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 20

Top Headlines

 

More On U.S. Foreign Aid Funding

 

More On Social Media Political Impacts

 

 Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

 

More Trump-Related News

 

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).

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Disasters, Transportation

climate change photo

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

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

 

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

 

Russia-Ukraine War, Russian Terror Attacks, Hostages

 

U.S. Immigration News

 

Claims Against Bidens

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, House Set to Vote on Aid Bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, Catie Edmondson, April 20, 2024. The pieces of the $95 billion package were expected to pass, putting the legislation on track for enactment after a tortured journey through Congress.

U.S. House logoThe House on Saturday was heading toward passage of a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as Speaker Mike Johnson put his job on the line to advance the long-stalled legislation in defiance against hard-liners from his own party.

Lawmakers were expected on Saturday afternoon to vote separately on aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as on another bill that includes a measure that could result in a nationwide ban of TikTok and new sanctions on Iran. The fourth bill was meant to sweeten the deal for conservatives.

ukraine flagMr. Johnson, right, structured the measures, which will be melded together into one after each piece is mike johnson oapproved, to capture different coalitions of support without allowing opposition to any one element to sink the whole deal. Each of the aid bills for the three nations is expected to pass overwhelmingly, and the Senate is expected to take it up quickly and send the legislation to President Biden’s desk, capping its tortured path to enactment.

The legislation includes $60 billion for Kyiv; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific. It would direct the president to seek repayment from the Ukrainian government of $10 billion in economic assistance, a stipulation supported by former President Donald J. Trump, who has pushed for any aid to Ukraine to be in the form of a loan. But the legislation also would allow the president to forgive those loans starting in 2026.

Israel FlagThe scene that is expected to play out on the House floor on Saturday will reflect both the broad bipartisan support in Congress for continuing to help the Ukrainian military beat back Russian forces, and the extraordinary political risk taken by Mr. Johnson to defy the anti-interventionist wing of his party who had blocked the measure for months. In the end, the speaker, himself an ultraconservative who had previously voted against funding Ukraine’s war effort, circumvented his right flank and was relying on Democrats to push the measure through.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Senate passed a two-year extension of a warrantless surveillance law, moving to renew the law shortly after it had expired, Charlie Savage and Luke Broadwater, April 20, 2024.  The law lapsed only briefly after a late-night deal that allowed votes on privacy advocates’ proposed changes, all of which were defeated.

The Senate early on Saturday approved an extension of a warrantless surveillance law, moving to renew it shortly after it had expired and sending President Biden legislation that national security officials say is crucial to fighting terrorism but that privacy advocates decry as a threat to Americans’ rights.

The law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, had appeared all but certain to lapse over the weekend, with senators unable for most of Friday to reach a deal on whether to consider changes opposed by national security officials and hawks.

But after hours of negotiation, the Senate abruptly reconvened late on Friday for a flurry of votes in which those proposed revisions were rejected, one by one, and early on Saturday the bill, which extends Section 702 for two years, won approval, 60 to 34.

“We have good news for America’s national security,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic majority leader, said as he stood during the late-night session to announce the agreement to complete work on the bill. “Allowing FISA to expire would have been dangerous.”

In a statement, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland praised the bill’s passage, calling Section 702 “indispensable to the Justice Department’s work to protect the American people from terrorist, nation-state, cyber and other threats.”

Ahead of final passage, the Senate rapidly voted down a series of amendments proposed by privacy-minded lawmakers. Approving any of them would have sent the bill back to the House, allowing the statute to lapse for a more significant period.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Israel’s Strike on Iran: A Limited Attack but a Potentially Big Signal, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, April 20, 2024 (print ed.). Israel hit a strategic city with carefully measured force, but made the point that it could strike at a center of Iran’s nuclear program.

For more than a decade, Israel has rehearsed, time and again, bombing and missile campaigns that would take out Iran’s nuclear production capability, much of it based around the city of Isfahan and the Natanz nuclear enrichment complex 75 miles to the north.

That is not what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet chose to do in the predawn hours of Friday, and in interviews, analysts and nuclear experts said the decision was telling.

So was the silence that followed. Israel said almost nothing about the limited strike, which appeared to do little damage in Iran. U.S. officials noted that the Iranian decision to downplay the explosions in Isfahan — and the suggestions by Iranian officials that Israel may not have been responsible — was a clear effort by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to avoid another round of escalation.

Inside the White House, officials asked the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies to stay quiet about the operation, hoping to ease Iran’s efforts to calm the tensions in the region.

But in interviews, officials quickly added they worried that relations between Israel and Iran were now in a very different place than they had been just a week ago. The taboo against direct strikes on each other’s territory was now gone. If there is another round — a conflict over Iran’s nuclear advances, or another strike by Israel on Iranian military officers — both sides might feel more free to launch directly at the other.

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar’s Ragtag Rebels See the Tide Turning Their Way, Hannah Beech, Photographs by Adam Ferguson, April 20, 2024. Resistance fighters are handing Myanmar’s army defeat after defeat this year, for the first time raising the possibility that the military junta could be at risk of collapse.

The night Ma Suu Kyi thought she would die of her wounds on the front lines of a forgotten war, a crescent moon hung overhead. A pendant of the Virgin Mary dangled around her neck. Maybe those augurs saved her. Or maybe, she said, it was not yet time for her to die.

“When I joined the revolution, I knew my chances of surviving were 50-50,” Ms. Suu Kyi, 21, said of her decision to enlist as a rebel soldier, fighting to overthrow the junta that returned Myanmar to military dictatorship three years ago. “I’m an ordinary girl, an ordinary young person. I believe in federal democracy and human rights.”

Ms. Suu Kyi said the words “federal democracy” in English. There are no easy words for the concept in Burmese.

Since the junta in Myanmar staged its coup in February 2021, ending a brief period of democratic reform and training its guns once again on peaceful protesters, much of the country has turned against the military. A new generation, which came of age during the civilian administration of the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has taken to arms, joining rebels who have opposed military dictatorship for decades.

The world’s gaze has remained focused on other conflicts on other continents — to the consternation of many in Myanmar who wonder why the chaos and death here brings little global outcry. Now, after three years of desperate resistance, the battle lines are changing fast. The rebels have overrun scores of military bases and taken over dozens of towns. The tempo of victory has quickened in recent days, and anti-junta forces now claim to control more than half of Myanmar’s territory, from lowland jungles to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Much of the fighting’s rhythm seems syncopated to that of another century: trenches dug into unrelenting mud, the slide of flip-flops down monsoon-soaked hills, the clatter of homemade AK-style assault rifles in dusty towns. The junta’s multiple rocket launchers and fighter jets may bring a modern touch to the killing, as does the hovering of the resistance’s battle drones. But this conflict, with its hand-to-hand combat and profusion of land mines, feels like a throwback to the kind of civil war that was documented in black and white.

If they manage to push into the nation’s heartland — no sure thing — the insurgents could unseat a military that has, in one form or another, kept Myanmar in its grip for more than half a century. The result may be not so much a shifting of power as a shattering of a nation, its vast periphery breaking permanently away from central control.

 

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump..

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: Final Members of Trump Jury Chosen as Trial Races Ahead, Jesse McKinley and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 20, 2024 (print ed.). Just after the last selections of alternate jurors were made, a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse, horrifying onlookers. But the case was not delayed.

The final jurors for Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial were selected on Friday, with lawyers preparing to offer opening statements on Monday in a landmark proceeding that was suddenly overshadowed at midday by the spectacle of a man setting himself aflame outside the courthouse.

Five Manhattan residents were chosen Friday, filling out a group of 12 seated jurors and six alternates who will hear accusations from the Manhattan district attorney’s office that Mr. Trump sought to cover up a sex scandal that could have imperiled his 2016 run for president.

The day was marked by an intensity of emotion from the start. Several prospective jurors asked to be excused, and some became upset, with one saying she had become too nervous to continue the process.

Then word quietly began to spread about the man who had set himself on fire in a park across the street from the courthouse. The courtroom proceedings continued, but the stir was noticeable, and reporters ran from the room.

The motivations of the man, whom city officials identified as Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Fla., were not immediately clear, but he was carrying leaflets espousing antigovernment conspiracy theories. He was hospitalized in critical condition Friday night and not expected to survive, officials said.

An afternoon hearing at which the judge was to determine the questions prosecutors could ask the former president if he were to testify proceeded as scheduled.

Mr. Trump, 77, is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to his effort to silence a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who in 2016 was seeking to sell her story of having had sex with Mr. Trump a decade earlier. The former president denies her claim and has pleaded not guilty, harshly criticizing the case, the first time a U.S. president has faced a criminal trial.

The selection of the final alternates capped a whirlwind week that captured the attention of a crush of media and a smattering of protesters who descended on the Criminal Courts Building in Lower Manhattan.

The courthouse was subject to heavy security as Mr. Trump came and went from the courtroom, stopping only to attack the case and the judge overseeing it, Juan M. Merchan, as well as Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

ny times logoNew York Times, Johnson Schedules Vote on Foreign Aid, Putting His Job on the Line, Catie Edmondson, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, right, defying his party’s right flank, said he expected Saturday votes on a long-stalled aid package to Ukraine, Israel and other allies.

mike johnson oSpeaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday told Republicans that the House would vote Saturday evening on his foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine, pushing through resistance in his own party to advance a long-stalled national security spending package for U.S. allies.

U.S. House logoHis announcement came amid a crush of opposition from Republicans who are vehemently against sending more aid to Ukraine, and have vented for days as congressional aides race to write the legislation Mr. Johnson proposed on Monday.

The speaker, whose job is at risk as he defies his right flank on the measure, also announced that he would hold a separate vote on a border security bill “that includes the core components” of House Republicans’ stringent legislation, passed last May, that would crack down on unlawful immigration and revive severe Trump-era border restrictions. The move was a nod to ultraconservatives who have demanded that the speaker not advance aid to Ukraine without securing sweeping concessions from Democrats on immigration policy.

ukraine flagThe legislative package Mr. Johnson is trying to advance roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago with aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other American allies, but broken into three pieces that would be voted on individually. There would be a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans, including conditioning Ukraine aid as a loan and a measure that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban.

The legislation includes $60 billion for Kyiv; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

“We’ve taken the Senate supplemental bill and we’ve improved the process and policy, and that’s a really important thing,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox News on Wednesday. “Every member gets to vote their own conscience.”

In a separate interview minutes later on CNN, he added: “We’re not the world’s policeman, but we’re going to do the right thing. And I think the Congress is going to take an important stand.”

After Mr. Johnson released the text of the aid plan on Wednesday afternoon, President Biden endorsed it in a statement and urged its swift passage.

“I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Biden said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

By late Wednesday afternoon, Republicans still had yet to release the text of the measure they plan to move along with the aid package.

The multipart plan has been painstakingly structured to cobble together just enough support from Democrats and mainstream Republicans to pass, over the opposition of the hard right to funding for Ukraine and left-wing Democrats who do not support unfettered aid for Israel. If all four pieces passed the House, they would then be folded into a single bill for the Senate to take up, in an effort to ensure that senators could not cherry-pick pieces to approve or reject.

Its success will require everything to go right for Mr. Johnson this week to prevail.

Mr. Johnson has already faced a tough road since announcing his intent on Monday evening to advance the aid marjorie taylor greene sotu 2 7 2023package, over the vociferous objections of conservatives in his conference. On Tuesday, a G.O.P. lawmaker announced that he would join the bid to oust Mr. Johnson spearheaded last month by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, left, Republican of Georgia.

The speaker has met with a parade of Republicans who have tried to convince him to abandon his plan in favor of more partisan proposals, such as abandoning aid for Ukraine entirely. To ensure enough lawmakers attend the votes on Saturday evening to allow for the legislative package’s passage, he has had to manage the schedules of lawmakers eager to leave Washington this weekend to attend fund-raisers and preplanned delegation trips abroad.

 

 

 More On U.S. Foreign Aid Funding

Politico, House passes Israel cash, sending full foreign aid package to Senate, Caitlin Emma and Anthony Adragna, Israel FlagApril 20, 2024. The last bill in Speaker Mike Johnson's four-part foreign aid package sends $26.3 billion in assistance to Israel, six months after the Hamas attack.

politico CustomThe House passed a bill to provide $26.3 billion in assistance to Israel, kicking the legislation across the Capitol nearly 10 weeks after the Senate sent over a measure with nearly identical aid to the U.S. ally.

The measure passed 366-58 and will automatically get bundled with three other bills. Although the House is voting on each measure individually, the Senate will receive them as a single package that includes aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, along with new sanctions, a TikTok ban and U.S. power to freeze Russian assets.

Because House Republican division over assisting Ukraine has snagged aid to Israel, it has taken Congress more than six months to move ahead on the aid following Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people.

Politico, House passes $60.8B in delayed Ukraine aid, Caitlin Emma and Anthony Adragn, April 20, 2024. The House approved tens of billions of dollars in long-stalled aid to Ukraine on Saturday in a move that could further stoke a push to remove Speaker Mike Johnson.

politico CustomThe lower chamber passed the measure in a 311-112 vote, with one member voting present, overriding staunch conservative opposition to the funding. The Biden administration has stressed that, without the assistance, Ukraine could lose in its defense against Russia by the end of the year.

ukraine flagThe bill would provide $60.8 billion for Ukraine, more than $23 billion of which would be used to replenish weapons and stocks provided by the U.S. The measure also includes $13.8 billion for advanced weapons systems and $10 billion in repayable economic assistance that likely won't be repaid.

Politico, House approves bill to divest TikTok, freeze Russian assets, Caitlin Emma and Anthony Adragna, April 20, 2024. The legislation, meant to act as a sweetener for Republicans to consider foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, overwhelmingly passed the chamber.

politico CustomThe House passed a measure Saturday that aims to force a sale of TikTok and seize frozen Russian assets to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction, as well as impose sanctions and other punitive measures against Russia, China and Iran.

The bill, filled with GOP policy sweeteners, was included in Speaker Mike Johnson’s foreign aid funding package as a way to bolster Republican support for tens of billions of dollars in long-delayed aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific. The House approved the measure in an overwhelming 360-58 vote.

Politico, Kennedy survives first effort to boot him from the ballot, Brittany Gibson, April 20, 2024. Hawaii’s state Democratic Party had sought to disqualify the new “We the People Party,” which was formed to get RFK Jr. on the ballot.

politico CustomIn Hawaii, the signature threshold to get a new third party on the ballot is lower than for independent candidates. So the Kennedy campaign started a new third party called We the People Party, forming a central committee and gathering 862 signatures. | Charlie Neibergall/AP

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. survived the first legal challenge to his ballot access from the Democratic Party.

Hawaii’s state Democratic Party “failed to meet its burden of proof” to boot Kennedy’s newly formed “We the People Party” from the ballot, according to an order from the Office of Elections late Friday.

While Hawaii’s four electoral votes are not likely to be consequential in the general election, this first victory against a challenge is a sign that efforts to keep the independent candidate off the ballot — mostly undertaken by Democrats so far — face long odds of success.

The challenge, filed by the state party’s chair, also tested the ability of Kennedy’s campaign team to withstand these coming legal battles. In this case, Kennedy’s side didn’t even have legal representation.

“I’m going to ask you to bear with me. I’m not an attorney. I’m just a mom with a lot of kids, and I’m doing this because I want to make their future a little bit brighter,” Kim Haines, the chair of Kennedy’s third-party bid in Hawaii, said during a hearing, which was held on Zoom earlier this month.

Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, are both attorneys. Neither was present for the hearing.

At numerous points during the proceedings, hearing officer Aaron Schulaner was forced to explain procedures to Haines and Michael Moskowitz, who defended their party against William Meheula, the state Democratic Party’s lawyer. This included when it was appropriate to make objections, when to ask questions of the witnesses called and when it was permissible to make statements. One witness from the Kennedy side was also instructed that she could not ask questions of the opposing side’s counsel during her testimony.

Despite these challenges, Schulaner upheld the We the People Party registration. The state Democratic Party has 30 days to appeal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson’s plan to send aid to Ukraine moves closer to reality, Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Amy B Wang, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A bill to provide additional U.S. aid to Ukraine could move one step closer to House passage on Thursday — but might need a major boost from Democrats, who would have to join Republicans to push it through.

And that action probably would prompt hard-line Republicans, who stridently oppose Ukraine aid, to make good on their threats to attempt to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) from his leadership position.

“Democrats will not be responsible for this bill failing,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said when asked Thursday if the party will support a procedural hurdle, known as the rule, moving the foreign aid package out of the House Rules Committee and to the floor.

Instead of a complex four-part plan Johnson floated early this week, the speaker now intends to try to pass five bills — one each for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies, as well as a GOP wish list of foreign policy priorities and a fifth stand-alone bill to address widespread Republican demands to strengthen the southern U.S. border. GOP leadership announced that the House would stay in session until Saturday to consider the bills.

Johnson must depend on Democratic votes to ensure his plan is successful, a tactic he has employed several times during his roughly six-month speakership because hard-line Republicans will not get behind him. Republicans can only lose two votes to pass anything given their slim majority, which will narrow to one vote once Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) resigns this weekend.

Letters From An American, April 18, 2024 [Russian Election Threats To U.S], Heather Cox Richardson, right, April 18, 2024. heather cox richardsonYesterday on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, Miles Taylor wrote: “After 2016, I helped lead the US gov[ernmen]t response to Russia’s election interference. In 2024, foreign interference will be *worse.* Tech[nology is] more powerful. Adversaries more brazen. American public more susceptible. Political leaders across party lines MUST UNITE against this.” Taylor served as chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security under Trump.

Today, Catherine Belton of the Washington Post reported on a secret 2023 document from Russia’s Foreign Ministry calling for an “offensive information campaign” and other measures that attack “‘a coalition of unfriendly countries’ led by the United States. Those measures are designed to affect “the military-political, economic and trade and informational psychological spheres” of Russia’s perceived adversaries. The plan is to weaken the United States and convince other countries, particularly those in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that the U.S. will not stand by its allies. By weakening those alliances, Russian leaders hope to shift global power by strengthening Russia’s ties to China, Iran, and North Korea and filling the vacuum left by the crumbling democratic alliances (although it is not at all clear that China is on board with this plan).

According to Belton, one of the academics who advised the authors of the Russian document suggested that Russia should “continue to facilitate the coming to power of isolationist right-wing forces in America,” “enable the destabilization of Latin American countries and the rise to power of extremist forces on the far left and far right there,” increase tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, and “escalate the situation in the Middle East around Israel, Iran and Syria to distract the U.S. with the problems of this region.”

The Russian document suggests that the front lines of that physical, political, and psychological fight are in Ukraine. It says that the outcome of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine will “to a great degree determine the outlines of the future world order.”

Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Belton: “The Americans consider that insofar as they are not directly participating in the war [in Ukraine], then any loss is not their loss. “This is an absolute misunderstanding.”

Media and lawmakers, including those in the Republican Party, have increasingly called out the degree to which Russian propaganda has infiltrated American politics through Republican lawmakers and media figures. Earlier this month, both Representative Michael R. Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned about Russian disinformation in their party.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans Again Block Effort to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban, Elizabeth Dias and Kellen Browning, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Lawmakers defied pressure from prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme.

State House Republicans in Arizona on Wednesday scuttled another effort to repeal the state’s 1864 law banning abortion, defying pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme and archaic.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said as he blocked an effort to vote on the repeal.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last week to uphold the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban infuriated supporters of abortion rights, exhilarated abortion opponents and set off a political firestorm in Arizona.

Republicans narrowly control both houses of the Arizona Legislature, but foresaw a grave political threat in backing a measure widely seen as out of touch with voters.

Repealing the law, which allows only an exception to save the life of the mother, and says doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison terms of two to five years, would revert Arizona to a 15-week abortion ban.

Republicans initially resisted Democrats’ attempts to repeal the law last week. But Mr. Trump and Kari Lake, the Senate candidate and close Trump ally, said the court had overreached and urged the Legislature to act quickly. Ms. Lake, facing a highly competitive race in November, dialed lawmakers herself and asked how she could help with the repeal effort.

On Wednesday, it initially appeared as though their cajoling might pay off. Democrats signaled that they were optimistic of having enough Republican support to secure a majority and send the repeal bill to the State Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, 12 jurors selected in Trump trial after two were dismissed earlier in the day, Staff Reports, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A dozen jurors have now been picked to hear former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan, rapidly pushing the proceedings closer to seating a full panel and pivoting toward opening statements.

Jury selection got off to a slow start Thursday. While the day began with seven jurors having been selected, two of those people were soon removed from the jury. One juror said people she knew figured out her involvement in the case from media reports, so she was excused; another was taken off the panel after prosecutors expressed concerns.

Much of the rest of the day was dominated by questioning of potential jurors. Then, in the midafternoon, seven jurors were selected in quick succession, giving the trial a 12-person jury. The process now shifts toward selecting alternates. One alternate has been picked so far; five more are needed.

Court ended for the day late Thursday afternoon and is scheduled to resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge asks media to avoid sharing identifying details about jurors, Will Sommer, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A juror requested to drop out of former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial Thursday, over concerns that her identity would be revealed — a situation that shows how intense media coverage could affect the trial and expose jurors to harassment.

The members of the jury are meant to be anonymous. But that effort has been undermined, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said from the bench, by media reports that mentioned potentially identifiable information about the jurors — ranging from their physical appearances to their occupations.

Anonymity is imperiled “when so much information is put out there that is very, very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are,” Merchan told members of the media in court Thursday morning.

Merchan’s remarks came after a woman identified as “Juror No. 2” asked to be removed from the jury because she felt her identity could be exposed, which in turn could compromise her ability to fairly judge Trump. After being seated on the jury, the woman said family and friends had already guessed she was Juror No. 2 after media reports included her occupation and employer.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. just changed how it manages a tenth of its land, Maxine Joselow, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The far-reaching Interior Department rule puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials.

For decades, the federal government has prioritized oil and gas drilling, hardrock mining and livestock grazing on public lands across the country. That could soon change under a far-reaching Interior Department rule that puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction.
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The final rule released Thursday represents a seismic shift in the management of roughly 245 million acres of public property — about one-tenth of the nation’s land mass. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials, some of whom have lambasted the move as a “land grab.”

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, known as the nation’s largest landlord, has long offered leases to oil and gas companies, mining firms and ranchers. Now, for the first time, the nearly 80-year-old agency will auction off “restoration leases” and “mitigation leases” to entities with plans to restore or conserve public lands.

“Today’s final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best-available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development, and sustain our public lands for generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Under President Biden, the BLM has put a greater emphasis on protecting public lands from the twin threats of climate change and development. Tracy Stone-Manning, the bureau’s director, has warned that hotter, drier climates are driving longer and more intense wildfires and drought across the American West. At the same time, development has fragmented and destroyed wildlife habitat and migratory corridors.

“We oversee 245 million acres, and every land manager will tell you that climate change is already happening. It’s already impacting our public lands,” Stone-Manning said during a Washington Post Live event last year. “We see it in pretty obvious ways, through unprecedented wildfires.”

ny times logoNew York Times,  As Diplomats Visit, Israel Signals It Will Answer Iran’s Attack, Staff Reports, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.

For days, Israel’s closest Western allies have pleaded with the country’s wartime government not to risk igniting a wider war by responding too strongly to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones last weekend. And on Wednesday, the top diplomats from Germany and Britain delivered that message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

But Mr. Netanyahu emerged from those talks resolute that his country would not bow to any outside pressure when choosing its response. He declared before a cabinet meeting that Israel would “do everything necessary to defend itself” and warned the allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

Here’s what we know:

  • The top diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem, working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.
  • Israel will respond to Iran’s attack, Britain’s foreign minister says.
  • U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for response to Gaza crisis.
  • Two bakeries reopen in hunger-stricken Gaza City, but the question is for how long?
  • A Hezbollah attack injures 14 soldiers in northern Israel.
  • U.N. report describes physical abuse and dire conditions in Israeli detention.
  • Here’s where Israel’s military offensive in Gaza stands.

 

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.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution to grant full member status to Palestinian state, Karen DeYoung,  April 19, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. officials insisted the veto did not represent opposition to a two-state solution.

The United States was alone Thursday in voting against a United Nations Security Council resolution to admit the Palestinian territories as a full U.N. member state. Its veto killed the measure, proposed by Algeria on behalf of Arab nations. Twelve of the 15 council members voted in favor while two, Britain and Switzerland, abstained.

U.S. officials had said that voting for statehood now would undermine prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which it said must be negotiated between the two parties.

“President Biden has been clear that a sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution” with mutual agreement, U.S. representative Robert Wood told the council after the vote. “There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and future as a democratic Jewish state. There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live in peace and with dignity in a state of their own.”

“We also have long been clear that a premature actions here in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Wood said.

The vast majority of the council disagreed, with some saying the United States, and its unwavering support for Israel, bears responsibility for the ongoing agony of the Palestinian people. “Today’s use of the veto by the U.S. delegation is a hopeless attempt to stop the inevitable course of history,” Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said.

“We have been pretty clear that sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed. And it remains our view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters earlier Thursday.

“We also have been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Patel said.

Were a Palestinian state to be granted member status, Patel said, the United States would be required by law to halt its funding for the United Nations. U.S. law prohibits funding U.N. agencies that grant full member status to representatives of a Palestinian state.

Patel added that the United States would welcome a political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would create a path to Palestinian statehood along with U.N. membership.

washington post logoWashington Post, After Iran’s attack on Israel, now fears over escalation at Lebanese border, Sarah Dadouch and Shira Rubin, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend has refocused attention on the border with Lebanon where Iran’s ally, Hezbollah, has long been fighting a muted war that could be the target of an Israeli retaliation.

The Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah — which is both a military force and Lebanon’s strongest political party — have been regularly skirmishing since Hamas’s Oct. 7 blitz into Israel. Attacks have ebbed and flowed as the war in Gaza has dragged on, punctuated by U.S. attempts at negotiating a diplomatic solution to resolve long-standing security issues.

iran flag mapBut the direct Iranian attack on Israel could upset the delicate balance of tit-for-tat strikes, with recent incidents suggesting the door could be open for an all-out conflict.

It is a war Hezbollah appears not to want: The group did not participate in Iran’s assault on Israel and delayed its statement congratulating Tehran for the attack.

Israeli officials, too, have said they want to avoid a full-blown war.

A conflict would also devastate Lebanon, already beset by an economic crisis, and weaken Hezbollah’s position as a result. That said, while the group has claimed it does not want a new war, it says it is ready for one.

In the days since Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, a string of particularly violent attacks and retaliatory strikes has erupted on the Israel-Lebanon border.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sanctions target Iran’s drone production after attack on Israel, Jeff Stein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The Treasury Department on Thursday announced new sanctions on Iran in retaliation for its recent aerial attack against Israel, as the Biden administration seeks an economic rather than military response to Tehran.

iran flag mapTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the administration’s actions would “degrade and disrupt” the Iranian drone program that targeted civilian populations in Israel. The sanctions also target Iranian steel production, a measure not taken by U.S. authorities since 2021. The United States has imposed sanctions on more than 600 Iranian-related entities over the past three years, according to the Treasury Department.

“Our actions make it harder and costlier at every turn for Iran to continue its destabilizing behavior,” Yellen said in a statement. “We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead.”

The new sanctions, which the administration had signaled earlier this week, appear designed to tame rather than inflame tensions in the region, as President Biden has sought to prevent a wider spread of hostilities in the Middle East. Some critics have pushed the administration to go further to reduce the revenue available to Iran’s government by sanctioning China’s huge purchases of Iranian oil. The Treasury Department has taken some steps to sanction Chinese firms for such purchases, but a more ambitious crackdown would risk raising global oil prices, and therefore U.S. gas prices in an election year.

The administration appears, at least for now, to be largely avoiding such escalation. Instead, the administration’s sanctions Thursday appear to focus on targets inside Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Will Impose New Sanctions on Iran for Attacking Israel, Staff Reports, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  The measures were announced as Israel’s allies try to punish Tehran without fueling a wider Middle East war.

european union logo rectangleThe president of the European Council announced early Thursday that new European sanctions would be imposed on Iran’s drone and missile programs as punishment for last weekend’s attacks.

“It’s a clear signal that we want to send,” Charles Michel said, emerging after midnight from a meeting of leaders of the European Union’s member states in Brussels. “We need to isolate Iran.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The measures were announced as Israel’s allies try to punish Tehran without fueling a wider Middle East war.
  • Israel FlagThe E.U. says it will impose new sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile programs.
  • A Gazan describes losing four nieces and nephews in an attack that killed children playing in the street.
  • The U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for the response to the crisis in Gaza.

ny times logoNew York Times, Miscalculation Leads to Escalation as Israel and Iran Clash, Ronen Bergman, Farnaz Fassihi, Eric Schmitt, Adam Entous and Richard Pérez-Peña, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Israeli officials say they didn’t see a strike on a high-level Iranian target in Syria as a provocation, and did not give Washington a heads-up about it until right before it happened.

Israel was mere moments away from an airstrike on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria when it told the United States what was about to happen.

Israel’s closest ally had just been caught off guard.

Aides quickly alerted Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser; Jon Finer, the deputy national security adviser; Brett McGurk, Mr. Biden’s Middle East coordinator; and others, who saw that the strike could have serious consequences, a U.S. official said. Publicly, U.S. officials voiced support for Israel, but privately, they expressed anger that it would take such aggressive action against Iran without consulting Washington.

The Israelis had badly miscalculated, thinking that Iran would not react strongly, according to multiple American officials who were involved in high-level discussions after the attack, a view shared by a senior Israeli official. On Saturday, Iran launched a retaliatory barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel, an unexpectedly large-scale response, if one that did minimal damage.

The events made clear that the unwritten rules of engagement in the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran have changed drastically in recent months, making it harder than ever for each side to gauge the other’s intentions and reactions.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, an Iranian ally, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, there has been escalation after escalation and miscalculation after miscalculation, raising fears of a retribution cycle that could potentially become an all-out war.

Even after it became clear that Iran would retaliate, U.S. and Israeli officials initially thought the scale of the response would be fairly limited, before scrambling to revise their assessment again and again. Now the focus is on what Israel will do next — and how Iran might respond.

“We are in a situation where basically everybody can claim victory,” said Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group. “Iran can say that it took revenge, Israel can say it defeated the Iranian attack and the United States can say it successfully deterred Iran and defended Israel.”

But Mr. Vaez said: “If we get into another round of tit for tat, it can easily spiral out of control, not just for Iran and Israel, but for the rest of the region and the entire world.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Wave of pro-Palestinian protests closes bridges, major roads across U.S., Daniel Wu and Niha Masih, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked roads, highways and bridges across the country on Monday, snarling traffic and sparking arrests from coast to coast in what some activists declared to be a coordinated day of economic blockade to push leaders for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The disruption appeared to span the country over several hours. Protesters in San Francisco parked vehicles on the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping traffic in both directions for four hours Monday morning, while hundreds of demonstrators blocked a highway in nearby Oakland, some by chaining themselves to drums of cement, California Highway Patrol representatives told The Washington Post. Some protesters headed toward a Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., according to local TV station KRON4. In New York, dozens of protesters stopped traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and held demonstrations on Wall Street, according to ABC7.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were also reported in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami and San Antonio. Demonstrators’ targets ranged from major highways such as Interstate 5 in Eugene, Ore., to a countryside road leading to an aircraft engine manufacturer in Middletown, Conn.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Israel’s Allies, Iranian Missile Strike Scrambles Debate Over Gaza, Mark Landler, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Israel’s allies have voiced anger over the death toll in Gaza, but when their archnemesis launched a missile barrage, they set it aside. At least for now.

Israel FlagTwo weeks ago, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain was facing a chorus of calls to cut off arms shipments to Israel because of its devastating war in Gaza. On Monday, Mr. Sunak saluted the British warplanes that had shot down several Iranian drones as part of a successful campaign to thwart Iran’s attack on Israel.

It was a telling example of how the clash between Israel and Iran has scrambled the equation in the Middle East. Faced with a barrage of Iranian missiles, Britain, the United States, France and others rushed to Israel’s aid. They set aside their anger over Gaza to defend it from a country they view as an archnemesis, even as they pleaded for restraint in Israel’s response to the Iranian assault.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran’s leaders say their retaliation is over, unless Israel strikes back, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). Iranian leaders on Sunday said that their retaliation against Israel was over, signalingthat they were not seeking to start a wider war, but warned that they could launch a bigger military operation depending on Israel’s response.

The foreign minister, Hossain Amir Abdollahian, said on social media that “at this point, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention of continuing defensive operations, but if necessary it will not hesitate to protect its legitimate interests against any new aggression.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 Relatives and friends carrying the body of Saifeddin Abutaha, an aid worker for World Central Kitchen in Gaza, during his funeral last week in Rafah (Photo by Said Khatib via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).Relatives and friends carrying the body of Saifeddin Abutaha, an aid worker for World Central Kitchen in Gaza, during his funeral last week in Rafah (Photo by Said Khatib via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).

world central kitchen

 

More Trump-Related News

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: 5 Takeaways From the First Week of Donald Trump’s Criminal Trial, Jesse McKinley and Kate Christobek, Updated April 20, 2024. A full jury was seated, a horrifying incident shook the court and opening statements were set to begin on Monday.

The first week of the criminal trial of Donald J. Trump ended with a disturbing jolt: a 37-year-old man set himself on fire outside the courthouse, an event that overshadowed the legal proceedings inside.

The news of the immolation rippled through the press corps just as the final members of Mr. Trump’s jury — including 12 seated jurors and six alternates — were being sworn in. Reporters rushed from the Lower Manhattan courtroom.

But the trial’s pace, which has been faster than expected, did not slack. After lunch, Justice Juan M. Merchan conducted a hearing to determine which questions prosecutors might ask Mr. Trump if he were to testify in his own defense.

Mr. Trump, 77, is charged with falsifying 34 business records in an attempt to cover up a payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who has said they had a sexual encounter in 2006. Prosecutors have said he did so to better his chances of winning the election. He has denied the charges; the former president could face probation or prison if convicted.

Opening statements in the case are expected Monday.

Here are five takeaways from Mr. Trump’s fourth day, and the first week, on trial:

ny times logoNew York Times, A man died after setting fire to himself near the courthouse. Friends said he was a caring person overtaken by paranoia, Michael Wilson and Tracey TullyApril 20, 2024. Friends of Max Azzarello, who set himself on fire outside Donald J. Trump’s trial, said he was a caring person whose paranoia had led him down a dark path.

max azzarelloThe journey that ended with a man setting himself on fire on Friday outside the Manhattan courthouse where Donald J. Trump was being tried seemed to have begun in Florida, with a series of increasingly bizarre outbursts.

Standing in the afternoon chill, the man, Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Fla., above right, threw pamphlets into the air before dousing himself with an accelerant and setting his body ablaze. The police hurried to extinguish the flames, and he was taken to a hospital burn unit, gravely injured. He died on Friday night.

The fire just a block or two from the courthouse appeared calculated to draw widespread attention, horrifying bystanders and temporarily overshadowing the momentous trial of a former president.

But a closer look at the path the man had traveled to this moment of self-destruction revealed a recent spiral into volatility, one marked by a worldview that had become increasingly confusing and disjointed — and appeared to be unattached to any political party. His social media postings and arrest records suggest the immolation stemmed instead from a place of conspiracy theories and paranoia.

Until last summer, Mr. Azzarello seemed to have lived a relatively quiet life. After high school, where he was a member of a bowling team, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009, with degrees in anthropology and public policy.

As a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where he received a master’s degree in city and regional planning in 2012, he was known for leaving supportive Post-it notes for classmates in the hallways and for his karaoke performances of Frank Sinatra and Disney tunes, said a former classmate, Katie Brennan.

Politico, Appeals court upholds conviction of GOP operative who steered Russian money to Trump camp, Kyle Cheney, April 19, 2024. Jesse Benton played leading roles in the presidential campaigns of Ron and Rand Paul and worked briefly as Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager.

politico CustomA federal appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of veteran Republican campaign operative Jesse Benton for steering an illegal Russian contribution to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Benton, who played leading roles in the presidential campaigns of Ron and Rand Paul and worked briefly as Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, helped facilitate an improper $25,000 payment to the Trump camp and the Republican National Committee on behalf of Roman Vasilenko, a Russian national who had approached another GOP operative, Doug Wead, about his interest in meeting an American celebrity. When he was unable to get an audience with Oprah Winfrey, Steven Seagal or Jimmy Carter, the operative suggested Trump.

Benton then arranged for Vasilenko to attend a join Trump-RNC fundraiser in Philadelphia, where the Russian took a picture with the soon-to-be president. Vasilenko used the photos to burnish his reputation in Russia “including speaking on Russian TV about President-elect Trump and his attitudes toward Russia.”

Benton — who was pardoned by Trump in 2020 for other campaign finance crimes in the final weeks of Trump’s term — was convicted by a jury in late 2022 of six felonies related to the contribution and falsified campaign finance records. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, sentenced Benton to 18 months in prison, and records indicate he is due for release in June. Both Ron and Rand Paul — the former Texas representative and current Kentucky senator, respectively — wrote letters on Benton’s behalf at sentencing, decrying the impact that a jail sentence would have on his family.

In addition to his time working for Ron and Rand Paul, Benton managed McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign in Kentucky, helping the Senate minority leader stave off a primary challenge from his right. But Benton but left his role before the general election amid an investigation into campaign finance violations unrelated to his work for McConnell.

In his appeal, Benton argued that the government improperly charged him under a 20-year-old statute criminalizing the falsification of records to the government, rather than under campaign finance laws. But the appeals court rejected the argument.

“The government is free to exercise its discretion to prosecute under either or both statutes,” wrote Judge Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee to the court, for a unanimous three-judge panel. The panel’s other judges, Florence Pan and Bradley Garcia, are both appointees of President Joe Biden.

Notably, the judges also ruled that McFadden did not make a mistake when he ruled that prosecutors could introduce evidence of Benton’s pardoned conviction for his earlier crimes. Though the ruling became moot when Benton opted not to take the stand, he argued that it was nevertheless an error by McFadden.

The appeals court, however, rejected that argument as well, noting that prosecutors are permitted to introduce evidence of other “bad acts” in trial under certain circumstances. And while Trump’s pardon of Benton could be seen as an “act of grace” by the outgoing president, Trump did not claim that Benton was actually innocent of the charges against him.

“Under the modern understanding of a Presidential pardon’s effect, it ‘does not blot out guilt’ or create a factual fiction that conviction never occurred,” Henderson wrote.

“[T]he face of Benton’s pardon makes no mention of rehabilitation or innocence,” the judge continued. “Benton places great weight on the accompanying White House press release but it is likewise silent as to Benton’s rehabilitation or innocence.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Demands a Cut of Donations From Campaigns That Use His Name, Chris Cameron, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The Trump campaign said that candidates using his brand should turn over at least 5 percent of donations and encouraged them to send more than the minimum.

trump 2024The presidential campaign of former President Donald J. Trump said in a letter to Republican vendors that candidates may use his name, image and likeness in campaign materials only if they send at least 5 percent of donations that they receive to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The move in effect imposes a tax on using the Trump brand for campaign purposes. Mr. Trump has sought to close a significant financial gap between him and President Biden, his Democratic rival. The Biden campaign and its political committees reported $192 million in cash on hand at the end of March, more than double the $93 million of Trump and the Republican Party.

djt maga hatDanielle Alvarez, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement that “it is important to protect small-dollar donors from scammers that use the president’s name and likeness.”

In a letter this week signed by Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, who identified themselves as co-campaign managers, the campaign also said it was tightening control of campaign materials that use Mr. Trump’s name, prohibiting strident language that has become common in donor appeals such as “President Trump needs you” or “If you support President Trump, you’ll contribute now.”

The letter said the messaging guidelines were part of an effort “to treat our donors with the utmost respect.” After Mr. Trump appeared in court on Monday, the campaign sent a fund-raising pitch falsely claiming in all-capital letters that Mr. Trump had “just stormed out of Biden’s kangaroo court!” Mr. Trump had not actually stormed out of the Manhattan courthouse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cannon denies dismissal motions by Trump co-defendants in documents case, Perry Stein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Thursday rejected requests from Donald Trump’s two co-defendants to dismiss the charges against them in the classified document case, ruling that federal prosecutors had met the legal threshold for the obstruction counts.

Attorneys for Trump employees Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira had argued that the charges should be dismissed, in part, because the indictment accused them of obstructing government efforts to retrieve classified materials from Trump’s property without providing clear evidence that the two men were aware of an ongoing investigation or knew the boxes of documents contained classified materials.

Cannon wrote that any arguments the co-defendants want to make about their lack of knowledge about why Trump allegedly wanted to conceal the boxes from investigators could be used as their defense at trial — but not as a basis to dismiss the case.

Prosecutors say Nauta and De Oliveira misled investigators in their statements and plotted to delete security footage to prevent officials from getting the boxes back from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club. Nauta is also charged with crimes related to allegations that he moved dozens of boxes from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s residential quarters as investigators sought to locate them.

Nauta, a Trump aide who still travels with him, and De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, face eight and four charges, respectively, and have pleaded not guilty.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven jurors picked in Trump’s N.Y. trial as judge presses aheadSix jurors seated for trial after dozens are excluded, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, David Nakamura and Isaac Arnsdorf, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The New York Supreme Court justice overseeing former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial said opening statements could begin as soon as Monday.


Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him.
Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors and Defense Lawyers Begin to Seat Jurors for Trump Trial, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maggie Haberman and Wesley Parnell, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The prospective jurors questioned on Tuesday mirrored their city: diverse, opinionated and with strong views about the former president.

The daunting work of selecting a jury for the first criminal trial of a former American president rapidly gained momentum on Tuesday as seven New Yorkers were picked to sit in judgment of Donald J. Trump, accelerating a crucial phase of the case that many had expected to be a slog.

The judge overseeing the case said that if jurors continued to be seated at this pace, opening arguments would most likely begin Monday.

The first seven members of the panel that will decide whether Mr. Trump falsified records to cover up a sex scandal involving a porn star were picked in short order after the lunch break. The lawyers quizzed them on their politics, views about the former president and ability to remain impartial in a case that could offend their sensibilities.

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Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, New Maui fire report shows utility waited hours to respond to broken power line, Brianna Sacks and Anumita Kaur, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Hawaiian Electric disputes that state attorney general’s report reveals anything new about origin of the fire, or its role in starting it.

Hawaii’s electric utility did not immediately respond to the first alerts of its power lines breaking before the deadly Maui fire last August, according to a new timeline report by the Hawaii attorney general’s office, which noted lapses by multiple agencies in responding to what would become the deadliest fire in U.S. history.

The 376-page report, conducted by the Fire Safety Research Institute on behalf of Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez and released Wednesday, is the first in a three-phase probe into how and why the Lahaina brush fire turned so catastrophic.

While it did not assign blame or responsibility for how the fire started and spread, it — along with an independently conducted Maui Fire Department report released earlier in the week — raises fresh questions about how Hawaiian Electric and multiple public agencies, including Maui County’s mayor, handled the disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Widest-Ever Global Coral Crisis Will Hit Within Weeks, Scientists Say, Catrin Einhorn, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Rising sea temperatures around the planet have caused a bleaching event that is expected to be the most extensive on record.

The world’s coral reefs are in the throes of a global bleaching event caused by extraordinary ocean temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners announced Monday.

It is the fourth such global event on record and is expected to affect more reefs than any other. Bleaching occurs when corals become so stressed that they lose the symbiotic algae they need to survive. Bleached corals can recover, but if the water surrounding them is too hot for too long, they die.

Coral reefs are vital ecosystems: limestone cradles of marine life that nurture an estimated quarter of ocean species at some point during their life cycles, support fish that provide protein for millions of people and protect coasts from storms. The economic value of the world’s coral reefs has been estimated at $2.7 trillion annually.

For the last year, ocean temperatures have been off the charts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla Seeks to Revive Elon Musk’s $47 Billion Pay Deal After Judge Says No, Jack Ewing, April 16, 2024 (print ed.).  The company’s directors are asking shareholders to again approve the compensation plan and to move the company’s registration to Texas.

tesla logoFacing criticism that it is overly beholden to Elon Musk, Tesla’s board of directors said on Wednesday that it would essentially give him everything he wanted, including the biggest pay package in corporate history.

If setbacks in court and the car market have induced any soul searching among Tesla’s board, there was no sign of it in the latest announcement. If anything, the board doubled down on backing Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, risking riling up activist investors and more litigation.

The board’s decision to ask shareholders to endorse a compensation plan for Mr. Musk that is worth about $47 billion came less than three months after a Delaware judge voided the same 10-year pay package. The judge said that it was excessive and that the company had failed to properly disclose details about it to shareholders who approved it in 2018.

Tesla will now provide shareholders more information about how the plan was devised and ask them to approve it again. That vote will take place as investors are increasingly worried about the electric car company because its sales are declining, and its stock has fallen more than one-third this year. In addition, Mr. Musk has not presented much of a plan to restore the company’s momentum.

Greg Varallo, a lawyer who represented shareholders in the Delaware case, declined to comment Wednesday on steps his team might take. But the board’s action is likely to prompt more lawsuits against the company, which is under legal pressure from regulators, customers and people who say they have been victims of faults in Tesla’s driver-assistance system.

Two days before the move to restore Mr. Musk’s status as one of the world’s richest people, Tesla told employees that it would lay off 10 percent of its work force, or about 14,000 people.

“The optics certainly don’t look good,” said Jason Schloetzer, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business who studies corporate governance.

There is no sign that Tesla’s board is trying to exert tighter control over Mr. Musk, whose endorsement of right-wing conspiracy theories has alienated many potential customers. On the contrary, in documents filed Wednesday for a shareholders meeting in June, the board signaled that it stood firmly behind Mr. Musk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tesla will shed more than 10 percent of its workforce, Aaron Gregg, Faiz Siddiqui and Trisha Thadani, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The move by Elon Musk comes after the company reported a sharp decline in vehicle deliveries in the first quarter. Tesla notified employees Monday that the company would slash more than 10 percent of its staff, the latest setback for one of the world’s top electric-vehicle makers, which is struggling to hold its place as a vanguard in the EV industry amid cooling demand, increasing scrutiny from regulators and controversy around its unpredictable chief executive, Elon Musk.

In a layoff notice obtained by The Washington Post, employees were told early Monday morning that Tesla, which has a large presence in California and Texas and factories in Germany and China, is cutting a significant number of jobs after a “thorough review of the organization.”

“Over the years, we have grown rapidly with multiple factories scaling around the globe,” according to the email, which was shared with The Post. “With this rapid growth, there has been duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas. As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity.”
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The job cuts — which include more than 14,000 workers from a range of departments, including sales, engineering and policy — are a blow to a company considered a bellwether for the state of the EV market. The company disclosed earlier this month that sales had fallen faster than expected amid waning demand for EVs. As competition with foreign players, especially in China, has intensified, Tesla’s stock has taken a beating, shedding a third of its value already this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Block Road in Alaska as Biden Seeks to Be Seen as Conservationist, Lisa Friedman, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Rejecting the industrial road would be a win for environmentalists in an election year when President Biden wants to showcase his environmental credentials.

The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a 211-mile industrial road through fragile Alaskan wilderness to a large copper deposit, handing a victory to environmentalists in an election year when the president wants to underscore his credentials as a climate leader and conservationist.

joe biden twitterThe Interior Department intends to announce as early as this week that there should be “no action” on the federal land where the road known as the Ambler Access Project would be built, according to two people familiar with the decision who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the decision. A formal denial of the project would come later this year, they said.

The road was essential to reach what is estimated to be a $7.5 billion copper deposit buried under ecologically sensitive land. There are currently no mines in the area and no requests for permits have been filed with the government; the road was a first step.

Blocking the industrial road would be an enormous victory for opponents who have argued for years that it would threaten wildlife as well as Alaska Native tribes that rely on hunting and fishing.

Environmentalists, including many young climate activists, were infuriated last year by President Biden’s decision to approve Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project on pristine federal land in Alaska. The proposed road would be several hundred miles south of the Willow project.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Intensifies Scrutiny of Voting: ‘We’re Keeping a Close Eye on You,’ Nick Corasaniti, Alexandra Berzon and Michael Gold, April 20, 2024. The Trump campaign and the Republican Party plan to dispatch over 100,000 volunteers and lawyers to monitor elections in battleground states.

On a Monday in mid-March, the Wisconsin Republican Party gathered about 50 conservative activists on a Zoom call to train them in how to become poll workers, helping oversee and monitor the casting and counting of votes.

Heavily Democratic areas of the battleground state were a key focus. “Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee — that type,” Mike Hoffman, the state party’s election integrity director, said as he ticked off places being targeted.

“We’re keeping a close eye on you,” he recounted telling one city clerk, according to audio recordings of the party’s training sessions obtained by The New York Times.

The Wisconsin training sessions are a small part of an expansive operation announced on Friday by former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, which plan to dispatch more than 100,000 volunteers and lawyers to monitor and potentially challenge the electoral process in each battleground state. They will focus on every aspect of voting, including mail ballots, voting machines and post-Election Day recounts and audits.

The sprawling effort is rooted in Mr. Trump’s persistent false claims that Democrats cheated to win the 2020 election. His allies have helped turn that belief into Republican doctrine despite the overwhelming conclusion by Democratic and G.O.P. election officials, as well as federal and state judges, that no evidence of widespread fraud exists.

“Democrat tricks from 2020 won’t work this time,” Charlie Spies, the chief counsel of the R.N.C., pledged in a statement announcing the program. “In 2024, we’re going to beat the Democrats at their own game and the R.N.C. legal team will be working tirelessly to ensure that elections officials follow the rules in administering elections.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Elections have gotten more accessible for disabled voters, but disparities remain, Maggie Astor, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A report to the Election Assistance Commission from researchers at Rutgers University found that disabled voters’ turnout lagged non-disabled voters’ by 11 percentage points, down from 17.

In 2018, Kenia Flores, who is blind, voted by mail in North Carolina because she was attending college out of state. Had she been able to vote in person, she could have used an accessible machine. But voting absentee, her only option was to tell another person her choices and have them fill out her ballot. She had no way to verify what they did.

Dessa Cosma, who uses a wheelchair, arrived at her precinct in Michigan that year to find that all the voting booths were standing height. A poll worker suggested she complete her ballot on the check-in table and got annoyed when Ms. Cosma said she had a right to complete it privately. Another worker intervened and found a private space.

That night, Ms. Cosma — the executive director of Detroit Disability Power, where Ms. Flores is a voting access and election protection fellow — vented to the group’s advisory committee and discovered that “every one of them had a story about lack of ability to vote easily, and we all had different disabilities,” she said. “It made me realize, ‘Oh wow, even more than I realized, this is a significant problem.’”

It has been for decades. A series of laws — including the Help America Vote Act in 2002, or HAVA, which created new standards for election administration and grant programs for states to maintain those standards — have sought to make it easier. And they have, but major gaps remain.

That is illustrated in a new report to the federal Election Assistance Commission, to be released Thursday by six researchers from Rutgers University and one from San Diego State University.

The report, provided to The New York Times, looked at elections through the 20th anniversary of HAVA in 2022 and found that the law had generally improved accessibility. The shift was reflected both quantitatively (in turnout and the percentage of people reporting trouble voting) and qualitatively (in voters’ responses in focus groups).

But while the gap has shrunk, disabled Americans still vote at much lower rates than Americans who aren’t disabled.

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Civil Rights Era Fades From Memory, Generation Gap Divides Black Voters, Maya King, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Many older Black voters see moral and political reasons to vote. Younger Black voters feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all. For years, Loretta Green has voted at her Southwest Atlanta precinct wearing the same custom T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of her first voter registration card, dated to 1960. The front of it reads: “This is why I vote.”

Since gaining the legal right, Ms. Green, 88, has participated in every possible election. This November will be no different, she said, when she casts a ballot for President Biden and Democrats down the ticket.

But conversations with her younger relatives, who have told her they’re unsure of voting or considering staying home, illustrate some of the challenges Mr. Biden’s campaign faces in reassembling his winning 2020 coalition, particularly in key battleground states like Georgia. While Ms. Green and many older Black voters are set on voting and already have plans in place to do so, younger Black voters, polling and focus group data show, feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all.

“To me, voting is almost sacred. Look at what people went through. The struggles. The people that allowed themselves to be beaten,” Ms. Green said of the civil rights movement that ignited her determination to vote in every election. “I think there are some young Blacks who probably feel like it didn’t even happen.”

Black voters have long been Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and high turnout from this bloc is crucial to Mr. Biden’s re-election. Any drop-off in support could imperil his chances of winning in November. And surveys have shown a striking generational divide within this bloc, driven by what many young people see as broken campaign promises and what party leaders have suggested is a difficulty in communicating Mr. Biden’s accomplishments to voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Turning Point Action official resigns after accusation of election-related fraud, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A top leader of the national conservative group Turning Point Action, which has amplified false claims of election fraud by former president Donald Trump and others, resigned Thursday after being accused of forging voter signatures on official paperwork so that he could run for reelection in the Arizona House.

austin smith gage skidmoreState Rep. Austin Smith (R) — who was the senior director at Turning Point Action, the campaign arm of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA — was accused by a Democratic activist of submitting petition sheets with rows of voter names, addresses and signatures that “bear a striking resemblance” to his handwriting, according to a complaint. Smith, right, shown in a Gage Skidmore photo, “personally circulated multiple petition sheets bearing what appear to be forged voter signatures,” said the complaint.

The complaint was sent to the Arizona secretary of state, who forwarded it to the Arizona attorney general for review. State election officials do not assess the veracity of allegations made against candidates. A spokesperson for the state prosecutor’s office, which runs a team that focuses on claims of voter and election fraud after widespread claims following the 2020 election, declined to comment. Both state offices are overseen by Democrats.
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Smith submitted his resignation to Turning Point Action on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it publicly. Smith also publicly ended his reelection campaign.

In a statement, the first-term lawmaker said the allegations against him were “silly” and part of a “coordinated attack” by Democrats and “those unhappy with my politics.”

Smith is aligned with some of the most conservative members of the Arizona House — sometimes referred to as the “Freedom Caucus” of the larger Republican caucus — and he has previously derided signature verification work by local election officials as “a joke.” During his time with Turning Point Action, Smith worked to support the candidacies of conservatives who spread false information about elections. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, Smith tweeted a photo of himself speaking to “thousands of patriots.” In that since-deleted tweet, he urged followers: “Don’t get comfortable” and to “fight like hell.” The next day, as Congress met to certify the 2020 election results, the U.S. Capitol came under attack.

The complaint alleges that Smith submitted multiple pages that contain dozens of forged signatures that he claimed to have collected, and it contained images of two of those pages.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, R.F.K. Jr.’s Environmental Colleagues Urge Him to Drop Presidential Bid, Lisa Friedman, Updated April 20, 2024. Nearly 50 leaders and activists who worked with Mr. Kennedy at an environmental nonprofit group will run ads calling on him to “Honor our planet, drop out.”

As an independent candidate for the White House, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims he would be the “best environment president in American history,” drawing on his past as a crusading lawyer who went after polluters in New York.

But dozens of Mr. Kennedy’s former colleagues at the Natural Resources Defense Council are calling on him to withdraw from the race, in full-page advertisements sponsored by the group’s political arm that are expected to appear in newspapers in six swing states on Sunday.

Separately, a dozen other national environmental organizations have issued an open letter calling Mr. Kennedy “ a “dangerous conspiracy theorist and a science denier” who promotes “toxic beliefs” on vaccines and on climate change.

People involved in both efforts maintain that Mr. Kennedy cannot win the presidency but could siphon votes away from President Biden and help elect former President Donald J. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax and promised to unravel environmental laws and policies.

“A vote for RFK Jr. is a vote to destroy that progress and put Trump back in the White House,” says the newspaper ad that will run in Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Signatories include John Hamilton Adams, who co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and hired Mr. Kennedy in the 1980s, as well as past presidents and the group’s current president. They implore Mr. Kennedy to “Honor our planet, drop out.”

Mr. Kennedy was a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council for about 28 years, stepping down in 2014.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Mr. Kennedy shot back against the idea that he might bring Mr. Trump back to the White House.

“President Biden does not need my help to lose to Donald Trump,” Mr. Kennedy said. He avoided directly addressing the actions of Mr. Adams and other former colleagues, saying only that he and his mentor “disagree with each other on politics.”

Instead Mr. Kennedy criticized Mr. Biden as well as the environmental movement, which he said “is making a mistake to settle for crumbs that have been given to us by the Biden administration.”

Former colleagues in environmental circles were unvarnished in their assessments of Mr. Kennedy.

“The Bobby I knew is gone,” said Dan Reicher, a senior energy researcher at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for Environment. Mr. Reicher worked with Mr. Kennedy at N.R.D.C. and said he had a decades-long personal friendship with Mr. Kennedy, including paddling rivers together in the United States and Chile.

Gina McCarthy was the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama and then became president of N.R.D.C. during the Trump administration, only to return to national service as Mr. Biden’s climate adviser until last year.

“If folks remember him as an environmentalist, he is no more,” she said about Mr. Kennedy. “He’s against science, he’s against vaccines, he talks jibber jabber on climate. I don’t know what he stands for.”

Mr. Adams said in a statement: ”I mentored Bobby as a young environmentalist. I do not recognize the person he has become. His actions are a betrayal to our environment.”

The rebuke from Mr. Kennedy’s professional colleagues comes after his brothers and sisters and other members of the Kennedy family endorsed President Biden at a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Thursday. Mr. Kennedy is a nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and a son of the former attorney general and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Family members have said they are concerned that Mr. Kennedy could tilt the race to Mr. Trump.

Allies of Mr. Trump have been discussing ways to elevate third-party candidates like Mr. Kennedy in battleground states to divert votes away from Mr. Biden. They are looking to underline Mr. Kennedy’s background as an environmentalist in the hope of peeling away some progressive voters frustrated by the fact that under Mr. Biden, the country has produced record levels of oil and gas.

“The path to victory here is clearly maximizing the reach of these left-wing alternatives,” Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who also served as Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016, told The New York Times earlier this month.

Mr. Kennedy’s views on climate change are unconventional. He agrees with the overwhelming scientific opinion that carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, are heating the planet, and that the evidence is visible. “All of my senses are telling me that the warming is occurring,” he said in a video he posted to X in July.

But in the same video, he also said that a “war on carbon” was not the answer and that “this crisis is being used as a pretext for clamping down totalitarian controls.” He said that the actors behind the clampdown were “the intelligence agencies, the World Economic Forum, the billionaire club at Davos,” and that their goal was to make the rich more wealthy. But moments later, he said that free markets would solve the climate crisis.

Mr. Kennedy said he opposed federal subsidies for carbon capture and storage, a technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions from power plants or industrial processes before they reach the atmosphere, where they drive global warming. Mr. Kennedy called it a “useless and huge boondoggle to the industry” and criticized Mr. Biden for agreeing to include those subsidies in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, the president’s landmark climate law.

Many environmental activists are also opposed to carbon capture technology because they want the nation to stop burning fossil fuels and instead switch to wind, solar and other nonpolluting energy sources.

But Mr. Kennedy’s agenda does not include any clear policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

On Thursday he said eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels and tougher enforcement of existing laws like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act would be sufficient to fight climate change. President Biden has tried three times to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and each time, Congress has restored them. And in recent rulings, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has limited the Biden administration’s ability under existing laws to regulate greenhouse gases.

Mr. Kennedy also said the environmental movement was making “a huge tactical error” in focusing on climate change instead of environmental issues that are less divisive.

He accused Mr. Biden of turning his back on the environment by approving the Willow project, an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska; for overseeing record oil and gas production; and for signing the Inflation Reduction Act, which ensures continued offshore oil drilling.

“It’s hard to understand how the environmental movement is now saying that this is OK,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I think we need a bigger vision for the environment.”

Manish Bapna, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, the political arm of the nonprofit environmental organization, noted that Mr. Kennedy had also criticized the federal subsidies that jump-started domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries and solar and wind production in the United States.

“Voters who care about the environment shouldn’t be fooled,” Mr. Bapna said.

Mr. Biden has enacted the most aggressive climate agenda of any president. In addition to the Inflation Reduction Act, which is providing more than $370 billion for clean energy over the next decade, he is limiting emissions from automobiles, is poised to cut carbon pollution from power plants and has reined in future oil and gas drilling by limiting the available tracts of land and water that companies can lease.

The political ad does not discuss Mr. Kennedy’s record as a lawyer who helped clean up the Hudson River and started a global movement to protect waterways.

Mr. Kennedy was named a hero of the planet by Time magazine in 1999 for his work with the Riverkeeper organization, among the groups credited with cleaning up the Hudson. As a founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance, he successfully fought to close a New York landfill that was contaminating the water supply and helped defeat dams in Chile and Peru.
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ny times logoNew York Times, How Kennedy Got on the Michigan Ballot With Only Two Votes, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 20, 2024. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate, used a loophole to gain ballot access in a state that will be crucial to the 2024 outcome.

In January, when Doug Dern, the state chairman of the Natural Law Party of Michigan, got an email from a top strategist for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign, he sensed it could be a star turn for his tiny political group.

For 22 years, Mr. Dern, a bankruptcy lawyer with a small practice outside Detroit, has almost single-handedly kept the Natural Law Party on Michigan’s ballot. Each cycle, the party runs a handful of candidates in obscure state races to meet Michigan’s minimum polling requirements for minor parties.

“Keep that ballot access,” Mr. Dern, 62, said in an interview on Friday. “Because someday, a candidate is going to come along who’s going to be perfect for it. Someday, the third parties are going to be hot.”

That day may have come.

In gaining access to the ballot in Michigan, a critical swing state in the 2024 election, Mr. Kennedy has injected new uncertainty into what promises to be one of the most closely contested presidential races in history. And he did it without having to gather a single signature, avoiding a costly and arduous organizing effort, not to mention the possibility of having to fight court challenges to those signatures.

Mr. Kennedy was formally nominated at a brief convention held Wednesday morning in Mr. Dern’s law office. The only two attendees were Mr. Dern and the party’s secretary.

Stefanie Spear, a spokeswoman for the Kennedy campaign, confirmed the timeline of the campaign’s outreach and said simply that Mr. Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, had been “duly nominated by the Natural Law Party.”

Third parties have drawn increasing attention in recent elections — and arguably have swung some of them — by allowing voters to express discontent with major-party candidates. Mr. Kennedy is counting on a particularly strong showing in this election as polls show voters are highly dissatisfied with their options.

The Natural Law Party was founded in 1992 on a platform that included promotion of transcendental meditation, responsible gun use, flat taxes and organic farming. But it has dwindled over the years. Heading into the 2024 election, Michigan’s was its only state chapter.

These days, the party is more like an empty vessel for independent candidates, which Mr. Dern sees as a virtue in itself — a commitment to giving voters more choice. Every presidential cycle, independent candidates reach out to Mr. Dern, seeking the party’s nomination in Michigan. In 2008, the spot went to Ralph Nader, who had been seen as a spoiler in the 2000 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy family members endorse Biden in rebuke of RFK Jr., Dylan Wells and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., April 19, 2024 (print ed.). More than a dozen Kennedy family members endorsed President Biden for reelection at a campaign event on Thursday, saying he reflects the values and “moral leadership” of their clan’s most celebrated members, a move intended in part to counter the independent campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The family members — including siblings of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — were on hand during Biden’s remarks. The event came at the end of the president’s three-day sprint through the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he has tried to paint himself as a champion of the American middle class in the Kennedy mold.

The endorsement from members of America’s most famous political family was intended to showcase Biden as the torchbearer of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), who was killed as he sought the presidency in 1968. It was an unusually personal rebuke of the senator’s son, who is portraying himself as the true heir to the Kennedy tradition, and it reflects the Biden campaign’s concern that he could siphon at least a small number of votes from the president.

Kerry Kennedy, a sister of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., delivered the endorsement, flanked by five of her siblings.

“We want to make crystal clear our feeling that the best way forward for America is to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for four more years,” Kerry Kennedy said. “President Biden has been a champion for all the rights and freedoms that my father and uncle stood for.”

She also said there was a stark choice between Biden and former president Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, that was both political and moral.

“A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to save our democracy and our decency,” Kerry Kennedy said. “It is a vote for what my father called, in his own presidential announcement in 1968, ‘our right to the moral leadership of this planet.’ ”

The Kennedys did not mention their family member’s candidacy, and the endorsement is in line with the clan’s long, if informal, support of Biden. On St. Patrick’s Day, Kerry Kennedy posted a picture on X showing Biden surrounded by a sea of Kennedys.

The echoes between JFK and Biden are notable. John F. Kennedy was the nation’s first Irish Catholic president; Biden is the second. And both contended with questions about how their faith would inform their role as commander-in-chief. Kennedy was asked whether he felt he would answer to the Pope, while Biden faced questions about where his political views veered away from Catholic doctrine, particularly on abortion.

Biden also had a long friendship with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John and Robert Kennedy’s younger brother. The two served together for decades in the Senate, including on the high-profile Judiciary Committee. Years later, as Biden sought the presidency in 2020, he modeled his effort to eradicate cancer on President Kennedy’s push to put Americans on the moon, calling it the “cancer moonshot.”

On Thursday, Biden told the Kennedys and the crowd that he had been moved by Robert F. Kennedy’s example, and that he remembered the senator’s calming words to the nation on the night Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Kennedys rally to prevent RFK Jr. from extinguishing their torch, Karen Tumulty, karen tumulty resize twitterApril 19, 2024 (print ed.).  They are trying to salvage what remains of the family’s legacy.

Sixteen years ago, the most illustrious members of the Kennedy clan gathered on a stage at American University and bestowed their benediction on a first-term senator from Illinois who was running for the Democratic presidential nomination as an underdog against the establishment favorite.

“I feel change in the air. What about you?” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) thundered before an electrified crowd of thousands. Alongside the family patriarch was his son Patrick (then a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island) and his niece Caroline, who the day before had declared in a New York Times op-ed that then-Sen. Barack Obama would be “a president like my father.”

That January 2008 event consciously invoked the passing of the torch to a new generation, the metaphor made indelible in John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. And it gave a badly needed boost to Obama’s prospects against the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), herself part of a political dynasty in the making. Though Clinton had the backing of several lesser-known members of the extended Kennedy family, its star power was solidly behind Obama.

That day, as the only reporter allowed backstage, I had a close vantage for it all. It was hard not to think back on that moment on Thursday as Kennedys gathered on a stage in Philadelphia to formally announce their support for President Biden in an attempt to protect their family’s legacy from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the crackpot conspiracy theorist running an independent presidential campaign.

Take a moment to think about how much has changed for the family since 2008. What struck me most then was the sight of the preternaturally composed Obama, moments before the event, choking back his tears. His own father had come to this country from Kenya as part of a program assisted by the Kennedy family foundation.

“I gotta admit, I had to clamp it down a little bit,” the future president acknowledged to me later, when I brought up the emotion I had witnessed. “That was powerful stuff. When you see Ted, Caroline, Patrick together, and I think about the role they played in shaping my values and ideals and what I believe about America, the connection to my father traveling to Hawaii and meeting my mother. ... It brings things full circle.”

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan on March 26, 2024, in Oakland, California (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan, who received a fortune following her divorce from a Google co-founder, on March 26, 2024, in Oakland, California (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Politico, RFK Jr.’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, is keeping his campaign in the black, Brittany Gibson and Jessica Piper, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). But she isn’t doing much else besides “learning and studying.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s wealthy but relatively obscure running mate, Nicole Shanahan, contributed $2 million to their long shot White House bid in March, preventing the campaign from running into the red for the second month in a row.

The contribution, included in a fundraising report filed Thursday, comes as Shanahan has otherwise largely retreated from public view.

While Kennedy has hosted several fundraisers and two campaign rallies since naming her his running mate in March, Shanahan’s contributions to the campaign so far have overwhelmingly been financial. The wealthy Silicon Valley tech attorney and entrepreneur has mostly been “getting a grasp on the policies Bobby’s involved in,” said communication director Del Bigtree.

“She’s doing podcasts and discussing issues with people and having think tank sessions,” Bigtree said in an interview this week. “She’s focused on learning and studying.”

But Shanahan’s self-funding is keeping the campaign in the black.

While the campaign raised $5.3 million in March, it also spent $4.4 million and reported an additional $224,000 of debt for security expenses. It had just over $6 million cash on hand at the end of the month, but also reported $1.5 million in debt, all owed to Gavin de Becker & Associates for private security services.

Itemized donations to the campaign also ticked up slightly after Kennedy announced Shanahan as his running mate. But her personal contribution — coming from her own wealth, in part from a divorce settlement from Google cofounder Sergy Brin — accounted for far more money to the campaign. Shanahan has never before run for or held public office.

Shanahan has now contributed more than $6 million to Kennedy’s campaign efforts since last summer after she gave $4.5 million to two different super PACs backing him.

 

 

Kamala Harris Munich Security Conference 2 16 2024

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Kamala Harris Moment Has Arrived, Charles M. Blow, April 18, 2024 (print ed.).
Fast-forward to now, when Vice President Harris has served nearly a full term alongside President Biden, and she is moving into another moment when the political stars are aligned for her as the perfect messenger on a subject that has fixed Americans’ attention and is central in the 2024 presidential campaign: reproductive rights.

This time, her target is Donald Trump. And being in a position to go on the offensive is something of a reversal of fortune for a vice president who has endured withering — often unfair — attacks and who struggled to define herself in the role.

In October, The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott Calabro profiled Harris under the headline “The Kamala Harris Problem,” writing that “Harris’s reputation has never quite recovered” from some early blunders during her term.

Criticisms of Harris have been relentless, ranging from legitimate challenges to her policy statements to ridiculous commentary about her laugh. Much of it has seemed tinged with gender bias.

This has all led Harris to struggle in the polls. Her approval rating, like Biden’s, has languished below 50 percent for most of her term.

And she remains a source of concern, a perceived vulnerability to Biden’s re-election. Over and over in her failed run for this year’s Republican nomination, Nikki Haley pointed to the possibility of a future Harris presidency as a scare tactic, saying in an August interview on “Good Morning America”: “There is no way Joe Biden is going to finish his term. I think Kamala Harris is going to be the next president, and that should send a chill up every American’s spine.”

But the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Republicans’ lust to enact increasingly regressive policies to restrict reproductive rights in states across the country have made Harris’s voice an essential one in the campaign.

In December, Harris announced her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour.

In March, she became what is believed to be the first vice president to pay an official visit to an abortion clinic (no president has done so), when she visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minn.

No matter how sensitive and knowledgeable men try to be on the issue of reproductive rights, there are still things that we cannot fully connect to. Harris transcends that barrier not only because she’s a woman but also because of her background as a prosecutor.

In a February speech in Savannah, Ga., she said that she decided to specialize in prosecuting crimes of violence against women and children because in high school she learned that one of her best friends was being molested by her stepfather. Harris told that story as a way to underscore the repressive nature of abortion laws that don’t have exceptions for rape or incest.

She told the crowd, “The idea that someone who survives a crime of violence, a violation to their body, would then be told they don’t have the authority to decide what happens to their body next, that’s immoral.”

Harris may never be duly recognized for her contributions to the administration on a broad range of issues, but in the end that may not be her calling.

According to her office, since Roe was overturned, the vice president has held “more than 80 convenings in 20 states.” Being a trusted voice in favor of reproductive rights and against Republicans determined to restrict or eliminate them may be the greater contribution she can make to Biden’s re-election bid and to maintaining national stability.

With this issue, she has hit her stride. With it, the talk of her as a liability has been hushed, for some, by the clear realization of what she brings to the campaign. With it, Harris has a mission, and she’s on it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Presidential candidate Cornel West joins pro-Palestinian protest at Columbia University, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Patrick Svitek, Independent presidential candidate Cornel West, right, joined a pro-Palestinian protest Thursday at Columbia University that school officials and police were working to disperse.

cornell westMultiple social media posts showed West addressing protesters with a bullhorn.

“I’m here in solidarity with each and every one of you,” he said. “We are in solidarity with human suffering, especially when it is imposed by human beings — and I’m talking about the indescribable genocide in Gaza.”

West, a longtime liberal activist and philosopher, has been outspoken about the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after six months of Israel’s war against the militant group Hamas. His campaign said Thursday evening that he was unavailable to comment further because he was still with the protesters.

While West is polling in the low single digits, Democrats have been closely monitoring independent and third-party candidates as President Biden expects a close race against former president Donald Trump in November. Democrats have been especially concerned about defections over Biden’s approach to the war in Gaza, which some on his left see as too supportive of Israel.

A March poll from Quinnipiac University found that Democratic voters nationwide were divided on the U.S. relationship with Israel. Forty-one percent said the United States is too supportive of Israel, while 43 percent said U.S. support of Israel is “about right.”

 

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Heads to Pennsylvania to Talk Taxes and Hit Trump, Neil Vigdor, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden kicked off a three-day tour of Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state, with a speech on Tuesday that focuses on taxes and aims to contrast his policies with those of former President Donald J. Trump.

In Scranton, his hometown, Mr. Biden is expected to talk about the tax code in the frame of economic fairness, arguing that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts benefited billionaires while his own agenda has helped working- and middle-class families.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Trailing Biden in Cash, Relies on Big Donors to Try to Catch Up, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Republican donors have begun to open their checkbooks for Donald Trump, as he struggles to keep pace with President Biden.

Former President Donald J. Trump leaned heavily on major Republican donors in March as his campaign and the Republican Party sought to close the financial gap separating him from President Biden, new federal filings showed on Monday.

For much of the race, Mr. Trump has relied on small donors — in particular, those giving less than $200 online — to sustain his campaign. Most big donors steered clear.

But in recent weeks, as Mr. Trump finished trouncing his primary opponents and Mr. Biden and the Democrats gathered fund-raising steam, these donors have opened their checkbooks to the former president.

In the last two weeks of March alone, one committee backing Mr. Trump raised nearly $18 million, nearly all from six-figure contributions. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party finished the month with $93 million on hand between all their committees, his campaign has said, having raised more than $65 million in March.

Still, Republicans are lagging behind. In the first three months of the year, Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party together raised more than $187 million, his campaign has said, including $90 million in March, ending the month with $192 million on hand.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has not provided a full account of its first-quarter fund-raising. The two committees that filed on Monday reported raising nearly $90 million combined since January, but that does not include money raised directly by the campaign or the Republican National Committee.

The filings on Monday with the Federal Election Commission were the first detailed look this year at the joint fund-raising committees through which Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have raised the majority of their money. These committees, some of which can raise more than $800,000 from individual donors in concert with the candidates’ parties, transfer funds to the campaigns themselves and also build out national campaign operations.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Military to Withdraw Troops From Niger, Eric Schmitt, April 20, 2024. The status of a $110 million air base in the desert remains unclear as the West African country deepens its ties with Russia.

More than 1,000 American military personnel will leave Niger in the coming months, Biden administration officials said on Friday, upending U.S. counterterrorism and security policy in the tumultuous Sahel region of Africa.

In the second of two meetings this week in Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt M. Campbell told Niger’s prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, that the United States disagreed with the country’s turn toward Russia for security and Iran for a possible deal on its uranium reserves, and the failure of Niger’s military government to map out a path to return to democracy, according to a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic talks.

The decision was not a particular surprise. Niger said last month that it was revoking its military cooperation deal with the United States following a highly contentious set of meetings in Niger’s capital, Niamey, with a high-level American diplomatic and military delegation.

That move was in keeping with a recent pattern by countries in the Sahel region, an arid area south of the Sahara, of breaking ties with Western countries. Increasingly, they are partnering with Russia instead.

American diplomats have sought in the past several weeks to salvage a revamped military cooperation deal with Niger’s military government, U.S. officials said, but in the end they failed to strike a compromise.

The talks collapsed amid a growing wave of ill feelings toward the U.S. presence in Niger. Thousands of protesters in the capital last Saturday called for the withdrawal of American armed forces personnel only days after Russia delivered its own set of military equipment and instructors to the country’s military.

Niger’s rejection of military ties with the United States follows the withdrawal of troops from France, the former colonial power that for the past decade has led foreign counterterrorism efforts against jihadist groups in West Africa, but which has lately been perceived as a pariah in the region.

American officials said on Friday that discussions with Niger to plan out an “orderly and responsible withdrawal” of forces would begin in the coming days and that the process would take months to complete.

Many of the Americans posted to Niger are stationed at U.S. Air Base 201, a six-year-old, $110 million installation in the country’s desert north. But since the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and installed the junta last July, the troops there have been inactive, with most of their MQ-9 Reaper drones grounded except those flying surveillance missions to protect the U.S. troops.

It is unclear what access, if any, the United States will have to the base in the future, and whether Russian advisers and perhaps even Russian air forces will move in if Niger’s relations with the Kremlin deepen.

Russian FlagBecause of the coup, the United States had to suspend security operations and development aid to Niger. Mr. Bazoum is still under arrest, eight months after he was ousted. Nevertheless, the United States had wanted to maintain its partnership with the country.

But the sudden arrival of 100 Russian instructors and an air-defense system in Niger this past week made the chances of cooperation in the short term even more unlikely. According to Russia’s state-owned news outlet Ria Novosti, the Russian personnel are part of Africa Corps, the new paramilitary structure intended to take the place of the Wagner group, the military company whose mercenaries and operations spread in Africa under the leadership of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last year.

The demonstrators in Niamey on Saturday waved Russian flags as well as those of Burkina Faso and Mali, two neighboring countries where military-led governments have also called in Russian assistance to help fight insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

ny times logoNew York Times, What a TikTok Ban Would Mean for the U.S. Defense of an Open Internet, David McCabe, April 17, 2024. Global digital rights advocates are watching to see if Congress acts, worried that other countries could follow suit with app bans of their own.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Could Threaten Critical Infrastructure in a Conflict, N.S.A. Chief Says, Julian E. Barnes, April 17, 2024. Gen. Timothy Haugh, who is also the head of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command, said Beijing was “sending a pretty clear signal.”

China has been trying to find ways to gain access to critical infrastructure in the United States so that it can threaten those systems in the event of a conflict, the National Security Agency director said on Wednesday.

Gen. Timothy D. Haugh, who took the helm of the N.S.A. and the U.S. military’s Cyber Command in February, said that Beijing had stepped up its cyberefforts and that the United States, in response, was working harder to disrupt that activity.

Last year, U.S. officials uncovered an effort by China to gain access to critical infrastructure in Guam, home to U.S. military bases, and in the continental United States. Microsoft called the intrusions Volt Typhoon, after a Chinese network of hackers who often avoided using detectable malware and instead used stealthier techniques to enter wastewater systems and communication networks.

“What you see in Volt Typhoon is an example of how China has approached establishing access to put things under threat,” General Haugh said at a security conference at Vanderbilt University. “There is not a valid intelligence reason to be looking at a water treatment plant from a cyberperspective.”

General Haugh said China was securing access to critical networks ahead of a direct confrontation between the two countries. While he did not say specifically what that could involve, other American officials have said that if China gained access to critical infrastructure near military bases, it could disrupt or shut down systems to sow chaos and slow response time to a crisis in the Pacific or over Taiwan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Rift Over Data Center Fueled Push to Expand Reach of Surveillance Program, Charlie Savage, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Privacy advocates are raising alarms about a mysterious provision the House added to a surveillance bill. The Senate will likely vote on the bill this week.

A hidden dispute over whether a data center for cloud computing must cooperate with a warrantless surveillance program prompted the House last week to add a mysterious provision to a bill extending the program, according to people familiar with the matter.

The disclosure helps clarify the intent behind an amendment that has alarmed privacy advocates as Senate leaders try to swiftly pass the bill, which would add two more years to a wiretapping law known as Section 702. The provision would add to the types of service providers that could be compelled to participate in the program, but it is written in enigmatic terms that make it hard to understand what it is supposed to permit.

Data centers are centralized warehouses of computer servers that can be accessed over the internet from anywhere in the world. In the cloud computing era, they are increasingly operated by third parties that rent out the storage space and computing power that make other companies’ online services work.

Even as national security officials described the provision as a narrow fix to a technical issue, they have declined to explain a classified court ruling from 2022 to which the provision is a response, citing the risk of tipping off foreign adversaries. Privacy advocates, for their part, have portrayed the amendment as dangerous, so broadly worded that it could be used to draft ordinary service people — like cable installers, janitors or plumbers who can gain physical access to office computer equipment — to act as spies.

Under Section 702, the government may collect, without a warrant and from U.S. companies like Google and AT&T, the communications of foreigners abroad who have been targeted for intelligence or counterterrorism purposes — even when they are communicating with Americans. Enacted in 2008, it legalized a form of the warrantless surveillance program President George W. Bush began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Specifically, after the court that oversees national security surveillance approves the government’s annual requests seeking to renew the program and setting rules for it, the administration sends directives to “electronic communications service providers” that require them to participate. If any such entity balks, the court decides whether it must cooperate.

Last August, the government partly declassified court rulings centered on the dispute. The surveillance court in 2022, and an appeals court panel a year later, sided with an unidentified company that had objected to being compelled to participate in the program because it believed one of its services did not fit the necessary criteria.

The details were redacted. But according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, the judges found that a data center service does not fit the legal definition of an “electronic communications service provider” because it does not itself give its users the ability to send or receive electronic messages.

Unredacted portions in both rulings suggested that Congress update the definition if the interpretation was a problem. “If the government believes that the scope of Section 702 directives should be broadened as a matter of national security policy, its recourse is with Congress,” wrote Judge Rudolph Contreras, then the presiding judge of the surveillance court.

American Flag

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military review disputes that Marines had Kabul bomber in sights, Dan Lamothe, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The newly released findings contradict allegations made by Marines who survived a devastating bombing during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan.

Department of Defense SealMarines who survived a devastating suicide bombing during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan were mistaken in their belief that they had the attacker in their gun sights hours before the blast, a new military review determined, disputing allegations made before Congress and in the media.

The findings, released Monday after they were shared with the families of 13 service members killed in the August 2021 attack at the edge of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, relied in part on facial recognition technology and interviews with the Marines and others who were not questioned during a previous investigation conducted soon after the explosion. The new review found that the Marines, while diligently performing their jobs on a sniper team, conflated vetted intelligence reports with unverified “spot reports” made by service members on site, leading to confusion.

“Over the past two years, some service members have claimed that they had the bomber in their sights, and they could have prevented the attack,” a member of the review team said, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. “But we now know that is not correct.”

The renewed scrutiny underscores how the bombing, which also killed about 170 Afghans and wounded 45 additional U.S. troops, continues to haunt survivors and the Biden administration.

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President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, welcome Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on Tuesday (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, welcome Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on Tuesday (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

 

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, 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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baltimore bridge cranes ap

 

U.S. Immigration News

 ICE logo

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.

 

ana reyes judiciary committeePolitico, ‘Are you kidding me?’: Biden-appointed judge torches DOJ for blowing off Hunter Biden-related subpoenas from House GOP, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, April 8, 2024 (print ed.). Judge Ana Reyes, above, delivered a memorable tongue-lashing to both sides in a hearing Friday over subpoenas to Justice Department lawyers who worked on the Hunter Biden tax probe.

politico CustomA federal judge tore into the Justice Department on Friday for blowing off Hunter Biden-related subpoenas issued in the impeachment probe of his father, President Joe Biden, pointing out that a former aide to Donald Trump is sitting in prison for similar defiance of Congress.

U.S. District Judge Ana Reyes, a Biden appointee on the federal District Court in Washington, spent nearly an hour accusing Justice Department attorneys of rank hypocrisy for instructing two other lawyers in the DOJ Tax Division not to comply with the House subpoenas.

“There’s a person in jail right now because you all brought a criminal lawsuit against him because he did not appear for a House subpoena,” Reyes said, referring to the recent imprisonment of Peter Navarro, a former Trump trade adviser, for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee. “And now you guys are flouting those subpoenas. … And you don’t have to show up?”

“I think it’s quite rich you guys pursue criminal investigations and put people in jail for not showing up,” but then direct current executive branch employees to take the same approach, the judge added. “You all are making a bunch of arguments that you would never accept from any other litigant.”

It was a remarkable, frenetic thrashing in what was expected to be a relatively routine, introductory status conference after the House Judiciary Committee sued last month to enforce its subpoena of DOJ attorneys Mark Daly and Jack Morgan over their involvement in the investigation of Hunter Biden’s alleged tax crimes.

Republicans are demanding the two attorneys testify and say it’s crucial for their ongoing impeachment probe of the elder Biden. But the Justice Department argues that subpoenaing two rank-and-file, or “line,” attorneys to seek details about an ongoing investigation would be a violation of the separation of powers.

Reyes has been on the bench for just over a year. Rarely seeming to stop to catch her breath, she repeatedly dressed down DOJ attorney James Gilligan as he sought to explain the department’s position, scolding him at times for interrupting her before continuing a torrid tongue-lashing that DOJ rarely receives from the bench. She delved into great detail about the nuances of House procedure — like the chamber’s rule against allowing executive branch lawyers to attend depositions — and even asked whether the Judiciary Committee had followed internal rules requiring that the ranking Democrat on the panel be notified of the subpoena to the DOJ attorneys before it was issued.

Yet, perhaps even more remarkably, Reyes seemed inclined to support DOJ’s central argument that the line attorneys cannot be compelled to answer substantive questions from Congress. They just need to show up and assert privileges on a question-by-question basis, she said — the type of thing, she said, that DOJ demands from others “seven days a week … and twice on Sunday.”

Indeed, while Reyes was withering in her attacks on the DOJ’s position, she was similarly unflinching in her criticism of the House for its stance in the dispute — particularly its claim that line lawyers working on the Hunter Biden tax probe are not entitled to attorney-client privilege. She also said she thought it absurd for the House to argue that privilege was waived because it was obscuring some crime or fraud within the executive branch.

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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).

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Drought Pushes Millions Into ‘Acute Hunger’ in Southern Africa, Somini Sengupta and Manuela Andreoni, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The disaster, intensified by El Niño, is devastating communities across several countries, killing crops and livestock and sending food prices soaring.

An estimated 20 million people in southern Africa are facing what the United Nations calls “acute hunger” as one of the worst droughts in more than four decades shrivels crops, decimates livestock and, after years of rising food prices brought on by pandemic and war, spikes the price of corn, the region’s staple crop.

Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all declared national emergencies.

It is a bitter foretaste of what a warming climate is projected to bring to a region that’s likely to be acutely affected by climate change, though scientists said on Thursday that the current drought is more driven by the natural weather cycle known as El Niño than by global warming.

Its effects are all the more punishing because in the past few years the region had been hit by cyclones, unusually heavy rains and a widening outbreak of cholera.

 People gathered outside Crocus City Hall outside Moscow after the terrorist attack there last month. Russia charged four migrant laborers from Tajikistan with the assault (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann).

People gathered outside Crocus City Hall outside Moscow after the terrorist attack there last month. Russia charged four migrant laborers from Tajikistan with the assault (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann). 

ny times logoNew York Times, An ISIS Terror Group Draws Half Its Recruits From Tiny Tajikistan, Neil MacFarquhar and Eric Schmitt, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Young migrants from the former Soviet republic were accused of an attack on a concert hall in Moscow that killed 145 people.

The mother of one of the suspects in the bloody attack on a concert hall near Moscow last month wept as she talked about her son.

How, she wondered, did he go from the bumpy, dirt roads of their village in Tajikistan, in Central Asia, to sitting, bruised and battered, in a Russian courtroom accused of terrorism? Even though he spent five years in Tajik prisons as a teenager, she said he never exhibited signs of violent extremism.

“We need to understand — who is recruiting young Tajiks, why do they want to highlight us as a nation of terrorists?” said the mother, Muyassar Zargarova.

Many governments and terrorism experts are asking the same question.

Tajik adherents of the Islamic State — especially within its affiliate in Afghanistan known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (I.S.K.P.), or ISIS-K — have taken increasingly high-profile roles in a string of recent terrorist attacks. Over the last year alone, Tajiks have been involved in assaults in Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as foiled plots in Europe. ISIS-K is believed to have several thousand soldiers, with Tajiks constituting more than half, experts said.

“They have become key to I.S.K.P.’s externally focused campaign as it seeks to gain attention and more recruits,” said Edward Lemon, an international relations professor at Texas A&M University who specializes in Russia, Tajikistan and terrorism.

An increasingly authoritarian former Soviet republic, Tajikistan ranks among the world’s poorest countries, which fuels discontent and drives millions of migrant laborers to seek better lives abroad. In a country of 10 million people, a majority of working men, estimated at more than two million, seek employment abroad at any given time.

And most migrants end up in Russia, where rampant discrimination, low wages, poor prospects and isolation make some susceptible to jihadist recruiters. Officially, about 1.3 million Tajik laborers are in Russia, although experts believe hundreds of thousands of others work there illegally.

ny times logoNew York Times, German Far-Right Leader Goes on Trial for Nazi Slogans, Erika Solomon, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Björn Höcke, of the Alternative for Germany party, has used the banned slogans at rallies and has called his trial an attempt to suppress patriotism.

One of Germany’s most prominent far-right leaders, Björn Höcke, stands trial on Thursday, facing charges of using banned Nazi slogans at political rallies.

Using National Socialist slogans and symbols is a punishable crime in Germany, which, because of the legacy of Hitler’s rise to power, has a far more restrictive approach to free speech compared to democracies like the United States.

Mr. Höcke heads the far-right Alternative for Germany, known by its German abbreviation, AfD, in the state of Thuringia. Both he and the state branch he leads have been classified by domestic intelligence as right-wing extremist and are under surveillance.

He is facing trial for using the slogan “Everything for Germany” at a speech in the eastern state of Saxony, where he is being put on trial. It was the slogan of the National Socialist paramilitary group, or Storm Troopers, and was engraved on their knives.

Mr. Höcke has said he did not know the phrase was a Nazi slogan. But critics have insisted that argument is not credible, given he was a history teacher before he became a politician. And they note that AfD politicians in two other states have already been stopped by authorities in past years for using the slogan.

The trial will take place in the city of Halle, at the state’s highest court and is expected to last until May 14. If found guilty, Mr. Höcke could face a short prison term or a fine. The court could also decide to temporarily revoke his right to vote and run in elections. Such a decision would be a major blow during a pivotal election year in Germany, in which Mr. Höcke and the AfD are expected to gain the largest share of votes.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Had a ‘Special Place’ in Modi’s Heart. Now It’s a Thorn in His Side, Mujib Mashal and Sameer Yasir, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). As Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a third term, India’s rupture with China looms over a pillar of his campaign: making his country a major power.

Narendra Modi once looked up to China. As a business-friendly Indian state leader, he traveled there repeatedly to attract investment and see how his country could learn from its neighbor’s economic transformation. China, he said, has a “special place in my heart.” Chinese officials cheered on his march to national power as that of “a political star.”

China FlagBut not long after Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014, China made clear that the relationship would not be so easy. Just as he was celebrating his 63rd birthday by hosting China’s leader, Xi Jinping — even sitting on a swing with him at a riverside park — hundreds of Chinese troops were intruding on India’s territory in the Himalayas, igniting a weekslong standoff.

A decade later, ties between the world’s two most populous nations are almost completely broken. Continued border incursions flared into a ferocious clash in 2020 that threatened to lead to all-out war. Mr. Modi, a strongman who controls every lever of power in India and has expanded its relations with many other countries, appears uncharacteristically powerless in the face of the rupture with China.

As Mr. Modi seeks a third term in an election that begins on Friday, the tensions weigh heavily on the overarching narrative of his campaign: that he is making India a major global power and, by extension, restoring national pride. Far from the 2,100-mile border, along every avenue where India seeks to expand, China looms as a fierce competitor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protesters in Niger Call for U.S. Military Exit as Russian Force Arrives, Elian Peltier, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Trainers and equipment from Russia landed in the West African nation this week, putting the continued presence of 1,000 U.S. military personnel there in doubt.

Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital of Niger on Saturday called for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces personnel stationed in the West African nation, only days after Russia delivered its own set of military equipment and instructors to the country’s military.

niger map CustomThe demonstration in the capital, Niamey, fit a well-known pattern in some countries in the region, run by military juntas, that have severed ties with Western nations in recent years and turned to Russia instead to fight extremist insurgencies.

“U.S. Army, you leave, you move, you vanish,” read one sign brandished by a protester. “No bonus, no negotiation.”

About 1,000 American military personnel are stationed at a remote drone base in Niger’s desert, from which they fly drones tracking movements of extremist groups in Niger and throughout the region.

But the United States suspended its military cooperation with Niger’s military last summer, when mutinous soldiers seized power in the country. That rupture has kept the drones grounded and the troops inactive. Last month, Niger ordered the U.S. troops to leave, declaring their presence illegal.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 6 Dead in a Mall Stabbing That Horrifies Australians, Isabella Kwai, Yan Zhuang and John Yoon, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). The attack in Sydney was Australia’s deadliest in eight years. A police officer shot the attacker, the authorities said.

A man killed at least six people and injured at least two others during a stabbing rampage at a popular shopping mall in Sydney, Australia on Saturday afternoon, in one of the country’s deadliest acts of mass violence in recent decades.

The authorities said a man wielding a knife entered the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center and began stabbing people before a lone police officer shot and killed him. Five people died of their injuries at the scene and one died later in the hospital, the police said. Among those hospitalized, some in a critical condition, was a nine-month-old baby.

Police officials on Saturday did not formally identify the attacker, but said that they believed they knew who he was, and that he had acted alone. His motives were unclear, but they said that the victims did not appear to have been targeted. If their belief about the attacker’s identity is confirmed, they said, the attack was not a “terrorism incident.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Former U.S. Ambassador Is Sentenced to 15 Years for Acting as Cuban Agent, Patricia Mazzei, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Manuel Rocha pleaded guilty to two charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent, under an agreement with the U.S. government.

A former United States ambassador accused of working for decades as a secret agent for Cuba in one of the biggest national security breaches in years pleaded guilty on Friday and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Manuel Rocha, 73, pleaded guilty to two charges — conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent and failing to register as a foreign agent — as part of an agreement with the federal government. He also faces three years of supervised release, and a $500,000 fine.

Mr. Rocha, wearing a beige prison uniform and black glasses, conceded before he was sentenced to the “betrayal of my oath of loyalty to the United States during my two decades in the State Department.”

“During my formative years in college, I was heavily influenced by the radical politics of the day,” said Mr. Rocha, who prosecutors said was recruited by Cuban intelligence agents in 1973. “Today, I no longer see the world through the radical eyes of my youth.”

In imposing the sentence, Judge Beth Bloom of Federal District Court in Miami said that as recently as 2022 and 2023 Mr. Rocha was recorded by an undercover F.B.I. agent showing “a lack of allegiance of the United States.”

“You turned your back on the country,” she said. “A country that gave you everything.”

The proceedings did not shed much light on Mr. Rocha’s dealings with the Cuban government or whether he shared secrets during his diplomatic career, which included serving as ambassador to Bolivia and briefly working in a White House role under President Bill Clinton.

In an unusual turn of events, Judge Bloom expressed deep frustration with prosecutors for not seeking more penalties for Mr. Rocha, such as forfeiture of his assets. She demanded changes to the plea deal from the bench and pressed prosecutors to reveal more about when the government learned that Mr. Rocha had become “an enemy of the United States government.”

Prosecutors said details beyond those made public in the indictment were classified.

“This case is a reminder that we face espionage and insider threats from a range of adversaries,” David Newman, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, said at a news conference in Miami — home to the nation’s largest population of Cuban exiles — after Mr. Rocha’s sentencing.

Mr. Rocha was charged in December with acting as an agent of a foreign government; he was also charged with defrauding the United States, wire fraud and making false statements to obtain and use an American passport.

Prosecutors dropped the other charges as part of his plea agreement; the wire fraud charge had carried a 20-year maximum sentence. Mr. Rocha last appeared in court in February, when he indicated that he would change his earlier plea of not guilty.

washington post logoWashington Post, A narco revolt takes a once-peaceful nation to the brink, Samantha Schmidt and Arturo Torres, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Ecuador’s young president declared war on the country’s powerful drug gangs after they sparked a wave of violence, including killings, kidnapping and car bombs.

The investigation was called “Metastasis,” a sweeping probe into links between parts of Ecuador’s political and legal establishment and the country’s ruthless drug gangs. On Dec. 14, Ecuador’s attorney general announced the arrests of 30 people, including senior judges, prosecutors, police officials, prison officers and prominent defense lawyers. All of them, she said, were part of an organized criminal scheme to benefit one of the country’s top drug traffickers.

“Fellow citizens, the Metastasis case is a clear X-ray of how drug trafficking has taken over the institutions of the state,” Diana Salazar Méndez, the country’s top law enforcement official, said in a video address from her fortress headquarters.

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian War Goals

Steady, Commentary: Playing Politics with People’s Lives, Dan Rather, right, and Team Steady, April 16-17, 2024. Russia dan rather 2017advances, Ukraine begs, Republicans dither.

dan rather steady logoWe at Steady always try to find hope in the news. We don’t sugarcoat things but look for solutions that can bring about better outcomes. Today’s story cannot be seen in a light other than a dire one. But it is incredibly important, for the people of Ukraine in the short term and the rest of the world in the long term.

So far this year the war in Ukraine is going according to plan … Vladimir Putin’s plan. The Russian leader couldn’t have choreographed it any better. It’s as if he has de facto agents in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His invasion of Ukraine had stalled, but for the last several months, Putin’s been bailed out by lack of funding for Ukraine, courtesy of House Republicans. Consequently, Russian troops are now advancing in eastern Ukraine. According to Washington Post reporters on the ground, “Russians are seizing new territory and intensifying attacks.” Russian troops have destroyed the largest power plant outside the capital city of Kyiv. Ukraine’s military chief said the situation on the ground has “significantly worsened in recent days.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky is openly pleading for help. He posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We need air defense systems and other defense assistance, not just turning a blind eye and having lengthy discussions.”

It’s no secret who Zelensky thinks is turning a blind eye. House Republicans are ambivalent at best, and collaborators at worst. But what do they really think? Left to their own devices, without arm twisting from Donald Trump, Ukraine would have the weapons and supplies it needs. But Trump and his enabler-in-chief Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene have been helping Russia at every turn.

Former Republican Representative Ken Buck, who recently resigned from Congress, calls Greene “Moscow Marjorie” and says she gets her talking points from the Kremlin. That’s from a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Big Vulnerabilities: Ammunition, Soldiers and Air Defense, Marc Santora, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Commanders are confronted with near impossible choices on how to deploy limited resources. Here is a look at the critical challenges Ukraine faces.

Ukraine’s top military commander has issued a bleak assessment of the army’s positions on the eastern front, saying they have “worsened significantly in recent days.”

Russian forces were pushing hard to exploit their growing advantage in manpower and ammunition to break through Ukrainian lines, the commander, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said in a statement over the weekend.

“Despite significant losses, the enemy is increasing his efforts by using new units on armored vehicles, thanks to which he periodically achieves tactical gains,” the general said.

At the same time, Ukraine’s energy ministry told millions of civilians to charge their power banks, get their generators out of storage and “be ready for any scenario” as Ukrainian power plants are damaged or destroyed in devastating Russian airstrikes.

With few critical military supplies flowing into Ukraine from the United States for months, commanders are being forced to make difficult choices over where to deploy limited resources as the toll on civilians grows daily.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s ‘peace plan’ would mean Ukraine’s defeat, Max Boot, right, April 15, 2024. If elected again, Trump claims max boot screen shothe would end the war in 24 hours, but he has been cagey about how he would pull off this miraculous feat, supposedly so that he could maintain his flexibility to negotiate.

Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, proclaimed after meeting with Trump last month that the former president’s formula was simple and cynical: “He will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war. Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet.”

Trump aides told The Post that Orban’s statement, which sounded entirely plausible to me, was “false,” even though Trump has not publicly contradicted it. The aides explained that the presumptive GOP nominee’s actual plan is to push for “Ukraine to cede Crimea and Donbas border region to Russia” in return for an end to the Russian invasion.

If that is Trump’s plan, it is more preposterous than anything Nixon ever contemplated during the Vietnam War. It displays a witches’ brew of arrogance, ignorance and defeatism.

It is possible, admittedly, that Putin might eventually abandon his maximalist objectives if he were convinced that his military forces were headed toward defeat. But Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year failed, and Russia is now reportedly readying a major offensive that has the potential to break through Ukrainian lines. The defenders are running critically low on ammunition because Trump’s allies in the House have been blocking the passage of aid to Ukraine. The top U.S. general in Europe warned last week that Russia’s 5-to-1 advantage in artillery shells could soon become 10 to 1 if U.S. aid isn’t forthcoming.

washington post logoWashington Post, Drones are crowding Ukraine’s skies, largely paralyzing battlefield, Siobhán O'Grady and Kostiantyn Khudov, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). So many drones patrol the skies over Ukraine’s front lines — hunting for any signs of movement — that Ukrainian and Russian troops have little ability to move on the battlefield without being spotted, and blown up.

ukraine flagInstead, on missions, they rush from one foxhole to another, hoping the pilots manning the enemy drones overhead are not skilled enough to find them inside. Expert drone operators, their abilities honed on the front, can stalk just a single foot soldier to their death, diving after them into hideouts and trenches.

The surge in small drones in Ukraine has turned the area beyond either side of the zero line — normally known as “the gray zone” — into “the death zone,” said Oleksandr Nastenko, commander of Code 9.2, a drone unit in Ukraine’s 92nd brigade. Those who dare to move day or night under the prying eyes of enemy drones “are dead immediately,” he said.

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vladimir putin 9 30 2022

 

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, 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, A few Jan. 6 rioters have been freed ahead of the Supreme Court’s review of the law, Alan Feuer, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the soundness of an obstruction law that has been widely used against those who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is already having an effect on some of the rioters.

A small group of people convicted under the law have been released from custody — or will soon go free — even though the justices hearing arguments on Tuesday are not expected to decide the case for months.

Over the past several weeks, federal judges in Washington have agreed to release about 10 defendants who were serving prison terms because of the obstruction law, saying the defendants could wait at home as the court determined whether the law should have been used at all to keep them locked up.

Among those already free is Matthew Bledsoe, the owner of a moving company from Tennessee who scaled a wall outside the Capitol and then paraded through the building with a Trump flag, ultimately planting it in the arm of a statue of President Gerald R. Ford.

Soon to be released are defendants like Kevin Seefried, a drywall installer from Delaware who carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol, and Alexander Sheppard, an Ohio man who overran police lines to become one of the first people to break into the building.

The interrupted sentences — which could be reinstated depending on how the Supreme Court rules — are just one of the complications to have emerged from the court’s review of the obstruction statute, known in the penal code as 18 U.S.C. 1512. The charge has been used so far against more than 350 rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, and members of the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

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Then-President Trump speaking to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 outside the White House in advance of a mob moving east to overrun the U.S. Capitol, thereby threatening the election certification djt jan 6 speech

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, William F. Pepper, 86, Dies; Claimed the Government Killed Dr. King, Clay Risen, Updated April 20, 2024. He represented James Earl Ray and the King family in efforts to prove that Dr. King was the victim of a conspiracy, becoming a celebrity among the conspiracy-minded.

William F. Pepper, who was the central figure in a decades-long effort to prove that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr. was killed not by a lone gunman but by a vast government plot, a controversial stance that made him something of a celebrity among the country’s teeming subculture of conspiracy theorists, died on April 7 in Manhattan. He was 86.

His wife, Mina Nguyen-Pepper, said the cause of his death, in a hospital, was pneumonia. He lived in Manhattan.

James Earl Ray shot and killed Dr. King in Memphis on April 4, 1968. He was arrested two months later at Heathrow Airport in London, just before boarding a flight to Brussels and eventually to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), which at the time was under white rule.

Mr. Ray pleaded guilty in order to avoid execution, and therefore did not go on trial. But he recanted soon after his conviction, and he spent the rest of his life claiming that he was innocent, himself a victim of a plot to kill Dr. King.

More than anyone else, it was Mr. Pepper, a lawyer, who kept Mr. Ray’s campaign alive long after Mr. Ray’s death in 1998. After taking on Mr. Ray as a client in 1988, he pressed the case across a variety of avenues, including courtrooms, the news media, a television special and three books.

Most experts on the King assassination dismissed Mr. Pepper’s contention, but he was repeatedly able to get a toehold in the mainstream. The televised special, a mock trial, was seen on HBO in 1993. Salon ran an excerpt from his 2017 book, “The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.” He gave a talk at the National Civil Rights Museum that same year.

The mock trial, which featured a jury drawn from around the country but which was largely stage-managed by Mr. Pepper, found Mr. Ray not guilty. In 1999, Mr. Pepper represented members of Dr. King’s family in a successful wrongful-death suit against Loyd Jowers, convincing a jury of their assertion that Mr. Jowers had hired a retired police officer as the real assassin.

But Mr. Pepper’s arguments rarely stood up under scrutiny. Five government investigations and a long list of historians and journalists concluded that Mr. Ray had acted alone. Among them was Hampton Sides, who detailed the hunt for Dr. King’s killer in “Hellhound on His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History” (2010).

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At best, they concluded, Mr. Ray may have received some financial support from white supremacists eager to see Dr. King dead — far from the sorts of conspiracies that Mr. Pepper alleged.

He proposed a vast network of plotters, including the F.B.I., President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Mafia. In his 1995 book, “Orders to Kill: The Truth About the Murder of Martin Luther King,” he claimed that a man named Billy Ray Eidson led a Special Forces team to Memphis to kill Dr. King, and that Mr. Eidson was in turn killed to keep the mission a secret.

But when “Turning Point,” an ABC News program, investigated Mr. Pepper’s claims in 1997, it found Mr. Eidson alive and well — and brought him on the show to confront Mr. Pepper.

“We found not a single bit of verifiable evidence to support Mr. Pepper’s theory,” Forest Sawyer, a correspondent for the program, told The New York Times. “I emphasize ‘verifiable,’ because Mr. Pepper says he has other sources he’ll reveal at a later date.”

Mr. Eidson then sued Mr. Pepper. He won $11 million from him and his publisher in 1997.

Nor was the civil case against Mr. Jowers very persuasive to the reporters who covered the trial. Members of the jury and even the judge fell asleep at times, unsworn testimony was allowed as evidence, and Mr. Jowers himself was never called to testify, except through a deposition.

The King family received damages of $100.

William Francis Pepper was born on Aug. 16, 1937, in the Bronx to Irish immigrants. His father, Francis, worked for a railroad, and his mother, Lillian (Gilliland) Pepper, managed the home.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1959, a master’s from Teachers College at Columbia in 1960. a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1973 and a law degree from Boston College in 1977.

After graduating from Columbia, he was an instructor in political science at Mercy College in Westchester County, N.Y. He also became active in the antiwar movement. He traveled to South Vietnam as a freelance journalist in 1966, returning with a harrowing account of the toll of napalm bombs on women and children.

That account ran in the countercultural magazine Ramparts. Mr. Pepper claimed it was his article that persuaded Dr. King to come out publicly against the war, and he was in the audience at Riverside Church in Manhattan on April 4, 1967, when Dr. King gave a resounding speech condemning America’s involvement in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Pepper became the executive director of the National Conference for New Politics, which met in Chicago in late 1967 to consider, among other things, running Dr. King and Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician and antiwar activist, as a third-party presidential ticket.

But the conference collapsed amid acrimony between liberal civil rights figures like Dr. King and Black militants, who Mr. Pepper later maintained were actually government saboteurs.

Mr. Pepper first met Mr. Ray in 1977, when he and Ralph Abernathy, who had been a close ally of Dr. King’s, visited him in prison. Both left the meeting convinced that Mr. Ray was not a killer.

Still, it would be another decade before Mr. Pepper took him on as a client. Meanwhile, he had moved to London, where he practiced commercial law on behalf of governments in the Middle East and Asia.

Mr. Pepper married Mina Nguyen in 2014. Along with her, his survivors include their daughter, Lilly.

The King assassination was only one of Mr. Pepper’s interests. He was a frequent presence at conspiracy-theory conventions and a fellow traveler among 9/11 truthers. In 2011, he argued for parole and a new trial for Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of killing Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968, claiming that Mr. Sirhan had been framed.

According to Mr. Pepper, Mr. Sirhan had been hypnotized and “programmed” to fire diversionary shots, while another assassin did the actual killing.

“Sirhan was set up to be the distracting actor,” Mr. Pepper told CNN in 2012, “whilst the shooter bent down close behind Bob and fired close and upward, with four bullets hitting the senator’s body or passing through his clothing.”

Mr. Pepper’s motion was rejected, and Mr. Sirhan remains in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Murder in Shooting of 12-Year-Old Boy, Jesus Jiménez, April 20, 2024. A former Philadelphia police officer pleaded guilty on Friday to third-degree murder in the shooting of a fleeing 12-year-old boy in 2022, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

The former officer, Edsaul Mendoza, 28, also pleaded guilty to possession of an instrument of crime in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County before Judge Diana Anhalt, court records show.

Mr. Mendoza, who is scheduled to be sentenced on July 22, could face up to 40 years in prison.

Mr. Mendoza fatally shot the boy, Thomas Siderio, during a foot chase on the night of March 1, 2022, after Thomas shot at an unmarked police vehicle that Mr. Mendoza and three other Philadelphia police officers were in, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Mendoza had initially been charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime, according to prosecutors.

A jury trial had been scheduled for May 13, court records show.

Charles Gibbs, a lawyer for Mr. Mendoza, declined to comment on Friday.

A lawyer for the Siderio family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Justice must be evenhanded,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement on Friday. “Everyone must be accountable under the law.”

Sgt. Eric Gripp of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a statement on Friday that the fatal shooting was a “tragedy” that was “compounded by the fact that a life was taken by someone who swore an oath to uphold the law and protect the community.”

Mr. Mendoza and three other Philadelphia police officers were surveilling a neighborhood in the south side of the city in an unmarked police vehicle when they came across Thomas and a 17-year-old boy, the authorities said at the time.

The officers were not searching for Thomas and the other boy that day, the authorities previously have said.

The unmarked vehicle passed Thomas, and shortly later returned. That’s when Thomas fired at the vehicle, the authorities said.

Three of the officers took cover after the shot was fired. Mr. Mendoza ran after Thomas in what the authorities described as a “tactically unsound foot chase.”

Mr. Mendoza fired at Thomas three times during the chase — twice while Thomas was armed and once after he had discarded the weapon, according to the district attorney’s office. The third shot pierced Thomas in the back, and he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, said at a news conference after the shooting that when Mr. Mendoza “fired the third and fatal shot, he knew the 12-year-old, five-foot-tall, 111-pound Thomas Siderio no longer had a gun and no ability to harm him.”

“But he fired a shot through his back nonetheless that killed him,” Mr. Krasner said.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Nears Settlement Over F.B.I.’s Failure to Investigate Nassar, Juliet Macur and Glenn Thrush, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The deal would bring an end to one of the last major cases involving Larry Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls.

The Justice Department is nearing a $100 million settlement over its initial failure to investigate Lawrence G. Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls under his care, according to people familiar with the situation.

The deal, which could be announced in coming weeks, would bring an end to one of the last major cases stemming from a horrific sports scandal, with around 100 victims in line to receive compensation.

The approach of a settlement comes two and a half years after senior F.B.I. officials publicly admitted that agents had failed to take quick action when U.S. national team athletes complained about Mr. Nassar to the bureau’s Indianapolis field office in 2015, when Mr. Nassar was a respected physician known for working with Olympians and college athletes. He has been accused of abusing more than 150 women and girls over the years.

The broad outline of the deal is in place, but it has not yet been completed, according to several people with knowledge of the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations.

The details of the settlement deal were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

It would be the latest in a series of big payouts that reflect the inability of institutions to protect hundreds of athletes — including the Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman — from a doctor who justified his serial sexual abuse by claiming he was using unconventional treatments.

In 2018, Michigan State University, which employed Mr. Nassar, paid more than $500 million into a victim compensation fund, believed to be the largest settlement by a university in a sexual abuse case. Three years later, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee reached a $380 million settlement.

Many of the girls and women abused by Mr. Nassar have battled mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have attempted suicide because of the abuse, which Mr. Nassar perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment.

A 2021 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that senior F.B.I. officials in the Indianapolis field office failed to respond to the allegations “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required” and that the investigation did not proceed until after the news media detailed Mr. Nassar’s abuse.

F.B.I. officials in the office also “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond” to the allegations and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to address the threat posed by Mr. Nassar, the inspector general’s report said.

In heart-wrenching testimony two months later, former members of the national gymnastics team described how the F.B.I. had turned a blind eye to Mr. Nassar’s abuse as the investigation stalled and children suffered. Some, including Ms. Raisman, said that agents moved slowly to investigate even after they presented the bureau with graphic evidence of his actions.

The revelations prompted an extraordinary apology from the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who did not oversee the bureau when the investigation began. “I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr, a vocal Trump critic, says he will ‘support the Republican ticket’ in November, Amy B Wang, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Former attorney general previously said voting for Trump would be “playing Russian roulette with the country,” but said Wednesday that a “continuation of the Biden administration is national suicide.”

Former attorney general William P. Barr effectively endorsed former president Donald Trump on Wednesday, despite having previously criticized Trump’s conduct while in office and once comparing him to a “defiant, 9-year-old kid.”

Justice Department log circularAsked Wednesday whether he would vote for Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, in November, Barr told Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” that he would vote for the Republican ticket.

“I’ve said all along, given two bad choices, I think it’s my duty to pick the person I think would do the least harm to the country, and in my mind, that’s — I will vote the Republican ticket,” said Barr, who remains a Republican. “I’ll support the Republican ticket.”

His remarks were a shift from his previous refusal to endorse Trump during the GOP presidential primary, when he was one of many former Trump aides who said they would prefer not to see Trump on the ballot in November. Many of those people, including former vice president Mike Pence, have demurred when asked whether they would vote for Trump if he is the Republican nominee. Others, like former national security adviser John Bolton, have outright stated that they would vote for neither Trump nor President Biden.

Barr, a lifelong Republican, previously served as U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under former president George H.W. Bush, and again as attorney general under Trump from 2019 to 2020. He resigned from Trump’s Cabinet on Dec. 14, 2020, after publicly disputing the former president’s claims that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump would later claim he had demanded Barr’s resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bryan Kohberger’s alibi in Idaho killings to hinge on phone location, Justine McDaniel, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Bryan Kohberger, the graduate student accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, plans to offer witness testimony alleging that his cellphone was not near the scene of the murders on the night they occurred, according to a new court filing from his attorney.

Kohberger had already indicated his alibi in court documents — that he was out driving at the time of the 4 a.m. killings. The Wednesday filing by Kohberger’s attorney, Anne Taylor, suggests that he will attempt to prove it through testimony from a cell-tower expert who will claim that Kohberger’s cellphone was in the wrong location to connect him to the killings.

That testimony would contradict prosecutors’ allegation that cellphone data placed Kohberger on a highway driving away from the town where the killings occurred that night.

The report shows the Maui Fire Department first learned a power pole had snapped, sending “low hanging wires across” the road at 5:16 a.m. on Aug. 8, prompting fire officers to immediately alert Hawaiian Electric, referred to as Maui Electric in the report.

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Prisoners Face Higher Rate of Botched Executions, Study Finds, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Lethal injections of Black people in the United States were botched more than twice as often as those of white people, according to a report from an anti-death-penalty group.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Latest Impeachment Is History, but the Political Repercussions Will Live On, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Republicans say the quick dismissal of charges against Alejandro Mayorkas sets a dangerous precedent. Democrats say the opposite.

Politico, DeSantis suspended him from his job. He wants voters to put him back in office, Gary Fineout, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Tampa Democrat Andrew Warren has been locked in a protracted legal battle with the Republican governor after he was suspended from his elected position of state attorney in 2022.

politico CustomThe Tampa prosecutor suspended from his job by Gov. Ron DeSantis — who remains locked in a legal battle with the governor — announced Tuesday he would ask voters to return him to his post.

Andrew Warren, a Democrat who was twice elected as Hillsborough County state attorney, said back in January he would not run for another term because there was a chance that DeSantis would suspend him again if he won. But two days after that announcement, a federal appeals court ruled against DeSantis, below, although the court did not reinstate Warren.

ron desantis hands outWarren on Tuesday called DeSantis’ suspension “illegal” and said that the current state attorney appointed to succeed him was picked for her “blind allegiance” to the governor.

“I’m running to keep our neighborhoods safe. I’m running to fight for victims and to make our criminal justice system better,” Warren said in a video posted on his social media accounts on Tuesday. “And I’m running to protect our values, for a woman’s right to choose, for a fair and just system, and above all for freedom and democracy.”

DeSantis suspended Warren in August 2022 and a year later suspended Orlando state attorney Monique Worrell, who is also a Democrat. Worrell, who has challenged her suspension in the courts, is also running for reelection.
'Weak dictator': Florida prosecutor slams DeSantis after suspension

In dismissing them, the governor contended that both prosecutors were ignoring the law and not following their duties. He frequently cited the suspensions during his unsuccessful presidential campaign as an example of him going after progressive prosecutors. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Warren. Suzy Lopez, a Republican appointed by DeSantis to fill Warren’s role, has raised a little more than $288,000 so far for her bid for a full term.

Warren made his reelection announcement just days before official qualifying begins for state attorney and other judicial posts. But it also comes after abortion rights have skyrocketed as a campaign issue in Florida.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court allowed a citizen initiative guaranteeing abortion access to go to the November ballot. But at the same time, the court signed off on a decision that will lead to a new ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

One of the reasons Warren was suspended was because he signed a pledge in 2022 vowing not to enforce the state’s abortion laws, including a then-recently enacted ban on abortion after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest. He also signed another pledge saying he would not prosecute anyone for providing gender-affirming care to transgender patients, even though at the time he signed the pledge there were no laws covering those procedures. Florida would later institute a ban for minors.

 oj simpson nicole brown simpson ron goldman

ny times logoNew York Times, The O.J. Simpson Trial Served as a Landmark for Domestic Violence Awareness, Shaila Dewan and Julie Bosman, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). His acquittal in the infamous trial involving his wife’s death prompted a powerful backlash that helped change the perception around domestic violence.

In December 1994, investigators from the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office drilled open a safe deposit box that had belonged to Nicole Brown Simpson. In it, they found Polaroids of her with a battered face and letters from O.J. Simpson apologizing for abusing her.

“The message in the box was clear,” wrote Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the bombshell trial of Mr. Simpson for Ms. Brown Simpson’s murder, in a book about the case. “‘In the event of my death, look for this guy.’”

These pieces of evidence were presented in a trial that captivated the nation, showing the public a pattern of abuse and control in horrifying detail.

“It was kind of like America was learning about domestic violence all at once,” said Stephanie Love-Patterson, a consultant for Connections for Abused Women and Their Children, an organization in Chicago that provides support for victims of domestic violence.

Almost 30 years later, the case has received renewed attention after Mr. Simpson’s death this week. After a monthslong trial in 1995, Mr. Simpson was acquitted of killing Ms. Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A civil trial later found him liable for their deaths.

His dramatic trial, which prompted national conversations about race, celebrity, policing and discrimination, also served as a landmark moment in America’s evolving understanding of domestic violence. Media coverage of domestic abuse surged afterward, and the fervent attention encouraged many abuse survivors to reach out for help, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Donations to women’s shelters poured in.

“The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson brought private violence into public view,” said Amanda Pyron, the executive director of the Network, an advocacy organization in Chicago. “It forced people to really reckon with their feelings on relationship violence and the role of law enforcement in keeping women safe.”

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

washington post logoWashington Post, In Arizona, Democrats remind voters Trump, GOP led to revival of abortion ban, Mariana Alfaro and Sabrina Rodriguez, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats went on the attack in Arizona on Friday against Republicans over their apparent about-face on abortion rights and vowed to keep the issue front and center in the swing state that could sway both the presidential election and control of the U.S. Senate in November.

Democratic Senate candidate Ruben Gallego targeted his criticisms on Republican Kari Lake who, like presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, has scrambled to produce a moderate message on abortion after the Arizona Supreme Court this week ruled that a near-total abortion ban from 1864 can take effect in the coming weeks.

In a campaign memo obtained by The Washington Post, Nichole Johnson, Gallego’s campaign manager, attacked Lake’s shifting stance on the issue after the state court decision. And speaking to reporters before appearing alongside Vice President Harris at a campaign rally in Tucson, Gallego seized on the importance of abortion rights to voters, saying abortion access was “the number one political issue” in Arizona.

“Trump did this. We wouldn’t be having this issue at all if he didn’t appoint those three judges that ended up overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Gallego, who represents Arizona’s 3rd District encompassing much of Phoenix.

“There is no better example, starker example, of black and white,” he added. “Trump did this and Kari Lake was cheerleading the whole way.”

Hours later, Harris delivered a similar message onstage.

“The overturning of Roe was, without any question, a seismic event — and this ban here in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet,” Harris said.

“Donald Trump is the architect of this health-care crisis,” she said. “That is not a fact, by the way, that he hides. In fact, he brags about it.”

The ruling has made the Senate race in Arizona a microcosm of the national fight over abortion rights in an election that was already expected to be close.

That was a stark departure from comments she made during her failed gubernatorial bid in 2022, when she praised the 160-year-old measure that was enacted even before Arizona became a state as “a great law.” She had also called abortion the “ultimate sin” and frequently voiced her opposition to the procedure on the campaign trail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans thwarted attempts to repeal an 1864 abortion ban, Jack Healy and Kate Zernikem, April 12, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats in both houses of the Legislature were blocked from advancing bills to roll back the reinstated ban on nearly all abortions in the state.

arizona mapA decision by Arizona’s highest court upholding an 1864 ban on nearly all abortions created chaos and confusion across the state on Wednesday. As abortion providers were flooded with phone calls from frantic patients, Republican lawmakers at the State Capitol blocked efforts to undo the ban, prompting angry jeers from Democrats.

Democrats, who seized on the decision to resurrect the 160-year-old ban as a pivotal election issue, tried to push bills through the Republican-controlled Legislature to repeal the ban, a move they said would protect women’s health and freedom, and also force Republicans to take a formal vote on the law.

But Republican leaders in the Senate removed one bill from the day’s agenda on Wednesday, legislative aides said. In the House, a Republican lawmaker who had called for striking down the law made a motion to vote on a Democratic repeal bill that has sat stalled for months. But Republican leaders quickly scuttled that effort by calling for a recess, and later adjourned until next Wednesday.

Democrats on the Senate floor yelled “Shame!” and “Save women’s lives!” as their Republican colleagues filed out of the chamber.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t move forward,” said State Senator Anna Hernandez, Democrat of Phoenix. “Are they serious about this or are they not?” she said of the Republicans. “Are they just backpedaling when they realize they’re on the losing side of a policy battle?”

Despite the pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to undo the law, it was uncertain whether Republican leaders, who narrowly control both chambers of the Legislature, would allow any immediate action on proposals to repeal the ban.

Representative Teresa Martinez, a Republican and abortion opponent, criticized Democrats for trying to force a vote a day after the court’s ruling. She called their chants and shouts extremist and insurrectionist behavior.

“We do not want to repeal the pre-Roe law without first having a conversation about it,” she said in a floor speech. “There is no reason to rush on this very important topic. We must listen to all viewpoints thoroughly. We cannot do that when our colleagues are acting in the way they did this morning.”

The Senate president and House speaker, both Republicans, issued a joint statement emphasizing that the court’s ruling had not yet taken effect and probably would not for weeks, as the legal fight over the 1864 law heads back to a lower court for additional arguments over its constitutionality.

ny times logoNew York Times, Teen Girls Confront an Epidemic of Deepfake Nudes in Schools, Natasha Singer, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Using artificial intelligence, middle and high school students have fabricated explicit images of female classmates and shared the doctored pictures.

Westfield Public Schools held a regular board meeting in late March at the local high school, a red brick complex in Westfield, N.J., with a scoreboard outside proudly welcoming visitors to the “Home of the Blue Devils” sports teams.

But it was not business as usual for Dorota Mani.

In October, some 10th-grade girls at Westfield High School — including Ms. Mani’s 14-year-old daughter, Francesca — alerted administrators that boys in their class had used artificial intelligence software to fabricate sexually explicit images of them and were circulating the faked pictures. Five months later, the Manis and other families say, the district has done little to publicly address the doctored images or update school policies to hinder exploitative A.I. use.

“It seems as though the Westfield High School administration and the district are engaging in a master class of making this incident vanish into thin air,” Ms. Mani, the founder of a local preschool, admonished board members during the meeting.

In a statement, the school district said it had opened an “immediate investigation” upon learning about the incident, had immediately notified and consulted with the police, and had provided group counseling to the sophomore class.

Boys in several states have used widely available “nudification” apps to pervert real, identifiable photos of their clothed female classmates, shown attending events like school proms, into graphic, convincing-looking images of the girls with exposed A.I.-generated breasts and genitalia. In some cases, boys shared the faked images in the school lunchroom, on the school bus or through group chats on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, according to school and police reports.

Such digitally altered images — known as “deepfakes” or “deepnudes” — can have devastating consequences. Child sexual exploitation experts say the use of nonconsensual, A.I.-generated images to harass, humiliate and bully young women can harm their mental health, reputations and physical safety as well as pose risks to their college and career prospects. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that it is illegal to distribute computer-generated child sexual abuse material, including realistic-looking A.I.-generated images of identifiable minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Scientists Fault Federal Response to Bird Flu Outbreaks on Dairy Farms, Apoorva Mandavilli and Emily Anthes, Updated April 20, 2024. Testing for H5N1 infection has been limited, and the outbreak was never confined. But asymptomatic cows in North Carolina may require a reassessment.

In the month since federal authorities announced an outbreak of bird flu on dairy farms, they have repeatedly reassured the public that the spate of infections does not impact the nation’s food or milk supply, and poses little risk to the public.

Yet the outbreak among cows may be more serious than originally believed. In an obscure online update this week, the Department of Agriculture said there is now evidence that the virus is spreading among cows, and from cows to poultry.

Officials in North Carolina have detected bird flu infections in a cattle herd with no symptoms, The New York Times has learned — information the U.S.D.A. has not shared publicly. The finding suggests that the infections may be more widespread than thought.

Whether there are asymptomatic animals elsewhere remains unclear, because the U.S.D.A. is not requiring farms to test cattle for infection. It has been reimbursing farmers for testing, but only for 20 cows per farm that were visibly ill. This week, the department said it would begin reimbursing farms for testing cows without symptoms.

ny times logoNew York Times, It Introduced Ozempic to the World. Now It Must Remake Itself, Eshe Nelson, Photographs and Video by Charlotte de la Fuente, April 20, 2024. Novo Nordisk’s factories work nonstop turning out its blockbuster weight loss drugs, but the Danish company now has far bigger ambitions.

Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen has a problem: Too many people want what he’s selling.

Mr. Jorgensen is the chief executive of Novo Nordisk, the Danish drugmaker. Even if the company isn’t quite a household name, the TV jingle for its best-selling drug — “Oh-oh-ohhh, Ozempic!” — might ring in your ears. Across the United States, Novo Nordisk’s diabetes and weight-loss drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy, have soared to celebrity status and helped make the company Europe’s most valuable public firm. It can’t make enough of the drugs.

Mr. Jorgensen’s problem is one many top executives wouldn’t mind, but the success caught him off guard. Last year, when the company was celebrating its centenary, Novo Nordisk’s revenue jumped by a third, to 232 billion Danish kroner, or $33 billion.

“Nobody had forecast this growth — no analyst, nobody in the company,” Mr. Jorgensen said in a recent interview at the company’s headquarters in a suburb of Copenhagen. “Nobody forecast a 100-year-old company would grow more than 30 percent,” he said, seemingly torn between pride and amazement.

For most of its 100 years Novo Nordisk has been focused on the steady business of treating diabetes, one of the world’s most prevalent chronic diseases. Even today, it produces half the world’s insulin. But the development of Ozempic and Wegovy has led to a bigger and bolder ambition to “defeat serious chronic diseases.” That includes treating, and even preventing, obesity, which is linked to other health issues like heart and kidney diseases.

ny times logoNew York Times, Long-Acting Drugs May Revolutionize H.I.V. Prevention and Treatment, Apoorva Mandavilli, April 17, 2024. New regimens in development, including once-weekly pills and semiannual shots, could help control the virus in hard-to-reach populations.

A pill taken once a week. A shot administered at home once a month. Even a jab given at a clinic every six months.

In the next five to 10 years, these options may be available to prevent or treat H.I.V. Instead of drugs that must be taken daily, scientists are closing in on longer-acting alternatives — perhaps even a future in which H.I.V. may require attention just twice a year, inconceivable in the darkest decades of the epidemic.

“This period is the next wave of innovation, newer products meeting the needs of people, particularly in prevention, in ways that we didn’t ever have before,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the H.I.V. prevention organization AVAC.

Long-acting therapies may obviate the need to remember to take a daily pill to prevent or treat H.I.V. And for some patients, the new drugs may ease the stigma of the disease, itself an obstacle to treatment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: This could be the worst year for measles in five years. There is a simple answer, Editorial Board, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). This year is not yet one-third over, yet measles cases in the United States are on track to be the worst since a massive outbreak in 2019. At the same time, anti-vaccine activists are recklessly sowing doubts and encouraging vaccine hesitancy.

Parents who leave their children unvaccinated are risking not only their health but also the well-being of those around them.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses — more so than the coronavirus — and is spread through direct or airborne contact when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can hang in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has left an area. It can cause serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death, especially in unvaccinated people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person infected with measles can infect 9 out of 10 unvaccinated individuals with whom they come in close contact.

But measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine; two doses are 97 percent effective. When 95 percent or more of a community is vaccinated, herd immunity protects the whole. Unfortunately, vaccination rates are falling. The global vaccine coverage rate of the first dose, at 83 percent, and second dose, at 74 percent, are well under the 95 percent level. Vaccination coverage among U.S. kindergartners has slipped from 95.2 percent during the 2019-2020 school year to 93.1 percent in the 2022-2023 school year, according to the CDC, leaving approximately 250,000 kindergartners at risk each year over the past three years.

Vaccine hesitancy is being encouraged by activists who warn of government coercion, using social media to amplify irresponsible claims. An article published March 20 on the website of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization is headlined, “Be Very Afraid? CDC, Big Media Drum Up Fear of ‘Deadly’ Measles Outbreaks.” The author, Alan Cassels, claims that the news media is advancing a “a fear-mongering narrative,” and adds, “Those of us born before 1970 with personal experience pretty much all agree that measles is a big ‘meh.’ We all had it ourselves and so did our brothers, sisters and school friends. We also had chicken pox and mumps and typically got a few days off school. The only side effect of those diseases was that my mom sighed heavily and called work to say she had to stay home to look after a kid with spots.”

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

ny times logoNew York Times, VW Workers in Tennessee Vote to Join Union, a Labor Milestone, Noam Scheiber, April 20, 2024. 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.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Economy, Propelled by Its Factories, Grew More Than Expected, Keith Bradsher and Alexandra Stevenson, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). A big bet on manufacturing helped China to counteract its housing slowdown, but other countries are worried about a flood of Chinese goods.

The Chinese economy grew more than expected in the first three months of the year, new data shows, as China built more factories and exported huge amounts of goods to counter a severe real estate crisis and sluggish spending at home.

To stimulate growth, China, the world’s second-largest economy, turned to a familiar tactic: investing heavily in its manufacturing sector, including a binge of new factories that have helped to propel sales around the world of solar panels, electric cars and other products.

But China’s bet on exports has worried many foreign countries and companies. They fear that a flood of Chinese shipments to distant markets may undermine their manufacturing industries and lead to layoffs.

washington post logoWashington Post, The economy is revving up at a terrible time for Biden, Abha Bhattarai and Tyler Pager, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Higher inflation could lead the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates — and mortgage rates — elevated until late in the year, eluding political gain for Biden.

The booming economy is exacerbating a key vulnerability for President Biden heading into the height of campaign season, as inflation and interest rates could remain higher until deep into the final weeks of the presidential election.

Fresh data this week shows inflation picked up again in March, in the latest sign that the economy is overheating. Unexpectedly strong job growth, wages and consumer spending are a plus for most Americans but bad for inflation. The higher inflation reading makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates — and mortgage rates — elevated until late in the year, possibly until days after the election, eluding much political gain for Biden.

“It’s really a case of bad luck,” said Karen Dynan, a professor at Harvard University and former Treasury Department chief economist. “The Biden administration has made some big strides but it’s up against one of the most disruptive economies in decades. Rate cuts would be a welcome development for a lot of people, but the prospects for cuts have really changed given what’s happening with inflation.”

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Chinese Swimmers Tested Positive for a Banned Drug, Then Won Olympic Gold, Michael S. Schmidt and Tariq Panja, April 20, 2024. Several of the athletes won medals at the 2021 Games and are favorites for this year’s Paris Olympics. The case has prompted accusations of a cover-up.

China FlagTwenty-three top Chinese swimmers tested positive for the same powerful banned substance seven months before the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 but were allowed to escape public scrutiny and continue to compete after top Chinese officials secretly cleared them of doping and the global authority charged with policing drugs in sports chose not to intervene.

Several of the athletes who tested positive — including nearly half of the swimming team that China sent to the Tokyo Games — went on to win medals, including three golds. Many still compete for China and several, including the two-time gold medalist Zhang Yufei, are expected to contend for medals again at this year’s Summer Games in Paris.

China acknowledged the positive tests in a report by its antidoping regulator, saying that the swimmers had ingested the banned substance unwittingly and in tiny amounts, and that no action against them was warranted.

But an examination by The New York Times found that the previously unreported episode sharply divided the antidoping world, where China’s record has long been a flashpoint. American officials and other experts said the swimmers should have been suspended or publicly identified pending further investigation, and they suggested that the failure to do so rested with Chinese sports officials; swimming’s international governing body, World Aquatics; and the World Anti-Doping Agency, the global authority that oversees national drug-testing programs.

Those authorities decided not to act despite an email exchange between a Chinese antidoping official and a top world swimming official appearing to indicate that a violation may have taken place and would, at the least, have to be publicly acknowledged.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S.C. Cut the Valedictorian’s Speech. Now, the Celebrities Are Out, Too, Stephanie Saul, April 20, 2024. The director Jon Chu and the tennis star Billie Jean King were set to be among the featured guests at the University of Southern California’s graduation.

The University of Southern California, reeling after a controversy over its valedictorian selection, announced Friday that its main commencement program would eliminate outside speakers and honorees, including the director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” Jon M. Chu, and the tennis star Billie Jean King.

The private university in Los Angeles broke with tradition this week by announcing that its valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, a first-generation Muslim student, would not deliver a commencement address on May 10, a decision that came after campus Jewish organizations objected to her selection.

The student groups, including Trojans for Israel, cited a pro-Palestinian social media link by Ms. Tabassum, who is of South Asian ancestry. After the groups announced their opposition, the university said it received a barrage of communications indicating that the commencement would be disrupted.

While the university cited security concerns for canceling the speech, Ms. Tabassum, a biomedical engineering major, said in a statement that she was “shocked” and “profoundly disappointed” by the decision. And she questioned the school’s motivation.

“There remain serious doubts about whether U.S.C.’s decision to revoke my invitation to speak is made solely on the basis of safety,” she said.

After the decision to cancel her speech, the administration has faced several of days of protests calling for Ms. Tabassum’s reinstatement as a speaker.

The U.S.C. announcement on Friday followed inquiries by The New York Times as to whether Mr. Chu, an alumnus, might withdraw as the graduation speaker because of the controversy. By the end of the day, the university had removed his name and photo from its commencement website. And it announced that he and other speakers were “being released.”

“Given the highly publicized circumstances surrounding our main stage commencement program, university leadership has decided it is best to release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s ceremony.”

Mr. Chu and Ms. King could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said it was looking into the possibility of representing Ms. Tabassum in a lawsuit against the university, citing a California statute known as the Leonard Law, which applies First Amendment free speech protections to private and public colleges in the state.

An A.C.L.U. lawyer in Los Angeles, Mohammad Tajsar, said that U.S.C. has a formidable private security apparatus that should be able to handle such an event, even with security concerns.

“If the university can accommodate speeches by Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos and host President Obama and the King of Jordan at its graduations, surely it can bear whatever burden comes with celebrating Asna Tabassum as its valedictorian,” Mr. Tajsar said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia Students Arrested Over Campus Rally May Face Other Consequences, Troy Closson and Anna Betts, April 20, 2024. Students who camped in tents to protest the war in Gaza, including the daughter of Representative Ilhan Omar, may be barred from finishing the semester.

Many of the more than 100 Columbia University and Barnard College students who were arrested after refusing to leave a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus on Thursday woke up to a chilly new reality this week: Columbia said that their IDs would soon stop working, and some of them would not be able to finish the semester.

The students who were arrested were released with summonses. The university said all of the 100 or so students involved in the protest had been informed that they were suspended.

For some of those students, that means they must vacate their student housing, with just weeks before the semester ends.

Yet whatever the consequences, several of the students said in interviews that they were determined to keep protesting Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza.

They said that after being loaded onto buses with their hands tied, they had sung all the way to police headquarters. Many expressed a renewed belief in their cause, and were glad that the eyes of the nation were on Columbia and Barnard, its sister college.

The protests, the arrests and the subsequent disciplinary action came a day after the congressional testimony this week of Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, at a hearing about antisemitism on campus. Columbia has said there have been a number of antisemitic episodes, including one attack, and many Jewish students have seen the protests as antisemitic.

Responding to aggressive questioning from the House committee, Columbia officials said some of the protesters on campus had used antisemitic language that might warrant discipline.

But on campus fury was building. The administration called in the Police Department to quell the protests. Arrests — at least 108 — soon followed.

The aggressive response left students shaken — but also, they say, energized. The suspensions prohibit students from attending university events or getting into campus spaces, including dining halls, classrooms and libraries, the university said. It was not clear how long those prohibitions would last.

Some Barnard students said that they had received unexpected email warnings giving them 15 minutes to pack their belongings. Staff members would then escort any suspended students out of their dormitories, these students said they were told.

Some students, including Ms. Hirsi, said they were now bouncing between friends’ apartments. She said that she would fight her interim suspension. She said she had not yet returned to her room because doing so would require going with a chaperone from Barnard’s public safety team.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia President Tells House a Tougher Stand on Antisemitism Is Needed, Nicholas Fandos and Sharon Otterman, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed some professors had crossed a line as she testified before Congress over student safety and free speech.

columbia logoColumbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed on Wednesday that the university needed to take a tougher stance on antisemitism, in response to harsh questioning from a Republican-led House committee in an almost four-hour hearing.

Republicans described what they called a pervasive pattern of bias, including assaults, harassment and vandalism from students and faculty on campus since the Israel-Hamas war began. The hearing was the latest in a campaign to try to prove that college campuses have done little to combat antisemitism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oklahoma officials tell trans pro wrestler not to compete in their state, Ben Brasch, April 18, 2024. Oklahoma's sports commission has asked a nationally televised professional wrestling promotion to not have a transgender wrestler face off against other women wrestlers again.

Washington native Nyla Rose — who works for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) — was warned by the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission not to wrestle another woman, according to the minutes of the Commission’s Jan. 3 meeting. The minutes were first reported by the blog Real Rasslin’ on Tuesday.

All of this was over a Dec. 20 match in Oklahoma City that lasted 120 seconds bell to bell between Rose and Alejandra Lion. Rose won after landing a power bomb. After the match, she took a cowboy hat off the head of a fan in the crowd and put it on her head to big applause.

Rose responded to the Oklahoma news by tweeting: “Don’t worry Oklahoma I’ll find the dastardly Transgender that *checks notes* entertained fans!!! HOW DARE THEY MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY?!!!”
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The Commission used the wrong pronouns for Rose in its minutes and said Rose should not have wrestled a woman. The former AEW Women’s World Champion has logged 99 wins and 47 losses while in AEW, according to the promotion’s website.

Transgender athletes have become a hotly debated topic in the broader culture wars, divided roughly into conservatives often arguing it isn’t fair to other competitors and liberals saying it invalidates gender identities when people who identify as women can’t compete against women. Battles over roster makeups have made their way into the courts, and to the desk of President Biden.

Now, the debate has made it to a place that subverts the binary of supposed reality every week on television: professional wrestling, where the outcomes are predetermined. It is theater, not sport. (Intergender pro wrestling happens but is rare in major promotions.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump deploys favorite political tool, social media, as legal cudgel, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs, April 18, 2024. Behind the scenes, researchers working for Trump’s legal defense are scouring prospective jurors’ online lives, hunting for bias.

 Donald Trump, whose social media posts fueled his improbable rise to the presidency, has found a new use for his favorite political tool — as ammunition in his legal battle against charges that he falsified business records in New York.

That strategy became clear on the second day of jury selection on Tuesday, as Trump lawyer Todd Blanche repeatedly used old social media posts by prospective jurors to argue that the judge should remove them from the panel for bias.

Behind the scenes, Trump’s defense team is scrambling to find and review potential jurors’ social media accounts, and when they find ones critical of the former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee, they are racing to show them to the judge to try to get those people dismissed.

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New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump..

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Hush-Money Trial: Final Members of Trump Jury Chosen as Trial Races Ahead, Jesse McKinley and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 19, 2024. Just after the last selections of alternate jurors were made, a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse, horrifying onlookers. But the case was not delayed.

The final jurors for Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial were selected on Friday, with lawyers preparing to offer opening statements on Monday in a landmark proceeding that was suddenly overshadowed at midday by the spectacle of a man setting himself aflame outside the courthouse.

Five Manhattan residents were chosen Friday, filling out a group of 12 seated jurors and six alternates who will hear accusations from the Manhattan district attorney’s office that Mr. Trump sought to cover up a sex scandal that could have imperiled his 2016 run for president.

The day was marked by an intensity of emotion from the start. Several prospective jurors asked to be excused, and some became upset, with one saying she had become too nervous to continue the process.

Then word quietly began to spread about the man who had set himself on fire in a park across the street from the courthouse. The courtroom proceedings continued, but the stir was noticeable, and reporters ran from the room.

The motivations of the man, whom city officials identified as Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Fla., were not immediately clear, but he was carrying leaflets espousing antigovernment conspiracy theories. He was hospitalized in critical condition Friday night and not expected to survive, officials said.

An afternoon hearing at which the judge was to determine the questions prosecutors could ask the former president if he were to testify proceeded as scheduled.

Mr. Trump, 77, is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to his effort to silence a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who in 2016 was seeking to sell her story of having had sex with Mr. Trump a decade earlier. The former president denies her claim and has pleaded not guilty, harshly criticizing the case, the first time a U.S. president has faced a criminal trial.

The selection of the final alternates capped a whirlwind week that captured the attention of a crush of media and a smattering of protesters who descended on the Criminal Courts Building in Lower Manhattan.

The courthouse was subject to heavy security as Mr. Trump came and went from the courtroom, stopping only to attack the case and the judge overseeing it, Juan M. Merchan, as well as Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney.

ny times logoNew York Times, Johnson Schedules Vote on Foreign Aid, Putting His Job on the Line, Catie Edmondson, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, right, defying his party’s right flank, said he expected Saturday votes on a long-stalled aid package to Ukraine, Israel and other allies.

mike johnson oSpeaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday told Republicans that the House would vote Saturday evening on his foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine, pushing through resistance in his own party to advance a long-stalled national security spending package for U.S. allies.

U.S. House logoHis announcement came amid a crush of opposition from Republicans who are vehemently against sending more aid to Ukraine, and have vented for days as congressional aides race to write the legislation Mr. Johnson proposed on Monday.

The speaker, whose job is at risk as he defies his right flank on the measure, also announced that he would hold a separate vote on a border security bill “that includes the core components” of House Republicans’ stringent legislation, passed last May, that would crack down on unlawful immigration and revive severe Trump-era border restrictions. The move was a nod to ultraconservatives who have demanded that the speaker not advance aid to Ukraine without securing sweeping concessions from Democrats on immigration policy.

ukraine flagThe legislative package Mr. Johnson is trying to advance roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago with aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other American allies, but broken into three pieces that would be voted on individually. There would be a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans, including conditioning Ukraine aid as a loan and a measure that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban.

The legislation includes $60 billion for Kyiv; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

“We’ve taken the Senate supplemental bill and we’ve improved the process and policy, and that’s a really important thing,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox News on Wednesday. “Every member gets to vote their own conscience.”

In a separate interview minutes later on CNN, he added: “We’re not the world’s policeman, but we’re going to do the right thing. And I think the Congress is going to take an important stand.”

After Mr. Johnson released the text of the aid plan on Wednesday afternoon, President Biden endorsed it in a statement and urged its swift passage.

“I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Biden said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

By late Wednesday afternoon, Republicans still had yet to release the text of the measure they plan to move along with the aid package.

The multipart plan has been painstakingly structured to cobble together just enough support from Democrats and mainstream Republicans to pass, over the opposition of the hard right to funding for Ukraine and left-wing Democrats who do not support unfettered aid for Israel. If all four pieces passed the House, they would then be folded into a single bill for the Senate to take up, in an effort to ensure that senators could not cherry-pick pieces to approve or reject.

Its success will require everything to go right for Mr. Johnson this week to prevail.

Mr. Johnson has already faced a tough road since announcing his intent on Monday evening to advance the aid marjorie taylor greene sotu 2 7 2023package, over the vociferous objections of conservatives in his conference. On Tuesday, a G.O.P. lawmaker announced that he would join the bid to oust Mr. Johnson spearheaded last month by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, left, Republican of Georgia.

The speaker has met with a parade of Republicans who have tried to convince him to abandon his plan in favor of more partisan proposals, such as abandoning aid for Ukraine entirely. To ensure enough lawmakers attend the votes on Saturday evening to allow for the legislative package’s passage, he has had to manage the schedules of lawmakers eager to leave Washington this weekend to attend fund-raisers and preplanned delegation trips abroad.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson’s plan to send aid to Ukraine moves closer to reality, Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Amy B Wang, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A bill to provide additional U.S. aid to Ukraine could move one step closer to House passage on Thursday — but might need a major boost from Democrats, who would have to join Republicans to push it through.

And that action probably would prompt hard-line Republicans, who stridently oppose Ukraine aid, to make good on their threats to attempt to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) from his leadership position.

“Democrats will not be responsible for this bill failing,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said when asked Thursday if the party will support a procedural hurdle, known as the rule, moving the foreign aid package out of the House Rules Committee and to the floor.

Instead of a complex four-part plan Johnson floated early this week, the speaker now intends to try to pass five bills — one each for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies, as well as a GOP wish list of foreign policy priorities and a fifth stand-alone bill to address widespread Republican demands to strengthen the southern U.S. border. GOP leadership announced that the House would stay in session until Saturday to consider the bills.

Johnson must depend on Democratic votes to ensure his plan is successful, a tactic he has employed several times during his roughly six-month speakership because hard-line Republicans will not get behind him. Republicans can only lose two votes to pass anything given their slim majority, which will narrow to one vote once Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) resigns this weekend.

Letters From An American, April 18, 2024 [Russian Election Threats To U.S], Heather Cox Richardson, right, April 18, 2024. heather cox richardsonYesterday on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, Miles Taylor wrote: “After 2016, I helped lead the US gov[ernmen]t response to Russia’s election interference. In 2024, foreign interference will be *worse.* Tech[nology is] more powerful. Adversaries more brazen. American public more susceptible. Political leaders across party lines MUST UNITE against this.” Taylor served as chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security under Trump.

Today, Catherine Belton of the Washington Post reported on a secret 2023 document from Russia’s Foreign Ministry calling for an “offensive information campaign” and other measures that attack “‘a coalition of unfriendly countries’ led by the United States. Those measures are designed to affect “the military-political, economic and trade and informational psychological spheres” of Russia’s perceived adversaries. The plan is to weaken the United States and convince other countries, particularly those in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that the U.S. will not stand by its allies. By weakening those alliances, Russian leaders hope to shift global power by strengthening Russia’s ties to China, Iran, and North Korea and filling the vacuum left by the crumbling democratic alliances (although it is not at all clear that China is on board with this plan).

According to Belton, one of the academics who advised the authors of the Russian document suggested that Russia should “continue to facilitate the coming to power of isolationist right-wing forces in America,” “enable the destabilization of Latin American countries and the rise to power of extremist forces on the far left and far right there,” increase tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, and “escalate the situation in the Middle East around Israel, Iran and Syria to distract the U.S. with the problems of this region.”

The Russian document suggests that the front lines of that physical, political, and psychological fight are in Ukraine. It says that the outcome of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine will “to a great degree determine the outlines of the future world order.”

Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Belton: “The Americans consider that insofar as they are not directly participating in the war [in Ukraine], then any loss is not their loss. “This is an absolute misunderstanding.”

Media and lawmakers, including those in the Republican Party, have increasingly called out the degree to which Russian propaganda has infiltrated American politics through Republican lawmakers and media figures. Earlier this month, both Representative Michael R. Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned about Russian disinformation in their party.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans Again Block Effort to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban, Elizabeth Dias and Kellen Browning, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Lawmakers defied pressure from prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme.

State House Republicans in Arizona on Wednesday scuttled another effort to repeal the state’s 1864 law banning abortion, defying pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme and archaic.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said as he blocked an effort to vote on the repeal.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last week to uphold the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban infuriated supporters of abortion rights, exhilarated abortion opponents and set off a political firestorm in Arizona.

Republicans narrowly control both houses of the Arizona Legislature, but foresaw a grave political threat in backing a measure widely seen as out of touch with voters.

Repealing the law, which allows only an exception to save the life of the mother, and says doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison terms of two to five years, would revert Arizona to a 15-week abortion ban.

Republicans initially resisted Democrats’ attempts to repeal the law last week. But Mr. Trump and Kari Lake, the Senate candidate and close Trump ally, said the court had overreached and urged the Legislature to act quickly. Ms. Lake, facing a highly competitive race in November, dialed lawmakers herself and asked how she could help with the repeal effort.

On Wednesday, it initially appeared as though their cajoling might pay off. Democrats signaled that they were optimistic of having enough Republican support to secure a majority and send the repeal bill to the State Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, 12 jurors selected in Trump trial after two were dismissed earlier in the day, Staff Reports, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A dozen jurors have now been picked to hear former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan, rapidly pushing the proceedings closer to seating a full panel and pivoting toward opening statements.

Jury selection got off to a slow start Thursday. While the day began with seven jurors having been selected, two of those people were soon removed from the jury. One juror said people she knew figured out her involvement in the case from media reports, so she was excused; another was taken off the panel after prosecutors expressed concerns.

Much of the rest of the day was dominated by questioning of potential jurors. Then, in the midafternoon, seven jurors were selected in quick succession, giving the trial a 12-person jury. The process now shifts toward selecting alternates. One alternate has been picked so far; five more are needed.

Court ended for the day late Thursday afternoon and is scheduled to resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge asks media to avoid sharing identifying details about jurors, Will Sommer, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A juror requested to drop out of former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial Thursday, over concerns that her identity would be revealed — a situation that shows how intense media coverage could affect the trial and expose jurors to harassment.

The members of the jury are meant to be anonymous. But that effort has been undermined, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said from the bench, by media reports that mentioned potentially identifiable information about the jurors — ranging from their physical appearances to their occupations.

Anonymity is imperiled “when so much information is put out there that is very, very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are,” Merchan told members of the media in court Thursday morning.

Merchan’s remarks came after a woman identified as “Juror No. 2” asked to be removed from the jury because she felt her identity could be exposed, which in turn could compromise her ability to fairly judge Trump. After being seated on the jury, the woman said family and friends had already guessed she was Juror No. 2 after media reports included her occupation and employer.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. just changed how it manages a tenth of its land, Maxine Joselow, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The far-reaching Interior Department rule puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials.

For decades, the federal government has prioritized oil and gas drilling, hardrock mining and livestock grazing on public lands across the country. That could soon change under a far-reaching Interior Department rule that puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction.
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The final rule released Thursday represents a seismic shift in the management of roughly 245 million acres of public property — about one-tenth of the nation’s land mass. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials, some of whom have lambasted the move as a “land grab.”

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, known as the nation’s largest landlord, has long offered leases to oil and gas companies, mining firms and ranchers. Now, for the first time, the nearly 80-year-old agency will auction off “restoration leases” and “mitigation leases” to entities with plans to restore or conserve public lands.

“Today’s final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best-available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development, and sustain our public lands for generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Under President Biden, the BLM has put a greater emphasis on protecting public lands from the twin threats of climate change and development. Tracy Stone-Manning, the bureau’s director, has warned that hotter, drier climates are driving longer and more intense wildfires and drought across the American West. At the same time, development has fragmented and destroyed wildlife habitat and migratory corridors.

“We oversee 245 million acres, and every land manager will tell you that climate change is already happening. It’s already impacting our public lands,” Stone-Manning said during a Washington Post Live event last year. “We see it in pretty obvious ways, through unprecedented wildfires.”

ny times logoNew York Times,  As Diplomats Visit, Israel Signals It Will Answer Iran’s Attack, Staff Reports, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.

For days, Israel’s closest Western allies have pleaded with the country’s wartime government not to risk igniting a wider war by responding too strongly to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones last weekend. And on Wednesday, the top diplomats from Germany and Britain delivered that message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

But Mr. Netanyahu emerged from those talks resolute that his country would not bow to any outside pressure when choosing its response. He declared before a cabinet meeting that Israel would “do everything necessary to defend itself” and warned the allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

Here’s what we know:

  • The top diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem, working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.
  • Israel will respond to Iran’s attack, Britain’s foreign minister says.
  • U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for response to Gaza crisis.
  • Two bakeries reopen in hunger-stricken Gaza City, but the question is for how long?
  • A Hezbollah attack injures 14 soldiers in northern Israel.
  • U.N. report describes physical abuse and dire conditions in Israeli detention.
  • Here’s where Israel’s military offensive in Gaza stands.

 

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.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution to grant full member status to Palestinian state, Karen DeYoung,  April 19, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. officials insisted the veto did not represent opposition to a two-state solution.

The United States was alone Thursday in voting against a United Nations Security Council resolution to admit the Palestinian territories as a full U.N. member state. Its veto killed the measure, proposed by Algeria on behalf of Arab nations. Twelve of the 15 council members voted in favor while two, Britain and Switzerland, abstained.

U.S. officials had said that voting for statehood now would undermine prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which it said must be negotiated between the two parties.

“President Biden has been clear that a sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution” with mutual agreement, U.S. representative Robert Wood told the council after the vote. “There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and future as a democratic Jewish state. There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live in peace and with dignity in a state of their own.”

“We also have long been clear that a premature actions here in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Wood said.

The vast majority of the council disagreed, with some saying the United States, and its unwavering support for Israel, bears responsibility for the ongoing agony of the Palestinian people. “Today’s use of the veto by the U.S. delegation is a hopeless attempt to stop the inevitable course of history,” Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said.

“We have been pretty clear that sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed. And it remains our view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters earlier Thursday.

“We also have been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Patel said.

Were a Palestinian state to be granted member status, Patel said, the United States would be required by law to halt its funding for the United Nations. U.S. law prohibits funding U.N. agencies that grant full member status to representatives of a Palestinian state.

Patel added that the United States would welcome a political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would create a path to Palestinian statehood along with U.N. membership.

washington post logoWashington Post, After Iran’s attack on Israel, now fears over escalation at Lebanese border, Sarah Dadouch and Shira Rubin, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend has refocused attention on the border with Lebanon where Iran’s ally, Hezbollah, has long been fighting a muted war that could be the target of an Israeli retaliation.

The Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah — which is both a military force and Lebanon’s strongest political party — have been regularly skirmishing since Hamas’s Oct. 7 blitz into Israel. Attacks have ebbed and flowed as the war in Gaza has dragged on, punctuated by U.S. attempts at negotiating a diplomatic solution to resolve long-standing security issues.

iran flag mapBut the direct Iranian attack on Israel could upset the delicate balance of tit-for-tat strikes, with recent incidents suggesting the door could be open for an all-out conflict.

It is a war Hezbollah appears not to want: The group did not participate in Iran’s assault on Israel and delayed its statement congratulating Tehran for the attack.

Israeli officials, too, have said they want to avoid a full-blown war.

A conflict would also devastate Lebanon, already beset by an economic crisis, and weaken Hezbollah’s position as a result. That said, while the group has claimed it does not want a new war, it says it is ready for one.

In the days since Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, a string of particularly violent attacks and retaliatory strikes has erupted on the Israel-Lebanon border.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sanctions target Iran’s drone production after attack on Israel, Jeff Stein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The Treasury Department on Thursday announced new sanctions on Iran in retaliation for its recent aerial attack against Israel, as the Biden administration seeks an economic rather than military response to Tehran.

iran flag mapTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the administration’s actions would “degrade and disrupt” the Iranian drone program that targeted civilian populations in Israel. The sanctions also target Iranian steel production, a measure not taken by U.S. authorities since 2021. The United States has imposed sanctions on more than 600 Iranian-related entities over the past three years, according to the Treasury Department.

“Our actions make it harder and costlier at every turn for Iran to continue its destabilizing behavior,” Yellen said in a statement. “We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead.”

The new sanctions, which the administration had signaled earlier this week, appear designed to tame rather than inflame tensions in the region, as President Biden has sought to prevent a wider spread of hostilities in the Middle East. Some critics have pushed the administration to go further to reduce the revenue available to Iran’s government by sanctioning China’s huge purchases of Iranian oil. The Treasury Department has taken some steps to sanction Chinese firms for such purchases, but a more ambitious crackdown would risk raising global oil prices, and therefore U.S. gas prices in an election year.

The administration appears, at least for now, to be largely avoiding such escalation. Instead, the administration’s sanctions Thursday appear to focus on targets inside Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Will Impose New Sanctions on Iran for Attacking Israel, Staff Reports, April 19, 2024 (print ed.).  The measures were announced as Israel’s allies try to punish Tehran without fueling a wider Middle East war.

european union logo rectangleThe president of the European Council announced early Thursday that new European sanctions would be imposed on Iran’s drone and missile programs as punishment for last weekend’s attacks.

“It’s a clear signal that we want to send,” Charles Michel said, emerging after midnight from a meeting of leaders of the European Union’s member states in Brussels. “We need to isolate Iran.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The measures were announced as Israel’s allies try to punish Tehran without fueling a wider Middle East war.
  • Israel FlagThe E.U. says it will impose new sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile programs.
  • A Gazan describes losing four nieces and nephews in an attack that killed children playing in the street.
  • The U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for the response to the crisis in Gaza.

ny times logoNew York Times, Miscalculation Leads to Escalation as Israel and Iran Clash, Ronen Bergman, Farnaz Fassihi, Eric Schmitt, Adam Entous and Richard Pérez-Peña, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Israeli officials say they didn’t see a strike on a high-level Iranian target in Syria as a provocation, and did not give Washington a heads-up about it until right before it happened.

Israel was mere moments away from an airstrike on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria when it told the United States what was about to happen.

Israel’s closest ally had just been caught off guard.

Aides quickly alerted Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser; Jon Finer, the deputy national security adviser; Brett McGurk, Mr. Biden’s Middle East coordinator; and others, who saw that the strike could have serious consequences, a U.S. official said. Publicly, U.S. officials voiced support for Israel, but privately, they expressed anger that it would take such aggressive action against Iran without consulting Washington.

The Israelis had badly miscalculated, thinking that Iran would not react strongly, according to multiple American officials who were involved in high-level discussions after the attack, a view shared by a senior Israeli official. On Saturday, Iran launched a retaliatory barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel, an unexpectedly large-scale response, if one that did minimal damage.

The events made clear that the unwritten rules of engagement in the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran have changed drastically in recent months, making it harder than ever for each side to gauge the other’s intentions and reactions.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, an Iranian ally, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, there has been escalation after escalation and miscalculation after miscalculation, raising fears of a retribution cycle that could potentially become an all-out war.

Even after it became clear that Iran would retaliate, U.S. and Israeli officials initially thought the scale of the response would be fairly limited, before scrambling to revise their assessment again and again. Now the focus is on what Israel will do next — and how Iran might respond.

“We are in a situation where basically everybody can claim victory,” said Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group. “Iran can say that it took revenge, Israel can say it defeated the Iranian attack and the United States can say it successfully deterred Iran and defended Israel.”

But Mr. Vaez said: “If we get into another round of tit for tat, it can easily spiral out of control, not just for Iran and Israel, but for the rest of the region and the entire world.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Wave of pro-Palestinian protests closes bridges, major roads across U.S., Daniel Wu and Niha Masih, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked roads, highways and bridges across the country on Monday, snarling traffic and sparking arrests from coast to coast in what some activists declared to be a coordinated day of economic blockade to push leaders for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The disruption appeared to span the country over several hours. Protesters in San Francisco parked vehicles on the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping traffic in both directions for four hours Monday morning, while hundreds of demonstrators blocked a highway in nearby Oakland, some by chaining themselves to drums of cement, California Highway Patrol representatives told The Washington Post. Some protesters headed toward a Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., according to local TV station KRON4. In New York, dozens of protesters stopped traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and held demonstrations on Wall Street, according to ABC7.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were also reported in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami and San Antonio. Demonstrators’ targets ranged from major highways such as Interstate 5 in Eugene, Ore., to a countryside road leading to an aircraft engine manufacturer in Middletown, Conn.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Israel’s Allies, Iranian Missile Strike Scrambles Debate Over Gaza, Mark Landler, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Israel’s allies have voiced anger over the death toll in Gaza, but when their archnemesis launched a missile barrage, they set it aside. At least for now.

Israel FlagTwo weeks ago, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain was facing a chorus of calls to cut off arms shipments to Israel because of its devastating war in Gaza. On Monday, Mr. Sunak saluted the British warplanes that had shot down several Iranian drones as part of a successful campaign to thwart Iran’s attack on Israel.

It was a telling example of how the clash between Israel and Iran has scrambled the equation in the Middle East. Faced with a barrage of Iranian missiles, Britain, the United States, France and others rushed to Israel’s aid. They set aside their anger over Gaza to defend it from a country they view as an archnemesis, even as they pleaded for restraint in Israel’s response to the Iranian assault.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran’s leaders say their retaliation is over, unless Israel strikes back, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). Iranian leaders on Sunday said that their retaliation against Israel was over, signalingthat they were not seeking to start a wider war, but warned that they could launch a bigger military operation depending on Israel’s response.

The foreign minister, Hossain Amir Abdollahian, said on social media that “at this point, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention of continuing defensive operations, but if necessary it will not hesitate to protect its legitimate interests against any new aggression.”

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 Relatives and friends carrying the body of Saifeddin Abutaha, an aid worker for World Central Kitchen in Gaza, during his funeral last week in Rafah (Photo by Said Khatib via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).Relatives and friends carrying the body of Saifeddin Abutaha, an aid worker for World Central Kitchen in Gaza, during his funeral last week in Rafah (Photo by Said Khatib via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).

world central kitchen

 

More Trump-Related News

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Demands a Cut of Donations From Campaigns That Use His Name, Chris Cameron, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The Trump campaign said that candidates using his brand should turn over at least 5 percent of donations and encouraged them to send more than the minimum.

trump 2024The presidential campaign of former President Donald J. Trump said in a letter to Republican vendors that candidates may use his name, image and likeness in campaign materials only if they send at least 5 percent of donations that they receive to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The move in effect imposes a tax on using the Trump brand for campaign purposes. Mr. Trump has sought to close a significant financial gap between him and President Biden, his Democratic rival. The Biden campaign and its political committees reported $192 million in cash on hand at the end of March, more than double the $93 million of Trump and the Republican Party.

djt maga hatDanielle Alvarez, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement that “it is important to protect small-dollar donors from scammers that use the president’s name and likeness.”

In a letter this week signed by Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, who identified themselves as co-campaign managers, the campaign also said it was tightening control of campaign materials that use Mr. Trump’s name, prohibiting strident language that has become common in donor appeals such as “President Trump needs you” or “If you support President Trump, you’ll contribute now.”

The letter said the messaging guidelines were part of an effort “to treat our donors with the utmost respect.” After Mr. Trump appeared in court on Monday, the campaign sent a fund-raising pitch falsely claiming in all-capital letters that Mr. Trump had “just stormed out of Biden’s kangaroo court!” Mr. Trump had not actually stormed out of the Manhattan courthouse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cannon denies dismissal motions by Trump co-defendants in documents case, Perry Stein, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Thursday rejected requests from Donald Trump’s two co-defendants to dismiss the charges against them in the classified document case, ruling that federal prosecutors had met the legal threshold for the obstruction counts.

Attorneys for Trump employees Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira had argued that the charges should be dismissed, in part, because the indictment accused them of obstructing government efforts to retrieve classified materials from Trump’s property without providing clear evidence that the two men were aware of an ongoing investigation or knew the boxes of documents contained classified materials.

Cannon wrote that any arguments the co-defendants want to make about their lack of knowledge about why Trump allegedly wanted to conceal the boxes from investigators could be used as their defense at trial — but not as a basis to dismiss the case.

Prosecutors say Nauta and De Oliveira misled investigators in their statements and plotted to delete security footage to prevent officials from getting the boxes back from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club. Nauta is also charged with crimes related to allegations that he moved dozens of boxes from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s residential quarters as investigators sought to locate them.

Nauta, a Trump aide who still travels with him, and De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, face eight and four charges, respectively, and have pleaded not guilty.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven jurors picked in Trump’s N.Y. trial as judge presses aheadSix jurors seated for trial after dozens are excluded, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, David Nakamura and Isaac Arnsdorf, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The New York Supreme Court justice overseeing former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial said opening statements could begin as soon as Monday.


Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him.
Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors and Defense Lawyers Begin to Seat Jurors for Trump Trial, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maggie Haberman and Wesley Parnell, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The prospective jurors questioned on Tuesday mirrored their city: diverse, opinionated and with strong views about the former president.

The daunting work of selecting a jury for the first criminal trial of a former American president rapidly gained momentum on Tuesday as seven New Yorkers were picked to sit in judgment of Donald J. Trump, accelerating a crucial phase of the case that many had expected to be a slog.

The judge overseeing the case said that if jurors continued to be seated at this pace, opening arguments would most likely begin Monday.

The first seven members of the panel that will decide whether Mr. Trump falsified records to cover up a sex scandal involving a porn star were picked in short order after the lunch break. The lawyers quizzed them on their politics, views about the former president and ability to remain impartial in a case that could offend their sensibilities.

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stormy daniels djt

 

Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

washington post logoWashington Post, New Maui fire report shows utility waited hours to respond to broken power line, Brianna Sacks and Anumita Kaur, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Hawaiian Electric disputes that state attorney general’s report reveals anything new about origin of the fire, or its role in starting it.

Hawaii’s electric utility did not immediately respond to the first alerts of its power lines breaking before the deadly Maui fire last August, according to a new timeline report by the Hawaii attorney general’s office, which noted lapses by multiple agencies in responding to what would become the deadliest fire in U.S. history.

The 376-page report, conducted by the Fire Safety Research Institute on behalf of Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez and released Wednesday, is the first in a three-phase probe into how and why the Lahaina brush fire turned so catastrophic.

While it did not assign blame or responsibility for how the fire started and spread, it — along with an independently conducted Maui Fire Department report released earlier in the week — raises fresh questions about how Hawaiian Electric and multiple public agencies, including Maui County’s mayor, handled the disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Widest-Ever Global Coral Crisis Will Hit Within Weeks, Scientists Say, Catrin Einhorn, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Rising sea temperatures around the planet have caused a bleaching event that is expected to be the most extensive on record.

The world’s coral reefs are in the throes of a global bleaching event caused by extraordinary ocean temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners announced Monday.

It is the fourth such global event on record and is expected to affect more reefs than any other. Bleaching occurs when corals become so stressed that they lose the symbiotic algae they need to survive. Bleached corals can recover, but if the water surrounding them is too hot for too long, they die.

Coral reefs are vital ecosystems: limestone cradles of marine life that nurture an estimated quarter of ocean species at some point during their life cycles, support fish that provide protein for millions of people and protect coasts from storms. The economic value of the world’s coral reefs has been estimated at $2.7 trillion annually.

For the last year, ocean temperatures have been off the charts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla Seeks to Revive Elon Musk’s $47 Billion Pay Deal After Judge Says No, Jack Ewing, April 16, 2024 (print ed.).  The company’s directors are asking shareholders to again approve the compensation plan and to move the company’s registration to Texas.

tesla logoFacing criticism that it is overly beholden to Elon Musk, Tesla’s board of directors said on Wednesday that it would essentially give him everything he wanted, including the biggest pay package in corporate history.

If setbacks in court and the car market have induced any soul searching among Tesla’s board, there was no sign of it in the latest announcement. If anything, the board doubled down on backing Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, risking riling up activist investors and more litigation.

The board’s decision to ask shareholders to endorse a compensation plan for Mr. Musk that is worth about $47 billion came less than three months after a Delaware judge voided the same 10-year pay package. The judge said that it was excessive and that the company had failed to properly disclose details about it to shareholders who approved it in 2018.

Tesla will now provide shareholders more information about how the plan was devised and ask them to approve it again. That vote will take place as investors are increasingly worried about the electric car company because its sales are declining, and its stock has fallen more than one-third this year. In addition, Mr. Musk has not presented much of a plan to restore the company’s momentum.

Greg Varallo, a lawyer who represented shareholders in the Delaware case, declined to comment Wednesday on steps his team might take. But the board’s action is likely to prompt more lawsuits against the company, which is under legal pressure from regulators, customers and people who say they have been victims of faults in Tesla’s driver-assistance system.

Two days before the move to restore Mr. Musk’s status as one of the world’s richest people, Tesla told employees that it would lay off 10 percent of its work force, or about 14,000 people.

“The optics certainly don’t look good,” said Jason Schloetzer, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business who studies corporate governance.

There is no sign that Tesla’s board is trying to exert tighter control over Mr. Musk, whose endorsement of right-wing conspiracy theories has alienated many potential customers. On the contrary, in documents filed Wednesday for a shareholders meeting in June, the board signaled that it stood firmly behind Mr. Musk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tesla will shed more than 10 percent of its workforce, Aaron Gregg, Faiz Siddiqui and Trisha Thadani, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The move by Elon Musk comes after the company reported a sharp decline in vehicle deliveries in the first quarter. Tesla notified employees Monday that the company would slash more than 10 percent of its staff, the latest setback for one of the world’s top electric-vehicle makers, which is struggling to hold its place as a vanguard in the EV industry amid cooling demand, increasing scrutiny from regulators and controversy around its unpredictable chief executive, Elon Musk.

In a layoff notice obtained by The Washington Post, employees were told early Monday morning that Tesla, which has a large presence in California and Texas and factories in Germany and China, is cutting a significant number of jobs after a “thorough review of the organization.”

“Over the years, we have grown rapidly with multiple factories scaling around the globe,” according to the email, which was shared with The Post. “With this rapid growth, there has been duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas. As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity.”
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The job cuts — which include more than 14,000 workers from a range of departments, including sales, engineering and policy — are a blow to a company considered a bellwether for the state of the EV market. The company disclosed earlier this month that sales had fallen faster than expected amid waning demand for EVs. As competition with foreign players, especially in China, has intensified, Tesla’s stock has taken a beating, shedding a third of its value already this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Block Road in Alaska as Biden Seeks to Be Seen as Conservationist, Lisa Friedman, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Rejecting the industrial road would be a win for environmentalists in an election year when President Biden wants to showcase his environmental credentials.

The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a 211-mile industrial road through fragile Alaskan wilderness to a large copper deposit, handing a victory to environmentalists in an election year when the president wants to underscore his credentials as a climate leader and conservationist.

joe biden twitterThe Interior Department intends to announce as early as this week that there should be “no action” on the federal land where the road known as the Ambler Access Project would be built, according to two people familiar with the decision who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the decision. A formal denial of the project would come later this year, they said.

The road was essential to reach what is estimated to be a $7.5 billion copper deposit buried under ecologically sensitive land. There are currently no mines in the area and no requests for permits have been filed with the government; the road was a first step.

Blocking the industrial road would be an enormous victory for opponents who have argued for years that it would threaten wildlife as well as Alaska Native tribes that rely on hunting and fishing.

Environmentalists, including many young climate activists, were infuriated last year by President Biden’s decision to approve Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project on pristine federal land in Alaska. The proposed road would be several hundred miles south of the Willow project.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Elections have gotten more accessible for disabled voters, but disparities remain, Maggie Astor, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A report to the Election Assistance Commission from researchers at Rutgers University found that disabled voters’ turnout lagged non-disabled voters’ by 11 percentage points, down from 17.

In 2018, Kenia Flores, who is blind, voted by mail in North Carolina because she was attending college out of state. Had she been able to vote in person, she could have used an accessible machine. But voting absentee, her only option was to tell another person her choices and have them fill out her ballot. She had no way to verify what they did.

Dessa Cosma, who uses a wheelchair, arrived at her precinct in Michigan that year to find that all the voting booths were standing height. A poll worker suggested she complete her ballot on the check-in table and got annoyed when Ms. Cosma said she had a right to complete it privately. Another worker intervened and found a private space.

That night, Ms. Cosma — the executive director of Detroit Disability Power, where Ms. Flores is a voting access and election protection fellow — vented to the group’s advisory committee and discovered that “every one of them had a story about lack of ability to vote easily, and we all had different disabilities,” she said. “It made me realize, ‘Oh wow, even more than I realized, this is a significant problem.’”

It has been for decades. A series of laws — including the Help America Vote Act in 2002, or HAVA, which created new standards for election administration and grant programs for states to maintain those standards — have sought to make it easier. And they have, but major gaps remain.

That is illustrated in a new report to the federal Election Assistance Commission, to be released Thursday by six researchers from Rutgers University and one from San Diego State University.

The report, provided to The New York Times, looked at elections through the 20th anniversary of HAVA in 2022 and found that the law had generally improved accessibility. The shift was reflected both quantitatively (in turnout and the percentage of people reporting trouble voting) and qualitatively (in voters’ responses in focus groups).

But while the gap has shrunk, disabled Americans still vote at much lower rates than Americans who aren’t disabled.

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Civil Rights Era Fades From Memory, Generation Gap Divides Black Voters, Maya King, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Many older Black voters see moral and political reasons to vote. Younger Black voters feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all. For years, Loretta Green has voted at her Southwest Atlanta precinct wearing the same custom T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of her first voter registration card, dated to 1960. The front of it reads: “This is why I vote.”

Since gaining the legal right, Ms. Green, 88, has participated in every possible election. This November will be no different, she said, when she casts a ballot for President Biden and Democrats down the ticket.

But conversations with her younger relatives, who have told her they’re unsure of voting or considering staying home, illustrate some of the challenges Mr. Biden’s campaign faces in reassembling his winning 2020 coalition, particularly in key battleground states like Georgia. While Ms. Green and many older Black voters are set on voting and already have plans in place to do so, younger Black voters, polling and focus group data show, feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all.

“To me, voting is almost sacred. Look at what people went through. The struggles. The people that allowed themselves to be beaten,” Ms. Green said of the civil rights movement that ignited her determination to vote in every election. “I think there are some young Blacks who probably feel like it didn’t even happen.”

Black voters have long been Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and high turnout from this bloc is crucial to Mr. Biden’s re-election. Any drop-off in support could imperil his chances of winning in November. And surveys have shown a striking generational divide within this bloc, driven by what many young people see as broken campaign promises and what party leaders have suggested is a difficulty in communicating Mr. Biden’s accomplishments to voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Turning Point Action official resigns after accusation of election-related fraud, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). A top leader of the national conservative group Turning Point Action, which has amplified false claims of election fraud by former president Donald Trump and others, resigned Thursday after being accused of forging voter signatures on official paperwork so that he could run for reelection in the Arizona House.

austin smith gage skidmoreState Rep. Austin Smith (R) — who was the senior director at Turning Point Action, the campaign arm of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA — was accused by a Democratic activist of submitting petition sheets with rows of voter names, addresses and signatures that “bear a striking resemblance” to his handwriting, according to a complaint. Smith, right, shown in a Gage Skidmore photo, “personally circulated multiple petition sheets bearing what appear to be forged voter signatures,” said the complaint.

The complaint was sent to the Arizona secretary of state, who forwarded it to the Arizona attorney general for review. State election officials do not assess the veracity of allegations made against candidates. A spokesperson for the state prosecutor’s office, which runs a team that focuses on claims of voter and election fraud after widespread claims following the 2020 election, declined to comment. Both state offices are overseen by Democrats.
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Smith submitted his resignation to Turning Point Action on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it publicly. Smith also publicly ended his reelection campaign.

In a statement, the first-term lawmaker said the allegations against him were “silly” and part of a “coordinated attack” by Democrats and “those unhappy with my politics.”

Smith is aligned with some of the most conservative members of the Arizona House — sometimes referred to as the “Freedom Caucus” of the larger Republican caucus — and he has previously derided signature verification work by local election officials as “a joke.” During his time with Turning Point Action, Smith worked to support the candidacies of conservatives who spread false information about elections. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, Smith tweeted a photo of himself speaking to “thousands of patriots.” In that since-deleted tweet, he urged followers: “Don’t get comfortable” and to “fight like hell.” The next day, as Congress met to certify the 2020 election results, the U.S. Capitol came under attack.

The complaint alleges that Smith submitted multiple pages that contain dozens of forged signatures that he claimed to have collected, and it contained images of two of those pages.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy family members endorse Biden in rebuke of RFK Jr., Dylan Wells and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., April 19, 2024 (print ed.). More than a dozen Kennedy family members endorsed President Biden for reelection at a campaign event on Thursday, saying he reflects the values and “moral leadership” of their clan’s most celebrated members, a move intended in part to counter the independent campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The family members — including siblings of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — were on hand during Biden’s remarks. The event came at the end of the president’s three-day sprint through the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he has tried to paint himself as a champion of the American middle class in the Kennedy mold.

The endorsement from members of America’s most famous political family was intended to showcase Biden as the torchbearer of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), who was killed as he sought the presidency in 1968. It was an unusually personal rebuke of the senator’s son, who is portraying himself as the true heir to the Kennedy tradition, and it reflects the Biden campaign’s concern that he could siphon at least a small number of votes from the president.

Kerry Kennedy, a sister of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., delivered the endorsement, flanked by five of her siblings.

“We want to make crystal clear our feeling that the best way forward for America is to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for four more years,” Kerry Kennedy said. “President Biden has been a champion for all the rights and freedoms that my father and uncle stood for.”

She also said there was a stark choice between Biden and former president Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, that was both political and moral.

“A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to save our democracy and our decency,” Kerry Kennedy said. “It is a vote for what my father called, in his own presidential announcement in 1968, ‘our right to the moral leadership of this planet.’ ”

The Kennedys did not mention their family member’s candidacy, and the endorsement is in line with the clan’s long, if informal, support of Biden. On St. Patrick’s Day, Kerry Kennedy posted a picture on X showing Biden surrounded by a sea of Kennedys.

The echoes between JFK and Biden are notable. John F. Kennedy was the nation’s first Irish Catholic president; Biden is the second. And both contended with questions about how their faith would inform their role as commander-in-chief. Kennedy was asked whether he felt he would answer to the Pope, while Biden faced questions about where his political views veered away from Catholic doctrine, particularly on abortion.

Biden also had a long friendship with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John and Robert Kennedy’s younger brother. The two served together for decades in the Senate, including on the high-profile Judiciary Committee. Years later, as Biden sought the presidency in 2020, he modeled his effort to eradicate cancer on President Kennedy’s push to put Americans on the moon, calling it the “cancer moonshot.”

On Thursday, Biden told the Kennedys and the crowd that he had been moved by Robert F. Kennedy’s example, and that he remembered the senator’s calming words to the nation on the night Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Kennedys rally to prevent RFK Jr. from extinguishing their torch, Karen Tumulty, karen tumulty resize twitterApril 19, 2024 (print ed.).  They are trying to salvage what remains of the family’s legacy.

Sixteen years ago, the most illustrious members of the Kennedy clan gathered on a stage at American University and bestowed their benediction on a first-term senator from Illinois who was running for the Democratic presidential nomination as an underdog against the establishment favorite.

“I feel change in the air. What about you?” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) thundered before an electrified crowd of thousands. Alongside the family patriarch was his son Patrick (then a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island) and his niece Caroline, who the day before had declared in a New York Times op-ed that then-Sen. Barack Obama would be “a president like my father.”

That January 2008 event consciously invoked the passing of the torch to a new generation, the metaphor made indelible in John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. And it gave a badly needed boost to Obama’s prospects against the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), herself part of a political dynasty in the making. Though Clinton had the backing of several lesser-known members of the extended Kennedy family, its star power was solidly behind Obama.

That day, as the only reporter allowed backstage, I had a close vantage for it all. It was hard not to think back on that moment on Thursday as Kennedys gathered on a stage in Philadelphia to formally announce their support for President Biden in an attempt to protect their family’s legacy from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the crackpot conspiracy theorist running an independent presidential campaign.

Take a moment to think about how much has changed for the family since 2008. What struck me most then was the sight of the preternaturally composed Obama, moments before the event, choking back his tears. His own father had come to this country from Kenya as part of a program assisted by the Kennedy family foundation.

“I gotta admit, I had to clamp it down a little bit,” the future president acknowledged to me later, when I brought up the emotion I had witnessed. “That was powerful stuff. When you see Ted, Caroline, Patrick together, and I think about the role they played in shaping my values and ideals and what I believe about America, the connection to my father traveling to Hawaii and meeting my mother. ... It brings things full circle.”

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan on March 26, 2024, in Oakland, California (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan, who received a fortune following her divorce from a Google co-founder, on March 26, 2024, in Oakland, California (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Politico, RFK Jr.’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, is keeping his campaign in the black, Brittany Gibson and Jessica Piper, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). But she isn’t doing much else besides “learning and studying.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s wealthy but relatively obscure running mate, Nicole Shanahan, contributed $2 million to their long shot White House bid in March, preventing the campaign from running into the red for the second month in a row.

The contribution, included in a fundraising report filed Thursday, comes as Shanahan has otherwise largely retreated from public view.

While Kennedy has hosted several fundraisers and two campaign rallies since naming her his running mate in March, Shanahan’s contributions to the campaign so far have overwhelmingly been financial. The wealthy Silicon Valley tech attorney and entrepreneur has mostly been “getting a grasp on the policies Bobby’s involved in,” said communication director Del Bigtree.

“She’s doing podcasts and discussing issues with people and having think tank sessions,” Bigtree said in an interview this week. “She’s focused on learning and studying.”

But Shanahan’s self-funding is keeping the campaign in the black.

While the campaign raised $5.3 million in March, it also spent $4.4 million and reported an additional $224,000 of debt for security expenses. It had just over $6 million cash on hand at the end of the month, but also reported $1.5 million in debt, all owed to Gavin de Becker & Associates for private security services.

Itemized donations to the campaign also ticked up slightly after Kennedy announced Shanahan as his running mate. But her personal contribution — coming from her own wealth, in part from a divorce settlement from Google cofounder Sergy Brin — accounted for far more money to the campaign. Shanahan has never before run for or held public office.

Shanahan has now contributed more than $6 million to Kennedy’s campaign efforts since last summer after she gave $4.5 million to two different super PACs backing him.

 

 

Kamala Harris Munich Security Conference 2 16 2024

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Kamala Harris Moment Has Arrived, Charles M. Blow, April 18, 2024 (print ed.).
Fast-forward to now, when Vice President Harris has served nearly a full term alongside President Biden, and she is moving into another moment when the political stars are aligned for her as the perfect messenger on a subject that has fixed Americans’ attention and is central in the 2024 presidential campaign: reproductive rights.

This time, her target is Donald Trump. And being in a position to go on the offensive is something of a reversal of fortune for a vice president who has endured withering — often unfair — attacks and who struggled to define herself in the role.

In October, The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott Calabro profiled Harris under the headline “The Kamala Harris Problem,” writing that “Harris’s reputation has never quite recovered” from some early blunders during her term.

Criticisms of Harris have been relentless, ranging from legitimate challenges to her policy statements to ridiculous commentary about her laugh. Much of it has seemed tinged with gender bias.

This has all led Harris to struggle in the polls. Her approval rating, like Biden’s, has languished below 50 percent for most of her term.

And she remains a source of concern, a perceived vulnerability to Biden’s re-election. Over and over in her failed run for this year’s Republican nomination, Nikki Haley pointed to the possibility of a future Harris presidency as a scare tactic, saying in an August interview on “Good Morning America”: “There is no way Joe Biden is going to finish his term. I think Kamala Harris is going to be the next president, and that should send a chill up every American’s spine.”

But the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Republicans’ lust to enact increasingly regressive policies to restrict reproductive rights in states across the country have made Harris’s voice an essential one in the campaign.

In December, Harris announced her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour.

In March, she became what is believed to be the first vice president to pay an official visit to an abortion clinic (no president has done so), when she visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minn.

No matter how sensitive and knowledgeable men try to be on the issue of reproductive rights, there are still things that we cannot fully connect to. Harris transcends that barrier not only because she’s a woman but also because of her background as a prosecutor.

In a February speech in Savannah, Ga., she said that she decided to specialize in prosecuting crimes of violence against women and children because in high school she learned that one of her best friends was being molested by her stepfather. Harris told that story as a way to underscore the repressive nature of abortion laws that don’t have exceptions for rape or incest.

She told the crowd, “The idea that someone who survives a crime of violence, a violation to their body, would then be told they don’t have the authority to decide what happens to their body next, that’s immoral.”

Harris may never be duly recognized for her contributions to the administration on a broad range of issues, but in the end that may not be her calling.

According to her office, since Roe was overturned, the vice president has held “more than 80 convenings in 20 states.” Being a trusted voice in favor of reproductive rights and against Republicans determined to restrict or eliminate them may be the greater contribution she can make to Biden’s re-election bid and to maintaining national stability.

With this issue, she has hit her stride. With it, the talk of her as a liability has been hushed, for some, by the clear realization of what she brings to the campaign. With it, Harris has a mission, and she’s on it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Presidential candidate Cornel West joins pro-Palestinian protest at Columbia University, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Patrick Svitek, Independent presidential candidate Cornel West, right, joined a pro-Palestinian protest Thursday at Columbia University that school officials and police were working to disperse.

cornell westMultiple social media posts showed West addressing protesters with a bullhorn.

“I’m here in solidarity with each and every one of you,” he said. “We are in solidarity with human suffering, especially when it is imposed by human beings — and I’m talking about the indescribable genocide in Gaza.”

West, a longtime liberal activist and philosopher, has been outspoken about the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after six months of Israel’s war against the militant group Hamas. His campaign said Thursday evening that he was unavailable to comment further because he was still with the protesters.

While West is polling in the low single digits, Democrats have been closely monitoring independent and third-party candidates as President Biden expects a close race against former president Donald Trump in November. Democrats have been especially concerned about defections over Biden’s approach to the war in Gaza, which some on his left see as too supportive of Israel.

A March poll from Quinnipiac University found that Democratic voters nationwide were divided on the U.S. relationship with Israel. Forty-one percent said the United States is too supportive of Israel, while 43 percent said U.S. support of Israel is “about right.”

 

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Heads to Pennsylvania to Talk Taxes and Hit Trump, Neil Vigdor, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden kicked off a three-day tour of Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state, with a speech on Tuesday that focuses on taxes and aims to contrast his policies with those of former President Donald J. Trump.

In Scranton, his hometown, Mr. Biden is expected to talk about the tax code in the frame of economic fairness, arguing that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts benefited billionaires while his own agenda has helped working- and middle-class families.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Trailing Biden in Cash, Relies on Big Donors to Try to Catch Up, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Republican donors have begun to open their checkbooks for Donald Trump, as he struggles to keep pace with President Biden.

Former President Donald J. Trump leaned heavily on major Republican donors in March as his campaign and the Republican Party sought to close the financial gap separating him from President Biden, new federal filings showed on Monday.

For much of the race, Mr. Trump has relied on small donors — in particular, those giving less than $200 online — to sustain his campaign. Most big donors steered clear.

But in recent weeks, as Mr. Trump finished trouncing his primary opponents and Mr. Biden and the Democrats gathered fund-raising steam, these donors have opened their checkbooks to the former president.

In the last two weeks of March alone, one committee backing Mr. Trump raised nearly $18 million, nearly all from six-figure contributions. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party finished the month with $93 million on hand between all their committees, his campaign has said, having raised more than $65 million in March.

Still, Republicans are lagging behind. In the first three months of the year, Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party together raised more than $187 million, his campaign has said, including $90 million in March, ending the month with $192 million on hand.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has not provided a full account of its first-quarter fund-raising. The two committees that filed on Monday reported raising nearly $90 million combined since January, but that does not include money raised directly by the campaign or the Republican National Committee.

The filings on Monday with the Federal Election Commission were the first detailed look this year at the joint fund-raising committees through which Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have raised the majority of their money. These committees, some of which can raise more than $800,000 from individual donors in concert with the candidates’ parties, transfer funds to the campaigns themselves and also build out national campaign operations.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, What a TikTok Ban Would Mean for the U.S. Defense of an Open Internet, David McCabe, April 17, 2024. Global digital rights advocates are watching to see if Congress acts, worried that other countries could follow suit with app bans of their own.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Could Threaten Critical Infrastructure in a Conflict, N.S.A. Chief Says, Julian E. Barnes, April 17, 2024. Gen. Timothy Haugh, who is also the head of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command, said Beijing was “sending a pretty clear signal.”

China has been trying to find ways to gain access to critical infrastructure in the United States so that it can threaten those systems in the event of a conflict, the National Security Agency director said on Wednesday.

Gen. Timothy D. Haugh, who took the helm of the N.S.A. and the U.S. military’s Cyber Command in February, said that Beijing had stepped up its cyberefforts and that the United States, in response, was working harder to disrupt that activity.

Last year, U.S. officials uncovered an effort by China to gain access to critical infrastructure in Guam, home to U.S. military bases, and in the continental United States. Microsoft called the intrusions Volt Typhoon, after a Chinese network of hackers who often avoided using detectable malware and instead used stealthier techniques to enter wastewater systems and communication networks.

“What you see in Volt Typhoon is an example of how China has approached establishing access to put things under threat,” General Haugh said at a security conference at Vanderbilt University. “There is not a valid intelligence reason to be looking at a water treatment plant from a cyberperspective.”

General Haugh said China was securing access to critical networks ahead of a direct confrontation between the two countries. While he did not say specifically what that could involve, other American officials have said that if China gained access to critical infrastructure near military bases, it could disrupt or shut down systems to sow chaos and slow response time to a crisis in the Pacific or over Taiwan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Rift Over Data Center Fueled Push to Expand Reach of Surveillance Program, Charlie Savage, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Privacy advocates are raising alarms about a mysterious provision the House added to a surveillance bill. The Senate will likely vote on the bill this week.

A hidden dispute over whether a data center for cloud computing must cooperate with a warrantless surveillance program prompted the House last week to add a mysterious provision to a bill extending the program, according to people familiar with the matter.

The disclosure helps clarify the intent behind an amendment that has alarmed privacy advocates as Senate leaders try to swiftly pass the bill, which would add two more years to a wiretapping law known as Section 702. The provision would add to the types of service providers that could be compelled to participate in the program, but it is written in enigmatic terms that make it hard to understand what it is supposed to permit.

Data centers are centralized warehouses of computer servers that can be accessed over the internet from anywhere in the world. In the cloud computing era, they are increasingly operated by third parties that rent out the storage space and computing power that make other companies’ online services work.

Even as national security officials described the provision as a narrow fix to a technical issue, they have declined to explain a classified court ruling from 2022 to which the provision is a response, citing the risk of tipping off foreign adversaries. Privacy advocates, for their part, have portrayed the amendment as dangerous, so broadly worded that it could be used to draft ordinary service people — like cable installers, janitors or plumbers who can gain physical access to office computer equipment — to act as spies.

Under Section 702, the government may collect, without a warrant and from U.S. companies like Google and AT&T, the communications of foreigners abroad who have been targeted for intelligence or counterterrorism purposes — even when they are communicating with Americans. Enacted in 2008, it legalized a form of the warrantless surveillance program President George W. Bush began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Specifically, after the court that oversees national security surveillance approves the government’s annual requests seeking to renew the program and setting rules for it, the administration sends directives to “electronic communications service providers” that require them to participate. If any such entity balks, the court decides whether it must cooperate.

Last August, the government partly declassified court rulings centered on the dispute. The surveillance court in 2022, and an appeals court panel a year later, sided with an unidentified company that had objected to being compelled to participate in the program because it believed one of its services did not fit the necessary criteria.

The details were redacted. But according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, the judges found that a data center service does not fit the legal definition of an “electronic communications service provider” because it does not itself give its users the ability to send or receive electronic messages.

Unredacted portions in both rulings suggested that Congress update the definition if the interpretation was a problem. “If the government believes that the scope of Section 702 directives should be broadened as a matter of national security policy, its recourse is with Congress,” wrote Judge Rudolph Contreras, then the presiding judge of the surveillance court.

American Flag

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military review disputes that Marines had Kabul bomber in sights, Dan Lamothe, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The newly released findings contradict allegations made by Marines who survived a devastating bombing during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan.

Department of Defense SealMarines who survived a devastating suicide bombing during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan were mistaken in their belief that they had the attacker in their gun sights hours before the blast, a new military review determined, disputing allegations made before Congress and in the media.

The findings, released Monday after they were shared with the families of 13 service members killed in the August 2021 attack at the edge of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, relied in part on facial recognition technology and interviews with the Marines and others who were not questioned during a previous investigation conducted soon after the explosion. The new review found that the Marines, while diligently performing their jobs on a sniper team, conflated vetted intelligence reports with unverified “spot reports” made by service members on site, leading to confusion.

“Over the past two years, some service members have claimed that they had the bomber in their sights, and they could have prevented the attack,” a member of the review team said, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. “But we now know that is not correct.”

The renewed scrutiny underscores how the bombing, which also killed about 170 Afghans and wounded 45 additional U.S. troops, continues to haunt survivors and the Biden administration.

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President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, welcome Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on Tuesday (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, welcome Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on Tuesday (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

 

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, 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.

 

ana reyes judiciary committeePolitico, ‘Are you kidding me?’: Biden-appointed judge torches DOJ for blowing off Hunter Biden-related subpoenas from House GOP, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, April 8, 2024 (print ed.). Judge Ana Reyes, above, delivered a memorable tongue-lashing to both sides in a hearing Friday over subpoenas to Justice Department lawyers who worked on the Hunter Biden tax probe.

politico CustomA federal judge tore into the Justice Department on Friday for blowing off Hunter Biden-related subpoenas issued in the impeachment probe of his father, President Joe Biden, pointing out that a former aide to Donald Trump is sitting in prison for similar defiance of Congress.

U.S. District Judge Ana Reyes, a Biden appointee on the federal District Court in Washington, spent nearly an hour accusing Justice Department attorneys of rank hypocrisy for instructing two other lawyers in the DOJ Tax Division not to comply with the House subpoenas.

“There’s a person in jail right now because you all brought a criminal lawsuit against him because he did not appear for a House subpoena,” Reyes said, referring to the recent imprisonment of Peter Navarro, a former Trump trade adviser, for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee. “And now you guys are flouting those subpoenas. … And you don’t have to show up?”

“I think it’s quite rich you guys pursue criminal investigations and put people in jail for not showing up,” but then direct current executive branch employees to take the same approach, the judge added. “You all are making a bunch of arguments that you would never accept from any other litigant.”

It was a remarkable, frenetic thrashing in what was expected to be a relatively routine, introductory status conference after the House Judiciary Committee sued last month to enforce its subpoena of DOJ attorneys Mark Daly and Jack Morgan over their involvement in the investigation of Hunter Biden’s alleged tax crimes.

Republicans are demanding the two attorneys testify and say it’s crucial for their ongoing impeachment probe of the elder Biden. But the Justice Department argues that subpoenaing two rank-and-file, or “line,” attorneys to seek details about an ongoing investigation would be a violation of the separation of powers.

Reyes has been on the bench for just over a year. Rarely seeming to stop to catch her breath, she repeatedly dressed down DOJ attorney James Gilligan as he sought to explain the department’s position, scolding him at times for interrupting her before continuing a torrid tongue-lashing that DOJ rarely receives from the bench. She delved into great detail about the nuances of House procedure — like the chamber’s rule against allowing executive branch lawyers to attend depositions — and even asked whether the Judiciary Committee had followed internal rules requiring that the ranking Democrat on the panel be notified of the subpoena to the DOJ attorneys before it was issued.

Yet, perhaps even more remarkably, Reyes seemed inclined to support DOJ’s central argument that the line attorneys cannot be compelled to answer substantive questions from Congress. They just need to show up and assert privileges on a question-by-question basis, she said — the type of thing, she said, that DOJ demands from others “seven days a week … and twice on Sunday.”

Indeed, while Reyes was withering in her attacks on the DOJ’s position, she was similarly unflinching in her criticism of the House for its stance in the dispute — particularly its claim that line lawyers working on the Hunter Biden tax probe are not entitled to attorney-client privilege. She also said she thought it absurd for the House to argue that privilege was waived because it was obscuring some crime or fraud within the executive branch.

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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).

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Drought Pushes Millions Into ‘Acute Hunger’ in Southern Africa, Somini Sengupta and Manuela Andreoni, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). The disaster, intensified by El Niño, is devastating communities across several countries, killing crops and livestock and sending food prices soaring.

An estimated 20 million people in southern Africa are facing what the United Nations calls “acute hunger” as one of the worst droughts in more than four decades shrivels crops, decimates livestock and, after years of rising food prices brought on by pandemic and war, spikes the price of corn, the region’s staple crop.

Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all declared national emergencies.

It is a bitter foretaste of what a warming climate is projected to bring to a region that’s likely to be acutely affected by climate change, though scientists said on Thursday that the current drought is more driven by the natural weather cycle known as El Niño than by global warming.

Its effects are all the more punishing because in the past few years the region had been hit by cyclones, unusually heavy rains and a widening outbreak of cholera.

 People gathered outside Crocus City Hall outside Moscow after the terrorist attack there last month. Russia charged four migrant laborers from Tajikistan with the assault (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann).

People gathered outside Crocus City Hall outside Moscow after the terrorist attack there last month. Russia charged four migrant laborers from Tajikistan with the assault (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann). 

ny times logoNew York Times, An ISIS Terror Group Draws Half Its Recruits From Tiny Tajikistan, Neil MacFarquhar and Eric Schmitt, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Young migrants from the former Soviet republic were accused of an attack on a concert hall in Moscow that killed 145 people.

The mother of one of the suspects in the bloody attack on a concert hall near Moscow last month wept as she talked about her son.

How, she wondered, did he go from the bumpy, dirt roads of their village in Tajikistan, in Central Asia, to sitting, bruised and battered, in a Russian courtroom accused of terrorism? Even though he spent five years in Tajik prisons as a teenager, she said he never exhibited signs of violent extremism.

“We need to understand — who is recruiting young Tajiks, why do they want to highlight us as a nation of terrorists?” said the mother, Muyassar Zargarova.

Many governments and terrorism experts are asking the same question.

Tajik adherents of the Islamic State — especially within its affiliate in Afghanistan known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (I.S.K.P.), or ISIS-K — have taken increasingly high-profile roles in a string of recent terrorist attacks. Over the last year alone, Tajiks have been involved in assaults in Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as foiled plots in Europe. ISIS-K is believed to have several thousand soldiers, with Tajiks constituting more than half, experts said.

“They have become key to I.S.K.P.’s externally focused campaign as it seeks to gain attention and more recruits,” said Edward Lemon, an international relations professor at Texas A&M University who specializes in Russia, Tajikistan and terrorism.

An increasingly authoritarian former Soviet republic, Tajikistan ranks among the world’s poorest countries, which fuels discontent and drives millions of migrant laborers to seek better lives abroad. In a country of 10 million people, a majority of working men, estimated at more than two million, seek employment abroad at any given time.

And most migrants end up in Russia, where rampant discrimination, low wages, poor prospects and isolation make some susceptible to jihadist recruiters. Officially, about 1.3 million Tajik laborers are in Russia, although experts believe hundreds of thousands of others work there illegally.

ny times logoNew York Times, German Far-Right Leader Goes on Trial for Nazi Slogans, Erika Solomon, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Björn Höcke, of the Alternative for Germany party, has used the banned slogans at rallies and has called his trial an attempt to suppress patriotism.

One of Germany’s most prominent far-right leaders, Björn Höcke, stands trial on Thursday, facing charges of using banned Nazi slogans at political rallies.

Using National Socialist slogans and symbols is a punishable crime in Germany, which, because of the legacy of Hitler’s rise to power, has a far more restrictive approach to free speech compared to democracies like the United States.

Mr. Höcke heads the far-right Alternative for Germany, known by its German abbreviation, AfD, in the state of Thuringia. Both he and the state branch he leads have been classified by domestic intelligence as right-wing extremist and are under surveillance.

He is facing trial for using the slogan “Everything for Germany” at a speech in the eastern state of Saxony, where he is being put on trial. It was the slogan of the National Socialist paramilitary group, or Storm Troopers, and was engraved on their knives.

Mr. Höcke has said he did not know the phrase was a Nazi slogan. But critics have insisted that argument is not credible, given he was a history teacher before he became a politician. And they note that AfD politicians in two other states have already been stopped by authorities in past years for using the slogan.

The trial will take place in the city of Halle, at the state’s highest court and is expected to last until May 14. If found guilty, Mr. Höcke could face a short prison term or a fine. The court could also decide to temporarily revoke his right to vote and run in elections. Such a decision would be a major blow during a pivotal election year in Germany, in which Mr. Höcke and the AfD are expected to gain the largest share of votes.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Had a ‘Special Place’ in Modi’s Heart. Now It’s a Thorn in His Side, Mujib Mashal and Sameer Yasir, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). As Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a third term, India’s rupture with China looms over a pillar of his campaign: making his country a major power.

Narendra Modi once looked up to China. As a business-friendly Indian state leader, he traveled there repeatedly to attract investment and see how his country could learn from its neighbor’s economic transformation. China, he said, has a “special place in my heart.” Chinese officials cheered on his march to national power as that of “a political star.”

China FlagBut not long after Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014, China made clear that the relationship would not be so easy. Just as he was celebrating his 63rd birthday by hosting China’s leader, Xi Jinping — even sitting on a swing with him at a riverside park — hundreds of Chinese troops were intruding on India’s territory in the Himalayas, igniting a weekslong standoff.

A decade later, ties between the world’s two most populous nations are almost completely broken. Continued border incursions flared into a ferocious clash in 2020 that threatened to lead to all-out war. Mr. Modi, a strongman who controls every lever of power in India and has expanded its relations with many other countries, appears uncharacteristically powerless in the face of the rupture with China.

As Mr. Modi seeks a third term in an election that begins on Friday, the tensions weigh heavily on the overarching narrative of his campaign: that he is making India a major global power and, by extension, restoring national pride. Far from the 2,100-mile border, along every avenue where India seeks to expand, China looms as a fierce competitor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protesters in Niger Call for U.S. Military Exit as Russian Force Arrives, Elian Peltier, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Trainers and equipment from Russia landed in the West African nation this week, putting the continued presence of 1,000 U.S. military personnel there in doubt.

Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital of Niger on Saturday called for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces personnel stationed in the West African nation, only days after Russia delivered its own set of military equipment and instructors to the country’s military.

niger map CustomThe demonstration in the capital, Niamey, fit a well-known pattern in some countries in the region, run by military juntas, that have severed ties with Western nations in recent years and turned to Russia instead to fight extremist insurgencies.

“U.S. Army, you leave, you move, you vanish,” read one sign brandished by a protester. “No bonus, no negotiation.”

About 1,000 American military personnel are stationed at a remote drone base in Niger’s desert, from which they fly drones tracking movements of extremist groups in Niger and throughout the region.

But the United States suspended its military cooperation with Niger’s military last summer, when mutinous soldiers seized power in the country. That rupture has kept the drones grounded and the troops inactive. Last month, Niger ordered the U.S. troops to leave, declaring their presence illegal.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 6 Dead in a Mall Stabbing That Horrifies Australians, Isabella Kwai, Yan Zhuang and John Yoon, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). The attack in Sydney was Australia’s deadliest in eight years. A police officer shot the attacker, the authorities said.

A man killed at least six people and injured at least two others during a stabbing rampage at a popular shopping mall in Sydney, Australia on Saturday afternoon, in one of the country’s deadliest acts of mass violence in recent decades.

The authorities said a man wielding a knife entered the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center and began stabbing people before a lone police officer shot and killed him. Five people died of their injuries at the scene and one died later in the hospital, the police said. Among those hospitalized, some in a critical condition, was a nine-month-old baby.

Police officials on Saturday did not formally identify the attacker, but said that they believed they knew who he was, and that he had acted alone. His motives were unclear, but they said that the victims did not appear to have been targeted. If their belief about the attacker’s identity is confirmed, they said, the attack was not a “terrorism incident.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Former U.S. Ambassador Is Sentenced to 15 Years for Acting as Cuban Agent, Patricia Mazzei, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Manuel Rocha pleaded guilty to two charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent, under an agreement with the U.S. government.

A former United States ambassador accused of working for decades as a secret agent for Cuba in one of the biggest national security breaches in years pleaded guilty on Friday and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Manuel Rocha, 73, pleaded guilty to two charges — conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent and failing to register as a foreign agent — as part of an agreement with the federal government. He also faces three years of supervised release, and a $500,000 fine.

Mr. Rocha, wearing a beige prison uniform and black glasses, conceded before he was sentenced to the “betrayal of my oath of loyalty to the United States during my two decades in the State Department.”

“During my formative years in college, I was heavily influenced by the radical politics of the day,” said Mr. Rocha, who prosecutors said was recruited by Cuban intelligence agents in 1973. “Today, I no longer see the world through the radical eyes of my youth.”

In imposing the sentence, Judge Beth Bloom of Federal District Court in Miami said that as recently as 2022 and 2023 Mr. Rocha was recorded by an undercover F.B.I. agent showing “a lack of allegiance of the United States.”

“You turned your back on the country,” she said. “A country that gave you everything.”

The proceedings did not shed much light on Mr. Rocha’s dealings with the Cuban government or whether he shared secrets during his diplomatic career, which included serving as ambassador to Bolivia and briefly working in a White House role under President Bill Clinton.

In an unusual turn of events, Judge Bloom expressed deep frustration with prosecutors for not seeking more penalties for Mr. Rocha, such as forfeiture of his assets. She demanded changes to the plea deal from the bench and pressed prosecutors to reveal more about when the government learned that Mr. Rocha had become “an enemy of the United States government.”

Prosecutors said details beyond those made public in the indictment were classified.

“This case is a reminder that we face espionage and insider threats from a range of adversaries,” David Newman, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, said at a news conference in Miami — home to the nation’s largest population of Cuban exiles — after Mr. Rocha’s sentencing.

Mr. Rocha was charged in December with acting as an agent of a foreign government; he was also charged with defrauding the United States, wire fraud and making false statements to obtain and use an American passport.

Prosecutors dropped the other charges as part of his plea agreement; the wire fraud charge had carried a 20-year maximum sentence. Mr. Rocha last appeared in court in February, when he indicated that he would change his earlier plea of not guilty.

washington post logoWashington Post, A narco revolt takes a once-peaceful nation to the brink, Samantha Schmidt and Arturo Torres, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Ecuador’s young president declared war on the country’s powerful drug gangs after they sparked a wave of violence, including killings, kidnapping and car bombs.

The investigation was called “Metastasis,” a sweeping probe into links between parts of Ecuador’s political and legal establishment and the country’s ruthless drug gangs. On Dec. 14, Ecuador’s attorney general announced the arrests of 30 people, including senior judges, prosecutors, police officials, prison officers and prominent defense lawyers. All of them, she said, were part of an organized criminal scheme to benefit one of the country’s top drug traffickers.

“Fellow citizens, the Metastasis case is a clear X-ray of how drug trafficking has taken over the institutions of the state,” Diana Salazar Méndez, the country’s top law enforcement official, said in a video address from her fortress headquarters.

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian War Goals

Steady, Commentary: Playing Politics with People’s Lives, Dan Rather, right, and Team Steady, April 16-17, 2024. Russia dan rather 2017advances, Ukraine begs, Republicans dither.

dan rather steady logoWe at Steady always try to find hope in the news. We don’t sugarcoat things but look for solutions that can bring about better outcomes. Today’s story cannot be seen in a light other than a dire one. But it is incredibly important, for the people of Ukraine in the short term and the rest of the world in the long term.

So far this year the war in Ukraine is going according to plan … Vladimir Putin’s plan. The Russian leader couldn’t have choreographed it any better. It’s as if he has de facto agents in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His invasion of Ukraine had stalled, but for the last several months, Putin’s been bailed out by lack of funding for Ukraine, courtesy of House Republicans. Consequently, Russian troops are now advancing in eastern Ukraine. According to Washington Post reporters on the ground, “Russians are seizing new territory and intensifying attacks.” Russian troops have destroyed the largest power plant outside the capital city of Kyiv. Ukraine’s military chief said the situation on the ground has “significantly worsened in recent days.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky is openly pleading for help. He posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We need air defense systems and other defense assistance, not just turning a blind eye and having lengthy discussions.”

It’s no secret who Zelensky thinks is turning a blind eye. House Republicans are ambivalent at best, and collaborators at worst. But what do they really think? Left to their own devices, without arm twisting from Donald Trump, Ukraine would have the weapons and supplies it needs. But Trump and his enabler-in-chief Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene have been helping Russia at every turn.

Former Republican Representative Ken Buck, who recently resigned from Congress, calls Greene “Moscow Marjorie” and says she gets her talking points from the Kremlin. That’s from a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Big Vulnerabilities: Ammunition, Soldiers and Air Defense, Marc Santora, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Commanders are confronted with near impossible choices on how to deploy limited resources. Here is a look at the critical challenges Ukraine faces.

Ukraine’s top military commander has issued a bleak assessment of the army’s positions on the eastern front, saying they have “worsened significantly in recent days.”

Russian forces were pushing hard to exploit their growing advantage in manpower and ammunition to break through Ukrainian lines, the commander, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said in a statement over the weekend.

“Despite significant losses, the enemy is increasing his efforts by using new units on armored vehicles, thanks to which he periodically achieves tactical gains,” the general said.

At the same time, Ukraine’s energy ministry told millions of civilians to charge their power banks, get their generators out of storage and “be ready for any scenario” as Ukrainian power plants are damaged or destroyed in devastating Russian airstrikes.

With few critical military supplies flowing into Ukraine from the United States for months, commanders are being forced to make difficult choices over where to deploy limited resources as the toll on civilians grows daily.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s ‘peace plan’ would mean Ukraine’s defeat, Max Boot, right, April 15, 2024. If elected again, Trump claims max boot screen shothe would end the war in 24 hours, but he has been cagey about how he would pull off this miraculous feat, supposedly so that he could maintain his flexibility to negotiate.

Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, proclaimed after meeting with Trump last month that the former president’s formula was simple and cynical: “He will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war. Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet.”

Trump aides told The Post that Orban’s statement, which sounded entirely plausible to me, was “false,” even though Trump has not publicly contradicted it. The aides explained that the presumptive GOP nominee’s actual plan is to push for “Ukraine to cede Crimea and Donbas border region to Russia” in return for an end to the Russian invasion.

If that is Trump’s plan, it is more preposterous than anything Nixon ever contemplated during the Vietnam War. It displays a witches’ brew of arrogance, ignorance and defeatism.

It is possible, admittedly, that Putin might eventually abandon his maximalist objectives if he were convinced that his military forces were headed toward defeat. But Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year failed, and Russia is now reportedly readying a major offensive that has the potential to break through Ukrainian lines. The defenders are running critically low on ammunition because Trump’s allies in the House have been blocking the passage of aid to Ukraine. The top U.S. general in Europe warned last week that Russia’s 5-to-1 advantage in artillery shells could soon become 10 to 1 if U.S. aid isn’t forthcoming.

washington post logoWashington Post, Drones are crowding Ukraine’s skies, largely paralyzing battlefield, Siobhán O'Grady and Kostiantyn Khudov, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). So many drones patrol the skies over Ukraine’s front lines — hunting for any signs of movement — that Ukrainian and Russian troops have little ability to move on the battlefield without being spotted, and blown up.

ukraine flagInstead, on missions, they rush from one foxhole to another, hoping the pilots manning the enemy drones overhead are not skilled enough to find them inside. Expert drone operators, their abilities honed on the front, can stalk just a single foot soldier to their death, diving after them into hideouts and trenches.

The surge in small drones in Ukraine has turned the area beyond either side of the zero line — normally known as “the gray zone” — into “the death zone,” said Oleksandr Nastenko, commander of Code 9.2, a drone unit in Ukraine’s 92nd brigade. Those who dare to move day or night under the prying eyes of enemy drones “are dead immediately,” he said.

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vladimir putin 9 30 2022

 

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, 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, A few Jan. 6 rioters have been freed ahead of the Supreme Court’s review of the law, Alan Feuer, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the soundness of an obstruction law that has been widely used against those who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is already having an effect on some of the rioters.

A small group of people convicted under the law have been released from custody — or will soon go free — even though the justices hearing arguments on Tuesday are not expected to decide the case for months.

Over the past several weeks, federal judges in Washington have agreed to release about 10 defendants who were serving prison terms because of the obstruction law, saying the defendants could wait at home as the court determined whether the law should have been used at all to keep them locked up.

Among those already free is Matthew Bledsoe, the owner of a moving company from Tennessee who scaled a wall outside the Capitol and then paraded through the building with a Trump flag, ultimately planting it in the arm of a statue of President Gerald R. Ford.

Soon to be released are defendants like Kevin Seefried, a drywall installer from Delaware who carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol, and Alexander Sheppard, an Ohio man who overran police lines to become one of the first people to break into the building.

The interrupted sentences — which could be reinstated depending on how the Supreme Court rules — are just one of the complications to have emerged from the court’s review of the obstruction statute, known in the penal code as 18 U.S.C. 1512. The charge has been used so far against more than 350 rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, and members of the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

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Then-President Trump speaking to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 outside the White House in advance of a mob moving east to overrun the U.S. Capitol, thereby threatening the election certification djt jan 6 speech

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Nears Settlement Over F.B.I.’s Failure to Investigate Nassar, Juliet Macur and Glenn Thrush, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The deal would bring an end to one of the last major cases involving Larry Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls.

The Justice Department is nearing a $100 million settlement over its initial failure to investigate Lawrence G. Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls under his care, according to people familiar with the situation.

The deal, which could be announced in coming weeks, would bring an end to one of the last major cases stemming from a horrific sports scandal, with around 100 victims in line to receive compensation.

The approach of a settlement comes two and a half years after senior F.B.I. officials publicly admitted that agents had failed to take quick action when U.S. national team athletes complained about Mr. Nassar to the bureau’s Indianapolis field office in 2015, when Mr. Nassar was a respected physician known for working with Olympians and college athletes. He has been accused of abusing more than 150 women and girls over the years.

The broad outline of the deal is in place, but it has not yet been completed, according to several people with knowledge of the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations.

The details of the settlement deal were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

It would be the latest in a series of big payouts that reflect the inability of institutions to protect hundreds of athletes — including the Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman — from a doctor who justified his serial sexual abuse by claiming he was using unconventional treatments.

In 2018, Michigan State University, which employed Mr. Nassar, paid more than $500 million into a victim compensation fund, believed to be the largest settlement by a university in a sexual abuse case. Three years later, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee reached a $380 million settlement.

Many of the girls and women abused by Mr. Nassar have battled mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have attempted suicide because of the abuse, which Mr. Nassar perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment.

A 2021 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that senior F.B.I. officials in the Indianapolis field office failed to respond to the allegations “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required” and that the investigation did not proceed until after the news media detailed Mr. Nassar’s abuse.

F.B.I. officials in the office also “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond” to the allegations and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to address the threat posed by Mr. Nassar, the inspector general’s report said.

In heart-wrenching testimony two months later, former members of the national gymnastics team described how the F.B.I. had turned a blind eye to Mr. Nassar’s abuse as the investigation stalled and children suffered. Some, including Ms. Raisman, said that agents moved slowly to investigate even after they presented the bureau with graphic evidence of his actions.

The revelations prompted an extraordinary apology from the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who did not oversee the bureau when the investigation began. “I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr, a vocal Trump critic, says he will ‘support the Republican ticket’ in November, Amy B Wang, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Former attorney general previously said voting for Trump would be “playing Russian roulette with the country,” but said Wednesday that a “continuation of the Biden administration is national suicide.”

Former attorney general William P. Barr effectively endorsed former president Donald Trump on Wednesday, despite having previously criticized Trump’s conduct while in office and once comparing him to a “defiant, 9-year-old kid.”

Justice Department log circularAsked Wednesday whether he would vote for Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, in November, Barr told Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” that he would vote for the Republican ticket.

“I’ve said all along, given two bad choices, I think it’s my duty to pick the person I think would do the least harm to the country, and in my mind, that’s — I will vote the Republican ticket,” said Barr, who remains a Republican. “I’ll support the Republican ticket.”

His remarks were a shift from his previous refusal to endorse Trump during the GOP presidential primary, when he was one of many former Trump aides who said they would prefer not to see Trump on the ballot in November. Many of those people, including former vice president Mike Pence, have demurred when asked whether they would vote for Trump if he is the Republican nominee. Others, like former national security adviser John Bolton, have outright stated that they would vote for neither Trump nor President Biden.

Barr, a lifelong Republican, previously served as U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under former president George H.W. Bush, and again as attorney general under Trump from 2019 to 2020. He resigned from Trump’s Cabinet on Dec. 14, 2020, after publicly disputing the former president’s claims that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump would later claim he had demanded Barr’s resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bryan Kohberger’s alibi in Idaho killings to hinge on phone location, Justine McDaniel, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Bryan Kohberger, the graduate student accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, plans to offer witness testimony alleging that his cellphone was not near the scene of the murders on the night they occurred, according to a new court filing from his attorney.

Kohberger had already indicated his alibi in court documents — that he was out driving at the time of the 4 a.m. killings. The Wednesday filing by Kohberger’s attorney, Anne Taylor, suggests that he will attempt to prove it through testimony from a cell-tower expert who will claim that Kohberger’s cellphone was in the wrong location to connect him to the killings.

That testimony would contradict prosecutors’ allegation that cellphone data placed Kohberger on a highway driving away from the town where the killings occurred that night.

The report shows the Maui Fire Department first learned a power pole had snapped, sending “low hanging wires across” the road at 5:16 a.m. on Aug. 8, prompting fire officers to immediately alert Hawaiian Electric, referred to as Maui Electric in the report.

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Prisoners Face Higher Rate of Botched Executions, Study Finds, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Lethal injections of Black people in the United States were botched more than twice as often as those of white people, according to a report from an anti-death-penalty group.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Latest Impeachment Is History, but the Political Repercussions Will Live On, April 19, 2024 (print ed.). Republicans say the quick dismissal of charges against Alejandro Mayorkas sets a dangerous precedent. Democrats say the opposite.

Politico, DeSantis suspended him from his job. He wants voters to put him back in office, Gary Fineout, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Tampa Democrat Andrew Warren has been locked in a protracted legal battle with the Republican governor after he was suspended from his elected position of state attorney in 2022.

politico CustomThe Tampa prosecutor suspended from his job by Gov. Ron DeSantis — who remains locked in a legal battle with the governor — announced Tuesday he would ask voters to return him to his post.

Andrew Warren, a Democrat who was twice elected as Hillsborough County state attorney, said back in January he would not run for another term because there was a chance that DeSantis would suspend him again if he won. But two days after that announcement, a federal appeals court ruled against DeSantis, below, although the court did not reinstate Warren.

ron desantis hands outWarren on Tuesday called DeSantis’ suspension “illegal” and said that the current state attorney appointed to succeed him was picked for her “blind allegiance” to the governor.

“I’m running to keep our neighborhoods safe. I’m running to fight for victims and to make our criminal justice system better,” Warren said in a video posted on his social media accounts on Tuesday. “And I’m running to protect our values, for a woman’s right to choose, for a fair and just system, and above all for freedom and democracy.”

DeSantis suspended Warren in August 2022 and a year later suspended Orlando state attorney Monique Worrell, who is also a Democrat. Worrell, who has challenged her suspension in the courts, is also running for reelection.
'Weak dictator': Florida prosecutor slams DeSantis after suspension

In dismissing them, the governor contended that both prosecutors were ignoring the law and not following their duties. He frequently cited the suspensions during his unsuccessful presidential campaign as an example of him going after progressive prosecutors. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Warren. Suzy Lopez, a Republican appointed by DeSantis to fill Warren’s role, has raised a little more than $288,000 so far for her bid for a full term.

Warren made his reelection announcement just days before official qualifying begins for state attorney and other judicial posts. But it also comes after abortion rights have skyrocketed as a campaign issue in Florida.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court allowed a citizen initiative guaranteeing abortion access to go to the November ballot. But at the same time, the court signed off on a decision that will lead to a new ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

One of the reasons Warren was suspended was because he signed a pledge in 2022 vowing not to enforce the state’s abortion laws, including a then-recently enacted ban on abortion after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest. He also signed another pledge saying he would not prosecute anyone for providing gender-affirming care to transgender patients, even though at the time he signed the pledge there were no laws covering those procedures. Florida would later institute a ban for minors.

 oj simpson nicole brown simpson ron goldman

ny times logoNew York Times, The O.J. Simpson Trial Served as a Landmark for Domestic Violence Awareness, Shaila Dewan and Julie Bosman, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). His acquittal in the infamous trial involving his wife’s death prompted a powerful backlash that helped change the perception around domestic violence.

In December 1994, investigators from the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office drilled open a safe deposit box that had belonged to Nicole Brown Simpson. In it, they found Polaroids of her with a battered face and letters from O.J. Simpson apologizing for abusing her.

“The message in the box was clear,” wrote Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the bombshell trial of Mr. Simpson for Ms. Brown Simpson’s murder, in a book about the case. “‘In the event of my death, look for this guy.’”

These pieces of evidence were presented in a trial that captivated the nation, showing the public a pattern of abuse and control in horrifying detail.

“It was kind of like America was learning about domestic violence all at once,” said Stephanie Love-Patterson, a consultant for Connections for Abused Women and Their Children, an organization in Chicago that provides support for victims of domestic violence.

Almost 30 years later, the case has received renewed attention after Mr. Simpson’s death this week. After a monthslong trial in 1995, Mr. Simpson was acquitted of killing Ms. Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A civil trial later found him liable for their deaths.

His dramatic trial, which prompted national conversations about race, celebrity, policing and discrimination, also served as a landmark moment in America’s evolving understanding of domestic violence. Media coverage of domestic abuse surged afterward, and the fervent attention encouraged many abuse survivors to reach out for help, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Donations to women’s shelters poured in.

“The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson brought private violence into public view,” said Amanda Pyron, the executive director of the Network, an advocacy organization in Chicago. “It forced people to really reckon with their feelings on relationship violence and the role of law enforcement in keeping women safe.”

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

washington post logoWashington Post, In Arizona, Democrats remind voters Trump, GOP led to revival of abortion ban, Mariana Alfaro and Sabrina Rodriguez, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats went on the attack in Arizona on Friday against Republicans over their apparent about-face on abortion rights and vowed to keep the issue front and center in the swing state that could sway both the presidential election and control of the U.S. Senate in November.

Democratic Senate candidate Ruben Gallego targeted his criticisms on Republican Kari Lake who, like presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, has scrambled to produce a moderate message on abortion after the Arizona Supreme Court this week ruled that a near-total abortion ban from 1864 can take effect in the coming weeks.

In a campaign memo obtained by The Washington Post, Nichole Johnson, Gallego’s campaign manager, attacked Lake’s shifting stance on the issue after the state court decision. And speaking to reporters before appearing alongside Vice President Harris at a campaign rally in Tucson, Gallego seized on the importance of abortion rights to voters, saying abortion access was “the number one political issue” in Arizona.

“Trump did this. We wouldn’t be having this issue at all if he didn’t appoint those three judges that ended up overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Gallego, who represents Arizona’s 3rd District encompassing much of Phoenix.

“There is no better example, starker example, of black and white,” he added. “Trump did this and Kari Lake was cheerleading the whole way.”

Hours later, Harris delivered a similar message onstage.

“The overturning of Roe was, without any question, a seismic event — and this ban here in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet,” Harris said.

“Donald Trump is the architect of this health-care crisis,” she said. “That is not a fact, by the way, that he hides. In fact, he brags about it.”

The ruling has made the Senate race in Arizona a microcosm of the national fight over abortion rights in an election that was already expected to be close.

That was a stark departure from comments she made during her failed gubernatorial bid in 2022, when she praised the 160-year-old measure that was enacted even before Arizona became a state as “a great law.” She had also called abortion the “ultimate sin” and frequently voiced her opposition to the procedure on the campaign trail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans thwarted attempts to repeal an 1864 abortion ban, Jack Healy and Kate Zernikem, April 12, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats in both houses of the Legislature were blocked from advancing bills to roll back the reinstated ban on nearly all abortions in the state.

arizona mapA decision by Arizona’s highest court upholding an 1864 ban on nearly all abortions created chaos and confusion across the state on Wednesday. As abortion providers were flooded with phone calls from frantic patients, Republican lawmakers at the State Capitol blocked efforts to undo the ban, prompting angry jeers from Democrats.

Democrats, who seized on the decision to resurrect the 160-year-old ban as a pivotal election issue, tried to push bills through the Republican-controlled Legislature to repeal the ban, a move they said would protect women’s health and freedom, and also force Republicans to take a formal vote on the law.

But Republican leaders in the Senate removed one bill from the day’s agenda on Wednesday, legislative aides said. In the House, a Republican lawmaker who had called for striking down the law made a motion to vote on a Democratic repeal bill that has sat stalled for months. But Republican leaders quickly scuttled that effort by calling for a recess, and later adjourned until next Wednesday.

Democrats on the Senate floor yelled “Shame!” and “Save women’s lives!” as their Republican colleagues filed out of the chamber.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t move forward,” said State Senator Anna Hernandez, Democrat of Phoenix. “Are they serious about this or are they not?” she said of the Republicans. “Are they just backpedaling when they realize they’re on the losing side of a policy battle?”

Despite the pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to undo the law, it was uncertain whether Republican leaders, who narrowly control both chambers of the Legislature, would allow any immediate action on proposals to repeal the ban.

Representative Teresa Martinez, a Republican and abortion opponent, criticized Democrats for trying to force a vote a day after the court’s ruling. She called their chants and shouts extremist and insurrectionist behavior.

“We do not want to repeal the pre-Roe law without first having a conversation about it,” she said in a floor speech. “There is no reason to rush on this very important topic. We must listen to all viewpoints thoroughly. We cannot do that when our colleagues are acting in the way they did this morning.”

The Senate president and House speaker, both Republicans, issued a joint statement emphasizing that the court’s ruling had not yet taken effect and probably would not for weeks, as the legal fight over the 1864 law heads back to a lower court for additional arguments over its constitutionality.

ny times logoNew York Times, Teen Girls Confront an Epidemic of Deepfake Nudes in Schools, Natasha Singer, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Using artificial intelligence, middle and high school students have fabricated explicit images of female classmates and shared the doctored pictures.

Westfield Public Schools held a regular board meeting in late March at the local high school, a red brick complex in Westfield, N.J., with a scoreboard outside proudly welcoming visitors to the “Home of the Blue Devils” sports teams.

But it was not business as usual for Dorota Mani.

In October, some 10th-grade girls at Westfield High School — including Ms. Mani’s 14-year-old daughter, Francesca — alerted administrators that boys in their class had used artificial intelligence software to fabricate sexually explicit images of them and were circulating the faked pictures. Five months later, the Manis and other families say, the district has done little to publicly address the doctored images or update school policies to hinder exploitative A.I. use.

“It seems as though the Westfield High School administration and the district are engaging in a master class of making this incident vanish into thin air,” Ms. Mani, the founder of a local preschool, admonished board members during the meeting.

In a statement, the school district said it had opened an “immediate investigation” upon learning about the incident, had immediately notified and consulted with the police, and had provided group counseling to the sophomore class.

Boys in several states have used widely available “nudification” apps to pervert real, identifiable photos of their clothed female classmates, shown attending events like school proms, into graphic, convincing-looking images of the girls with exposed A.I.-generated breasts and genitalia. In some cases, boys shared the faked images in the school lunchroom, on the school bus or through group chats on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, according to school and police reports.

Such digitally altered images — known as “deepfakes” or “deepnudes” — can have devastating consequences. Child sexual exploitation experts say the use of nonconsensual, A.I.-generated images to harass, humiliate and bully young women can harm their mental health, reputations and physical safety as well as pose risks to their college and career prospects. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that it is illegal to distribute computer-generated child sexual abuse material, including realistic-looking A.I.-generated images of identifiable minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Long-Acting Drugs May Revolutionize H.I.V. Prevention and Treatment, Apoorva Mandavilli, April 17, 2024. New regimens in development, including once-weekly pills and semiannual shots, could help control the virus in hard-to-reach populations.

A pill taken once a week. A shot administered at home once a month. Even a jab given at a clinic every six months.

In the next five to 10 years, these options may be available to prevent or treat H.I.V. Instead of drugs that must be taken daily, scientists are closing in on longer-acting alternatives — perhaps even a future in which H.I.V. may require attention just twice a year, inconceivable in the darkest decades of the epidemic.

“This period is the next wave of innovation, newer products meeting the needs of people, particularly in prevention, in ways that we didn’t ever have before,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the H.I.V. prevention organization AVAC.

Long-acting therapies may obviate the need to remember to take a daily pill to prevent or treat H.I.V. And for some patients, the new drugs may ease the stigma of the disease, itself an obstacle to treatment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: This could be the worst year for measles in five years. There is a simple answer, Editorial Board, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). This year is not yet one-third over, yet measles cases in the United States are on track to be the worst since a massive outbreak in 2019. At the same time, anti-vaccine activists are recklessly sowing doubts and encouraging vaccine hesitancy.

Parents who leave their children unvaccinated are risking not only their health but also the well-being of those around them.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses — more so than the coronavirus — and is spread through direct or airborne contact when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can hang in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has left an area. It can cause serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death, especially in unvaccinated people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person infected with measles can infect 9 out of 10 unvaccinated individuals with whom they come in close contact.

But measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine; two doses are 97 percent effective. When 95 percent or more of a community is vaccinated, herd immunity protects the whole. Unfortunately, vaccination rates are falling. The global vaccine coverage rate of the first dose, at 83 percent, and second dose, at 74 percent, are well under the 95 percent level. Vaccination coverage among U.S. kindergartners has slipped from 95.2 percent during the 2019-2020 school year to 93.1 percent in the 2022-2023 school year, according to the CDC, leaving approximately 250,000 kindergartners at risk each year over the past three years.

Vaccine hesitancy is being encouraged by activists who warn of government coercion, using social media to amplify irresponsible claims. An article published March 20 on the website of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization is headlined, “Be Very Afraid? CDC, Big Media Drum Up Fear of ‘Deadly’ Measles Outbreaks.” The author, Alan Cassels, claims that the news media is advancing a “a fear-mongering narrative,” and adds, “Those of us born before 1970 with personal experience pretty much all agree that measles is a big ‘meh.’ We all had it ourselves and so did our brothers, sisters and school friends. We also had chicken pox and mumps and typically got a few days off school. The only side effect of those diseases was that my mom sighed heavily and called work to say she had to stay home to look after a kid with spots.”

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

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Economy, Propelled by Its Factories, Grew More Than Expected, Keith Bradsher and Alexandra Stevenson, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). A big bet on manufacturing helped China to counteract its housing slowdown, but other countries are worried about a flood of Chinese goods.

The Chinese economy grew more than expected in the first three months of the year, new data shows, as China built more factories and exported huge amounts of goods to counter a severe real estate crisis and sluggish spending at home.

To stimulate growth, China, the world’s second-largest economy, turned to a familiar tactic: investing heavily in its manufacturing sector, including a binge of new factories that have helped to propel sales around the world of solar panels, electric cars and other products.

But China’s bet on exports has worried many foreign countries and companies. They fear that a flood of Chinese shipments to distant markets may undermine their manufacturing industries and lead to layoffs.

washington post logoWashington Post, The economy is revving up at a terrible time for Biden, Abha Bhattarai and Tyler Pager, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Higher inflation could lead the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates — and mortgage rates — elevated until late in the year, eluding political gain for Biden.

The booming economy is exacerbating a key vulnerability for President Biden heading into the height of campaign season, as inflation and interest rates could remain higher until deep into the final weeks of the presidential election.

Fresh data this week shows inflation picked up again in March, in the latest sign that the economy is overheating. Unexpectedly strong job growth, wages and consumer spending are a plus for most Americans but bad for inflation. The higher inflation reading makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates — and mortgage rates — elevated until late in the year, possibly until days after the election, eluding much political gain for Biden.

“It’s really a case of bad luck,” said Karen Dynan, a professor at Harvard University and former Treasury Department chief economist. “The Biden administration has made some big strides but it’s up against one of the most disruptive economies in decades. Rate cuts would be a welcome development for a lot of people, but the prospects for cuts have really changed given what’s happening with inflation.”

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia President Tells House a Tougher Stand on Antisemitism Is Needed, Nicholas Fandos and Sharon Otterman, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed some professors had crossed a line as she testified before Congress over student safety and free speech.

columbia logoColumbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed on Wednesday that the university needed to take a tougher stance on antisemitism, in response to harsh questioning from a Republican-led House committee in an almost four-hour hearing.

Republicans described what they called a pervasive pattern of bias, including assaults, harassment and vandalism from students and faculty on campus since the Israel-Hamas war began. The hearing was the latest in a campaign to try to prove that college campuses have done little to combat antisemitism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oklahoma officials tell trans pro wrestler not to compete in their state, Ben Brasch, April 18, 2024. Oklahoma's sports commission has asked a nationally televised professional wrestling promotion to not have a transgender wrestler face off against other women wrestlers again.

Washington native Nyla Rose — who works for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) — was warned by the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission not to wrestle another woman, according to the minutes of the Commission’s Jan. 3 meeting. The minutes were first reported by the blog Real Rasslin’ on Tuesday.

All of this was over a Dec. 20 match in Oklahoma City that lasted 120 seconds bell to bell between Rose and Alejandra Lion. Rose won after landing a power bomb. After the match, she took a cowboy hat off the head of a fan in the crowd and put it on her head to big applause.

Rose responded to the Oklahoma news by tweeting: “Don’t worry Oklahoma I’ll find the dastardly Transgender that *checks notes* entertained fans!!! HOW DARE THEY MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY?!!!”
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The Commission used the wrong pronouns for Rose in its minutes and said Rose should not have wrestled a woman. The former AEW Women’s World Champion has logged 99 wins and 47 losses while in AEW, according to the promotion’s website.

Transgender athletes have become a hotly debated topic in the broader culture wars, divided roughly into conservatives often arguing it isn’t fair to other competitors and liberals saying it invalidates gender identities when people who identify as women can’t compete against women. Battles over roster makeups have made their way into the courts, and to the desk of President Biden.

Now, the debate has made it to a place that subverts the binary of supposed reality every week on television: professional wrestling, where the outcomes are predetermined. It is theater, not sport. (Intergender pro wrestling happens but is rare in major promotions.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump deploys favorite political tool, social media, as legal cudgel, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs, April 18, 2024. Behind the scenes, researchers working for Trump’s legal defense are scouring prospective jurors’ online lives, hunting for bias.

 Donald Trump, whose social media posts fueled his improbable rise to the presidency, has found a new use for his favorite political tool — as ammunition in his legal battle against charges that he falsified business records in New York.

That strategy became clear on the second day of jury selection on Tuesday, as Trump lawyer Todd Blanche repeatedly used old social media posts by prospective jurors to argue that the judge should remove them from the panel for bias.

Behind the scenes, Trump’s defense team is scrambling to find and review potential jurors’ social media accounts, and when they find ones critical of the former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee, they are racing to show them to the judge to try to get those people dismissed.

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 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).

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Johnson Schedules Vote on Foreign Aid, Putting His Job on the Line, Catie Edmondson, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Speaker Mike Johnson, right, defying his party’s right flank, said he expected Saturday votes on a long-stalled aid package to Ukraine, Israel and other allies.

mike johnson oSpeaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday told Republicans that the House would vote Saturday evening on his foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine, pushing through resistance in his own party to advance a long-stalled national security spending package for U.S. allies.

U.S. House logoHis announcement came amid a crush of opposition from Republicans who are vehemently against sending more aid to Ukraine, and have vented for days as congressional aides race to write the legislation Mr. Johnson proposed on Monday.

The speaker, whose job is at risk as he defies his right flank on the measure, also announced that he would hold a separate vote on a border security bill “that includes the core components” of House Republicans’ stringent legislation, passed last May, that would crack down on unlawful immigration and revive severe Trump-era border restrictions. The move was a nod to ultraconservatives who have demanded that the speaker not advance aid to Ukraine without securing sweeping concessions from Democrats on immigration policy.

ukraine flagThe legislative package Mr. Johnson is trying to advance roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago with aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other American allies, but broken into three pieces that would be voted on individually. There would be a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans, including conditioning Ukraine aid as a loan and a measure that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban.

The legislation includes $60 billion for Kyiv; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

“We’ve taken the Senate supplemental bill and we’ve improved the process and policy, and that’s a really important thing,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox News on Wednesday. “Every member gets to vote their own conscience.”

In a separate interview minutes later on CNN, he added: “We’re not the world’s policeman, but we’re going to do the right thing. And I think the Congress is going to take an important stand.”

After Mr. Johnson released the text of the aid plan on Wednesday afternoon, President Biden endorsed it in a statement and urged its swift passage.

“I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Biden said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

By late Wednesday afternoon, Republicans still had yet to release the text of the measure they plan to move along with the aid package.

The multipart plan has been painstakingly structured to cobble together just enough support from Democrats and mainstream Republicans to pass, over the opposition of the hard right to funding for Ukraine and left-wing Democrats who do not support unfettered aid for Israel. If all four pieces passed the House, they would then be folded into a single bill for the Senate to take up, in an effort to ensure that senators could not cherry-pick pieces to approve or reject.

Its success will require everything to go right for Mr. Johnson this week to prevail.

Mr. Johnson has already faced a tough road since announcing his intent on Monday evening to advance the aid marjorie taylor greene sotu 2 7 2023package, over the vociferous objections of conservatives in his conference. On Tuesday, a G.O.P. lawmaker announced that he would join the bid to oust Mr. Johnson spearheaded last month by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, left, Republican of Georgia.

The speaker has met with a parade of Republicans who have tried to convince him to abandon his plan in favor of more partisan proposals, such as abandoning aid for Ukraine entirely. To ensure enough lawmakers attend the votes on Saturday evening to allow for the legislative package’s passage, he has had to manage the schedules of lawmakers eager to leave Washington this weekend to attend fund-raisers and preplanned delegation trips abroad.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson’s plan to send aid to Ukraine moves closer to reality, Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Amy B Wang, April 18, 2024. A bill to provide additional U.S. aid to Ukraine could move one step closer to House passage on Thursday — but might need a major boost from Democrats, who would have to join Republicans to push it through.

And that action probably would prompt hard-line Republicans, who stridently oppose Ukraine aid, to make good on their threats to attempt to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) from his leadership position.

“Democrats will not be responsible for this bill failing,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said when asked Thursday if the party will support a procedural hurdle, known as the rule, moving the foreign aid package out of the House Rules Committee and to the floor.

Instead of a complex four-part plan Johnson floated early this week, the speaker now intends to try to pass five bills — one each for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies, as well as a GOP wish list of foreign policy priorities and a fifth stand-alone bill to address widespread Republican demands to strengthen the southern U.S. border. GOP leadership announced that the House would stay in session until Saturday to consider the bills.

Johnson must depend on Democratic votes to ensure his plan is successful, a tactic he has employed several times during his roughly six-month speakership because hard-line Republicans will not get behind him. Republicans can only lose two votes to pass anything given their slim majority, which will narrow to one vote once Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) resigns this weekend.

Letters From An American, April 18, 2024 [Russian Election Threats To U.S], Heather Cox Richardson, right, April 18, 2024. heather cox richardsonYesterday on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, Miles Taylor wrote: “After 2016, I helped lead the US gov[ernmen]t response to Russia’s election interference. In 2024, foreign interference will be *worse.* Tech[nology is] more powerful. Adversaries more brazen. American public more susceptible. Political leaders across party lines MUST UNITE against this.” Taylor served as chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security under Trump.

Today, Catherine Belton of the Washington Post reported on a secret 2023 document from Russia’s Foreign Ministry calling for an “offensive information campaign” and other measures that attack “‘a coalition of unfriendly countries’ led by the United States. Those measures are designed to affect “the military-political, economic and trade and informational psychological spheres” of Russia’s perceived adversaries. The plan is to weaken the United States and convince other countries, particularly those in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that the U.S. will not stand by its allies. By weakening those alliances, Russian leaders hope to shift global power by strengthening Russia’s ties to China, Iran, and North Korea and filling the vacuum left by the crumbling democratic alliances (although it is not at all clear that China is on board with this plan).

According to Belton, one of the academics who advised the authors of the Russian document suggested that Russia should “continue to facilitate the coming to power of isolationist right-wing forces in America,” “enable the destabilization of Latin American countries and the rise to power of extremist forces on the far left and far right there,” increase tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, and “escalate the situation in the Middle East around Israel, Iran and Syria to distract the U.S. with the problems of this region.”

The Russian document suggests that the front lines of that physical, political, and psychological fight are in Ukraine. It says that the outcome of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine will “to a great degree determine the outlines of the future world order.”

Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Belton: “The Americans consider that insofar as they are not directly participating in the war [in Ukraine], then any loss is not their loss. “This is an absolute misunderstanding.”

Media and lawmakers, including those in the Republican Party, have increasingly called out the degree to which Russian propaganda has infiltrated American politics through Republican lawmakers and media figures. Earlier this month, both Representative Michael R. Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned about Russian disinformation in their party.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans Again Block Effort to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban, Elizabeth Dias and Kellen Browning, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Lawmakers defied pressure from prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme.

State House Republicans in Arizona on Wednesday scuttled another effort to repeal the state’s 1864 law banning abortion, defying pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme and archaic.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said as he blocked an effort to vote on the repeal.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last week to uphold the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban infuriated supporters of abortion rights, exhilarated abortion opponents and set off a political firestorm in Arizona.

Republicans narrowly control both houses of the Arizona Legislature, but foresaw a grave political threat in backing a measure widely seen as out of touch with voters.

Repealing the law, which allows only an exception to save the life of the mother, and says doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison terms of two to five years, would revert Arizona to a 15-week abortion ban.

Republicans initially resisted Democrats’ attempts to repeal the law last week. But Mr. Trump and Kari Lake, the Senate candidate and close Trump ally, said the court had overreached and urged the Legislature to act quickly. Ms. Lake, facing a highly competitive race in November, dialed lawmakers herself and asked how she could help with the repeal effort.

On Wednesday, it initially appeared as though their cajoling might pay off. Democrats signaled that they were optimistic of having enough Republican support to secure a majority and send the repeal bill to the State Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, 12 jurors selected in Trump trial after two were dismissed earlier in the day, Staff Reports, April 18, 2024. A dozen jurors have now been picked to hear former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan, rapidly pushing the proceedings closer to seating a full panel and pivoting toward opening statements.

Jury selection got off to a slow start Thursday. While the day began with seven jurors having been selected, two of those people were soon removed from the jury. One juror said people she knew figured out her involvement in the case from media reports, so she was excused; another was taken off the panel after prosecutors expressed concerns.

Much of the rest of the day was dominated by questioning of potential jurors. Then, in the midafternoon, seven jurors were selected in quick succession, giving the trial a 12-person jury. The process now shifts toward selecting alternates. One alternate has been picked so far; five more are needed.

Court ended for the day late Thursday afternoon and is scheduled to resume Friday at 9:30 a.m.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge asks media to avoid sharing identifying details about jurors, Will Sommer, April 18, 2024. A juror requested to drop out of former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial Thursday, over concerns that her identity would be revealed — a situation that shows how intense media coverage could affect the trial and expose jurors to harassment.

The members of the jury are meant to be anonymous. But that effort has been undermined, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said from the bench, by media reports that mentioned potentially identifiable information about the jurors — ranging from their physical appearances to their occupations.

Anonymity is imperiled “when so much information is put out there that is very, very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are,” Merchan told members of the media in court Thursday morning.

Merchan’s remarks came after a woman identified as “Juror No. 2” asked to be removed from the jury because she felt her identity could be exposed, which in turn could compromise her ability to fairly judge Trump. After being seated on the jury, the woman said family and friends had already guessed she was Juror No. 2 after media reports included her occupation and employer.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. just changed how it manages a tenth of its land, Maxine Joselow, April 18, 2024. The far-reaching Interior Department rule puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials.

For decades, the federal government has prioritized oil and gas drilling, hardrock mining and livestock grazing on public lands across the country. That could soon change under a far-reaching Interior Department rule that puts conservation, recreation and renewable energy development on equal footing with resource extraction.
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The final rule released Thursday represents a seismic shift in the management of roughly 245 million acres of public property — about one-tenth of the nation’s land mass. It is expected to draw praise from conservationists and legal challenges from fossil fuel industry groups and Republican officials, some of whom have lambasted the move as a “land grab.”

Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, known as the nation’s largest landlord, has long offered leases to oil and gas companies, mining firms and ranchers. Now, for the first time, the nearly 80-year-old agency will auction off “restoration leases” and “mitigation leases” to entities with plans to restore or conserve public lands.

“Today’s final rule helps restore balance to our public lands as we continue using the best-available science to restore habitats, guide strategic and responsible development, and sustain our public lands for generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Under President Biden, the BLM has put a greater emphasis on protecting public lands from the twin threats of climate change and development. Tracy Stone-Manning, the bureau’s director, has warned that hotter, drier climates are driving longer and more intense wildfires and drought across the American West. At the same time, development has fragmented and destroyed wildlife habitat and migratory corridors.

“We oversee 245 million acres, and every land manager will tell you that climate change is already happening. It’s already impacting our public lands,” Stone-Manning said during a Washington Post Live event last year. “We see it in pretty obvious ways, through unprecedented wildfires.”

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.

ny times logoNew York Times,  As Diplomats Visit, Israel Signals It Will Answer Iran’s Attack, Staff Reports, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.

For days, Israel’s closest Western allies have pleaded with the country’s wartime government not to risk igniting a wider war by responding too strongly to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones last weekend. And on Wednesday, the top diplomats from Germany and Britain delivered that message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

But Mr. Netanyahu emerged from those talks resolute that his country would not bow to any outside pressure when choosing its response. He declared before a cabinet meeting that Israel would “do everything necessary to defend itself” and warned the allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

Here’s what we know:

  • The top diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem, working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.
  • Israel will respond to Iran’s attack, Britain’s foreign minister says.
  • U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for response to Gaza crisis.
  • Two bakeries reopen in hunger-stricken Gaza City, but the question is for how long?
  • A Hezbollah attack injures 14 soldiers in northern Israel.
  • U.N. report describes physical abuse and dire conditions in Israeli detention.
  • Here’s where Israel’s military offensive in Gaza stands.

 

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 18, 2024. 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 18, 2024. The dismissals escalated longstanding tensions between company leaders and activist employees opposed to supplying technology to Israel’s government.

Google 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 18, 2024. 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 18, 2024. 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.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution to grant full member status to Palestinian state, Karen DeYoung, Frances Vinall, Annabelle Timsit, Adam Taylor and Sammy Westfall, April 18, 2024. U.S. officials insisted the veto did not represent opposition to a two-state solution.

The United States was alone Thursday in voting against a U.N. Security Council resolution that would advance the Palestinian Authority’s bid for full membership status at the United Nations.

The single veto killed the measure, proposed by Algeria on behalf of Arab nations. Britain and Switzerland abstained.

U.S. officials had warned earlier Thursday that voting for statehood now would undermine efforts at a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Biden administration lobbied many of the 15 Security Council members to join it in rejecting the measure.

Algeria, speaking before the vote, called statehood a “fundamental step toward peace” and said it would “rebalance the scales of justice.”

The Biden administration had signaled its plans to vote against the resolution.

“We have been pretty clear that sustainable peace in the region can only be achieved through a two-state solution with Israel’s security guaranteed. And it remains our view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters earlier Thursday.

“We also have been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” Patel said.

Were a Palestinian state to be granted member status, Patel said, the United States would be required by law to halt its funding for the United Nations. U.S. law prohibits funding U.N. agencies that grant full member status to representatives of a Palestinian state.

Patel added that the United States would welcome a political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that would create a path to Palestinian statehood along with U.N. membership.

The Biden administration voted against a United Nations Security Council resolution that aimed to extend full member status to a Palestinian state Thursday. The final vote was 12 in favor, one against, with two countries — the United Kingdom and Switzerland — abstaining. If the resolution had been approved by the council, the issue would have then gone to the U.N. General Assembly, where two-thirds of the 193 member countries would have had to agree. Robert Wood, the alternate American representative to the United Nations, said after the vote that “the United States continues to strongly support a two state solution.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, After Iran’s attack on Israel, now fears over escalation at Lebanese border, Sarah Dadouch and Shira Rubin, April 18, 2024. The Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend has refocused attention on the border with Lebanon where Iran’s ally, Hezbollah, has long been fighting a muted war that could be the target of an Israeli retaliation.

The Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah — which is both a military force and Lebanon’s strongest political party — have been regularly skirmishing since Hamas’s Oct. 7 blitz into Israel. Attacks have ebbed and flowed as the war in Gaza has dragged on, punctuated by U.S. attempts at negotiating a diplomatic solution to resolve long-standing security issues.

But the direct Iranian attack on Israel could upset the delicate balance of tit-for-tat strikes, with recent incidents suggesting the door could be open for an all-out conflict.

It is a war Hezbollah appears not to want: The group did not participate in Iran’s assault on Israel and delayed its statement congratulating Tehran for the attack.

Israeli officials, too, have said they want to avoid a full-blown war.

A conflict would also devastate Lebanon, already beset by an economic crisis, and weaken Hezbollah’s position as a result. That said, while the group has claimed it does not want a new war, it says it is ready for one.

In the days since Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, a string of particularly violent attacks and retaliatory strikes has erupted on the Israel-Lebanon border.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sanctions target Iran’s drone production after attack on Israel, Jeff Stein, April 18, 2024. The Treasury Department on Thursday announced new sanctions on Iran in retaliation for its recent aerial attack against Israel, as the Biden administration seeks an economic rather than military response to Tehran.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the administration’s actions would “degrade and disrupt” the Iranian drone program that targeted civilian populations in Israel. The sanctions also target Iranian steel production, a measure not taken by U.S. authorities since 2021. The United States has imposed sanctions on more than 600 Iranian-related entities over the past three years, according to the Treasury Department.

“Our actions make it harder and costlier at every turn for Iran to continue its destabilizing behavior,” Yellen said in a statement. “We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead.”

The new sanctions, which the administration had signaled earlier this week, appear designed to tame rather than inflame tensions in the region, as President Biden has sought to prevent a wider spread of hostilities in the Middle East. Some critics have pushed the administration to go further to reduce the revenue available to Iran’s government by sanctioning China’s huge purchases of Iranian oil. The Treasury Department has taken some steps to sanction Chinese firms for such purchases, but a more ambitious crackdown would risk raising global oil prices, and therefore U.S. gas prices in an election year.

The administration appears, at least for now, to be largely avoiding such escalation. Instead, the administration’s sanctions Thursday appear to focus on targets inside Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Will Impose New Sanctions on Iran for Attacking Israel, Staff Reports, April 18, 2024. The measures were announced as Israel’s allies try to punish Tehran without fueling a wider Middle East war.

european union logo rectangleThe president of the European Council announced early Thursday that new European sanctions would be imposed on Iran’s drone and missile programs as punishment for last weekend’s attacks.

“It’s a clear signal that we want to send,” Charles Michel said, emerging after midnight from a meeting of leaders of the European Union’s member states in Brussels. “We need to isolate Iran.”

Here’s what we know:

  • The measures were announced as Israel’s allies try to punish Tehran without fueling a wider Middle East war.
  • Israel FlagThe E.U. says it will impose new sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile programs.
  • A Gazan describes losing four nieces and nephews in an attack that killed children playing in the street.
  • The U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for the response to the crisis in Gaza.

ny times logoNew York Times, Miscalculation Leads to Escalation as Israel and Iran Clash, Ronen Bergman, Farnaz Fassihi, Eric Schmitt, Adam Entous and Richard Pérez-Peña, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Israeli officials say they didn’t see a strike on a high-level Iranian target in Syria as a provocation, and did not give Washington a heads-up about it until right before it happened.

Israel was mere moments away from an airstrike on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria when it told the United States what was about to happen.

Israel’s closest ally had just been caught off guard.

Aides quickly alerted Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser; Jon Finer, the deputy national security adviser; Brett McGurk, Mr. Biden’s Middle East coordinator; and others, who saw that the strike could have serious consequences, a U.S. official said. Publicly, U.S. officials voiced support for Israel, but privately, they expressed anger that it would take such aggressive action against Iran without consulting Washington.

The Israelis had badly miscalculated, thinking that Iran would not react strongly, according to multiple American officials who were involved in high-level discussions after the attack, a view shared by a senior Israeli official. On Saturday, Iran launched a retaliatory barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel, an unexpectedly large-scale response, if one that did minimal damage.

The events made clear that the unwritten rules of engagement in the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran have changed drastically in recent months, making it harder than ever for each side to gauge the other’s intentions and reactions.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, an Iranian ally, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, there has been escalation after escalation and miscalculation after miscalculation, raising fears of a retribution cycle that could potentially become an all-out war.

Even after it became clear that Iran would retaliate, U.S. and Israeli officials initially thought the scale of the response would be fairly limited, before scrambling to revise their assessment again and again. Now the focus is on what Israel will do next — and how Iran might respond.

“We are in a situation where basically everybody can claim victory,” said Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group. “Iran can say that it took revenge, Israel can say it defeated the Iranian attack and the United States can say it successfully deterred Iran and defended Israel.”

But Mr. Vaez said: “If we get into another round of tit for tat, it can easily spiral out of control, not just for Iran and Israel, but for the rest of the region and the entire world.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Wave of pro-Palestinian protests closes bridges, major roads across U.S., Daniel Wu and Niha Masih, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked roads, highways and bridges across the country on Monday, snarling traffic and sparking arrests from coast to coast in what some activists declared to be a coordinated day of economic blockade to push leaders for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The disruption appeared to span the country over several hours. Protesters in San Francisco parked vehicles on the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping traffic in both directions for four hours Monday morning, while hundreds of demonstrators blocked a highway in nearby Oakland, some by chaining themselves to drums of cement, California Highway Patrol representatives told The Washington Post. Some protesters headed toward a Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., according to local TV station KRON4. In New York, dozens of protesters stopped traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and held demonstrations on Wall Street, according to ABC7.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were also reported in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami and San Antonio. Demonstrators’ targets ranged from major highways such as Interstate 5 in Eugene, Ore., to a countryside road leading to an aircraft engine manufacturer in Middletown, Conn.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Israel’s Allies, Iranian Missile Strike Scrambles Debate Over Gaza, Mark Landler, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Israel’s allies have voiced anger over the death toll in Gaza, but when their archnemesis launched a missile barrage, they set it aside. At least for now.

Israel FlagTwo weeks ago, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain was facing a chorus of calls to cut off arms shipments to Israel because of its devastating war in Gaza. On Monday, Mr. Sunak saluted the British warplanes that had shot down several Iranian drones as part of a successful campaign to thwart Iran’s attack on Israel.

It was a telling example of how the clash between Israel and Iran has scrambled the equation in the Middle East. Faced with a barrage of Iranian missiles, Britain, the United States, France and others rushed to Israel’s aid. They set aside their anger over Gaza to defend it from a country they view as an archnemesis, even as they pleaded for restraint in Israel’s response to the Iranian assault.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran’s leaders say their retaliation is over, unless Israel strikes back, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). Iranian leaders on Sunday said that their retaliation against Israel was over, signaling iran flag mapthat they were not seeking to start a wider war, but warned that they could launch a bigger military operation depending on Israel’s response.

The foreign minister, Hossain Amir Abdollahian, said on social media that “at this point, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention of continuing defensive operations, but if necessary it will not hesitate to protect its legitimate interests against any new aggression.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 Relatives and friends carrying the body of Saifeddin Abutaha, an aid worker for World Central Kitchen in Gaza, during his funeral last week in Rafah (Photo by Said Khatib via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).Relatives and friends carrying the body of Saifeddin Abutaha, an aid worker for World Central Kitchen in Gaza, during his funeral last week in Rafah (Photo by Said Khatib via Agence France-Presse and Getty Images).

world central kitchen

 

More Trump-Related News

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump..

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan M. Merchan, left, the judge who is presiding over the trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Trial Enters Third Day With 7 Jurors Chosen, Ben Protess and Jonah E. Bromwich, April 18, 2024. Jury selection in the trial of former President Trump accelerated on Day 2. He is accused of falsifying business records to conceal hush money to a porn star.

Seven jurors down, five more to go. The complicated process of picking a jury in the first criminal trial of an American president will continue for a third day on Thursday as lawyers on both sides choose the panel that will decide Donald J. Trump’s fate.

The case against Mr. Trump stems from a hush-money payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who during the 2016 presidential campaign threatened to go public with her story of a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. Prosecutors say Mr. Trump concealed her story, and others, to influence the election.

Mr. Trump has denied having sex with Ms. Daniels or breaking any laws. But prosecutors say he falsified business records to cover up the sex scandal, and charged him last year with 34 felony counts. If convicted, he faces up to four years behind bars.

  • New York Times, Is Trump’s Trial Really About ‘Hush Money’? Both the prosecutors and defense are trying to frame it differently.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor tells prospective jurors ‘personal politics’ don’t matter, Staff Reports, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Potential jurors faced courtroom questioning Tuesday as jury selection continued in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York. The panel of potential jurors are being asked questions about a range of topics, including their media consumption and perspectives on Trump, who is in court observing this process.

The potential juror said she had filmed the celebration around Trump’s 2020 election loss because it was a “celebratory moment for New York City.” She said she understands implicit bias exists but believes it is the duty of a juror to judge the facts of the case fairly. Defense attorney Todd Blanche cited a 1984 court ruling to argue that implicit bias can negatively affect a juror’s impartiality. Prosecutors argued the woman has not said anything negative about Trump.

Prosecutors strenuously objected to the defense argument, saying the posts showed someone filming others celebrating Trump’s election loss “from a remote distance.” It doesn’t demonstrate “anti-Trump bias,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said.

Trump was scolded for audibly speaking and making comments while the prospective juror was explaining her social media posts. Judge Merchan just told Blanche to explain to Trump that “I will not tolerate that. I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom." After the potential juror left the room, Merchan reprimanded Trump for his behavior in front of her. Merchan said Trump was “audibly uttering something” and “gesturing” and “speaking in her direction.”

Moving to the challenges, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche said the first of the potential jurors has “hostile” Facebook posts. Merchan asked to see the screenshots. Merchan read them aloud, seeming not to grasp how they could be construed as hostile. Blanche explained that the date corresponded to celebrating election results. “Where does this refer to your client?” Merchan asked. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass called the challenge “ridiculous,” even if these social media posts did come from the potential juror. Merchan said he was trying to understand how this was evidence of bias.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Demands a Cut of Donations From Campaigns That Use His Name, Chris Cameron, April 17, 2024. The Trump campaign said that candidates using his brand should turn over at least 5 percent of donations and encouraged them to send more than the minimum.

trump 2024The presidential campaign of former President Donald J. Trump said in a letter to Republican vendors that candidates may use his name, image and likeness in campaign materials only if they send at least 5 percent of donations that they receive to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The move in effect imposes a tax on using the Trump brand for campaign purposes. Mr. Trump has sought to close a significant financial gap between him and President Biden, his Democratic rival. The Biden campaign and its political committees reported $192 million in cash on hand at the end of March, more than double the $93 million of Trump and the Republican Party.

djt maga hatDanielle Alvarez, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement that “it is important to protect small-dollar donors from scammers that use the president’s name and likeness.”

In a letter this week signed by Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, who identified themselves as co-campaign managers, the campaign also said it was tightening control of campaign materials that use Mr. Trump’s name, prohibiting strident language that has become common in donor appeals such as “President Trump needs you” or “If you support President Trump, you’ll contribute now.”

The letter said the messaging guidelines were part of an effort “to treat our donors with the utmost respect.” After Mr. Trump appeared in court on Monday, the campaign sent a fund-raising pitch falsely claiming in all-capital letters that Mr. Trump had “just stormed out of Biden’s kangaroo court!” Mr. Trump had not actually stormed out of the Manhattan courthouse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cannon denies dismissal motions by Trump co-defendants in documents case, Perry Stein, U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Thursday rejected requests from Donald Trump’s two co-defendants to dismiss the charges against them in the classified document case, ruling that federal prosecutors had met the legal threshold for the obstruction counts.

Attorneys for Trump employees Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira had argued that the charges should be dismissed, in part, because the indictment accused them of obstructing government efforts to retrieve classified materials from Trump’s property without providing clear evidence that the two men were aware of an ongoing investigation or knew the boxes of documents contained classified materials.

Cannon wrote that any arguments the co-defendants want to make about their lack of knowledge about why Trump allegedly wanted to conceal the boxes from investigators could be used as their defense at trial — but not as a basis to dismiss the case.

Prosecutors say Nauta and De Oliveira misled investigators in their statements and plotted to delete security footage to prevent officials from getting the boxes back from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home and private club. Nauta is also charged with crimes related to allegations that he moved dozens of boxes from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s residential quarters as investigators sought to locate them.

Nauta, a Trump aide who still travels with him, and De Oliveira, the property manager at Mar-a-Lago, face eight and four charges, respectively, and have pleaded not guilty.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven jurors picked in Trump’s N.Y. trial as judge presses aheadSix jurors seated for trial after dozens are excluded, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, David Nakamura and Isaac Arnsdorf, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The New York Supreme Court justice overseeing former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial said opening statements could begin as soon as Monday.

Politico, The reality of being a criminal defendant on trial finally dawned on Trump. He didn’t take it well, Kyle Cheney, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Donald Trump will spend most of this spring in a drab county courtroom, and he’s not happy about it.

politico CustomDonald Trump is learning a hard lesson: Criminal defendants don’t get to set their own schedules.

Three times on Monday the former president asked Justice Juan Merchan to cut him loose from his hush money trial to attend to other matters — some personal, some political and some legal. Three times the judge responded with, essentially, “eh, we’ll see.”

 

 Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him. Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

Donald Trump sits at a courtroom table between two lawyers, with court officers standing behind him.
Donald J. Trump’s lawyers tried to tease out bias among the Manhattanites called for jury duty (Pool photo by Curtis Means via the New York Times on April 16, 2024).

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors and Defense Lawyers Begin to Seat Jurors for Trump Trial, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maggie Haberman and Wesley Parnell, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The prospective jurors questioned on Tuesday mirrored their city: diverse, opinionated and with strong views about the former president.

The daunting work of selecting a jury for the first criminal trial of a former American president rapidly gained momentum on Tuesday as seven New Yorkers were picked to sit in judgment of Donald J. Trump, accelerating a crucial phase of the case that many had expected to be a slog.

The judge overseeing the case said that if jurors continued to be seated at this pace, opening arguments would most likely begin Monday.

The first seven members of the panel that will decide whether Mr. Trump falsified records to cover up a sex scandal involving a porn star were picked in short order after the lunch break. The lawyers quizzed them on their politics, views about the former president and ability to remain impartial in a case that could offend their sensibilities.

 

stormy daniels djt

washington post logoWashington Post, The horse wars of Stormy Daniels, Peter Jamison, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Stormy Daniels is involved in a multimillion-dollar court battle and ensnared some of the top officials in the rarefied world of competitive English riding.

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Climate Change, Environment, Energy, Space, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

washington post logoWashington Post, New Maui fire report shows utility waited hours to respond to broken power line, Brianna Sacks and Anumita Kaur, April 18, 2024. Hawaiian Electric disputes that state attorney general’s report reveals anything new about origin of the fire, or its role in starting it.

Hawaii’s electric utility did not immediately respond to the first alerts of its power lines breaking before the deadly Maui fire last August, according to a new timeline report by the Hawaii attorney general’s office, which noted lapses by multiple agencies in responding to what would become the deadliest fire in U.S. history.

The 376-page report, conducted by the Fire Safety Research Institute on behalf of Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez and released Wednesday, is the first in a three-phase probe into how and why the Lahaina brush fire turned so catastrophic.

While it did not assign blame or responsibility for how the fire started and spread, it — along with an independently conducted Maui Fire Department report released earlier in the week — raises fresh questions about how Hawaiian Electric and multiple public agencies, including Maui County’s mayor, handled the disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Widest-Ever Global Coral Crisis Will Hit Within Weeks, Scientists Say, Catrin Einhorn, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Rising sea temperatures around the planet have caused a bleaching event that is expected to be the most extensive on record.

The world’s coral reefs are in the throes of a global bleaching event caused by extraordinary ocean temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners announced Monday.

It is the fourth such global event on record and is expected to affect more reefs than any other. Bleaching occurs when corals become so stressed that they lose the symbiotic algae they need to survive. Bleached corals can recover, but if the water surrounding them is too hot for too long, they die.

Coral reefs are vital ecosystems: limestone cradles of marine life that nurture an estimated quarter of ocean species at some point during their life cycles, support fish that provide protein for millions of people and protect coasts from storms. The economic value of the world’s coral reefs has been estimated at $2.7 trillion annually.

For the last year, ocean temperatures have been off the charts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla Seeks to Revive Elon Musk’s $47 Billion Pay Deal After Judge Says No, Jack Ewing, April 16, 2024 (print ed.).  The company’s directors are asking shareholders to again approve the compensation plan and to move the company’s registration to Texas.

tesla logoFacing criticism that it is overly beholden to Elon Musk, Tesla’s board of directors said on Wednesday that it would essentially give him everything he wanted, including the biggest pay package in corporate history.

If setbacks in court and the car market have induced any soul searching among Tesla’s board, there was no sign of it in the latest announcement. If anything, the board doubled down on backing Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, risking riling up activist investors and more litigation.

The board’s decision to ask shareholders to endorse a compensation plan for Mr. Musk that is worth about $47 billion came less than three months after a Delaware judge voided the same 10-year pay package. The judge said that it was excessive and that the company had failed to properly disclose details about it to shareholders who approved it in 2018.

Tesla will now provide shareholders more information about how the plan was devised and ask them to approve it again. That vote will take place as investors are increasingly worried about the electric car company because its sales are declining, and its stock has fallen more than one-third this year. In addition, Mr. Musk has not presented much of a plan to restore the company’s momentum.

Greg Varallo, a lawyer who represented shareholders in the Delaware case, declined to comment Wednesday on steps his team might take. But the board’s action is likely to prompt more lawsuits against the company, which is under legal pressure from regulators, customers and people who say they have been victims of faults in Tesla’s driver-assistance system.

Two days before the move to restore Mr. Musk’s status as one of the world’s richest people, Tesla told employees that it would lay off 10 percent of its work force, or about 14,000 people.

“The optics certainly don’t look good,” said Jason Schloetzer, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business who studies corporate governance.

There is no sign that Tesla’s board is trying to exert tighter control over Mr. Musk, whose endorsement of right-wing conspiracy theories has alienated many potential customers. On the contrary, in documents filed Wednesday for a shareholders meeting in June, the board signaled that it stood firmly behind Mr. Musk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tesla will shed more than 10 percent of its workforce, Aaron Gregg, Faiz Siddiqui and Trisha Thadani, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The move by Elon Musk comes after the company reported a sharp decline in vehicle deliveries in the first quarter. Tesla notified employees Monday that the company would slash more than 10 percent of its staff, the latest setback for one of the world’s top electric-vehicle makers, which is struggling to hold its place as a vanguard in the EV industry amid cooling demand, increasing scrutiny from regulators and controversy around its unpredictable chief executive, Elon Musk.

In a layoff notice obtained by The Washington Post, employees were told early Monday morning that Tesla, which has a large presence in California and Texas and factories in Germany and China, is cutting a significant number of jobs after a “thorough review of the organization.”

“Over the years, we have grown rapidly with multiple factories scaling around the globe,” according to the email, which was shared with The Post. “With this rapid growth, there has been duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas. As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity.”
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The job cuts — which include more than 14,000 workers from a range of departments, including sales, engineering and policy — are a blow to a company considered a bellwether for the state of the EV market. The company disclosed earlier this month that sales had fallen faster than expected amid waning demand for EVs. As competition with foreign players, especially in China, has intensified, Tesla’s stock has taken a beating, shedding a third of its value already this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Block Road in Alaska as Biden Seeks to Be Seen as Conservationist, Lisa Friedman, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Rejecting the industrial road would be a win for environmentalists in an election year when President Biden wants to showcase his environmental credentials.

The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a 211-mile industrial road through fragile Alaskan wilderness to a large copper deposit, handing a victory to environmentalists in an election year when the president wants to underscore his credentials as a climate leader and conservationist.

joe biden twitterThe Interior Department intends to announce as early as this week that there should be “no action” on the federal land where the road known as the Ambler Access Project would be built, according to two people familiar with the decision who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the decision. A formal denial of the project would come later this year, they said.

The road was essential to reach what is estimated to be a $7.5 billion copper deposit buried under ecologically sensitive land. There are currently no mines in the area and no requests for permits have been filed with the government; the road was a first step.

Blocking the industrial road would be an enormous victory for opponents who have argued for years that it would threaten wildlife as well as Alaska Native tribes that rely on hunting and fishing.

Environmentalists, including many young climate activists, were infuriated last year by President Biden’s decision to approve Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project on pristine federal land in Alaska. The proposed road would be several hundred miles south of the Willow project.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Elections have gotten more accessible for disabled voters, but disparities remain, Maggie Astor, April 18, 2024. A report to the Election Assistance Commission from researchers at Rutgers University found that disabled voters’ turnout lagged non-disabled voters’ by 11 percentage points, down from 17.

In 2018, Kenia Flores, who is blind, voted by mail in North Carolina because she was attending college out of state. Had she been able to vote in person, she could have used an accessible machine. But voting absentee, her only option was to tell another person her choices and have them fill out her ballot. She had no way to verify what they did.

Dessa Cosma, who uses a wheelchair, arrived at her precinct in Michigan that year to find that all the voting booths were standing height. A poll worker suggested she complete her ballot on the check-in table and got annoyed when Ms. Cosma said she had a right to complete it privately. Another worker intervened and found a private space.

That night, Ms. Cosma — the executive director of Detroit Disability Power, where Ms. Flores is a voting access and election protection fellow — vented to the group’s advisory committee and discovered that “every one of them had a story about lack of ability to vote easily, and we all had different disabilities,” she said. “It made me realize, ‘Oh wow, even more than I realized, this is a significant problem.’”

It has been for decades. A series of laws — including the Help America Vote Act in 2002, or HAVA, which created new standards for election administration and grant programs for states to maintain those standards — have sought to make it easier. And they have, but major gaps remain.

That is illustrated in a new report to the federal Election Assistance Commission, to be released Thursday by six researchers from Rutgers University and one from San Diego State University.

The report, provided to The New York Times, looked at elections through the 20th anniversary of HAVA in 2022 and found that the law had generally improved accessibility. The shift was reflected both quantitatively (in turnout and the percentage of people reporting trouble voting) and qualitatively (in voters’ responses in focus groups).

But while the gap has shrunk, disabled Americans still vote at much lower rates than Americans who aren’t disabled.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Civil Rights Era Fades From Memory, Generation Gap Divides Black Voters, Maya King, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). Many older Black voters see moral and political reasons to vote. Younger Black voters feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all. For years, Loretta Green has voted at her Southwest Atlanta precinct wearing the same custom T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of her first voter registration card, dated to 1960. The front of it reads: “This is why I vote.”

Since gaining the legal right, Ms. Green, 88, has participated in every possible election. This November will be no different, she said, when she casts a ballot for President Biden and Democrats down the ticket.

But conversations with her younger relatives, who have told her they’re unsure of voting or considering staying home, illustrate some of the challenges Mr. Biden’s campaign faces in reassembling his winning 2020 coalition, particularly in key battleground states like Georgia. While Ms. Green and many older Black voters are set on voting and already have plans in place to do so, younger Black voters, polling and focus group data show, feel far less motivated to cast a ballot for Democrats or even at all.

“To me, voting is almost sacred. Look at what people went through. The struggles. The people that allowed themselves to be beaten,” Ms. Green said of the civil rights movement that ignited her determination to vote in every election. “I think there are some young Blacks who probably feel like it didn’t even happen.”

Black voters have long been Democrats’ most loyal constituency, and high turnout from this bloc is crucial to Mr. Biden’s re-election. Any drop-off in support could imperil his chances of winning in November. And surveys have shown a striking generational divide within this bloc, driven by what many young people see as broken campaign promises and what party leaders have suggested is a difficulty in communicating Mr. Biden’s accomplishments to voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Turning Point Action official resigns after accusation of election-related fraud, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, April 18, 2024. A top leader of the national conservative group Turning Point Action, which has amplified false claims of election fraud by former president Donald Trump and others, resigned Thursday after being accused of forging voter signatures on official paperwork so that he could run for reelection in the Arizona House.

austin smith gage skidmoreState Rep. Austin Smith (R) — who was the senior director at Turning Point Action, the campaign arm of Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA — was accused by a Democratic activist of submitting petition sheets with rows of voter names, addresses and signatures that “bear a striking resemblance” to his handwriting, according to a complaint. Smith, right, shown in a Gage Skidmore photo, “personally circulated multiple petition sheets bearing what appear to be forged voter signatures,” said the complaint.

The complaint was sent to the Arizona secretary of state, who forwarded it to the Arizona attorney general for review. State election officials do not assess the veracity of allegations made against candidates. A spokesperson for the state prosecutor’s office, which runs a team that focuses on claims of voter and election fraud after widespread claims following the 2020 election, declined to comment. Both state offices are overseen by Democrats.
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Smith submitted his resignation to Turning Point Action on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about it publicly. Smith also publicly ended his reelection campaign.

In a statement, the first-term lawmaker said the allegations against him were “silly” and part of a “coordinated attack” by Democrats and “those unhappy with my politics.”

Smith is aligned with some of the most conservative members of the Arizona House — sometimes referred to as the “Freedom Caucus” of the larger Republican caucus — and he has previously derided signature verification work by local election officials as “a joke.” During his time with Turning Point Action, Smith worked to support the candidacies of conservatives who spread false information about elections. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, Smith tweeted a photo of himself speaking to “thousands of patriots.” In that since-deleted tweet, he urged followers: “Don’t get comfortable” and to “fight like hell.” The next day, as Congress met to certify the 2020 election results, the U.S. Capitol came under attack.

The complaint alleges that Smith submitted multiple pages that contain dozens of forged signatures that he claimed to have collected, and it contained images of two of those pages.

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U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Kennedy family members endorse Biden in rebuke of RFK Jr., Dylan Wells and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., April 18, 2024. More than a dozen Kennedy family members endorsed President Biden for reelection at a campaign event on Thursday, saying he reflects the values and “moral leadership” of their clan’s most celebrated members, a move intended in part to counter the independent campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The family members — including siblings of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — were on hand during Biden’s remarks. The event came at the end of the president’s three-day sprint through the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he has tried to paint himself as a champion of the American middle class in the Kennedy mold.

The endorsement from members of America’s most famous political family was intended to showcase Biden as the torchbearer of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), who was killed as he sought the presidency in 1968. It was an unusually personal rebuke of the senator’s son, who is portraying himself as the true heir to the Kennedy tradition, and it reflects the Biden campaign’s concern that he could siphon at least a small number of votes from the president.

Kerry Kennedy, a sister of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., delivered the endorsement, flanked by five of her siblings.

“We want to make crystal clear our feeling that the best way forward for America is to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for four more years,” Kerry Kennedy said. “President Biden has been a champion for all the rights and freedoms that my father and uncle stood for.”

She also said there was a stark choice between Biden and former president Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, that was both political and moral.

“A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to save our democracy and our decency,” Kerry Kennedy said. “It is a vote for what my father called, in his own presidential announcement in 1968, ‘our right to the moral leadership of this planet.’ ”

The Kennedys did not mention their family member’s candidacy, and the endorsement is in line with the clan’s long, if informal, support of Biden. On St. Patrick’s Day, Kerry Kennedy posted a picture on X showing Biden surrounded by a sea of Kennedys.

The echoes between JFK and Biden are notable. John F. Kennedy was the nation’s first Irish Catholic president; Biden is the second. And both contended with questions about how their faith would inform their role as commander-in-chief. Kennedy was asked whether he felt he would answer to the Pope, while Biden faced questions about where his political views veered away from Catholic doctrine, particularly on abortion.

Biden also had a long friendship with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John and Robert Kennedy’s younger brother. The two served together for decades in the Senate, including on the high-profile Judiciary Committee. Years later, as Biden sought the presidency in 2020, he modeled his effort to eradicate cancer on President Kennedy’s push to put Americans on the moon, calling it the “cancer moonshot.”

On Thursday, Biden told the Kennedys and the crowd that he had been moved by Robert F. Kennedy’s example, and that he remembered the senator’s calming words to the nation on the night Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Kennedys rally to prevent RFK Jr. from extinguishing their torch, Karen Tumulty, karen tumulty resize twitterApril 18, 2024. They are trying to salvage what remains of the family’s legacy.

Sixteen years ago, the most illustrious members of the Kennedy clan gathered on a stage at American University and bestowed their benediction on a first-term senator from Illinois who was running for the Democratic presidential nomination as an underdog against the establishment favorite.

“I feel change in the air. What about you?” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) thundered before an electrified crowd of thousands. Alongside the family patriarch was his son Patrick (then a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island) and his niece Caroline, who the day before had declared in a New York Times op-ed that then-Sen. Barack Obama would be “a president like my father.”

That January 2008 event consciously invoked the passing of the torch to a new generation, the metaphor made indelible in John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. And it gave a badly needed boost to Obama’s prospects against the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), herself part of a political dynasty in the making. Though Clinton had the backing of several lesser-known members of the extended Kennedy family, its star power was solidly behind Obama.

That day, as the only reporter allowed backstage, I had a close vantage for it all. It was hard not to think back on that moment on Thursday as Kennedys gathered on a stage in Philadelphia to formally announce their support for President Biden in an attempt to protect their family’s legacy from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the crackpot conspiracy theorist running an independent presidential campaign.

Take a moment to think about how much has changed for the family since 2008. What struck me most then was the sight of the preternaturally composed Obama, moments before the event, choking back his tears. His own father had come to this country from Kenya as part of a program assisted by the Kennedy family foundation.

“I gotta admit, I had to clamp it down a little bit,” the future president acknowledged to me later, when I brought up the emotion I had witnessed. “That was powerful stuff. When you see Ted, Caroline, Patrick together, and I think about the role they played in shaping my values and ideals and what I believe about America, the connection to my father traveling to Hawaii and meeting my mother. ... It brings things full circle.”

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan on March 26, 2024, in Oakland, California (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (right) waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan, who received a fortune following her divorce from a Google co-founder, on March 26, 2024, in Oakland, California (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

Politico, RFK Jr.’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, is keeping his campaign in the black, Brittany Gibson and Jessica Piper, April 18, 2024. But she isn’t doing much else besides “learning and studying.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s wealthy but relatively obscure running mate, Nicole Shanahan, contributed $2 million to their long shot White House bid in March, preventing the campaign from running into the red for the second month in a row.

The contribution, included in a fundraising report filed Thursday, comes as Shanahan has otherwise largely retreated from public view.

While Kennedy has hosted several fundraisers and two campaign rallies since naming her his running mate in March, Shanahan’s contributions to the campaign so far have overwhelmingly been financial. The wealthy Silicon Valley tech attorney and entrepreneur has mostly been “getting a grasp on the policies Bobby’s involved in,” said communication director Del Bigtree.

“She’s doing podcasts and discussing issues with people and having think tank sessions,” Bigtree said in an interview this week. “She’s focused on learning and studying.”

But Shanahan’s self-funding is keeping the campaign in the black.

While the campaign raised $5.3 million in March, it also spent $4.4 million and reported an additional $224,000 of debt for security expenses. It had just over $6 million cash on hand at the end of the month, but also reported $1.5 million in debt, all owed to Gavin de Becker & Associates for private security services.

Itemized donations to the campaign also ticked up slightly after Kennedy announced Shanahan as his running mate. But her personal contribution — coming from her own wealth, in part from a divorce settlement from Google cofounder Sergy Brin — accounted for far more money to the campaign. Shanahan has never before run for or held public office.

Shanahan has now contributed more than $6 million to Kennedy’s campaign efforts since last summer after she gave $4.5 million to two different super PACs backing him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kennedy Clan to Endorse President Biden, in a Show of Force Against R.F.K. Jr., Nicholas Nehamas, April 18, 2024. More than a dozen members of the family will endorse President Biden as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. worries Democrats with an independent bid.

A broad coalition of the Kennedy family will endorse President Biden on Thursday at a campaign rally in Philadelphia, pointedly rejecting one of their own in Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate who many Democrats believe poses a significant threat to Mr. Biden’s re-election chances.

Among the relatives of Mr. Kennedy expected to back Mr. Biden are his siblings Joseph, Kerry, Rory, Kathleen, Maxwell and Christopher. The Biden campaign released a list of 15 Kennedys set to appear at the rally, but it said other family members would endorse the president as well. Kerry Kennedy will introduce Mr. Biden at the rally, the campaign said, and Joe Kennedy III, Mr. Kennedy’s nephew and a former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, will do so at a second event.

The show of force will send the clearest signal yet that America’s most storied Democratic family is deeply fearful that one of its own could tip the 2024 election to former President Donald J. Trump, and hopes to use its influence to try to stop him.

Many family members have previously expressed strong disapproval of Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy, voicing anguish about his promotion of conspiracy theories and confusion about why he is challenging a Democratic president they admire. Like many Democrats, they worry that he could help Mr. Trump win if he draws even a small number of votes away from Mr. Biden in the battleground states — contests that were decided by tens of thousands of votes in 2020.

Mr. Trump is likely to remain the main target of attacks at the Philadelphia event, but the symbolic repudiation of Mr. Kennedy will not be subtle.

“We can say today, with no less urgency, that our rights and freedoms are once again in peril,” Kerry Kennedy is expected to say, according to excerpts from her speech shared by the Biden campaign. “That is why we all need to come together in a campaign that should unite not only Democrats, but all Americans, including Republicans, and independents, who believe in what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.”

The family has telegraphed its intentions: Last month, members visited Mr. Biden at the White House for St. Patrick’s Day, sharing a photo of him with a large group of them. “From one proud Irish family to another — it was good to have you all back at the White House,” Mr. Biden wrote on social media.

Members of the Kennedy family also denounced an ad that a super PAC supporting Mr. Kennedy ran during the Super Bowl. The ad closely resembled a spot supporting John F. Kennedy, his uncle, during his 1960 bid for the White House.

With the election months away, and Mr. Kennedy still pursuing access to the ballot in many states, it’s hard to know whether he would draw more votes from Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden’s camp. But polls suggest that Mr. Trump’s base of support is much more fixed than Mr. Biden’s, meaning it’s possible that some of the president’s voters could be open to an alternative.

 

Kamala Harris Munich Security Conference 2 16 2024

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Kamala Harris Moment Has Arrived, Charles M. Blow, April 18, 2024 (print ed.).
Fast-forward to now, when Vice President Harris has served nearly a full term alongside President Biden, and she is moving into another moment when the political stars are aligned for her as the perfect messenger on a subject that has fixed Americans’ attention and is central in the 2024 presidential campaign: reproductive rights.

This time, her target is Donald Trump. And being in a position to go on the offensive is something of a reversal of fortune for a vice president who has endured withering — often unfair — attacks and who struggled to define herself in the role.

In October, The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott Calabro profiled Harris under the headline “The Kamala Harris Problem,” writing that “Harris’s reputation has never quite recovered” from some early blunders during her term.

Criticisms of Harris have been relentless, ranging from legitimate challenges to her policy statements to ridiculous commentary about her laugh. Much of it has seemed tinged with gender bias.

This has all led Harris to struggle in the polls. Her approval rating, like Biden’s, has languished below 50 percent for most of her term.

And she remains a source of concern, a perceived vulnerability to Biden’s re-election. Over and over in her failed run for this year’s Republican nomination, Nikki Haley pointed to the possibility of a future Harris presidency as a scare tactic, saying in an August interview on “Good Morning America”: “There is no way Joe Biden is going to finish his term. I think Kamala Harris is going to be the next president, and that should send a chill up every American’s spine.”

But the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Republicans’ lust to enact increasingly regressive policies to restrict reproductive rights in states across the country have made Harris’s voice an essential one in the campaign.

In December, Harris announced her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour.

In March, she became what is believed to be the first vice president to pay an official visit to an abortion clinic (no president has done so), when she visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minn.

No matter how sensitive and knowledgeable men try to be on the issue of reproductive rights, there are still things that we cannot fully connect to. Harris transcends that barrier not only because she’s a woman but also because of her background as a prosecutor.

In a February speech in Savannah, Ga., she said that she decided to specialize in prosecuting crimes of violence against women and children because in high school she learned that one of her best friends was being molested by her stepfather. Harris told that story as a way to underscore the repressive nature of abortion laws that don’t have exceptions for rape or incest.

She told the crowd, “The idea that someone who survives a crime of violence, a violation to their body, would then be told they don’t have the authority to decide what happens to their body next, that’s immoral.”

Harris may never be duly recognized for her contributions to the administration on a broad range of issues, but in the end that may not be her calling.

According to her office, since Roe was overturned, the vice president has held “more than 80 convenings in 20 states.” Being a trusted voice in favor of reproductive rights and against Republicans determined to restrict or eliminate them may be the greater contribution she can make to Biden’s re-election bid and to maintaining national stability.

With this issue, she has hit her stride. With it, the talk of her as a liability has been hushed, for some, by the clear realization of what she brings to the campaign. With it, Harris has a mission, and she’s on it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Presidential candidate Cornel West joins pro-Palestinian protest at Columbia University, April 18, 2024. Patrick Svitek, Independent presidential candidate Cornel West, right, joined a pro-Palestinian protest Thursday at Columbia University that school officials and police were working to disperse.

cornell westMultiple social media posts showed West addressing protesters with a bullhorn.

“I’m here in solidarity with each and every one of you,” he said. “We are in solidarity with human suffering, especially when it is imposed by human beings — and I’m talking about the indescribable genocide in Gaza.”

West, a longtime liberal activist and philosopher, has been outspoken about the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after six months of Israel’s war against the militant group Hamas. His campaign said Thursday evening that he was unavailable to comment further because he was still with the protesters.

While West is polling in the low single digits, Democrats have been closely monitoring independent and third-party candidates as President Biden expects a close race against former president Donald Trump in November. Democrats have been especially concerned about defections over Biden’s approach to the war in Gaza, which some on his left see as too supportive of Israel.

A March poll from Quinnipiac University found that Democratic voters nationwide were divided on the U.S. relationship with Israel. Forty-one percent said the United States is too supportive of Israel, while 43 percent said U.S. support of Israel is “about right.”

 

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Heads to Pennsylvania to Talk Taxes and Hit Trump, Neil Vigdor, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden kicked off a three-day tour of Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state, with a speech on Tuesday that focuses on taxes and aims to contrast his policies with those of former President Donald J. Trump.

In Scranton, his hometown, Mr. Biden is expected to talk about the tax code in the frame of economic fairness, arguing that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts benefited billionaires while his own agenda has helped working- and middle-class families.

washington post logoWashington Post, Presidential candidate Cornel West joins pro-Palestinian protest at Columbia University, Patrick Svitek, April 18, 2024. Independent presidential candidate Cornel West joined a pro-Palestinian protest Thursday at Columbia University that school officials and police were working to disperse.

“I’m here in solidarity with each and every one of you,” he said. “We are in solidarity with human suffering, especially when it is imposed by human beings — and I’m talking about the indescribable genocide in Gaza.”

West, a longtime liberal activist and philosopher, has been outspoken about the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after six months of Israel’s war against the militant group Hamas. His campaign said Thursday evening that he was unavailable to comment further because he was still with the protesters.

While West is polling in the low single digits, Democrats have been closely monitoring independent and third-party candidates as President Biden expects a close race against former president Donald Trump in November. Democrats have been especially concerned about defections over Biden’s approach to the war in Gaza, which some on his left see as too supportive of Israel.

A March poll from Quinnipiac University found that Democratic voters nationwide were divided on the U.S. relationship with Israel. Forty-one percent said the United States is too supportive of Israel, while 43 percent said U.S. support of Israel is “about right.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Trailing Biden in Cash, Relies on Big Donors to Try to Catch Up, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Republican donors have begun to open their checkbooks for Donald Trump, as he struggles to keep pace with President Biden.

Former President Donald J. Trump leaned heavily on major Republican donors in March as his campaign and the Republican Party sought to close the financial gap separating him from President Biden, new federal filings showed on Monday.

For much of the race, Mr. Trump has relied on small donors — in particular, those giving less than $200 online — to sustain his campaign. Most big donors steered clear.

But in recent weeks, as Mr. Trump finished trouncing his primary opponents and Mr. Biden and the Democrats gathered fund-raising steam, these donors have opened their checkbooks to the former president.

In the last two weeks of March alone, one committee backing Mr. Trump raised nearly $18 million, nearly all from six-figure contributions. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party finished the month with $93 million on hand between all their committees, his campaign has said, having raised more than $65 million in March.

Still, Republicans are lagging behind. In the first three months of the year, Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party together raised more than $187 million, his campaign has said, including $90 million in March, ending the month with $192 million on hand.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has not provided a full account of its first-quarter fund-raising. The two committees that filed on Monday reported raising nearly $90 million combined since January, but that does not include money raised directly by the campaign or the Republican National Committee.

The filings on Monday with the Federal Election Commission were the first detailed look this year at the joint fund-raising committees through which Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have raised the majority of their money. These committees, some of which can raise more than $800,000 from individual donors in concert with the candidates’ parties, transfer funds to the campaigns themselves and also build out national campaign operations.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, What a TikTok Ban Would Mean for the U.S. Defense of an Open Internet, David McCabe, April 17, 2024. Global digital rights advocates are watching to see if Congress acts, worried that other countries could follow suit with app bans of their own.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Could Threaten Critical Infrastructure in a Conflict, N.S.A. Chief Says, Julian E. Barnes, April 17, 2024. Gen. Timothy Haugh, who is also the head of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command, said Beijing was “sending a pretty clear signal.”

China has been trying to find ways to gain access to critical infrastructure in the United States so that it can threaten those systems in the event of a conflict, the National Security Agency director said on Wednesday.

Gen. Timothy D. Haugh, who took the helm of the N.S.A. and the U.S. military’s Cyber Command in February, said that Beijing had stepped up its cyberefforts and that the United States, in response, was working harder to disrupt that activity.

Last year, U.S. officials uncovered an effort by China to gain access to critical infrastructure in Guam, home to U.S. military bases, and in the continental United States. Microsoft called the intrusions Volt Typhoon, after a Chinese network of hackers who often avoided using detectable malware and instead used stealthier techniques to enter wastewater systems and communication networks.

“What you see in Volt Typhoon is an example of how China has approached establishing access to put things under threat,” General Haugh said at a security conference at Vanderbilt University. “There is not a valid intelligence reason to be looking at a water treatment plant from a cyberperspective.”

General Haugh said China was securing access to critical networks ahead of a direct confrontation between the two countries. While he did not say specifically what that could involve, other American officials have said that if China gained access to critical infrastructure near military bases, it could disrupt or shut down systems to sow chaos and slow response time to a crisis in the Pacific or over Taiwan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Rift Over Data Center Fueled Push to Expand Reach of Surveillance Program, Charlie Savage, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Privacy advocates are raising alarms about a mysterious provision the House added to a surveillance bill. The Senate will likely vote on the bill this week.

A hidden dispute over whether a data center for cloud computing must cooperate with a warrantless surveillance program prompted the House last week to add a mysterious provision to a bill extending the program, according to people familiar with the matter.

The disclosure helps clarify the intent behind an amendment that has alarmed privacy advocates as Senate leaders try to swiftly pass the bill, which would add two more years to a wiretapping law known as Section 702. The provision would add to the types of service providers that could be compelled to participate in the program, but it is written in enigmatic terms that make it hard to understand what it is supposed to permit.

Data centers are centralized warehouses of computer servers that can be accessed over the internet from anywhere in the world. In the cloud computing era, they are increasingly operated by third parties that rent out the storage space and computing power that make other companies’ online services work.

Even as national security officials described the provision as a narrow fix to a technical issue, they have declined to explain a classified court ruling from 2022 to which the provision is a response, citing the risk of tipping off foreign adversaries. Privacy advocates, for their part, have portrayed the amendment as dangerous, so broadly worded that it could be used to draft ordinary service people — like cable installers, janitors or plumbers who can gain physical access to office computer equipment — to act as spies.

Under Section 702, the government may collect, without a warrant and from U.S. companies like Google and AT&T, the communications of foreigners abroad who have been targeted for intelligence or counterterrorism purposes — even when they are communicating with Americans. Enacted in 2008, it legalized a form of the warrantless surveillance program President George W. Bush began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Specifically, after the court that oversees national security surveillance approves the government’s annual requests seeking to renew the program and setting rules for it, the administration sends directives to “electronic communications service providers” that require them to participate. If any such entity balks, the court decides whether it must cooperate.

Last August, the government partly declassified court rulings centered on the dispute. The surveillance court in 2022, and an appeals court panel a year later, sided with an unidentified company that had objected to being compelled to participate in the program because it believed one of its services did not fit the necessary criteria.

The details were redacted. But according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, the judges found that a data center service does not fit the legal definition of an “electronic communications service provider” because it does not itself give its users the ability to send or receive electronic messages.

Unredacted portions in both rulings suggested that Congress update the definition if the interpretation was a problem. “If the government believes that the scope of Section 702 directives should be broadened as a matter of national security policy, its recourse is with Congress,” wrote Judge Rudolph Contreras, then the presiding judge of the surveillance court.

American Flag

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military review disputes that Marines had Kabul bomber in sights, Dan Lamothe, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The newly released findings contradict allegations made by Marines who survived a devastating bombing during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan.

Department of Defense SealMarines who survived a devastating suicide bombing during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan were mistaken in their belief that they had the attacker in their gun sights hours before the blast, a new military review determined, disputing allegations made before Congress and in the media.

The findings, released Monday after they were shared with the families of 13 service members killed in the August 2021 attack at the edge of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, relied in part on facial recognition technology and interviews with the Marines and others who were not questioned during a previous investigation conducted soon after the explosion. The new review found that the Marines, while diligently performing their jobs on a sniper team, conflated vetted intelligence reports with unverified “spot reports” made by service members on site, leading to confusion.

“Over the past two years, some service members have claimed that they had the bomber in their sights, and they could have prevented the attack,” a member of the review team said, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon. “But we now know that is not correct.”

The renewed scrutiny underscores how the bombing, which also killed about 170 Afghans and wounded 45 additional U.S. troops, continues to haunt survivors and the Biden administration.

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President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, welcome Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on Tuesday (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, welcome Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, on Tuesday (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

 

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, 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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washington post logoWashington Post, Texas county at center of border fight is overwhelmed by migrant deaths, Arelis R. Hernández, Marina Dias and Daniele Volpe, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). A county that is ground zero in the feud between Gov. Greg Abbott and the Biden administration over the border has been overwhelmed responding to migrant deaths.

The undertaker lighted a cigarette and held it between his latex-gloved fingers as he stood over the bloated body bag lying in the bed of his battered pickup truck.

texas mapThe woman had been fished out of the Rio Grande minutes earlier. Now, her body lay stiff as mortician Jesus “Chuy” Gonzalez drove away from the muddy boat ramp and toward an overcrowded freezer, passing mobile homes and a casino along the way.

Maverick County purchased the trailer during the pandemic to handle covid-19 victims. It was designed to hold 20 bodies but on this day held 28 — the putrefied remains testifying to two dozen shattered dreams of reaching the United States. Only half had names.

Gonzalez didn’t flinch as he swung the freezer’s doors open. He has been around so much death that the stench of decomposition no longer bothers him. A large silver Virgen de Guadalupe dangled from his chest as he maneuvered the woman into a wooden barrack.

Nearby lay the body of a man whose arms were frozen as if he were blocking a blow. His jeans and shoes were still covered in river mud and his face marbled with sickly discoloration. Several members of a Venezuelan family who drowned together were also scattered inside the trailer. They had been there since mid-November.

Record-level migration has brought record-breaking death to Maverick County, a border community that is ground zero in the feud between Texas and the Biden administration over migration. Whereas in a typical month years ago, officials here might have recovered one or two bodies from the river, more recently they have handled that amount in a single day. While border crossings draw the most attention in the national debate about immigration, the rising number of deaths in the Rio Grande has gone largely unnoticed.

First responders have run out of body bags and burial plots. Their rescue boats and recovery trucks are covered in dents and scratches, scars from navigating through the brush to retrieve floating bodies. County officials say they don’t have the training or supplies to collect DNA samples of each unidentified migrant as required by state law, meaning bodies are sometimes left in fridges for months or even buried with scant attempt to identify them.

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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.

 

ana reyes judiciary committeePolitico, ‘Are you kidding me?’: Biden-appointed judge torches DOJ for blowing off Hunter Biden-related subpoenas from House GOP, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, April 8, 2024 (print ed.). Judge Ana Reyes, above, delivered a memorable tongue-lashing to both sides in a hearing Friday over subpoenas to Justice Department lawyers who worked on the Hunter Biden tax probe.

politico CustomA federal judge tore into the Justice Department on Friday for blowing off Hunter Biden-related subpoenas issued in the impeachment probe of his father, President Joe Biden, pointing out that a former aide to Donald Trump is sitting in prison for similar defiance of Congress.

U.S. District Judge Ana Reyes, a Biden appointee on the federal District Court in Washington, spent nearly an hour accusing Justice Department attorneys of rank hypocrisy for instructing two other lawyers in the DOJ Tax Division not to comply with the House subpoenas.

“There’s a person in jail right now because you all brought a criminal lawsuit against him because he did not appear for a House subpoena,” Reyes said, referring to the recent imprisonment of Peter Navarro, a former Trump trade adviser, for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee. “And now you guys are flouting those subpoenas. … And you don’t have to show up?”

“I think it’s quite rich you guys pursue criminal investigations and put people in jail for not showing up,” but then direct current executive branch employees to take the same approach, the judge added. “You all are making a bunch of arguments that you would never accept from any other litigant.”

It was a remarkable, frenetic thrashing in what was expected to be a relatively routine, introductory status conference after the House Judiciary Committee sued last month to enforce its subpoena of DOJ attorneys Mark Daly and Jack Morgan over their involvement in the investigation of Hunter Biden’s alleged tax crimes.

Republicans are demanding the two attorneys testify and say it’s crucial for their ongoing impeachment probe of the elder Biden. But the Justice Department argues that subpoenaing two rank-and-file, or “line,” attorneys to seek details about an ongoing investigation would be a violation of the separation of powers.

Reyes has been on the bench for just over a year. Rarely seeming to stop to catch her breath, she repeatedly dressed down DOJ attorney James Gilligan as he sought to explain the department’s position, scolding him at times for interrupting her before continuing a torrid tongue-lashing that DOJ rarely receives from the bench. She delved into great detail about the nuances of House procedure — like the chamber’s rule against allowing executive branch lawyers to attend depositions — and even asked whether the Judiciary Committee had followed internal rules requiring that the ranking Democrat on the panel be notified of the subpoena to the DOJ attorneys before it was issued.

Yet, perhaps even more remarkably, Reyes seemed inclined to support DOJ’s central argument that the line attorneys cannot be compelled to answer substantive questions from Congress. They just need to show up and assert privileges on a question-by-question basis, she said — the type of thing, she said, that DOJ demands from others “seven days a week … and twice on Sunday.”

Indeed, while Reyes was withering in her attacks on the DOJ’s position, she was similarly unflinching in her criticism of the House for its stance in the dispute — particularly its claim that line lawyers working on the Hunter Biden tax probe are not entitled to attorney-client privilege. She also said she thought it absurd for the House to argue that privilege was waived because it was obscuring some crime or fraud within the executive branch.

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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).

 

More On Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Drought Pushes Millions Into ‘Acute Hunger’ in Southern Africa, Somini Sengupta and Manuela Andreoni, April 18, 2024. The disaster, intensified by El Niño, is devastating communities across several countries, killing crops and livestock and sending food prices soaring.

An estimated 20 million people in southern Africa are facing what the United Nations calls “acute hunger” as one of the worst droughts in more than four decades shrivels crops, decimates livestock and, after years of rising food prices brought on by pandemic and war, spikes the price of corn, the region’s staple crop.

Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all declared national emergencies.

It is a bitter foretaste of what a warming climate is projected to bring to a region that’s likely to be acutely affected by climate change, though scientists said on Thursday that the current drought is more driven by the natural weather cycle known as El Niño than by global warming.

Its effects are all the more punishing because in the past few years the region had been hit by cyclones, unusually heavy rains and a widening outbreak of cholera.

 People gathered outside Crocus City Hall outside Moscow after the terrorist attack there last month. Russia charged four migrant laborers from Tajikistan with the assault (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann).

People gathered outside Crocus City Hall outside Moscow after the terrorist attack there last month. Russia charged four migrant laborers from Tajikistan with the assault (New York Times photo by Nanna Heitmann). 

ny times logoNew York Times, An ISIS Terror Group Draws Half Its Recruits From Tiny Tajikistan, Neil MacFarquhar and Eric Schmitt, April 18, 2024. Young migrants from the former Soviet republic were accused of an attack on a concert hall in Moscow that killed 145 people.

The mother of one of the suspects in the bloody attack on a concert hall near Moscow last month wept as she talked about her son.

How, she wondered, did he go from the bumpy, dirt roads of their village in Tajikistan, in Central Asia, to sitting, bruised and battered, in a Russian courtroom accused of terrorism? Even though he spent five years in Tajik prisons as a teenager, she said he never exhibited signs of violent extremism.

“We need to understand — who is recruiting young Tajiks, why do they want to highlight us as a nation of terrorists?” said the mother, Muyassar Zargarova.

Many governments and terrorism experts are asking the same question.

Tajik adherents of the Islamic State — especially within its affiliate in Afghanistan known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (I.S.K.P.), or ISIS-K — have taken increasingly high-profile roles in a string of recent terrorist attacks. Over the last year alone, Tajiks have been involved in assaults in Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as foiled plots in Europe. ISIS-K is believed to have several thousand soldiers, with Tajiks constituting more than half, experts said.

“They have become key to I.S.K.P.’s externally focused campaign as it seeks to gain attention and more recruits,” said Edward Lemon, an international relations professor at Texas A&M University who specializes in Russia, Tajikistan and terrorism.

An increasingly authoritarian former Soviet republic, Tajikistan ranks among the world’s poorest countries, which fuels discontent and drives millions of migrant laborers to seek better lives abroad. In a country of 10 million people, a majority of working men, estimated at more than two million, seek employment abroad at any given time.

And most migrants end up in Russia, where rampant discrimination, low wages, poor prospects and isolation make some susceptible to jihadist recruiters. Officially, about 1.3 million Tajik laborers are in Russia, although experts believe hundreds of thousands of others work there illegally.

ny times logoNew York Times, German Far-Right Leader Goes on Trial for Nazi Slogans, Erika Solomon, April 18, 2024.  Björn Höcke, of the Alternative for Germany party, has used the banned slogans at rallies and has called his trial an attempt to suppress patriotism.

One of Germany’s most prominent far-right leaders, Björn Höcke, stands trial on Thursday, facing charges of using banned Nazi slogans at political rallies.

Using National Socialist slogans and symbols is a punishable crime in Germany, which, because of the legacy of Hitler’s rise to power, has a far more restrictive approach to free speech compared to democracies like the United States.

Mr. Höcke heads the far-right Alternative for Germany, known by its German abbreviation, AfD, in the state of Thuringia. Both he and the state branch he leads have been classified by domestic intelligence as right-wing extremist and are under surveillance.

He is facing trial for using the slogan “Everything for Germany” at a speech in the eastern state of Saxony, where he is being put on trial. It was the slogan of the National Socialist paramilitary group, or Storm Troopers, and was engraved on their knives.

Mr. Höcke has said he did not know the phrase was a Nazi slogan. But critics have insisted that argument is not credible, given he was a history teacher before he became a politician. And they note that AfD politicians in two other states have already been stopped by authorities in past years for using the slogan.

The trial will take place in the city of Halle, at the state’s highest court and is expected to last until May 14. If found guilty, Mr. Höcke could face a short prison term or a fine. The court could also decide to temporarily revoke his right to vote and run in elections. Such a decision would be a major blow during a pivotal election year in Germany, in which Mr. Höcke and the AfD are expected to gain the largest share of votes.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Had a ‘Special Place’ in Modi’s Heart. Now It’s a Thorn in His Side, Mujib Mashal and Sameer Yasir, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). As Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a third term, India’s rupture with China looms over a pillar of his campaign: making his country a major power.

Narendra Modi once looked up to China. As a business-friendly Indian state leader, he traveled there repeatedly to attract investment and see how his country could learn from its neighbor’s economic transformation. China, he said, has a “special place in my heart.” Chinese officials cheered on his march to national power as that of “a political star.”

China FlagBut not long after Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014, China made clear that the relationship would not be so easy. Just as he was celebrating his 63rd birthday by hosting China’s leader, Xi Jinping — even sitting on a swing with him at a riverside park — hundreds of Chinese troops were intruding on India’s territory in the Himalayas, igniting a weekslong standoff.

A decade later, ties between the world’s two most populous nations are almost completely broken. Continued border incursions flared into a ferocious clash in 2020 that threatened to lead to all-out war. Mr. Modi, a strongman who controls every lever of power in India and has expanded its relations with many other countries, appears uncharacteristically powerless in the face of the rupture with China.

As Mr. Modi seeks a third term in an election that begins on Friday, the tensions weigh heavily on the overarching narrative of his campaign: that he is making India a major global power and, by extension, restoring national pride. Far from the 2,100-mile border, along every avenue where India seeks to expand, China looms as a fierce competitor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protesters in Niger Call for U.S. Military Exit as Russian Force Arrives, Elian Peltier, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Trainers and equipment from Russia landed in the West African nation this week, putting the continued presence of 1,000 U.S. military personnel there in doubt.

Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital of Niger on Saturday called for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces personnel stationed in the West African nation, only days after Russia delivered its own set of military equipment and instructors to the country’s military.

niger map CustomThe demonstration in the capital, Niamey, fit a well-known pattern in some countries in the region, run by military juntas, that have severed ties with Western nations in recent years and turned to Russia instead to fight extremist insurgencies.

“U.S. Army, you leave, you move, you vanish,” read one sign brandished by a protester. “No bonus, no negotiation.”

About 1,000 American military personnel are stationed at a remote drone base in Niger’s desert, from which they fly drones tracking movements of extremist groups in Niger and throughout the region.

But the United States suspended its military cooperation with Niger’s military last summer, when mutinous soldiers seized power in the country. That rupture has kept the drones grounded and the troops inactive. Last month, Niger ordered the U.S. troops to leave, declaring their presence illegal.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 6 Dead in a Mall Stabbing That Horrifies Australians, Isabella Kwai, Yan Zhuang and John Yoon, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). The attack in Sydney was Australia’s deadliest in eight years. A police officer shot the attacker, the authorities said.

A man killed at least six people and injured at least two others during a stabbing rampage at a popular shopping mall in Sydney, Australia on Saturday afternoon, in one of the country’s deadliest acts of mass violence in recent decades.

The authorities said a man wielding a knife entered the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center and began stabbing people before a lone police officer shot and killed him. Five people died of their injuries at the scene and one died later in the hospital, the police said. Among those hospitalized, some in a critical condition, was a nine-month-old baby.

Police officials on Saturday did not formally identify the attacker, but said that they believed they knew who he was, and that he had acted alone. His motives were unclear, but they said that the victims did not appear to have been targeted. If their belief about the attacker’s identity is confirmed, they said, the attack was not a “terrorism incident.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Former U.S. Ambassador Is Sentenced to 15 Years for Acting as Cuban Agent, Patricia Mazzei, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Manuel Rocha pleaded guilty to two charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent, under an agreement with the U.S. government.

A former United States ambassador accused of working for decades as a secret agent for Cuba in one of the biggest national security breaches in years pleaded guilty on Friday and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Manuel Rocha, 73, pleaded guilty to two charges — conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent and failing to register as a foreign agent — as part of an agreement with the federal government. He also faces three years of supervised release, and a $500,000 fine.

Mr. Rocha, wearing a beige prison uniform and black glasses, conceded before he was sentenced to the “betrayal of my oath of loyalty to the United States during my two decades in the State Department.”

“During my formative years in college, I was heavily influenced by the radical politics of the day,” said Mr. Rocha, who prosecutors said was recruited by Cuban intelligence agents in 1973. “Today, I no longer see the world through the radical eyes of my youth.”

In imposing the sentence, Judge Beth Bloom of Federal District Court in Miami said that as recently as 2022 and 2023 Mr. Rocha was recorded by an undercover F.B.I. agent showing “a lack of allegiance of the United States.”

“You turned your back on the country,” she said. “A country that gave you everything.”

The proceedings did not shed much light on Mr. Rocha’s dealings with the Cuban government or whether he shared secrets during his diplomatic career, which included serving as ambassador to Bolivia and briefly working in a White House role under President Bill Clinton.

In an unusual turn of events, Judge Bloom expressed deep frustration with prosecutors for not seeking more penalties for Mr. Rocha, such as forfeiture of his assets. She demanded changes to the plea deal from the bench and pressed prosecutors to reveal more about when the government learned that Mr. Rocha had become “an enemy of the United States government.”

Prosecutors said details beyond those made public in the indictment were classified.

“This case is a reminder that we face espionage and insider threats from a range of adversaries,” David Newman, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, said at a news conference in Miami — home to the nation’s largest population of Cuban exiles — after Mr. Rocha’s sentencing.

Mr. Rocha was charged in December with acting as an agent of a foreign government; he was also charged with defrauding the United States, wire fraud and making false statements to obtain and use an American passport.

Prosecutors dropped the other charges as part of his plea agreement; the wire fraud charge had carried a 20-year maximum sentence. Mr. Rocha last appeared in court in February, when he indicated that he would change his earlier plea of not guilty.

washington post logoWashington Post, A narco revolt takes a once-peaceful nation to the brink, Samantha Schmidt and Arturo Torres, April 13, 2024 (print ed.). Ecuador’s young president declared war on the country’s powerful drug gangs after they sparked a wave of violence, including killings, kidnapping and car bombs.

The investigation was called “Metastasis,” a sweeping probe into links between parts of Ecuador’s political and legal establishment and the country’s ruthless drug gangs. On Dec. 14, Ecuador’s attorney general announced the arrests of 30 people, including senior judges, prosecutors, police officials, prison officers and prominent defense lawyers. All of them, she said, were part of an organized criminal scheme to benefit one of the country’s top drug traffickers.

“Fellow citizens, the Metastasis case is a clear X-ray of how drug trafficking has taken over the institutions of the state,” Diana Salazar Méndez, the country’s top law enforcement official, said in a video address from her fortress headquarters.

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Russia-Ukraine War, Russian War Goals

Steady, Commentary: Playing Politics with People’s Lives, Dan Rather, right, and Team Steady, April 16-17, 2024. Russia dan rather 2017advances, Ukraine begs, Republicans dither.

dan rather steady logoWe at Steady always try to find hope in the news. We don’t sugarcoat things but look for solutions that can bring about better outcomes. Today’s story cannot be seen in a light other than a dire one. But it is incredibly important, for the people of Ukraine in the short term and the rest of the world in the long term.

So far this year the war in Ukraine is going according to plan … Vladimir Putin’s plan. The Russian leader couldn’t have choreographed it any better. It’s as if he has de facto agents in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His invasion of Ukraine had stalled, but for the last several months, Putin’s been bailed out by lack of funding for Ukraine, courtesy of House Republicans. Consequently, Russian troops are now advancing in eastern Ukraine. According to Washington Post reporters on the ground, “Russians are seizing new territory and intensifying attacks.” Russian troops have destroyed the largest power plant outside the capital city of Kyiv. Ukraine’s military chief said the situation on the ground has “significantly worsened in recent days.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky is openly pleading for help. He posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We need air defense systems and other defense assistance, not just turning a blind eye and having lengthy discussions.”

It’s no secret who Zelensky thinks is turning a blind eye. House Republicans are ambivalent at best, and collaborators at worst. But what do they really think? Left to their own devices, without arm twisting from Donald Trump, Ukraine would have the weapons and supplies it needs. But Trump and his enabler-in-chief Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene have been helping Russia at every turn.

Former Republican Representative Ken Buck, who recently resigned from Congress, calls Greene “Moscow Marjorie” and says she gets her talking points from the Kremlin. That’s from a Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine’s Big Vulnerabilities: Ammunition, Soldiers and Air Defense, Marc Santora, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Commanders are confronted with near impossible choices on how to deploy limited resources. Here is a look at the critical challenges Ukraine faces.

Ukraine’s top military commander has issued a bleak assessment of the army’s positions on the eastern front, saying they have “worsened significantly in recent days.”

Russian forces were pushing hard to exploit their growing advantage in manpower and ammunition to break through Ukrainian lines, the commander, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said in a statement over the weekend.

“Despite significant losses, the enemy is increasing his efforts by using new units on armored vehicles, thanks to which he periodically achieves tactical gains,” the general said.

At the same time, Ukraine’s energy ministry told millions of civilians to charge their power banks, get their generators out of storage and “be ready for any scenario” as Ukrainian power plants are damaged or destroyed in devastating Russian airstrikes.

With few critical military supplies flowing into Ukraine from the United States for months, commanders are being forced to make difficult choices over where to deploy limited resources as the toll on civilians grows daily.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s ‘peace plan’ would mean Ukraine’s defeat, Max Boot, right, April 15, 2024. If elected again, Trump claims max boot screen shothe would end the war in 24 hours, but he has been cagey about how he would pull off this miraculous feat, supposedly so that he could maintain his flexibility to negotiate.

Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, proclaimed after meeting with Trump last month that the former president’s formula was simple and cynical: “He will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war. Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet.”

Trump aides told The Post that Orban’s statement, which sounded entirely plausible to me, was “false,” even though Trump has not publicly contradicted it. The aides explained that the presumptive GOP nominee’s actual plan is to push for “Ukraine to cede Crimea and Donbas border region to Russia” in return for an end to the Russian invasion.

If that is Trump’s plan, it is more preposterous than anything Nixon ever contemplated during the Vietnam War. It displays a witches’ brew of arrogance, ignorance and defeatism.

It is possible, admittedly, that Putin might eventually abandon his maximalist objectives if he were convinced that his military forces were headed toward defeat. But Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year failed, and Russia is now reportedly readying a major offensive that has the potential to break through Ukrainian lines. The defenders are running critically low on ammunition because Trump’s allies in the House have been blocking the passage of aid to Ukraine. The top U.S. general in Europe warned last week that Russia’s 5-to-1 advantage in artillery shells could soon become 10 to 1 if U.S. aid isn’t forthcoming.

washington post logoWashington Post, Drones are crowding Ukraine’s skies, largely paralyzing battlefield, Siobhán O'Grady and Kostiantyn Khudov, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). So many drones patrol the skies over Ukraine’s front lines — hunting for any signs of movement — that Ukrainian and Russian troops have little ability to move on the battlefield without being spotted, and blown up.

ukraine flagInstead, on missions, they rush from one foxhole to another, hoping the pilots manning the enemy drones overhead are not skilled enough to find them inside. Expert drone operators, their abilities honed on the front, can stalk just a single foot soldier to their death, diving after them into hideouts and trenches.

The surge in small drones in Ukraine has turned the area beyond either side of the zero line — normally known as “the gray zone” — into “the death zone,” said Oleksandr Nastenko, commander of Code 9.2, a drone unit in Ukraine’s 92nd brigade. Those who dare to move day or night under the prying eyes of enemy drones “are dead immediately,” he said.

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vladimir putin 9 30 2022

 

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, 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, A few Jan. 6 rioters have been freed ahead of the Supreme Court’s review of the law, Alan Feuer, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the soundness of an obstruction law that has been widely used against those who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is already having an effect on some of the rioters.

A small group of people convicted under the law have been released from custody — or will soon go free — even though the justices hearing arguments on Tuesday are not expected to decide the case for months.

Over the past several weeks, federal judges in Washington have agreed to release about 10 defendants who were serving prison terms because of the obstruction law, saying the defendants could wait at home as the court determined whether the law should have been used at all to keep them locked up.

Among those already free is Matthew Bledsoe, the owner of a moving company from Tennessee who scaled a wall outside the Capitol and then paraded through the building with a Trump flag, ultimately planting it in the arm of a statue of President Gerald R. Ford.

Soon to be released are defendants like Kevin Seefried, a drywall installer from Delaware who carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol, and Alexander Sheppard, an Ohio man who overran police lines to become one of the first people to break into the building.

The interrupted sentences — which could be reinstated depending on how the Supreme Court rules — are just one of the complications to have emerged from the court’s review of the obstruction statute, known in the penal code as 18 U.S.C. 1512. The charge has been used so far against more than 350 rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, and members of the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

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Then-President Trump speaking to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 outside the White House in advance of a mob moving east to overrun the U.S. Capitol, thereby threatening the election certification djt jan 6 speech

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Nears Settlement Over F.B.I.’s Failure to Investigate Nassar, Juliet Macur and Glenn Thrush, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The deal would bring an end to one of the last major cases involving Larry Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls.

The Justice Department is nearing a $100 million settlement over its initial failure to investigate Lawrence G. Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls under his care, according to people familiar with the situation.

The deal, which could be announced in coming weeks, would bring an end to one of the last major cases stemming from a horrific sports scandal, with around 100 victims in line to receive compensation.

The approach of a settlement comes two and a half years after senior F.B.I. officials publicly admitted that agents had failed to take quick action when U.S. national team athletes complained about Mr. Nassar to the bureau’s Indianapolis field office in 2015, when Mr. Nassar was a respected physician known for working with Olympians and college athletes. He has been accused of abusing more than 150 women and girls over the years.

The broad outline of the deal is in place, but it has not yet been completed, according to several people with knowledge of the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations.

The details of the settlement deal were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

It would be the latest in a series of big payouts that reflect the inability of institutions to protect hundreds of athletes — including the Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman — from a doctor who justified his serial sexual abuse by claiming he was using unconventional treatments.

In 2018, Michigan State University, which employed Mr. Nassar, paid more than $500 million into a victim compensation fund, believed to be the largest settlement by a university in a sexual abuse case. Three years later, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee reached a $380 million settlement.

Many of the girls and women abused by Mr. Nassar have battled mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have attempted suicide because of the abuse, which Mr. Nassar perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment.

A 2021 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that senior F.B.I. officials in the Indianapolis field office failed to respond to the allegations “with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required” and that the investigation did not proceed until after the news media detailed Mr. Nassar’s abuse.

F.B.I. officials in the office also “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond” to the allegations and failed to notify state or local authorities of the allegations or take other steps to address the threat posed by Mr. Nassar, the inspector general’s report said.

In heart-wrenching testimony two months later, former members of the national gymnastics team described how the F.B.I. had turned a blind eye to Mr. Nassar’s abuse as the investigation stalled and children suffered. Some, including Ms. Raisman, said that agents moved slowly to investigate even after they presented the bureau with graphic evidence of his actions.

The revelations prompted an extraordinary apology from the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who did not oversee the bureau when the investigation began. “I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr, a vocal Trump critic, says he will ‘support the Republican ticket’ in November, Amy B Wang, April 18, 2024. Former attorney general previously said voting for Trump would be “playing Russian roulette with the country,” but said Wednesday that a “continuation of the Biden administration is national suicide.”

Former attorney general William P. Barr effectively endorsed former president Donald Trump on Wednesday, despite having previously criticized Trump’s conduct while in office and once comparing him to a “defiant, 9-year-old kid.”

Justice Department log circularAsked Wednesday whether he would vote for Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, in November, Barr told Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” that he would vote for the Republican ticket.

“I’ve said all along, given two bad choices, I think it’s my duty to pick the person I think would do the least harm to the country, and in my mind, that’s — I will vote the Republican ticket,” said Barr, who remains a Republican. “I’ll support the Republican ticket.”

His remarks were a shift from his previous refusal to endorse Trump during the GOP presidential primary, when he was one of many former Trump aides who said they would prefer not to see Trump on the ballot in November. Many of those people, including former vice president Mike Pence, have demurred when asked whether they would vote for Trump if he is the Republican nominee. Others, like former national security adviser John Bolton, have outright stated that they would vote for neither Trump nor President Biden.

Barr, a lifelong Republican, previously served as U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under former president George H.W. Bush, and again as attorney general under Trump from 2019 to 2020. He resigned from Trump’s Cabinet on Dec. 14, 2020, after publicly disputing the former president’s claims that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump would later claim he had demanded Barr’s resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bryan Kohberger’s alibi in Idaho killings to hinge on phone location, Justine McDaniel, April 18, 2024.  Bryan Kohberger, the graduate student accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, plans to offer witness testimony alleging that his cellphone was not near the scene of the murders on the night they occurred, according to a new court filing from his attorney.

Kohberger had already indicated his alibi in court documents — that he was out driving at the time of the 4 a.m. killings. The Wednesday filing by Kohberger’s attorney, Anne Taylor, suggests that he will attempt to prove it through testimony from a cell-tower expert who will claim that Kohberger’s cellphone was in the wrong location to connect him to the killings.

That testimony would contradict prosecutors’ allegation that cellphone data placed Kohberger on a highway driving away from the town where the killings occurred that night.

The report shows the Maui Fire Department first learned a power pole had snapped, sending “low hanging wires across” the road at 5:16 a.m. on Aug. 8, prompting fire officers to immediately alert Hawaiian Electric, referred to as Maui Electric in the report.

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Prisoners Face Higher Rate of Botched Executions, Study Finds, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 18, 2024. Lethal injections of Black people in the United States were botched more than twice as often as those of white people, according to a report from an anti-death-penalty group.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Latest Impeachment Is History, but the Political Repercussions Will Live On, April 18, 2024. Republicans say the quick dismissal of charges against Alejandro Mayorkas sets a dangerous precedent. Democrats say the opposite.

Politico, DeSantis suspended him from his job. He wants voters to put him back in office, Gary Fineout, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Tampa Democrat Andrew Warren has been locked in a protracted legal battle with the Republican governor after he was suspended from his elected position of state attorney in 2022.

politico CustomThe Tampa prosecutor suspended from his job by Gov. Ron DeSantis — who remains locked in a legal battle with the governor — announced Tuesday he would ask voters to return him to his post.

Andrew Warren, a Democrat who was twice elected as Hillsborough County state attorney, said back in January he would not run for another term because there was a chance that DeSantis would suspend him again if he won. But two days after that announcement, a federal appeals court ruled against DeSantis, below, although the court did not reinstate Warren.

ron desantis hands outWarren on Tuesday called DeSantis’ suspension “illegal” and said that the current state attorney appointed to succeed him was picked for her “blind allegiance” to the governor.

“I’m running to keep our neighborhoods safe. I’m running to fight for victims and to make our criminal justice system better,” Warren said in a video posted on his social media accounts on Tuesday. “And I’m running to protect our values, for a woman’s right to choose, for a fair and just system, and above all for freedom and democracy.”

DeSantis suspended Warren in August 2022 and a year later suspended Orlando state attorney Monique Worrell, who is also a Democrat. Worrell, who has challenged her suspension in the courts, is also running for reelection.
'Weak dictator': Florida prosecutor slams DeSantis after suspension

In dismissing them, the governor contended that both prosecutors were ignoring the law and not following their duties. He frequently cited the suspensions during his unsuccessful presidential campaign as an example of him going after progressive prosecutors. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Warren. Suzy Lopez, a Republican appointed by DeSantis to fill Warren’s role, has raised a little more than $288,000 so far for her bid for a full term.

Warren made his reelection announcement just days before official qualifying begins for state attorney and other judicial posts. But it also comes after abortion rights have skyrocketed as a campaign issue in Florida.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court allowed a citizen initiative guaranteeing abortion access to go to the November ballot. But at the same time, the court signed off on a decision that will lead to a new ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

One of the reasons Warren was suspended was because he signed a pledge in 2022 vowing not to enforce the state’s abortion laws, including a then-recently enacted ban on abortion after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest. He also signed another pledge saying he would not prosecute anyone for providing gender-affirming care to transgender patients, even though at the time he signed the pledge there were no laws covering those procedures. Florida would later institute a ban for minors.

 oj simpson nicole brown simpson ron goldman

ny times logoNew York Times, The O.J. Simpson Trial Served as a Landmark for Domestic Violence Awareness, Shaila Dewan and Julie Bosman, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). His acquittal in the infamous trial involving his wife’s death prompted a powerful backlash that helped change the perception around domestic violence.

In December 1994, investigators from the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office drilled open a safe deposit box that had belonged to Nicole Brown Simpson. In it, they found Polaroids of her with a battered face and letters from O.J. Simpson apologizing for abusing her.

“The message in the box was clear,” wrote Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the bombshell trial of Mr. Simpson for Ms. Brown Simpson’s murder, in a book about the case. “‘In the event of my death, look for this guy.’”

These pieces of evidence were presented in a trial that captivated the nation, showing the public a pattern of abuse and control in horrifying detail.

“It was kind of like America was learning about domestic violence all at once,” said Stephanie Love-Patterson, a consultant for Connections for Abused Women and Their Children, an organization in Chicago that provides support for victims of domestic violence.

Almost 30 years later, the case has received renewed attention after Mr. Simpson’s death this week. After a monthslong trial in 1995, Mr. Simpson was acquitted of killing Ms. Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A civil trial later found him liable for their deaths.

His dramatic trial, which prompted national conversations about race, celebrity, policing and discrimination, also served as a landmark moment in America’s evolving understanding of domestic violence. Media coverage of domestic abuse surged afterward, and the fervent attention encouraged many abuse survivors to reach out for help, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Donations to women’s shelters poured in.

“The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson brought private violence into public view,” said Amanda Pyron, the executive director of the Network, an advocacy organization in Chicago. “It forced people to really reckon with their feelings on relationship violence and the role of law enforcement in keeping women safe.”

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

washington post logoWashington Post, In Arizona, Democrats remind voters Trump, GOP led to revival of abortion ban, Mariana Alfaro and Sabrina Rodriguez, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats went on the attack in Arizona on Friday against Republicans over their apparent about-face on abortion rights and vowed to keep the issue front and center in the swing state that could sway both the presidential election and control of the U.S. Senate in November.

Democratic Senate candidate Ruben Gallego targeted his criticisms on Republican Kari Lake who, like presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, has scrambled to produce a moderate message on abortion after the Arizona Supreme Court this week ruled that a near-total abortion ban from 1864 can take effect in the coming weeks.

In a campaign memo obtained by The Washington Post, Nichole Johnson, Gallego’s campaign manager, attacked Lake’s shifting stance on the issue after the state court decision. And speaking to reporters before appearing alongside Vice President Harris at a campaign rally in Tucson, Gallego seized on the importance of abortion rights to voters, saying abortion access was “the number one political issue” in Arizona.

“Trump did this. We wouldn’t be having this issue at all if he didn’t appoint those three judges that ended up overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Gallego, who represents Arizona’s 3rd District encompassing much of Phoenix.

“There is no better example, starker example, of black and white,” he added. “Trump did this and Kari Lake was cheerleading the whole way.”

Hours later, Harris delivered a similar message onstage.

“The overturning of Roe was, without any question, a seismic event — and this ban here in Arizona is one of the biggest aftershocks yet,” Harris said.

“Donald Trump is the architect of this health-care crisis,” she said. “That is not a fact, by the way, that he hides. In fact, he brags about it.”

The ruling has made the Senate race in Arizona a microcosm of the national fight over abortion rights in an election that was already expected to be close.

That was a stark departure from comments she made during her failed gubernatorial bid in 2022, when she praised the 160-year-old measure that was enacted even before Arizona became a state as “a great law.” She had also called abortion the “ultimate sin” and frequently voiced her opposition to the procedure on the campaign trail.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans thwarted attempts to repeal an 1864 abortion ban, Jack Healy and Kate Zernikem, April 12, 2024 (print ed.). Democrats in both houses of the Legislature were blocked from advancing bills to roll back the reinstated ban on nearly all abortions in the state.

arizona mapA decision by Arizona’s highest court upholding an 1864 ban on nearly all abortions created chaos and confusion across the state on Wednesday. As abortion providers were flooded with phone calls from frantic patients, Republican lawmakers at the State Capitol blocked efforts to undo the ban, prompting angry jeers from Democrats.

Democrats, who seized on the decision to resurrect the 160-year-old ban as a pivotal election issue, tried to push bills through the Republican-controlled Legislature to repeal the ban, a move they said would protect women’s health and freedom, and also force Republicans to take a formal vote on the law.

But Republican leaders in the Senate removed one bill from the day’s agenda on Wednesday, legislative aides said. In the House, a Republican lawmaker who had called for striking down the law made a motion to vote on a Democratic repeal bill that has sat stalled for months. But Republican leaders quickly scuttled that effort by calling for a recess, and later adjourned until next Wednesday.

Democrats on the Senate floor yelled “Shame!” and “Save women’s lives!” as their Republican colleagues filed out of the chamber.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t move forward,” said State Senator Anna Hernandez, Democrat of Phoenix. “Are they serious about this or are they not?” she said of the Republicans. “Are they just backpedaling when they realize they’re on the losing side of a policy battle?”

Despite the pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to undo the law, it was uncertain whether Republican leaders, who narrowly control both chambers of the Legislature, would allow any immediate action on proposals to repeal the ban.

Representative Teresa Martinez, a Republican and abortion opponent, criticized Democrats for trying to force a vote a day after the court’s ruling. She called their chants and shouts extremist and insurrectionist behavior.

“We do not want to repeal the pre-Roe law without first having a conversation about it,” she said in a floor speech. “There is no reason to rush on this very important topic. We must listen to all viewpoints thoroughly. We cannot do that when our colleagues are acting in the way they did this morning.”

The Senate president and House speaker, both Republicans, issued a joint statement emphasizing that the court’s ruling had not yet taken effect and probably would not for weeks, as the legal fight over the 1864 law heads back to a lower court for additional arguments over its constitutionality.

ny times logoNew York Times, Teen Girls Confront an Epidemic of Deepfake Nudes in Schools, Natasha Singer, April 9, 2024 (print ed.). Using artificial intelligence, middle and high school students have fabricated explicit images of female classmates and shared the doctored pictures.

Westfield Public Schools held a regular board meeting in late March at the local high school, a red brick complex in Westfield, N.J., with a scoreboard outside proudly welcoming visitors to the “Home of the Blue Devils” sports teams.

But it was not business as usual for Dorota Mani.

In October, some 10th-grade girls at Westfield High School — including Ms. Mani’s 14-year-old daughter, Francesca — alerted administrators that boys in their class had used artificial intelligence software to fabricate sexually explicit images of them and were circulating the faked pictures. Five months later, the Manis and other families say, the district has done little to publicly address the doctored images or update school policies to hinder exploitative A.I. use.

“It seems as though the Westfield High School administration and the district are engaging in a master class of making this incident vanish into thin air,” Ms. Mani, the founder of a local preschool, admonished board members during the meeting.

In a statement, the school district said it had opened an “immediate investigation” upon learning about the incident, had immediately notified and consulted with the police, and had provided group counseling to the sophomore class.

Boys in several states have used widely available “nudification” apps to pervert real, identifiable photos of their clothed female classmates, shown attending events like school proms, into graphic, convincing-looking images of the girls with exposed A.I.-generated breasts and genitalia. In some cases, boys shared the faked images in the school lunchroom, on the school bus or through group chats on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, according to school and police reports.

Such digitally altered images — known as “deepfakes” or “deepnudes” — can have devastating consequences. Child sexual exploitation experts say the use of nonconsensual, A.I.-generated images to harass, humiliate and bully young women can harm their mental health, reputations and physical safety as well as pose risks to their college and career prospects. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that it is illegal to distribute computer-generated child sexual abuse material, including realistic-looking A.I.-generated images of identifiable minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Covid, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Long-Acting Drugs May Revolutionize H.I.V. Prevention and Treatment, Apoorva Mandavilli, April 17, 2024. New regimens in development, including once-weekly pills and semiannual shots, could help control the virus in hard-to-reach populations.

A pill taken once a week. A shot administered at home once a month. Even a jab given at a clinic every six months.

In the next five to 10 years, these options may be available to prevent or treat H.I.V. Instead of drugs that must be taken daily, scientists are closing in on longer-acting alternatives — perhaps even a future in which H.I.V. may require attention just twice a year, inconceivable in the darkest decades of the epidemic.

“This period is the next wave of innovation, newer products meeting the needs of people, particularly in prevention, in ways that we didn’t ever have before,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the H.I.V. prevention organization AVAC.

Long-acting therapies may obviate the need to remember to take a daily pill to prevent or treat H.I.V. And for some patients, the new drugs may ease the stigma of the disease, itself an obstacle to treatment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: This could be the worst year for measles in five years. There is a simple answer, Editorial Board, April 15, 2024 (print ed.). This year is not yet one-third over, yet measles cases in the United States are on track to be the worst since a massive outbreak in 2019. At the same time, anti-vaccine activists are recklessly sowing doubts and encouraging vaccine hesitancy.

Parents who leave their children unvaccinated are risking not only their health but also the well-being of those around them.

Measles is one of the most contagious human viruses — more so than the coronavirus — and is spread through direct or airborne contact when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. The virus can hang in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has left an area. It can cause serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death, especially in unvaccinated people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person infected with measles can infect 9 out of 10 unvaccinated individuals with whom they come in close contact.

But measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine; two doses are 97 percent effective. When 95 percent or more of a community is vaccinated, herd immunity protects the whole. Unfortunately, vaccination rates are falling. The global vaccine coverage rate of the first dose, at 83 percent, and second dose, at 74 percent, are well under the 95 percent level. Vaccination coverage among U.S. kindergartners has slipped from 95.2 percent during the 2019-2020 school year to 93.1 percent in the 2022-2023 school year, according to the CDC, leaving approximately 250,000 kindergartners at risk each year over the past three years.

Vaccine hesitancy is being encouraged by activists who warn of government coercion, using social media to amplify irresponsible claims. An article published March 20 on the website of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization is headlined, “Be Very Afraid? CDC, Big Media Drum Up Fear of ‘Deadly’ Measles Outbreaks.” The author, Alan Cassels, claims that the news media is advancing a “a fear-mongering narrative,” and adds, “Those of us born before 1970 with personal experience pretty much all agree that measles is a big ‘meh.’ We all had it ourselves and so did our brothers, sisters and school friends. We also had chicken pox and mumps and typically got a few days off school. The only side effect of those diseases was that my mom sighed heavily and called work to say she had to stay home to look after a kid with spots.”

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

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Economy, Propelled by Its Factories, Grew More Than Expected, Keith Bradsher and Alexandra Stevenson, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). A big bet on manufacturing helped China to counteract its housing slowdown, but other countries are worried about a flood of Chinese goods.

The Chinese economy grew more than expected in the first three months of the year, new data shows, as China built more factories and exported huge amounts of goods to counter a severe real estate crisis and sluggish spending at home.

To stimulate growth, China, the world’s second-largest economy, turned to a familiar tactic: investing heavily in its manufacturing sector, including a binge of new factories that have helped to propel sales around the world of solar panels, electric cars and other products.

But China’s bet on exports has worried many foreign countries and companies. They fear that a flood of Chinese shipments to distant markets may undermine their manufacturing industries and lead to layoffs.

washington post logoWashington Post, The economy is revving up at a terrible time for Biden, Abha Bhattarai and Tyler Pager, April 14, 2024 (print ed.). Higher inflation could lead the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates — and mortgage rates — elevated until late in the year, eluding political gain for Biden.

The booming economy is exacerbating a key vulnerability for President Biden heading into the height of campaign season, as inflation and interest rates could remain higher until deep into the final weeks of the presidential election.

Fresh data this week shows inflation picked up again in March, in the latest sign that the economy is overheating. Unexpectedly strong job growth, wages and consumer spending are a plus for most Americans but bad for inflation. The higher inflation reading makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates — and mortgage rates — elevated until late in the year, possibly until days after the election, eluding much political gain for Biden.

“It’s really a case of bad luck,” said Karen Dynan, a professor at Harvard University and former Treasury Department chief economist. “The Biden administration has made some big strides but it’s up against one of the most disruptive economies in decades. Rate cuts would be a welcome development for a lot of people, but the prospects for cuts have really changed given what’s happening with inflation.”

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia President Tells House a Tougher Stand on Antisemitism Is Needed, Nicholas Fandos and Sharon Otterman, April 18, 2024 (print ed.). The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed some professors had crossed a line as she testified before Congress over student safety and free speech.

columbia logoColumbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed on Wednesday that the university needed to take a tougher stance on antisemitism, in response to harsh questioning from a Republican-led House committee in an almost four-hour hearing.

Republicans described what they called a pervasive pattern of bias, including assaults, harassment and vandalism from students and faculty on campus since the Israel-Hamas war began. The hearing was the latest in a campaign to try to prove that college campuses have done little to combat antisemitism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oklahoma officials tell trans pro wrestler not to compete in their state, Ben Brasch, April 18, 2024. Oklahoma's sports commission has asked a nationally televised professional wrestling promotion to not have a transgender wrestler face off against other women wrestlers again.

Washington native Nyla Rose — who works for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) — was warned by the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission not to wrestle another woman, according to the minutes of the Commission’s Jan. 3 meeting. The minutes were first reported by the blog Real Rasslin’ on Tuesday.

All of this was over a Dec. 20 match in Oklahoma City that lasted 120 seconds bell to bell between Rose and Alejandra Lion. Rose won after landing a power bomb. After the match, she took a cowboy hat off the head of a fan in the crowd and put it on her head to big applause.

Rose responded to the Oklahoma news by tweeting: “Don’t worry Oklahoma I’ll find the dastardly Transgender that *checks notes* entertained fans!!! HOW DARE THEY MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY?!!!”
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The Commission used the wrong pronouns for Rose in its minutes and said Rose should not have wrestled a woman. The former AEW Women’s World Champion has logged 99 wins and 47 losses while in AEW, according to the promotion’s website.

Transgender athletes have become a hotly debated topic in the broader culture wars, divided roughly into conservatives often arguing it isn’t fair to other competitors and liberals saying it invalidates gender identities when people who identify as women can’t compete against women. Battles over roster makeups have made their way into the courts, and to the desk of President Biden.

Now, the debate has made it to a place that subverts the binary of supposed reality every week on television: professional wrestling, where the outcomes are predetermined. It is theater, not sport. (Intergender pro wrestling happens but is rare in major promotions.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump deploys favorite political tool, social media, as legal cudgel, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs, April 18, 2024. Behind the scenes, researchers working for Trump’s legal defense are scouring prospective jurors’ online lives, hunting for bias.

 Donald Trump, whose social media posts fueled his improbable rise to the presidency, has found a new use for his favorite political tool — as ammunition in his legal battle against charges that he falsified business records in New York.

That strategy became clear on the second day of jury selection on Tuesday, as Trump lawyer Todd Blanche repeatedly used old social media posts by prospective jurors to argue that the judge should remove them from the panel for bias.

Behind the scenes, Trump’s defense team is scrambling to find and review potential jurors’ social media accounts, and when they find ones critical of the former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee, they are racing to show them to the judge to try to get those people dismissed.

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April 17

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washington post logoWashington Post, Momentum builds to oust House speaker as two Republicans say they would vote to remove him,  Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann Caldwell, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Rep. Thomas Massie announced he would join a bid by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to depose Mike Johnson after the speaker introduced a complex foreign aid package decoupling Israel aid from Ukraine aid.

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s job is in serious jeopardy as two far-right members are now threatening to oust him U.S. House logoafter the embattled Republican leader proposed a complex plan intended to fund key foreign allies during wartime.

mike johnson oJohnson (La.), right, introduced a four-part proposal Monday night to decouple aid for Israel, which faced a barrage of missiles and drone threats from Iran over the weekend, and help for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, along with two other measures. But his angry right flank — which has for weeks threatened to wrest Johnson’s gavel — escalated its attacks Tuesday morning, also vowing to sink a key procedural measure needed to consider his plan.

During a weekly Republican meeting Tuesday morning, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) upped the ante when hestood up and called on Johnson to resign after announcing that he signed on to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s plan to depose him, known as a motion to vacate.

That means that if Democrats choose not to rescue Johnson, Republicans would need just a simple majority to oust their second speaker in six months, causing the House to descend further into chaos during an election year when their slender grasp on the majority is at stake.

Massie said he had warned the speaker in a private conversation “weeks ago” that if the motion to oust him is called to the floor, and Democrats do not help bail him out, Republicans would be successful in removing him as speaker because “we’re steering everything toward what [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer wants.”

marjorie taylor greene sotu 2 7 2023The effort to remove Johnson, if Greene, left, moves forward with it, would surely further divide an already fractured conference that has proven extraordinarily difficult to manage. House Republicans have already ousted one speaker in the last year and struggled to pass legislation.

“The last thing this country needs is to throw a speaker out, although I disagree with what he’s doing … I wouldn’t put the country through that,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said.

Greene can trigger her motion to vacate at any time. It would have to be voted on within 48 hours.

ny times logoNew York Times, Johnson Schedules Vote on Foreign Aid, Putting His Job on the Line, Catie Edmondson, April 17, 2024. Speaker Mike Johnson, defying his party’s right flank, said he expected Saturday votes on a long-stalled aid package to Ukraine, Israel and other allies.

Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday told Republicans that the House would vote Saturday evening on his foreign aid package for Israel and Ukraine, pushing through resistance in his own party to advance a long-stalled national security spending package for U.S. allies.

His announcement came amid a crush of opposition from Republicans who are vehemently against sending more aid to Ukraine, and have vented for days as congressional aides race to write the legislation Mr. Johnson proposed on Monday.

The speaker, whose job is at risk as he defies his right flank on the measure, also announced that he would hold a separate vote on a border security bill “that includes the core components” of House Republicans’ stringent legislation, passed last May, that would crack down on unlawful immigration and revive severe Trump-era border restrictions. The move was a nod to ultraconservatives who have demanded that the speaker not advance aid to Ukraine without securing sweeping concessions from Democrats on immigration policy.

The legislative package Mr. Johnson is trying to advance roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago with aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other American allies, but broken into three pieces that would be voted on individually. There would be a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans, including conditioning Ukraine aid as a loan and a measure that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban.

The legislation includes $60 billion for Kyiv; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

“We’ve taken the Senate supplemental bill and we’ve improved the process and policy, and that’s a really important thing,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox News on Wednesday. “Every member gets to vote their own conscience.”

In a separate interview minutes later on CNN, he added: “We’re not the world’s policeman, but we’re going to do the right thing. And I think the Congress is going to take an important stand.”

After Mr. Johnson released the text of the aid plan on Wednesday afternoon, President Biden endorsed it in a statement and urged its swift passage.

“I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Biden said. “I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”

By late Wednesday afternoon, Republicans still had yet to release the text of the measure they plan to move along with the aid package.

The multipart plan has been painstakingly structured to cobble together just enough support from Democrats and mainstream Republicans to pass, over the opposition of the hard right to funding for Ukraine and left-wing Democrats who do not support unfettered aid for Israel. If all four pieces passed the House, they would then be folded into a single bill for the Senate to take up, in an effort to ensure that senators could not cherry-pick pieces to approve or reject.

Its success will require everything to go right for Mr. Johnson this week to prevail.

Mr. Johnson has already faced a tough road since announcing his intent on Monday evening to advance the aid package, over the vociferous objections of conservatives in his conference. On Tuesday, a G.O.P. lawmaker announced that he would join the bid to oust Mr. Johnson spearheaded last month by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia.

The speaker has met with a parade of Republicans who have tried to convince him to abandon his plan in favor of more partisan proposals, such as abandoning aid for Ukraine entirely. To ensure enough lawmakers attend the votes on Saturday evening to allow for the legislative package’s passage, he has had to manage the schedules of lawmakers eager to leave Washington this weekend to attend fund-raisers and preplanned delegation trips abroad.

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Republicans Again Block Effort to Repeal 1864 Abortion Ban, Elizabeth Dias and Kellen Browning, April 17, 2024. Lawmakers defied pressure from prominent Republicans, including Donald Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme.

State House Republicans in Arizona on Wednesday scuttled another effort to repeal the state’s 1864 law banning abortion, defying pressure from prominent Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, who had urged them to toss the ban that many voters viewed as extreme and archaic.

“The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times,” House Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said as he blocked an effort to vote on the repeal.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last week to uphold the Civil War-era near-total abortion ban infuriated supporters of abortion rights, exhilarated abortion opponents and set off a political firestorm in Arizona.

Republicans narrowly control both houses of the Arizona Legislature, but foresaw a grave political threat in backing a measure widely seen as out of touch with voters.

Repealing the law, which allows only an exception to save the life of the mother, and says doctors prosecuted under the law could face fines and prison terms of two to five years, would revert Arizona to a 15-week abortion ban.

Republicans initially resisted Democrats’ attempts to repeal the law last week. But Mr. Trump and Kari Lake, the Senate candidate and close Trump ally, said the court had overreached and urged the Legislature to act quickly. Ms. Lake, facing a highly competitive race in November, dialed lawmakers herself and asked how she could help with the repeal effort.

On Wednesday, it initially appeared as though their cajoling might pay off. Democrats signaled that they were optimistic of having enough Republican support to secure a majority and send the repeal bill to the State Senate.

But when one Democrat rose to bring

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Dismisses Impeachment Charges Against Mayorkas Without a Trial, Luke Broadwater, April 17, 2024. 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.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: As Diplomats Visit, Israel Signals It Will Answer Iran’s Attack, Staff Reports, April 17, 2024. Diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.

For days, Israel’s closest Western allies have pleaded with the country’s wartime government not to risk igniting a wider war by responding too strongly to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones last weekend. And on Wednesday, the top diplomats from Germany and Britain delivered that message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

But Mr. Netanyahu emerged from those talks resolute that his country would not bow to any outside pressure when choosing its response. He declared before a cabinet meeting that Israel would “do everything necessary to defend itself” and warned the allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

Here’s what we know:

  • The top diplomats from Britain and Germany were in Jerusalem, working to persuade Israel to avoid a response to Iran that could drag the region into a broader war.
  • Israel will respond to Iran’s attack, Britain’s foreign minister says.
  • U.N. seeks $2.8 billion in donations for response to Gaza crisis.
  • Two bakeries reopen in hunger-stricken Gaza City, but the question is for how long?
  • A Hezbollah attack injures 14 soldiers in northern Israel.
  • U.N. report describes physical abuse and dire conditions in Israeli detention.
  • Here’s where Israel’s military offensive in Gaza stands.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia President Tells House a Tougher Stand on Antisemitism Is Needed, Nicholas Fandos and Sharon Otterman, April 17, 2024. The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed some professors had crossed a line as she testified before Congress over student safety and free speech.

columbia logoColumbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, agreed on Wednesday that the university needed to take a tougher stance on antisemitism, in response to harsh questioning from a Republican-led House committee in an almost four-hour hearing.

Republicans described what they called a pervasive pattern of bias, including assaults, harassment and vandalism from students and faculty on campus since the Israel-Hamas war began. The hearing was the latest in a campaign to try to prove that college campuses have done little to combat antisemitism.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven jurors picked in Trump’s N.Y. trial as judge presses aheadSix jurors seated for trial after dozens are excluded, Devlin Barrett, Shayna Jacobs, David Nakamura and Isaac Arnsdorf, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The New York Supreme Court justice overseeing former president Donald Trump’s criminal trial said opening statements could begin as soon as Monday. 

Seven jurors were seated Tuesday afternoon in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York, beginning the process of assembling a group that will weigh criminal charges against the former president.

On Monday, nearly 100 potential jurors were brought into the courtroom. Half were promptly excused after saying they could not be impartial. The questioning process is continuing Tuesday, with scrutiny of potential jurors’ social media postings, leading some to be excused on that basis. Here’s how jury selection works in this case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wave of pro-Palestinian protests closes bridges, major roads across U.S., Daniel Wu and Niha Masih, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked roads, highways and bridges across the country on Monday, snarling traffic and sparking arrests from coast to coast in what some activists declared to be a coordinated day of economic blockade to push leaders for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The disruption appeared to span the country over several hours. Protesters in San Francisco parked vehicles on the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping traffic in both directions for four hours Monday morning, while hundreds of demonstrators blocked a highway in nearby Oakland, some by chaining themselves to drums of cement, California Highway Patrol representatives told The Washington Post. Some protesters headed toward a Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., according to local TV station KRON4. In New York, dozens of protesters stopped traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and held demonstrations on Wall Street, according to ABC7.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were also reported in Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami and San Antonio. Demonstrators’ targets ranged from major highways such as Interstate 5 in Eugene, Ore., to a countryside road leading to an aircraft engine manufacturer in Middletown, Conn.

Tensions over the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month, have roiled American cities, campuses and politics with protests held in support of both Palestinians and Israelis. The growing death toll and the catastrophic humanitarian conditions in Gaza have spurred different pro-Palestinian groups into a forceful protest movement, with demonstrators confronting the country’s top leadership: from President Biden, Vice President Harris to Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress. On Monday, the protesters targeted economic hubs and disrupted traffic.

They blocked roads leading to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, which warned travelers on social media to consider alternate forms of transportation, as car travel was “substantially delayed this morning due to protest activity.” A similar obstruction on the expressway leading to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington prompted travelers to take their luggage and cross roads on foot.
People block traffic on Interstate 880 in Oakland, Calif., on Monday. (Brontë Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle/AP)

The protests that began in the morning in the Bay Area, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, San Antonio, Eugene and Middletown had been cleared as of Monday evening, according to authorities and local news. Protesters had been cleared from the expressway to Sea-Tac Airport and the road was reopening, the airport announced about 6 p.m. local time. Police arrested dozens of people in several cities, but no significant violence had been reported as of Monday evening.

Protesters have stalled traffic, closed streets, disrupted daily life and interrupted events in major U.S. cities intermittently since the beginning of the Israel-Gaza war, but few have concurrently or consecutively affected travel in as many parts of the country as on Monday.

The protests, coinciding with Tax Day in the United States, were part of A15 Economic Blockade, a Palestinian international solidarity movement. “In each city, we will identify and blockade major choke points in the economy, focusing on points of production and circulation with the aim of causing the most economic impact,” its website said.

In a layoff notice obtained by The Washington Post, employees were told early Monday morning that Tesla, which has a large presence in California and Texas and factories in Germany and China, is cutting a significant number of jobs after a “thorough review of the organization.”

“Over the years, we have grown rapidly with multiple factories scaling around the globe,” according to the email, which was shared with The Post. “With this rapid growth, there has been duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas. As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity.”

The job cuts — which include more than 14,000 workers from a range of departments, including sales, engineering and policy — are a blow to a company considered a bellwether for the state of the EV market. The company disclosed earlier this month that sales had fallen faster than expected amid waning demand for EVs. As competition with foreign players, especially in China, has intensified, Tesla’s stock has taken a beating, shedding a third of its value already this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, World Leaders Urge Restraint as Israel Weighs Retaliation Against Iran, Mike Ives, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Israel’s war cabinet was meeting again to discuss how to respond to Iran’s assault. Far-right members of the Israeli government called for swift action.

Israel FlagIsrael’s war cabinet was meeting again on Monday as it faced growing international pressure not to retaliate against Iran for its missile and drone attack over the weekend, even as some far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government called for an aggressive response.

Mr. Netanyahu faces a delicate calculation: Letting an unprecedented direct assault from Iran, even one that produced little damage, pass without a military response could open him up to criticism that he is endangering Israel. But overly aggressive retaliation could significantly raise the chances of a broader war in the Middle East as Israeli forces continue to battle Hamas in Gaza.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mike Johnson Says House Will Vote on Stalled Aid to Israel and Ukraine, Catie Edmondson, Kayla Guo and Carl Hulse, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). The speaker said he would bring up a spending package along with a bill aimed at mollifying Republicans who have been opposed to backing Kyiv.

U.S. House logoSpeaker Mike Johnson on Monday said he planned this week to advance a long-stalled national security spending package to aid Israel, Ukraine and other American allies, along with a separate bill aimed at mollifying conservatives who mike johnson ohave been vehemently opposed to backing Kyiv.

Mr. Johnson’s announcement, coming after he has agonized for weeks over whether and how to advance an infusion of critical aid to Ukraine amid stiff Republican resistance, was the first concrete indication that he had settled on a path forward. It came days after Iran launched a large aerial attack on Israel, amplifying calls for Congress to move quickly to approve the pending aid bill.

ukraine flagEmerging from a meeting in which he briefed G.O.P. lawmakers on his plan, Mr. Johnson said he would cobble together a legislative package that roughly mirrors the $95 billion aid bill the Senate passed two months ago but that is broken down into three pieces. Lawmakers would vote separately on a bill providing money for Israel, one allocating funding for Ukraine and a third with aid for Taiwan and other allies. They would cast a fourth vote on a separate measure containing other policies popular among Republicans.

“We know that the world is watching us to see how we react,” Mr. Johnson told reporters. “We have terrorists and tyrants and terrible leaders around the world like Putin and Xi and in Iran, and they’re watching to see if America will stand up for its allies and our interests around the globe — and we will.”

It is not clear whether the convoluted strategy will be successful in the House, where Mr. Johnson has a tenuous hold on his divided conference and a bare majority. Republicans could try to block it from coming to the floor. Even if they did not, the success of the aid package would hinge on a complicated mix of bipartisan coalitions that support different pieces, given resistance among hard-right Republicans to Ukraine funding and among left-wing Democrats to unfettered aid to Israel.

And the plan could imperil Mr. Johnson’s speakership, which is teetering under a threat to oust him.

“I don’t spend my time worrying about motions to vacate,” he told reporters on Monday evening, referring to a snap vote to remove him from his leadership post. “We’re having to govern here, and we’re going to do our job.”

As a political sweetener for Republicans wary of backing more aid to Kyiv, Mr. Johnson said the House also would consider legislation that would require that some of the funding be paid back and that some be financed by selling off Russian sovereign assets that have been frozen. That package also would include a bill that could ban TikTok, which passed the House overwhelmingly with bipartisan support last month but has since languished in the Senate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson gambles on plan separating Israel aid from Ukraine funds, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Marianna Sotomayor, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Marjorie Taylor Greene called the decision to put four different foreign aid bills on the floor a ‘scam,’ but it’s unclear whether she’ll try and oust Johnson for it. 

U.S. House logoAfter months of inaction, House Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled on Monday evening an outline of his plan to address the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, defying Republicans who threatened to oust him from the speakership if he moved forward with funding for Ukraine.

Israel FlagBut Johnson (R-La.) risks angering many of his members with a convoluted plan aiming to placate his critics on the right while also giving national security hawks a chance to advance billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

ukraine flagJohnson plans to put four different bills on the floor, essentially decoupling aid for Israel — which faced a barrage of missiles and drones from Iran over the weekend in retaliation for a deadly airstrike on its consulate in Syria — from help for Ukraine, which is more controversial inside his conference. The speaker will then advance separate votes for aid to Taiwan and a measure to satisfy Republican foreign policy demands, including the seizure of Russian assets and a House-approved bill that could ban Tik Tok from the United States, among other measures.

taiwan flagNowhere in the bills are border security measures demanded by some House Republicans as a condition of approving aid to foreign countries. The omission was glaring in the eyes of some far-right lawmakers.

“Every member ultimately will be able to vote their own conscience on all of these matters and everybody have the opportunity to weigh in,” Johnson said after a GOP conference meeting Monday. “I think the final product will be something that everybody can take confidence in because they got to vote their district.”

It’s a major gamble by the embattled Johnson, who was elevated to lead the fractious GOP conference after the unprecedented ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The formerly low-profile lawmaker has had trouble rallying a majority of his conference on almost anything and has had to rely on Democrats on substantive issues, including keeping the government open.

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, A few Jan. 6 rioters have been freed ahead of the Supreme Court’s review of the law, Alan Feuer, April 17, 2024 (print ed.). The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the soundness of an obstruction law that has been widely used against those who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is already having an effect on some of the rioters.

A small group of people convicted under the law have been released from custody — or will soon go free — even though the justices hearing arguments on Tuesday are not expected to decide the case for months.

Over the past several weeks, federal judges in Washington have agreed to release about 10 defendants who were serving prison terms because of the obstruction law, saying the defendants could wait at home as the court determined whether the law should have been used at all to keep them locked up.

Among those already free is Matthew Bledsoe, the owner of a moving company from Tennessee who scaled a wall outside the Capitol and then paraded through the building with a Trump flag, ultimately planting it in the arm of a statue of President Gerald R. Ford.

Soon to be released are defendants like Kevin Seefried, a drywall installer from Delaware who carried a Confederate flag through the Capitol, and Alexander Sheppard, an Ohio man who overran police lines to become one of the first people to break into the building.

The interrupted sentences — which could be reinstated depending on how the Supreme Court rules — are just one of the complications to have emerged from the court’s review of the obstruction statute, known in the penal code as 18 U.S.C. 1512. The charge has been used so far against more than 350 rioters, including Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, and members of the far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Widest-Ever Global Coral Crisis Will Hit Within Weeks, Scientists Say, Catrin Einhorn, April 16, 2024 (print ed.). Rising sea temperatures around the planet have caused a bleaching event that is expected to be the most extensive on record.

The world’s coral reefs are in the throes of a global bleaching event caused by extraordinary ocean temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international partners announced Monday.

It is the fourth such global event on record and is expected to affect more reefs than any other. Bleaching occurs when corals become so stressed that they lose the symbiotic algae they need to survive. Bleached corals can recover, but if the water surrounding them is too hot for too long, they die.

Coral reefs are vital ecosystems: limestone cradles of marine life that nurture an estimated quarter of ocean species at some point during their life cycles, support fish that provide protein for millions of people and protect coasts from storms. The economic value of the world’s coral reefs has been estimated at $2.7 trillion annually.

For the last year, ocean temperatures have been off the charts.

 

Israel-Hamas War, Civilian Deaths

ny times logoNew York Times, Miscalculation Leads to Escalation as Israel and Iran Clash, Ronen Bergman, Farnaz Fassihi, Eric Schmitt, Adam Entous and Richard Pérez-Peña, April 17, 2024. Israeli officials say they didn’t see a strike on a high-level Iranian target in Syria as a provocation, and did not give Washington a heads-up about it until right before it happened.

Israel was mere moments away from an airstrike on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria when it told the United States what was about to happen.

Israel’s closest ally had just been caught off guard.

Aides quickly alerted Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser; Jon Finer, the deputy national security adviser; Brett McGurk, Mr. Biden’s Middle East coordinator; and others, who saw that the strike could have serious consequences, a U.S. official said. Publicly, U.S. officials voiced support for Israel, but privately, they expressed anger that it would take such aggressive action against Iran without consulting Washington.

The Israelis had badly miscalculated, thinking that Iran would not react strongly, according to multiple American officials who were involved in high-level discussions after the attack, a view shared by a senior Israeli official. On Saturday, Iran launched a retaliatory barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel, an unexpectedly large-scale response, if one that did minimal damage.

The events made clear that the unwritten rules of engagement in the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran have changed drastically in recent months, making it harder than ever for each side to gauge the other’s intentions and reactions.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, an Iranian ally, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, there has been escalation after escalation and miscalculation after miscalculation, raising fears of a retribution cycle that could potentially become an all-out war.

Even after it became clear that Iran would retaliate, U.S. and Israeli officials initially thought the scale of the response would be fairly limited, before scrambling to revise their assessment again and again. Now the focus is on what Israel will do next — and how Iran might respond.

“We are in a situation where basically everybody can claim victory,” said Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group. “Iran can say that it took revenge, Israel can say it defeated the Iranian attack and the United States can say it successfully deterred