Noem over memoir, Gregory Svirnovskiy, April 27, 2024. The South Dakota governor, shown above, has seen her political caché skyrocket in recent years and is reportedly a top contender to become Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate.

politico CustomBoth Democrats and Republicans are piling on after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem revealed in her upcoming memoir that she shot and killed her 14-month-old puppy named Cricket because of the dog’s alleged misbehavior.

The mother of three and former congress member has seen her political caché skyrocket in recent years and was reportedly a top contender to become Donald Trump’s 2024 running mate. But as the gruesome tale, first reported by The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly, picked up steam on Friday, so did questions about Noem’s vice presidential chances.

In her new memoir, Noem writes that she unsuccessfully tried to channel Cricket’s puppy energy into hunting pheasant. Instead, Cricket went “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life.” On the way home from hunting, Noem writes, the dog escaped her truck and attacked a local family’s chickens, behaving “like an untrainable assassin.”

Noem says she led the wirehaired pointer to a gravel pit and ended its life.

“We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm,” Noem tweeted after the story had already gone viral.

According to The Guardian, Noem relayed the grisly story to illustrate her willingness to do “difficult, messy and ugly” things when necessary. Instead, the story has prompted pushback from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“Post a picture with your dog that doesn’t involve shooting them and throwing them in a gravel pit,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Alongside it was a picture of Walz feeding his dog a treat.

“Ready for the weekend,” quipped the Biden-Harris campaign account, alongside pictures of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris happily playing with their dogs.

MAGA media personality and Trump ally Laura Loomer offered even harsher criticism, saying the ugly chapter was disqualifying for Noem’s vice presidential chances.

“She can’t be VP now,” Loomer tweeted. “You can’t shoot your dog and then be VP."

Politico, Kristi Noem defends dog slaying as ‘responsible,’ Kelly Garrity, April 28, 2024. The story of Noem shooting and killing her 14-month-old puppy has taken a toll on the potential VP pick’s public image.

Amid waves of backlash from both sides of the aisle, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Sunday defended her decision to shoot and kill her 14-month-old puppy named Cricket years ago.

politico Custom“I can understand why some people are upset about a 20 year old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book — No Going Back,” Noem wrote on TruthSocial.

“The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down. Given that Cricket had shown aggressive behavior toward people by biting them, I decided what I did,” she added.

Noem, until recently widely viewed as a top contender to share the Republican ticket with former President Donald Trump, laid out the decision to kill the pup in her forthcoming memoir “No Going Back,” in a startling anecdote first picked up on by The Guardian. The book is set to be released May 7; publicity for it says “this book is packed with surprising stories and practical lessons.”

In the book, Noem says she tried to focus the wirehaired pointer’s “aggressive personality” into hunting. But things didn’t go as planned — Cricket went “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life,” and later attacked a neighbor’s chickens. So Noem led the dog to a gravel pit and shot it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump turned on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. amid concerns Mr. Kennedy could attract Republican voters, Neil Vigdor, April 27, 2024. The former president called Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a ‘Democrat plant’ and attacked his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, who gave $2 million to the Kennedy campaign.

Former President Donald J. Trump is sharpening his attacks on the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as new polls show an overlap between their core supporters.

In a series of posts on his Truth Social media platform on Friday night, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, took aim at both Mr. Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy Silicon Valley lawyer and investor.

“RFK Jr. is a Democrat ‘Plant,’ a Radical Left Liberal who’s been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the Worst President in the History of the United States, get Re-Elected,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Trump, who had privately discussed the idea of Mr. Kennedy as a running mate, echoed what Democrats have been saying for months about Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy — that it could swing the election. He also appeared to be adopting a new derisive nickname for him.

“A Vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy fired back on Saturday in his own social media post.

“When frightened men take to social media they risk descending into vitriol, which makes them sound unhinged,” he wrote on X. “President Trump’s rant against me is a barely coherent barrage of wild and inaccurate claims that should best be resolved in the American tradition of presidential debate.”

Mr. Kennedy further attempted to goad the former president.

“Instead of lobbing poisonous bombs from the safety of his bunker, let’s hear President Trump defend his record to me mano-a-mano by respectful, congenial debate,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump also took a swipe at Mr. Kennedy’s running mate, Ms. Shanahan, who gave $2 million out of the $5.4 million that Mr. Kennedy raised in March. Until last year, she was married to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Mr. Trump referred to her as the “V.P. Candidate that nobody ever heard of” and denigrated her business credentials.

“Her business was doing surgery on her husband’s wallet!” Mr. Trump wrote in a post. “She’s more Liberal than Junior’ by far, not a serious person, and only a Pot of Cash to help get her No Chance Candidate on the Ballot … ”

Mr. Trump’s barbs signaled a potential change in strategy by the former president, who Democratic allies of President Biden and political observers have for months suggested could benefit from having Mr. Kennedy, the liberal scion, in the race.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Dan Rather makes his first return to CBS News in 18 years, Staff report, April 28, 2024. dan rather 2017“Without apology or explanation, I miss CBS,” Rather (shown in a 2017 photo) told correspondent Lee Cowan during an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning" on April, 28, 2024.

politico CustomDan Rather returned to the CBS News airwaves for the first time since his bitter exit 18 years ago, appearing in a reflective interview on “CBS Sunday Morning” days before the debut of a Netflix documentary on the 92-year-old newsman’s life.

After 44 years at the network, 24 as anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” Rather left under a cloud following a botched investigation into then-President George W. Bush’s military record. Rather signed off as anchor for the last time on March 9, 2005, and exited the network when his contract ended 15 months later.

With continued enmity between him and since-deposed CBS chief Leslie Moonves, Rather essentially became a nonperson at the news division he dominated for decades.

“Without apology or explanation, I miss CBS,” Rather told correspondent Lee Cowan in the interview that aired Sunday. “I’ve missed it since the day I left.”

cbs news logoRather escaped official blame for the report that questioned Bush’s Vietnam War-era National Guard service but, as the anchor who introduced it, was identified with it. CBS could not vouch for the authenticity of some documents upon which the report was based, although many people involved in the story still believe it was true.

In the documentary “Rather,” debuting Wednesday on Netflix, Rather said he thought he would survive the incident, but his wife, Jean, told him, “You got into a fight with the president of the United States during his reelection campaign. What did you think was going to happen?”

Rather did not retire after leaving CBS, doing investigative journalism and rock star interviews for HDNet, a digital cable and satellite television network. Over the past few years, he has become known to a new generation as a tart-talking presence on social media.

This past week, he posted on X during former President Trump’s hush money trial: “Is it just me or did today seem sleazy even for Donald Trump?”

“You either get engaged and you get engaged in the new terms ... or you’re out of the game,” Rather said in the CBS interview, filmed at his home in Texas. “And I wanted to stay in the game.”

The Netflix documentary traces his career from coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam War and Watergate, through his anchor years and beyond. It includes some of the then tightly-wound Rather’s odder incidents, including an assault in New York City by someone saying, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth,” then later appearing onstage with R.E.M. when the group performed its song of the same name.

In both the documentary and in the CBS interview, Rather bypasses his career when talk turned to his legacy.

“In the end, whatever remains of one’s life — family, friends — those are going to be the things for which you’re remembered,” he said.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

world central kitchen

washington post logoWashington Post, World Central Kitchen will resume aid work in Gaza on Monday, Tim Carman, April 28, 2024. Three days after an emotional ceremony at Washington National Cathedral in which World Central Kitchen celebrated the seven workers killed in an Israeli airstrike, the organization announced it would resume operations in Gaza, where more than 1 million Palestinians face catastrophic levels of hunger.

In an announcement sent to the media Sunday, WCK said it will resume humanitarian work Monday with a “Palestinian team delivering food to address wide-spread hunger, including in the north.” It was not clear whether WCK would continue to allow staff and outside contractors to enter Gaza as part of its renewed operations.

“The majority of our Gaza operation has always been Palestinians feeding Palestinians,” said Linda Roth, chief communications officer for WCK, when asked by The Washington Post. “Our model, as you know, is one of community engagement. We have hundreds of Palestinians employed as contractors and hundreds more volunteering. They want to get back to work.”
A memorial for Damian Soból in Przemysl, Poland, on April 4. He was among the seven World Central Kitchen workers who died in an Israeli airstrike. (Darek Delmanowicz/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

world central kitchen victims

Late on April 1, an Israeli airstrike hit a WCK convoy, killing all seven people (shown above) inside three vehicles, two of which were armored. Among those killed were four members of WCK’s relief team: Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, a 43-year-old Australian; Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, a 25-year-old Palestinian; Damian Soból, a 35-year-old from Poland; and Jacob Flickinger, a 33-year-old dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. The other three victims — John Chapman, 57; James Henderson, 33; and James Kirby, 47 — were British nationals contracted to WCK’s security team.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Officials Believe I.C.C. Is Preparing Arrest Warrants Over War, Kellen Browning, April 28, 2024. Israeli and foreign officials say it appears the International Criminal Court is preparing to move against top Israeli and Hamas officials.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss a possible cease-fire and hostage deal, April 28, 2024.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Top Qatari official urges Israel and Hamas to do more to reach cease-fire deal, Staff Report, April 28, 2024. Qatar, which hosts Hamas headquarters in Doha, has been a key intermediary throughout the Israel-Hamas war.

politico CustomA senior Qatari official has urged both Israel and Hamas to show “more commitment and more seriousness” in cease-fire negotiations in interviews with Israeli media, as pressure builds on both sides to move toward a deal that would set Israeli hostages free and bring potential respite in the nearly 7-month-long war in Gaza.

The interviews with liberal daily Haaretz and Israeli public broadcaster Kan were published and aired Saturday evening. They came as Israel still promises to invade Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah despite global concern for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sheltering there, and as the sides are exchanging proposals surrounding a cease-fire deal.

Qatar, which hosts Hamas headquarters in Doha, has been a key intermediary throughout the Israel-Hamas war. Along with the U.S. and Egypt, Qatar was instrumental in helping negotiate a brief halt to the fighting in November that led to the release of dozens of hostages.

The sides have held numerous rounds of negotiations since, none of which produced an additional truce. In a sign of its frustration, Qatar earlier this month said it was reassessing its role as mediator.

In the interviews, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari expressed disappointment in both Hamas and Israel, saying each side has made its decisions based on political interests and not with the good of civilians in mind.

“We were hoping to see more commitment and more seriousness on both sides,” he told Haaretz.

He did not reveal details of the current state of the talks, other than to say they have “effectively stopped,” with “both sides entrenched in their positions.”

“If there is a renewed sense of commitment on both sides, I’m sure we can reach a deal,” he said.

The Israeli journalists conducted the interviews in Qatar, which has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

Relations between Qatar and Israel have been strained throughout the war, as some politicians in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have criticized Qatar for not putting enough pressure on Hamas.

Israeli legislators have also cleared the way for the country to expel Al Jazeera, the Qatar-owned broadcaster.

Al-Ansari’s remarks came after an Egyptian delegation had discussed with Israeli officials a “new vision” for a prolonged cease-fire in Gaza, according to an Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the developments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Even With Gaza Under Siege, Some Are Imagining Its Reconstruction, Peter S. Goodman, April 28, 2024.  International development agencies have been meeting with Middle East business interests and urban planners to map out a future for the territory.

palestinian flagThe group is clear that the most pressing work is the delivery of food, water, health care and emergency shelter to the residents of Gaza, who are now contending with catastrophe. But the primary focus of their plan is on the rebuilding that would unfold over the following decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis Live Updates: The United States and France have sent their top diplomats to the Middle East for new talks about the war in Gaza, Staff Reports, April 28, 2024. The United States and France have sent their top diplomats to the Middle East in yet another attempt to try to find a pathway to secure a cease-fire in Gaza and lower tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia in Lebanon.

Israel FlagSecretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday for talks with top Arab officials about the war in Gaza. Saudi Arabia is hosting a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum, and top Arab officials, including Mr. Blinken’s diplomatic counterparts, are attending. They include seniorministers from Qatar and Egypt, which have been the two Arab mediators in multiple rounds of talks over a potential hostage agreement between Israel and Hamas.

The French foreign minister, Stéphane Séjourné, was also expected to head to Riyadh on the heels of a visit to Lebanon aimed at staving off any further escalation between Hezbollah and Israel.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will join other officials in Riyadh to discuss hostages, a potential cease-fire and humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • France’s foreign minister is in Lebanon first to discuss tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.
  • Thousands rally in Tel Aviv in support of hostages.
  • Hamas releases video of two more hostages.

ny times logoNew York Times, Crackdowns at 4 College Protests Lead to More Than 200 Arrests, Anna Betts, Matthew Eadie and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated April 28, 2024. The police made arrests at Washington University in St. Louis, Northeastern, Arizona State and Indiana, as schools moved to quell pro-Palestinian encampments.

More than 200 protesters were arrested on Saturday at Northeastern University, Arizona State University, Indiana University and Washington University in St. Louis, according to officials, as colleges across the country struggle to quell growing pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments on campus.

More than 700 protesters have been arrested on U.S. campuses since April 18, when Columbia University had the New York Police Department clear a protest encampment there. In several cases, most of those who were arrested have been released.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Colleges Have Gone Off the Deep End. There Is a Way Out, David French, right, April 28, 2024. Watching david french croppedthe protests and experiencing the shout-downs changed the course of my career. I was both enthralled by the power of protest and repulsed by the efforts to silence dissenters.

Given the immense cultural influence of American higher education, I agreed with the Supreme Court’s famous words in the 1957 case Sweezy v. New Hampshire: “Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise, our civilization will stagnate and die.” Those words, combined with my own negative encounters at Harvard, helped define my legal career. From that point forward, I would defend free speech.

There is profound confusion on campus right now around the distinctions between free speech, civil disobedience and lawlessness. At the same time, some schools also seem confused about their fundamental academic mission. Does the university believe it should be neutral toward campus activism — protecting it as an exercise of the students’ constitutional rights and academic freedoms, but not cooperating with student activists to advance shared goals — or does it incorporate activism as part of the educational process itself, including by coordinating with the protesters and encouraging their activism?

The simplest way of outlining the ideal university policy toward protest is to say that it should protect free speech, respect civil disobedience and uphold the rule of law. That means universities should protect the rights of students and faculty on a viewpoint-neutral basis, and they should endeavor to make sure that every member of the campus community has the same access to campus facilities and resources.

That also means showing no favoritism between competing ideological groups in access to classrooms, in the imposition of campus penalties and in access to educational opportunities. All groups should have equal rights to engage in the full range of protected speech, including by engaging in rhetoric that’s hateful to express and painful to hear. Public chants like “globalize the intifada” may be repugnant to many ears, but they’re clearly protected by the First Amendment at public universities and by policies protecting free speech and academic freedom at most private universities.

Still, reasonable time, place and manner restrictions are indispensable in this context. Time, place and manner restrictions are content-neutral legal rules that enable a diverse community to share the same space and enjoy equal rights.

 

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana).

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis: U.N. Official Presses for Urgent Action on Gaza Aid, Staff Reports, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. aid coordinator for Gaza, said Israel had taken steps to improve relief deliveries but called for further measures.

The U.N.’s top coordinator for humanitarian aid for Gaza has said that Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of relief supplies to the enclave but warned that much more must be done to meet the vast need there.

Israel FlagIsrael has announced efforts to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including by opening an additional border crossing and by accepting shipments at a nearby port. But the United Nations has warned with increasing urgency that a famine is looming and that deliveries still fall short of the level needed to stop the spread of starvation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Antony Blinken Will Visit Israel Next Week, Official Says, Staff Reports, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The U.S. secretary of state will return to Israel, an official there said. Tensions between the allies have grown and talks on a Gaza cease-fire appear stalled.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will visit Israel next week, an Israeli official said on Friday, as talks on a cease-fire deal that would allow for the release of hostages held in Gaza appear stalled and tensions have risen between Israel and the United States over the war.

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said talks with Mr. Blinken would center on hostages and an impending Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Conservative Justices Take Argument Over Trump’s Immunity in Unexpected Direction, Adam Liptak, right, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing was memorable for its discussion of coups, assassinations and adam liptakinternments — but very little about the former president’s conduct.

Before the Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday on former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution, his stance was widely seen as a brazen and cynical bid to delay his trial. The practical question in the case, it was thought, was not whether the court would rule against him but whether it would act quickly enough to allow the trial to go forward before the 2024 election.

Instead, members of the court’s conservative majority treated Mr. Trump’s assertion that he could not face charges that he tried to subvert the 2020 election as a weighty and difficult question. They did so, said Pamela Karlan, a law professor at Stanford, by averting their eyes from Mr. Trump’s conduct.

“What struck me most about the case was the relentless efforts by several of the justices on the conservative side not to focus on, consider or even acknowledge the facts of the actual case in front of them,” she said.

They said as much. “I’m not discussing the particular facts of this case,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, samuel alito oinstead positing an alternate reality in which a grant of immunity “is required for the functioning of a stable democratic society, which is something that we all want.”

Immunity is needed, he said, to make sure the incumbent president has reason to “leave office peacefully” after losing an election.

Justice Alito, left, explained: “If an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took a more straightforward approach. “If the potential for criminal liability is taken off the table, wouldn’t there be a significant risk that future presidents would be emboldened to commit crimes with abandon while they’re in office?” she asked.

Supreme Court arguments are usually dignified and staid, weighed down by impenetrable jargon and focused on subtle shifts in legal doctrine. Thursday’s argument was different.

It featured “some jaw-dropping moments,” said Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University.

Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell, said that “the apparent lack of self-awareness on the part of some of the conservative justices was startling.” He noted that “Justice Alito worried about a hypothetical future president attempting to hold onto power in response to the risk of prosecution, while paying no attention to the actual former president who held onto power and now seeks to escape prosecution.”

In the real world, Professor Karlan said, “it’s really hard to imagine a ‘stable democratic society,’ to use Justice Alito’s word, where someone who did what Donald Trump is alleged to have done leading up to Jan. 6 faces no criminal consequences for his acts.”

Indeed, she said, “if Donald Trump is a harbinger of presidents to come, and from now on presidents refuse to leave office and engage in efforts to undermine the democratic process, we’ve lost our democracy regardless what the Supreme Court decides.”

The conservative justices did not seem concerned that Mr. Trump’s lawyer, D. John Sauer, said his client was free during his presidency to commit lawless acts, subject to prosecution only after impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate. (There have been four presidential impeachments, two of Mr. Trump, and no convictions.)

 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Supreme Court seems poised to allow Trump Jan. 6 trial, but not immediately, Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday appeared ready to reject Donald Trump’s sweeping claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election, but in a way that is likely to significantly delay his stalled federal trial in the nation’s capital.

In nearly three hours of oral argument, both conservative and liberal justices grappled with the historic significance of the case, which will set boundaries for presidential power in the future even as it impacts whether Trump will face trial in D.C. before this year’s presidential election — in which he is the likely Republican nominee.

Trump, who is already on trial this week in a separate New York case involving business records connected to a hush money payment, was known for breaking norms while in the White House. He faces two other criminal cases as well, and is the first former president to be indicted. But again and again on Thursday, members of the high court noted that their decision, expected by late June or early July, will not just affect him.

“We are writing a rule for the ages,” said Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

“This case has huge implications for the presidency, for the future of the presidency, for the future of the country,” added Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The court seemed unlikely to fully embrace either Trump’s broad claim of immunity or the special counsel’s position that former presidents have no guarantee of immunity for their official acts. Instead, a majority of justices seemed to be looking for a way to provide more narrow protections for a president’s core constitutional duties, with some of the conservative justices especially concerned about hampering the power of future presidents.

In contrast, the court’s three liberals emphasized that a president is not above the law. They seemed to reject the idea of immunity from prosecution, expressing fears about giving a president unbounded power to commit crimes from the White House.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:  It's all about respect, not cults of personality or intolerance, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, April 28, 2024. Howard Stern and I are roughly the same age, We were both born in 1954 a few months apart. We also grew up in racially-mixed suburbia, he in Roosevelt, Long Island, myself in Levittown, New Jersey (later renamed Willingboro, its colonial era name).

wayne madesen report logoMy earliest teachers ingrained in me and my fellow students a healthy respect for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, as well as leaders like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and both Presidents Roosevelt. Seperate federal holidays were observed for Washington and Lincoln in February, which meant two days off from school. Our town's Fourth of July parades featured veterans of World War I.

Stern's very respectful interview of President Biden on his Sirius radio show might, at first, seem surprising for someone known as the once shockiest of shock jock deejays. It's not at all. Stern, myself, and most decent Americans around our age, recall the respect we and our parents had for our senior statesmen. That respect even trickled down to our governors. For Stern, it was Nelson Rockefeller of New York and for me, Governor Richard Hughes of New Jersey. As those of our age reached our teens and faced possible conscription into the Army for the meat grinder of Vietnam, the respect for presidents like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon rapidly declined into nothing but contempt. For LBJ and Tricky Dick, that disdain was richly deserved.

Now we are faced with another contemptuous candidate for president, the former occupier of the Oval Office who backed an insurrection and attempted coup against the United States. He is someone who has vowed to round up his political opponents and even have them executed -- that is, if we are to believe Donald Trump attorney John Sauer who argued for the ex-president's virtual total immunity from prosecution before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is nothing wrong with showing respect to public servants like Biden, who first entered the U.S. Senate in 1973 following the tragic deaths of his wife and young daughter in a December 1972 pre-Christmas traffic accident in Wilmington, Delaware.

The respect we once paid to Ike and JFK had much to do with their wartime service. Kennedy, like Biden, suffered a personal tragedy when his and the First Lady's infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died two days after birth on August 9, 1963. Franklin Roosevelt's coping with polio while commanding U.S. forces during World War II earned him the respect of the nation. We should be grateful that we have a senior and experienced statesman like Biden in office. It's sometimes hard to believe but FDR was only 63 when he died in office in 1945. Teddy Roosevelt was only 60 when he died 1919, the same age that Calvin Coolidge was when he died in 1933.

Many countries were able to rely on their senior statesmen, who, like Biden, stood up to save their nations in times of distress and turmoil. A war weary Winston Churchill, who was turned out of office in 1945, returned to Number 10 Downing Street in 1951 at the age of 77, the same age as Trump is today. The difference between an elder statesman like Churchill and a grifter like Trump is that Churchill's main goal in 1951 was to build 300,000 new houses per year for Britons, many of them veterans of World War. It would have never crossed Churchill's mind to refer to those who helped save Britain "losers and suckers." But that is the difference between an elder statesman like Churchill and low-life reprobates and scoundrels like Trump.

Elder statesmen who have given their all, including their lives in some cases, deserve respect and not disgusting insults from those who have never once in their miserable lives lent a helping hand to others. In order to steer India toward peaceful independence from Britain, Mahatma Gandhi, at the age of 78, embarked on a dangerous path of avoiding bloody inter-communal religious strife in his nascent nation. Gandhi paid for his selfless acts with his life, falling victim to gunfire from a Hindu nationalist extremist in 1948.

Another selfless act was displayed by the wartime leader of the Greek government-in-exile, George Papandreou. Elected prime minister in 1964 at the age of 76, Papandreou confronted the Greek military and King in an attempt to thwart their right-wing anti-constitutional subversive moves. Papandreou, who had served in Greek governments since 1923, was overthrown in a royalist-backed military coup in 1967. During his house arrest, Papandreou died at

There is no surprise that Trump supporters treat Biden with ageist contempt even though their cult leader, at the age of 77, constantly utters forth indecipherable babble and farts himself awake during his New York trial. There is a difference between Trump and other senior citizens who have served as leaders of their nations in times of stress and dysfunction. Trump is a carnival act who only lives for the spotlight and the grift. Biden, on the other hand, could have spent the rest of his life in Delaware, walking the beach and giving lectures to students at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead, he saw where Trump was taking the nation during a catastrophic pandemic. Biden will eventually be considered one of America's greatest presidents and future historians will rank him alongside FDR, Churchill, De Gaulle, Adenauer, and Mandela. Trump will co-exist in the history books with the names Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, and Kim Jong Un.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok, April 28, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkThere will be at least 5 or even 6 votes at the United States Supreme Court to give TRUMP IMMUNITY from at least some of the allegations and crimes in the Special Counsel’s DC Election interference case, and cause a delay that will prevent the case from being tried before November.

Michael Popok analyzes the oral argument, and, without blowing smoke or sunshine, gives you his best estimate of what the Court’s opinion is likely to look like when it’s issued in June.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The chief justice hated Trump appeals court decision, and other takeaways, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court spent hours Thursday morning debating former president Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for allegedly conspiring to undo the results of the 2020 election. The ruling, which could come in June, could do far more than chart the course of Trump’s case; it may forever alter the boundaries of presidential power.

“We’re writing a rule for the ages,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

The justices seemed to generally agree, in broad terms, that Trump does not have blanket immunity

john roberts oThe chief justice does not like the appeals court ruling on this issue. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. slammed the sweeping decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that denied Trump’s immunity claim. If a majority of the nine-justice panel agrees with him, that could push Trump’s trial well past the election.

Roberts, left, characterized the February decision reached by the appeals court as saying in essence that “a former president can be prosecuted because he’s being prosecuted.” He called that “circular” reasoning and added, “it concerns me.”

The chief justice then floated a proposal that could make the entire issue more complicated and time-consuming, rather than less.

“Now, you know how easy it is in many cases for a prosecutor to get a grand jury to bring an indictment,” Roberts said. “Why shouldn’t we either send it back to the Court of Appeals or issue an opinion making clear that that’s not the law?”

If the Supreme Court did send the question of presidential immunity back to the appeals court, that would probably eat up weeks or months — potentially opening a can of legal worms that could take a lot of time for judicial debate and decisions.

The Supreme Court ruling is considered hugely important to Trump’s political and legal chances, but conservative justices kept insisting they were more worried about all future White House officeholders than the specific fate of the 45th president.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said their ruling will have “huge implications” for the future of the presidency, and the country, adding: “I’m not as concerned about the here and now, I’m more concerned about the future.”

Kavanaugh said he was worried that the trend of prosecutors investigating presidents is only growing. “It’s not going to stop, it’s going to cycle back and be used against the current president and the next president and the next president after that,” he said.

The three liberal justices also focused much of their attention on the future implications of an immunity ruling — but they worried most that granting Trump protection in this case would subvert the very premise of the founding of the United States, to escape the tyranny of kings.

 

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair.

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair from election finance officials and the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Trump’s Trial, the Defense Tries to Knock Down the Allegation of a Plot, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). As The National Enquirer’s former publisher returned to the stand, defense lawyers tried to discredit the idea there was a plan to protect Donald Trump.

david pecker croppedDavid Pecker, right, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, is set to return to the stand for a fourth day. Defense lawyers have tried to undercut his testimony about a conspiracy to bury negative stories and help elect Donald J. Trump.

The criminal trial of Donald J. Trump on Friday will feature the continued cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness, David Pecker, as defense lawyers try to discredit the idea that there had been a plot to protect Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

On Thursday, Mr. Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, described his own involvement in the suppression of the stories of two women who claimed to have had sex with Mr. Trump: Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose 2016 hush-money payoff is at the root of the prosecution’s case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Number of Trump Allies Facing Election Interference Charges Keeps Growing, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors are sending a warning as Donald Trump and his supporters spread conspiracy theories: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Fifty-three people who tried to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election have now been criminally charged.

The indictments have been brought in four swing states that will be crucial to the upcoming election, most recently on kris mayes oWednesday in Arizona, where Kris Mayes, right, the Democratic attorney general, said that she could “not allow American democracy to be undermined.” The message she and other prosecutors are sending represents a warning as Mr. Trump and his supporters continue to spread election conspiracy theories ahead of another presidential contest: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Mr. Trump’s own legal complications are also growing. On Wednesday, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in election interference investigations in both Arizona and Michigan. He has already been charged in Georgia while facing two federal prosecutions and a criminal trial in Manhattan related to hush money payments made to a porn star.

What’s more, Mr. Trump’s top legal strategist, Boris Epshteyn, was indicted in Arizona on Wednesday.

There remains a possibility that Mr. Trump’s aides and allies will be put on trial for manipulating an election on his behalf, while he is not. If he is re-elected president in November, the federal courts, or even Congress, could shield him from having to face trial in the Georgia election interference case, at least while he is in office, on the grounds that a president sitting in an Atlanta courtroom for weeks or months would be unable to carry out his constitutional duties.

He could also use his executive powers to halt the two federal cases against him.

“I assume, should these constitutional concerns about putting Trump on trial while president play out, there would be efforts to sever the other defendants, and no reason for the trials as to those defendants not to proceed,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University.

Democrats are leading all of the state prosecutions, though they have moved slowly. None of the cases are likely to come to trial before the election, a reality that has frustrated many on the left. While Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has been investigating since early 2021, her racketeering case has been slowed by its scope and complexity, and by efforts to disqualify her.

Ms. Willis brought charges last August against Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies and advisers, laying out a number of ways she said they had conspired to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss in the state.

Cases in Michigan and Nevada have focused solely on the Republicans whom the Trump campaign deployed as fake electors in those states. Having slates of people claiming to be electors for Mr. Trump was an integral part of the effort to keep him in office after his loss at the polls in 2020.

Ms. Mayes charged all 11 people who served as fake Arizona electors, and seven Trump advisers. Four of those advisers now face charges in both Georgia and Arizona: Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Mike Roman, a former Trump campaign operative who played a leading role in the fake electors scheme; and John Eastman, a legal architect of the elector plan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Is another Trump coup case really necessary? Yes. Arizona matters, Jennifer Rubin, April 28, 2024. An Arizona grand jury last week indicted for conspiracy, fraud and forgery 11 phony electors plus seven associates and lawyers involved in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Trump was included as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Arizona follows Georgia, Michigan and Nevada in holding to account politicians who sought to replace Biden’s legitimate electors.

You might be asking: Do we really need all these Trump coup cases? Yes, and here are four major reasons.

 

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Politico, Arizona grand jury indicts Meadows, Giuliani, other Trump allies for 2020 election interference, Kyle Cheney and Betsy ICE logoWoodruff Swan, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The former president is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

politico CustomAn Arizona grand jury has indicted 18 allies of Donald Trump for their efforts to subvert the 2020 election — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Boris Epshteyn.

arizona mapThe indictment, which includes felony counts of conspiracy, fraud and forgery, also describes Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.

“Defendants and unindicted coconspirators schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency to keep Unindicted Coconspirator 1 in office against the will of Arizona’s voters,” the 58-page indictment reads.

djt maga hatThe names of seven of the defendants, including Meadows, Giuliani and Epshteyn, are redacted, but the document makes clear who they are by describing their roles. Others include attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb, as well as Trump 2020 campaign operative Mike Roman.

Ken Chesebro, an attorney who helped devise Trump’s post-election strategy, is described as “unindicted coconspirator 4.”

The only defendants whose names are visible in the version of the indictment released by the Arizona attorney general’s office Wednesday evening are the 11 Republicans who falsely posed as the state’s presidential electors despite Joe Biden’s narrow victory there. Among them: former Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, state senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, and Arizona’s RNC committeeman Tyler Bowyer.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has been helming the aggressive investigation. Though she initially appeared to be focused primarily on the false electors, in recent months it became clear that the scope of the probe was broader than previously understood and swept up prominent Trump allies at the national level.

Mayes is the fifth prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the sprawling, multi-state bid by Trump and his allies to upend the 2020 results. Special counsel Jack Smith has charged Trump with federal crimes for those efforts. Prosecutors in Georgia have charged Trump and many of his allies for their efforts to overturn the results in that state, including the fake electors plot. Prosecutors in Michigan and Nevada have also charged Republicans who posed as fake electors in those states.

Michigan prosecutors revealed Wednesday that Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in their own investigation as well. And many of the newly charged defendants in Arizona, including Meadows, Giuliani, Eastman and Ellis, were charged in the Georgia case. Ellis pleaded guilty in Georgia and avoided jail time, while Meadows, Giuliani and Eastman have pleaded not guilty.

The charges against Bobb are notable because she was recently elevated to a senior position at the Republican National Committee focused on “election integrity.”

Mayes was elected as Arizona’s attorney general in 2022, replacing a Republican. As a result, her probe of the 2020 election plot got off to a later start than those of her counterparts in other states, but it recently appeared to be gathering momentum, with numerous witnesses receiving subpoenas to appear before the grand jury, including several of the false electors. Hoffman, one of the state lawmakers to face charges, appeared before the grand jury on April 8 and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Mayes also subpoenaed several figures in Trump’s national orbit, including two Republican members of Congress, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who played vocal roles in Trump’s bid to overturn the election. Neither Gosar nor Biggs, however, were considered targets of the probe, and they were not charged in the indictment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Trial Could Bring a Rarity: Consequences for His Words, Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 28, 2024. Donald Trump has spent decades spewing thousands of words and contradicting himself. That tendency is working against him in his Manhattan criminal case.

“So that’s not true? That’s not true?”

The judge in control of Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial had just cut off the former president’s lawyer, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche had been in the midst of defending a social media post in which his client wrote that a statement that had been public for years “WAS JUST FOUND!”

Mr. Blanche had already acknowledged during the Tuesday hearing that Mr. Trump’s post was false. But the judge, Juan M. Merchan, wasn’t satisfied.

“I need to understand,” Justice Merchan said, glaring down at the lawyer from the bench, “what I am dealing with.”

The question of what is true — or at least what can be proven — is at the heart of any trial. But this particular defendant, accused by the Manhattan district attorney’s office of falsifying business records to conceal a sex scandal, has spent five decades spewing thousands and thousands of words, sometimes contradicting himself within minutes, sometimes within the same breath, with little concern for the consequences of what he said.

Mr. Trump has treated his own words as disposable commodities, intended for single use, and not necessarily indicative of any deeply held beliefs. And his tendency to pile phrases on top of one another has often worked to his benefit, amusing or engaging his supporters — sometimes spurring threats and even violence — while distracting, enraging or just plain disorienting his critics and adversaries.

If Mr. Blanche seemed unconcerned at the hearing that he was telling a criminal judge that his client had said something false, it may have been simply because the routine has become so familiar.

Mr. Trump’s career-long habit of a ready-fire-aim stream of consciousness — on social media, on television, to newspaper reporters, to rally attendees — can now be held against him by prosecutors and a judge who has genuine power over him.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold the former president in criminal contempt for violating a gag order that bars him from attacking witnesses, which they argued was necessary given that his previous attacks had “resulted in credible threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation.” Justice Merchan’s questioning of the truth of what Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social was one of several episodes that have brought into stark relief how talking constantly in public — which made Mr. Trump a tabloid fixture and then a reality-television star — has been working against him lately.

Eventually, the case could threaten not only Mr. Trump’s freedom but also the central tenets of a lifelong ethos ever-present in the former president’s patter: a convenient disregard for the truth, the blunt denial of anything damaging and a stubborn insistence that his adversaries are always acting in bad faith.

The consequences so far have been minimal. Prosecutors told the judge at the contempt hearing Tuesday that for now, they were not seeking jail time for comments that mostly targeted two key witnesses: Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, and Ms. Daniels, the porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump and whom Mr. Cohen paid $130,000 to keep silent weeks before the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump is less moved by threats of being fined. Still, when he faced a similar punishment in a civil fraud trial late last year, he slowed his attacks on a court official after the penalties mounted.

OLD GOATS with Jonathan Alter, Trump Trial Day Seven: David Pecker, The Trash Collector, Jonathan Alter, April 26, 2024. The former publisher of the National Enquirer delivers devastating testimony against Donald Trump.

This will be an unusually long post because my old friend and co-author, Cliff Sloan, a Georgetown Law professor who has argued many cases in the Supreme Court, agreed to assume the grim duty of telling you a few things you might not have read about Thursday’s SCOTUS oral arguments on Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution for trying to stage a coup. See below.

In the meantime, I’m holding down the fort inside what will very likely be Trump's only criminal trial this year — or possibly ever.

Given the depressing display in Washington, let’s start with something inspiring from New York.

In most trials, jurors saunter in, joking with each other en route to and from the jury box. Here, they march in and out like soldiers with a silent sense of duty, eyes straight ahead as they pass just three feet from Trump, who has been forced to stand and honor these ordinary citizens whose impartiality he attacks outside the courtroom on an almost daily basis. Few, if any, steal even the briefest glance sideways in his direction. It’s as if he’s not there.

Almost all of Day Seven was consumed by the direct examination of David Pecker, the Trash Collector, who turned out to be a star witness for the prosecution. Pecker’s testimony is not directly relevant to Trump’s law-breaking; hush money is not illegal, and he never paid his old mistress, anyway. But the man who published bullshit turned out to be a truth-teller on the stand. With the memory of an elephant, he detailed example after example of Trump’s criminal intent and contextualized the prosecution’s theory of the case.

I had expected that Judge Juan Merchan would rule Thursday on the prosecution's contempt of court motion. Instead, the DA added four more counts after Trump clearly violated the gag order again by going after a witness. And not just any witness, but the one on the stand now. Before the court convened, Trump told reporters, “This is a message to Pecker: Be nice.”

Sure enough, when Pecker wrapped up on direct, he described Trump as “my mentor” and told a flattering story about how in the aftermath of 9/11, he had to shut his Florida headquarters after an anthrax attack that killed an employee. Trump, he said, was the first person to call him in support and helped him on the insurance claim. “Even though we haven’t spoken [since 2019], I still consider him a friend,” Pecker said with evident sincerity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: If Donald Trump loses the election this November, why would he not once again try to subvert that loss? Philip Bump, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). This is not a baseless question, certainly.

Both Trump’s critics and his supporters agree that Trump tried to prevent Joe Biden from taking office; they just disagree on the validity of that effort. Most Republicans — 62 percent in a December Washington Post-University of Maryland poll — believe there is solid evidence that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud, which is false. This belief undergirds the idea that Trump’s post-2020-election efforts were rooted in his fighting against an illegal effort to influence the presidency rather than being such an illegal effort.

That view still holds. The Pew Research Center published data Wednesday showing that about half of Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) think Trump did nothing wrong in trying to overturn his 2020 loss, with a fifth indicating they were “not sure” if he did anything wrong. That’s more than two-thirds of the party, claiming innocence or uncertainty. Americans overall (and Democrats/Democratic leaners overwhelmingly) think that Trump did something wrong or broke the law.

That Trump’s post-2020 actions are not seen by many in his base as a subversion of democracy is reflected in another question asked by Pew. Respondents were presented with a number of characteristics that might apply to Biden or Trump and asked how confident they were that the characteristics applied to the candidates.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Trump’s Immunity Claim Joins His Plans to Increase Executive Power, Charlie Savage, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). From the courts to the campaign trail, former President Donald J. Trump is challenging a hallmark of American-style democracy: its suspicion of concentrated power.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Thursday over Mr. Trump’s claim that criminal charges against him in the federal election subversion case must be thrown out because the Constitution makes him all but immune from being prosecuted for actions he took as president — no matter what the evidence may show.

That vision of a presidency operating above the law dovetails with second-term plans that Mr. Trump and his allies are making to eliminate myriad internal checks and balances on the executive branch and to centralize greater power in his hands. That would include eliminating independent agencies and job protections for tens of thousands of senior civil servants.

While the legal theories behind Mr. Trump’s claim of absolute immunity and his plans to consolidate White House control are different, they are united by a common approach to governance. The power of American presidents has traditionally been seen as held in check by counterbalancing forces, but Mr. Trump is trying to grind down such constraints.

As he once declared to a cheering crowd of supporters in 2019, referring to the portion of the Constitution that creates and empowers the presidency: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

 

 Donald J. Trump with members of his defense team — Todd Blanche (left), Emil Bove and Susan Necheles — ahead of the start of jury selection last week (Pool photo by Jabin Botsford).

Donald J. Trump with members of his defense team — Todd Blanche (left), Emil Bove and Susan Necheles — ahead of the start of jury selection last week (Pool photo by Jabin Botsford).

ny times logoNew York Times, The National Enquirer’s help for Donald Trump broke norms even in the tabloid world, Jim Rutenberg, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The National Enquirer was more than a friendly media outlet for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. It was a powerful, national political weapon that was thrust into the service of a single candidate, in violation of campaign finance law.

david pecker croppedThe tabloid’s former publisher, David Pecker, right, testified nonchalantly on Tuesday about how the tabloid operated in tandem with the Trump campaign, “catching and killing” potentially damaging stories and running elaborate and false hit pieces on Mr. Trump’s opponents. But its practices were unusual even in the wild supermarket tabloid news game.

By the admission of The Enquirer’s own publisher — first made to federal prosecutors years ago during the prosecution of Mr. Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen — the tabloid was operating with the full intention of helping Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Under the First Amendment, newspapers are permitted to support candidates. But The Enquirer’s support went beyond journalism: The publication paid $150,000 for a story a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, was preparing to tell about an affair she said she had with the candidate. Then, it published nothing.

President Donald Trump officialThat sort of deal is not unusual in the tabloid news trade, even if it violates journalistic standards followed by mainstream American outlets like this one, which have rules against paying sources.

But before 2016, there had never been a known catch-and-kill deal to aid a presidential campaign. In that context, The Enquirer’s payment violated federal campaign laws prohibiting corporations from donating to presidential candidates — who are limited to receiving direct donations of $4,400 per person — and forbidding them to coordinate election-related spending with campaigns.

As The Enquirer’s parent company at the time, American Media, admitted in a “non-prosecution” deal with the federal government in 2018: “AMI knew that corporations such as AMI are subject to federal campaign finance laws, and that expenditures by corporations, made for purposes of influencing an election and in coordination with or at the request of a candidate or campaign, are unlawful.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Oral argument on immunity hints at another Trump trial — but not soon, Ruth Marcus, right, April 26, ruth marcus twitter Custom2024 (print ed.). If there was any chance of Donald Trump being prosecuted before the next presidential election for trying to interfere in the previous one, that prospect looks even more dim after nearly three hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The conservative justices’ professed concerns over the implications of their rulings for imaginary future presidents, in imaginary future proceedings, seemed more important to them than bringing Trump to justice.

First, there is certainly no prospect of a speedy decision. The issues as hashed out before the justices, and the evident division among them, all but guarantee there will be no ruling until the court finishes up its work in late June or early July.

The New Republic via TribeLaw and X, The Alito Four seem convinced that “the sanctity of the Court and the laws and norms of our democracy" will protect them, Laurence Tribe,  Anyone who has spent 10 minutes studying how democracies collapse knows this is idiotic, but it stems from the justices’ own hubristic belief that the Court is so powerful and respected that it is immune to everything.

They believe the respect for the institution will ensure their power endures.” That’s just dumb.

Meidas Touch Network, Trump panics over Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In Late Night Rant, Jordy Meiselas, Apr il26, 2024.
Trump is getting increasingly nervous. Donald Trump is actively panicking this evening over Robert F. Kennedy Jr. possibly taking support away from him at the polls this November. In a new post on Truth Social, Donald Trump wrote:

mtn meidas touch networkRFK Jr. is a Democrat “Plant,” a Radical Left Liberal who’s been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the Worst President in the History of the United States, get Re-Elected,” Trump posted. “A vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against the Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him. Junior’ is totally Anti-Gun, an Extreme Environmentalist who makes the Green New Scammers look Conservative, a Big Time Taxer and Open Border Advocate and Anti-military/Vet.

ICE logoTrump went on to attack Kennedy's family along with Kennedy's new Vice Presidential pick Nicole Shanahan.

Trump concluded his rant about RFK Jr. by talking about RFK's anti-vaccine history (even though Trump's supporters have peddled many of the same conspiracies as it relates to the COVID vaccine). Overall, Trump is not having a good evening despite it being Melania's birthday. Trump is spending his days in the courtroom and his nights ranting on Truth Social.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Conservative Justices Signal Support for States Defying Emergency Abortion Exceptions, Troy Matthews, April 25, 2024. Several States are hedging on providing exceptions for abortions for medical necessity.

mtn meidas touch networkThe U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a federal challenge to Idaho's total abortion ban law on Wednesday, during which the conservative Justices on the court seemed skeptical that states with total abortion bans are violating federal emergency healthcare protections.

Shortly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in June 2022 which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Biden Administration issued direction that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), a law which governs doctors' actions in an emergency room, can effectively overrule state abortion bans and allow doctors to perform an abortion if the mother's life is in danger.

Under EMTALA, hospitals that accept Medicare must provide emergency care, including abortions, to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Idaho maintained before the court they held their own standards of care for medical emergencies that should not be subject to federal rules.

During arguments, conservatives on the court repeatedly pushed back on the Biden Administration's interpretation of EMTALA, expressing skepticism in a one-size-fits-all federal requirement for emergency medical treatment.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, seemed to side with Idaho stating, “How can you impose restrictions on what Idaho can criminalize, simply because hospitals in Idaho have chosen to participate in Medicare?"

Counsel for Idaho Joshua N. Turner maintained that Idaho does require doctors to intervene in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, but could not directly define what that meant. Idaho and other total abortion ban states seem to hold to the standard that a woman must be on the verge of death before a doctor can perform an abortion as an intervention, which forces to doctors to refuse interventions even when an abortion is clearly required based on their own medical judgement.

The liberal Justices on the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed horrified that Idaho was hedging on the emergency abortion exception, citing several real life examples of women who were denied abortion care by doctors who were unsure their case met the standard for an emergency abortion and were sent home, only to suffer severe side-effects including hemorrhaging and eventual hysterectomies as a result of delaying care.

Kagan also discussed the ramifications for women who seek abortions not just to save their own lives, but also to save their fertility, in cases when a miscarriage may damage reproductive organs. The Idaho standard does not necessarily permit abortions in such cases.

“Within these rare cases, there’s a significant number where the woman’s life is not in peril, but she’s going to lose her reproductive organs. She’s going to lose the ability to have children in the future unless an abortion takes place,” Kagan said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said she was "kind of shocked" to hear Idaho hedging on permitting abortion to save fertility. Turner maintained that doctors in Idaho were permitted to use "good faith judgements" in such cases, but Coney Barrett then presented the crux of the medical exception question: "What if a prosecutor thinks differently," she asked, highlighting the fact that abortion bans put the authority to determine who may receive an abortion in the hands of prosecutors and judges, not doctors.

Idaho's abortion ban imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for performing abortions without exceptions for rape or incest.

Given the history of this Supreme Court's interpretation on abortion rights, it does not seem farfetched that they may rule that states have the right to impose their own criminal standard for abortions, including prosecuting doctors for performing an abortion even if it is to save the life of the mother.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Supreme Court TIPS ITS HAT after Argument, Michael Popok, April 28, 2024. mtn meidas touch networkThere will be at least 5 or even 6 votes at the United States Supreme Court to give TRUMP IMMUNITY from at least some of the allegations and crimes in the Special Counsel’s DC Election interference case, and cause a delay that will prevent the case from being tried before November.

Michael Popok analyzes the oral argument, and, without blowing smoke or sunshine, gives you his best estimate of what the Court’s opinion is likely to look like when it’s issued in June.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Emergency Abortion Access, Justices Seem Sharply Divided, Abbie VanSickle, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The case, which could reverberate beyond Idaho to over a dozen other states with abortion bans, is the second time in less than a month that the justices have heard an abortion case.

The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on Wednesday over whether Idaho’s near-total abortion ban overrides a federal law that protects patients who need emergency care in a case that could determine access to abortions in emergency rooms across the country.

In a lively argument, questions by the justices suggested a divide along ideological lines, as well as a possible split by gender on the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, appeared skeptical that Idaho’s law, which bars doctors from providing abortions unless a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of ectopic or molar pregnancies, superseded the federal law.

The argument also raised a broader question about whether some of the conservative justices, particularly Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., may be prepared to embrace language of fetal personhood, that is, the notion that a fetus would have the same rights at the pregnant woman.

The clash between the Idaho and federal laws affects only the sliver of women who face dire medical complications during pregnancy. But a broad decision by the court could have implications for about 14 states that have enacted near-total bans on abortion since the court overturned a constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.

The dispute is the second time in less than a month that the Supreme Court is grappling with abortion. It is a potent reminder that even after Justice Alito vowed in 2022 that the issue of abortion would return to elected representatives in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it continues to make its way back to the court. In late March, the justices considered the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone.

The federal law at issue, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, enacted by Congress in 1986, mandates that hospitals receiving federal funds provide patients with stabilizing care.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

Politico, Judge sentences Jan. 6 ‘chaos agent’ to 6 years in jail, Kyle Cheney, April 26, 2024. Prosecutors described John Sullivan as a “one-man show” who found common cause with anyone seeking to “tear it all down.”

politico CustomJohn Sullivan traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to foment conflict with supporters of then-President Donald Trump. On Friday, he was sentenced to six years in federal prison for leading them into the Capitol, filming the shooting death of rioter Ashli Babbitt and then selling his footage to news organizations while claiming to be a journalist.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth called Sullivan a “chaos agent” unique among Jan. 6 defendants for exploiting the pro-Trump mob despite disclaiming the belief that the 2020 election was stolen.

Lamberth said, for Sullivan, “violence was an end unto itself.” And he chastised Sullivan for falsely claiming he was documenting the riot as a journalist, selling his footage to news outlets for more than $90,000.

The sentence closes one of the oddest Jan. 6 cases. Sullivan was arrested shortly after the riot, and prosecutors initially described him as a supporter of causes like “Black Lives Matter” and the anti-facism movement. His presence in the mob helped foment baseless claims of some Trump allies that the riot was sparked by anti-Trump agitators.

djt maga hatProsecutors said Friday that Sullivan traveled to Washington intending to confront “fascist” Trump supporters. But they said when he realized the mob was preparing to storm the Capitol, he decided to exploit it to carry out his own anti-government agenda. Armed with a megaphone, Sullivan rallied the crowd to push past police.

Sullivan made his way to the “vanguard” of the mob, Lamberth noted, and twice offered a four-inch blade he was carrying to other rioters. He ended up just feet behind Babbitt before she was shot trying to climb through a window into the Speaker’s Lobby off the House chamber. Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, was present in the courtroom Friday as Lamberth announced his sentence.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had sought a more-than-seven-year sentence, saying that although Sullivan claimed to espouse “noble” goals like racial equality, he attempted to fulfill them in “completely unlawful and egregious” ways. They said despite cloaking himself as a supporter of far-left organizations, Sullivan was a “one-man show” who found common cause with anyone seeking to “tear it all down.”

Sullivan tearfully apologized for his conduct before lamenting what he described as abysmal conditions in the D.C. jail, where he’s been confined for five months since he was convicted by a jury. His attorney emphasized that Sullivan has faced uniquely challenging conditions in jail because while he’s confined to a wing meant to house Jan. 6 defendants, he’s been kept in isolation because other convicted rioters view him as hostile to their beliefs.

Sullivan’s father, who also spoke during the sentencing, noted that Sullivan was the oldest of four adopted children, had become an Eagle Scout and once trained to become an Olympic speedskater, describing him as a thoughtful and selfless member of the community.

Lamberth has long criticized conditions at the D.C. jail and has even once held officials there in contempt for their handling of another Jan. 6 defendant’s case. He told Sullivan he continues to “deplore” the way inmates are treated there and agreed to recommend that Sullivan serve his sentence in a low-security facility near his Utah home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuits test Tesla claim that drivers are solely responsible for crashes, Trisha Thadani, April 28, 2024. Evidence emerging in the Tesla Autopilot cases — including dash-cam video obtained by The Washington Post — offers sometimes-shocking details. As CEO Elon Musk stakes the future of Tesla on autonomous driving, lawyers from California to Florida are picking apart the company’s most common driver assistance technology in painstaking detail, arguing that Autopilot is not safe for widespread use by the public.

At least eight lawsuits headed to trial in the coming year — including two that haven’t been previously reported — involve fatal or otherwise serious crashes that occurred while the driver was allegedly relying on Autopilot. The complaints argue that Tesla exaggerated the capabilities of the feature, which controls steering, speed and other actions typically left to the driver. As a result, the lawsuits claim, the company created a false sense of complacency that led the drivers to tragedy.

Evidence emerging in the cases — including dash-cam video obtained by The Washington Post — offers sometimes-shocking details: In Phoenix, a woman allegedly relying on Autopilot plows into a disabled car and is then struck and killed by another vehicle after exiting her Tesla. In Tennessee, an intoxicated man allegedly using Autopilot drives down the wrong side of the road for several minutes before barreling into an oncoming car, killing the 20-year-old inside.

Tesla maintains that it is not liable for the crashes because the driver is ultimately in control of the vehicle. But that contention is coming under increasing pressure, including from federal regulators. Late Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a new review of Autopilot, signaling concern that a December recall failed to significantly improve misuse of the technology and that drivers are misled into thinking the “automation has greater capabilities than it does.”tennessee map

ny times logoNew York Times, Tennessee Parents Question Whether Arming Teachers Is the Answer, Jamie McGee and Rick Rojas, April 25, 2024. Supporters of new legislation to allow some teachers to carry firearms say it will make the state’s schools safer. Many parents and educators are not convinced.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m a Grown Man Running Against a 6-Year-Old’: Biden Lets Trump Jokes Fly, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Minho Kim and Zach Montague, Updated April 28, 2024. President Biden roasted former President Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Outside, pro-Palestinian protesters rallied.

President Biden didn’t waste time.

Just minutes into his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, Mr. Biden launched into the issues dominating the 2024 election, including his age and former President Donald J. Trump’s hush-money trial in New York.

“The 2024 election’s in full swing and yes, age is an issue,” Mr. Biden said in a roughly 10-minute speech. “I’m a grown man running against a 6-year-old.”

“Donald has had a few tough days lately. You might call it ‘stormy’ weather,” Mr. Biden said, an oblique reference to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress who claims to have had sex with Mr. Trump in 2006 and received a hush-money payment in the days before the 2016 election, a deal at the center of his New York trial.

The comments, even as part of a roast, were notable given Mr. Biden has forbidden his aides to talk publicly about Mr. Trump’s legal troubles. But they also came as Mr. Biden has ramped up his attacks on Mr. Trump, sharpening the split-screen between a president on the campaign trail and a former president spending his days in a courtroom.

The annual dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel provided a break to journalists and government officials from their normal jousting for a night of glitz and gossip in celebration of the free press. Mr. Biden, who has held fewer news conferences than his predecessors, extended his roast to the journalists gathered for the dinner.

“Some of you complained that I don’t take enough of your questions,” Mr. Biden said. “No comment.”

“The New York Times issued a statement blasting me for ‘actively and effectively avoiding independent journalists,’” Mr. Biden said. “Hey, if that’s what it takes to get The New York Times to say I’m active and effective, I’m for it.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Close Examination of the Most Infamous Public Toilet in America, Ezra Klein, right, April 28, 2024. In a ezra klein twitterrecent sunny Sunday, residents of San Francisco’s Noe Valley gathered to celebrate the opening of a toilet. But not just any toilet. This was the nation’s most infamous public toilet.

In 2022, my colleague Heather Knight, then at The San Francisco Chronicle, noticed the projected price tag on the commode: $1.7 million, which Assemblyman Matt Haney had secured from the state. This was business as usual in San Francisco. Other public toilets had cost about the same. Local officials were planning a celebration. But Knight’s article set off a furor. Gov. Gavin Newsom clawed back the money. The party was canceled. Haney denounced the project he had made possible: “The cost is insane. The process is insane. The amount of time it takes is insane.” He wanted answers.

Phil Ginsburg, the general manager of San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department, responded with a letter that is a masterpiece of coiled bureaucratic fury. He told Haney that the department had been “pleasantly surprised” by the “unexpected allocation” of $1.7 million for the Noe bathroom. “Until now,” Ginsburg wrote, “we have not received any questions from you on the estimate.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Nobody Saw Andy Kim Coming. That’s What He Was Counting On, Christopher Maag, April 28, 2024 (print ed.). Mr. Kim, the New Jersey congressman, has become the odds-on favorite to win Robert Menendez’s Senate seat. His strategy? Don’t ask anyone for permission.

Facing federal charges that he accepted bribes, including cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz, Senator Robert Menendez announced on Friday, Sept. 22, that he would not resign.

A day later, Andy Kim, a little-known Democratic congressman from southern New Jersey, gathered his top advisers for a conference call. Everyone present assumed that Mr. Kim would announce his intention to challenge Mr. Menendez for his Senate seat.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Explosion in Afghanistan Nearly Killed Him. Now, It’s Inspiring His Senate Bid, Kellen Browning, April 28, 2024. Sam Brown, a veteran and former Army captain, was left permanently scarred from a Taliban bomb in 2008. Can his military service drive a successful political campaign in Nevada?

Lying in an Afghan desert, engulfed in flames and soaked in diesel fuel, Sam Brown realized he was about to die.

It was September 2008, and Mr. Brown, who was a U.S. Army lieutenant at the time, had been leading his platoon to the aid of fellow soldiers who had been ambushed by the Taliban. Then, his Humvee struck a roadside bomb. In an explosion of fire and concussive sound, Mr. Brown’s life was forever changed.

“I remember laying there, facedown in the dirt in the Kandahar desert, trying to scoop dirt over myself to smother the flames and having no success, and thinking to myself: How long will it take to burn to death? What happens as I die?” Mr. Brown recalled in an interview with The New York Times. “And then literally making the decision to give up the will to live.”

But he survived. A fellow soldier, also injured in the blast, saved Mr. Brown, and his platoon provided first aid until he could be evacuated to a hospital. At a burn unit in Texas, he underwent more than 30 surgeries over a three-year recovery, and he was left permanently scarred.

Now, Mr. Brown, 40, who medically retired as a captain, is the leading Republican seeking to challenge Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, in what is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle, with the potential to determine control of the chamber.

At campaign stops, Mr. Brown does not dwell on his dramatic history, focusing instead on inflation, which many Nevadans have felt acutely, and on the border. But his experience is a central part of his appeals to supporters as he works to raise the kind of money needed to run a statewide campaign against a well-funded incumbent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Louisiana Will Get a New City After a Yearslong Court Battle, Rick Rojas, April 28, 2024.  A part of Baton Rouge will become the city of St. George. Critics said the separation of the white, wealthier enclave could have devastating consequences.

The original plan was to start a school district. That didn’t work. So a group of residents in a sprawling unincorporated suburb of Baton Rouge, La., expanded their idea: Create a city of their own, called St. George.

In 2015, they collected signatures to bring their proposal up for a vote, but didn’t get enough. In 2019, they tried again. This time, they made it to a ballot and won the election, only to be stalled by a lengthy court battle.

But the Louisiana Supreme Court cleared the way on Friday for the formation of St. George, a city of nearly 100,000 people that joins the ranks of the state’s largest cities, falling between Lafayette and Lake Charles in population. It is the first city to be incorporated in Louisiana in nearly two decades.

A majority of justices found that lower courts had erred in blocking the city’s creation over concerns of its financial viability.

But its opponents — including parish leaders, as well as a powerful cross-section of business and civic leaders — contended that the complaints driving the campaign were unfounded and unfair. They argued that the plan for a new city was poorly conceived and would cause turbulence for the parish as a whole, rather than improve anyone’s quality of life.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Allies of Donald Trump are said to be devising plans to reduce the Federal Reserve’s independence if he is re-elected, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The Wall Street Journal reports that allies of Donald Trump are devising ways of watering down the central bank’s independence if he is re-elected president.

If true, that change would represent the biggest shake-up in U.S. monetary policy in decades. But it also raises questions about whether such a plan is possible — or whether Trump’s Wall Street supporters would back it.

Both big and small changes are on the table, according to The Journal, which cites unidentified sources. Among the most consequential would be asserting that Trump had the authority to oust Jay Powell as Fed chair before Powell’s term is up in 2025. While Trump gave Powell the job in 2017, he has since soured on his pick for raising rates, and has publicly said he wouldn’t give Powell a second term.

Smaller changes include allowing the White House to review Fed rules and using the Treasury Department to keep the central bank on a tighter leash.

The overall goal is to give Trump what he wants: more say on interest rates. Trump allies have discussed requiring candidates to lead the Fed to informally consult with him on such decisions and essentially act as the president’s advocate on the institution’s rate-setting committee.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: MAGA Republican Operatives Embedded in Trump "Union Worker" Pre-Trial Event, J.D. Wolf, April 25, 2024. Trump continues pattern of campaign controlled, MAGA operative embedded ops.

mtn meidas touch networkTrump's campaign has done it again. This time Trump's campaign, apparently in reaction to another major union endorsing Biden, organized a group of union members for a Trump photo op.

While some of the people were wearing union clothing and there were definitely Trump supporters in the crowd, there were also embedded operatives spotted by MeidasTouch. Trump's spokesperson Caroline Leavitt called Trump's pre-trial event, a "meeting with union workers on the job."

 

President Biden with Kennedy family members during a Philadelphia campaign Thursday, April 18, 2024 (Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman).

President Biden with Kennedy family members during a Philadelphia campaign Thursday, April 18, 2024 (Washington Post photo by Demetrius Freeman).

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy family members’ embrace carries deeper meaning for Biden, Tyler Pager, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). Biden has longstanding ties to the family of the only other Catholic president, sharing politics and tragedy.

Growing up in a proud Irish Catholic middle-class family, Joe Biden’s family idolized the Kennedys. They saw the Kennedys — successful, wealthy, attractive Irish Catholics — as the embodiment of the American Dream. Biden says Robert F. Kennedy Sr., whose bust sits in the Oval Office, inspired him to become a public defender and ultimately run for office.

“The Kennedys were, as a group, the people he patterned his life after,” said former senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), who was Biden’s longtime chief of staff and remains his close friend. “Not just his political life, but his life.”

So when the Kennedy family rallied behind Biden last week in Philadelphia with a full-throated endorsement of his reelection campaign, pointedly choosing him over one of their own — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent — it was not just politically helpful. It was a hugely personal victory for Biden, too.

washington post logoWashington Post, Group backing RFK Jr. spent more than $2 million on abandoned ballot effort, Michael Scherer,
April 21, 2024. American Values 2024 is the latest group to struggle using unlimited donations from the very wealthy to subsidize traditional presidential campaign expenses.

A super PAC backing independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent more than $2.4 million on a now-abandoned plan to gather signatures to help him achieve ballot access, without producing anything that will be used by the Kennedy campaign, according to new campaign finance disclosures.
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American Values 2024 announced in December that it would spend between $10 million and $15 million to collect signatures for Kennedy’s ballot access in 10 states. The group then expanded the list to 15 states in February, when the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission arguing that the plan violated campaign finance laws.

Weeks later, group co-founder Tony Lyons announced a sudden end to the program because, he said, the campaign had signaled publicly it was “pursuing ballot access in all states.” Lyons said Friday in a statement to The Washington Post that none of the signatures collected by the PAC, including completed petitions for Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina and Georgia, were given to the campaign.

“While our PAC could legally gather signatures, we saw no purpose in competing with the campaign. It has become clear that they didn’t and don’t need our help,” Lyons said. “As a result, our priorities have shifted, at least for now, toward countering the DNC’s desperate attempts to mislead the public with respect to Mr. Kennedy’s character and policies.”

Carlos Sierra, a Kennedy campaign organizer, told other Kennedy backers in a Zoom call this month, that the super PAC’s signatures in Arizona would not be used, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Post.

“We are going to be getting Arizona all over again, so those of you that are on this call from Arizona, we are going to have to go back and get those signatures, so don’t think it is over yet. It is not,” Sierra said.

The Natural Law Party announced Thursday that Kennedy would appear on its Michigan ballot line, which the Michigan secretary of state’s office confirmed would give him ballot access in that state, making further signatures there unnecessary. The Kennedy campaign has also scheduled events to continue signature-gathering in South Carolina and Georgia, according to its website.

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Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Abrupt U-Turns Are Defining U.S. Environmental Regulations, Coral Davenport, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The polarization of politics means that rules are imposed, gutted and restored with each election. Experts say that’s bad for the economy.

The Biden administration’s move on Thursday to strictly limit pollution from coal-burning power plants is a major policy shift. But in many ways it’s one more hairpin turn in a zigzag approach to environmental regulation in the United States, a pattern that has grown more extreme as the political landscape has become more polarized.

Nearly a decade ago, President Barack Obama was the Democrat who tried to force power plants to stop burning coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. His Republican successor, Donald J. Trump, effectively reversed that plan. Now President Biden is trying once more to put an end to carbon emissions from coal plants. But Mr. Trump, who is running to replace Mr. Biden, has promised that he will again delete those plans if he wins in November.

The country’s participation in the Paris climate accord has followed the same swerving path: Under Mr. Obama, the United States joined the global commitment to fight climate change, only for Mr. Trump to pull the U.S. out of it, and for Mr. Biden to rejoin. If Mr. Trump wins the presidency, he is likely to exit the accord. Again.

Government policies have always shifted between Democratic and Republican administrations, but they have generally stayed in place and have been tightened or loosened along a spectrum, depending on the occupant of the White House.

But in the last decade, environmental rules in particular have been caught in a cycle of erase-and-replace whiplash.

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Major Climate Policies Trump Would Probably Reverse if Elected, Lisa Friedman, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). He has called for increased oil production and said that electric vehicles will result in an ‘assassination’ of jobs.

Former President Donald J. Trump has vowed to “cancel” President Biden’s policies for cutting pollution from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, “terminate” efforts to encourage electric vehicles, and “develop the liquid gold that is right under our feet” by promoting oil and gas.

Those changes and others that Mr. Trump has promised, if he were to win the presidency again, represent a 180-degree shift from Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.

When he was president, Mr. Trump reversed more than 100 environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration. Mr. Biden has in turn reversed much of Mr. Trump’s agenda.

But climate advocates argue a second Trump term would be far more damaging than his first, because the window to keep rising global temperatures to relatively safe levels is rapidly closing.

“It would become an all-out assault on any possible progress on climate change,” said Pete Maysmith, the senior vice president of campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.

Senior Republicans don’t necessarily disagree. Michael McKenna, who worked in the Trump White House and is supporting Mr. Trump’s bid for a second term, said the approach to climate change would likely be one of “indifference.”

“I doubt very seriously we’re going to spend any time working on it,” Mr. McKenna said. To the contrary, he said, the Biden administration’s climate regulations would be “in trouble.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Severely Limits Pollution From Coal Burning Power Plants, Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). New regulations could spell the end for electric plants that burn coal, the fossil fuel that powered the country for more than a century.

The Biden administration on Thursday placed the final cornerstone of its plan to tackle climate change: a regulation that would force the nation’s coal-fired power plants to virtually eliminate the planet-warming pollution that they release into the air or shut down.

The regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency requires coal plants in the United States to reduce 90 percent of their greenhouse pollution by 2039, one year earlier than the agency had initially proposed. The compressed timeline was welcomed by climate activists but condemned by coal executives who said the new standards would be impossible to meet.

The E.P.A. also imposed three additional regulations on coal-burning power plants, including stricter limits on emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin linked to developmental damage in children, from plants that burn lignite coal, the lowest grade of coal. The rules also more tightly restrict the seepage of toxic ash from coal plants into water supplies and limit the discharge of wastewater from coal plants.

Taken together, the regulations could deliver a death blow in the United States to coal, the fuel that powered the country for much of the last century but has caused global environmental damage. When burned, coal emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel source.

The new rules regarding power plants come weeks after the administration’s other major climate regulations to limit emissions from cars and large trucks in a way that is designed to speed the adoption of electric vehicles. Transportation and electric power are the two largest sources in the United States of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

President Biden wants to cut that pollution by about 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of this decade, and to eliminate emissions from the power sector by 2035.

The coal industry in the United States has been on a precipitous decline for over a decade, as environmental regulations and a boom in natural gas, wind and solar power made it more expensive to burn coal, and power generation shifted toward those cheaper, cleaner sources of electricity. In 2023, coal-fired power plants generated 16.2 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, down from a peak of 52 percent in 1990. There are about 200 coal-burning power plants still operating, with many concentrated in Pennsylvania, Texas and Indiana.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Biden administration also finalized a rule meant to speed up permits for power transmission lines, Brad Plumer, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Biden administration on Thursday finalized a rule meant to speed up federal permits for major transmission lines, part of a broader push to expand America’s electric grids.

Administration officials are increasingly worried that their plans to fight climate change could falter unless the nation can quickly add vast amounts of grid capacity to handle more wind and solar power and to better tolerate extreme weather. The pace of construction for high-voltage power lines has sharply slowed since 2013, and building new lines can take a decade or more because of permitting delays and local opposition.

The Energy Department is trying to use the limited tools at its disposal to pour roughly $20 billion into grid upgrades and to streamline approvals for new lines. But experts say a rapid, large-scale grid expansion may ultimately depend on Congress.

Under the rule announced on Thursday, the Energy Department would take over as the lead agency in charge of federal environmental reviews for certain interstate power lines and would aim to issue necessary permits within two years. Currently, the federal approval process can take four years or more and often involves multiple agencies each conducting their own separate reviews.

“We need to build new transmission projects more quickly, as everybody knows,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. The new reforms are “a huge improvement from the status quo, where developers routinely have to navigate several independent permitting processes throughout the federal government.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Mining Giant BHP Makes $39 Billion Bid for Rival Anglo American, Melissa Eddy, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). pril 25, 2024. The deal would create one of the largest copper miners at a time when demand is soaring for the metal used in many green technologies.

BHP Group, the world’s largest mining company, has proposed a takeover of its rival Anglo American, in a deal that has the potential to shake up the industry at a time when demand for copper is soaring.

BHP said on Thursday that it had approached Anglo with a bid valued at 31.1 billion pounds, or $39 billion, in what would be one of the most significant deals in the industry in years. If successful, the acquisition would create the world’s largest miner of copper at a time of growing global hunger for the metal, which is essential to the green-energy transition.

Anglo confirmed that it had received an “unsolicited, nonbinding and highly conditional combination proposal from BHP” and that its board was reviewing the offer with its advisers. BHP, which has headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, offered Anglo’s shareholders just over 25 pounds per share, more than 10 percent above Wednesday’s closing stock price.

Anglo, which is based in London, owns large copper operations in Chile and Peru, as well as 85 percent of De Beers Group, the world’s leading diamond company. It has been viewed as a potential takeover target for the world’s largest miners, especially following a 94 percent plunge in annual profit and a series of write-downs in February.

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More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Asylum Seekers Already in U.K. Say Rwanda Law Creates New Anxiety, Megan Specia and Emma Bubola, April 28, 2024. For the tens of thousands of people trying to claim refugee status in Britain, a new law brings the possibility of deportation to central Africa closer.

On a cold spring day last month, Mohsen, a 36-year-old from Iran, woke before dawn and was hurried by smugglers onto a rubber boat on the coast of France.

The water was calm and the sky clear, but he knew the risks of the journey he was about to make, he said. Since 2018, at least 72 people have drowned in the Channel while attempting crossings, according to the International Organization for Migration.

He fled Iran, he said, because police officers came to his home last year threatening to arrest him after he took part in anti-government protests.

Mohsen, who asked to be identified only by his first name over concerns that having his full name published could affect his asylum claim, said he was willing to risk drowning for the chance of a new life in Britain. And he boarded the boat even though he knew about the British government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda, which was first announced in 2022.

“What can I do? What other option did I have?” he said. “Honestly, I am worried, especially after Monday. Every day, the rules seem to change.”

On Monday, Britain’s Conservative government passed a contentious law intended to clear the way for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin in the summer despite an earlier ruling by Britain’s Supreme Court that deemed the country unsafe for refugees. For months, the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill, with a former Conservative chancellor saying that ignoring the country’s highest court set “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

Under the plan, some asylum seekers will have their claims heard in Rwanda, and, even if approved, they would be resettled there and not allowed to live in Britain. Anyone who arrived in Britain after Jan. 1, 2022, and traveled by dangerous means, like small boats or covertly in trucks, or came via a “safe third country,” could be sent to Rwanda, according to government guidance. The law and other recent government policies mean there are now very few ways to claim asylum in Britain, with some exceptions including for Ukrainians and people from Hong Kong.

Charities and rights groups that support asylum seekers say many have expressed concern about Rwanda’s troubled human rights record and that fears of being sent away had added to the anxiety of living in limbo for months or even years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran expands public crackdown on women and girls, sparking public anger, Susannah George, Nilo Tabrizy and Jonathan Baran, April 25, 2024. With global attention focused on Iran’s escalating conflict with Israel, Tehran has intensified its domestic crackdown on women, giving police expanded powers to enforce conservative dress codes.

The new wave of repression appears to be one of the most significant efforts to roll back perceived social gains in the aftermath of the 2022 protest movement — a months-long uprising that challenged gender segregation and clerical rule. Some Iranians suspect the government is using fears of regional war as cover to tighten its grip at home; others say it’s just the latest salvo in a long-running campaign aimed at extinguishing all forms of dissent.

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian War Goals

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Is Denying Consular Services to Men Who Leave Country, Maria Varenikova, April 26, 2024. New guidance carries a clear message to men abroad who may be avoiding the draft: You don’t get the benefit of state services if you don’t join the fight.

ukraine flagUkrainian officials have taken several steps in recent weeks to swell the ranks of an army depleted by more than two years of grueling combat. The government passed a new mobilization bill aimed at increasing troop numbers and has stepped up border patrols to catch draft dodgers.

Now, officials are targeting men who have already left the country. This week the government announced that Ukrainian embassies had suspended issuing new passports and providing other consular services for military-age men living abroad.

Men between the ages of 18 and 60 were prohibited from leaving the country after the start of Russia’s invasion in 2022, but some were abroad before the rule took effect and others have left illegally since then.

By suspending consular services, the government said, it was responding to demands for fairness in society.

The new rules will remain in place until a new mobilization law takes effect on May 18. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that it was still working out the details about what services would be provided after the broader mobilization law went into effect, but its message was clear: If you are healthy and can fight, come home and join the military.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Western Ukraine, a Community Wrestles With Patriotism or Survival, Natalia Yermak, Photographs by Brendan Hoffman, April 26, 2024. Communities that were steadfast in their commitment to the war effort have been shaken by the unending violence on the front line.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, ‘A Good Day for World Peace’: Biden Signs Aid Bill for Ukraine and Israel, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The $95.3 billion measure comes after months of gridlock in Congress that put the centerpiece of President Biden’s foreign policy in jeopardy.

President Biden signed a $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia’s military assault after months of congressional gridlock put the centerpiece of the White House’s foreign policy in jeopardy.

“It’s a good day for world peace,” Mr. Biden said from the State Dining Room of the White House. “It’s going to make America safer, it’s going to make the world safer, and it continues America’s leadership in the world and everyone knows it.”

ukraine flagThe Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve the package on Tuesday night, a sign of bipartisan support after increasingly divisive politics raised questions on Capitol Hill and among U.S. allies over whether the United States would continue to back Kyiv. The 79-to-18 vote provided Mr. Biden another legislative accomplishment to point to, even in the face of an obstructionist House.

Within minutes of the vote, Mr. Biden said he would sign the bill into law “so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week.”

Israel FlagBut even as he hailed the package on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said the process should have “been easier, and should have gotten there sooner.”

“It was a difficult path,” he added, saying that those on the ground in Ukraine had cheered the news. “But in the end we did what America always does. We rose to the moment.”

The measure comes as Mr. Biden faces backlash in the United States over his support for Israel in the war in Gaza. The Israeli government’s campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people and created a hunger crisis there.

“My commitment to Israel,” Mr. Biden said, “is ironclad.”

palestinian flagMr. Biden’s critics on the left are angry about his willingness to provide more weapons to Israel, though the legislation also includes $1 billion for humanitarian aid that the president said will be rushed to Gaza.

“Israel must make sure this aid reaches all of the Palestinians in Gaza, without delay,” Mr. Biden said.

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ny times logoNew York Times, NATO Puts on a Show of Force in the Shadow of Russia’s War, Helene Cooper, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The alliance’s largest exercises offer a preview of what the opening of a Great Power conflict could look like. How it ends is a different story.

About 90,000 NATO troops have been training in Europe this spring for the Great Power war that most hope will never come: a clash between Russia and the West with potentially catastrophic consequences.

In Estonia, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Liberty, N.C., jumped out of planes alongside soldiers from Colchester Garrison in Essex, Britain, for “forcible entry” operations. In Lithuania, German soldiers arrived as a brigade stationed outside Germany on a permanent basis for the first time since World War II.

And on the A4 autobahn in eastern Germany, a U.S. Army captain and his Macedonian counterpart rushed toward the Suwalki Gap — the place many war planners predict will be the flashpoint for a NATO war with Russia — hoping the overheated radiator on their Stryker armored combat vehicle wouldn’t kill the engine.

All are part of what is supposed to be a tremendous show of force by NATO, its largest since the start of the Cold War, that is meant to send a sharp message to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that his ambitions must not venture beyond Ukraine.

But it is also a preview of what the opening beats of a modern Great Power conflict could look like. If NATO and Russia went to war, American and allied troops would initially rush to the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — NATO’s “Eastern Flank”— to try to block penetration by a Russian force.

How that war would end, and how many people might die, is a different story. Tens of millions of people were killed in World War II. This time, the stakes have never been higher. Mr. Putin has brought up the potential for nuclear war several times since Russia invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Ukraine-born congresswoman voted no on aid. Her hometown feels betrayed, Siobhán O'Grady, Anastacia Galouchka and Marianna Sotomayor, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Chernihiv: In this small city north of Kyiv where Rep. Victoria victoria spartz oSpartz (R-Ind.) grew up, locals once lauded her as one of their own — proud of the studious girl with blonde pigtails who moved to America and became the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress.

But after Spartz, right, voted against a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine last week, that pride for some turned to anger and a sense of betrayal — feelings made more raw because her “no” vote came days after Chernihiv was bombed during morning rush hour, killing 18 people.

ukraine flag“She is not Ukrainian anymore, and I see this,” said Natalia Khmelnytska, 50, a teacher at School Number 15, where Spartz studied, and who lives in the apartment block where the congresswoman grew up. “We are disappointed. We are frustrated.”

“At first we were very proud of her and we thought she wanted to support us,” Khmelnytska added. “But now we see that politics and careers are higher than our interests.”

djt maga hatValentyna Rudenok, 65, a history teacher who was a librarian when Spartz studied at the school and remembers sneaking the teenager extra books, said she was proud to learn a former student was elected to Congress. But Rudenok said she is upset by Spartz’s vote.

“When we read about it, we just didn’t understand — it was like she became a different person,” she said. “It was shocking because this woman got so far in her life and is in a position where she could actually influence and help our one city or our one school in which she was educated.”

In the past two years, eight graduates of School 15 have been killed fighting on the front lines. Russian strikes have broken 88 of the building’s windows. Administrators set up a museum on the first floor to display evidence of the war collected by students: shell fragments, a piece of a Russian airplane, a dead Russian soldier’s uniform.

On Capitol Hill, even among Republicans, Spartz is known to be erratic.

First elected in 2020 as a supporter of President Donald Trump, she announced last year that she would not run again, only to reverse her decision a year later, citing her upbringing “under tyranny” as a motivation. She now faces a competitive primary; one challenger has aired television ads accusing her of putting “Ukraine first” over securing the U.S. border.

Spartz’s “no” vote was the latest twist in her transformation from a pro-Ukraine advocate who toured war wreckage in her hometown to a critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in line with the GOP’s most right-wing camp.

In an email, she defended her vote, saying she is proud of her heritage but that it is “actually offensive and un-American to think that as an American my loyalty would not be to the people who elected me to represent them and to my family and children back home in Indiana, but to some foreign government in the country I left 24 years ago.”

Her history, however, is inseparable from Ukraine’s and she has used it repeatedly to her advantage.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle for a Hilltop Fortress in Eastern Ukraine, Explained, Marc Santora, April 25, 2024. Chasiv Yar has been under relentless attack by Russian forces. Controlling the town would put them in striking distance of crucial Ukrainian operational centers.

Russian forces have razed dozens of towns and cities in Ukraine over the past 26 months — killing thousands of civilians, forcing millions from their homes and leaving a trail of destruction that is impossible to calculate.

Sievierodonetsk. Bakhmut. Avdiivka. Cities and towns little known to the world have become the scorched-earth battlegrounds where two armies clashed for months to bloody effect before the Russians finally prevailed.

Now Russian forces have set their sight on Chasiv Yar, a hilltop fortress town in eastern Ukraine. The campaign is part of an intense effort by Russia to achieve what could be its most operationally significant advance since the first summer of the war in 2022.

Chasiv Yar covers only about five square miles, but if the Russians can seize it they will control commanding heights that will allow them to directly target the main agglomeration of cities still under Kyiv’s control in the Donetsk region. That includes the headquarters of the Ukrainian eastern command in Kramatorsk.

It would also put Russian troops within around 10 miles of Kostiantynivka, the main supply juncture for Ukrainian forces across much of the eastern front.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Ukraine, New American Technology Won the Day. Until It Was Overwhelmed, David E. Sanger, April 23, 2024. Project Maven was meant to revolutionize modern warfare. But the conflict in Ukraine has underscored how difficult it is to reach 19th-century trenches.

ukraine flagThe idea triggered a full-scale revolt on the Google campus.

Six years ago, the Silicon Valley giant signed a small, $9 million contract to put the skills of a few of its most innovative developers to the task of building an artificial intelligence tool that would help the military detect potential targets on the battlefield using drone footage.

Engineers and other Google employees argued that the company should have nothing to do with Project Maven, even if it was designed to help the military discern between civilians and militants.

The uproar forced the company to back out, but Project Maven didn’t die — it just moved to other contractors. Now, it has grown into an ambitious experiment being tested on the front lines in Ukraine, forming a key component of the U.S. military’s effort to funnel timely information to the soldiers fighting Russian invaders.

So far the results are mixed: Generals and commanders have a new way to put a full picture of Russia’s movements and communications into one big, user-friendly picture, employing algorithms to predict where troops are moving and where attacks might happen.

But the American experience in Ukraine has underscored how difficult it is to get 21st-century data into 19th-century trenches. Even with Congress on the brink of providing tens of billions of dollars in aid to Kyiv, mostly in the form of ammunition and long-range artillery, the question remains whether the new technology will be enough to help turn the tide of the war at a moment when the Russians appear to have regained momentum.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For Biden, Aid Package Provides Welcome Boost on the World Stage, Peter Baker, April 23, 2024.  The House passage of a landmark package for security assistance to Ukraine and Israel will let President Biden finally deliver arms to match his words.

Finally, President Biden had good news to share with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. When Mr. Biden picked up the telephone at his home in Wilmington, Del., to call Mr. Zelensky on Monday, the two rejoiced over the congressional breakthrough that will result in the first significant new U.S. military aid for Ukraine in 16 months.

Mr. Biden used the 30-minute call to “underscore the United States’ lasting commitment to supporting Ukraine” against Russian invaders and promise that arms will start flowing again “quickly,” according to a White House statement. For a grateful Mr. Zelensky, the timing was propitious. A Russian missile attack, he told Mr. Biden, had just destroyed the television tower in Kharkiv.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Antony Blinken and Xi Jinping Make Small Progress Amid a Larger Gap, Ana Swanson and Vivian Wang, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Meeting in Beijing, the U.S. secretary of state and the Chinese leader struck conciliatory notes. But there was no hiding their governments’ core differences.

The areas where the United States and China can work together seem to be shrinking fast, and the risks of confrontation are growing. But it was clear on Friday that both countries are trying to salvage what they can.

Preserving some semblance of cooperation — and the difficulty of doing so — was at the heart of a meeting between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Friday. It was the latest effort by the rivals to keep communications open even as disputes escalate over trade, national security and geopolitical frictions.

Officials in both countries said they had made progress on a few smaller, pragmatic fronts, including setting up the first U.S.-China talks on artificial intelligence in the coming weeks. They also said they would continue improving communications between their militaries and increase cultural exchanges.

But on fundamental strategic issues, each side held little hope of moving the other, and they appeared wary of the possibility of sliding into further conflict.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Pacific Arsenal to Counter China, John Ismay, Edward Wong and Pablo Robles, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). With missiles, submarines and alliances, President Biden’s administration has built a presence in the region to rein in Beijing’s expansionist goals.

Since the start of his administration, President Biden has undertaken a strategy to expand American military access to bases in allied nations across the Asia-Pacific region and to deploy a range of new weapons systems there. He has also said the U.S. military would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden signed a $95-billion supplemental military aid and spending bill that Congress had just passed and that includes $8.1 billion to counter China in the region. And Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Shanghai and Beijing this week for meetings in which he planned to raise China’s aggressive actions around Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Earlier in April, the leaders of the Philippines and Japan met with Mr. Biden at the White House for the first such summit among the three countries. They announced enhanced defense cooperation, including naval training and exercises, planned jointly and with other partners. Last year, the Biden administration forged a new three-way defense pact with Japan and South Korea.
“In 2023, we drove the most transformative year for U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in a statement following an interview.

The main change, he said, is having American forces distributed in smaller, more mobile units across a wide arc of the region rather than being concentrated at large bases in northeast Asia. That is largely intended to counter China’s efforts to build up forces that can target aircraft carriers or U.S. military outposts on Okinawa or Guam.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blinken Tours China to Promote Some Ties, While the U.S. Severs Others, Ana Swanson, April 25, 2024.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip comes as tensions over economic ties are running high, threatening to disrupt a fragile cooperation.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cheered on the sidelines at a basketball game in Shanghai on Wednesday night, and spent Thursday chatting with students at New York University’s Shanghai campus and meeting American business owners. It all went to emphasize the kind of economic, educational and cultural ties that the United States is pointedly holding up as beneficial for both countries.

But hanging over those pleasantries during his visit to China this week are several steps the U.S. is taking to sever economic ties in areas where the Biden administration says they threaten American interests. And those will be the focus of greater attention from Chinese officials, as well.

Even as the Biden administration tries to stabilize the relationship with China, it is advancing several economic measures that would curb China’s access to the U.S. economy and technology. It is poised to raise tariffs on Chinese steel, solar panels and other crucial products to try to protect American factories from cheap imports. It is weighing further restrictions on China’s access to advanced semiconductors to try to keep Beijing from developing sophisticated artificial intelligence that could be used on the battlefield.

This week, Congress also passed legislation that would force ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, to sell its stake in the app within nine to 12 months or leave the United States altogether. The president signed it on Wednesday, though the measure is likely to be challenged in court.

Mr. Blinken’s visit, which was expected to take him to Beijing on Friday for high-level government meetings, had a much more cordial tone than the trip he made to China last year. That trip was the first after a Chinese spy balloon traveled across the United States, tipping the American public into an uproar.

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More On Social Media Political Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, The House is moving toward a vote on a measure that would ban TikTok in the United States unless ByteDance sells it, David McCabe and Sapna Maheshwari, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The House on Wednesday tiktok logo Custommade another push to force through legislation that would require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States, accelerating an effort to disrupt the popular social media app.

Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated that he intends to package the measure, a modified version of a stand-alone bill that the House passed last month, with foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

U.S. House logoWhile the new legislation would still require TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app to owners that resolved national security concerns, it includes an option to extend the deadline for a sale to nine months from the original six months, according to text of the legislation released by House leadership. The president could extend the deadline by another 90 days if progress toward a sale was being made.

House lawmakers are expected to vote Saturday on a package of legislation that includes the TikTok ban and other bills popular with Republicans, a maneuver intended to induce lawmakers to vote for the foreign aid. If the package passes, the measures will be sent as a single bill to the Senate, which could vote soon after. President Biden has said he’ll sign TikTok legislation into law if it reaches his desk.

China FlagThe move “to package TikTok is definitely unusual, but it could succeed,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst for the financial services firm TD Cowen. He added that “it’s a bit of brinkmanship” to try to force an up-or-down vote without further negotiation with the Senate.

ny times logoNew York Times, How an Obscure Chinese Real Estate Start-Up Paved the Way to TikTok, Mara Hvistendahl and Lauren Hirsch, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  Court records tell a story about the birth of ByteDance, its bumpy road to success and the role of the Republican megadonor Jeff Yass’s firm.

In 2009, long before Jeff Yass became a Republican megadonor, his firm, Susquehanna International Group, invested in a Chinese real estate start-up that boasted a sophisticated search algorithm.

tiktok logo CustomThe company, 99Fang, promised to help buyers find their perfect homes. Behind the scenes, employees of a Chinese subsidiary of Mr. Yass’s firm were so deeply involved, records show, that they conceived the idea for the company and handpicked its chief executive. They said in one email that he was not the company’s “real founder.”

As a real estate venture, 99Fang ultimately fizzled. But it was significant, according to a lawsuit by former Susquehanna contractors, because of what it spawned. They say that 99Fang’s chief executive — and the search technology — resurfaced at another Susquehanna venture: ByteDance.

China FlagByteDance, the owner of TikTok, is now one of the world’s most highly valued start-ups, worth $225 billion, according to CB Insights, a firm that tracks venture capital. ByteDance is also at the center of a tempest on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers see the company as a threat to American security. They are considering a bill that could break up the company. The man picked by Susquehanna to run the housing site, Zhang Yiming, became ByteDance’s founder.

Court documents reveal a complex origin story for ByteDance and TikTok. The records include emails, chat messages and memos from inside Susquehanna. They describe a middling business experiment, founder-investor tension and, ultimately, a powerful search engine that just needed a purpose.

The records also show that Mr. Yass’s firm was more deeply involved in TikTok’s genesis than previously known. It has been widely reported in The New York Times and elsewhere that Susquehanna owns roughly 15 percent of ByteDance, but the documents make clear that the firm was no passive investor. It nurtured Mr. Zhang’s career and signed off on the idea for the company.

Susquehanna has tens of billions of dollars at stake as lawmakers debate whether TikTok gives its Chinese owner the power to sow discord and spread disinformation among Americans. As Susquehanna’s founder, Mr. Yass potentially has billions riding on the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Yass, a former professional poker player, is also the single largest donor this election cycle, with more than $46 million in contributions through the end of last year, according to OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in politics.

Susquehanna has turned over Mr. Yass’s emails as part of the case, according to court documents. But those emails are not included in the trove that was made public, leaving Mr. Yass’s personal involvement in ByteDance’s formation unknown.

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google fired 28 employees involved in the protest of an Israeli cloud contract, Nico Grant, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The dismissals escalated longstanding tensions between company leaders and activist employees opposed to supplying technology to Israel’s government.

google logo customGoogle on Wednesday fired 28 workers after dozens of employees participated in sit-ins at the company’s New York and Sunnyvale, Calif., offices to protest the company’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

A day earlier, nine employees were arrested on charges of trespassing at the two offices.

Israel Flag“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

Years before the dismissals, tensions had been simmering between the company’s management and some activist employees over Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Google and Amazon deal to supply the Israeli government with cloud services, such as artificial intelligence.

That discord had deepened since the war in Gaza began in October. Google recently fired an employee who disrupted an Israeli technology conference in New York. And the company is even planning to make changes to a corporate forum because employees were bickering about the conflict.

Google said it would continue to investigate the Tuesday protests. In Sunnyvale, employees refused to leave the office of Thomas Kurian, the chief executive of Google Cloud.

Google employees affiliated with the group that organized the sit-ins, called No Tech For Apartheid, said in a statement that the firings were “a flagrant act of retaliation.”

“Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor,” the employees said. They added that some of the employees Google fired had not participated in the sit-ins.

The Nimbus contract, announced in 2021, was to supply various Israeli government ministries with cloud software. Since the contract’s inception, some Google employees have expressed concern that the company was aiding Israel’s military.

A Google spokeswoman said that Nimbus “is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

In 2018, Google workers successfully pushed the company to end a deal with the U.S. Defense Department. Called Project Maven, it would have helped the military analyze drone videos.

Employees who have taken part in Nimbus activism said in their statement that they would continue protesting “until the company drops Project Nimbus.”

  • New York Times, A trove of ByteDance records mistakenly went public. Here’s what they say.

ny times logoNew York Times, How A.I. Tools Could Change India’s Elections, Suhasini Raj, April 18, 2024. Avatars are addressing voters by name, in whichever language they speak. Experts see potential for misuse in a country already rife with disinformation.

For a glimpse of where artificial intelligence is headed in election campaigns, look to India, the world’s largest democracy, as it starts heading to the polls on Friday.

An A.I.-generated version of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has been shared on WhatsApp shows the possibilities for hyperpersonalized outreach in a country with nearly a billion voters. In the video — a demo clip whose source is unclear — Mr. Modi’s avatar addresses a series of voters directly, by name.

ny times logoNew York Times, Legal Fight Over Trump Media’s Ownership Adds to Its Woes, Matthew Goldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  Two ex-contestants on “The Apprentice” sold Donald Trump on the idea of a social media platform. Now, the company and the pair are wrangling over their stake.

Twenty years ago, Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky met Donald J. Trump as contestants on his reality TV show, “The Apprentice” — a connection that led them to help launch the former president’s social media platform, Truth Social, with his blessing.

Now, they might as well be starring in an episode of “Family Feud.”

For weeks, Mr. Moss and Mr. Litinsky have been fighting with Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company of Truth Social, over their roughly 8 percent stake in the company. In February, they sued the company, claiming that Trump Media — which made its trading debut last month at an $8 billion valuation — was trying to deprive them of the full value of their shares. Now they also claim the company is trying to prevent them from selling those shares.

ny times logoNew York Times, Right-Wing Apps Falter, David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s social media platform has outdistanced similar conservative sites such as Parler and Gettr, even as it lags far behind X and others.

After former President Donald J. Trump was kicked off Twitter in 2021, conservative entrepreneurs rushed to promote social media alternatives tailored to him and his supporters.

There were Parler and Gab, Twitter-like sites popular among the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Then came Gettr, a social media app created by one of Mr. Trump’s former advisers.

That crowded field has now narrowed, giving an edge to Truth Social, the platform that Mr. Trump’s company owns and where he is the main attraction.

In March, Truth Social recorded 1.5 million unique visitors in the United States as its parent company started trading on the public markets, up 130 percent from the previous month, according to Similarweb, a data firm that tracks web traffic. While the app’s visitor count was minuscule compared with mainstream social sites, it was 13 times the size of the combined total recorded by Parler and Gettr.

 

More On U.S. Bridge Disaster

 

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

Aerial view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after it was struck by a cargo ship and partly collapsed on March 26, 2024. It opened in 1977 and is named for Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (Photo by CBS News Baltimore).

ny times logoNew York Times, Baltimore Says Owner of Ship That Hit Key Bridge Was Negligent, Mike Ives, April 23, 2024. The owner and manager of the cargo ship that downed the Francis Scott Key Bridge asked a judge to exonerate them from liability. The city argued otherwise.

The City of Baltimore has said that the owner and manager of the cargo ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month are directly responsible for the accident and should not be allowed to avoid legal liability, according to court documents filed on Monday.

The 985-foot-long ship hit the bridge in the early hours of March 26 after leaving the Port of Baltimore and losing power to its engine and navigation equipment. The bridge collapsed moments later, killing six construction workers, forcing the port to close and disrupting the shipping industry up and down the East Coast.

A federal investigation into the accident could take years. In the meantime, the ship’s owner and operator, both based in Singapore, have asked a federal judge in Maryland to exonerate them from liability for any related losses or damages.

In early April, lawyers for the ship’s owner, Grace Ocean, and its manager, Synergy Marine, said in a court filing that the accident had not resulted from “any fault, neglect or want of care” on the companies’ part.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trains, Trucks and Tractors: The Race to Reroute Goods From Baltimore, Peter Eavis, April 17, 2024. Since the collapse of the Key Bridge, other ports have absorbed the cargo previously handled in Baltimore. But parts of the supply chain are struggling.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal criminal investigation opened into Key Bridge crash, Katie Mettler, Devlin Barrett, Danny Nguyen and Peter Hermann, April 16, 2024 (print ed.).  The FBI confirmed that its agents were on the container ship Dali this morning as it investigates the cause of a deadly incident in the Port of Baltimore last month.

FBI logoThe FBI has opened a criminal investigation focusing on the massive container ship that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month — a probe that will look at least in part at whether the crew left the port knowing the vessel had serious systems problems, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Authorities are reviewing the events leading up to the moment when the Dali, a 985-foot Singapore-flagged ship, lost power while leaving the Port of Baltimore and slammed into one of the bridge’s support pillars, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe.

On Monday morning, federal agents appeared to board the ship to conduct a search. Less than an hour after the sun rose at 6:30 a.m., a succession of three boats pulled to the port side of the Dali. About 6:50 a.m. Monday, people wearing yellow or orange life jackets entered the Dali through a lower door and climbed a ladder to the ship’s bow. About a half-hour later, nearly a dozen more people wearing dark clothing pulled up in a smaller boat and climbed aboard.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens of Major Bridges Lack Shields to Block Wayward Ships, Mike Baker, Anjali Singhvi, Helmuth Rosales, David W. Chen and Elena Shao, Featured April 7, 2024 (interactive). The collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore has prompted a reassessment of critical bridges in the U.S. that may be similarly vulnerable to a ship strike.

Bridges across the country carry similar deficiencies. At 309 major bridges on navigable waterways in the United States, inspections in recent years have found protection systems around bridge foundations that were deteriorating, potentially outdated or nonexistent, leaving the structures perilously exposed to ship strikes.

The MSC Flavia, a container ship larger than the one that hit the Key Bridge in Baltimore, passes under the Lewis and Clark Bridge between two piers with little protection. “If a ship hits one of those piers, it’s gone,” said Jerry Reagor, a semiretired contractor who lives near the bridge and has spent years pressing transportation officials to install new protections. The state views the risk of calamity as low and the cost of preventing it to be high.

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U.S. Immigration News

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ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Dismisses Impeachment Charges Against Mayorkas Without a Trial, Luke Broadwater, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats swept aside charges accusing Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, of refusing to enforce immigration laws and breaching public trust.

alejandro mayorkasThe Senate on Wednesday dismissed the impeachment case against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, right, the homeland security secretary, voting along party lines before his trial got underway to sweep aside two charges accusing him of failing to enforce immigration laws and breaching the public trust.

By a vote of 51 to 48, with one senator voting “present,” the Senate ruled that the first charge was unconstitutional because it failed to meet the constitutional bar of a high crime or misdemeanor. Republicans united in opposition except for Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the lone “present” vote, while Democrats were unanimous in favor.

Ms. Murkowski joined her party in voting against dismissal of the second count on the same grounds; it fell along party lines on a 51-to-49 vote.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, moved to dismiss each charge, arguing that a cabinet member cannot be impeached and removed merely for carrying out the policies of the administration he serves.

“To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” Mr. Schumer said.

It took only about three hours for the Senate to dispense with the matter.

Republicans, for their part, warned that the dangerous precedent was the one that Democrats set by moving to skip an impeachment trial altogether, which they argued was a shirking of the Senate’s constitutional duty. They tried several times to delay the dismissal, failing on a series of party-line votes.

“Tabling articles of impeachment would be unprecedented in the history of the Senate — it’s as simple as that,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

Republican senators were outraged at Mr. Schumer’s maneuvering. Some accused him of degrading the institution of the Senate and the Constitution itself. Others beat their desks as they called for a delay of the trial for two weeks, until next month or even until after the November election. They accused Mr. Mayorkas of lying to Congress and impeding Republican investigations.

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Claims Against Biden Family

 

hunter biden abbe Lowell 1 10 2024Businessman Hunter Biden, left, President Biden's son and a defendant in two federal indictments, confers with his attorney Abbe Lowell at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this winter at which Biden made a surprise offer to testify publicly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. declines to give Biden-Hur audio recordings to House panel, Devlin Barrett, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Officials said lawmakers already have transcripts of the classified documents interviews, suggested lawmakers are seeking the audio to score political points.

Carlos Uriarte, a senior Justice Department official, sent the letter to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Their demand for the recordings, after already having the transcripts, “indicates that the Committees’ interest may not be in receiving information in service of legitimate oversight or investigatory functions, but to serve political purposes that should have no role in the treatment of law enforcement files,” Uriarte wrote in the letter sent on Monday.

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U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by Defendant's psychiatrist).

U.S. Justice Department photo of sawdust used in the prosecution of President's son Hunter Biden (shown at left in a file photo) to allege falsely that the photo was by the defendant showing cocaine (Justice Department photo seized from a transmission by defendant's psychiatrist).

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

harvey weinstein 10 4 2022 pool etienne laurent

ny times logoNew York Times, How a New Trial for Harvey Weinstein Could Again Test the Legal System, Jan Ransom and Hurubie Meko, April 28, 2024. A new jury would hear from one or both of the women whom he was convicted of assaulting, in what analysts said would be a much narrower and weaker case.

As one of Harvey Weinstein’s key accusers took the witness stand during his trial in New York, she broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. After a brief break, she still could not compose herself. The trial was adjourned for the day. Hyperventilating, the woman was ushered out and her piercing screams bellowed out from a back room.

The episode was one of many tense moments in the highly publicized, weekslong trial of the former Hollywood titan (shown above) in 2020. Now, they may happen all over again.

On Thursday, New York’s highest court ruled that the trial judge who presided over the sex crimes case in Manhattan erred when he let several women testify that Mr. Weinstein had assaulted them, even though their accusations were not part of the charges brought against the producer. The appeals court ordered a new trial.

But the original trial in 2020 against Mr. Weinstein was about much more than one man’s guilt. It had morphed into something more, as his accusers sparked the global #MeToo movement: Prosecutors were trying to prove not only that Mr. Weinstein was a sexual predator, but also that the justice system was both willing and able to hold powerful men accountable for their treatment of women.

The new ruling may do little to change the public’s perception of Mr. Weinstein, who is still notorious and behind bars and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sex crimes in California.

For some, however, it raised new doubts about the legal system’s ability to hold influential people like him responsible.

Mr. Weinstein had been serving his sentence in an upstate New York prison when his conviction was overturned. He was transferred on Friday to the Rikers Island jail complex to await a new trial. On Friday night, Mr. Weinstein, whose health has been poor, was transferred to the Bellevue Hospital Center’s prison ward for testing, his lawyer and jail officials said.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, said the office would do “everything in our power” to retry Mr. Weinstein. But for a case that many legal experts said was shaky from the start, it is unclear what a new trial would look like.

The initial criminal indictment charged Mr. Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women. Still, three other women were permitted to testify as Molineux witnesses, who are called on to show a defendant’s pattern of behavior. The case turned solely on whether a jury would believe the women’s testimony. Prosecutors did not have any physical evidence to support the women’s accounts. Mr. Weinstein, prosecutors said, was a predator who used his power in the film industry to prey on women.

Yet the district attorney’s office had to help jurors understand the complex relationships that sometimes exist between victim and abuser: The two main accusers had maintained friendships with Mr. Weinstein after the alleged assaults, and one of them even had some consensual sexual encounters with him. Mr. Weinstein has said that all of the encounters were consensual.

Unless new accusers — who may be called as witnesses at the second trial — come forward, prosecutors would have to rely on the testimony of one or both of the women Mr. Weinstein was initially convicted of assaulting.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. court overturns Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction, orders new trial, Samantha Chery, April 25, 2024. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction was overturned Thursday by the New York Court of Appeals, a shocking reversal of a landmark case that helped launch the #MeToo movement.

The court ordered a retrial, ruling that the judge in Weinstein’s original trial improperly allowed testimony about allegations that weren’t part of the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, How an inclusive gym brand became a battlefield over LGBTQ rights, Taylor Lorenz and Gus Garcia-Roberts, April 28, 2024. More than 50 Planet Fitness locations have been evacuated because of bomb threats in recent weeks after online criticism from an anti-trans activist.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the opaque world of IVF, where errors are rarely made public, Lenny Bernstein and Yeganeh Torbati, April 28, 2024. Errors and accidents often go unreported in the burgeoning fertility industry, which is largely self-policed and not mandated to notify even patients of mistakes.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Lags Behind Other Countries in Hepatitis-C Treatment, Ted Alcorn, April 28, 2024.  Despite an arsenal of drugs, many Americans are still unaware of their infections until it’s too late. A Biden administration initiative is languishing.

In the 10 years since the drugmaker Gilead debuted a revolutionary treatment for hepatitis C, a wave of new therapies have been used to cure millions of people around the world of the blood-borne virus.

Today, 15 countries, including Egypt, Canada and Australia, are on track to eliminate hepatitis C during this decade, according to the Center for Disease Analysis Foundation, a nonprofit. Each has pursued a dogged national screening and treatment campaign.

But the arsenal of drugs, which have generated tens of billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies, has not brought the United States any closer to eradicating the disease.

Spread through the blood including IV drug use, hepatitis C causes liver inflammation, though people may not display symptoms for years. Only a fraction of Americans with the virus are aware of the infection, even as many develop the fatal disease.

A course of medications lasting eight to 12 weeks is straightforward. But the most at-risk, including those who are incarcerated, uninsured or homeless, have difficulty navigating the American health system to get treatment.

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U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Consumers

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fed’s Favorite Inflation Index Remained Stubborn in March, Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman, April 26, 2024. Hopes for substantial cuts in interest rates are fading as inflation shows more staying power than expected.

The latest Personal Consumption Expenditures index reading could keep the Fed on a cautious path as it considers when to lower borrowing costs.

The overall inflation index rose by 2.7 percent in the year through March, up from 2.5 percent in February and slightly more than economists had expected.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Inflation This High, Nobody Knows What a Dollar Is Worth, April 26, 2024. Strong reactions to rising prices and misunderstandings about the value of money are rampant, our columnist says.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economic growth slowed in first quarter as consumer spending starts scaling back, Abha Bhattarai, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. economic growth slowed in the first three months of the year, with gross domestic product growing at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent, as consumers began gradually pulling back.

GDP was down sharply from the 3.4 percent annual rate in the last quarter of 2023, and is at its lowest reading in a year and half, according to data released this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The latest deceleration reflects weakening household and government spending, and it came in below expectations. Exports also slowed at the beginning of the year, dragging down growth. GDP, the sum of all of the goods and services produced in the country, is the broadest measure of the economy.

“Growth is slowing, but clearly the economy is still on a solid path,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide, which recently scrapped its recession forecast for the year. “We’ve had very strong job growth that’s fueling higher incomes, giving people the money to go out and spend. But that’s also kept inflation high, so honestly a little bit of cooling is good news.”

ny times logoNew York Times, VW Workers in Tennessee Vote to Join Union, a Labor Milestone, Noam Scheiber, April 21, 2024 (print ed.). The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is set to become the first unionized auto factory in the South not owned by one of Detroit’s Big Three. By voting to join the United Automobile Workers, Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have given the union something it has never had: a factory-wide foothold at a major foreign automaker in the South.

The result, in an election that ended on Friday, will enable the union to bargain for better wages and benefits. Now the question is what difference it will make beyond the Volkswagen plant.

Labor experts said success at VW might position the union to replicate its showing at other auto manufacturers throughout the South, the least unionized region of the country. Some argued that the win could help set off a rise in union membership at other companies that exceeds the uptick of the past few years, when unions won elections at Starbucks and Amazon locations.

“It’s a big vote, symbolically and substantively,” said Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist who studies labor at Washington University in St. Louis.

The next test for the U.A.W. will come in a vote in mid-May at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama.

ny times logoNew York Times, I.M.F. Sees Steady Global Growth but Warns of Rising Protectionism, Alan Rappeport, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The International Monetary Fund offered an upbeat economic outlook but said that new trade barriers and escalating wars could worsen inflation.

The global economy is approaching a soft landing after several years of geopolitical and economic turmoil, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday. But it warned that risks remain, including stubborn inflation, the threat of escalating global conflicts and rising protectionism.

In its latest World Economic Outlook report, the I.M.F. projected global output to hold steady at 3.2 percent in 2024, unchanged from 2023. Although the pace of the expansion is tepid by historical standards, the I.M.F. said that global economic activity has been surprisingly resilient given that central banks aggressively raised interest rates to tame inflation and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East further disrupt supply chains.

The forecasts came as policymakers from around the world began arriving in Washington for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The outlook is brighter from just a year ago, when the I.M.F. was warning of underlying “turbulence” and a multitude of risks.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia Senate Is Redrafting a Resolution to Admonish Its President, Stephanie Saul, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Fearing the repercussions of a censure vote against Nemat Shafik, the university body plans to vote instead on a watered-down proposal, some members said.

columbia logoColumbia’s university senate, fearing the repercussions of a censure vote against the school’s president, Nemat Shafik, plans instead to vote on a watered-down resolution expressing displeasure with a series of her nemat minouche shafikdecisions, including summoning the police last week to arrest protesting students on campus.

Senators worried that a censure vote could result in Dr. Shafik’s removal at a time of crisis. And some feared that such a vote would be perceived as yielding to Republican lawmakers who had called for her resignation, according to interviews with several members of the university senate who attended a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, some of whom requested anonymity to talk about a private meeting.

The university senate is scheduled to meet again on Friday to vote on a resolution.

Carol Garber, a senate member, was among those who questioned the perception of a censure vote with so much political pressure to remove Dr. Shafik.

“It really isn’t a precedent any university wants to set,” said Dr. Garber, a professor of behavioral sciences. “We shouldn’t be bullied by someone in Congress."

ny times logoNew York Times, University of Southern California Confronts an Unfamiliar Era of Protest, Shawn Hubler, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The 144-year-old Los Angeles institution has not had a reputation for campus activism, but it is now embroiled in controversies over the war in Gaza.

Entwined for generations with Los Angeles’s power structure, U.S.C. has long held a special place in the nation’s second-largest city — not just as a school, but also as a community pillar in a sprawling metropolis where fixed points are hard to find.

From the start, the university was a local project, founded in 1880 in a mustard field donated by early Los Angeles real estate developers and bankers. Its donors and alumni include a who’s who of Southern California show business, law, medicine and commerce. The mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass, attended U.S.C.; so did Rick Caruso, the real estate mogul she defeated in 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, USC cancels main commencement ceremony, Kim Bellware, April 25, 2024. The University of Southern California canceled its main commencement ceremony, citing new safety measures put in place in the days since the Los Angeles school has been rocked by student-led protests against the war in Gaza.

The university announced the cancellation of the May 10 main-stage ceremony Thursday, one day after more than 90 students were arrested on campus. USC is among the dozens of colleges and universities to have protests unfold on campus just weeks before commencement; several have resulted in violence and arrests as police attempt to clear student encampments that have cropped up on school grounds.

Thursday’s cancellation of the main commencement ceremony also comes amid tensions after school officials recently announced that they would not have this year’s valedictorian, who is Muslim and had shared pro-Palestinian views, speak at commencement, citing vague concerns over security.

From USC's own statement linked above (emphasis theirs):

As in previous years, the university will be hosting dozens of commencement events, including all the traditional individual school commencement ceremonies where students cross the stage, have their names announced, are photographed, and receive their diplomas. In keeping with tradition, we will be hosting all doctoral hooding ceremonies, special celebrations, and departmental activities and receptions.

With the new safety measures in place this year, the time needed to process the large number of guests coming to campus will increase substantially. As a result, we will not be able to host the main stage ceremony that traditionally brings 65,000 students, families, and friends to our campus all at the same time and during a short window from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

We understand that this is disappointing; however, we are adding many new activities and celebrations to make this commencement academically meaningful, memorable, and uniquely USC, including places to gather with family, friends, faculty, and staff, the celebratory releasing of the doves, and performances by the Trojan Marching Band.

Politico, The Media Issue: The Petty Feud Between the NYT and the White House, Eli Stokols, April 25, 2024. Biden’s people think they’re “entitled.” The Times says “they’re not being realistic.”

politico CustomBiden’s closest aides had come to see the Times as arrogant, intent on setting its own rules and unwilling to give Biden his due. Inside the paper’s D.C. bureau, the punitive response seemed to typify a press operation that was overly sensitive and determined to control coverage of the president.

According to interviews with two dozen people on both sides who were granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive subject, the relationship between the Democratic president and the country’s newspaper of record — for years the epitome of a liberal press in the eyes of conservatives — remains remarkably tense, beset by misunderstandings, grudges and a general lack of trust. Complaints that were long kept private are even spilling into public view, with campaign aides in Wilmington going further than their colleagues in the White House and routinely blasting the paper’s coverage in emails, posts on social media and memos.

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April 27

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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.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana).

 

More On Trump Trials

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian Terror Attacks, Hostages

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

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U.S. Immigration News

 

GOP Claims Against Bidens

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

 

U.S. Reproductive Rights, #MeToo, Trafficking, Culture Wars

 

U.S., Global Economy, Jobs, Poverty, Space

 

U.S. Baltimore Bridge Collapse

 

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

The official portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Conservative Justices Take Argument Over Trump’s Immunity in Unexpected Direction, Adam Liptak, right, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing was memorable for its discussion of coups, assassinations and adam liptakinternments — but very little about the former president’s conduct.

Before the Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday on former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution, his stance was widely seen as a brazen and cynical bid to delay his trial. The practical question in the case, it was thought, was not whether the court would rule against him but whether it would act quickly enough to allow the trial to go forward before the 2024 election.

Instead, members of the court’s conservative majority treated Mr. Trump’s assertion that he could not face charges that he tried to subvert the 2020 election as a weighty and difficult question. They did so, said Pamela Karlan, a law professor at Stanford, by averting their eyes from Mr. Trump’s conduct.

“What struck me most about the case was the relentless efforts by several of the justices on the conservative side not to focus on, consider or even acknowledge the facts of the actual case in front of them,” she said.

They said as much. “I’m not discussing the particular facts of this case,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, samuel alito oinstead positing an alternate reality in which a grant of immunity “is required for the functioning of a stable democratic society, which is something that we all want.”

Immunity is needed, he said, to make sure the incumbent president has reason to “leave office peacefully” after losing an election.

Justice Alito, left, explained: “If an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took a more straightforward approach. “If the potential for criminal liability is taken off the table, wouldn’t there be a significant risk that future presidents would be emboldened to commit crimes with abandon while they’re in office?” she asked.

Supreme Court arguments are usually dignified and staid, weighed down by impenetrable jargon and focused on subtle shifts in legal doctrine. Thursday’s argument was different.

It featured “some jaw-dropping moments,” said Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University.

Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell, said that “the apparent lack of self-awareness on the part of some of the conservative justices was startling.” He noted that “Justice Alito worried about a hypothetical future president attempting to hold onto power in response to the risk of prosecution, while paying no attention to the actual former president who held onto power and now seeks to escape prosecution.”

In the real world, Professor Karlan said, “it’s really hard to imagine a ‘stable democratic society,’ to use Justice Alito’s word, where someone who did what Donald Trump is alleged to have done leading up to Jan. 6 faces no criminal consequences for his acts.”

Indeed, she said, “if Donald Trump is a harbinger of presidents to come, and from now on presidents refuse to leave office and engage in efforts to undermine the democratic process, we’ve lost our democracy regardless what the Supreme Court decides.”

The conservative justices did not seem concerned that Mr. Trump’s lawyer, D. John Sauer, said his client was free during his presidency to commit lawless acts, subject to prosecution only after impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate. (There have been four presidential impeachments, two of Mr. Trump, and no convictions.)

 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Cases: Supreme Court seems poised to allow Trump Jan. 6 trial, but not immediately, Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Thursday appeared ready to reject Donald Trump’s sweeping claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election, but in a way that is likely to significantly delay his stalled federal trial in the nation’s capital.

In nearly three hours of oral argument, both conservative and liberal justices grappled with the historic significance of the case, which will set boundaries for presidential power in the future even as it impacts whether Trump will face trial in D.C. before this year’s presidential election — in which he is the likely Republican nominee.

Trump, who is already on trial this week in a separate New York case involving business records connected to a hush money payment, was known for breaking norms while in the White House. He faces two other criminal cases as well, and is the first former president to be indicted. But again and again on Thursday, members of the high court noted that their decision, expected by late June or early July, will not just affect him.

“We are writing a rule for the ages,” said Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

“This case has huge implications for the presidency, for the future of the presidency, for the future of the country,” added Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The court seemed unlikely to fully embrace either Trump’s broad claim of immunity or the special counsel’s position that former presidents have no guarantee of immunity for their official acts. Instead, a majority of justices seemed to be looking for a way to provide more narrow protections for a president’s core constitutional duties, with some of the conservative justices especially concerned about hampering the power of future presidents.

In contrast, the court’s three liberals emphasized that a president is not above the law. They seemed to reject the idea of immunity from prosecution, expressing fears about giving a president unbounded power to commit crimes from the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The chief justice hated Trump appeals court decision, and other takeaways, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court spent hours Thursday morning debating former president Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for allegedly conspiring to undo the results of the 2020 election. The ruling, which could come in June, could do far more than chart the course of Trump’s case; it may forever alter the boundaries of presidential power.

“We’re writing a rule for the ages,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

The justices seemed to generally agree, in broad terms, that Trump does not have blanket immunity

john roberts oThe chief justice does not like the appeals court ruling on this issue. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. slammed the sweeping decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that denied Trump’s immunity claim. If a majority of the nine-justice panel agrees with him, that could push Trump’s trial well past the election.

Roberts, left, characterized the February decision reached by the appeals court as saying in essence that “a former president can be prosecuted because he’s being prosecuted.” He called that “circular” reasoning and added, “it concerns me.”

The chief justice then floated a proposal that could make the entire issue more complicated and time-consuming, rather than less.

“Now, you know how easy it is in many cases for a prosecutor to get a grand jury to bring an indictment,” Roberts said. “Why shouldn’t we either send it back to the Court of Appeals or issue an opinion making clear that that’s not the law?”

If the Supreme Court did send the question of presidential immunity back to the appeals court, that would probably eat up weeks or months — potentially opening a can of legal worms that could take a lot of time for judicial debate and decisions.

The Supreme Court ruling is considered hugely important to Trump’s political and legal chances, but conservative justices kept insisting they were more worried about all future White House officeholders than the specific fate of the 45th president.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said their ruling will have “huge implications” for the future of the presidency, and the country, adding: “I’m not as concerned about the here and now, I’m more concerned about the future.”

Kavanaugh said he was worried that the trend of prosecutors investigating presidents is only growing. “It’s not going to stop, it’s going to cycle back and be used against the current president and the next president and the next president after that,” he said.

The three liberal justices also focused much of their attention on the future implications of an immunity ruling — but they worried most that granting Trump protection in this case would subvert the very premise of the founding of the United States, to escape the tyranny of kings.

 

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair.

Porn star Stormy Daniels and former President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly hid hush payments to her via The National Enquirer newspaper during the 2016 presidential campaign to hide their affair from election finance officials and the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Trump’s Trial, the Defense Tries to Knock Down the Allegation of a Plot, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). As The National Enquirer’s former publisher returned to the stand, defense lawyers tried to discredit the idea there was a plan to protect Donald Trump.

David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, is set to return to the stand for a fourth day. Defense lawyers have tried to undercut his testimony about a conspiracy to bury negative stories and help elect Donald J. Trump.

The criminal trial of Donald J. Trump on Friday will feature the continued cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness, David Pecker, as defense lawyers try to discredit the idea that there had been a plot to protect Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

On Thursday, Mr. Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, described his own involvement in the suppression of the stories of two women who claimed to have had sex with Mr. Trump: Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose 2016 hush-money payoff is at the root of the prosecution’s case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Number of Trump Allies Facing Election Interference Charges Keeps Growing, Danny Hakim and Richard Fausset, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Prosecutors are sending a warning as Donald Trump and his supporters spread conspiracy theories: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Fifty-three people who tried to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election have now been criminally charged.

The indictments have been brought in four swing states that will be crucial to the upcoming election, most recently on kris mayes oWednesday in Arizona, where Kris Mayes, right, the Democratic attorney general, said that she could “not allow American democracy to be undermined.” The message she and other prosecutors are sending represents a warning as Mr. Trump and his supporters continue to spread election conspiracy theories ahead of another presidential contest: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Mr. Trump’s own legal complications are also growing. On Wednesday, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in election interference investigations in both Arizona and Michigan. He has already been charged in Georgia while facing two federal prosecutions and a criminal trial in Manhattan related to hush money payments made to a porn star.

What’s more, Mr. Trump’s top legal strategist, Boris Epshteyn, was indicted in Arizona on Wednesday.

There remains a possibility that Mr. Trump’s aides and allies will be put on trial for manipulating an election on his behalf, while he is not. If he is re-elected president in November, the federal courts, or even Congress, could shield him from having to face trial in the Georgia election interference case, at least while he is in office, on the grounds that a president sitting in an Atlanta courtroom for weeks or months would be unable to carry out his constitutional duties.

He could also use his executive powers to halt the two federal cases against him.

“I assume, should these constitutional concerns about putting Trump on trial while president play out, there would be efforts to sever the other defendants, and no reason for the trials as to those defendants not to proceed,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University.

Democrats are leading all of the state prosecutions, though they have moved slowly. None of the cases are likely to come to trial before the election, a reality that has frustrated many on the left. While Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has been investigating since early 2021, her racketeering case has been slowed by its scope and complexity, and by efforts to disqualify her.

Ms. Willis brought charges last August against Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies and advisers, laying out a number of ways she said they had conspired to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss in the state.

Cases in Michigan and Nevada have focused solely on the Republicans whom the Trump campaign deployed as fake electors in those states. Having slates of people claiming to be electors for Mr. Trump was an integral part of the effort to keep him in office after his loss at the polls in 2020.

Ms. Mayes charged all 11 people who served as fake Arizona electors, and seven Trump advisers. Four of those advisers now face charges in both Georgia and Arizona: Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Mike Roman, a former Trump campaign operative who played a leading role in the fake electors scheme; and John Eastman, a legal architect of the elector plan.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Abrupt U-Turns Are Defining U.S. Environmental Regulations, Coral Davenport, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The polarization of politics means that rules are imposed, gutted and restored with each election. Experts say that’s bad for the economy.

The Biden administration’s move on Thursday to strictly limit pollution from coal-burning power plants is a major policy shift. But in many ways it’s one more hairpin turn in a zigzag approach to environmental regulation in the United States, a pattern that has grown more extreme as the political landscape has become more polarized.

Nearly a decade ago, President Barack Obama was the Democrat who tried to force power plants to stop burning coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. His Republican successor, Donald J. Trump, effectively reversed that plan. Now President Biden is trying once more to put an end to carbon emissions from coal plants. But Mr. Trump, who is running to replace Mr. Biden, has promised that he will again delete those plans if he wins in November.

The country’s participation in the Paris climate accord has followed the same swerving path: Under Mr. Obama, the United States joined the global commitment to fight climate change, only for Mr. Trump to pull the U.S. out of it, and for Mr. Biden to rejoin. If Mr. Trump wins the presidency, he is likely to exit the accord. Again.

Government policies have always shifted between Democratic and Republican administrations, but they have generally stayed in place and have been tightened or loosened along a spectrum, depending on the occupant of the White House.

But in the last decade, environmental rules in particular have been caught in a cycle of erase-and-replace whiplash.

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Major Climate Policies Trump Would Probably Reverse if Elected, Lisa Friedman, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). He has called for increased oil production and said that electric vehicles will result in an ‘assassination’ of jobs.

Former President Donald J. Trump has vowed to “cancel” President Biden’s policies for cutting pollution from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, “terminate” efforts to encourage electric vehicles, and “develop the liquid gold that is right under our feet” by promoting oil and gas.

Those changes and others that Mr. Trump has promised, if he were to win the presidency again, represent a 180-degree shift from Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.

When he was president, Mr. Trump reversed more than 100 environmental protections put in place by the Obama administration. Mr. Biden has in turn reversed much of Mr. Trump’s agenda.

But climate advocates argue a second Trump term would be far more damaging than his first, because the window to keep rising global temperatures to relatively safe levels is rapidly closing.

“It would become an all-out assault on any possible progress on climate change,” said Pete Maysmith, the senior vice president of campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group.

Senior Republicans don’t necessarily disagree. Michael McKenna, who worked in the Trump White House and is supporting Mr. Trump’s bid for a second term, said the approach to climate change would likely be one of “indifference.”

“I doubt very seriously we’re going to spend any time working on it,” Mr. McKenna said. To the contrary, he said, the Biden administration’s climate regulations would be “in trouble.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Antony Blinken and Xi Jinping Make Small Progress Amid a Larger Gap, Ana Swanson and Vivian Wang, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). Meeting in Beijing, the U.S. secretary of state and the Chinese leader struck conciliatory notes. But there was no hiding their governments’ core differences.

The areas where the United States and China can work together seem to be shrinking fast, and the risks of confrontation are growing. But it was clear on Friday that both countries are trying to salvage what they can.

Preserving some semblance of cooperation — and the difficulty of doing so — was at the heart of a meeting between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Friday. It was the latest effort by the rivals to keep communications open even as disputes escalate over trade, national security and geopolitical frictions.

Officials in both countries said they had made progress on a few smaller, pragmatic fronts, including setting up the first U.S.-China talks on artificial intelligence in the coming weeks. They also said they would continue improving communications between their militaries and increase cultural exchanges.

But on fundamental strategic issues, each side held little hope of moving the other, and they appeared wary of the possibility of sliding into further conflict.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Pacific Arsenal to Counter China, John Ismay, Edward Wong and Pablo Robles, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). With missiles, submarines and alliances, President Biden’s administration has built a presence in the region to rein in Beijing’s expansionist goals.

Since the start of his administration, President Biden has undertaken a strategy to expand American military access to bases in allied nations across the Asia-Pacific region and to deploy a range of new weapons systems there. He has also said the U.S. military would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden signed a $95-billion supplemental military aid and spending bill that Congress had just passed and that includes $8.1 billion to counter China in the region. And Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Shanghai and Beijing this week for meetings in which he planned to raise China’s aggressive actions around Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Earlier in April, the leaders of the Philippines and Japan met with Mr. Biden at the White House for the first such summit among the three countries. They announced enhanced defense cooperation, including naval training and exercises, planned jointly and with other partners. Last year, the Biden administration forged a new three-way defense pact with Japan and South Korea.
“In 2023, we drove the most transformative year for U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in a statement following an interview.

The main change, he said, is having American forces distributed in smaller, more mobile units across a wide arc of the region rather than being concentrated at large bases in northeast Asia. That is largely intended to counter China’s efforts to build up forces that can target aircraft carriers or U.S. military outposts on Okinawa or Guam.

ny times logoNew York Times, Allies of Donald Trump are said to be devising plans to reduce the Federal Reserve’s independence if he is re-elected, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ravi Mattu, Bernhard Warner, Sarah Kessler, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The Wall Street Journal reports that allies of Donald Trump are devising ways of watering down the central bank’s independence if he is re-elected president.

If true, that change would represent the biggest shake-up in U.S. monetary policy in decades. But it also raises questions about whether such a plan is possible — or whether Trump’s Wall Street supporters would back it.

Both big and small changes are on the table, according to The Journal, which cites unidentified sources. Among the most consequential would be asserting that Trump had the authority to oust Jay Powell as Fed chair before Powell’s term is up in 2025. While Trump gave Powell the job in 2017, he has since soured on his pick for raising rates, and has publicly said he wouldn’t give Powell a second term.

Smaller changes include allowing the White House to review Fed rules and using the Treasury Department to keep the central bank on a tighter leash.

The overall goal is to give Trump what he wants: more say on interest rates. Trump allies have discussed requiring candidates to lead the Fed to informally consult with him on such decisions and essentially act as the president’s advocate on the institution’s rate-setting committee.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana).

Inspecting a vehicle that World Central Kitchen workers were in when they were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 (Associated Press photo by Abdel Kareem Hana). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis: U.N. Official Presses for Urgent Action on Gaza Aid, Staff Reports, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. aid coordinator for Gaza, said Israel had taken steps to improve relief deliveries but called for further measures.

The U.N.’s top coordinator for humanitarian aid for Gaza has said that Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of relief supplies to the enclave but warned that much more must be done to meet the vast need there.

Israel FlagIsrael has announced efforts to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including by opening an additional border crossing and by accepting shipments at a nearby port. But the United Nations has warned with increasing urgency that a famine is looming and that deliveries still fall short of the level needed to stop the spread of starvation.

Here’s what we know:

  • Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. aid coordinator for Gaza, said Israel had taken steps to improve relief deliveries but called for further measures.
  • A U.N. aid chief says ‘every day counts’ in efforts to relieve the suffering in Gaza.
  • A U.S. aid package includes billions in military support for Israel.
  • The White House says it won’t interfere in a decision over an Israeli battalion accused of abuse.
  • Netanyahu calls student protests antisemitic and says they must be stopped.
  • With temperatures soaring, many Gazans swelter in makeshift tents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Antony Blinken Will Visit Israel Next Week, Official Says, Staff Reports, April 27, 2024 (print ed.). The U.S. secretary of state will return to Israel, an official there said. Tensions between the allies have grown and talks on a Gaza cease-fire appear stalled.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will visit Israel next week, an Israeli official said on Friday, as talks on a cease-fire deal that would allow for the release of hostages held in Gaza appear stalled and tensions have risen between Israel and the United States over the war.

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said talks with Mr. Blinken would center on hostages and an impending Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Here’s what we know:

  • The top U.S. diplomat will return to Israel, an official there said, as tensions between the allies have grown and talks on a cease-fire in Gaza appear stalled.
  • Blinken will make another wartime trip to Israel.
  • Hezbollah missiles kill an Israeli civilian in the disputed Har Dov border area.
  • A baby born in Gaza after her mother was killed in an Israeli strike dies less than a week later.
  • Rabbis are arrested near the Gaza-Israel border at a rally to highlight starvation.
  • The U.S. Army has begun work on a floating pier to move aid from ships into Gaza, the Pentagon says.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police arrest 108 at Emerson College protest as antiwar rallies spread, Jennifer Hassan, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Clashes between pro-Palestinian student protesters and police continued to expand, with arrests in Emerson College, University of Southern California and University of Texas at Austin.

Confrontations between pro-Palestinian student protesters and police continued to spread at colleges across the country, with fresh arrests at Emerson College, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin, and reports of new encampments set up at Princeton University and Northwestern University.

In Boston, police moved to break up a protest led by Emerson College students outside the State Transportation Building early Thursday, moving in on students who formed a human wall and raised umbrellas, according to video footage from the scene.

A total of 108 arrests were made, and four officers were injured, Sgt. Detective John Boyle of the Boston Police Department said in an email. He said there were no reports of injuries among the protesters.

Other footage from the scene showed onlookers shouting as police removed students or pushed them to the ground, a sea of tents behind them. The college did not immediately respond to requests for comment early Thursday.

Updated 1 hour ago “Growth is slowing, but clearly the economy is still on a solid path,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide, which recently scrapped its recession forecast for the year. “We’ve had very strong job growth that’s fueling higher incomes, giving people the money to go out and spend. But that’s also kept inflation high, so honestly a little bit of cooling is good news.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Campus Protests Over Gaza Intensify Amid Pushback by Universities and Police, J. David Goodman, David Montgomery, Jonathan Wolfe and Jenna Russell, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). There were more than 120 new arrests as universities moved to prevent pro-Palestinian encampments from taking root as they have at Columbia University.

Wednesday as students gathered on campuses around the country, in some cases facing off with the police, in a widening showdown over campus speech and the war in Gaza.

columbia logoUniversity administrators from Texas to California moved to clear protesters and prevent encampments from taking hold on their own campuses as they have at Columbia University, deploying police in tense new confrontations that already have led to dozens of arrests.

At the same time, new protests continued erupting in places like Pittsburgh and San Antonio. Students expressed solidarity with their fellow students at Columbia, and with a pro-Palestinian movement that appeared to be galvanized by the pushback on other campuses and the looming end of the academic year.

Protesters on several campuses said their demands included divestment by their universities from companies connected to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, disclosure of those and other investments and a recognition of the continuing right to protest without punishment.

The demonstrations spread overseas as well, with students on campuses in Cairo, Paris and Sydney, Australia, gathering to voice support for Palestinians and opposition to the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, Middle East Crisis Updates: Review of U.N. Agency Prompts New Calls to Restore Its Funding, Staff Reports, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). U.N. officials and some donor nations are renewing calls to revive funding for the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians, after a review found that Israel had not provided evidence to support its claim that many employees of the agency are members of terrorist organizations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trapped and Starving, 2 Families in Gaza Try to Keep Their Children Alive, Vivian Yee and Bilal Shbair, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The United Nations says famine is likely to set in by May. For those living under Israel’s attacks and a crippling blockade, every day is a race against time.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

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More Trump-Related News

 

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Trump Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, upper left, and Jenna Ellis falsely claim election fraud at a news conference on Nov. 19, 2020. Powell and Ellis have pleaded guilty to charges in Georgia regarding false claims.

Politico, Arizona grand jury indicts Meadows, Giuliani, other Trump allies for 2020 election interference, Kyle Cheney and Betsy ICE logoWoodruff Swan, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). The former president is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

politico CustomAn Arizona grand jury has indicted 18 allies of Donald Trump for their efforts to subvert the 2020 election — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Boris Epshteyn.

arizona mapThe indictment, which includes felony counts of conspiracy, fraud and forgery, also describes Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.

“Defendants and unindicted coconspirators schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency to keep Unindicted Coconspirator 1 in office against the will of Arizona’s voters,” the 58-page indictment reads.

djt maga hatThe names of seven of the defendants, including Meadows, Giuliani and Epshteyn, are redacted, but the document makes clear who they are by describing their roles. Others include attorneys John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb, as well as Trump 2020 campaign operative Mike Roman.

Ken Chesebro, an attorney who helped devise Trump’s post-election strategy, is described as “unindicted coconspirator 4.”

The only defendants whose names are visible in the version of the indictment released by the Arizona attorney general’s office Wednesday evening are the 11 Republicans who falsely posed as the state’s presidential electors despite Joe Biden’s narrow victory there. Among them: former Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, state senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, and Arizona’s RNC committeeman Tyler Bowyer.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has been helming the aggressive investigation. Though she initially appeared to be focused primarily on the false electors, in recent months it became clear that the scope of the probe was broader than previously understood and swept up prominent Trump allies at the national level.

Mayes is the fifth prosecutor to bring criminal charges over the sprawling, multi-state bid by Trump and his allies to upend the 2020 results. Special counsel Jack Smith has charged Trump with federal crimes for those efforts. Prosecutors in Georgia have charged Trump and many of his allies for their efforts to overturn the results in that state, including the fake electors plot. Prosecutors in Michigan and Nevada have also charged Republicans who posed as fake electors in those states.

Michigan prosecutors revealed Wednesday that Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in their own investigation as well. And many of the newly charged defendants in Arizona, including Meadows, Giuliani, Eastman and Ellis, were charged in the Georgia case. Ellis pleaded guilty in Georgia and avoided jail time, while Meadows, Giuliani and Eastman have pleaded not guilty.

The charges against Bobb are notable because she was recently elevated to a senior position at the Republican National Committee focused on “election integrity.”

Mayes was elected as Arizona’s attorney general in 2022, replacing a Republican. As a result, her probe of the 2020 election plot got off to a later start than those of her counterparts in other states, but it recently appeared to be gathering momentum, with numerous witnesses receiving subpoenas to appear before the grand jury, including several of the false electors. Hoffman, one of the state lawmakers to face charges, appeared before the grand jury on April 8 and asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Mayes also subpoenaed several figures in Trump’s national orbit, including two Republican members of Congress, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, who played vocal roles in Trump’s bid to overturn the election. Neither Gosar nor Biggs, however, were considered targets of the probe, and they were not charged in the indictment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: If Donald Trump loses the election this November, why would he not once again try to subvert that loss? Philip Bump, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). This is not a baseless question, certainly.

Both Trump’s critics and his supporters agree that Trump tried to prevent Joe Biden from taking office; they just disagree on the validity of that effort. Most Republicans — 62 percent in a December Washington Post-University of Maryland poll — believe there is solid evidence that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud, which is false. This belief undergirds the idea that Trump’s post-2020-election efforts were rooted in his fighting against an illegal effort to influence the presidency rather than being such an illegal effort.

That view still holds. The Pew Research Center published data Wednesday showing that about half of Republicans (and independents who lean Republican) think Trump did nothing wrong in trying to overturn his 2020 loss, with a fifth indicating they were “not sure” if he did anything wrong. That’s more than two-thirds of the party, claiming innocence or uncertainty. Americans overall (and Democrats/Democratic leaners overwhelmingly) think that Trump did something wrong or broke the law.

That Trump’s post-2020 actions are not seen by many in his base as a subversion of democracy is reflected in another question asked by Pew. Respondents were presented with a number of characteristics that might apply to Biden or Trump and asked how confident they were that the characteristics applied to the candidates.

Just more than a third of respondents said they were “extremely” or “very” confident that Biden respects America’s democratic values. Only a slightly lower percentage said the same of Trump. Among Biden supporters, confidence was higher: Three-quarters said they were confident in Biden’s respect for democracy. Among Trump supporters, two-thirds had similar confidence in their candidate.

There’s a level of abstraction here that’s important to recognize. Asking if a candidate you support respects democracy is a bit like asking if he is a good dude; you’re going to be inclined to say yes. Overlay the willingness of Republicans and Trump supporters to dismiss the idea that he did anything wrong after the 2020 election and you get equivalence with Biden — who has shown no similar inclination to set aside democratic determinations.

Pew asked another question that gets at the democracy issue more obliquely. How important is it, they asked respondents, for losing candidates to concede an election? Both supporters of Biden and Trump largely said that it was “very” or “somewhat” important. But while 77 percent of Biden supporters said it was very important (as did 60 percent of all respondents), fewer than half of Trump supporters agreed.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Trump’s Immunity Claim Joins His Plans to Increase Executive Power, Charlie Savage, April 25, 2024 (print ed.). From the courts to the campaign trail, former President Donald J. Trump is challenging a hallmark of American-style democracy: its suspicion of concentrated power.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Thursday over Mr. Trump’s claim that criminal charges against him in the federal election subversion case must be thrown out because the Constitution makes him all but immune from being prosecuted for actions he took as president — no matter what the evidence may show.

That vision of a presidency operating above the law dovetails with second-term plans that Mr. Trump and his allies are making to eliminate myriad internal checks and balances on the executive branch and to centralize greater power in his hands. That would include eliminating independent agencies and job protections for tens of thousands of senior civil servants.

While the legal theories behind Mr. Trump’s claim of absolute immunity and his plans to consolidate White House control are different, they are united by a common approach to governance. The power of American presidents has traditionally been seen as held in check by counterbalancing forces, but Mr. Trump is trying to grind down such constraints.

As he once declared to a cheering crowd of supporters in 2019, referring to the portion of the Constitution that creates and empowers the presidency: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Mr. Trump’s claim to absolute immunity recalls an assertion made by another former president who was known for an idiosyncratically broad view of executive power: Richard M. Nixon. In a 1977 interview, three years after he resigned to avoid being impeached over Watergate, Nixon declared, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

That assertion has been widely seen as the epitome of an imperial view of the presidency. But the view he articulated was more modest than Mr. Trump’s because it appeared to be limited to situations involving national security.

The former president is asking the Supreme Court to put the presidency above criminal law as he pursues a broader agenda of expanding the office’s power should he win the election.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: New York’s highest appellate court NEW DECISION reversing the Harvey Weinstein criminal mtn meidas touch networkconvictions is BAD NEWS FOR TRUMP IN HIS NY CRIMINAL ELECTION INTERFERENCE CASE, Michael Popok, April 26, 2024. Michael Popok explains how Judge Merchan’s recent rulings about what evidence the Manhattan DA can use against Trump if he waives his 5th Amendment privilege and testifies, have been validated by the new Weinstein decision, cutting off Trump’s ability to reverse his likely conviction in NY on appeal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden goes on offense. And it makes a difference, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 26, 2024. Biden’s punchier, more jennifer rubin new headshotaggressive and funnier campaign has defied expectations set by those pushing the “too old” meme and underestimating his communication skills. Just months ago, Democrats were wringing their hands, trying to figure out if they could magically eject him from the race. Following a feisty State of the Union, however, Biden has taken on a more aggressive tone. The complaints have virtually disappeared.

We have seen Biden’s caustic ads lambasting former president Donald Trump, a full-throttle attack on Republican abortion bans and frequent Biden jabs at his opponent. Biden took Trump’s invitation to ask, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” and ran with it. And Biden’s team has begun mercilessly taunting Trump about his snoozing in court. Biden even reached back to the Trump presidency’s mishandling of covid, tweeting: “Don’t inject bleach. And don’t vote for the guy who told you to inject bleach.”

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

Hopium Chronicles, Commentary: A Big, Bold Clean Up Washington Agenda, Trump's Terrible April, Simon Rosenberg, right, April 26, simon rosenberg twitter2024. As part of our work to preserve our democracy, I think Joe Biden and the Democrats need to develop and campaign on a big “reform Washington” agenda that attacks the corruption of the Trump era. This has become far more urgent after yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing where MAGA Justices allowed a serious conversation about undoing what was perhaps the central goal of the Founders - preventing a President from becoming a King.

djt maga hatI will have more to say on the corrupt Roberts Court in the coming days, but for this morning I am sharing the closing passage of my recent New Republic essay which among other things called on Democrats to develop an aggressive, clean up Washington agenda. Such an agenda would start putting meat on the policy bones in our fight for democracy; would be very appealing to independents and young people who believe Washington is deeply corrupt; and it would allow us to draw a far brighter line against the deeply corrupt and illiberal agenda of Trump and MAGA.

The president should commit to making progress in at least two other areas during his second term—cleaning up a city and a democracy that have been weakened by corruption and illiberalism of all kinds, and raising American life expectancy so it is again at the level of peer nations’.

I think Joe Biden should promise to clean up the city he has so long been a part of. Among the things we can tackle are the influence of foreign money, the need to raise ethical standards at the Supreme Court, eliminating the debt ceiling and the ability to shut down the government, and the wild abuse of Senate holds on nominations. Perhaps Biden could set up a commission to make broader recommendations on how to modernize and reform a city desperately in need of it.

The president faces a similar opportunity to address an unacceptable decline in American life expectancy in recent years. Life expectancy continues to decline, and we’ve fallen behind peer nations. We should use this as a sign that a new emphasis on the health and well-being of Americans is needed, and the president should commit to reversing this decline in his second term. All ideas need to be on the table—better mental health and addiction recovery programs, more aggressive steps to stop the flow of foreign drugs into the country, better gun laws, the restoration of women’s reproductive freedom and addressing unacceptable levels of maternal mortality, fighting to restore trust in vaccines and the broader concept of public health.

Joe Biden has largely risen to the challenges presented to him and followed through on the promises he made in 2020. Now he has two more important challenges he must meet—build a campaign that can go big, unleash the patriotism and love of country that is driving Democratic politics today and make 2024 a clear repudiation of MAGA; and give us a second term that ensures that the opportunities we’ve all had are there for our kids and grandkids. As successful as he has been, it is possible that Joe Biden’s most important work still lies ahead of him.

 

truth social logo

USA Today, Trump to receive 36 million additional shares of Truth Social parent company, worth $1.17 billion, Kinsey Crowley, April 26, 2024 (print ed.).usa today logo 5 Former President Donald Trump has met the requirement to receive up to 36 million additional shares of Trump Media, worth $1.17 billion at Tuesday's close.

The earnout bonus, a potential for a future windfall, if the company meets financial goals, is a provision in the merger agreement with Digital World Acquisition Corp., according to an SEC filing. It states Trump is entitled to the additional shares if the stock price stays above certain thresholds for 20 days out of any 30 trading days.

Trump already owned 60% of the company with 78.75 million shares. Even though the DJT stock price nosedived a few weeks after debuting on the stock market, it has stayed well above the $17.50 per share threshold in its 20 trading days. The lowest it has been since its March 26 debut is $22.84 per share on April 16.

The influx of more than a billion dollars to Trump's wealth comes as he sits trial in Manhattan for 34 counts of falsifying business records.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Pastor Dressed as a Pirate Helped Ignite Trump Media’s Market Frenzy, David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein, April 26, 2024 (print ed.). Chad Nedohin, a part-time pastor, is among the fans of Donald Trump who helped turn Trump Media into a meme stock with volatile prices.

One afternoon last month, Chad Nedohin, a part-time pastor and die-hard supporter of Donald J. Trump, put on a pirate costume, set up his microphone and recited a prayer.

Mr. Nedohin was opening his latest livestream on the right-wing video site Rumble, where he has about 1,400 followers who share a devotion to Trump Media & Technology Group, the former president’s social media company.

“Faith comes from hearing — that is, hearing the good news about Christ,” said Mr. Nedohin, 40, his face framed by fake dreadlocks under a pirate-style hat.

Mr. Nedohin and his viewers were waiting for the results of a merger vote that would determine whether Mr. Trump’s company could start selling stock on Wall Street. Soon the news about Trump Media arrived via an audio feed: It was going public.

Mr. Nedohin raised his arms in celebration. A few minutes later, he cut to a video of a rocket blasting into the sky, with Mr. Trump photoshopped onto it. “We are holding Trump stocks,” he declared. “We are now financial investors in him.”

Mr. Nedohin is one of hundreds of thousands of amateur investors who own shares of Trump Media, convinced that its sole platform, Truth Social, will become one of the world’s most popular and profitable social media sites. In recent months, tens of thousands of Trump fans have tuned into Mr. Nedohin’s webcasts, where he exhorts viewers to invest in the company, arguing that “Trump always wins in the long run.”

The enthusiasm from Mr. Nedohin and other Trump supporters has turned Trump Media into the latest “meme stock,” driven more by internet hype than business fundamentals. In the public markets, these amateur investors have found themselves pitted against professional short sellers, specialist investors who bet that stocks will fail, as well as frantic day traders looking for a quick profit.

As a result, Trump Media’s stock price has swung wildly, sometimes dropping as much as 18 percent or rising as much as 28 percent in a single day. The company is “a meme stock on steroids,” one analyst recently wrote.

The stock’s unpredictable swings have major implications for Mr. Trump’s finances. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee owns more than $4 billion in Trump Media shares, including recently awarded bonus shares — a potential lifeline as he faces steep legal bills tied to the cases against him. The stock’s volatility could add hundreds of millions of dollars to his paper wealth — or vaporize it.

A Canadian citizen, Mr. Nedohin cannot vote for Mr. Trump in November. But he owns more than 1,000 shares in Trump Media, which are trading at about $36, down roughly 50 percent from its peak in March.

 

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

Donald Trump sits at a defendant’s table in a blue suit. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to get Justice Juan M. Merchan thrown off the case (Pool photo by Curtis Means).

ny times logoNew York Times, Tabloid Publisher Testifies Trump Asked Him to ‘Help the Campaign,’ Staff Reports, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The National Enquirer’s help for Donald Trump broke norms even in the tabloid world, David Pecker, the longtime publisher of The National Enquirer who prosecutors say took part in Donald Trump’s hush-money scheme, testified for a second day.

Tuesday’s session of Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial began with a heated clash between Justice Juan M. Merchan and Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer over a gag order. It ended with an insider’s look into a tabloid newspaper practice known as “catch and kill.”

Prosecutors said that Mr. Trump had “willfully and blatantly” violated a gag order barring him from attacking jurors and witnesses, among others. They said he had done so in comments outside the courtroom and online and should be found in contempt of court.

Mr. Trump’s top lawyer said in response that Mr. Trump was simply defending himself from political attacks. Justice Merchan did not rule, but he scolded the lawyer, Todd Blanche, saying, “you’re losing all credibility with the court.”

A former ally of Mr. Trump, David Pecker, right, the ex-publisher of The National Enquirer, later testified to buying and burying unflattering stories about Mr. Trump during his 2016 run for president, an arrangement he called “highly, highly confidential.”

Mr. Trump, 77, faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to hide a payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, made to cover up a sex scandal that threatened to derail his campaign. Ms. Daniels, who may testify, has said that she and Mr. Trump had a brief sexual encounter in 2006, something the former president denies.

Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the former president — and presumptive Republican nominee — could face probation or up to four years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gag Order Hearing Is Heated as Judge Considers Citing Trump for Contempt, Alan Feuer, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). Justice Juan Merchan, overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal trial, warned the former president’s lawyer that he was losing credibility.

The judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s trial in Manhattan held a fiery hearing on Tuesday about whether to find Mr. Trump in criminal contempt for repeatedly violating the provisions of a gag order.

While the judge, Juan M. Merchan, did not issue an immediate ruling, he engaged in a heated back-and-forth with one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, scolding him for his failure to offer any facts in his defense of the former president.

“You’ve presented nothing,” Justice Merchan told the lawyer, Todd Blanche, adding soon after: “You’re losing all credibility with the court.”

Justice Merchan’s rebuke came moments after prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office had complained that Mr. Trump willfully violated the gag order by making 10 public statements on social media and on his campaign website that attacked two likely witnesses and the jury.

The prosecutors pointed to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Michael Cohen, a lawyer who had helped Mr. Trump arrange hush payments to a porn star to stop her from speaking about a sexual encounter she said she had had with Mr. Trump. The prosecutors also told Judge Merchan that a post Mr. Trump had made going after the woman, Stormy Daniels, violated the gag order.

Prosecutors flagged another post for Justice Merchan, saying it was even more troubling. In it, Mr. Trump had quoted a Fox News commentator, Jesse Watters, denigrating potential jurors in the case as “undercover liberal activists.”

Justice Merchan imposed the order on Mr. Trump in late March, barring him from public statements about any witnesses, prosecutors, jurors or court staff. But within a week, after Mr. Trump had found a loophole in the order and repeatedly attacked the judge’s daughter, Justice Merchan expanded it to cover the relatives of court staff members and relatives of lawyers working on the case.

Christopher Conroy, a prosecutor, told Justice Merchan on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had broken the order “repeatedly and hasn’t stopped.” Mr. Conroy added that the former president had made statements violating it even “right here in the hallway” outside the courtroom.

“He knows what he’s not allowed to do,” Mr. Conroy said of Mr. Trump, “and he does it anyhow.”

Mr. Blanche rejected that argument, telling the judge that Mr. Trump had never willfully violated the order. Mr. Blanche instead tried to paint his client’s statements as legitimate responses to “a barrage of political attacks.”

 

 Donald J. Trump with members of his defense team — Todd Blanche (left), Emil Bove and Susan Necheles — ahead of the start of jury selection last week (Pool photo by Jabin Botsford).

Donald J. Trump with members of his defense team — Todd Blanche (left), Emil Bove and Susan Necheles — ahead of the start of jury selection last week (Pool photo by Jabin Botsford).

ny times logoNew York Times, The National Enquirer’s help for Donald Trump broke norms even in the tabloid world, Jim Rutenberg, April 24, 2024 (print ed.). The National Enquirer was more than a friendly media outlet for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. It was a powerful, national political weapon that was thrust into the service of a single candidate, in violation of campaign finance law.

david pecker croppedThe tabloid’s former publisher, David Pecker, right, testified nonchalantly on Tuesday about how the tabloid operated in tandem with the Trump campaign, “catching and killing” potentially damaging stories and running elaborate and false hit pieces on Mr. Trump’s opponents. But its practices were unusual even in the wild supermarket tabloid news game.

By the admission of The Enquirer’s own publisher — first made to federal prosecutors years ago during the prosecution of Mr. Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen — the tabloid was operating with the full intention of helping Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Under the First Amendment, newspapers are permitted to support candidates. But The Enquirer’s support went beyond journalism: The publication paid $150,000 for a story a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, was preparing to tell about an affair she said she had with the candidate. Then, it published nothing.

President Donald Trump officialThat sort of deal is not unusual in the tabloid news trade, even if it violates journalistic standards followed by mainstream American outlets like this one, which have rules against paying sources.

But before 2016, there had never been a known catch-and-kill deal to aid a presidential campaign. In that context, The Enquirer’s payment violated federal campaign laws prohibiting corporations from donating to presidential candidates — who are limited to receiving direct donations of $4,400 per person — and forbidding them to coordinate election-related spending with campaigns.

As The Enquirer’s parent company at the time, American Media, admitted in a “non-prosecution” deal with the federal government in 2018: “AMI knew that corporations such as AMI are subject to federal campaign finance laws, and that expenditures by corporations, made for purposes of influencing an election and in coordination with or at the request of a candidate or campaign, are unlawful.”

The deal helped secure Tuesday’s testimony.

fec logo black background Custom(The Federal Election Commission later hit The Enquirer’s parent company with fines of $187,000; Mr. Trump’s campaign escaped sanction.)

The Enquirer was also providing a hidden value to Mr. Trump: By giving over its cover to his political needs, Mr. Pecker gave him the equivalent of free advertising space at most major supermarket checkout lines in the country, where the tabloid had long ago secured prime placement.

One expert said at the time that such exposure could be worth as much as $3 million a month.

Worth potentially even more: The Enquirer’s agreement to keep from the checkout line not only Ms. McDougal’s story but the cache of Trump dirt it had in its own files — “tabloid gold” that would never see the light of day.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Oral argument on immunity hints at another Trump trial — but not soon, Ruth Marcus, right, April 26, ruth marcus twitter Custom2024 (print ed.). If there was any chance of Donald Trump being prosecuted before the next presidential election for trying to interfere in the previous one, that prospect looks even more dim after nearly three hours of oral argument at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The conservative justices’ professed concerns over the implications of their rulings for imaginary future presidents, in imaginary future proceedings, seemed more important to them than bringing Trump to justice.

First, there is certainly no prospect of a speedy decision. The issues as hashed out before the justices, and the evident division among them, all but guarantee there will be no ruling until the court finishes up its work in late June or early July.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: .Conservative Justices Signal Support for States Defying Emergency Abortion Exceptions, Troy Matthews, April 25, 2024. Several States are hedging on providing exceptions for abortions for medical necessity.

mtn meidas touch networkThe U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a federal challenge to Idaho's total abortion ban law on Wednesday, during which the conservative Justices on the court seemed skeptical that states with total abortion bans are violating federal emergency healthcare protections.

Shortly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in June 2022 which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Biden Administration issued direction that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), a law which governs doctors' actions in an emergency room, can effectively overrule state abortion bans and allow doctors to perform an abortion if the mother's life is in danger.

Under EMTALA, hospitals that accept Medicare must provide emergency care, including abortions, to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Idaho maintained before the court they held their own standards of care for medical emergencies that should not be subject to federal rules.

During arguments, conservatives on the court repeatedly pushed back on the Biden Administration's interpretation of EMTALA, expressing skepticism in a one-size-fits-all federal requirement for emergency medical treatment.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, seemed to side with Idaho stating, “How can you impose restrictions on what Idaho can criminalize, simply because hospitals in Idaho have chosen to participate in Medicare?"

Counsel for Idaho Joshua N. Turner maintained that Idaho does require doctors to intervene in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, but could not directly define what that meant. Idaho and other total abortion ban states seem to hold to the standard that a woman must be on the verge of death before a doctor can perform an abortion as an intervention, which forces to doctors to refuse interventions even when an abortion is clearly required based on their own medical judgement.

The liberal Justices on the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed horrified that Idaho was hedging on the emergency abortion exception, citing several real life examples of women who were denied abortion care by doctors who were unsure their case met the standard for an emergency abortion and were sent home, only to suffer severe side-effects including hemorrhaging and eventual hysterectomies as a result of delaying care.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said she was "kind of shocked" to hear Idaho hedging on permitting abortion to save fertility. Turner maintained that doctors in Idaho were permitted to use "good faith judgements" in such cases, but Coney Barrett then presented the crux of the medical exception question: "What if a prosecutor thinks differently," she asked, highlighting the fact that abortion bans put the authority to determine who may receive an abortion in the hands of prosecutors and judges, not doctors.

Idaho's abortion ban imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for performing abortions without exceptions for rape or incest.

Given the history of this Supreme Court's interpretation on abortion rights, it does not seem farfetched that they may rule that states have the right to impose their own criminal standard for abortions, including prosecuting doctors for performing an abortion even if it is to save the life of the mother.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Conservative Justices Signal Support for States Defying Emergency Abortion Exceptions, Troy Matthews, April 25, 2024. Several States are hedging on providing exceptions for abortions for medical necessity.

mtn meidas touch networkThe U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a federal challenge to Idaho's total abortion ban law on Wednesday, during which the conservative Justices on the court seemed skeptical that states with total abortion bans are violating federal emergency healthcare protections.

Shortly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in June 2022 which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Biden Administration issued direction that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), a law which governs doctors' actions in an emergency room, can effectively overrule state abortion bans and allow doctors to perform an abortion if the mother's life is in danger.

Under EMTALA, hospitals that accept Medicare must provide emergency care, including abortions, to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Idaho maintained before the court they held their own standards of care for medical emergencies that should not be subject to federal rules.

During arguments, conservatives on the court repeatedly pushed back on the Biden Administration's interpretation of EMTALA, expressing skepticism in a one-size-fits-all federal requirement for emergency medical treatment.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, seemed to side with Idaho stating, “How can you impose restrictions on what Idaho can criminalize, simply because hospitals in Idaho have chosen to participate in Medicare?"

Counsel for Idaho Joshua N. Turner maintained that Idaho does require doctors to intervene in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, but could not directly define what that meant. Idaho and other total abortion ban states seem to hold to the standard that a woman must be on the verge of death before a doctor can perform an abortion as an intervention, which forces to doctors to refuse interventions even when an abortion is clearly required based on their own medical judgement.

The liberal Justices on the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, seemed horrified that Idaho was hedging on the emergency abortion exception, citing several real life examples of women who were denied abortion care by doctors who were unsure their case met the standard for an emergency abortion and were sent home, only to suffer severe side-effects including hemorrhaging and eventual hysterectomies as a result of delaying care.

Kagan also discussed the ramifications for women who seek abortions not just to save their own lives, but also to save their fertility, in cases when a miscarriage may damage reproductive organs. The Idaho standard does not necessarily permit abortions in such cases.

“Within these rare cases, there’s a significant number where the woman’s life is not in peril, but she’s going to lose her reproductive organs. She’s going to lose the ability to have children in the future unless an abortion takes place,” Kagan said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said she was "kind of shocked" to hear Idaho hedging on permitting abortion to save fertility. Turner maintained that doctors in Idaho were permitted to use "good faith judgements" in such cases, but Coney Barrett then presented the crux of the medical exception question: "What if a prosecutor thinks differently," she asked, highlighting the fact that abortion bans put the authority to determine who may receive an abortion in the hands of prosecutors and judges, not doctors.

Idaho's abortion ban imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for performing abortions without exceptions for rape or incest.

Given the history of this Supreme Court's interpretation on abortion rights, it does not seem farfetched that they may rule that states have the right to impose their own criminal standard for abortions, including prosecuting doctors for performing an abortion even if it is to save the life of the mother.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Emergency Abortion Access, Justices Seem Sharply Divided, Abbie VanSickle, April 25, 2024 (print ed.).  The case, which could reverberate beyond Idaho to over a dozen other states with abortion bans, is the second time in less than a month that the justices have heard an abortion case.

The Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on Wednesday over whether Idaho’s near-total abortion ban overrides a federal law that protects patients who need emergency care in a case that could determine access to abortions in emergency rooms across the country.

In a lively argument, questions by the justices suggested a divide along ideological lines, as well as a possible split by gender on the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, appeared skeptical that Idaho’s law, which bars doctors from providing abortions unless a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of ectopic or molar pregnancies, superseded the federal law.

The argument also raised a broader question about whether some of the conservative justices, particularly Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., may be prepared to embrace language of fetal personhood, that is, the notion that a fetus would have the same rights at the pregnant woman.

The clash between the Idaho and federal laws affects only the sliver of women who face dire medical complications during pregnancy. But a broad decision by the court could have implications for about 14 states that have enacted near-total bans on abortion since the court overturned a constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.

The dispute is the second time in less than a month that the Supreme Court is grappling with abortion. It is a potent reminder that even after Justice Alito vowed in 2022 that the issue of abortion would return to elected representatives in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it continues to make its way back to the court. In late March, the justices considered the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone.

The federal law at issue, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, enacted by Congress in 1986, mandates that hospitals receiving federal funds provide patients with stabilizing care.

The Biden administration maintains that this law collides with — and should override — Idaho’s near-total abortion ban. Under the state law, the procedure is illegal except in cases of incest, rape or when it is “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman,” and doctors who perform abortions could face criminal penalties. Lawyers for the state contend that the administration has maneuvered the federal law in a way that would bypass state bans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justices Appear to Side With City Trying to Regulate Homeless Encampments, Abbie VanSickle, April 22, 2024. A group of people in an Oregon city challenged local laws banning sleeping in public. The Supreme Court appeared split along ideological lines in the case.

A majority of the Supreme Court appeared inclined on Monday to uphold a series of local ordinances that allowed a small Oregon city to ban homeless people from sleeping or camping in public spaces.

The justices appeared split along ideological lines in the case, which has sweeping implications for how the country deals with a growing homelessness crisis. The conservative majority appeared sympathetic to arguments by the city of Grants Pass, Ore., that homelessness is a complicated issue that is best handled by local lawmakers and communities, not judges.

The liberal justices, for their part, pushed back strongly on that notion in impassioned questioning.

The case reflects a broader fight over regulating homelessness and the complexity of balancing the civil rights of homeless people with concerns about health and safety in public spaces.

The issue has united people across the political spectrum, with some leaders of left-leaning cities and states joining with conservative groups to urge the justices to clarify the extent of their legal authority in clearing encampments that have proliferated across the West in recent years.

The question before the justices is whether those laws went so far that they punished people for being homeless and violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

A group of homeless residents is challenging the city’s enforcement of the ordinances as unconstitutional, arguing that they are involuntarily homeless in the city because there are not shelter beds available and that the city may not punish them without offering shelter.

City officials in Grants Pass counter that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Eighth Amendment. They warn that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would fuel homeless encampments across the country and hamstring the ability of local governments to respond.

Politico, Supreme Court to take up Biden crackdown on ‘ghost guns,’ Josh Gerstein, April 22, 2024. The case is expected to be set for argument in the fall.

politico CustomThe Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Biden administration acted legally when it implemented a crackdown on the sale of do-it-yourself “ghost gun” kits.

The justices announced Monday that they will take up a regulation Attorney General Merrick Garland issued in 2022 that sought to consider such kits as firearms so they can’t be used to make untraceable weapons sold without background checks and frequently used in crimes.

The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s injunction against the rule, concluding that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms appeared to have exceeded its statutory authority when trying to rein in the circulation of ghost guns.

Last August, the Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to allow the Biden administration to implement the regulation while legal challenges to it continued. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court’s three liberals in granting the federal government’s request to proceed with the rule.

The high court’s latest action was expected because only four justices are needed to grant review in a case, and the four dissenters on last year’s emergency stay application would have the power to do that. The court does not typically disclose which justices voted to hear a case.

The ghost gun case is expected to be set for argument in the fall, with a decision likely after the presidential election in November.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Hears Obstruction Case That Could Bar Some Charges Against Trump, Adam Liptak, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The justices are considering whether a 2002 law prompted by white-collar fraud applies to former President Trump and his election subversion case.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Tuesday in a case that could eliminate some of the federal charges against former President Donald J. Trump in the case accusing him of plotting to subvert the 2020 election and could disrupt the prosecutions of hundreds of rioters involved in the Capitol attack.

The question for the justices is whether a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted in the wake of the collapse of the energy giant Enron, covers the conduct of a former police officer, Joseph W. Fischer, who participated in the Capitol assault, on Jan. 6, 2021.

The law figures in two of the federal charges against Mr. Trump in his election subversion case and more than 350 people who stormed the Capitol have been prosecuted under it. If the Supreme Court sides with Mr. Fischer and says the statute does not cover what he is accused of having done, Mr. Trump is almost certain to contend that it does not apply to his conduct, either.

The law, signed in 2002, was prompted by accounting fraud and the destruction of documents, but the provision is written in broad terms. Still, in an earlier case involving a different provision of the law, the Supreme Court said it should be tethered to its original purpose.

At least part of what the law meant to accomplish was to address a gap in the federal criminal code: It was a crime to persuade others to destroy records relevant to an investigation or official proceeding but not to do so oneself. The law sought to close that gap.

It did that in a two-part provision. The first part makes it a crime to corruptly alter, destroy or conceal evidence to frustrate official proceedings. The second part, at issue in Mr. Fischer’s case, makes it a crime “otherwise” to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding.

ny times logoNew York Times,