Aug. 2023 News

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

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

 

Aug. 31

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 Trump-Related Probes, Indictments

 

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 United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r). (Safe Image)

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (l) with his wife of more than three decades, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Thomas Defends Trips With Texas Billionaire in Financial Disclosure, Abbie VanSickle, Aug. 31, 2023. The latest disclosures from Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito come amid increased scrutiny of their dealings and the court’s lack of an ethics code.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his annual financial disclosure form that was released Thursday, responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips, flights on a private jet and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.

In an unusual move, the justice included a statement defending his travel with the billionaire, Harlan Crow, who has donated to conservative causes.

The latest financial disclosures come as the justices face increased scrutiny about their financial dealings and about the court’s lack of an ethics code. Although the justices, like other federal judges, are required to file annual reports that document their investments, gifts and travel, the justices are not bound by ethics rules, instead following what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has referred to as a set of foundational “ethics principles and practices.”

The justices file the financial forms each spring, and most were released in early June. But Justices Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. requested 90-day extensions, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which collects and publishes the forms. Justice Alito’s financial disclosure form was also released on Thursday morning.

Justice Thomas also acknowledged errors in his previous financial reports, including personal bank accounts and his wife’s life insurance, which he said were “inadvertently omitted from prior reports.”

The justice also listed four trips from 2022, the year covered by the form. Three of the trips were speaking engagements. The fourth, from July 2022, was a trip to Mr. Crow’s estate in the Adirondacks.

The nature of Justice Thomas’s decades-long relationship with Mr. Crow has elicited questions after a series of reports in ProPublica described the extent of his generosity and the justice’s failure to disclose it. Mr. Crow treated the justice on a series of lavish trips, including flights on his private jet, island-hopping on his superyacht and vacationing at his estate in the Adirondacks. Mr. Crow also bought the justice’s mother’s home in Savannah, Ga., and covered a portion of private school tuition for the justice’s great-nephew, whom he was raising.

Other wealthy friends have hosted Justice Thomas, including David L. Sokol, the former heir apparent to Berkshire Hathaway. Another, Anthony Welters, underwrote — at least in part — his motor coach, a 40-foot Prevost Marathon that he has said allows him to slip away from the “meanness that you see in Washington.”

Justice Alito, for his part, acknowledged in June that he had taken a private plane on a vacation in 2008 to a luxury fishing lodge in Alaska, where he was hosted by Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire. In the years that followed, Mr. Singer repeatedly had business before the court.

Read the forms from Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

In his disclosure, Justice Thomas addressed his decision to fly on Mr. Crow’s private jet, suggesting that he had been advised to avoid commercial travel after the leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating a constitutional right to an abortion.

“Because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as filer’s security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible,” Justice Thomas wrote.
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Justice Thomas also defended his past filings, which did not include many of the trips with Mr. Crow and other wealthy friends. He wrote that he had “adhered to the then existing judicial regulations as his colleagues had done, both in practice and in consultation with the Judicial Conference.”

But he said he “continues to work with Supreme Court officials and the committee staff for guidance on whether he should further amend his reports from any prior years.”

 

vladimir putin 9 21 2022 pool gavriil grigorov

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin struggles with falling ruble, rising prices as sanctions bite, Catherine Belton, Jeff Stein and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Rising prices caused by a drop in the value of the ruble are bringing Russia’s war — and the impact of sanctions — home to many Russians for the first time.

Russian FlagWhen Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed top economic officials last week after a bruising month in which the Russian ruble plummeted to a 16-month low against the U.S. dollar, the Russian president sought to set a confident tone. The Russian economy, he said, was growing again and wages were rising.

But despite the show of bravado, Putin could not avoid mentioning a growing weakness that is stalking the economy as Western sanctions bite ever deeper, and one that has been exacerbated by the ruble’s plunge.

“Objective data shows that inflationary risks are increasing, and the task of reining in price growth is now the number one priority,” Putin said, with a note of tension in his voice. “I ask my colleagues in the government and the Central Bank to keep the situation under constant control.”

ukraine flagRapidly rising prices caused by a 20 percent drop in the value of the ruble between early June and mid-August and the government’s pouring of funds into Russia’s defense industry are bringing Russia’s war — and the impact of sanctions — home to many Russians for the first time, economists say.

“The Russian people have been isolating themselves from these political developments, but the inflation rate is something they can’t isolate themselves from because they have to pay,” said Janis Kluge, an economist at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “It is a way in which politics really interferes in their lives, and this is the part which is worrying for the Russian leadership. Because no propaganda will make this go away.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Kevin McCarthy Tries to Leverage Biden Impeachment to Avoid a Shutdown, Carl Hulse and Luke Broadwater, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed)..  But some conservatives are dismissive, saying the House could continue investigating the president and his family even if funding for the government lapses at the end of September.

kevin mccarthyFacing the prospect of a politically damaging government shutdown within weeks, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, right, is offering a new argument to conservatives reluctant to vote to keep funding flowing: A shutdown would make it more difficult for Republicans to pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Biden, or to push forward with investigations of him and his family that could yield evidence for one.

Mr. McCarthy first made the case on Sunday during an interview on Fox News in which he warned that a shutdown would stall the House’s ongoing inquiries into the president and his family. His argument reflected the speaker’s growing desperation to find a way to persuade right-wing Republicans to drop their opposition to a stopgap measure that is needed to keep federal money flowing beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

By tying the issue to the prospect of impeaching Mr. Biden, Mr. McCarthy appears to be hoping that the conservative desire to investigate and possibly charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors — particularly amid the multiple criminal cases against former President Donald J. Trump — might outweigh their resistance to voting in favor of federal spending.

“If we shut down, all the government shuts it down — investigation and everything else,” Mr. McCarthy said about the prospect of funding running out Sept. 30. “It hurts the American public.”

Politico, Trump pleads ‘not guilty’ in Georgia racketeering case, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 31, 2023. The plea came in a court filing in which Trump waived his appearance at a scheduled Sept. 6 arraignment.

politico CustomDonald Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia, formally signaling his intent to fight the charges in the sprawling racketeering case brought by Fulton County prosecutors.

Trump entered his plea Thursday in a two-page court filing meant to waive his appearance at an arraignment scheduled for Sept. 6, when he was slated to have the charges read to him in court. Several of the 18 defendants charged alongside him have also waived their appearances at the scheduled arraignment.

In the filing, Trump refers to himself three times as “President Trump” or “President Donald Trump.”

The plea signals a new phase of the criminal proceedings against Trump in Georgia, triggering the start of evidence-sharing by prosecutors as they advance toward a still unscheduled trial. District Attorney Fani Willis is seeking to try Trump and the other defendants at an expedited Oct. 23 trial date that was demanded by Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney charged alongside Trump for his role in the alleged scheme.

Trump, however, has signaled he intends to sever his case from the others, and several other defendants — including Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows — are seeking to transfer the case to federal court, a move that could result in all 19 defendants being tried on a different timeline.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fed’s Preferred Inflation Gauge Ticked Up in July, Jeanna Smialek, Aug. 31, 2023. Overall inflation climbed to 3.3 percent, from 3 percent previously, underscoring the Fed’s long road back to 2 percent price increases.

federal reserve system CustomThe Federal Reserve has warned for months that wrestling rapid inflation back to a normal pace was likely to be a bumpy process, a reality underscored by fresh data on Thursday that showed a closely watched inflation gauge picking back up in July.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures index climbed 3.3 percent in the year through July, up from 3 percent in the previous reading. While that is down from a peak last summer of 7 percent, it is still well above the 2 percent growth rate that the Fed targets.

Central bankers tend to more closely monitor a measure of core inflation that strips out volatile food and fuel prices to give a clearer sense of the underlying price trend. That measure also climbed, touching 4.2 percent after 4.1 percent the previous month.

ny times logoNew York Times, The inflation rate in the Eurozone held steady at 5.3 percent, Eshe Nelson, Aug. 31, 2023.  Consumer prices in the eurozone rose 5.3 percent in August compared with a year earlier, sticking at the same pace as the previous month and defying economists’ expectations for a slowdown, according to an initial estimate by the statistics agency of the European Union.

While inflation has slowed materially from its peak of above 10 percent in October last year, there are signs that some inflationary pressures are persistent, even as bloc’s economy weakens. Food inflation was again the largest contributor to the headline rate, rising 9.8 percent from a year earlier on average across the 20 countries that use the euro currency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Storm Brings Heavy Flooding to the Carolinas, Staff Reports, Aug. 31, 2023. Idalia moved just offshore into the Atlantic after leaving a trail of destruction across four Southeastern states. More than 300,000 customers in the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia were without power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Elon Musk’s control over satellite internet demands a reckoning, Editorial Board, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). When Elon Musk reportedly spoke of a “great conversation” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, minutes after declaring he could see “the entire war unfolding” through a map of activity on the small satellite constellation he owns, a senior defense official had the following reaction: “Oh dear, this is not good.”

The statement, featured in a recent New Yorker article, aptly captures the situation in which the United States government finds itself. A single man exerts considerable control over the satellite internet industry that operates in “low Earth orbit” — generally about 300 miles above Earth — even as that industry is crucial to the war effort in Ukraine. Worse still, that man is the erratic Mr. Musk. There are just shy of 8,000 satellites in the skies today; more than 4,500 of those are Starlink satellites, launched by SpaceX. The company hopes to multiply this number almost tenfold in the coming years.

Starlink is far from the first constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit and far from the first to sell to militaries. But what distinguishes the network is the amount of data it can move, as well as how quickly it can increase that capacity: SpaceX can launch satellites unprecedentedly fast and at unprecedentedly low cost thanks to the reusable rockets it has pioneered. The bigger the satellite fleet, the more versatile and effective: As a satellite flies above a terminal located on the ground, it transfers the signal to a satellite behind it, and so on, forming a chain that ensures users maintain constant access to the internet.

Working together, these satellites can provide this kind of service even in remote locations. And, of course, they can provide it in locations where traditional methods of connection, for whatever reason, are unavailable — such as war zones.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pledges $95 million for Hawaii’s electrical grid after Maui wildfires, Amy B Wang, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will spend $95 million to help strengthen Hawaii’s electrical grid in the wake of deadly wildfires that swept through parts of Maui earlier this month. The fast-moving fires were the deadliest in modern U.S. history, killing more than 100 people on the island, forcing thousands to evacuate and destroying the historic town of Lahaina.

President Biden plans to deliver remarks Wednesday afternoon on the government’s long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts on the island, as well as the administration’s ongoing response to Hurricane Idalia, a major storm that made landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning. Biden traveled to Maui earlier this month to survey the devastation caused by wildfires and has vowed that “every asset we have will be available” to the victims.

Republicans, however, have been highly critical of the administration’s response to the wildfires in Hawaii and took aim at Biden for not answering questions about the episode while he was on vacation earlier this month. The GOP-led House Oversight Committee this week announced an investigation into the government’s response to the disaster.

The $95 million for Hawaii’s electrical grid will be provided through the bipartisan infrastructure law, the $1.2 trillion package that Biden signed into law in 2021. According to the White House, the funds will help strengthen critical power transmission lines, including two on Maui; harden utility poles that support critical facilities like hospitals; replace wooden utility poles with a fire-resistant material; remove trees considered hazardous; and relocate the Maui control center.

  

Trump-Related Probes, Indictments

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani Is Liable for Defaming Georgia Election Workers, Judge Says, Alan Feuer, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The ruling means that a defamation case against Rudy Giuliani, stemming from his role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election, can proceed to a trial.

rudy giuliani mayorA federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, was liable for defaming two Georgia election workers by repeatedly declaring that they had mishandled ballots while counting votes in Atlanta during the 2020 election.

The ruling by the judge, Beryl A. Howell, below left, in Federal District Court in Washington, means that the defamation case against Mr. Giuliani, a central figure in former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his election loss, can proceed to trial on the beryl howellnarrow question of how much, if any, damages he will have to pay the plaintiffs in the case.

A lawyer for Mr. Giuliani declined to comment.

Judge Howell’s decision came a little more than a month after Mr. Giuliani conceded in two stipulations in the case that he had made false statements when he accused the election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, of manipulating ballots while working at the State Farm Arena for the Fulton County Board of Elections.

Mr. Giuliani later sought to explain that his stipulations were solely meant to get past a dispute with Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss about discovery evidence in the case and move toward dismissing the allegations outright. But Judge Howell, complaining that Mr. Giuliani’s stipulations “hold more holes than Swiss cheese,” took the proactive step of declaring him liable for “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims.”

Politico, Judge rejects Navarro’s ‘executive privilege’ claim for defying Jan. 6 committee, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The ruling paves the way for Navarro’s trial to begin next week on contempt-of-Congress charges.

politico CustomPeter Navarro, a former senior White House adviser to former President Donald Trump, failed to prove that Trump asserted executive privilege to block him from testifying to the House Jan. 6 select committee, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta keeps on track Navarro’s Sept. 5 contempt-of-Congress trial, where he will face jurors on two charges that he defied the committee’s subpoena for testimony and documents related to Navarro’s role in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.

Navarro has long claimed that Trump asserted privilege to block him from appearing before the Jan. 6 select committee in early 2022 when the panel subpoenaed him. But Navarro has never produced direct evidence to back that claim and, more importantly, Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly declined to say whether Navarro was accurately reflecting their conversations.

Mehta cited Trump’s refusal to corroborate Navarro’s claims as the most compelling reason that he found Trump did not, in fact, seek to block Navarro’s testimony to the select committee.

“There was no formal invocation of executive privilege by [Trump] after personal consideration nor authorization to Mr. Navarro to invoke privilege on his behalf,” Mehta said.

Navarro’s trial, which is likely to be brief, will head to jury selection on Tuesday. Mehta’s ruling means the former Trump trade adviser will not be able to argue to the jury that he believed Trump asserted privilege and effectively blocked him from complying with aspects of the select committee’s subpoena.

In addition, Mehta noted that even if he had shown Trump asserted privilege, the select committee had indicated it planned to ask him questions about topics that did not touch on his communications with Trump and therefore wouldn’t be covered by any privilege assertion.

Old Goats, Commentary: She's The Boss,.Jonathan Alter, Aug. 30-31, 2023. Judge Chutkan and Trump’s approaching Day of Judgment.

John Lauro was in a predicament Monday that bodes well for the survival of the Republic.

Lauro is Donald Trump’s lead attorney in the most important trial the former president faces — the one that will resolve whether he is guilty of masterminding a coup against the government and people of the United States.

In federal court, Lauro began talking trash in a loud and aggressive manner. He sounded like he was on a cable show, not standing before the bar of justice.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who next year will become one of the most famous American jurists in American history (even though the trial will not be televised), brought Lauro up short. Twice, she told him to “turn down the temperature.” Lauro finally comprehended that in this courtroom—in front of this judge— properly “representing” Trump will mean more than channeling his indignation. So he complied.

But it was too late. Lauro had asked for a 2026 trial date—a ludicrous bid—and refused to show up this week with a more reasonable proposal. Bad move. With the trial date now scheduled for March 4, 2024, the day before Super Tuesday, Lauro is caught between his client — who wants him to pursue a noisy political case in court — and Judge Chutkan, who made it clear that any such strategy will blow up in the Orange Menace’s face.

Lauro knows he must do it Trump’s way or be fired, which means he’ll put on a blustery MAGA defense in front of a District of Columbia jury that isn’t likely to buy it.

And so in the course of a few days, the notion of the Republican Party nominating a convicted felon for president has gone from liberal fantasy to strong possibility.

While Trump’s attorneys will file various motions to delay, legal experts this week are predicting that these motions will be quickly adjudicated — often by Chutkan herself. And there is no provision in federal law for a higher court to overturn a trial date.

Trump’s best hope — a change of venue — doesn’t seem likely. Efforts by insurrectionists to avoid being tried in the District of Columbia have all failed. So prepare for some momentous history to unfold next spring. The Day of Judgment is nearly upon us.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump enters not guilty plea in Georgia election case, waives hearing, Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner, Aug. 31, 2023. The former president had been scheduled by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to be arraigned in Atlanta next Wednesday

Donald Trump entered a plea of not guilty to charges alleging he participated in a vast criminal conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia and waived his right to an in-person arraignment hearing in the matter, according to a new court filing from his attorney in the Fulton County election interference case.

The written plea was filed Thursday by Steve Sadow, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who was tapped Aug. 24 to lead the former president’s Georgia-based legal team. The filing means Trump won’t return to Atlanta on Wednesday, where Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the proceedings, has scheduled a series of arraignment hearings for Trump and the 18 co-defendants in the sprawling criminal racketeering case.

In the filing, titled “President Trump’s entry of plea of not guilty and enter of waiver of appearance at arraignment,” the former president stated that he was “freely and voluntarily” waiving his right to be present at his arraignment and have his charges read to him in open court.

Trump is facing 13 counts in the Georgia case, including violating the state’s racketeering act, soliciting a public officer to violate their oath, conspiring to impersonate a public officer, conspiring to commit forgery in the first degree and conspiring to file false documents. The former president has denied any wrongdoing and has condemned the investigation, led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D), as a “political witch hunt.”

Trump surrendered last week at the Fulton County Jail, a notorious Atlanta lockup where he was booked and quickly released on a $200,000 bond that includes restrictions on his conduct, including provisions that bar him from intimidating witnesses or fellow co-defendants or making any “direct or indirect threat of any nature against the community.”

Trump’s attorney has signaled he will vigorously challenge the charges against his client, who he has said should have never been charged in the case. Sadow has said he will file a motion to dismiss the charges and move to sever Trump’s case from other co-defendants, including former Trump campaign attorney Kenneth Chesebro, who are seeking a speedy trial in the matter.

Separately Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) told reporters at a news conference that he would not call a special session of the General Assembly to seek to remove Willis from office, as several conservative lawmakers have requested. Kemp said his concerns about “highly charged indictments” during an election cycle “have been well-documented,” but his intervention would be improper and possibly even unconstitutional.

“We have a law in the state of Georgia that clearly outlines the legal steps that can be taken if constituents believe their local prosecutors are violating their oath by engaging in unethical or illegal behavior,” he said. “Up to this point I have not seen any evidence at that D.A. Willis’s actions or lack thereof warrant action by the Prosecuting Attorney Oversight Commission. But that will ultimately be a decision that the commission will make.”

Trump is expected to follow his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in seeking to move his case from state to federal court. Meadows spent more than four hours testifying on Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones, who is considering Meadows’s petition to move his case to federal court, where he will then seek to dismiss charges.

In his testimony, Meadows sought to portray himself as Trump’s gatekeeper and depicted his involvement in efforts to question Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in Georgia as part of his duties as Trump’s top White House aide and senior adviser. His attorneys have argued that should qualify his case for federal removal since they say he was acting under the “color” of his federal position.

But prosecutors have argued Meadows’s post-election efforts, including a visit to a suburban Atlanta ballot processing center and arranging the now-infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), violated the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their official roles to influence an election. They say Meadows saw “no distinction” between his White House work and the Trump campaign and have pressed Jones to deny Meadows’s petition — an outcome which could have sweeping effect on other current and future removal requests in the case, including Trump’s expected petition.

Palmer Report, Analysis, One and done, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 31, 2023.  It’s now been a full week since Donald Trump’s fourth arrest. At this rate he might bill palmerconsider himself lucky that there hasn’t been a fifth one already. But it’s also been a full week since something else: Trump’s one and only tweet since leaving office.

bill palmer report logo headerBack when Trump was reinstated to Twitter, the owner of the platform publicly begged Trump to return. But it never did happen. Instead Trump continued to spend all day every day pandering to his niche base on his own niche social network. The ferocity with which Trump rants and raves on Truth Social, basically talking to no one, suggests that he’d love to be back on Twitter and have a real audience. But even his one tweet last week is now very much looking like a one-off.

President Donald Trump officialWe’ve heard all kinds of speculation about how Trump might have an exclusive contract with Truth Social. But even if so, that doesn’t come within a million miles of adequately explaining why he never returned to Twitter. Deals like that are made to be renegotiated or worked around. And really, what is Truth Social going to do to Trump in retaliation for returning to Twitter? Ban him from his own platform? Truth Social is such a niche failure that there would be no platform without Trump.

Instead, Trump’s failure to return to Twitter is probably the biggest giveaway that he’s not really running for anything. Twitter is a huge marketing and outreach opportunity for any political candidate. Trump in particular has shown an affinity, almost an addiction, to tweeting. It allowed him to speak directly to the general public in real time. And by declining to tweet, he’s throwing away that opportunity.

Is this because Trump is so senile? His incoherently embarrassing rambling on Truth Social is at least mitigated by the fact that so few people are on there reading it. If he were posting these same screeds on Twitter, the general public would see that his brain is now a bag of cats, and his faux-campaign would probably be closer to finished. So are Trump’s handlers trying to protect him from himself by giving him flimsy and misleading excuses about why he shouldn’t tweet?

If you think about it, the only two things Trump ever seemed to enjoy about politics were rallies and tweeting, and now his babysitters have managed to convince him to very rarely do either one of them. Instead they have him tucked away rambling on a failed social media platform that no one uses. Trump’s handlers seem to view him as being so far gone, they have to keep him in a box. And Trump, for his part, seems to be so far gone that his handlers can convince him of anything. Whatever reasons they’ve fed him for why he should do very few rallies and stay off Twitter, he’s swallowed it.

Politico, Joe Biggs, Proud Boys leader, gets 17-year prison sentence for role in Jan. 6 attack, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 31, 2023.  Biggs is the first of four Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy to face sentencing.

politico CustomJoseph Biggs, a Florida leader of the Proud Boys on Jan. 6, 2021, has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for conspiring to derail the peaceful transfer of power — the second-longest sentence of the hundreds handed down since the violent assault on the Capitol.

“That day broke our tradition of peacefully transferring power,” said U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly as he delivered his sentence. “The mob brought an entire branch of government to heel.”

Biggs is the first of four Proud Boys leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy to face sentencing. The others include Philadelphia Proud Boys leader Zachary Rehl, Seattle Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean and former national Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who will all be sentenced between Thursday and early next week.

A fifth member of the group, Dominic Pezzola, who was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but convicted of other Jan. 6 felonies, faces sentencing on Friday. He smashed a Senate-wing window of the Capitol with a stolen police riot shield, triggering the mob’s breach of the building.

Kelly, an appointee of Donald Trump, applied a “terrorism” enhancement to Biggs’ sentence, a distinction that so far has only been applied to members of the Oath Keepers similarly convicted of seditious conspiracy. Kelly spoke at length about his decision to apply that label and how it compared to other, more stereotypical acts of terrorism that involve mass casualties or bombings.

“While blowing up a building in some city somewhere is a very bad act, the nature of the constitutional moment we were in that day is something that is so sensitive that it deserves a significant sentence,” Kelly said.

The sentence is an important marker in the fraught aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack. Prosecutors, who had asked for a 33-year sentence for Biggs, said he and his co-conspirators were the driving force behind the violence that unfolded that day, facilitating breaches at multiple police lines and helping the crowd advance into the building itself. A jury convicted the five men of multiple conspiracies in June, after a four-month trial that recounted their actions in painstaking detail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough urged Kelly to severely punish Biggs as a way to deter others who might consider similar actions in the future aimed at disrupting the government. The fear and effect on society caused by Jan. 6 , he said, is “no different than the act of a spectacular bombing of a building.”

“There’s a reason why we will hold our collective breath as we approach future elections,” McCullough said. “We never gave it a second thought before Jan. 6. … They pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis.”

“It’s almost seductive in how tangible a future act like this could be,” the prosecutor added. “It doesn’t take the step of amassing bomb-making equipment to bring the United States government and our society to the brink of a constitutional crisis. It just takes slick propaganda and an environment where you encourage people to basically say, ‘It’s us against them,’ and we’re going to use force to achieve our political ends.”

Prosecutors say the group amassed a force of 200 hand-selected Proud Boys and marched them to the Capitol, where many of them skirmished with police or removed barriers intended to keep the crowd at bay. Nordean and Biggs were convicted of dismantling a black metal fence that was one of police’s last obstacles before the crowd reached the building.

Biggs, who didn’t take the stand during the trial, spoke for the first time about the charges as he pleaded with Kelly for a lenient sentence. He said he had withdrawn from politics and refused to engage in it with other Jan. 6 defendants detained at the D.C. jail where he’s been housed for more than two years. Biggs said he had always planned to quit the Proud Boys after Jan. 6 to focus on his daughter.

“I know that I have to be punished,” he said, but begged Kelly to allow him to “take my daughter to school one day and pick her up.”

The Proud Boys’ trajectory toward Jan. 6 became a major focus of the trial. The group, which had become infamous for street fighting with left-wing activists, had aligned itself with Trump, who famously told the group to “stand back and stand by” during a debate with rival Joe Biden.

Prosecutors say the group feared that if Trump lost the election, they would become marginalized and quickly embraced his false claims of election fraud. The group attended two pro-Trump marches in Washington, D.C., that were marred by street violence, including a Dec. 14 event in which four Proud Boys were stabbed outside a bar. That violence fueled the group’s fury at police in Washington, prosecutors said, which the members displayed openly on Jan. 6.

When Trump told supporters on Dec. 19, 2020 to amass in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, Tarrio and the Proud Boys leaders quickly responded and began assembling a new chapter that they described as a group of more disciplined and obedient men who would follow their orders. That group, which they dubbed the “Ministry of Self-Defense,” became the core of the group that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Biggs’ attorney Norm Pattis argued that too harsh a sentence would erode trust in government and have a similarly perverse result: making Americans fearful of attending protests.

“I think we’re an ongoing threat to ourselves in this republic right now,” he said. “Just how, how we are in a situation where a presidential candidate, indicted four times by state and federal officials, is in a statistical dead heat with the incumbent. … The government’s suggestion that [Biggs] is some domestic threat, he’s going to go out and make things worse — you just can’t get much worse than that.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks to Dismiss Suit as A.G. Says He Inflated Worth by $2.2 Billion, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Before Donald J. Trump was indicted four times over, he was sued by New York’s attorney general, who said that for years the former president, his business and members of his family had fraudulently overvalued their assets by billions of dollars.

Before any of those criminal trials will take place, Mr. Trump is scheduled for a civil trial in New York in October. During the trial, the attorney general, Letitia James, will seek to bar him and three of his children from leading their family business, the Trump Organization, and to require him to pay a fine of around $250 million.

On Wednesday, Ms. James fired an opening salvo, arguing that a trial is not necessary to find that Mr. Trump and the other defendants inflated the value of their assets in annual financial statements, fraudulently obtaining favorable loans and insurance arrangements.

The fraud was so pervasive, she said in a court filing, that Mr. Trump had falsely boosted his net worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion each year over the course of a decade.

Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, asked a judge to find, without a trial, that former President Trump had fraudulently overvalued his assets.
“Based on the undisputed evidence, no trial is required for the court to determine that defendants presented grossly and materially inflated asset values,” the filing said.

But Mr. Trump’s lawyers, in their own motion, argued that the entire case should be thrown out, relying in large part on a recent appellate court decision that appeared as if it could significantly narrow the scope of the case because of a legal time limit. Mr. Trump had received most of the loans in question too long ago for the matter to be considered by a court, his lawyers argue.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Under Oath, Says He Averted ‘Nuclear Holocaust,’ Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). During a deposition in his civil case, former President Trump offered a series of strange defenses, digressions and meandering explanations.

Under oath and under fire, Donald J. Trump sat for a seven-hour interview with the New York attorney general’s office in April, part of the civil fraud case against him and his company.

But as lawyers from the office grilled Mr. Trump on the inner-workings of his family business, which is accused of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars, he responded with a series of meandering non sequiturs, political digressions and self-aggrandizing defenses.

Asked about his authority at the Trump Organization while he was in the White House, Mr. Trump responded that he considered the presidency “the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives.”

“I think you would have nuclear holocaust, if I didn’t deal with North Korea,” he explained, and then added: “And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth.”

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination when initially questioned by the office last year, he answered questions from the attorney general, Letitia James, and her lawyers in the April deposition, a transcript of which was unsealed on Wednesday.

The transcript shows a combative Mr. Trump, who was named as a defendant in the case alongside his company and three of his children, at times barely allowing lawyers to get a word in. The former president frequently seems personally offended by the idea that his net worth is being questioned.

Mr. Trump is seeking to have the case thrown out. A judge could rule on that effort next month, but for now, the case appears headed to trial in early October.

Below are some of the highlights from the transcript of his deposition:

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Could Clinch the Nomination Before the G.O.P. Knows if He’s a Felon, Reid J. Epstein, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Jonathan Swan, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The federal election interference case — one of four involving Donald Trump — is set to start just before Super Tuesday and a cascade of primaries.

By the time Donald J. Trump is sitting at his federal trial on charges of criminally conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, he may have already secured enough delegates to effectively clinch the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

The former president’s trial is scheduled to start March 4, by which point five states are expected to have held nominating contests. The next day, March 5, is Super Tuesday, when 15 states, including delegate-rich California and Texas, plan to hold votes that will determine if any Trump challenger has enough political oxygen to remain a viable alternative.

Primaries in Florida, Ohio and Illinois come two weeks later. Florida and Ohio will be the first winner-take-all contests, in which the top vote-getter statewide seizes all of the delegates rather than splitting them proportionally. Winner-take-all primaries have historically turbocharged the front-runner’s path to the presidential nomination. Mr. Trump’s federal trial, if it proceeds on its current timeline, won’t be close to finished by then.

The collision course between the Republican Party’s calendar and Mr. Trump’s trial schedule is emblematic of one of the most unusual nominating contests in American history. It is a Trump-dominated clash that will define not only the course of the 2024 presidential primary but potentially the future direction of the party in an eventual post-Trump era.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump co-defendant reaches bond agreement after weekend in jail, Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Harrison Floyd, accused of harassing an Atlanta area election worker in the weeks after the 2020 election, posted $100,000 bond.

The last of former president Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Fulton County, Ga., election interference case reached a bond agreement Tuesday after spending the weekend in jail.

harrison ford mugHarrison William Prescott Floyd, right, who is accused of harassing an Atlanta-area election worker in the weeks following the 2020 election, posted bond of $100,000 Tuesday. Jail records showed that Floyd was still in custody after 5 p.m. Tuesday, and it was not clear when he would be released.

Unlike the other defendants in the case, Floyd did not initially retain a lawyer and did not contact the office of District Attorney Fani T. Willis to negotiate a bond agreement before surrendering at the county jail on Thursday. As a result, he was held in jail for five nights — until Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ordered a public defender to take up Floyd’s case to reach a bond agreement to get him out of jail.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts in historic indictment linked to Stormy Daniels hush money probe (Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

Former President Donald J. Trump, in a blue suit, sits with his attorneys shortly before arraignment in New York City's state court on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to the 2016 presidential campaign season, reportedly involving in part hush money to women ((Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

 

More On Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Sentencing postponed for ex-Proud Boys leader Tarrio in Jan. 6 conspiracy, Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A federal judge is not proceeding as planned with the sentencing of former Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, who was convicted of recruiting followers to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and disrupting the peaceful transfer of American presidential power, spokespeople for the U.S. attorney’s office and federal court in D.C. said Wednesday.

The U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman initially cited an unspecified “emergency,” though the court spokeswoman later said there was no emergency. A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service said the judge was ill.

Tarrio had been scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday along with one of his top deputies, Ethan Nordean.

Nordean is now expected to be sentenced Friday at 2 p.m. Tarrio’s sentencing has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Three other members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, also face sentencing on Thursday and Friday: Joe Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola. Tarrio and his co-defendants were convicted of seditious conspiracy, except Pezzola, who was acquitted of that charge but found guilty like the others of obstructing Congress’s joint session, and of other crimes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-cardinal McCarrick’s sex abuse case is dismissed, without a ‘reckoning,’ Michelle Boorstein and Fredrick Kunkle, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A Massachusetts judge on Wednesday dismissed a criminal charge against former high-ranking Catholic cleric Theodore McCarrick, ruling that the 93-year-old former archbishop of Washington is incompetent to stand trial for alleged child sexual abuse.

The decision underscores the fast-closing window for potential accountability for McCarrick, who once was one of the U.S. Catholic Church’s most visible and connected leaders and now is one of its most notorious figures.

McCarrick had been charged with assaulting a 16-year-old boy at a wedding in 1974, the first criminal charge since a slew of sexual misconduct accusations surfaced in 2018 and he was removed from public ministry. He still faces a second criminal sexual abuse case, involving the same alleged victim, in Wisconsin.

These abuse survivors thought they knew the details. Then came the clergy reports.

Judge Paul McCallum, of the Dedham District Court in Massachusetts, dismissed the case in a morning hearing, after experts for the defense and the prosecution agreed that McCarrick was unable to help with his own defense, said David Traub, a spokesman for the district attorney.

“Under Massachusetts law, the case can’t go forward,” Traub said.

McCarrick was the first U.S. cardinal and only the second U.S. bishop to be charged with abuse. His accuser in the case, James Grein, a tennis coach from Northern Virginia, submitted a statement to the court for Wednesday’s hearing that said the case was “to have provided a modest level of payback.”

“I have trouble reconciling the concept that someone who is intelligent and articulate is also not competent to stand trial and answer for his actions,” Grein wrote. “I brought the charges in this matter, in the hope of finding justice in this court. Instead, McCarrick walks a free man and I am left with nothing.”

The steep fall of McCarrick has wounded the world’s largest Christian group and produced several unprecedented — if incremental — steps toward accountability.

But, as an individual, McCarrick has not faced justice in the ways his alleged victims and his own American society typically demand it — through a guilty verdict, victim impact statements or financial penalties. Some clergy abuse experts and McCarrick accusers said Wednesday that the judge’s decision was harmful, while others said they were looking to a more eternal verdict.

“From my perspective, the God he claimed to serve will now be his judge,” said John Bellocchio, who has accused McCarrick of abusing him in the 1990s, when Bellocchio was 14. “And I doubt — in his profound arrogance — I doubt he will fare well.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI says it dismantled a botnet that hacked hundreds of thousands of computers, David DiMolfetta, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The Qakbot network was responsible for enabling ransomware, financial fraud and other cyber crimes, the FBI said.

U.S. authorities on Tuesday announced a multinational operation that they said took down a network that had infected hundreds of thousands of computers with malware and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from cyberattacks worldwide.

The FBI called the action that disabled the infamous Qakbot malware “one of the largest U.S.-led disruptions of a botnet infrastructure used by cybercriminals to commit ransomware, financial fraud, and other cyber-enabled criminal activity.” The Justice Department said law enforcement agencies in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Romania and Latvia also participated in the operation, which it said was code-named “Duck Hunt.”

Some $8.6 million in stolen cryptocurrency related to the network’s operations also was seized and will be returned to victims, the FBI said.
Qakbot, first discovered in 2008, has frequently targeted victims’ computers through spam email messages containing malicious hyperlinks or attachments. Victim machines would then become another link in the network, surreptitiously under control of those seeking to use the network for cybercrime. Some 700,000 victims have been identified worldwide, with 200,000 of them in the United States, according to the Justice Department.

The botnet enabled the operations of number of high-profile ransomware groups, including Conti and REvil, that targeted organizations such as hospitals, schools and municipal governments, holding their sensitive data hostage in exchange for a ransom payment. Victims have included a power engineering firm based in Illinois, a financial services company in Alabama and a food distribution company in California, according to authorities, who added that Qakbot administrators received about $58 million in ransoms paid by victims between October 2021 and April 2023.

 

manhattan institute

The Guardian, Billionaire-linked US thinktank behind supreme court wealth tax case lobbying, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dominic Rushe, Aug. 27, 2023. Manhattan Institute one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the court to hear 'Moore v US.'

An influential thinktank closely linked to two billionaires who provided lavish travel gifts to conservative supreme court justices is behind a successful lobbying campaign to get the US high court to take on a case that could protect them and other billionaires from a possible future wealth tax.

manhattan institute logoThe Manhattan Institute was one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the supreme court to take on Moore v US, a $15,000 tax case that Democrats have warned could permanently “lock in” the right of billionaires to opt out of paying fair taxes.

The billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer is chairman of the Manhattan Institute and Kathy Crow, who is married to the real estate mogul Harlan Crow, serves as a trustee of the group. Both have provided two of the justices – Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, respectively – with private travel gifts and have socialised with the judges on lavish vacations, according to reports in ProPublica and other media outlets.

The revelations have stoked serious accusations of ethical and legal violations by the two rightwing justices, who failed to disclose the travel and – in Thomas’s case – hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional gifts from the Crows, including property purchases and private tuition payments for Thomas’s great-nephew.

Thomas has called the Crows his “dearest friends” and claimed Harlan Crow “did not have business before the Court”. Alito has said he could recall speaking to Singer only on a “handful of occasions” and that the two had never discussed Singer’s business or issues before the court.

But Alito and Thomas’s dealings with the conservative billionaires have nevertheless raised questions about how the justices’ close ties might influence which cases are taken on by the court.

The supreme court announced it would hear Moore vs US on 26 June. On its face, the case appears to be centered on a relatively minor tax dispute between Charles and Kathleen Moore, a Washington-state couple, and the US government.

Charles Moore spent most of his career as a software engineer at Microsoft, where he met one of the future founders of KisanKraft, a company that provides low-cost tools to farmers in India.

In 2006, the Moores invested about $40,000 in KisanKraft. The investment gave them an 11% stake in the company, which made profits but did not pay dividends, the Moores said.

In 2017, the Trump administration passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a law that contained a one-off levy on US corporations’ foreign earnings – the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (MRT). It was estimated that MRT would raise $340bn in tax revenue. To the Moores’ chagrin, it also created an unexpected $15,000 tax liability in connection to their KisanKraft holding.

The tax was unfair and unconstitutional – they argue – because they never realized any gains from the investment. In a video interview of the couple created by the rightwing Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – which took on a key role in the legal matter – the couple explain their decision to take legal action.

The only “return” the couple had made, Kathleen noted, was knowing that the company was helping and reaching people “all over India”. “We are doing this because we strongly believe in the rule of law in this country,” said Charles.

The couple enlisted the help of the CEI and one of the most powerful and well-connected law firms in Washington, BakerHostetler, whose clients have included Boeing, ExxonMobil and Major League Baseball, and sued the US government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Antiabortion activist who kept fetuses is convicted of blocking clinic, Keith L. Alexander, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). 4 other antiabortionist defendants were also convicted of conspiracy and using violence or force to block access to a Northwest Washington clinic in 2020.

An antiabortion activist who kept fetuses in a Capitol Hill home was convicted Tuesday of illegally blockading a reproductive health clinic in D.C.

Lauren Handy was on trial with four others who were charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law that prohibits threats to and obstruction of a person seeking reproductive health services or providers. A U.S. District Court jury in D.C. found Handy and all four of her co-defendants guilty on all counts.
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Federal prosecutors allege the defendants — Handy, of Alexandria, Va.; John Hinshaw, of Levittown, N.Y.; Heather Idoni, of Linden, Mich.; William Goodman, of New York; and Herb Geraghty, of Pittsburgh — violated federal law when they used chains, bike locks and ropes to blockade the Washington Surgi-Clinic in October 2020. The trial for a second group of defendants facing charges from the same blockade is scheduled to begin next week.

It took the jury of eight men and four women about a day to reach the verdicts following about a week of testimony and evidence. The defendants sat expressionless as the verdicts were read.

In the hallway outside the courtroom afterward, the defendants were allowed to briefly mingle with their supporters, several of whom were in tears. “You are standing on the shoulders of giants,” one of Handy’s supporters said to her. “This is your Birmingham jail,” another supporter told her, a reference to where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was imprisoned during civil rights demonstrations in 1963.

In the hallway, Handy called out the name of the abortion doctor at the Northwest Washington clinic and said the doctor was “committing infanticide.”

Minutes later, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly summoned the defendants and their attorneys back into the courtroom. Based on the convictions, she ordered Handy and the other co-defendants jailed until sentencing later this year. The defendants face up to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to $350,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, More schools that forced American Indian children to assimilate revealed, Dana Hedgpeth and Emmanuel Martinez, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A nonprofit Native American group has found details about 115 more Indian boarding schools in the United States.

A nonprofit group has identified 115 more Indian boarding schools than has been previously reported, offering new insight into the role of religious institutions in the long-standing federal policy to eradicate Native Americans’ culture through their children.

For more than a century, generations of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were forced or coerced from their homes and communities and sent to live at schools where they were beaten, starved and made to abandon their Native languages and culture. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the federal government ran or supported 408 such schools in 37 states, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven in Hawaii, from 1819 to 1969.

The new list released Wednesday by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition uses a different criteria, bringing the number of known Indian boarding schools in the country to 523 in 38 states. In addition to the federally supported schools tallied by the Interior Department, the coalition identified 115 more institutions that operated beginning in 1801, most of them run by religious groups and churches.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: An FBI source, a Burisma deal, the Bidens and details that don’t match up, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 30, 2023. Congressional Republicans recently released an FBI document from 2020 that makes a shocking allegation about President Biden — that he and his son Hunter were involved in a foreign bribery scheme with a Ukrainian business executive.

Republicans have long been investigating Hunter Biden’s business affairs, as recounted on a recovered laptop, and some have suggested the claim could be the basis for a possible impeachment inquiry of the president.

The four-page document that the Republicans released, an FD-1023 form, is the kind used to record information from a person the FBI considers a “confidential human source” (CHS). That means the information would not be a tip from an unknown walk-in, but from someone who had been vetted and assessed by the FBI as potentially helpful for investigations. Still, such individuals can be unreliable and any statements by a CHS are basically unverified tips.

The identity of this FBI source and any connection to Ukraine remain unknown, and the FBI has not publicly confirmed any tips the person supplied in the document. Moreover, the person was interviewed by telephone in 2020 about conversations that took place as many as four years earlier. Nonetheless, some Republicans have treated the document’s allegations as true. “As Vice President Joe Biden sold his influence to the highest bidder,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Republican leadership, said on social media in May. “He is unfit to be President of the United States.”

While the document recounts conversations that cannot be independently verified, The Fact Checker can shed light on a business transaction described in those conversations, comparing the document’s account with publicly available information. The transaction concerned the alleged desire of Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, to purchase a U.S.-based company. During the period described in the document as starting in late 2015 and extending two or three months into 2016, Burisma did make a deal with a company based in Texas. This agreement sparked the interest of conservative media, as there are similarities to the FBI source’s account of what Burisma sought.

But upon examination, the facts don’t add up.

To test whether any other business transaction might match with the FBI source’s account, The Fact Checker examined all available news reports in Ukrainian, English and Russian concerning Burisma from September 2015 to April 2016. We also scoured emails from that period in Hunter Biden’s apparently abandoned laptop. No other deal matches this one. Because conservative outlets have speculated that the Texas deal is the one discussed by the person in the FBI document, that is the one we will fact-check. A representative for Hunter Biden declined to comment.

In a way, as Comer’s comment to Fox Business indicates, the Burisma deal in question is the linchpin of the GOP accusation that the Bidens were bribed.

 

 University of North Carolina Professor Zijie Yan, left, is shown with his accused murderer, Tailei Qi, a grad student advisee of the professor.

 University of North Carolina Professor Zijie Yan, left, is shown with his accused murderer, Tailei Qi, a grad student advisee of the professor.

ap logoAssociated Press, University of North Carolina graduate student charged in killing of faculty advisor denied bond, Hannah Schoenbaum, Gary D. Robertson and Sarah Rankin, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Authorities charged a University of North Carolina graduate student Tuesday with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of his faculty advisor, in an attack that caused a campus lockdown while police searched for the gunman.

tailei qiDuring a brief hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sherri Murrell ordered 34-year-old Tailei Qi, right, to remain jailed without bond as an interpreter explained to Qi in Mandarin what was happening in the courtroom. She scheduled his next court date for Sept. 18.

Dana Graves, a public defender who represented Qi during the hearing, left the courtroom without talking to reporters.

Qi is charged with first-degree murder and having a 9mm handgun on educational property in the Monday killing of Zijie Yan inside of a science building on UNC’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill. The attack led to a roughly three-hour lockdown of the campus, a week after students returned for the start of the fall semester.

Authorities haven’t publicly speculated as to a motive for the attack.

Yan was an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences who had worked for the university since 2019, UNC said in a statement Tuesday, noting that it has been in contact with Yan’s family and is providing them with resources and support.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a message to the UNC community that his team had met with Yan’s colleagues and family to express condolences on behalf of the campus.

“He was a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to many on our campus,” Guskiewicz said.

On Wednesday, the school’s iconic Bell Tower will ring in honor of Yan’s memory and students are encouraged to take a moment of silence, he wrote.

In a page that has been taken down since the attack, Qi was listed on the school’s website as a graduate student in Yan’s research group and Yan was listed as his adviser. He previously studied at Wuhan University in China before moving to the U.S. and earning a masters in mechanical engineering at Louisiana State University in 2021.

Qi, who lives in Chapel Hill, was arrested during a roughly three-hour lockdown that followed the shooting, authorities said at a Monday news conference. “To actually have the suspect in custody gives us an opportunity to figure out the why and even the how, and also helps us to uncover a motive and really just why this happened today. Why today, why at all?” UNC Police Chief Brian James said. “And we want to learn from this incident and we will certainly work to do our best to ensure that this never happens again on the UNC campus.”

 

Murder victim Dr. Zijie Yan of the University of North Carolina (CBS News graphic).

Murder victim Dr. Zijie Yan of the University of North Carolina (CBS News graphic).

WFMY-TV (CBS affiliate in Greenboro, NC), 'He made me a better person' | UNC professor killed in campus shooting remembered by colleague, Itinease McMiller, Aug. 29, 2023. Dr. Zijie Yan moved to UNC in 2019, but he stayed in contact with his colleague from the University of Chicago.Dr. Zijie Yan moved to UNC in 2019, but he stayed in contact with his colleague from the University of Chicago.

On Tuesday, we learned more about the victim, Zijie Yan and his relationship with the suspect Tailei Qi.

Yan was the suspect's advisor, according to the UNC Chaple Hill website.

University of Chicago professor Norbert Scherer was a friend and research partner of Yan's. Schere said Yan was a caring and understanding professor.
"The respectful way and polite way he would interact was a great role model for everyone in my group I very much appreciated that," Scherer said. "He made me a better person."

The two did research on nanoscale objects, published articles and even worked on grants together for more than a decade.

"He was always calm and was quiet. He was often right when I made suggestions so it was a real respect going back and forth between the two of us. It was a real pleasure," Scherer said.

Throughout Yan's time at the University of Chicago, Clarkson University and his move to UNC in 2019 they kept in touch.

Schere said Yan was a dedicated husband and father of two. He said Yan moved to North Carolina so that his wife could pursue an opportunity in economics at UNC. The last time they spoke was last month.

"I was utterly shocked," Scherer said. It was through text that Norbert heard Yan's own student was suspected of killing him on campus.

"He was a beloved colleague mentor and a friend to so many on our campus," said Kevin Guskiewicz UNC's chancellor.

Yan had his own research group on campus as an associate professor in applied physical science. The student accused of killing him was part of that team. Just this month UNC posted an article on the research group where both Yan and his suspected killer are photographed together.

"Are these the kinds of conflicts that can arise in research I would characterize it as exceedingly rare," Scherer said. "Nothing in what happened is in any way excusable or explainable or forgivable.

In honor of Dr. Yan UNC will ring the campus bell tower and have a moment of silence in his memory Wednesday.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian officials said drones targeted six regions in a barrage on Russian soil, Staff Reports, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Exploding drones attacked six regions of Russia overnight Wednesday and damaged four military cargo planes at an airfield hundreds of miles from Ukraine, Russian officials said, suggesting that, after months of enduring missile and drone strikes with little recourse, Ukraine is increasingly able to hit back deep inside Russia.

In what appeared to be the most successful of the strikes, four Russian Il-76 military cargo planes were damaged while parked near a runway at an airfield in Pskov, 30 miles from the border with Estonia, a NATO member. The Russian regional governor posted video footage of smoke billowing from an airfield where he said drones had damaged the planes, although the extent was unclear.

Russia also launched a wave of attacks on Ukraine early Wednesday that targeted at least three regions. Ukraine’s Air Force said it had shot down 43 of 44 missiles and drones, although officials in Kyiv, the capital, said that falling debris from drones or missiles shot down by air defense systems killed at least two people.

Russian officials said Ukrainian drones targeted six regions in one of the biggest barrages on Russian soil since the war began. In Ukraine, at least two people were killed after strikes on Kyiv.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Drones were fired at six Russian regions, damaging military planes at an airport.
  • As Ukraine’s counteroffensive pushes south, Tokmak is a strategic target.
  • The war will leave poorer countries struggling for food this year, a U.S. intelligence report says.
  • Attacks in Russia appear to show the range of Ukraine’s drones, and bolster frontline morale.
  • Both Russia and Ukraine have struggled to fend off drone attacks.
  • Ukraine’s drone strikes against Russia are a message for its own people, U.S. officials say.
  • The Pentagon announces $250 million more in military hardware and ammunition for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Russian and Turkish officials are discussing Moscow’s pitch to replace the grain deal it abandoned, Jesus Jiménez, Aug. 31, 2023. Russia, which has targeted Ukraine’s grain facilities, is pitching an alternative to the deal that appears aimed at helping its own exports.

About six weeks ago, Russia abandoned a deal that mitigated a global food crisis by enabling Ukrainian grain exports to get past Moscow’s warships in the Black Sea. Since then, Russian forces have repeatedly struck the port of Odesa, as well as other facilities connected to Ukraine’s grain industry, and warned civilian shippers that they could be considered to be aiding Ukraine in the war.

Moscow is now pitching a plan that it casts as an alternative to the deal, one that appears aimed at helping its own exports. The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey are set to discuss the proposal on Thursday in Moscow.

Turkey, along with the United Nations brokered the deal, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, in July 2022. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been trying to balance relations with Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which it is a member, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but has maintained ties to Moscow and did not join NATO allies in imposing sanctions on Russia.
Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Russia and Turkey are discussing Moscow’s grain proposal.
  • Ukraine’s military medical commissions are under review amid concerns about draft evasion.
  • The U.K. replaces its defense secretary, though its support for Ukraine is expected to remain strong.
  • The Kremlin spokesman, rejecting foreign help in its Prigozhin crash inquiry, notes theories of foul play.
  • Two Ukrainian military helicopters crashed in the east, killing 6 officers.
  • A Russian peace activist is sentenced to 6 years in prison for her social media posts criticizing the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Object of Ukraine’s Desire: F-16s From the West. But It’s Tricky, Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Ukraine’s urgency in obtaining the fighter jet reflects concerns about the war against Russia. But training pilots and support crew is a lengthy process.

The F-16 fighter jets would not be delivered to Ukraine until next year, but that did not dissuade President Volodymyr Zelensky from hopping into one last week in the Netherlands — one stop on a European tour to collect commitments to donate the warplane as quickly as possible.

There he was in Denmark, praising the government for “helping Ukraine to become invincible” with its pledge to send 19 jets. In Athens, he said Greece’s offer to train Ukrainian pilots would “help us fight for our freedom.” Within days of returning to Kyiv, Mr. Zelensky had secured promises from a half-dozen countries to either donate the jets — potentially more than 60 — or provide training for pilots and support crew.

“It is important and necessary,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store of Norway told Mr. Zelensky in Kyiv, announcing that his government would provide an undetermined number of the jets — probably 10 or fewer — in the future.

It was a remarkable victory lap for a sophisticated attack aircraft that even Ukraine’s defense minister has acknowledged is unlikely to perform in combat until next spring — and then only for the few pilots who can understand English well enough to fly it. With Ukraine’s counteroffensive grinding ahead slowly this summer, Mr. Zelensky’s airy announcements of securing the F-16s signal a tacit acknowledgment that the 18-month war in Ukraine will likely endure for years to come.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, Gabon army claims overthrow of 56-year-old political dynasty after election, Eve Sampson, Victoria Bisset and Rachel Chason, Aug. 30, 2023. Gabon army officers announce seizure of power after presidential vote.

Military officers in Gabon said they were seizing power Wednesday, just minutes after President Ali Bongo was declared the winner of a controversial election marred by violence and allegations of vote rigging.

The officers who appeared on state television Wednesday announced the closure of borders and dissolved state institutions including the Senate, National Assembly and Constitutional Court. They said in a later statement that Bongo was under house arrest.

Bongo, who was seeking a third term in office, came to power following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009, after more than four decades in power. Both men were key allies of the oil-rich country’s former colonial power, France, and the family is believed to have amassed significant wealth — which is the subject of a judicial investigation in France.

Gabon is generally considered more stable than other countries that have experienced unrest in recent years, but it now appears set to join a growing list of junta-led states — including Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan — that create a geographical belt of turmoil across sub-Saharan Africa.

Rebel soldiers in Niger deposed the country’s Western-allied president, Mohamed Bazoum, on July 26 amid political upheaval, a rise in Islamist extremism and growing Russian influence across the region.

Britain, France, Germany and the European Union announced the end of aid to Niger after the ouster, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States could follow suit. So far, President Biden has not labeled the situation a coup.

A key regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said in August that it was prepared for military intervention and had decided on a “D-Day” for intervention — though it did not give a date and said diplomacy was still possible.

Why a bloc of West African countries is threatening to invade Niger

Coup supporters in Niger’s capital, Niamey, as well as in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, have been spotted waving Russian flags, and experts say uncertainty around the coup leaders’ motivation may hamper Western attempts to restore Bazoum through diplomacy.

The coup has also thrust the fate of Niger’s uranium to center stage as experts say European countries may have to grapple with the effects on the nuclear industry — especially in France, which evacuated European nationals from the country but has resisted an ultimatum from the coup leaders for its ambassador to leave.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope Says a Strong U.S. Faction Offers a Backward View of the Church, Jason Horowitz and Ruth Graham, Aug. 30, 2023. Pope Francis said some conservative American Catholics wrongly ignore much of the Church’s mission and reject the possibility of change.

Pope Francis has expressed in unusually sharp terms his dismay at “a very strong, organized, reactionary attitude” opposing him within the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, one that fixates on social issues like abortion and sexuality to the exclusion of caring for the poor and the environment.

The pope lamented the “backwardness” of some American conservatives who he said insist on a narrow, outdated and unchanging vision. They refuse, he said, to accept the full breadth of the Church’s mission and the need for changes in doctrine over time.

“I would like to remind these people that backwardness is useless,” Francis, 86, told a group of fellow Jesuits early this month in a meeting at World Youth Day celebrations in Lisbon. “Doing this, you lose the true tradition and you turn to ideologies to have support. In other words, ideologies replace faith.”

His words became public this week, when a transcript of the conversation was published by the Vatican-vetted Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica.

His comments were an unusually explicit statement of the pope’s longstanding lament that the ideological bent of some leading American Catholics has turned them into culture warriors rather than pastors, offering the faithful a warped view of Church doctrine rather than a healthy, well-rounded faith. It has become a major theme of his papacy that he sees himself as bringing the church forward while his misguided conservative critics try to hold it back.

In 2018, in a major document called an apostolic exhortation on the subject of holiness, Francis explicitly wrote that caring for migrants and the poor is as holy a pursuit as opposing abortion. “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate,” he wrote. “Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned.”

He has urged priests to welcome and minister to people who are gay, divorced and remarried, and he has called on the whole world to tackle climate change, calling it a moral issue. Francis is set to travel on Thursday to Mongolia for a trip that will highlight interreligious dialogue and the protection of the environment — issues far from the top of the priority list for many American conservatives.

For nearly a decade, Francis’ conservative critics have accused him of leading the church astray and of diluting the faith with a fuzzy pastoral emphasis that blurred — or at times erased — the Church’s traditions and central tenets. Some U.S. bishops have issued public warnings about the Vatican’s direction, with varying degrees of alarm, and clashed with the pope over everything from liturgy and worship styles, to the centrality of abortion opposition in the Catholic faith, to American politics.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 73 Dead in Building Fire in Johannesburg, John Eligon and Lynsey Chutel, Aug. 31, 2023. At least 73 people were killed and dozens of others injured in Johannesburg on Thursday when a blaze tore through a building where squatters lived in dangerous conditions, city officials said, in one of the deadliest residential fires in South Africa’s history. The authorities were still trying to determine what caused the blaze.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Viktor Orbán tells Tucker Carlson: Trump’s the man to save the West, Laura Hulsemann, Aug. 30, 2023. Ukraine has no chance of winning the war against Russia — and Donald Trump is the West’s only hope, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told controversial American TV host Tucker Carlson.

In an interview Tuesday, Orbán said that Kyiv’s victory against Moscow “is not just a misunderstanding. It is a lie. It’s impossible … [Ukrainians] will run out earlier … of soldiers than the Russians. What finally will count is boots on the ground and the Russians are far stronger.”

Only the U.S. can end the war, the Hungarian leader added.

politico Custom“We missed the historic opportunity” to admit Ukraine to NATO, Orbán told Carlson in the interview, saying that Russia is getting “stronger and stronger.” Ukraine’s admission to NATO “is not a realistic proposal at this moment, so forget about it,” he added.

He also does not believe that Russians will get sick of President Vladimir Putin, and he sees little chance for Crimea to be returned to Ukraine.

Asked what he would do if he were U.S. President Joe Biden, Orbán said: “Call back Trump! Because you know, you can criticize him for many reasons … but … the best foreign policy of the recent several decades belongs to him. He did not initiate any new war, he treated nicely the North Koreans, and Russia and even the Chinese … and if he would have been the president at the moment of the Russian invasion [of Ukraine], it would be not possible to do that by the Russians.”

“Trump is the man who can save the Western world” and all of humanity, he said.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Classified Australian report on climate change rings alarm bells, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 30-31, 2023. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAustralian intelligence may have written a Doomsday report on climate change.

The Australian government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is withholding release of a classified report on climate change that is so secret even the date of the report is not being revealed. The report on the national security implications to Australia of global climate change was prepared by the Office of National Intelligence (ONI). It was completed sometime last year.

wayne madesen report logoThe only thing Albanese has said about the report is that it was completed within the last 12 months. He stressed that "the specific timing of the assessment board is classified.” Perhaps an inkling of what the report contains is found in an 80-page government statement on national security and the climate that was submitted to Parliament in December of last year. That submission was quite clear on the risks to Australia of climate change, stating that the spike in global temperature will "increasingly exacerbate risks [as] geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond."

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Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia (left to right) convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).

 

More On Climate, Hawaiian Disaster, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Scorching Heat Is Contributing to Migrant Deaths, Edgar Sandoval, Aug. 31, 2023. Amid a heat wave, some migrants are succumbing to heat exhaustion. More than 500 people have died of various causes this year trying to cross from Mexico.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow, Mira Rojanasakul, Christopher Flavelle, Blacki Migliozzi and Eli Murray, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The first article in a series on the causes and consequences of disappearing water,

Unchecked overuse is draining and damaging aquifers, a Times data investigation found, threatening millions of people and the nation’s status as a food superpower.

Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view.

Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of America into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are being severely depleted. These declines are threatening irreversible harm to the American economy and society as a whole.

The New York Times conducted a months-long examination of groundwater depletion, interviewing more than 100 experts, traveling the country and creating a comprehensive database using millions of readings from monitoring sites. The investigation reveals how America’s life-giving resource is being exhausted in much of the country, and in many cases it won’t come back. Huge industrial farms and sprawling cities are draining aquifers that could take centuries or millenniums to replenish themselves if they recover at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are five takeaways from our investigation into America’s groundwater crisis, Christopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Aquifer are shrinking nationwide, threatening supplies of drinking water and America’s status as a food superpower. Climate change is amplifying the problem.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The threat to groundwater is a classic tragedy of the commons, David Leonhardt, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The water that lies beneath the earth’s surface — known as groundwater — has been a vital resource for thousands of years. Communities that are far away from lakes and rivers use groundwater to irrigate crops and provide drinking water.

For most of human history, groundwater has existed in a convenient equilibrium. The pockets of water under the surface need years or decades to replenish as rainwater and other moisture seep into the earth. Fortunately, though, people have used groundwater slowly, allowing replenishment to happen.

Now that equilibrium is at risk.

Several of my colleagues — led by Mira Rojanasakul and Christopher Flavelle — have spent months compiling data on groundwater levels across the U.S., based on more than 80,000 monitoring stations. Chris and Mira did so after discovering that no comprehensive database existed. The statistics tended to be local and fragmented, making it difficult to understand national patterns.

The trends in this new database are alarming. Over the past 40 years, groundwater levels at most of the sites have declined. At 11 percent of the sites, levels last year fell to their lowest level on record. The U.S., in other words, is taking water out of the ground more quickly than nature is replenishing it.

“There’s almost no way to convey how important it is,” Don Cline, the associate director for water resources at the United States Geological Survey, told The Times.

Already, there are consequences. In parts of Kansas, the shortage of water has reduced the amount of corn that an average acre can produce.

In Norfolk, Va., officials have resorted to pumping treated wastewater into underground rock layers that store groundwater — known as aquifers — to replenish them. On Long Island, the depletion of aquifers has allowed saltwater to seep in and threatened the groundwater that remains.

“We’ve built whole parts of the country and whole parts of the economy on groundwater, which is fine so long as you have groundwater,” Chris told me. “I don’t think people realize quite how quickly we’re burning through it.”

Aquifer water levels are falling nationwide. The danger is worse and more widespread than many people realize.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hurricane Idalia Powerful Storm Sweeps Into Georgia After Pelting Florida Coast, Patricia Mazzei and Judson Jones, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Idalia, now a Category 1 storm, brought destructive winds and life-threatening storm surges before moving inland. Communities as far as North Carolina were threatened.

Hurricane Idalia lashed southern Georgia after making landfall along a sparsely populated stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning, toppling trees and flooding fishing villages while on a course to menace other parts of the Southeast. At least two storm-related deaths were reported on Florida’s slick roads.

Briefly a Category 4 storm overnight, Idalia had weakened to Category 1 strength by Wednesday afternoon. But with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, it still presented a grave threat, and the National Hurricane Center and local officials warned of “catastrophic” storm surge as the waters continued to rise.

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Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

 

2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez drops out of Republican presidential race, Mariana Alfaro, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Suarez, the only high-profile Hispanic candidate in the field, is the first aspirant to drop out of the crowded GOP primary field.

francis suarez oMiami Mayor Francis Suarez, right, is ending his long-shot 2024 presidential campaign less than three months after he launched it.

“While I have decided to suspend my campaign for President, my commitment to making this a better nation for every American remains,” Suarez said in a post shared on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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Suarez, the only Hispanic candidate in the GOP nominating contest, launched his campaign in mid-June, later than most of his now-former rivals. Last week, he failed to qualify for the first Republican debate after falling short of the necessary polling requirements.

In a lengthy post on X, Suarez said it was “a privilege to come so close to appearing on stage with the other candidates at last week’s first debate.”

“I had looked forward to sharing the story of Miami, America’s most successful city, especially at a time when so many cities are plagued with poverty, unemployment, high taxes, violent crime, and homelessness,” he said. “I know what we have achieved during my tenure leading the City of Miami can be replicated in every community in our great country.”

washington post logoWashington Post, No Labels preps playbook to select presidential candidates, broaden support, Michael Scherer, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The group that’s preparing a potential third-party bid is seeking ways to grow grass roots before deciding whether to field candidates next year.

The organizers of No Labels, the bipartisan group preparing a potential third-party presidential ticket, have been conducting focus groups with like-minded voters to help draft a candidate selection plan next year without a traditional state-run primary system.

The group is also considering staging televised town halls or debates in the coming months, possibly with a media partner, to help kick-start the process of selecting presidential and vice-presidential nominees. No Labels plans to nominate candidates at an April convention in Dallas only if the group’s leaders first determine that there is a viable path to victory against the Democratic and Republican nominees.

The logistical challenges the group faces are unusual as it seeks to stand up a one-time ballot line in 50 states without a traditional queue of jockeying candidates or an established political party structure. Organizers say they want to convince more than a third of the country to feel ownership of their effort but are wary of making the process so open that partisans on the left or right can hijack the ballot line for candidates who reject their founding mission of elevating bipartisan compromise.

“The whole idea of this is that this has to be a demand-driven phenomenon. We want a ticket like this to be selected because there is an overwhelming desire for something different,” No Labels senior adviser Ryan Clancy said, while making clear that the group wants to keep its options open.

“The endgame of this effort isn’t necessarily a ticket. The endgame is a voice for the common-sense majority,” he said.

The public announcement of a nominating process, which is expected this fall, is aimed at pushing back on some criticism — largely from Democrats, who have attacked the structure of the group, which shields the identities of its donors. Matt Bennett, a No Labels critic at the centrist Democratic group Third Way, has warned that No Labels candidates will be selected “by a cabal of insiders and secret donors.”

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Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

 

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

Politico, GOP senators weigh 'special' meeting on their leadership after McConnell's freeze, Burgess Everett, Aug. 31, 2023. It takes just five Republicans to force such a sitdown, the most direct way to specifically discuss their future amid revived questions about the leader's health.

politico CustomA handful of GOP senators is weighing whether to force a fraught internal debate about their leadership’s future after Mitch McConnell’s second public freeze-up in a month.

Some rank-and-file Republicans have discussed the possibility of a broader conversation once senators return to Washington next week, according to a person directly involved in the conversations who confirmed them on condition of anonymity. Party leadership is not currently involved in those discussions, and nothing has been decided yet, this person added.

It takes just five Republican senators to force a special conference meeting, which is the most direct way to have a specific discussion about the minority leader after his public pause on Wednesday revived questions about his condition. But the Senate GOP also holds private lunches two or three times a week, giving members another forum for hashing out the direction of the party’s leadership — one that could forestall the need for a special confab.

 

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30, 2020 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters) 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump’s Election Lies Left the Michigan G.O.P. Broken and Battered, Nick Corasaniti, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Infighting between former President Trump acolytes and traditionalists has driven away donors and voters in Michigan. Can the party rebuild?

The Michigan Republican Party is starving for cash. A group of prominent activists — including a former statewide candidate — was hit this month with felony charges connected to a bizarre plot to hijack election machines. And in the face of these troubles, suspicion and infighting have been running high. A recent state committee meeting led to a fistfight, a spinal injury and a pair of shattered dentures.

republican elephant logoThis turmoil is one measure of the way Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have rippled through his party. While Mr. Trump has michigan mapjust begun to wrestle with the consequences of his fictions — including two indictments related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 results — the vast machine of activists, donors and volunteers that power his party has been reckoning with the fallout for years.

As the party looks toward the presidential election next year, the strains are glaring.

Mr. Trump’s election lies spread like wildfire in Michigan, breaking the state party into ardent believers and pragmatists wanting to move on. Bitter disputes, power struggles and contentious primaries followed, leaving the Michigan Republican Party a husk of itself.

The battleground has steadily grown safer for Democrats. No Republican has won a statewide election there since Mr. Trump won the state in 2016. (Republicans have won nonpartisan seats on the State Supreme Court.) G.O.P. officials in the state are growing concerned that they do not have a top-tier candidate to run for the open Senate seat.

Politico, McConnell freezes again during Kentucky press conference, office says he was 'lightheaded,' Kierra Frazier and Burgess Everett, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The Senate minority leader froze for nearly 30 seconds during a press conference in Kentucky on Wednesday, the second time in as many months that he's frozen in public.

politico CustomSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze for nearly 30 seconds during a press conference Wednesday, an episode his office attributed to him being “momentarily lightheaded.”

The Senate minority leader, speaking in Kentucky, froze while answering questions from reporters. Aides stepped in to help McConnell out and repeat questions. Before McConnell froze, he was asked about whether he planned to run for reelection in 2026.

Wednesday’s episode was McConnell’s second freeze while talking to reporters in public. In July, McConnell abruptly stopped his opening remarks at an afternoon press conference at the Capitol, causing alarm when he left for a few minutes and then returned to answer questions.

Politico, Blake Masters plans another Arizona Senate bid — this time for Sinema’s seat, Burgess Everett and Holly Otterbein, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Masters lost to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly last year — a critical blow to Republicans’ bid to take back the upper chamber.

politico CustomBlake Masters is making plans to launch another Arizona Senate bid, potentially as soon as next week, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Masters did not reply to a request for comment. Masters won the GOP nomination last year but lost to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in a critical swing state.

Former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s advisers say she is expected to announce a Senate campaign in early fall, though some Republicans are skeptical Lake and Masters would run for the same seat. Pinal County sheriff Mark Lamb is another GOP candidate.

Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based GOP strategist, said he talked to Masters a few months ago and he “was pretty decisively in.” However, he said, Masters had been waiting for Lake to decide whether to run.

“I think he is now under the impression that maybe Kari Lake isn’t going to run, because I’ll tell you if Lake and Blake are both in, he is wasting his time,” he said. “They occupy the same lane. They have nearly the same name. And she has much better positive name ID among Republicans than Blake does.”

“If Kari Lake runs, there is no lane for Blake Masters,” he added.

This year’s Senate race could be much weirder than last year, with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema potentially running as an independent — though she hasn’t yet indicated her plans — and Rep. Ruben Gallego running for the Democratic nomination.

And Republicans could face a tough primary between Masters, Lake and Lamb; GOP leaders have shown no preference among those candidates. Last year, Washington Republicans eventually soured on Masters’ candidacy as conservatives pushed for more funding in his race, a sign the party is divided on the kind of nominee that can win in Arizona. And traditional GOP candidates like former Gov. Doug Ducey have passed on the race.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tennessee lawmakers end special session without significant gun measures, Annie Gowen, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). As protesters in the gallery chanted “Vote them out,” Tennessee legislators concluded a special session on public safety Tuesday without approving significant gun-control measures, despite outcry following a deadly March shooting at a local Christian school.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee had ordered legislators back to Nashville for the special summer session after a tumultuous spring that began with the tragedy at the nearby Covenant School, where three staffers and three 9-year-olds were killed, and concluded with the high-profile expulsion of two young Black legislators who protested for gun-control proposals on the House floor. After the expulsions brought national condemnation, the two men eventually regained their seats.

But when legislators made their way back to the sun-baked Capitol — through sign-waving demonstrators, masked and armed members of the extremist Proud Boys, and dozens of Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers brought in for the occasion — little was accomplished, legislators on both sides of the aisle said.

Politico, GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin scheme to remove elections chief, Zach Montellaro, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The nonpartisan official says she has been put in an "impossible, untenable spot." Wisconsin Republicans are moving to fire the state’s nonpartisan elections director ahead of the upcoming presidential primary in the state, casting a shadow of uncertainty over 2024 elections.

politico CustomThe state Senate is set to hold a hearing Tuesday on Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the first step in what is likely an attempt to remove her from her position. Democrats say Republicans want to drive Wolfe out of office as retribution for decisions the commission made in 2020.

The brawl over Wolfe illustrates how, nearly three years after then-President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election in 2020, election misinformation still has a grip on arguably the most important swing state on the map — with Trump potentially on the ticket again.

“I think that it’s largely out of a desire to find an explanation for Donald Trump’s loss other than fewer people voted for him than Joe Biden,” Ann S. Jacobs, one of the Democratic commissioners on the WEC, said of the machinations to remove Wolfe. “She is the chief elections officer, she offers a face to the conspiracy theories.”

The margin between Biden and Trump in Wisconsin in 2020 was extremely narrow, and Republicans have fixated on a handful of decisions the bipartisan, six-member WEC board of commissioners approved, including how absentee voting was handled in nursing homes during the pandemic.

Heightening the discord is state House leaders tapping former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman as a “special counsel” to review the election in the summer of 2021. Gableman embraced fringe conspiracy theories and targeted state and local election officials. He lambasted grants from a nonprofit funded by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg that went to election offices across the state. Beyond that, he mocked Wolfe on personal terms by deriding her physical appearance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin Supreme Court flips liberal, creating a ‘seismic shift,’ Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Standing in the marble-lined rotunda of the state capitol this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s incoming justice raised her right hand, swore to carry out her job “faithfully and impartially” and launched a new, liberal era on a powerful court long dominated by conservatives.

The fallout was immediate.

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matt schlapp cpac

 

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

 

joe biden afghan speech aug 16 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s course for U.S. on trade breaks with Clinton and Obama, David J. Lynch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The labor-friendly president, shown above in a file photo, has kept Trump tariffs while embracing active industrial policy, parting from decades of trade policy.

President Biden is making it clear that the United States’ rejection of full-throttle globalization during the Trump administration was no aberration, as he continues a remarkable break with decades of trade policy that spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations.
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Blending a tough-on-China stance with lavish federal subsidies for favored industries, the president is reshaping the U.S. approach to cross-border commerce to focus on the needs of Americans as workers rather than consumers.

Left out of the president’s strategy, to the irritation of many business groups, have been traditional trade deals, which gave American companies greater access to foreign markets in return for allowing producers in those countries to sell more goods in the United States. The White House says the old approach cost many American factory workers their jobs.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Artificial Intelligence Brings the Robot Wingman to Aerial Combat, Eric Lipton, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). An Air Force program shows how the Pentagon is starting to embrace the potential of a rapidly emerging technology, with far-reaching implications.

It is powered into flight by a rocket engine. It can fly a distance equal to the width of China. It has a stealthy design and is capable of carrying missiles that can hit enemy targets far beyond its visual range.

But what really distinguishes the Air Force’s pilotless XQ-58A Valkyrie experimental aircraft is that it is run by artificial intelligence, putting it at the forefront of efforts by the U.S. military to harness the capacities of an emerging technology whose vast potential benefits are tempered by deep concerns about how much autonomy to grant to a lethal weapon.

Essentially a next-generation drone, the Valkyrie is a prototype for what the Air Force hopes can become a potent supplement to its fleet of traditional fighter jets, giving human pilots a swarm of highly capable robot wingmen to deploy in battle. Its mission is to marry artificial intelligence and its sensors to identify and evaluate enemy threats and then, after getting human sign-off, to move in for the kill.

On a recent day at Eglin Air Force Base on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Maj. Ross Elder, 34, a test pilot from West Virginia, was preparing for an exercise in which he would fly his F-15 fighter alongside the Valkyrie.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Women, Fearing Backlash on Abortion, Pivot to Birth Control, Annie Karni, Aug. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A group of vulnerable G.O.P. women has backed legislation that purports to expand birth control access but would have little effect. Critics say it is a distraction.

She had barely opened her town hall to questions when Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from a competitive district in Iowa, was pressed to defend her opposition to abortion rights.

“One of the main functions of the federal government is to protect life,” Ms. Miller-Meeks, who won election in 2020 by just six votes, told a sparse crowd this month in Iowa City, a younger, more progressive part of her district where she rarely campaigns.

Ms. Miller-Meeks then quickly pivoted to politically safer terrain, telling her constituents about how she had also sponsored legislation aimed at expanding access to contraception.

“The best way to prevent abortion is to prevent pregnancy,” she said.

It is an increasingly common strategy among vulnerable House Republicans — especially those in politically competitive districts — who are trying to reconcile their party’s hard-line anti-abortion policies with the views of voters in their districts, particularly independents and women.

While many of these G.O.P. lawmakers have cast votes in the House this year to limit abortion access — maintaining a stance that some Republicans concede hurt their party in last year’s midterm elections — Ms. Miller-Meeks and others spent part of the summer congressional recess talking up their support for birth control access, which is broadly popular across the country and across party lines.

Appearing to embrace access to contraception has become an imperative for Republican candidates at all levels who are concerned that their party’s opposition to abortion rights has alienated women, particularly after the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade and the extreme abortion bans in G.O.P.-led states that have followed.

“Can’t we all agree contraception should be available,” Nikki Haley, the only Republican woman in the presidential primary, said last week at the first primary debate, seeking to blunt attacks from Democrats on the issue of reproductive health care.

Just ahead of lawmakers’ long summer break, Ms. Miller-Meeks was part of a group of House Republican women who introduced the Orally Taken Contraception Act of 2023, a bill that they pitched as a way to expand access to contraception and that she called “a significant step forward for health care.”

Abortion rights advocates argue that the legislation is essentially meaningless and merely an effort by Republican lawmakers to mislead voters about their positions on women’s health. But for the G.O.P. women who are backing it, the bill offers an elegant way to shift the conversation away from the divisive issue of abortion.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Announces First Drugs Picked for Medicare Price NegotiationsSheryl Gay Stolberg and Rebecca Robbins, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The Biden administration’s announcement was an important moment for Democrats, who have campaigned on a promise to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

joe biden twitterThe Biden administration on Tuesday announced the first 10 medicines that will be subject to price negotiations with Medicare, kicking off a landmark program that is expected to reduce the government’s drug spending but is being fought by the pharmaceutical industry in court.

HHS The medications on the list are taken by millions of older Americans and cost Medicare billions of dollars annually. The drugs were selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services through a process that prioritized medications that account for the highest Medicare spending, have been on the market for years and do not yet face competition from rivals.

Drugs Selected for Price Negotiations

  1. Eliquis, for preventing strokes and blood clots, from Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer
  2. Jardiance, for Type 2 diabetes and heart failure, from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly
  3. Xarelto, for preventing strokes and blood clots, from Johnson & Johnson
  4. Januvia, for Type 2 diabetes, from Merck
  5. Farxiga, for chronic kidney disease, from AstraZeneca
  6. Entresto, for heart failure, from Novartis
  7. Enbrel, for arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, from Amgen
  8. Imbruvica, for blood cancers, from AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson
  9. Stelara, for Crohn’s disease, from Johnson & Johnson
  10. Fiasp and NovoLog insulin products, for diabetes, from Novo Nordisk

The final list had some overlap with what experts had anticipated. Its release was an important moment for Democrats, who have campaigned on a promise to lower the cost of prescription drugs. President Biden will mark the occasion with remarks at the White House on Tuesday afternoon — another sign that he intends to make lowering health care costs a theme of his 2024 re-election campaign.

Medicare gained the authority to negotiate the price of some prescription medicines when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, a signature legislative achievement for the president. Tuesday’s announcement is a key step toward those negotiations, which will unfold over the coming months, with the new prices taking effect in 2026. Additional drugs will be selected for price negotiations in coming years.

The negotiation program is projected to save the government an estimated $98.5 billion over a decade. It is also expected to eventually reduce insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many older Americans, though the magnitude of those savings remains to be seen.

Medicare already pays reduced prices for drugs on the list, reflecting rebates that are passed down by pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen that negotiate discounts with manufacturers. But before passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare was explicitly barred from negotiating prices directly with manufacturers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Not Over Yet: Late-Summer Covid Wave Brings Warning of More to Come, Julie Bosman, Aug. 28, 2023. Hospitalizations are still low but are on the rise in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A late-summer wave of coronavirus infections has touched schools, workplaces and local government, as experts warn the public to brace for even more Covid-19 spread this fall and winter.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Hospitalizations have increased 24 percent in a two-week period ending Aug. 12, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wastewater monitoring suggests a recent rise in Covid infections in the West and Northeast. In communities across the United States, outbreaks have occurred in recent weeks at preschools, summer camps and office buildings.

Public health officials said that the latest increase in Covid hospitalizations is still relatively small and that the vast majority of the sick are experiencing mild symptoms comparable to a cold or the flu. And most Americans, more than three months after the Biden administration allowed the 2020 declaration calling the coronavirus a public health emergency to expire, have shown little willingness to return to the days of frequent testing, mask wearing and isolation.

But for Americans who have become accustomed to feeling that the nation has moved beyond Covid, the current wave could be a rude reminder that the emerging New Normal is not a world without the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, A deadly tick-borne epidemic is raging. Dogs are key to ending it, Lena Sun, Photos by Michael Robinson Chávez, Aug. 30, 2023. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is on the rise in parts of Mexico and the United States. Climate change and dogs could be crucial to the fight against the tick-borne scourge.

The disease, spread through the bite of an infected tick that lives primarily on dogs, is rare, but its incidence is rising. It has reemerged at epidemic levels in northern Mexico, where more than 2,000 cases, resulting in hundreds of deaths, have been reported in the past five years. Young children have been hit the hardest. In the Mexican state of Baja California, where Ejido Padre Kino is located, there were 92 cases in 2022, more than double the previous year, according to state data.

The outbreak prompted a team of Mexican and U.S. scientists to descend upon this small town more than four hours south of San Diego to pluck ticks off dogs, scour the crevices around homes for larvae, and warn residents to keep their dogs from roaming the dusty streets.

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washington post logoWashington Post, CNN hires Mark Thompson as new chief executive, replacing Chris Licht, Aug. 30, 2023. Mark Thompson, above, the former chief executive of the New York Times, has been selected as the next leader of CNN, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday.

CNNHe will replace Chris Licht, below left, who was ousted in June after a short and tumultuous run as the network’s leader.

chris licht w“I couldn’t be more excited about the chance to join CNN after years of watching it and competing against it with a mixture of admiration and envy,” Thompson said in a statement. “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

Thompson, who begins in the role on Oct. 9, comes to CNN after a lengthy career in media. He spent eight years as chief executive of the New York Times Company, where he oversaw significant growth in digital subscription revenue, helping to offset losses in print circulation and advertising. He stepped down from that role in 2020, after he said that he “achieved everything I set out to do.”

Thompson had come to the Times after spending nearly his entire career at the BBC, where he served as director general.

In addition to overseeing CNN’s strategy, operations and business units, he will serve as the network’s editor in chief, the company announced on Wednesday.

“There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN Worldwide into the future,” Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said.

Zaslav called Thompson “a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations” and said that “his strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

Readers of new Winsted Citizen newspaper in Connecticut (Associated Press photo by Jessica Hill).

Readers of new Winsted Citizen newspaper in Connecticut (Associated Press photo by Jessica Hill).

Next Avenue:Extra! Extra! Man Starts Newspaper, Alix Boyle, Aug. 29, 2023. Meeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media: A retired editor, with the help of a famous neighbor, aims to fill the void of local news in his hometown.

andy thibault new mug SmallLike many people turning 70, veteran journalist Andy Thibault, right, was still working, but on his own terms, teaching college journalism classes at the University of New Haven and freelancing. Then came a call from a colleague who knew someone interested in the newspaper business.

Consumer activist and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader was looking for someone to start a local newspaper in his hometown, Winsted, Connecticut. Did Andy know of anyone who might be interested?

"I liked that it was a ludicrous if not impossible challenge."

Thibault said he did know of one guy who would be interested in starting a newspaper when so many publications were writing their own obituaries. That guy was Thibault himself. "I liked that it was a ludicrous if not impossible challenge," he recalls.

Why would someone entering his eighth decade choose to roll the dice on a shrinking business with an uncertain future, at best?

"I like the work and I can't sing or dance," he said with a shrug.

So, the Winsted Citizen debuted in February 2023 and is growing and expanding. After six months as a print-only publication, it recently went online and the September issue will be published soon.

The Ralph Nader Angle

Ralph Nader Huffington PostThe paper was created as a nonprofit enterprise with Nader, left, aged 89, giving $15,000 as the founding donor. He later contributed another $16,000 in grants for a total stake of $31,000, He also provided free logistical support in establishing the newspaper's nonprofit status.

In a radio interview, Nader that he wanted to found a print publication because he is convinced that his neighbors in Winsted, where he lives part time, miss feeling newsprint in their hands and are sick of electronics.

The Citizen covers news in Winsted, 25 miles northwest of the state capital, Hartford, and surrounding towns. It has spiced up its pages by also publishing items like a quirky poem titled "I Wish I Was My Wife So I Could Be Married to Me" and a story about taking psychedelic mushrooms for depression (it had a front-page teaser reading "Don't Shroom and Drive").

The paper strives to live up to its reader-focused motto: "If it's important to you, it's important to us."

Thibault is something of a legend in Connecticut journalism. Highlights of his long career include working as a research consultant to the HBO series "Allen V. Farrow" and covering the Boston Marathon bombing trial for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

He is also a licensed private investigator and the author of books such as "You Thought It Was More," about Louis "the Coin" Colavecchio, a notorious Rhode Island counterfeiter.

A Life of Reporting on Crime

But Thibault is proudest of writing stories that led the authorities to release Bonnie Foreshaw, a woman sentenced to 45 years in prison for committing a murder that many legal experts argued was the lesser crime of manslaughter.

He unearthed a 24-year-old document from a public defender, Jon C. Blue. In the memo, Blue, who later became a judge, criticized the lawyers who represented Foreshaw for "shocking malpractice." Based on Thibault's reporting, Foreshaw was granted a clemency hearing and released. She is shown below at an event with Thibault and one of his books following her release.

andy thibault gateway

"Andy played a pivotal role in that case," said newspaper columnist Susan Campbell, who writes for Hearst Newspapers and CTNewsjunkie.com and also works with Thibault at the University of New Haven. "Unlike the rest of us, he kept on that story like a dog with a bone, like a yard dog on a short chain. Without him, I don't think there would have been the same outcome."

At the Winsted Citizen, Thibault sells ads, commissions stories, edits, works with the art director and even picks up copies from the printer to deliver them around town. Thibault tapped his Rolodex to put together a team that's as eclectic as the newspaper.

"I'm very excited about the people I work with," Thibault said. "We have a 16-year-old whiz kid reporter and an office manager who's a retired executive from Adobe who is training me to be an organized person."

Paying those contributors is a struggle.

"Pay has been erratic because we were grossly undercapitalized," Thibault said. "We are steadily building up revenue and have been operating since the July edition under an austerity budget."

Disclosure: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a longtime reporter in Connecticut for the Hartford Courant, is a founding member of the Winsted Citizen's board of advisors.

washington post logoWashington Post, More schools that forced American Indian children to assimilate revealed, Dana Hedgpeth and Emmanuel Martinez, Aug. 30, 2023. A nonprofit Native American group has found details about 115 more Indian boarding schools in the United States.

A nonprofit group has identified 115 more Indian boarding schools than has been previously reported, offering new insight into the role of religious institutions in the long-standing federal policy to eradicate Native Americans’ culture through their children.

For more than a century, generations of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were forced or coerced from their homes and communities and sent to live at schools where they were beaten, starved and made to abandon their Native languages and culture. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the federal government ran or supported 408 such schools in 37 states, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven in Hawaii, from 1819 to 1969.

The new list released Wednesday by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition uses a different criteria, bringing the number of known Indian boarding schools in the country to 523 in 38 states. In addition to the federally supported schools tallied by the Interior Department, the coalition identified 115 more institutions that operated beginning in 1801, most of them run by religious groups and churches.

ny times logoNew York Times, Simone Biles Wins a Record 8th U.S. All-Around Gymnastics Title, Carla Correa, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). By now, it’s canon that Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time. The debate over that status largely ended years ago, when she began pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the sport.

Her consistency is also unmatched. Since 2013, Biles has earned 32 world championship and Olympic medals, even after removing herself from several finals at the Tokyo Games in 2021 to safeguard her health. The question usually isn’t whether Biles will win but rather by how much.

The answer at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Sunday was a margin of 3.9 points over the silver medalist, Shilese Jones. Biles’s victory also meant that she broke a 90-year record by becoming the first American gymnast, woman or man, to win eight national all-around titles. And, at 26, she is the oldest woman to ever win the event.

The national championships came just weeks after her return to elite competition following a two-year hiatus. She handily won a qualifying meet called the U.S. Classic earlier this month in Hoffman Estates, Ill. At the SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday, among a crowded and talented field, Biles looked better than ever.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Bitter Lawsuit, Chess Combatants Agree to a Draw, Dylan Loeb McClain, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). An American grandmaster sued Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top player, and two other parties after Carlsen accused him of cheating. A settlement has been announced.

A $100 million defamation lawsuit filed against the five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, a top chess streamer and the world’s largest chess site has been settled.

Terms were not disclosed, but, in the parlance of chess, all of the parties appear to have called it a draw, meaning there were no winners — or losers.

The settlement was announced Monday on the website Chess.com, which had been one of the defendants.

The suit was filed last October by Hans Niemann, a curly-haired 20-year-old American grandmaster. Carlsen had accused him of cheating after Niemann beat him in a game last September in a prestigious tournament in St. Louis called the Sinquefield Cup.

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ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Announces First Drugs Picked for Medicare Price NegotiationsSheryl Gay Stolberg and Rebecca Robbins, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The Biden administration’s announcement was an important moment for Democrats, who have campaigned on a promise to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

joe biden twitterThe Biden administration on Tuesday announced the first 10 medicines that will be subject to price negotiations with Medicare, kicking off a landmark program that is expected to reduce the government’s drug spending but is being fought by the pharmaceutical industry in court.

HHS The medications on the list are taken by millions of older Americans and cost Medicare billions of dollars annually. The drugs were selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services through a process that prioritized medications that account for the highest Medicare spending, have been on the market for years and do not yet face competition from rivals.

Drugs Selected for Price Negotiations

  1. Eliquis, for preventing strokes and blood clots, from Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer
  2. Jardiance, for Type 2 diabetes and heart failure, from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly
  3. Xarelto, for preventing strokes and blood clots, from Johnson & Johnson
  4. Januvia, for Type 2 diabetes, from Merck
  5. Farxiga, for chronic kidney disease, from AstraZeneca
  6. Entresto, for heart failure, from Novartis
  7. Enbrel, for arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, from Amgen
  8. Imbruvica, for blood cancers, from AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson
  9. Stelara, for Crohn’s disease, from Johnson & Johnson
  10. Fiasp and NovoLog insulin products, for diabetes, from Novo Nordisk

The final list had some overlap with what experts had anticipated. Its release was an important moment for Democrats, who have campaigned on a promise to lower the cost of prescription drugs. President Biden will mark the occasion with remarks at the White House on Tuesday afternoon — another sign that he intends to make lowering health care costs a theme of his 2024 re-election campaign.

Medicare gained the authority to negotiate the price of some prescription medicines when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, a signature legislative achievement for the president. Tuesday’s announcement is a key step toward those negotiations, which will unfold over the coming months, with the new prices taking effect in 2026. Additional drugs will be selected for price negotiations in coming years.

The negotiation program is projected to save the government an estimated $98.5 billion over a decade. It is also expected to eventually reduce insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many older Americans, though the magnitude of those savings remains to be seen.

Medicare already pays reduced prices for drugs on the list, reflecting rebates that are passed down by pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen that negotiate discounts with manufacturers. But before passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare was explicitly barred from negotiating prices directly with manufacturers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hurricane Idalia Powerful Storm Sweeps Into Georgia After Pelting Florida Coast, Patricia Mazzei and Judson Jones, Aug. 30, 2023. Idalia, now a Category 1 storm, brought destructive winds and life-threatening storm surges before moving inland. Communities as far as North Carolina were threatened.

Hurricane Idalia lashed southern Georgia after making landfall along a sparsely populated stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning, toppling trees and flooding fishing villages while on a course to menace other parts of the Southeast. At least two storm-related deaths were reported on Florida’s slick roads.

Briefly a Category 4 storm overnight, Idalia had weakened to Category 1 strength by Wednesday afternoon. But with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, it still presented a grave threat, and the National Hurricane Center and local officials warned of “catastrophic” storm surge as the waters continued to rise.
New York Times,

washington post logoWashington Post, HURRICANE IDALIA: Storm’s destructive core batters Florida, Catherine Belton, Jeff Stein and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 30, 2023.  After making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, Idalia quickly pushes inland.

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning as an “extremely dangerous” Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The agency added that “catastrophic storm surge and damaging winds” were “ongoing” in the region.

Idalia made landfall around 7:45 a.m. Eastern time along Florida’s Big Bend, near Keaton Beach, the agency said, citing radar data. It tied with an 1896 hurricane as the strongest on record to strike the Big Bend region.

Idalia is pushing inland quickly, carrying its extremely dangerous weather northward at a brisk 18 mph.

At 8:30 a.m., radar showed the storm’s eyewall — or ring of destructive winds and torrential rain — battering the area around Perry, Fla., which is 50 miles southeast of Tallahassee. Wind gusts in Perry recently reached 85 mph.

By midday, the storm’s core should be lifting into southern Georgia, where it will lash Valdosta, before booking northeast across the southeast portion of the state.

Key updates

  • Idalia makes landfall as ‘dangerous’ Category 3 hurricane
  • Here’s what happens after Idalia moves ashore

 University of North Carolina Professor Zijie Yan, left, is shown with his accused murderer, Tailei Qi, a grad student advisee of the professor.

 University of North Carolina Professor Zijie Yan, left, is shown with his accused murderer, Tailei Qi, a grad student advisee of the professor.

ap logoAssociated Press, University of North Carolina graduate student charged in killing of faculty advisor denied bond, Hannah Schoenbaum, Gary D. Robertson and Sarah Rankin, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Authorities charged a University of North Carolina graduate student Tuesday with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of his faculty advisor, in an attack that caused a campus lockdown while police searched for the gunman.

tailei qiDuring a brief hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sherri Murrell ordered 34-year-old Tailei Qi, right, to remain jailed without bond as an interpreter explained to Qi in Mandarin what was happening in the courtroom. She scheduled his next court date for Sept. 18.

Dana Graves, a public defender who represented Qi during the hearing, left the courtroom without talking to reporters.

Qi is charged with first-degree murder and having a 9mm handgun on educational property in the Monday killing of Zijie Yan inside of a science building on UNC’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill. The attack led to a roughly three-hour lockdown of the campus, a week after students returned for the start of the fall semester.

Authorities haven’t publicly speculated as to a motive for the attack.

Yan was an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences who had worked for the university since 2019, UNC said in a statement Tuesday, noting that it has been in contact with Yan’s family and is providing them with resources and support.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a message to the UNC community that his team had met with Yan’s colleagues and family to express condolences on behalf of the campus.

“He was a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to many on our campus,” Guskiewicz said.

On Wednesday, the school’s iconic Bell Tower will ring in honor of Yan’s memory and students are encouraged to take a moment of silence, he wrote.

In a page that has been taken down since the attack, Qi was listed on the school’s website as a graduate student in Yan’s research group and Yan was listed as his adviser. He previously studied at Wuhan University in China before moving to the U.S. and earning a masters in mechanical engineering at Louisiana State University in 2021.

Qi, who lives in Chapel Hill, was arrested during a roughly three-hour lockdown that followed the shooting, authorities said at a Monday news conference. “To actually have the suspect in custody gives us an opportunity to figure out the why and even the how, and also helps us to uncover a motive and really just why this happened today. Why today, why at all?” UNC Police Chief Brian James said. “And we want to learn from this incident and we will certainly work to do our best to ensure that this never happens again on the UNC campus.”

 

Murder victim Dr. Zijie Yan of the University of North Carolina (CBS News graphic).

Murder victim Dr. Zijie Yan of the University of North Carolina (CBS News graphic).

WFMY-TV (CBS affiliate in Greenboro, NC), 'He made me a better person' | UNC professor killed in campus shooting remembered by colleague, Itinease McMiller, Aug. 29, 2023. Dr. Zijie Yan moved to UNC in 2019, but he stayed in contact with his colleague from the University of Chicago.Dr. Zijie Yan moved to UNC in 2019, but he stayed in contact with his colleague from the University of Chicago.

On Tuesday, we learned more about the victim, Zijie Yan and his relationship with the suspect Tailei Qi.

Yan was the suspect's advisor, according to the UNC Chaple Hill website.

University of Chicago professor Norbert Scherer was a friend and research partner of Yan's. Schere said Yan was a caring and understanding professor.
"The respectful way and polite way he would interact was a great role model for everyone in my group I very much appreciated that," Scherer said. "He made me a better person."

The two did research on nanoscale objects, published articles and even worked on grants together for more than a decade.

"He was always calm and was quiet. He was often right when I made suggestions so it was a real respect going back and forth between the two of us. It was a real pleasure," Scherer said.

Throughout Yan's time at the University of Chicago, Clarkson University and his move to UNC in 2019 they kept in touch.

Schere said Yan was a dedicated husband and father of two. He said Yan moved to North Carolina so that his wife could pursue an opportunity in economics at UNC. The last time they spoke was last month.

"I was utterly shocked," Scherer said. It was through text that Norbert heard Yan's own student was suspected of killing him on campus.

"He was a beloved colleague mentor and a friend to so many on our campus," said Kevin Guskiewicz UNC's chancellor.

Yan had his own research group on campus as an associate professor in applied physical science. The student accused of killing him was part of that team. Just this month UNC posted an article on the research group where both Yan and his suspected killer are photographed together.

"Are these the kinds of conflicts that can arise in research I would characterize it as exceedingly rare," Scherer said. "Nothing in what happened is in any way excusable or explainable or forgivable.

In honor of Dr. Yan UNC will ring the campus bell tower and have a moment of silence in his memory Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin struggles with falling ruble, rising prices as sanctions bite, Catherine Belton, Jeff Stein and Robyn Dixon, Aug. 30, 2023. Rising prices caused by a drop in the value of the ruble are bringing Russia’s war — and the impact of sanctions — home to many Russians for the first time.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed top economic officials last week after a bruising month in which the Russian ruble plummeted to a 16-month low against the U.S. dollar, the Russian president sought to set a confident tone. The Russian economy, he said, was growing again and wages were rising.

But despite the show of bravado, Putin could not avoid mentioning a growing weakness that is stalking the economy as Western sanctions bite ever deeper, and one that has been exacerbated by the ruble’s plunge.

“Objective data shows that inflationary risks are increasing, and the task of reining in price growth is now the number one priority,” Putin said, with a note of tension in his voice. “I ask my colleagues in the government and the Central Bank to keep the situation under constant control.”

Rapidly rising prices caused by a 20 percent drop in the value of the ruble between early June and mid-August and the government’s pouring of funds into Russia’s defense industry are bringing Russia’s war — and the impact of sanctions — home to many Russians for the first time, economists say.

“The Russian people have been isolating themselves from these political developments, but the inflation rate is something they can’t isolate themselves from because they have to pay,” said Janis Kluge, an economist at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “It is a way in which politics really interferes in their lives, and this is the part which is worrying for the Russian leadership. Because no propaganda will make this go away.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Elon Musk’s control over satellite internet demands a reckoning, Editorial Board, Aug. 30, 2023. When Elon Musk reportedly spoke of a “great conversation” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, minutes after declaring he could see “the entire war unfolding” through a map of activity on the small satellite constellation he owns, a senior defense official had the following reaction: “Oh dear, this is not good.”

The statement, featured in a recent New Yorker article, aptly captures the situation in which the United States government finds itself. A single man exerts considerable control over the satellite internet industry that operates in “low Earth orbit” — generally about 300 miles above Earth — even as that industry is crucial to the war effort in Ukraine. Worse still, that man is the erratic Mr. Musk. There are just shy of 8,000 satellites in the skies today; more than 4,500 of those are Starlink satellites, launched by SpaceX. The company hopes to multiply this number almost tenfold in the coming years.

Starlink is far from the first constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit and far from the first to sell to militaries. But what distinguishes the network is the amount of data it can move, as well as how quickly it can increase that capacity: SpaceX can launch satellites unprecedentedly fast and at unprecedentedly low cost thanks to the reusable rockets it has pioneered. The bigger the satellite fleet, the more versatile and effective: As a satellite flies above a terminal located on the ground, it transfers the signal to a satellite behind it, and so on, forming a chain that ensures users maintain constant access to the internet.

Working together, these satellites can provide this kind of service even in remote locations. And, of course, they can provide it in locations where traditional methods of connection, for whatever reason, are unavailable — such as war zones.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pledges $95 million for Hawaii’s electrical grid after Maui wildfires, Amy B Wang, Aug. 30, 2023. The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will spend $95 million to help strengthen Hawaii’s electrical grid in the wake of deadly wildfires that swept through parts of Maui earlier this month. The fast-moving fires were the deadliest in modern U.S. history, killing more than 100 people on the island, forcing thousands to evacuate and destroying the historic town of Lahaina.

President Biden plans to deliver remarks Wednesday afternoon on the government’s long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts on the island, as well as the administration’s ongoing response to Hurricane Idalia, a major storm that made landfall in Florida on Wednesday morning. Biden traveled to Maui earlier this month to survey the devastation caused by wildfires and has vowed that “every asset we have will be available” to the victims.

Republicans, however, have been highly critical of the administration’s response to the wildfires in Hawaii and took aim at Biden for not answering questions about the episode while he was on vacation earlier this month. The GOP-led House Oversight Committee this week announced an investigation into the government’s response to the disaster.

The $95 million for Hawaii’s electrical grid will be provided through the bipartisan infrastructure law, the $1.2 trillion package that Biden signed into law in 2021. According to the White House, the funds will help strengthen critical power transmission lines, including two on Maui; harden utility poles that support critical facilities like hospitals; replace wooden utility poles with a fire-resistant material; remove trees considered hazardous; and relocate the Maui control center.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Antiabortion activist who kept fetuses is convicted of blocking clinic, Keith L. Alexander, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). 4 other antiabortionist defendants were also convicted of conspiracy and using violence or force to block access to a Northwest Washington clinic in 2020.

An antiabortion activist who kept fetuses in a Capitol Hill home was convicted Tuesday of illegally blockading a reproductive health clinic in D.C.

Lauren Handy was on trial with four others who were charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law that prohibits threats to and obstruction of a person seeking reproductive health services or providers. A U.S. District Court jury in D.C. found Handy and all four of her co-defendants guilty on all counts.
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Federal prosecutors allege the defendants — Handy, of Alexandria, Va.; John Hinshaw, of Levittown, N.Y.; Heather Idoni, of Linden, Mich.; William Goodman, of New York; and Herb Geraghty, of Pittsburgh — violated federal law when they used chains, bike locks and ropes to blockade the Washington Surgi-Clinic in October 2020. The trial for a second group of defendants facing charges from the same blockade is scheduled to begin next week.

It took the jury of eight men and four women about a day to reach the verdicts following about a week of testimony and evidence. The defendants sat expressionless as the verdicts were read.

In the hallway outside the courtroom afterward, the defendants were allowed to briefly mingle with their supporters, several of whom were in tears. “You are standing on the shoulders of giants,” one of Handy’s supporters said to her. “This is your Birmingham jail,” another supporter told her, a reference to where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was imprisoned during civil rights demonstrations in 1963.

In the hallway, Handy called out the name of the abortion doctor at the Northwest Washington clinic and said the doctor was “committing infanticide.”

Minutes later, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly summoned the defendants and their attorneys back into the courtroom. Based on the convictions, she ordered Handy and the other co-defendants jailed until sentencing later this year. The defendants face up to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to $350,000.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Proud Boys leader Tarrio to be sentenced for Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy, Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 30, 2023. Prosecutors seek 33 years for Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio and argue the attack on the Capitol qualified as domestic terrorism.

The former leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, accused of recruiting more than 200 followers to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and disrupt the peaceful transfer of American presidential power, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday morning along with one of his top deputies.

Federal prosecutors are seeking decades in prison for both men on their convictions of seditious conspiracy and five other counts, asking a judge appointed by former president Donald Trump to classify their crimes as terrorism to extend their sentences.

Three other members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with history of violence, face sentencing on Thursday and Friday.

Tarrio, 39, was convicted even though he wasn’t in D.C. on Jan. 6. He and many members of the group that he led for years visited the District twice in 2020 after Trump’s defeat, leading to Tarrio’s arrest that December after he burned a “Black Lives Matter” flag torn down from a D.C. church. He was banned from the city as a result. But prosecutors said he recruited people to join in a violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and messaged them “Don’t f---ing leave” as they led the storming of the building, which caused the electoral vote count to stop for about six hours.

washington post logoWashington Post, More schools that forced American Indian children to assimilate revealed, Dana Hedgpeth and Emmanuel Martinez, Aug. 30, 2023. A nonprofit Native American group has found details about 115 more Indian boarding schools in the United States.

A nonprofit group has identified 115 more Indian boarding schools than has been previously reported, offering new insight into the role of religious institutions in the long-standing federal policy to eradicate Native Americans’ culture through their children.

For more than a century, generations of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were forced or coerced from their homes and communities and sent to live at schools where they were beaten, starved and made to abandon their Native languages and culture. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the federal government ran or supported 408 such schools in 37 states, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven in Hawaii, from 1819 to 1969.

The new list released Wednesday by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition uses a different criteria, bringing the number of known Indian boarding schools in the country to 523 in 38 states. In addition to the federally supported schools tallied by the Interior Department, the coalition identified 115 more institutions that operated beginning in 1801, most of them run by religious groups and churches.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump co-defendant reaches bond agreement after weekend in jail, Amy Gardner and Holly Bailey, Aug. 30, 2023. Harrison Floyd, accused of harassing an Atlanta area election worker in the weeks after the 2020 election, posted $100,000 bond.

The last of former president Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Fulton County, Ga., election interference case reached a bond agreement Tuesday after spending the weekend in jail.

harrison ford mugHarrison William Prescott Floyd, right, who is accused of harassing an Atlanta-area election worker in the weeks following the 2020 election, posted bond of $100,000 Tuesday. Jail records showed that Floyd was still in custody after 5 p.m. Tuesday, and it was not clear when he would be released.

Unlike the other defendants in the case, Floyd did not initially retain a lawyer and did not contact the office of District Attorney Fani T. Willis to negotiate a bond agreement before surrendering at the county jail on Thursday. As a result, he was held in jail for five nights — until Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ordered a public defender to take up Floyd’s case to reach a bond agreement to get him out of jail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: An FBI source, a Burisma deal, the Bidens and details that don’t match up, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 30, 2023. Congressional Republicans recently released an FBI document from 2020 that makes a shocking allegation about President Biden — that he and his son Hunter were involved in a foreign bribery scheme with a Ukrainian business executive.

Republicans have long been investigating Hunter Biden’s business affairs, as recounted on a recovered laptop, and some have suggested the claim could be the basis for a possible impeachment inquiry of the president.

The four-page document that the Republicans released, an FD-1023 form, is the kind used to record information from a person the FBI considers a “confidential human source” (CHS). That means the information would not be a tip from an unknown walk-in, but from someone who had been vetted and assessed by the FBI as potentially helpful for investigations. Still, such individuals can be unreliable and any statements by a CHS are basically unverified tips.

The identity of this FBI source and any connection to Ukraine remain unknown, and the FBI has not publicly confirmed any tips the person supplied in the document. Moreover, the person was interviewed by telephone in 2020 about conversations that took place as many as four years earlier. Nonetheless, some Republicans have treated the document’s allegations as true. “As Vice President Joe Biden sold his influence to the highest bidder,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Republican leadership, said on social media in May. “He is unfit to be President of the United States.”

While the document recounts conversations that cannot be independently verified, The Fact Checker can shed light on a business transaction described in those conversations, comparing the document’s account with publicly available information. The transaction concerned the alleged desire of Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, to purchase a U.S.-based company. During the period described in the document as starting in late 2015 and extending two or three months into 2016, Burisma did make a deal with a company based in Texas. This agreement sparked the interest of conservative media, as there are similarities to the FBI source’s account of what Burisma sought.

But upon examination, the facts don’t add up.

To test whether any other business transaction might match with the FBI source’s account, The Fact Checker examined all available news reports in Ukrainian, English and Russian concerning Burisma from September 2015 to April 2016. We also scoured emails from that period in Hunter Biden’s apparently abandoned laptop. No other deal matches this one. Because conservative outlets have speculated that the Texas deal is the one discussed by the person in the FBI document, that is the one we will fact-check. A representative for Hunter Biden declined to comment.

In a way, as Comer’s comment to Fox Business indicates, the Burisma deal in question is the linchpin of the GOP accusation that the Bidens were bribed.

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy

Old Goats, Commentary: She's The Boss,.Jonathan Alter, Aug. 30, 2023. Judge Chutkan and Trump’s approaching Day of Judgment.

John Lauro was in a predicament Monday that bodes well for the survival of the Republic.

Lauro is Donald Trump’s lead attorney in the most important trial the former president faces — the one that will resolve whether he is guilty of masterminding a coup against the government and people of the United States.

In federal court, Lauro began talking trash in a loud and aggressive manner. He sounded like he was on a cable show, not standing before the bar of justice.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who next year will become one of the most famous American jurists in American history (even though the trial will not be televised), brought Lauro up short. Twice, she told him to “turn down the temperature.” Lauro finally comprehended that in this courtroom—in front of this judge— properly “representing” Trump will mean more than channeling his indignation. So he complied.

But it was too late. Lauro had asked for a 2026 trial date—a ludicrous bid—and refused to show up this week with a more reasonable proposal. Bad move. With the trial date now scheduled for March 4, 2024, the day before Super Tuesday, Lauro is caught between his client — who wants him to pursue a noisy political case in court — and Judge Chutkan, who made it clear that any such strategy will blow up in the Orange Menace’s face.

Lauro knows he must do it Trump’s way or be fired, which means he’ll put on a blustery MAGA defense in front of a District of Columbia jury that isn’t likely to buy it.

And so in the course of a few days, the notion of the Republican Party nominating a convicted felon for president has gone from liberal fantasy to strong possibility.

While Trump’s attorneys will file various motions to delay, legal experts this week are predicting that these motions will be quickly adjudicated — often by Chutkan herself. And there is no provision in federal law for a higher court to overturn a trial date.

The opening of the trial in March 2024 or, with some minor delays, April — the heart of the primary season — is likely to bolster Trump inside the GOP in the same way his indictments have. He doesn’t need to be on the campaign trail to continue playing the victim. Even if he stumbles in early primaries, the focus on the impending trial could further solidify his cult and help assure him of the nomination.

But that would be a poisoned chalice. The essence of Trump’s political problem is that his base is not big enough to get him back to the White House. A conviction — now much more likely than not —would put the Republican Party in an excruciating bind.

Imagine: The GOP nominee — out on appeal after being sentenced to house arrest — will have to tell the independent voters who will decide his fate in thegeneral election what his presidency would look like. A Truth Social post next summer or fall might go something like this:

When I win,’Tanya the Terrible’ and the other communists of the courts will try to hold me under ‘White House arrest’ in my first year. But I will pardon myself in all of these cases — federal and local — and if my Supreme Court betrays me, NO PROBLEM! I will fulfill my campaign pledge of ‘retribution’ against my enemies and if necessary ‘suspend the Constitution’ as I promised and declare martial law as John Eastman advised. Watch me!
That should go over well with women in the suburbs.

It’s one thing for Trump to talk this way now; after conviction, the idea of him literally held prisoner in the White House after sentencing would move from fever dream to reality.

Reality is already biting, and in a good way. With Chutkan’s early trial date in Washington and the prospect of Kenneth Chesebro and others going on trial soon in Georgia, accountability is coming much faster than anyone thought possible.

Trump will most likely be tried first in Chutkan’s courtroom. She’s a highly-experienced Jamaica-born judge who brooks no nonsense and is widely respected at the D.C. Circuit—the appellate court that will review her trial work. Her appointment to the federal bench in 2014 was impressively non-controversial. The Republican opposition researchers on the minority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee dug as hard as they could and came up empty handed.

Chutkan’s nomination cleared the committee by voice vote, the cloture vote by 54-40 and the Senate as a whole by 95-0, with Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham — now attacking her — among the many Republicans voting yea.

As we know from the rightwing reaction to everyone from Susan Rice and Kamala Harris to Ketanji Brown Jackson and Fanni Willis, a powerful black womanbrings out the racists. But even the Jim Jordans of the world need a little something to work with to draw blood beyond the base. Chutkan offers them a very small target.

In a memorable ruling that previews how she will respond to claims of immunity for offenses committed when he was president, Chutkan wrote in one January 6 opinion: "Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.” Chutkan can’t say that during the trial but her jury instructions will likely reflect it.
And a 2017 case shows how little patience Chutkan has for delaying tactics. The National Security Archive sued the Department of Defense over its slowness in releasing documents. She told the defendants:

I don't understand what's taking so long. I understand that these are, you know, sensitive documents… [but] I’ve done document review in my time, more than I care to remember. It just doesn't take that long. I mean, what's going on?
Look for Chutkan to say the same kind of thing if Trump’s lawyers begin bleating again about the 12 million documents produced by the prosecution as part of the normal discovery process. It turns out that more than seven million of those documents were Trump tweets and other Trump content. And as prosecutors noted in last week’s hearing, modern cases allow for key word searches that render obsolete complaints about “reading Tolstoy cover-to-cover 78 times a day, every day.”
Trump’s best hope — a change of venue — doesn’t seem likely. Efforts by insurrectionists to avoid being tried in the District of Columbia have all failed. So prepare for some momentous history to unfold next spring. The Day of Judgment is nearly upon us.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani Is Liable for Defaming Georgia Election Workers, Judge Says, Alan Feuer, Aug. 30, 2023. The ruling means that a defamation case against Rudy Giuliani, stemming from his role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election, can proceed to a trial.

rudy giuliani mayorA federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, was liable for defaming two Georgia election workers by repeatedly declaring that they had mishandled ballots while counting votes in Atlanta during the 2020 election.

The ruling by the judge, Beryl A. Howell, below left, in Federal District Court in Washington, means that the defamation case against Mr. Giuliani, a central figure in former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his election loss, can proceed to trial on the beryl howellnarrow question of how much, if any, damages he will have to pay the plaintiffs in the case.

A lawyer for Mr. Giuliani declined to comment.

Judge Howell’s decision came a little more than a month after Mr. Giuliani conceded in two stipulations in the case that he had made false statements when he accused the election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, of manipulating ballots while working at the State Farm Arena for the Fulton County Board of Elections.

Mr. Giuliani later sought to explain that his stipulations were solely meant to get past a dispute with Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss about discovery evidence in the case and move toward dismissing the allegations outright. But Judge Howell, complaining that Mr. Giuliani’s stipulations “hold more holes than Swiss cheese,” took the proactive step of declaring him liable for “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims.”

Politico, Judge rejects Navarro’s ‘executive privilege’ claim for defying Jan. 6 committee, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 30, 2023. The ruling paves the way for Navarro’s trial to begin next week on contempt-of-Congress charges.

politico CustomPeter Navarro, a former senior White House adviser to former President Donald Trump, failed to prove that Trump asserted executive privilege to block him from testifying to the House Jan. 6 select committee, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta keeps on track Navarro’s Sept. 5 contempt-of-Congress trial, where he will face jurors on two charges that he defied the committee’s subpoena for testimony and documents related to Navarro’s role in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.

Navarro has long claimed that Trump asserted privilege to block him from appearing before the Jan. 6 select committee in early 2022 when the panel subpoenaed him. But Navarro has never produced direct evidence to back that claim and, more importantly, Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly declined to say whether Navarro was accurately reflecting their conversations.

Mehta cited Trump’s refusal to corroborate Navarro’s claims as the most compelling reason that he found Trump did not, in fact, seek to block Navarro’s testimony to the select committee.

“There was no formal invocation of executive privilege by [Trump] after personal consideration nor authorization to Mr. Navarro to invoke privilege on his behalf,” Mehta said.

Navarro’s trial, which is likely to be brief, will head to jury selection on Tuesday. Mehta’s ruling means the former Trump trade adviser will not be able to argue to the jury that he believed Trump asserted privilege and effectively blocked him from complying with aspects of the select committee’s subpoena.

In addition, Mehta noted that even if he had shown Trump asserted privilege, the select committee had indicated it planned to ask him questions about topics that did not touch on his communications with Trump and therefore wouldn’t be covered by any privilege assertion.

 

 

manhattan institute

The Guardian, Billionaire-linked US thinktank behind supreme court wealth tax case lobbying, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dominic Rushe, Aug. 27, 2023. Manhattan Institute one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the court to hear 'Moore v US.'

An influential thinktank closely linked to two billionaires who provided lavish travel gifts to conservative supreme court justices is behind a successful lobbying campaign to get the US high court to take on a case that could protect them and other billionaires from a possible future wealth tax.

manhattan institute logoThe Manhattan Institute was one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the supreme court to take on Moore v US, a $15,000 tax case that Democrats have warned could permanently “lock in” the right of billionaires to opt out of paying fair taxes.

The billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer is chairman of the Manhattan Institute and Kathy Crow, who is married to the real estate mogul Harlan Crow, serves as a trustee of the group. Both have provided two of the justices – Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, respectively – with private travel gifts and have socialised with the judges on lavish vacations, according to reports in ProPublica and other media outlets.

The revelations have stoked serious accusations of ethical and legal violations by the two rightwing justices, who failed to disclose the travel and – in Thomas’s case – hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional gifts from the Crows, including property purchases and private tuition payments for Thomas’s great-nephew.

Thomas has called the Crows his “dearest friends” and claimed Harlan Crow “did not have business before the Court”. Alito has said he could recall speaking to Singer only on a “handful of occasions” and that the two had never discussed Singer’s business or issues before the court.

But Alito and Thomas’s dealings with the conservative billionaires have nevertheless raised questions about how the justices’ close ties might influence which cases are taken on by the court.

The supreme court announced it would hear Moore vs US on 26 June. On its face, the case appears to be centered on a relatively minor tax dispute between Charles and Kathleen Moore, a Washington-state couple, and the US government.

Charles Moore spent most of his career as a software engineer at Microsoft, where he met one of the future founders of KisanKraft, a company that provides low-cost tools to farmers in India.

In 2006, the Moores invested about $40,000 in KisanKraft. The investment gave them an 11% stake in the company, which made profits but did not pay dividends, the Moores said.

In 2017, the Trump administration passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a law that contained a one-off levy on US corporations’ foreign earnings – the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (MRT). It was estimated that MRT would raise $340bn in tax revenue. To the Moores’ chagrin, it also created an unexpected $15,000 tax liability in connection to their KisanKraft holding.

The tax was unfair and unconstitutional – they argue – because they never realized any gains from the investment. In a video interview of the couple created by the rightwing Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – which took on a key role in the legal matter – the couple explain their decision to take legal action.

The only “return” the couple had made, Kathleen noted, was knowing that the company was helping and reaching people “all over India”. “We are doing this because we strongly believe in the rule of law in this country,” said Charles.

The couple enlisted the help of the CEI and one of the most powerful and well-connected law firms in Washington, BakerHostetler, whose clients have included Boeing, ExxonMobil and Major League Baseball, and sued the US government.


At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Their hands don’t lie: Republican candidates trash the trial by jury, Ruth Marcus, right, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). There were two surrenders ruth marcus twitter Customthis week — one by Donald Trump, and one to Donald Trump.

The second, by almost every Republican presidential candidate, was more important, more predictable and far more terrifying.

The signature moment of Wednesday’s debate was the raising of hands to pledge fealty to Trump over the rule of law, and if the ritual has become unsurprising at this point in Trump’s reign over the GOP, this particular manifestation bears noting.

Because the formulation put to the candidates — would you support Trump even if he were convicted by a jury? — was so stark, and the response so appalling. Every candidate on the stage — with the exception of former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and, depending on how you interpret his hand gestures, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — effectively declared that a trial by jury is just another American institution that must yield to the demands of Trump.

Pause to consider the implications of this answer. To answer that you would support Trump notwithstanding a jury verdict — to shoot up your hand in the eager manner of Vivek Ramaswamy or to gauge the room like a calculating Ron DeSantis — is to say: I do not trust the judgment of the American people.

 

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 CustomPolitico, Sanders hits at Cornel West over criticism of Biden, Kelly Garrity, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). “There is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America,” Sanders said.

politico CustomSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) hit back at third-party presidential hopeful Cornel West, after West knocked the prominent progressive for backing President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.

Some politicians are so fearful of former President Donald Trump retaking the White House that “they don’t really want to tell the full truth,” West said. “[Biden has] created the best economy that we can get. Is this the best that we can get? You don’t tell that lie to the people just for Biden to win,” West said in a clip played on CNN Sunday.

And while Sanders said he agrees it “certainly is not” the best economy the U.S. could create, he called on progressives to coalesce around Biden.

“Where I disagree with my good friend, Cornel West, is I think in these really very difficult times, where there is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America. … I think we’ve got to bring the entire progressive community to defeat Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be, [and] support Biden,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

However, progressives still must “demand that the Democratic Party, not just Biden, have the guts to take on corporate greed and the massive levels of income and wealth inequality that we see today,” Sanders added.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Trump-Related Probes, Indictments

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Asks to Dismiss Suit as A.G. Says He Inflated Worth by $2.2 Billion, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 30, 2023. Before Donald J. Trump was indicted four times over, he was sued by New York’s attorney general, who said that for years the former president, his business and members of his family had fraudulently overvalued their assets by billions of dollars.

Before any of those criminal trials will take place, Mr. Trump is scheduled for a civil trial in New York in October. During the trial, the attorney general, Letitia James, will seek to bar him and three of his children from leading their family business, the Trump Organization, and to require him to pay a fine of around $250 million.

On Wednesday, Ms. James fired an opening salvo, arguing that a trial is not necessary to find that Mr. Trump and the other defendants inflated the value of their assets in annual financial statements, fraudulently obtaining favorable loans and insurance arrangements.

The fraud was so pervasive, she said in a court filing, that Mr. Trump had falsely boosted his net worth by between $812 million and $2.2 billion each year over the course of a decade.

Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, asked a judge to find, without a trial, that former President Trump had fraudulently overvalued his assets.

“Based on the undisputed evidence, no trial is required for the court to determine that defendants presented grossly and materially inflated asset values,” the filing said.

But Mr. Trump’s lawyers, in their own motion, argued that the entire case should be thrown out, relying in large part on a recent appellate court decision that appeared as if it could significantly narrow the scope of the case because of a legal time limit. Mr. Trump had received most of the loans in question too long ago for the matter to be considered by a court, his lawyers argue.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Under Oath, Says He Averted ‘Nuclear Holocaust,’ Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum, Aug. 30, 2023. 
During a deposition in his civil case, former President Trump offered a series of strange defenses, digressions and meandering explanations.

Under oath and under fire, Donald J. Trump sat for a seven-hour interview with the New York attorney general’s office in April, part of the civil fraud case against him and his company.

But as lawyers from the office grilled Mr. Trump on the inner-workings of his family business, which is accused of inflating his net worth by billions of dollars, he responded with a series of meandering non sequiturs, political digressions and self-aggrandizing defenses.

Asked about his authority at the Trump Organization while he was in the White House, Mr. Trump responded that he considered the presidency “the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives.”

“I think you would have nuclear holocaust, if I didn’t deal with North Korea,” he explained, and then added: “And I think you might have a nuclear war now, if you want to know the truth.”

Although Mr. Trump invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination when initially questioned by the office last year, he answered questions from the attorney general, Letitia James, and her lawyers in the April deposition, a transcript of which was unsealed on Wednesday.
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The transcript shows a combative Mr. Trump, who was named as a defendant in the case alongside his company and three of his children, at times barely allowing lawyers to get a word in. The former president frequently seems personally offended by the idea that his net worth is being questioned.

Mr. Trump is seeking to have the case thrown out. A judge could rule on that effort next month, but for now, the case appears headed to trial in early October.

Below are some of the highlights from the transcript of his deposition:

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Could Clinch the Nomination Before the G.O.P. Knows if He’s a Felon, Reid J. Epstein, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Jonathan Swan, Aug. 30, 2023. The federal election interference case — one of four involving Donald Trump — is set to start just before Super Tuesday and a cascade of primaries.

By the time Donald J. Trump is sitting at his federal trial on charges of criminally conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, he may have already secured enough delegates to effectively clinch the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

The former president’s trial is scheduled to start March 4, by which point five states are expected to have held nominating contests. The next day, March 5, is Super Tuesday, when 15 states, including delegate-rich California and Texas, plan to hold votes that will determine if any Trump challenger has enough political oxygen to remain a viable alternative.

Primaries in Florida, Ohio and Illinois come two weeks later. Florida and Ohio will be the first winner-take-all contests, in which the top vote-getter statewide seizes all of the delegates rather than splitting them proportionally. Winner-take-all primaries have historically turbocharged the front-runner’s path to the presidential nomination. Mr. Trump’s federal trial, if it proceeds on its current timeline, won’t be close to finished by then.

The collision course between the Republican Party’s calendar and Mr. Trump’s trial schedule is emblematic of one of the most unusual nominating contests in American history. It is a Trump-dominated clash that will define not only the course of the 2024 presidential primary but potentially the future direction of the party in an eventual post-Trump era.

 

U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment of former U.S. President Trump on June 9, 2023.

U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment of former U.S. President Trump on June 9, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Might Trump Challenge the March 4 Trial Date in the Federal Election Case? Charlie Savage, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The ex-president vowed to appeal a judge’s decision to schedule the start on his trial the day before Super Tuesday. He can’t disrupt the trial that way, legal experts say — but there is a longer-shot possibility.

Former President Donald J. Trump immediately vowed to challenge the March 4 start date for his criminal trial over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, raising questions of whether or how he could try to push back the timing of the case.

“I will APPEAL!” Mr. Trump wrote on social media shortly after Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued her order on Monday.

But despite complaining about the date, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, John Lauro, said in court that the defense team would abide by her decision “as we must.” Mr. Lauro had proposed the trial begin in April 2026, citing the volume of evidence defense lawyers needed to study, while prosecutors had suggested starting in January.

Here is a closer look.

Why is March 4 awkward? The date comes in the middle of an already crammed calendar for Mr. Trump, who faces an array of criminal cases and civil lawsuits as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts in historic indictment linked to Stormy Daniels hush money probe (Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

Former President Donald J. Trump, in a blue suit, sits with his attorneys shortly before arraignment in New York City's state court on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to the 2016 presidential campaign season, reportedly involving in part hush money to women ((Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

 

Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Russian officials said drones targeted six regions in a barrage on Russian soil, Staff Reports, Aug. 30, 2023. Exploding drones attacked six regions of Russia overnight Wednesday and damaged four military cargo planes at an airfield hundreds of miles from Ukraine, Russian officials said, suggesting that, after months of enduring missile and drone strikes with little recourse, Ukraine is increasingly able to hit back deep inside Russia.

In what appeared to be the most successful of the strikes, four Russian Il-76 military cargo planes were damaged while parked near a runway at an airfield in Pskov, 30 miles from the border with Estonia, a NATO member. The Russian regional governor posted video footage of smoke billowing from an airfield where he said drones had damaged the planes, although the extent was unclear.

Russia also launched a wave of attacks on Ukraine early Wednesday that targeted at least three regions. Ukraine’s Air Force said it had shot down 43 of 44 missiles and drones, although officials in Kyiv, the capital, said that falling debris from drones or missiles shot down by air defense systems killed at least two people.

Russian officials said Ukrainian drones targeted six regions in one of the biggest barrages on Russian soil since the war began. In Ukraine, at least two people were killed after strikes on Kyiv.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Drones were fired at six Russian regions, damaging military planes at an airport.
  • As Ukraine’s counteroffensive pushes south, Tokmak is a strategic target.
  • The war will leave poorer countries struggling for food this year, a U.S. intelligence report says.
  • Attacks in Russia appear to show the range of Ukraine’s drones, and bolster frontline morale.
  • Both Russia and Ukraine have struggled to fend off drone attacks.
  • Ukraine’s drone strikes against Russia are a message for its own people, U.S. officials say.
  • The Pentagon announces $250 million more in military hardware and ammunition for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Object of Ukraine’s Desire: F-16s From the West. But It’s Tricky, Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Aug. 30, 2023. Ukraine’s urgency in obtaining the fighter jet reflects concerns about the war against Russia. But training pilots and support crew is a lengthy process.

The F-16 fighter jets would not be delivered to Ukraine until next year, but that did not dissuade President Volodymyr Zelensky from hopping into one last week in the Netherlands — one stop on a European tour to collect commitments to donate the warplane as quickly as possible.

There he was in Denmark, praising the government for “helping Ukraine to become invincible” with its pledge to send 19 jets. In Athens, he said Greece’s offer to train Ukrainian pilots would “help us fight for our freedom.” Within days of returning to Kyiv, Mr. Zelensky had secured promises from a half-dozen countries to either donate the jets — potentially more than 60 — or provide training for pilots and support crew.

“It is important and necessary,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store of Norway told Mr. Zelensky in Kyiv, announcing that his government would provide an undetermined number of the jets — probably 10 or fewer — in the future.

It was a remarkable victory lap for a sophisticated attack aircraft that even Ukraine’s defense minister has acknowledged is unlikely to perform in combat until next spring — and then only for the few pilots who can understand English well enough to fly it. With Ukraine’s counteroffensive grinding ahead slowly this summer, Mr. Zelensky’s airy announcements of securing the F-16s signal a tacit acknowledgment that the 18-month war in Ukraine will likely endure for years to come.

washington post logoWashington Post, He pleaded for F-16s for Ukraine but died in a crash before he could fly one, Siobhán O'Grady, Serhii Korolchuk and Serhiy Morgunov, bite, Aug. 30, 2023. The young Ukrainian pilot, Andrii “Juice” Pilshchikov, was scheduled to take an English exam that would have allowed him to begin his long-awaited training on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets.

For more than a year, Pilshchikov, 30, had lobbied Washington to send the modern planes to Ukraine, even meeting U.S. senators to explain how F-16s could turn the tide in the war against Russia. In those planes’ absence, he flew Soviet-era MiG-29s, which he said in an interview with The Washington Post last year reduced Ukrainians to “just targets” for the Russians.
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But before Pilshchikov had the chance to take the test, he and two other Ukrainian pilots — Viacheslav Minka and Serhiy Prokazin — were killed last week when two L-39 training jets collided in northwestern Ukraine in what the Ukrainian Air Force described as an accident during a combat mission.

  • Reporting from Ukraine, Commentary: NEW RECORD! Ukrainians Destroy DOZENS STRATEGIC AIRCRAFT OVERNIGHT, Aug. 29, 2023.

Politico, Wagner chief Prigozhin buried in private ceremony in St. Petersburg, Claudia Chiappa, Aug. 30, 2023. Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was buried during a low-key ceremony in his home city of St. Petersburg six days after he died in a plane crash, the dead warlord’s press service said Tuesday.

politico CustomThe funeral was held “in a closed format,” according to a post on the Telegram channel of Prigozhin’s company Concord. The mercenary-turned-mutineer was buried in the Porokhovskoye cemetery, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Russian President Vladimir Putin — who Prigozhin rose up against in June — would not attend the funeral.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Arrest in Vladivostok spells trouble for Putin in the "Russian" Far East, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 23 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, Aug. 28-29, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2023.The arrest by Russia's Federal Security Bureau of a former employee of the now-closed U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok for espionage reflects more on Moscow's inability to tamp down dissension in its so-called Far East than in any spying issues.

wayne madesen report logoThe former consulate employee, Robert Shonov, stands accused by the FSB of “gathering information about the special military operation, mobilization processes in Russian regions, problems, and the assessment of their influence on protest activities in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election." The U.S. diplomatic mission in Vladivostok closed in 2020.

Russian FlagIn charging Shonov with espionage, the FSB has actually tipped its hand about the problems Vladimir Putin is facing in the Russian Maritime Pacific region, particularly with conscription of young men for service in Ukraine. Many of those being targeted for military duty are from endangered non-Russian ethnic groups. The FSB charge that Shonov collected information on Far Eastern protest activities against Putin's re-election next year and passed it to "Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, employees of the political department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow” demonstrates that the Kremlin is losing its grip on control of eastern Siberia. The FSB has stated it wants to question Sillin and Bernstein, both of whom have diplomatic immunity as embassy officials. The U.S. State Department responded to Russian charges as being "wholly without merit."

ny times logoNew York Times, Past Drones and Sea Mines, a Merchant Ship’s Perilous Journey in Ukraine, Jenny Gross and Valerie Hopkins, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Ukraine’s Danube River ports are key arteries for grain exports. But Russian threats and costly delays have made some shippers rethink the Black Sea.

For months, ships traversed the Black Sea and the Danube River without incident to load Ukrainian grain and deliver it around the world, even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified. Then in mid-July, when Russia withdrew from an agreement that allowed passage of those cargoes, everything changed.

yevgeniy prigozhin battle gear ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Wagner Mourners in Moscow Reflect Prigozhin’s Appeal Among Russians, Valerie Hopkins, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Visitors, some tearful, left flowers and other tributes to Yevgeny Prigozhin, above, the founder of the Wagner private military company, at a sidewalk memorial.

The tearful mourners gathered in Moscow to pay muted respect to the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, and nine other people killed in a suspicious plane crash last week.

wagner group logoHundreds of people placed flowers, photographs, candles and flags — including some bearing the private military group’s skull design — at a small sidewalk memorial near Red Square in Moscow.

The gathering over the weekend reflected the broader appeal Mr. Prigozhin held for the Russian public as a result of his force’s fierce fighting in Ukraine, despite an acrimonious relationship with Russia’s military leadership and the backlash from his failed mutiny in June, when the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, initially accused him of treason.

The fate of Wagner, which Mr. Prigozhin built into a global force, remains uncertain, now that Russian authorities have officially declared Mr. Prigozhin dead, and with the Kremlin reportedly considering ways to bring the group more directly under control of the state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Claims to Retake a Small Southern Village, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Reclaiming the village of Robotyne would suggest Ukrainian forces have pushed through initial Russian defenses, but tougher terrain lies ahead.

Reclaiming the village of Robotyne would suggest Ukrainian forces have pushed through initial Russian defenses, but tougher terrain lies ahead.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Robotyne’s recapture could boost Ukraine after weeks of grinding fighting.
  • Zelensky says he believes the U.S. will offer Ukraine an Israel-like relationship.
  • A pilot who became a face of Kyiv’s efforts to get F-16s dies in a training accident.
  • A Russian missile strike on an oil refinery kills three, Ukrainian officials say.
  • Russia charges a former U.S. consulate employee with collecting information about the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, A former French president gave a voice to Russian sympathies, profoundly at odds with official policy, Roger Cohen, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Remarks by Nicolas Sarkozy have raised fears that Europe’s pro-Putin chorus may grow louder as Ukraine’s plodding counteroffensive puts pressure on Western resolve.

nicolas sarkozy resized in 2010Nicolas Sarkozy, left, the former French president, was once known as “Sarko the American” for his love of free markets, freewheeling debate and Elvis. Of late, however, he has appeared more like “Sarko the Russian,” even as President Vladimir V. Putin’s ruthlessness appears more evident than ever.

French FlagIn interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.”

“People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” emmanuel macronhe told Le Figaro. “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,” he added.

His statements, to the newspaper as well as the TF1 television network, were unusual for a former president in that they are profoundly at odds with official French policy. They provoked outrage from the Ukrainian ambassador to France and condemnation from several French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, right.

  • New York Times, Russia said Ukraine fired drones at three regions, bringing the war to areas deep inside its territory, Aug. 27, 2023.
  • Divine Justice, Ukraine War Update: UNBELIEVABLE! Russians SINK THEIR OWN SHIPS Desperately, Aug. 27, 2023 (8:29 mins.).

 Relevant Recent Headlines023 (print ed.). He shored up Russian forces and drew Ukraine into a costly fight for Bakhmut, giving Moscow time to slow Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

As the Russian military reeled on the battlefield in Ukraine last autumn, a foul-mouthed, ex-convict with a personal connection to President Vladimir V. Putin stepped out of the shadows to help.

Yevgeny V. Prigozhin for years had denied any connection to the Wagner mercenary group and operated discreetly on the margins of Russian power, trading in political skulduggery, cafeteria meals and lethal force.

Now, he was front and center, touting the Wagner brand known for its savagery and personally recruiting an army of convicts to aid a flailing Russian war operation starved for personnel.

The efforts that Mr. Prigozhin and a top Russian general seen as close to him, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, would undertake in the subsequent months would alter the course of the war.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More Global News 

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Viktor Orbán tells Tucker Carlson: Trump’s the man to save the West, Laura Hulsemann, Aug. 30, 2023. Ukraine has no chance of winning the war against Russia — and Donald Trump is the West’s only hope, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told controversial American TV host Tucker Carlson.

In an interview Tuesday, Orbán said that Kyiv’s victory against Moscow “is not just a misunderstanding. It is a lie. It’s impossible … [Ukrainians] will run out earlier … of soldiers than the Russians. What finally will count is boots on the ground and the Russians are far stronger.”

Only the U.S. can end the war, the Hungarian leader added.

politico Custom“We missed the historic opportunity” to admit Ukraine to NATO, Orbán told Carlson in the interview, saying that Russia is getting “stronger and stronger.” Ukraine’s admission to NATO “is not a realistic proposal at this moment, so forget about it,” he added.

He also does not believe that Russians will get sick of President Vladimir Putin, and he sees little chance for Crimea to be returned to Ukraine.

Asked what he would do if he were U.S. President Joe Biden, Orbán said: “Call back Trump! Because you know, you can criticize him for many reasons … but … the best foreign policy of the recent several decades belongs to him. He did not initiate any new war, he treated nicely the North Koreans, and Russia and even the Chinese … and if he would have been the president at the moment of the Russian invasion [of Ukraine], it would be not possible to do that by the Russians.”

“Trump is the man who can save the Western world” and all of humanity, he said.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Classified Australian report on climate change rings alarm bells, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 30, 2023. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAustralian intelligence may have written a Doomsday report on climate change.

The Australian government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is withholding release of a classified report on climate change that is so secret even the date of the report is not being revealed. The report on the national security implications to Australia of global climate change was prepared by the Office of National Intelligence (ONI). It was completed sometime last year.

wayne madesen report logoThe only thing Albanese has said about the report is that it was completed within the last 12 months. He stressed that "the specific timing of the assessment board is classified.” Perhaps an inkling of what the report contains is found in an 80-page government statement on national security and the climate that was submitted to Parliament in December of last year. That submission was quite clear on the risks to Australia of climate change, stating that the spike in global temperature will "increasingly exacerbate risks [as] geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond."

ny times logoNew York Times, France to Ban Full-Length Muslim Robes in Public Schools, Aurelien Breeden, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Religious symbols are already banned in French schools, but the abaya — a loosefitting robe worn by some Muslim women — was in a gray area. Critics called the measure discriminatory.

French FlagFrance will bar children in public schools from wearing the abaya, a loosefitting, full-length robe worn by some Muslim women, the government said this week. It said the measure was necessary to stem a growing number of disputes in its secular school system.

But critics called the ban a discriminatory policing of teenagers’ clothing, fueling yet another debate in France over the way Muslim women dress, which has become a recurring flashpoint in the country’s relations with its Muslim minority.

Since 2004, middle and high-school students in France have been barred from wearing “ostentatious” symbols that have a clear religious meaning, like a Catholic cross, a Jewish skullcap or a Muslim head scarf. Since 2011, it has also been illegal to wear a face-covering veil in public in France. French people broadly agree with those rules.

The abaya, however — a long dress that covers the legs and arms, but not the hands, feet or head — falls into a gray area. While it is popular in the Gulf and in some Arab countries, it does not have a clear religious significance.

In France, it is mostly worn by Muslim women who want to follow the Quran’s teachings on modesty. Headmasters had voiced concern over the past year that they needed clear instructions from the government on how to deal with a small but growing number of students coming to class wearing abayas.

This week, the government responded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Foreign Minister Flees Libya Amid Uproar Over Meeting With Israeli, Vivian Yee and Isabel Kershner, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The minister, Najla el-Mangoush, flew to Turkey after reports emerged that she had met with her Israeli counterpart, sparking unrest in several Libyan cities.

The Libyan foreign minister has fled to Turkey out of fear for her safety, Libyan officials said Monday, amid a growing uproar in their country over news that the minister met with her Israeli counterpart in Rome last week.

Israel’s triumphal announcement of the meeting on Sunday set off protests in several Libyan cities and prompted the prime minister to suspend the foreign minister, Najla el-Mangoush. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Libya, one of a host of Arab countries with a long history of hostility toward Israel.

The Libyan foreign ministry said the meeting in Rome last week was “informal and unplanned,” and that Ms. el-Mangoush had reaffirmed Libyan support for the Palestinians. But that did little to quell protests in the capital, Tripoli, and other parts of the country.

 mexico flag1

washington post logoWashington Post, As the number of missing people surges, Mexico’s president seeks a recount, Mary Beth Sheridan and Oscar Lopez, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A year ago, Mexico reached a horrifying milestone: 100,000 people were missing, according to an official tally — a stark symbol of the violence that has racked the country since the government declared war on drug traffickers in 2006.

andrés lópez obrador wNow, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, says the actual number is much lower than officially reported. And he is trying to prove it. In what he calls a “new census,” he has dispatched officials to check whether people initially reported as disappeared have returned to their families.

The effort has prompted a backlash from families of the disappeared and their advocates, who fear that he is trying to lower the numbers artificially before an election year. On Wednesday, the head of the government commission responsible for the official count abruptly resigned “in light of the current context.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Incumbent Claims Victory in Zimbabwe Election Amid Fraud Accusations, John Eligon, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Emmerson Mnangagwa won another five-year term, but did so by intimidating voters and manipulating the campaign process, the opposition says.

zimbabwe flag mapPresident Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe claimed victory on Saturday in an election marred by widespread allegations that the governing party, ZANU-PF, had committed fraud.

Mr. Mnangagwa’s victory over his closest competitor, Nelson Chamisa, after his first full term in office strengthened ZANU-PF’s grip on power in a nation it has led since independence from Britain in 1980. Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has suffered under disastrous economic policies that have led to soaring prices, high unemployment and a medical system lacking basic drugs and equipment.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia (left to right) convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).

 

More On Climate, Hawaiian Disaster, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As fires and floods rage, Facebook and Twitter are missing in action, Will Oremus, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have decided they don’t need the news industry. That’s causing problems when natural disasters strike.

As wildfires ravage western Canada, Canadians can’t read the news about them on Facebook or Instagram. This month, Facebook parent company Meta blocked links to news organizations on its major social networks in Canada to protest a law that would require it to pay publishers for distributing their content.

As a freak tropical storm flooded swaths of Southern California over the weekend, residents and government agencies who turned to X, formerly known as Twitter, for real-time updates struggled to discern fact from fiction. That has gotten far more difficult, officials say, since Elon Musk jumbled the site’s verification policies, removing the blue check marks from verified journalists and media outlets — instead granting them to anyone who pays a monthly fee.

Facebook and Twitter spent years making themselves essential conduits for news. Now that government agencies, the media and hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on them for critical information in times of crisis, the social media giants have decided they’re not so invested in the news mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wafter all.

elon musk safe image time thumbTech titans Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Musk, right, may not agree on much. But both have pulled back, in different ways, from what their companies once saw as a responsibility, to both their users and society, to connect people with reliable sources of information. A drumbeat of natural disasters, probably intensified by climate change, is highlighting the consequences of that retrenchment.

“Just a few years ago, Twitter was a really valuable way for us to communicate with the public,” said Brian Ferguson, deputy director of crisis communications for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “It’s much more challenging now because of some of the changes that have happened.”

x logo twitterOn Monday, after Tropical Storm Hilary soaked Los Angeles and inundated Palm Springs, Calif., Ferguson said his agency “spent a good portion of the day as part of our emergency response combating mis- and disinformation.” Widely shared posts on X showed doctored images of Los Angeles landmarks underwater and claimed the Federal Emergency Management Agency was out of money and unable to respond — none of which were true, he said.

Such hoaxes have been common on social media for years. But pre-Musk Twitter had been stepping up efforts to moderate misinformation, including hiding posts that featured misleading claims and employing a team of journalists to fact-check viral trends. The site also highlighted breaking news stories from accounts and media outlets it deemed reliable. The moves were in keeping with the pride Twitter had long taken in its role as a global hub for real-time information during emergencies, dating back to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Fukushima disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Franklin has become a major hurricane and is expected to create dangerous rip currents along the East Coast, Judson Jones and Hogla Enecia Pérez, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). A tropical storm watch was issued for Bermuda, though the eye of the storm is expected to stay away from land.

 

 

  • How ocean terrain near Florida heightens storm surge risk

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow, Mira Rojanasakul, Christopher Flavelle, Blacki Migliozzi and Eli Murray, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The first article in a series on the causes and consequences of disappearing water,

Unchecked overuse is draining and damaging aquifers, a Times data investigation found, threatening millions of people and the nation’s status as a food superpower.

Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view.

Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of America into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are being severely depleted. These declines are threatening irreversible harm to the American economy and society as a whole.

The New York Times conducted a months-long examination of groundwater depletion, interviewing more than 100 experts, traveling the country and creating a comprehensive database using millions of readings from monitoring sites. The investigation reveals how America’s life-giving resource is being exhausted in much of the country, and in many cases it won’t come back. Huge industrial farms and sprawling cities are draining aquifers that could take centuries or millenniums to replenish themselves if they recover at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are five takeaways from our investigation into America’s groundwater crisis, Christopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Aquifer are shrinking nationwide, threatening supplies of drinking water and America’s status as a food superpower. Climate change is amplifying the problem.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The threat to groundwater is a classic tragedy of the commons, David Leonhardt, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The water that lies beneath the earth’s surface — known as groundwater — has been a vital resource for thousands of years. Communities that are far away from lakes and rivers use groundwater to irrigate crops and provide drinking water.

For most of human history, groundwater has existed in a convenient equilibrium. The pockets of water under the surface need years or decades to replenish as rainwater and other moisture seep into the earth. Fortunately, though, people have used groundwater slowly, allowing replenishment to happen.

Now that equilibrium is at risk.

Several of my colleagues — led by Mira Rojanasakul and Christopher Flavelle — have spent months compiling data on groundwater levels across the U.S., based on more than 80,000 monitoring stations. Chris and Mira did so after discovering that no comprehensive database existed. The statistics tended to be local and fragmented, making it difficult to understand national patterns.

The trends in this new database are alarming. Over the past 40 years, groundwater levels at most of the sites have declined. At 11 percent of the sites, levels last year fell to their lowest level on record. The U.S., in other words, is taking water out of the ground more quickly than nature is replenishing it.

“There’s almost no way to convey how important it is,” Don Cline, the associate director for water resources at the United States Geological Survey, told The Times.

Already, there are consequences. In parts of Kansas, the shortage of water has reduced the amount of corn that an average acre can produce.

In Norfolk, Va., officials have resorted to pumping treated wastewater into underground rock layers that store groundwater — known as aquifers — to replenish them. On Long Island, the depletion of aquifers has allowed saltwater to seep in and threatened the groundwater that remains.

“We’ve built whole parts of the country and whole parts of the economy on groundwater, which is fine so long as you have groundwater,” Chris told me. “I don’t think people realize quite how quickly we’re burning through it.”

Aquifer water levels are falling nationwide. The danger is worse and more widespread than many people realize.

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA’s new rule could strip protections from more than half of U.S. wetlands, Allyson Chiu, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The agency finalized the new regulation to reflect a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it has revised a key rule to comply with a sweeping U.S. Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year, which could strip federal protections from up to 63 percent of the nation’s wetlands.
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In a final rule issued Tuesday, the EPA and the Department of the Army changed parts of the previous definition of “waters of the United States” to align with the Supreme Court’s decision, which weakened the federal agency’s power to regulate the nation’s waterways.

“While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a news release Tuesday.

As a result of the decision, several types of waters will no longer be under federal protection, an EPA official said. Up to 63 percent of wetlands by acreage could be affected in addition to an estimated 1.2 million to 4.9 million miles of ephemeral streams, the official said.

The issue Sackett v. EPA brought before the Supreme Court was the scope of the Clean Water Act’s reach and how courts should determine what counts as “waters of the United States” under protection of the law. Nearly two decades ago, the court ruled that wetlands are protected if they have a “significant nexus” to nearby regulated waters.

In May, however, the court decided that rule no longer applies and said the EPA’s interpretation of its powers went too far, giving it regulatory power beyond what Congress had authorized.

Writing for five justices of the court, Justice Samuel A. Alito ruled that the Clean Water Act extends only to “those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right, so that they are ‘indistinguishable’ from those waters.” He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

The EPA said the amendments announced Tuesday are limited and only change the parts of the previous rule that are invalid under the court’s decision. For example, the final rule removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected, according to the agency.

“The exclusive purpose of the 2023 Rule was to define ‘waters of the United States,’ and this rule simply conforms that definition to Sackett,” the text of the final rule states.

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).p

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Hawaii’s Big Utility Pushes Back on Blame for Deadly Wildfire, Ivan Penn, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Hawaiian Electric says power was shut off and an initial fire put out before a second blaze razed Lahaina. The county continues to blame the company.

Even before the inferno that engulfed the Maui resort of Lahaina is fully contained, local officials and Hawaii’s leading utility are at odds over a fundamental question: Did a single fire break out in the hills overlooking the town on the fateful day, or were there two?

The answer may be crucial to establishing the cause of the disaster and the liability for it.

The utility, Hawaiian Electric, acknowledged for the first time late Sunday that its power lines, buffeted by uncommonly high winds, fell and ignited a fire early on the morning of Aug. 8.

But the company said that by 6:40 a.m. — minutes after the first reports of a fire — the windstorm had caused its lines in the area to shut off automatically. And it noted that the fire was later reported “100 percent contained” by the Maui County Department of Fire and Public Safety, which left the scene and later declared that the fire had been “extinguished.”

And Hawaiian Electric said its lines were carrying no current by the time flames erupted in midafternoon and quickly consumed much of downtown Lahaina and killed at least 115 people. The cause of that fire, the utility said, “has not been determined.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Animal rescuers fear time may be running out on Maui, Justine McDaniel, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Animal rescuers have been denied access to the Maui burn zone, where at least 115 people were killed, but the county says the National Guard will escort them Saturday.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

 

2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez drops out of Republican presidential race, Mariana Alfaro, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Suarez, the only high-profile Hispanic candidate in the field, is the first aspirant to drop out of the crowded GOP primary field.

francis suarez oMiami Mayor Francis Suarez, right, is ending his long-shot 2024 presidential campaign less than three months after he launched it.

“While I have decided to suspend my campaign for President, my commitment to making this a better nation for every American remains,” Suarez said in a post shared on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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Suarez, the only Hispanic candidate in the GOP nominating contest, launched his campaign in mid-June, later than most of his now-former rivals. Last week, he failed to qualify for the first Republican debate after falling short of the necessary polling requirements.

In a lengthy post on X, Suarez said it was “a privilege to come so close to appearing on stage with the other candidates at last week’s first debate.”

“I had looked forward to sharing the story of Miami, America’s most successful city, especially at a time when so many cities are plagued with poverty, unemployment, high taxes, violent crime, and homelessness,” he said. “I know what we have achieved during my tenure leading the City of Miami can be replicated in every community in our great country.”

washington post logoWashington Post, No Labels preps playbook to select presidential candidates, broaden support, Michael Scherer, Aug. 30, 2023. The group that’s preparing a potential third-party bid is seeking ways to grow grass roots before deciding whether to field candidates next year.

The organizers of No Labels, the bipartisan group preparing a potential third-party presidential ticket, have been conducting focus groups with like-minded voters to help draft a candidate selection plan next year without a traditional state-run primary system.

The group is also considering staging televised town halls or debates in the coming months, possibly with a media partner, to help kick-start the process of selecting presidential and vice-presidential nominees. No Labels plans to nominate candidates at an April convention in Dallas only if the group’s leaders first determine that there is a viable path to victory against the Democratic and Republican nominees.

The logistical challenges the group faces are unusual as it seeks to stand up a one-time ballot line in 50 states without a traditional queue of jockeying candidates or an established political party structure. Organizers say they want to convince more than a third of the country to feel ownership of their effort but are wary of making the process so open that partisans on the left or right can hijack the ballot line for candidates who reject their founding mission of elevating bipartisan compromise.

“The whole idea of this is that this has to be a demand-driven phenomenon. We want a ticket like this to be selected because there is an overwhelming desire for something different,” No Labels senior adviser Ryan Clancy said, while making clear that the group wants to keep its options open.

“The endgame of this effort isn’t necessarily a ticket. The endgame is a voice for the common-sense majority,” he said.

The public announcement of a nominating process, which is expected this fall, is aimed at pushing back on some criticism — largely from Democrats, who have attacked the structure of the group, which shields the identities of its donors. Matt Bennett, a No Labels critic at the centrist Democratic group Third Way, has warned that No Labels candidates will be selected “by a cabal of insiders and secret donors.”

 

This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vivek Ramaswamy Is Very Annoying. It’s Why He’s Surging in the Polls, Michelle Goldberg, right, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Of all michelle goldberg thumbthe descriptors attached to Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old political tyro enjoying a bizarre surge in the Republican primary race for second place, the most common one seems to be “annoying.”

Matt Lewis, an anti-Trump conservative writer for The Daily Beast, marveled that there are some who actually like Ramaswamy’s cocky, know-it-all persona: “As Seinfeld might say, ‘Who are these people?’”

vivek ramaswamy linked inThe answer, of course, is much of the Republican Party. The Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos polled likely Republican primary voters before and after last week’s debate. Following his performance, Ramaswamy’s favorability rating rose from 50 percent to 60 percent, even though his unfavorability rating rose even more, from 13 percent to 32 percent. Participants in a CNN focus group of Iowa Republicans declared him the debate’s winner, as did a poll released on Thursday from JL Partners. The day after the debate, his campaign reportedly raised more than $1 million.

The question is what Ramaswamy’s supporters see in this irksome figure. Some Republicans, clearly, appreciate the way he sucks up to Donald Trump, whom Ramaswamy has called “the best president of the 21st century.” But that doesn’t explain the roughly 10 percent of Republicans who tell pollsters they’re planning to vote for Ramaswamy instead of Trump.

Instead, I suspect that Ramaswamy’s fans are drawn to him for all the reasons his critics find him insufferable.

Many older white conservatives, after all, feel threatened by multiethnic younger generations that largely reject their most fundamental values about faith, gender and patriotism. Ramaswamy is part of this menacing cohort, and he’s telling Republicans that their suspicions about it are correct. 

He’s a young man running an anti-youth campaign; a centerpiece of Ramaswamy’s platform is a call to strip the franchise from most people under 25 unless they pass a civics test. And he’s a person of color who argues, even in the wake of another white supremacist mass shooting, that most American racism comes from the left. If he annoys those who find him most familiar, that’s surely part of the point.

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Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

 

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30, 2020 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters) 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump’s Election Lies Left the Michigan G.O.P. Broken and Battered, Nick Corasaniti, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Infighting between former President Trump acolytes and traditionalists has driven away donors and voters in Michigan. Can the party rebuild?

The Michigan Republican Party is starving for cash. A group of prominent activists — including a former statewide candidate — was hit this month with felony charges connected to a bizarre plot to hijack election machines. And in the face of these troubles, suspicion and infighting have been running high. A recent state committee meeting led to a fistfight, a spinal injury and a pair of shattered dentures.

republican elephant logoThis turmoil is one measure of the way Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have rippled through his party. While Mr. Trump has michigan mapjust begun to wrestle with the consequences of his fictions — including two indictments related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 results — the vast machine of activists, donors and volunteers that power his party has been reckoning with the fallout for years.

As the party looks toward the presidential election next year, the strains are glaring.

Mr. Trump’s election lies spread like wildfire in Michigan, breaking the state party into ardent believers and pragmatists wanting to move on. Bitter disputes, power struggles and contentious primaries followed, leaving the Michigan Republican Party a husk of itself.

The battleground has steadily grown safer for Democrats. No Republican has won a statewide election there since Mr. Trump won the state in 2016. (Republicans have won nonpartisan seats on the State Supreme Court.) G.O.P. officials in the state are growing concerned that they do not have a top-tier candidate to run for the open Senate seat.

Politico, McConnell freezes again during Kentucky press conference, office says he was 'lightheaded,' Kierra Frazier and Burgess Everett, Aug. 30, 2023.  The Senate minority leader froze for nearly 30 seconds during a press conference in Kentucky on Wednesday, the second time in as many months that he's frozen in public.

politico CustomSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze for nearly 30 seconds during a press conference Wednesday, an episode his office attributed to him being “momentarily lightheaded.”

The Senate minority leader, speaking in Kentucky, froze while answering questions from reporters. Aides stepped in to help McConnell out and repeat questions. Before McConnell froze, he was asked about whether he planned to run for reelection in 2026.

Wednesday’s episode was McConnell’s second freeze while talking to reporters in public. In July, McConnell abruptly stopped his opening remarks at an afternoon press conference at the Capitol, causing alarm when he left for a few minutes and then returned to answer questions.

ny times logo New York Times, Biden Looks for New Ways to Energize Black Voters, Erica L. Green and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). With much of his racial equity agenda thwarted, President Biden is trying to close an enthusiasm gap among the voters who helped deliver him to the White House.

During a recent town hall with the Congressional Black Caucus, Vice President Kamala Harris offered a gut check to the 200 people who had gathered to take stock of the state of civil rights in America.

“We are looking at a full-on attack on our hard-fought, hard-won freedoms,” Ms. Harris told the crowd, which erupted in applause as she spoke. “So much is at stake,” she said of the 2024 presidential election, “including our very democracy.”

In 2020, President Biden promised Black voters he would deliver a sweeping “racial equity” agenda that included a landmark federal voting rights bill, student loan relief, criminal justice reform and more. Three years later, with much of that agenda thwarted by Congress or the courts, the White House is looking for new ways to re-energize a crucial constituency that helped propel Mr. Biden to the presidency.

That means describing the stakes of the election in stark terms, as Ms. Harris did over the summer in Boston, arguing that the Republican Party is trying to reverse generations of racial progress in America. But Mr. Biden is also asking voters to judge him on a series of achievements that benefit Black Americans — but that are hardly the marquee promises from the early days of his administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tennessee lawmakers end special session without significant gun measures, Annie Gowen, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). As protesters in the gallery chanted “Vote them out,” Tennessee legislators concluded a special session on public safety Tuesday without approving significant gun-control measures, despite outcry following a deadly March shooting at a local Christian school.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee had ordered legislators back to Nashville for the special summer session after a tumultuous spring that began with the tragedy at the nearby Covenant School, where three staffers and three 9-year-olds were killed, and concluded with the high-profile expulsion of two young Black legislators who protested for gun-control proposals on the House floor. After the expulsions brought national condemnation, the two men eventually regained their seats.

But when legislators made their way back to the sun-baked Capitol — through sign-waving demonstrators, masked and armed members of the extremist Proud Boys, and dozens of Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers brought in for the occasion — little was accomplished, legislators on both sides of the aisle said.

Politico, GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin scheme to remove elections chief, Zach Montellaro, Aug. 30, 2023. The nonpartisan official says she has been put in an "impossible, untenable spot." Wisconsin Republicans are moving to fire the state’s nonpartisan elections director ahead of the upcoming presidential primary in the state, casting a shadow of uncertainty over 2024 elections.

politico CustomThe state Senate is set to hold a hearing Tuesday on Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the first step in what is likely an attempt to remove her from her position. Democrats say Republicans want to drive Wolfe out of office as retribution for decisions the commission made in 2020.

The brawl over Wolfe illustrates how, nearly three years after then-President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election in 2020, election misinformation still has a grip on arguably the most important swing state on the map — with Trump potentially on the ticket again.

“I think that it’s largely out of a desire to find an explanation for Donald Trump’s loss other than fewer people voted for him than Joe Biden,” Ann S. Jacobs, one of the Democratic commissioners on the WEC, said of the machinations to remove Wolfe. “She is the chief elections officer, she offers a face to the conspiracy theories.”

The margin between Biden and Trump in Wisconsin in 2020 was extremely narrow, and Republicans have fixated on a handful of decisions the bipartisan, six-member WEC board of commissioners approved, including how absentee voting was handled in nursing homes during the pandemic.

Heightening the discord is state House leaders tapping former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman as a “special counsel” to review the election in the summer of 2021. Gableman embraced fringe conspiracy theories and targeted state and local election officials. He lambasted grants from a nonprofit funded by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg that went to election offices across the state. Beyond that, he mocked Wolfe on personal terms by deriding her physical appearance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin Supreme Court flips liberal, creating a ‘seismic shift,’ Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Standing in the marble-lined rotunda of the state capitol this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s incoming justice raised her right hand, swore to carry out her job “faithfully and impartially” and launched a new, liberal era on a powerful court long dominated by conservatives.

The fallout was immediate.

wisconsin supreme court seal CustomWithin days, the new majority stripped duties from the court’s conservative chief justice and fired its administrative director, a conservative former judge who once ran for the court. The abrupt changes prompted the chief justice to accuse her liberal colleagues of engaging in “nothing short of a coup.” Before long, Republican lawmakers threatened to impeach the court’s newest member.

Liberal groups, long accustomed to seeing the court as hostile terrain, quickly maneuvered for potential victories on a string of major issues. They filed lawsuits to try to redraw the state’s legislative districts, which heavily favor Republicans. And the Democratic attorney general sought to speed up a case challenging a 19th-century law that has kept doctors from providing abortions in Wisconsin.

“It’s an absolute seismic shift in Wisconsin policy and politics,” said C.J. Szafir, the chief executive of the conservative, Wisconsin-based Institute for Reforming Government. “We’re about to usher in a very progressive state Supreme Court, the likes that we have not seen in quite some time. And it’s really going to change how everything operates.”

The turnaround on the Wisconsin court is the result of an April election that became the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with campaigns and interest groups spending more than $50 million.

At stake in that race, with the retirement of a conservative justice who held a decisive vote on a 4-3 court, was the question of who would make crucial rulings in a swing state that could decide the winner of the 2024 presidential election. Conservatives had controlled the court for 15 years, during which they upheld a voter ID law, approved limits on collective bargaining for public workers, banned absentee ballot drop boxes and shut down a wide-ranging campaign finance investigation into Republicans.

janet protasiewiczJanet Protasiewicz, left, a Milwaukee County judge, won by 11 points and flipped control of the court to give liberals a 4-3 majority when she was sworn in on Aug. 1. Protasiewicz, who declined interview requests, spoke openly during her campaign about her support for abortion rights and opposition to what she called “rigged” maps that have given Republicans large majorities in the state legislature. Political strategists said her blunt style helped her win even as court observers fretted that she was making judges look like politicians instead of evenhanded referees.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise diagnosed with blood cancer, Amy B Wang and Laurie McGinley, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The Louisiana Republican said he has already begun treatment for multiple myeloma.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) announced Tuesday that he has a “very treatable” form of blood cancer and has begun treatment that will last the next several months.

“After a few days of not feeling like myself this past week, I had some blood work done,” Scalise said in a statement. “The results uncovered some irregularities and after undergoing additional tests, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a very treatable blood cancer.”

Scalise, 57, said he plans to work while undergoing treatment and intends to return to Washington.

  • Washington Post, Pope criticizes ‘reactionary’ conservative elements in U.S. Catholic Church, Victoria Bisset, Aug. 29, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok’s future in the U.S. is still in limbo as the commerce secretary visits China, Sapna Maheshwari and David McCabe, Aug. 29, 2023. Gina Raimondo, who is in China this week, has said banning TikTok could “lose every voter under 35, forever.”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to China is putting a spotlight on the future of TikTok in the United States, where criticism of the app and its ties to Beijing reached a fever pitch this year.

Despite the intense pressure on the popular short-form video app, which is owned by the Chinese technology company ByteDance, efforts to ban or regulate it in Washington have not yet borne fruit. And even with all that scrutiny, Ms. Raimondo is not planning to discuss TikTok while in China, a glaring omission that reflects the impasse at which it has left the Biden administration.

The administration has been stymied by how to deal with TikTok even as intelligence officials have warned that it poses a national security threat. The app has been barred on government devices federally and in more than two dozen states, its chief executive was grilled before Congress in March and lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make it easier for the White House to ban tech companies owned by “foreign adversaries” like China.

But the White House’s options are limited. Ms. Raimondo memorably told Bloomberg News this year that if the administration banned TikTok, “the politician in me thinks you’re going to literally lose every voter under 35, forever.” (TikTok claims 150 million users in the United States.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: 5,000 pilots suspected of hiding major health issues. Most are still flying, Lisa Rein and Craig Whitlock, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Federal authorities have been investigating about 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal conditions that could make them unfit to fly.

Federal authorities have been investigating nearly 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal that they were receiving benefits for mental health disorders and other serious conditions that could make them unfit to fly, documents and interviews show.

The pilots under scrutiny are military veterans who told the Federal Aviation Administration that they are healthy enough to fly, yet failed to report — as required by law — that they were also collecting veterans benefits for disabilities that could bar them from the cockpit.

Veterans Affairs investigators discovered the inconsistencies more than two years ago by cross-checking federal databases, but the FAA has kept many details of the case a secret from the public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How a whistleblower says Booz Allen Hamilton defrauded the government, David Nakamura, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Sarah Feinberg alleged Booz Allen Hamilton billed the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars in excess fees, leading to a $377 million settlement.

Only a few months into a new finance job, Sarah Feinberg felt stunned when a senior manager with a Northern Virginia-based defense contractor called federal auditors “too stupid” to notice overcharging, according to a federal complaint she filed.

Feinberg said she had warned the manager that the company, Booz Allen Hamilton, was losing tens of millions of dollars and, in her view, billing more than it should on U.S. government contracts to cover the losses.

During the ensuing nine months, she repeatedly raised concerns with senior executives, including internal compliance officials and the chief financial officer, according to the 37-page civil complaint she filed against Booz Allen in 2016 under the federal False Claims Act.

In July, the Justice Department, which investigated her complaint, announced that Booz Allen had agreed to pay $377 million — $209 million in restitution to the federal government and the rest in penalties — to settle the matter, one of the largest awards in a government procurement case in history.

Feinberg, who said she felt vindicated and was to receive nearly $70 million for making the case known to authorities, nevertheless could not help feeling doubts about whether justice was served.

Feinberg had filed a “qui tam” lawsuit in which whistleblowers are awarded a portion of any financial judgment or settlement as incentive to come forward with evidence of fraud against the U.S. government. While the system dates back to the Civil War, when authorities sought to root out corruption in the production of war materials, the number of whistleblowers has grown significantly since Congress strengthened the law in 1986.

ny times logoNew York Times, Samuel Wurzelbacher, Celebrated as ‘Joe the Plumber,’ Dies at 49, Sam Roberts, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). For Republicans in 2008, he briefly became a symbol of Middle America when he questioned the presidential candidate Barack Obama in a televised encounter.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who briefly became “Joe the Plumber,” the metaphorical American middle-class Everyman, by injecting himself into the 2008 presidential campaign in an impromptu nationally-televised face-off with Barack Obama over taxing small businesses, died on Sunday at his home in Campbellsport, Wis., about 60 miles north of Milwaukee. He was 49.

The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his wife, Katie Wurzelbacher, said.

Mr. Obama, then a United States senator from Illinois, was campaigning on Shrewsbury Street in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008, when Mr. Wurzelbacher interrupted a football catch with his son in his front yard to mosey over and confront the Democratic nominee about his proposed tax increase for small businesses.

During a cordial but largely inconclusive five-minute colloquy in front of news cameras, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was concerned about being subject to a bigger tax bite just as he was approaching the point where he could finally afford to buy a plumbing business, which he said would generate an income of $250,000 a year.

Three days later, “Joe the Plumber,” as he was popularized by Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, was invoked some two dozen times during the final debate of the presidential campaign.

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

 

joe biden afghan speech aug 16 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s course for U.S. on trade breaks with Clinton and Obama, David J. Lynch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The labor-friendly president, shown above in a file photo, has kept Trump tariffs while embracing active industrial policy, parting from decades of trade policy.

President Biden is making it clear that the United States’ rejection of full-throttle globalization during the Trump administration was no aberration, as he continues a remarkable break with decades of trade policy that spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations.
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Blending a tough-on-China stance with lavish federal subsidies for favored industries, the president is reshaping the U.S. approach to cross-border commerce to focus on the needs of Americans as workers rather than consumers.

Left out of the president’s strategy, to the irritation of many business groups, have been traditional trade deals, which gave American companies greater access to foreign markets in return for allowing producers in those countries to sell more goods in the United States. The White House says the old approach cost many American factory workers their jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, What China’s Economic Woes May Mean for the U.S., Lydia DePillis, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). China’s growth has stalled and its real estate companies are imploding. But the fallout is probably limited, and there may be some upside for the U.S.

The country’s growth has fallen from its usual brisk 8 percent annual pace to more like 3 percent. Real estate companies are imploding after a decade of overbuilding. And China’s citizens, frustrated by lengthy coronavirus lockdowns and losing confidence in the government, haven’t been able to consume their way out of the country’s pandemic-era malaise.

If the world’s second-largest economy is stumbling so badly, what does that mean for the biggest?

Short answer: At the moment, the implications for the United States are probably minor, given China’s limited role as a customer for American goods and the minor connections between the countries’ financial systems.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. and China Agree to Broaden Talks in Bid to Ease Tensions, Ana Swanson and Keith Bradsher, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Gina Raimondo, the U.S. commerce secretary, said the two sides would meet at least annually to discuss export restrictions and other issues.

The United States and China agreed on Monday to hold regular conversations about commercial issues and restrictions on access to advanced technology, the latest step this summer toward reducing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

gina raimondo 2019 CustomThe announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Gina Raimondo, right, the U.S. commerce secretary, who is meeting with senior commerce dept logoChinese officials in Beijing and Shanghai this week.

The agreement to hold regular discussions is the latest move toward rebuilding frayed links between the two countries, a process that had already begun during three trips in the past 10 weeks by senior American officials: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and John Kerry, the president’s climate envoy.

China Flag“I think it’s a very good sign that we agreed to concrete dialogue, and I would say, more than just kind of nebulous commitments to continue to talk, this is an official channel,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview after four hours of negotiations with China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao.

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More On Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, The Christian home-schooling pioneer who helped craft a plan to siphon billions from public schools, Emma Brown and Peter Jamison, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). On a private call with Christian millionaires, home-schooling pioneer Michael Farris pushed for a strategy aimed at siphoning billions of tax dollars from public schools.

The message Michael Farris had come to deliver was a simple one: The time to act was now.

For decades, Farris — a conservative Christian lawyer who is the most influential leader of the modern home-schooling movement — had toiled at the margins of American politics. His arguments about the harms of public education and the divinely endowed rights of parents had left many unconvinced.

Now, speaking on a confidential conference call to a secretive group of Christian millionaires seeking, in the words of one member, to “take down the education system as we know it today,” Farris made the same points he had made in courtrooms since the 1980s. Public schools were indoctrinating children with a secular worldview that amounted to a godless religion, he said.

The solution: lawsuits alleging that schools’ teachings about gender identity and race are unconstitutional, leading to a Supreme Court decision that would mandate the right of parents to claim billions of tax dollars for private education or home schooling.
Michael Farris outside the Supreme Court, where he hopes the conservative majority will eventually mandate the right of parents to public funding for private education or home schooling. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

“We’ve got to recognize that we’re swinging for the fences here, that any time you try to take down a giant of this nature, it’s an uphill battle,” Farris said on the previously undisclosed July 2021 call, a recording of which was obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with The Washington Post. “And the teachers union, the education establishment and everybody associated with the education establishment will be there in full array against us — just as they were against home-schoolers.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Grief and Anger Continue to Reverberate From Jacksonville Shootings, Anna Betts and Nichole Manna, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). In the days after three Black people were killed in a racially motivated attack, new details have emerged about the gunman’s writings and the timeline of events.

Two days after a gunman killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., in a racially motivated attack, and as grief and anger reverberated through the community, new details about the gunman’s writings and the timeline of events continued to emerge.

On Saturday, the gunman, identified by the authorities as Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, from neighboring Clay County, used an AR-15-style rifle that bore swastika markings to kill two shoppers and an employee before killing himself.

At the time of the shooting, his family found a last will and testament and a suicide note in his bedroom as part of more than 20 pages of racist writings, Sheriff T.K. Waters of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said over the weekend.

On Monday, ABC News, citing a transcript of an F.B.I. conference call it had obtained, reported that Sherri E. Onks, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s field office in Jacksonville, told state and local law enforcement that the bureau had identified several documents that included “racist writings and rants that depict a hatred toward African Americans, as well as other groups.”

“One of the primary themes throughout the writings is a belief in the inferiority of Black people,” Ms. Onks said, according to ABC News. “And there’s also evidence that he harbored anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic grievances.”

  • New York Times, Denver Settles With Black Lives Matter Protesters for $4.7 Million, Aug. 29, 2023.

USA TODAY via Arizona Republic, 'Shakedown': Los Angeles politician sentenced to 42 months on corruption charges, latest in city scandals, James Powell and Thao Nguyen, Aug. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Former Los Angeles City Council Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was sentenced to 42 months in prison on conspiracy, bribery as well as mail and wire fraud convictions on Monday.

Ridley-Thomas was convicted in March for a scheme that was executed with former University of Southern California School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Louise Flynn wherein the then County Supervisor sent the school county contracts in exchange for, “direct and indirect financial benefits.”

As a part of the scheme, Ridley-Thomas sought post-graduate admission, a full scholarship and employment for his son, Sebastian, who was the subject of an internal sexual harassment investigation by the California State Assembly where he had resigned as a representative.

The scheme also funneled $100,000 of campaign funds to Sebastian through the school via Flynn to a non-profit founded by Sebastian.

In exchange, the senior Ridley-Thomas amended a county contract through which a USC telehealth clinic would provide services to county referred patients.

Prosecutors described the scheme as a "shakedown" in a sentencing memo where the government sought a 72-month sentence.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. to pay $5.1 million settlement after judge finds Second Amendment violations, Meagan Flynn, Aug. 29, 2023. D.C. will pay $5.1 million as part of a class-action settlement with gun owners who were arrested under laws that have since been found to violate the Second Amendment, according to the settlement agreement.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth gave preliminary approval to the settlement agreement on Monday following years of litigation. Lamberth had previously ruled in September 2021 that D.C. arrested, jailed, prosecuted and seized guns from six people “based on an unconstitutional set of laws” and violated their Second Amendment rights.

The laws — a ban on carrying handguns outside the home and others that effectively banned nonresidents from carrying guns at all in D.C. — have since been struck down in federal court. They were part of a “gun control regime that completely banned carrying handguns in public,” Lamberth wrote in the 2021 ruling.

Now, D.C. will pay a total of $300,000 to the six plaintiffs and $1.9 million in attorneys fees, with the majority of the rest of the money set aside for more than 3,000 people estimated to qualify for the class-action.

The D.C. attorney general’s office declined to comment. Attorneys for the six gun owners did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The settlement agreement follows litigation in several major federal court cases over the last 15 years that have led judges to strike down highly restrictive D.C. gun laws, slowly leading to more legal gun ownership in a city where illegal weapons have dominated.

For years, most D.C. residents could not even own guns in their homes, let alone possess them in public. But that changed with the seminal 2008 Second Amendment Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated D.C.’s handgun ban.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Barrett says scrutiny welcomed and she’s developed a ‘thick skin,’ Robert Barnes, Aug. 29, 2023. Justice Amy Coney Barrett said Monday that public scrutiny of the Supreme Court is hardly new and should be welcomed, and that she has developed a “thick skin” about criticism of her role as one of the newest justices.

“With everything, there can be good and bad,” Barrett said at a conference of judges and lawyers. “With the court being in the news, to the extent that it engages people with the work of the court, and paying attention to the court and knowing what the courts do and what the Constitution has to say, that’s a positive development.”

The downside, she said, comes if there is a misperception about the court’s work or if there is the sense that it has “let people down.”

“Justices and all judges are public figures, and public criticism kind of comes with the job,” she said, noting that just a few years ago she was a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, far from the public eye. “But I’ve been at it for a couple of years now and I’ve acquired a thick skin, and I think that’s what public figures have to do; I think that’s what all judges have to do.”

Barrett, 51, was President Donald Trump’s third successful nominee to the high court, confirmed in the fall of 2020. Her appointment solidified a six-justice conservative majority that has quickly moved the court to the right, highlighted by the decision last year to overturn the guarantee of abortion rights the court established 50 years earlier in Roe v. Wade.

Barrett was addressing the Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference. She was gently interviewed by Diane S. Sykes, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago and a former colleague. Sykes was also on Trump’s list of candidates for the Supreme Court.

Sykes did not ask about the court’s recent decisions or about ethics controversies that have dogged the justices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Three killed in racially motivated shooting at Florida store, sheriff says, Andrea Salcedo and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A White man armed with a high-powered rifle covered in swastikas killed three Black people after opening fire Saturday at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., before fatally shooting himself, local law enforcement said, describing the attack as racially motivated.

“He targeted a certain group a people, and that’s Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters (R) said at a news conference Saturday evening.

Two men and one woman were killed in the shooting, he said. Authorities have not publicly identified the gunman but said he was in his early 20s and fatally shot himself after law enforcement arrived at the scene. No other people suffered gunshot wounds, and the shooter is believed to have acted alone, Waters said.

The FBI’s Jacksonville office is investigating the shooting as a hate crime, the agency said in a statement posted to social media. Images provided by authorities of an AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting showed white swastikas drawn on the weapon.

Waters said the shooter had left behind “several manifestos” in which he detailed his “disgusting ideology of hate.”

Those writings — one addressed to his parents, one to journalists and another to federal authorities — included many utterances of a slur for Black people and were the “words of a mad man,” Waters said in a televised interview on CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Justices Clash on Congress’s Power Over Supreme Court Ethics, Adam Liptak, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan sketched out dueling conceptions of their institution’s place in the constitutional structure.

john roberts oAs a young lawyer in the Reagan White House, John G. Roberts Jr., right, was tartly dismissive of the Supreme Court’s long summer break, which stretches from the end of June to the first Monday in October.

“Only Supreme Court justices and schoolchildren,” he wrote in 1983, “are expected to and do take the entire summer off.”

On the other hand, the young lawyer wrote, there is an upside to the break: “We know that the Constitution is safe for the summer.”

samuel alito frowing uncreditedThese days, members of the court find time to quarrel about the Constitution even in the warm months. The primary antagonists lately have been Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., above, and Elena Kagan, below left.

Elena Kagan O HRLast summer, they clashed over whether decisions like the one eliminating the constitutional right to abortion threatened the court’s legitimacy.

In recent months, the two justices have continued to spar, though on a different subject: whether Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate aspects of the court’s work.

The question is timely, of course, as news reports have raised ethical questions about, among other things, luxury travel provided to Justices Alito and Clarence Thomas. Those reports have led to proposed legislation to impose new ethics rules on the court.

Justice Alito, in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal last month, appeared to object, saying that “Congress did not create the Supreme Court.”

He added: “I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Artificial Intelligence Brings the Robot Wingman to Aerial Combat, Eric Lipton, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). An Air Force program shows how the Pentagon is starting to embrace the potential of a rapidly emerging technology, with far-reaching implications.

It is powered into flight by a rocket engine. It can fly a distance equal to the width of China. It has a stealthy design and is capable of carrying missiles that can hit enemy targets far beyond its visual range.

But what really distinguishes the Air Force’s pilotless XQ-58A Valkyrie experimental aircraft is that it is run by artificial intelligence, putting it at the forefront of efforts by the U.S. military to harness the capacities of an emerging technology whose vast potential benefits are tempered by deep concerns about how much autonomy to grant to a lethal weapon.

Essentially a next-generation drone, the Valkyrie is a prototype for what the Air Force hopes can become a potent supplement to its fleet of traditional fighter jets, giving human pilots a swarm of highly capable robot wingmen to deploy in battle. Its mission is to marry artificial intelligence and its sensors to identify and evaluate enemy threats and then, after getting human sign-off, to move in for the kill.

On a recent day at Eglin Air Force Base on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Maj. Ross Elder, 34, a test pilot from West Virginia, was preparing for an exercise in which he would fly his F-15 fighter alongside the Valkyrie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Three U.S. Marines Die in Air Crash in Australia, Yan Zhuang and Damien Cave, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Osprey aircraft, with 23 people on board, crashed during a training exercise near Darwin, Australia. Several others were seriously injured.

Three U.S. Marine Corps troops died Sunday after a military aircraft crashed near Darwin, Australia, during a routine training exercise. Five others have been transported to the Royal Darwin Hospital in serious condition.

The aircraft, an MV-22B Osprey that was transporting troops, crashed on Melville Island about 9:30 a.m. local time with 23 personnel on board, according to a statement from the Marine Rotational Force. That force has deployed to Australia every year since 2011 and now consists of 2,500 Marines.

The Marines were taking part in Exercise Predators Run, according to the statement, a joint military exercise also involving soldiers from the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S.-Iran prisoner deal highlights plight of other foreign detainees, Miriam Berger, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A potential prisoner swap deal between the United States and Iran — which “remains on track,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters this week — has renewed attention on the plight of other prisoners in Iran with Western passports who advocates say are detained as bargaining chips.

As an initial step in the emerging deal, a rare bright spot in U.S.-Iran relations, four Americans were moved from the harsh conditions of Iran’s Evin Prison to house arrest. The final exchange, which remains in process, is set to include the release of five Iranian prisoners in the United States and the freeing of $6 billion in oil revenue held in South Korea under U.S. sanctions, to be used for humanitarian purposes, those familiar with the talks said earlier this month.

Iran, U.S. advance deal to swap prisoners, free oil funds

As the deal takes shape, the families and supporters of other foreigners detained in Iran, many on charges that advocates and activists describe as spurious and ploys for diplomatic leverage, have urged that their cases remain in the public eye.

“The Islamic regime is targeting a certain group of people, individuals with foreign citizenship, in a systematic way,” said Gazelle Sharmahd, whose father, Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German citizen and U.S. permanent resident who ran a radio show that aired criticism of Iran’s government, is on death row in Iran, facing charges in connection to accusations of terrorism. “My father thinks only the U.S. government can get him out.”

Sharmahd held a sit-in this week in front of the State Department to protest her father’s apparent exclusion from the forthcoming deal. She was joined by the family of Shahab Dalili, an Iranian citizen and U.S. permanent resident, imprisoned in Iran since 2016.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon protested false Fox News report about fallen Marine, emails show, Paul Farhi, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The network quietly removed the story based on false claims from a congressman but did not apologize or run a correction.

The U.S. Marine Corps went up to the highest levels of Fox News last month to challenge a story that falsely claimed a fallen Marine’s family had to cover the cost of transporting her remains, emails obtained by The Washington Post show.

Fox quietly amended the digital story and then removed it from its website following more complaints from the Marines but still has not apologized or corrected the erroneous report, which had been based on a false claim quickly retracted by a congressman.

Department of Defense SealThe Marines’ communications with Fox were first reported by Military.com, which obtained the emails this week under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The July 25 FoxNews.com story relied on an account from freshman Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who stated that the family of Sgt. Nicole L. Gee had shouldered “a heavy financial burden” of $60,000 to retrieve her body from Afghanistan. Gee, 23, was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in the frantic final days of the U.S. withdrawal.

The story’s reporter, Michael Lee, quoted Mills calling the family’s supposed expenditures an “egregious injustice.” Neither Pentagon officials nor Gee’s family were quoted in the original story.

Marine Corps officials say the family did not face any financial burdens to have Gee’s body shipped to Arlington National Cemetery. They disputed the story in a series of emails to Fox executives — including Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace and editor in chief Porter Berry — shortly after the story was published.

“The allegations originally published turned out to be false, which I suspect Mr. Lee knew in the first place, and was the reason he did not seek comment from the Marine Corps,” wrote Marine Corps spokesman Maj. James Stenger in an email to the Fox executives.

Two days after his original comments to Fox, Mills walked back his claims in a statement in which he seemed to blame the Pentagon and the Gee family for being “in their time of grief, confused” about the costs associated with the transportation of Sgt. Gee’s remains. He said the Department of Defense “was able to provide clarification” about the matter.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Women, Fearing Backlash on Abortion, Pivot to Birth Control, Annie Karni, Aug. 30, 2023. A group of vulnerable G.O.P. women has backed legislation that purports to expand birth control access but would have little effect. Critics say it is a distraction.

She had barely opened her town hall to questions when Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from a competitive district in Iowa, was pressed to defend her opposition to abortion rights.

“One of the main functions of the federal government is to protect life,” Ms. Miller-Meeks, who won election in 2020 by just six votes, told a sparse crowd this month in Iowa City, a younger, more progressive part of her district where she rarely campaigns.

Ms. Miller-Meeks then quickly pivoted to politically safer terrain, telling her constituents about how she had also sponsored legislation aimed at expanding access to contraception.

“The best way to prevent abortion is to prevent pregnancy,” she said.

It is an increasingly common strategy among vulnerable House Republicans — especially those in politically competitive districts — who are trying to reconcile their party’s hard-line anti-abortion policies with the views of voters in their districts, particularly independents and women.

While many of these G.O.P. lawmakers have cast votes in the House this year to limit abortion access — maintaining a stance that some Republicans concede hurt their party in last year’s midterm elections — Ms. Miller-Meeks and others spent part of the summer congressional recess talking up their support for birth control access, which is broadly popular across the country and across party lines.

Appearing to embrace access to contraception has become an imperative for Republican candidates at all levels who are concerned that their party’s opposition to abortion rights has alienated women, particularly after the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade and the extreme abortion bans in G.O.P.-led states that have followed.

“Can’t we all agree contraception should be available,” Nikki Haley, the only Republican woman in the presidential primary, said last week at the first primary debate, seeking to blunt attacks from Democrats on the issue of reproductive health care.

Just ahead of lawmakers’ long summer break, Ms. Miller-Meeks was part of a group of House Republican women who introduced the Orally Taken Contraception Act of 2023, a bill that they pitched as a way to expand access to contraception and that she called “a significant step forward for health care.”

Abortion rights advocates argue that the legislation is essentially meaningless and merely an effort by Republican lawmakers to mislead voters about their positions on women’s health. But for the G.O.P. women who are backing it, the bill offers an elegant way to shift the conversation away from the divisive issue of abortion.

ny times logoNew York Times, President of Powerful Realtors’ Group Resigns After Sexual Harassment Claims, Debra Kamin and Anna Kodé, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The president of the powerful National Association of Realtors has resigned, two days after The New York Times published an article detailing complaints from women that he exhibited a pattern of behavior that included improper touching and sending lewd photos and texts.

Kenny Parcell, the current president of the National Association of Realtors, has been the focus of sexual harassment allegations since a former employee filed a lawsuit this summer (Photo from The National Association of Realtors).Multiple women said they had been harassed or subjected to inappropriate conduct by the group’s president, Kenny Parcell, according to interviews, a lawsuit and an internal report. Mr. Parcell, 50, denied the accusations in written responses to The Times.

Kenny Parcell, right, the current president of the National Association of Realtors, has been the focus of sexual harassment allegations since a former employee filed a lawsuit this summer (Photo via The National Association of Realtors).N.A.R. confirmed

Mr. Parcell’s resignation, which was reported on Monday by Inman, a real estate news site.

Mr. Parcell was a successful Realtor in Utah who rose through the ranks of the nonprofit organization and held several senior leadership positions before taking on its top role. His one-year term as president was not scheduled to end until November. Mr. Parcell’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Mr. Parcell continued to deny the accusations even as he stepped down.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Not Over Yet: Late-Summer Covid Wave Brings Warning of More to Come, Julie Bosman, Aug. 28, 2023. Hospitalizations are still low but are on the rise in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A late-summer wave of coronavirus infections has touched schools, workplaces and local government, as experts warn the public to brace for even more Covid-19 spread this fall and winter.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Hospitalizations have increased 24 percent in a two-week period ending Aug. 12, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wastewater monitoring suggests a recent rise in Covid infections in the West and Northeast. In communities across the United States, outbreaks have occurred in recent weeks at preschools, summer camps and office buildings.

Public health officials said that the latest increase in Covid hospitalizations is still relatively small and that the vast majority of the sick are experiencing mild symptoms comparable to a cold or the flu. And most Americans, more than three months after the Biden administration allowed the 2020 declaration calling the coronavirus a public health emergency to expire, have shown little willingness to return to the days of frequent testing, mask wearing and isolation.

But for Americans who have become accustomed to feeling that the nation has moved beyond Covid, the current wave could be a rude reminder that the emerging New Normal is not a world without the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, A deadly tick-borne epidemic is raging. Dogs are key to ending it, Lena Sun, Photos by Michael Robinson Chávez, Aug. 30, 2023. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is on the rise in parts of Mexico and the United States. Climate change and dogs could be crucial to the fight against the tick-borne scourge.

The disease, spread through the bite of an infected tick that lives primarily on dogs, is rare, but its incidence is rising. It has reemerged at epidemic levels in northern Mexico, where more than 2,000 cases, resulting in hundreds of deaths, have been reported in the past five years. Young children have been hit the hardest. In the Mexican state of Baja California, where Ejido Padre Kino is located, there were 92 cases in 2022, more than double the previous year, according to state data.

The outbreak prompted a team of Mexican and U.S. scientists to descend upon this small town more than four hours south of San Diego to pluck ticks off dogs, scour the crevices around homes for larvae, and warn residents to keep their dogs from roaming the dusty streets.

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

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN hires Mark Thompson as new chief executive, replacing Chris Licht, Aug. 30, 2023. Mark Thompson, the former chief executive of the New York Times, has been selected as the next leader of CNN, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday.

CNNHe will replace Chris Licht, below left, who was ousted in June after a short and tumultuous run as the network’s leader.

chris licht w“I couldn’t be more excited about the chance to join CNN after years of watching it and competing against it with a mixture of admiration and envy,” Thompson said in a statement. “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

Thompson, who begins in the role on Oct. 9, comes to CNN after a lengthy career in media. He spent eight years as chief executive of the New York Times Company, where he oversaw significant growth in digital subscription revenue, helping to offset losses in print circulation and advertising. He stepped down from that role in 2020, after he said that he “achieved everything I set out to do.”

Thompson had come to the Times after spending nearly his entire career at the BBC, where he served as director general.

In addition to overseeing CNN’s strategy, operations and business units, he will serve as the network’s editor in chief, the company announced on Wednesday.

“There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN Worldwide into the future,” Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said.

Zaslav called Thompson “a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations” and said that “his strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

Readers of new Winsted Citizen newspaper in Connecticut (Associated Press photo by Jessica Hill).

Readers of new Winsted Citizen newspaper in Connecticut (Associated Press photo by Jessica Hill).

Next Avenue:Extra! Extra! Man Starts Newspaper, Alix Boyle, Aug. 29, 2023. Meeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media: A retired editor, with the help of a famous neighbor, aims to fill the void of local news in his hometown.

andy thibault new mug SmallLike many people turning 70, veteran journalist Andy Thibault, right, was still working, but on his own terms, teaching college journalism classes at the University of New Haven and freelancing. Then came a call from a colleague who knew someone interested in the newspaper business.

Consumer activist and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader was looking for someone to start a local newspaper in his hometown, Winsted, Connecticut. Did Andy know of anyone who might be interested?

"I liked that it was a ludicrous if not impossible challenge."

Thibault said he did know of one guy who would be interested in starting a newspaper when so many publications were writing their own obituaries. That guy was Thibault himself. "I liked that it was a ludicrous if not impossible challenge," he recalls.

Why would someone entering his eighth decade choose to roll the dice on a shrinking business with an uncertain future, at best?

"I like the work and I can't sing or dance," he said with a shrug.

So, the Winsted Citizen debuted in February 2023 and is growing and expanding. After six months as a print-only publication, it recently went online and the September issue will be published soon.

The Ralph Nader Angle

Ralph Nader Huffington PostThe paper was created as a nonprofit enterprise with Nader, left, aged 89, giving $15,000 as the founding donor. He later contributed another $16,000 in grants for a total stake of $31,000, He also provided free logistical support in establishing the newspaper's nonprofit status.

In a radio interview, Nader that he wanted to found a print publication because he is convinced that his neighbors in Winsted, where he lives part time, miss feeling newsprint in their hands and are sick of electronics.

The Citizen covers news in Winsted, 25 miles northwest of the state capital, Hartford, and surrounding towns. It has spiced up its pages by also publishing items like a quirky poem titled "I Wish I Was My Wife So I Could Be Married to Me" and a story about taking psychedelic mushrooms for depression (it had a front-page teaser reading "Don't Shroom and Drive").

The paper strives to live up to its reader-focused motto: "If it's important to you, it's important to us."

Thibault is something of a legend in Connecticut journalism. Highlights of his long career include working as a research consultant to the HBO series "Allen V. Farrow" and covering the Boston Marathon bombing trial for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

He is also a licensed private investigator and the author of books such as "You Thought It Was More," about Louis "the Coin" Colavecchio, a notorious Rhode Island counterfeiter.

A Life of Reporting on Crime

But Thibault is proudest of writing stories that led the authorities to release Bonnie Foreshaw, a woman sentenced to 45 years in prison for committing a murder that many legal experts argued was the lesser crime of manslaughter.

He unearthed a 24-year-old document from a public defender, Jon C. Blue. In the memo, Blue, who later became a judge, criticized the lawyers who represented Foreshaw for "shocking malpractice." Based on Thibault's reporting, Foreshaw was granted a clemency hearing and released. She is shown below at an event with Thibault and one of his books following her release.

andy thibault gateway

"Andy played a pivotal role in that case," said newspaper columnist Susan Campbell, who writes for Hearst Newspapers and CTNewsjunkie.com and also works with Thibault at the University of New Haven. "Unlike the rest of us, he kept on that story like a dog with a bone, like a yard dog on a short chain. Without him, I don't think there would have been the same outcome."

At the Winsted Citizen, Thibault sells ads, commissions stories, edits, works with the art director and even picks up copies from the printer to deliver them around town. Thibault tapped his Rolodex to put together a team that's as eclectic as the newspaper.

"I'm very excited about the people I work with," Thibault said. "We have a 16-year-old whiz kid reporter and an office manager who's a retired executive from Adobe who is training me to be an organized person."

Paying those contributors is a struggle.

"Pay has been erratic because we were grossly undercapitalized," Thibault said. "We are steadily building up revenue and have been operating since the July edition under an austerity budget."

Disclosure: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a longtime reporter in Connecticut for the Hartford Courant, is a founding member of the Winsted Citizen's board of advisors.

washington post logoWashington Post, More schools that forced American Indian children to assimilate revealed, Dana Hedgpeth and Emmanuel Martinez, Aug. 30, 2023. A nonprofit Native American group has found details about 115 more Indian boarding schools in the United States.

A nonprofit group has identified 115 more Indian boarding schools than has been previously reported, offering new insight into the role of religious institutions in the long-standing federal policy to eradicate Native Americans’ culture through their children.

For more than a century, generations of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were forced or coerced from their homes and communities and sent to live at schools where they were beaten, starved and made to abandon their Native languages and culture. The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the federal government ran or supported 408 such schools in 37 states, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven in Hawaii, from 1819 to 1969.

The new list released Wednesday by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition uses a different criteria, bringing the number of known Indian boarding schools in the country to 523 in 38 states. In addition to the federally supported schools tallied by the Interior Department, the coalition identified 115 more institutions that operated beginning in 1801, most of them run by religious groups and churches.

ny times logoNew York Times, Simone Biles Wins a Record 8th U.S. All-Around Gymnastics Title, Carla Correa, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). By now, it’s canon that Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time. The debate over that status largely ended years ago, when she began pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the sport.

Her consistency is also unmatched. Since 2013, Biles has earned 32 world championship and Olympic medals, even after removing herself from several finals at the Tokyo Games in 2021 to safeguard her health. The question usually isn’t whether Biles will win but rather by how much.

The answer at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Sunday was a margin of 3.9 points over the silver medalist, Shilese Jones. Biles’s victory also meant that she broke a 90-year record by becoming the first American gymnast, woman or man, to win eight national all-around titles. And, at 26, she is the oldest woman to ever win the event.

The national championships came just weeks after her return to elite competition following a two-year hiatus. She handily won a qualifying meet called the U.S. Classic earlier this month in Hoffman Estates, Ill. At the SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday, among a crowded and talented field, Biles looked better than ever.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Bitter Lawsuit, Chess Combatants Agree to a Draw, Dylan Loeb McClain, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). An American grandmaster sued Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top player, and two other parties after Carlsen accused him of cheating. A settlement has been announced.

A $100 million defamation lawsuit filed against the five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, a top chess streamer and the world’s largest chess site has been settled.

Terms were not disclosed, but, in the parlance of chess, all of the parties appear to have called it a draw, meaning there were no winners — or losers.

The settlement was announced Monday on the website Chess.com, which had been one of the defendants.

The suit was filed last October by Hans Niemann, a curly-haired 20-year-old American grandmaster. Carlsen had accused him of cheating after Niemann beat him in a game last September in a prestigious tournament in St. Louis called the Sinquefield Cup.

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ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Announces First Drugs Picked for Medicare Price NegotiationsSheryl Gay Stolberg and Rebecca Robbins, Aug. 29, 2023. The Biden administration’s announcement was an important moment for Democrats, who have campaigned on a promise to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

joe biden twitterThe Biden administration on Tuesday announced the first 10 medicines that will be subject to price negotiations with Medicare, kicking off a landmark program that is expected to reduce the government’s drug spending but is being fought by the pharmaceutical industry in court.

HHS The medications on the list are taken by millions of older Americans and cost Medicare billions of dollars annually. The drugs were selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services through a process that prioritized medications that account for the highest Medicare spending, have been on the market for years and do not yet face competition from rivals.

Drugs Selected for Price Negotiations

  1. Eliquis, for preventing strokes and blood clots, from Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer
  2. Jardiance, for Type 2 diabetes and heart failure, from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly
  3. Xarelto, for preventing strokes and blood clots, from Johnson & Johnson
  4. Januvia, for Type 2 diabetes, from Merck
  5. Farxiga, for chronic kidney disease, from AstraZeneca
  6. Entresto, for heart failure, from Novartis
  7. Enbrel, for arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, from Amgen
  8. Imbruvica, for blood cancers, from AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson
  9. Stelara, for Crohn’s disease, from Johnson & Johnson
  10. Fiasp and NovoLog insulin products, for diabetes, from Novo Nordisk

The final list had some overlap with what experts had anticipated. Its release was an important moment for Democrats, who have campaigned on a promise to lower the cost of prescription drugs. President Biden will mark the occasion with remarks at the White House on Tuesday afternoon — another sign that he intends to make lowering health care costs a theme of his 2024 re-election campaign.

Medicare gained the authority to negotiate the price of some prescription medicines when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, a signature legislative achievement for the president. Tuesday’s announcement is a key step toward those negotiations, which will unfold over the coming months, with the new prices taking effect in 2026. Additional drugs will be selected for price negotiations in coming years.

The negotiation program is projected to save the government an estimated $98.5 billion over a decade. It is also expected to eventually reduce insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many older Americans, though the magnitude of those savings remains to be seen.

Medicare already pays reduced prices for drugs on the list, reflecting rebates that are passed down by pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen that negotiate discounts with manufacturers. But before passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare was explicitly barred from negotiating prices directly with manufacturers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow, Mira Rojanasakul, Christopher Flavelle, Blacki Migliozzi and Eli Murray, Aug. 29, 2023. The first article in a series on the causes and consequences of disappearing water,

Unchecked overuse is draining and damaging aquifers, a Times data investigation found, threatening millions of people and the nation’s status as a food superpower.

Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view.

Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s water systems, and which have transformed vast stretches of America into some of the world’s most bountiful farmland, are being severely depleted. These declines are threatening irreversible harm to the American economy and society as a whole.

The New York Times conducted a months-long examination of groundwater depletion, interviewing more than 100 experts, traveling the country and creating a comprehensive database using millions of readings from monitoring sites. The investigation reveals how America’s life-giving resource is being exhausted in much of the country, and in many cases it won’t come back. Huge industrial farms and sprawling cities are draining aquifers that could take centuries or millenniums to replenish themselves if they recover at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here are five takeaways from our investigation into America’s groundwater crisis, Christopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul, Aug. 29, 2023. Aquifer are shrinking nationwide, threatening supplies of drinking water and America’s status as a food superpower. Climate change is amplifying the problem.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The threat to groundwater is a classic tragedy of the commons, David Leonhardt, Aug. 29, 2023. The water that lies beneath the earth’s surface — known as groundwater — has been a vital resource for thousands of years. Communities that are far away from lakes and rivers use groundwater to irrigate crops and provide drinking water.

For most of human history, groundwater has existed in a convenient equilibrium. The pockets of water under the surface need years or decades to replenish as rainwater and other moisture seep into the earth. Fortunately, though, people have used groundwater slowly, allowing replenishment to happen.

Now that equilibrium is at risk.

Several of my colleagues — led by Mira Rojanasakul and Christopher Flavelle — have spent months compiling data on groundwater levels across the U.S., based on more than 80,000 monitoring stations. Chris and Mira did so after discovering that no comprehensive database existed. The statistics tended to be local and fragmented, making it difficult to understand national patterns.

The trends in this new database are alarming. Over the past 40 years, groundwater levels at most of the sites have declined. At 11 percent of the sites, levels last year fell to their lowest level on record. The U.S., in other words, is taking water out of the ground more quickly than nature is replenishing it.

“There’s almost no way to convey how important it is,” Don Cline, the associate director for water resources at the United States Geological Survey, told The Times.

Already, there are consequences. In parts of Kansas, the shortage of water has reduced the amount of corn that an average acre can produce.

In Norfolk, Va., officials have resorted to pumping treated wastewater into underground rock layers that store groundwater — known as aquifers — to replenish them. On Long Island, the depletion of aquifers has allowed saltwater to seep in and threatened the groundwater that remains.

“We’ve built whole parts of the country and whole parts of the economy on groundwater, which is fine so long as you have groundwater,” Chris told me. “I don’t think people realize quite how quickly we’re burning through it.”

Aquifer water levels are falling nationwide. The danger is worse and more widespread than many people realize.

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA’s new rule could strip protections from more than half of U.S. wetlands, Allyson Chiu, Aug. 29, 2023. The agency finalized the new regulation to reflect a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it has revised a key rule to comply with a sweeping U.S. Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year, which could strip federal protections from up to 63 percent of the nation’s wetlands.
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In a final rule issued Tuesday, the EPA and the Department of the Army changed parts of the previous definition of “waters of the United States” to align with the Supreme Court’s decision, which weakened the federal agency’s power to regulate the nation’s waterways.

“While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a news release Tuesday.

As a result of the decision, several types of waters will no longer be under federal protection, an EPA official said. Up to 63 percent of wetlands by acreage could be affected in addition to an estimated 1.2 million to 4.9 million miles of ephemeral streams, the official said.

The issue Sackett v. EPA brought before the Supreme Court was the scope of the Clean Water Act’s reach and how courts should determine what counts as “waters of the United States” under protection of the law. Nearly two decades ago, the court ruled that wetlands are protected if they have a “significant nexus” to nearby regulated waters.

In May, however, the court decided that rule no longer applies and said the EPA’s interpretation of its powers went too far, giving it regulatory power beyond what Congress had authorized.

Writing for five justices of the court, Justice Samuel A. Alito ruled that the Clean Water Act extends only to “those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right, so that they are ‘indistinguishable’ from those waters.” He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.
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The EPA said the amendments announced Tuesday are limited and only change the parts of the previous rule that are invalid under the court’s decision. For example, the final rule removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected, according to the agency.

“The exclusive purpose of the 2023 Rule was to define ‘waters of the United States,’ and this rule simply conforms that definition to Sackett,” the text of the final rule states.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Christian home-schooling pioneer who helped craft a plan to siphon billions from public schools, Emma Brown and Peter Jamison, Aug. 29, 2023. On a private call with Christian millionaires, home-schooling pioneer Michael Farris pushed for a strategy aimed at siphoning billions of tax dollars from public schools.

The message Michael Farris had come to deliver was a simple one: The time to act was now.

For decades, Farris — a conservative Christian lawyer who is the most influential leader of the modern home-schooling movement — had toiled at the margins of American politics. His arguments about the harms of public education and the divinely endowed rights of parents had left many unconvinced.

Now, speaking on a confidential conference call to a secretive group of Christian millionaires seeking, in the words of one member, to “take down the education system as we know it today,” Farris made the same points he had made in courtrooms since the 1980s. Public schools were indoctrinating children with a secular worldview that amounted to a godless religion, he said.

The solution: lawsuits alleging that schools’ teachings about gender identity and race are unconstitutional, leading to a Supreme Court decision that would mandate the right of parents to claim billions of tax dollars for private education or home schooling.
Michael Farris outside the Supreme Court, where he hopes the conservative majority will eventually mandate the right of parents to public funding for private education or home schooling. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

“We’ve got to recognize that we’re swinging for the fences here, that any time you try to take down a giant of this nature, it’s an uphill battle,” Farris said on the previously undisclosed July 2021 call, a recording of which was obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with The Washington Post. “And the teachers union, the education establishment and everybody associated with the education establishment will be there in full array against us — just as they were against home-schoolers.”

ny times logoNew York Times, France to Ban Full-Length Muslim Robes in Public Schools, Aurelien Breeden, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Religious symbols are already banned in French schools, but the abaya — a loosefitting robe worn by some Muslim women — was in a gray area. Critics called the measure discriminatory.

French FlagFrance will bar children in public schools from wearing the abaya, a loosefitting, full-length robe worn by some Muslim women, the government said this week. It said the measure was necessary to stem a growing number of disputes in its secular school system.

But critics called the ban a discriminatory policing of teenagers’ clothing, fueling yet another debate in France over the way Muslim women dress, which has become a recurring flashpoint in the country’s relations with its Muslim minority.

Since 2004, middle and high-school students in France have been barred from wearing “ostentatious” symbols that have a clear religious meaning, like a Catholic cross, a Jewish skullcap or a Muslim head scarf. Since 2011, it has also been illegal to wear a face-covering veil in public in France. French people broadly agree with those rules.

The abaya, however — a long dress that covers the legs and arms, but not the hands, feet or head — falls into a gray area. While it is popular in the Gulf and in some Arab countries, it does not have a clear religious significance.

In France, it is mostly worn by Muslim women who want to follow the Quran’s teachings on modesty. Headmasters had voiced concern over the past year that they needed clear instructions from the government on how to deal with a small but growing number of students coming to class wearing abayas.

This week, the government responded.

ap logoAssociated Press, University of North Carolina graduate student charged in killing of faculty advisor denied bond, Hannah Schoenbaum, Gary D. Robertson and Sarah Rankin, Aug. 29, 2023. Authorities charged a University of North Carolina graduate student Tuesday with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of his faculty advisor, in an attack that caused a campus lockdown while police searched for the gunman.

During a brief hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sherri Murrell ordered 34-year-old Tailei Qi to remain jailed without bond as an interpreter explained to Qi in Mandarin what was happening in the courtroom. She scheduled his next court date for Sept. 18.

Dana Graves, a public defender who represented Qi during the hearing, left the courtroom without talking to reporters.

Qi is charged with first-degree murder and having a 9mm handgun on educational property in the Monday killing of Zijie Yan inside of a science building on UNC’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill. The attack led to a roughly three-hour lockdown of the campus, a week after students returned for the start of the fall semester.

Authorities haven’t publicly speculated as to a motive for the attack.

Yan was an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences who had worked for the university since 2019, UNC said in a statement Tuesday, noting that it has been in contact with Yan’s family and is providing them with resources and support.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a message to the UNC community that his team had met with Yan’s colleagues and family to express condolences on behalf of the campus.

“He was a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to many on our campus,” Guskiewicz said.

On Wednesday, the school’s iconic Bell Tower will ring in honor of Yan’s memory and students are encouraged to take a moment of silence, he wrote.

In a page that has been taken down since the attack, Qi was listed on the school’s website as a graduate student in Yan’s research group and Yan was listed as his adviser. He previously studied at Wuhan University in China before moving to the U.S. and earning a masters in mechanical engineering at Louisiana State University in 2021.

Qi, who lives in Chapel Hill, was arrested during a roughly three-hour lockdown that followed the shooting, authorities said at a Monday news conference. “To actually have the suspect in custody gives us an opportunity to figure out the why and even the how, and also helps us to uncover a motive and really just why this happened today. Why today, why at all?” UNC Police Chief Brian James said. “And we want to learn from this incident and we will certainly work to do our best to ensure that this never happens again on the UNC campus.”

 djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Sets Trial Date in March for Trump’s Federal Election Case, Alan Feuer and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected efforts by Donald Trump’s legal team to postpone the trial until 2026.

tanya chutkan newerThe federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election set a trial date on Monday for early March, rebuffing Mr. Trump’s proposal to push it off until 2026.

The decision by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to start the trial on March 4 amounted to an early victory for prosecutors, who had asked for Jan. 2. But it potentially brought the proceeding into conflict with the three other trials that Mr. Trump is facing, underscoring the extraordinary complexities of his legal situation and the intersection of the prosecutions with his campaign to return to the White House.

The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has proposed taking Mr. Trump to trial on charges of tampering with the election in that state on March 4 as well. Another case, in Manhattan, in which Mr. Trump has been accused of more than 30 felonies connected to hush-money payments to a porn actress in the run-up the 2016 election, has been scheduled to go to trial on March 25.

Justice Department log circularAnd if the trial in Washington lasts more than 11 weeks, it could bump up against Mr. Trump’s other federal trial, on charges of illegally retaining classified documents after he left office and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. That trial is scheduled to begin in Florida in late May.

The March 4 date set by Judge Chutkan for the federal election case at a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington is the day before Super Tuesday, when 15 states are scheduled to hold Republican primaries or caucuses.

Judge Chutkan said that while she understood Mr. Trump had both other trial dates scheduled next year and, at the same time, was running for the country’s highest office, she was not going to let the intersection of his legal troubles and his political campaign get in the way of setting a date.

“Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule,” Judge Chutkan said, adding that “there is a societal interest to a speedy trial.”

Mr. Trump has now been indicted by grand juries four times in four places — Washington, New York, Atlanta and Florida — and prosecutors have been jockeying for position. All of them are trying to find time for their trials not only in relation to one another, but also against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s crowded calendar as the candidate leading the field for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meadows Testifies in Bid to Move Georgia Trump Case to Federal Court, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Meadows, a former White House chief of staff, told a judge he believed his actions regarding the 2020 election fell within the scope of his job as a federal official.

mark meadows small customA battle over whether to move the Georgia racketeering case against Donald J. Trump and his allies to federal court began in earnest on Monday, when Mark Meadows, right, a former White House chief of staff, testified in favor of such a move before a federal judge in Atlanta.

Under questioning by his own lawyers and by prosecutors, Mr. Meadows stated emphatically on the witness stand that he believed that his actions detailed in the indictment fell within the scope of his duties as chief of staff. But he also appeared unsure of himself at times, saying often that he could not recall details of events in late 2020 and early 2021. “My wife will tell you sometimes that I forget to take out the trash,” he told Judge Steve C. Jones of United States District Court.

At another point, he asked whether he was properly complying with the judge’s instructions, saying, “I’m in enough trouble as it is.”

The effort to shift the case to federal court is the first major legal fight since the indictment of Mr. Trump, Mr. Meadows and 17 others was filed by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga. The indictment charges Mr. Trump and his allies with interfering in the 2020 presidential election in the state. Mr. Meadows is one of several defendants in the case who are trying to move it to federal court; any decision on the issue by a judge could apply to all 19 defendants.Lawyers for Mark Meadows made their bid to a judge to move the Georgia case against Donald Trump and his allies to federal court, Aug. 28, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meadows testifies in Atlanta; March trial date for Trump in D.C., Devlin Barrett, Maegan Vazquez, Perry Stein and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has scheduled Donald Trump’s D.C. trial on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election for March 4, 2024.

At a separate hearing in Atlanta, Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been testifying for hours about Trump’s efforts to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia; the purpose of that hearing is to see if Meadows can move his state-level indictment to federal court. Trump is a front-runner in the Republican 2024 presidential contest, and the D.C. trial’s starting date is the day before the Super Tuesday primaries.

Here’s what to know

  • Trump is the only person indicted in the D.C. case so far, but his indictment alleges he enlisted six unnamed conspirators in his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory and hang on to power.
  • Trump is the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. He has been indicted in four cases — all while leading the Republican field in the 2024 presidential nomination race. He has denied wrongdoing in each case.
  • Meadows, right, is one of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in a separate, state-level indictment related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Reporting from Atlanta: Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner:

mark meadows small customUnder questioning from his own attorney, Mark Meadows, left, repeatedly described the post-election atmosphere at the Trump White House as chaotic. He testified that because he was viewed as someone who had “the ear of the president,” he was deluged by phone calls and emails, including from people questioning the outcome of the 2020 election.

“It felt like my phone number was plastered on every bathroom wall in America,” Meadows said of the calls.

A small murmur spread through the courtroom when Mark Meadows walked in with his lawyers, given that he was not required to attend and it was unclear if he would. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not attend the hearing. At least a half-dozen members of her prosecution team filed into the courtroom on the heels of the defense, and Meadows greeted several of them with a smile and a handshake.

As he testified, Mark Meadows repeatedly turned and faced toward the U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones, who is presiding over the removal hearings, directing his answers to him. Jones has played an active role in Monday’s hearing — often interrupting Fulton County prosecutor Anna Cross to either tell Meadows he had not answered her question or to pose questions of his own.

Mark Meadows also said a large part of his job as White House chief of staff was setting up phone calls and managing the president’s calendar. He said he attended numerous meetings and listened in on many phone calls that were political in nature simply to end the conversations at the right time.

In one White House meeting between Donald Trump and Pennsylvania lawmakers cited in the indictment, Meadows disputed that he attended the meeting other than to inform three of the lawmakers that they had tested positive for the coronavirus and would have to leave without seeing the president.

Former Trump chief of staff Meadows repeatedly insisted in his testimony in Atlanta there was a “federal nexus” to all of his actions mentioned in the Georgia indictment. He defended his participation in meetings and phone calls described by prosecutors as part of a plot to subvert the 2020 election results because he said there was a federal interest in “free and fair elections.”

  • New York Times, Americans still put their trust in juries. Will Donald Trump’s trials break that faith? Aug. 28, 2023.
  • New York Times, Lawyers for Mark Meadows made their bid to a judge to move the Georgia case against Donald Trump and his allies to federal court, Aug. 28, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing two crises in Florida with the Jacksonville shooting and Tropical Storm Idalia, Nicholas Nehamas, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). For the first time since declaring his bid for the Republican nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is facing a crisis in his home state.

Well, not one crisis, but two.

On Saturday, a gunman motivated by racial hatred killed three people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville. All the victims were Black. The shooter was white. And on Wednesday, a major storm is projected to strike somewhere along Florida’s Gulf coast, the first to hit the state during the 2023 hurricane season.

After the shooting, Mr. DeSantis flew back to Tallahassee from a campaign trip to Iowa. He then canceled a visit to South Carolina scheduled for Monday, citing the storm and sending his wife, Casey DeSantis, in his place. He has said he will stay in Florida for the storm’s duration and aftermath.

“This is going to be our sole focus,” Mr. DeSantis said on Monday at a news conference at the state’s emergency operation center in Tallahassee. The twin crises provide the most serious tests of Mr. DeSantis’s leadership since he began running for president in May. On the stump, he often cites his track record as governor as his biggest advantage over his rivals, almost none of whom hold executive office. He has also criticized President Biden for his response to the wildfires that devastated Maui.

But the emergencies have pulled Mr. DeSantis off the trail at a time when his campaign had seemed to stabilize after weeks of layoffs and upheaval among his staff, as well as a debate performance that drew strong reviews from many Republican voters.

Both the shooting and the storm could further spotlight criticisms that rival candidates have made of Mr. DeSantis’s stewardship of Florida since being elected as governor in 2018. After clashes on a number of race-related issues, including the way African American history is taught in schools, his relationship with Florida’s Black community is so strained that he was loudly booed when he appeared at a vigil for the shooting victims in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Mr. DeSantis has also struggled with the state’s property insurance market, a long-running problem that the governor has repeatedly tried to address with legislation. The market has been so battered by high costs that Mr. DeSantis said in July that he would “knock on wood” for no big storm to hit Florida this year.

ap logoAssociated Press, The Jacksonville shooter killed a devoted dad, a beloved mom and a teen helping support his family, Russ Bynum, Aug. 28, 2023. A.J. Laguerre worked at a Dollar General store after finishing high school to help support the grandmother who raised him. Angela Michelle Carr was an Uber driver beloved by her children. Jerrald Gallion relished weekends with his 4-year-old daughter.

All three were slain Saturday when a gunman with swastikas painted on his rifle opened fire at the Dollar General where Laguerre worked in Jacksonville. The sheriff said writings left by the killer, a 21-year-old white man, made clear that he was motivated by racism. Each victim was Black.

“I never thought I’d have to bury my baby brother,” Quan Laguerre said Monday outside the family’s house not far from the store.

“They say don’t question God,” he said. “But I just want to know why.”

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy

 

manhattan institute

The Guardian, Billionaire-linked US thinktank behind supreme court wealth tax case lobbying, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dominic Rushe, Aug. 27, 2023. Manhattan Institute one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the court to hear 'Moore v US.'

An influential thinktank closely linked to two billionaires who provided lavish travel gifts to conservative supreme court justices is behind a successful lobbying campaign to get the US high court to take on a case that could protect them and other billionaires from a possible future wealth tax.

manhattan institute logoThe Manhattan Institute was one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the supreme court to take on Moore v US, a $15,000 tax case that Democrats have warned could permanently “lock in” the right of billionaires to opt out of paying fair taxes.

The billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer is chairman of the Manhattan Institute and Kathy Crow, who is married to the real estate mogul Harlan Crow, serves as a trustee of the group. Both have provided two of the justices – Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, respectively – with private travel gifts and have socialised with the judges on lavish vacations, according to reports in ProPublica and other media outlets.

The revelations have stoked serious accusations of ethical and legal violations by the two rightwing justices, who failed to disclose the travel and – in Thomas’s case – hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional gifts from the Crows, including property purchases and private tuition payments for Thomas’s great-nephew.

Thomas has called the Crows his “dearest friends” and claimed Harlan Crow “did not have business before the Court”. Alito has said he could recall speaking to Singer only on a “handful of occasions” and that the two had never discussed Singer’s business or issues before the court.

But Alito and Thomas’s dealings with the conservative billionaires have nevertheless raised questions about how the justices’ close ties might influence which cases are taken on by the court.

The supreme court announced it would hear Moore vs US on 26 June. On its face, the case appears to be centered on a relatively minor tax dispute between Charles and Kathleen Moore, a Washington-state couple, and the US government.

Charles Moore spent most of his career as a software engineer at Microsoft, where he met one of the future founders of KisanKraft, a company that provides low-cost tools to farmers in India.

In 2006, the Moores invested about $40,000 in KisanKraft. The investment gave them an 11% stake in the company, which made profits but did not pay dividends, the Moores said.

In 2017, the Trump administration passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a law that contained a one-off levy on US corporations’ foreign earnings – the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (MRT). It was estimated that MRT would raise $340bn in tax revenue. To the Moores’ chagrin, it also created an unexpected $15,000 tax liability in connection to their KisanKraft holding.

The tax was unfair and unconstitutional – they argue – because they never realized any gains from the investment. In a video interview of the couple created by the rightwing Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – which took on a key role in the legal matter – the couple explain their decision to take legal action.

The only “return” the couple had made, Kathleen noted, was knowing that the company was helping and reaching people “all over India”. “We are doing this because we strongly believe in the rule of law in this country,” said Charles.

The couple enlisted the help of the CEI and one of the most powerful and well-connected law firms in Washington, BakerHostetler, whose clients have included Boeing, ExxonMobil and Major League Baseball, and sued the US government.


At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Their hands don’t lie: Republican candidates trash the trial by jury, Ruth Marcus, right, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). There were two surrenders ruth marcus twitter Customthis week — one by Donald Trump, and one to Donald Trump.

The second, by almost every Republican presidential candidate, was more important, more predictable and far more terrifying.

The signature moment of Wednesday’s debate was the raising of hands to pledge fealty to Trump over the rule of law, and if the ritual has become unsurprising at this point in Trump’s reign over the GOP, this particular manifestation bears noting.

Because the formulation put to the candidates — would you support Trump even if he were convicted by a jury? — was so stark, and the response so appalling. Every candidate on the stage — with the exception of former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and, depending on how you interpret his hand gestures, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — effectively declared that a trial by jury is just another American institution that must yield to the demands of Trump.

Pause to consider the implications of this answer. To answer that you would support Trump notwithstanding a jury verdict — to shoot up your hand in the eager manner of Vivek Ramaswamy or to gauge the room like a calculating Ron DeSantis — is to say: I do not trust the judgment of the American people.

 

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 CustomPolitico, Sanders hits at Cornel West over criticism of Biden, Kelly Garrity, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). “There is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America,” Sanders said.

politico CustomSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) hit back at third-party presidential hopeful Cornel West, after West knocked the prominent progressive for backing President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.

Some politicians are so fearful of former President Donald Trump retaking the White House that “they don’t really want to tell the full truth,” West said. “[Biden has] created the best economy that we can get. Is this the best that we can get? You don’t tell that lie to the people just for Biden to win,” West said in a clip played on CNN Sunday.

And while Sanders said he agrees it “certainly is not” the best economy the U.S. could create, he called on progressives to coalesce around Biden.

“Where I disagree with my good friend, Cornel West, is I think in these really very difficult times, where there is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America. … I think we’ve got to bring the entire progressive community to defeat Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be, [and] support Biden,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

However, progressives still must “demand that the Democratic Party, not just Biden, have the guts to take on corporate greed and the massive levels of income and wealth inequality that we see today,” Sanders added.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Trump-Related Probes, Indictments

 

U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment of former U.S. President Trump on June 9, 2023.

U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment of former U.S. President Trump on June 9, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Might Trump Challenge the March 4 Trial Date in the Federal Election Case? Charlie Savage, Aug. 29, 2023. The ex-president vowed to appeal a judge’s decision to schedule the start on his trial the day before Super Tuesday. He can’t disrupt the trial that way, legal experts say — but there is a longer-shot possibility.

Former President Donald J. Trump immediately vowed to challenge the March 4 start date for his criminal trial over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, raising questions of whether or how he could try to push back the timing of the case.

“I will APPEAL!” Mr. Trump wrote on social media shortly after Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued her order on Monday.

But despite complaining about the date, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, John Lauro, said in court that the defense team would abide by her decision “as we must.” Mr. Lauro had proposed the trial begin in April 2026, citing the volume of evidence defense lawyers needed to study, while prosecutors had suggested starting in January.

Here is a closer look.
Why is March 4 awkward? The date comes in the middle of an already crammed calendar for Mr. Trump, who faces an array of criminal cases and civil lawsuits as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Eastman’s defense is shattered in state bar proceeding, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 28, 2023. John Eastman, the lawyer allegedly jennifer rubin new headshotat the center of the unprecedented and outrageous scheme to overthrow the 2020 election, faces criminal prosecution in Georgia and has been identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal case. And Eastman must defend a bar complaint in California that threatens to revoke his law license.

At a critical hearing last week in the California bar proceedings, designated legal expert Matthew A. Seligman submitted a 91-page report, which I have obtained from the state bar, that strips away any “colorable,” or legally plausible, defense that Eastman was acting in good faith in rendering advice to the now four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump.

This report has serious ramifications for Eastman’s professional licensure and his defense in Georgia. Moreover, his co-defendant and co-counsel in the alleged legal scheme, Kenneth Chesebro, who has employed many of the same excuses as Eastman, might be in serious jeopardy in his Oct. 23 trial. (Another lawyer, Sidney Powell, also requested a speedy trial.)

In his report, Seligman addressed whether “the legal positions advanced by Dr. John Eastman in relation to the counting of electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election” were reasonable.

If one follows Seligman’s legal and historical analysis, one must conclude Eastman and his legal cohorts (including co-defendant Chesebro) likely knew that their “advice” was beyond the pale

The significance of stripping away the legal plausibility of the cockamamie scheme to undermine our democracy cannot be overstated. Consider how Seligman’s conclusion shatters not only Eastman’s but also Trump’s most likely defenses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigations: Donald Trump and His Co-Defendants in Georgia Are Already at Odds, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Some defendants have already sought to move the case to federal court, while others are seeking speedy or separate trials.

Even as former President Donald J. Trump and his 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case turned themselves in one by one at an Atlanta jail this week, their lawyers began working to change how the case will play out.

They are already at odds over when they will have their day in court, but also, crucially, where. Should enough of them succeed, the case could split into several smaller cases, perhaps overseen by different judges in different courtrooms, running on different timelines.

Five defendants have already sought to move the state case to federal court, citing their ties to the federal government. The first one to file — Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff during the 2020 election — will make the argument for removal on Monday, in a hearing before a federal judge in Atlanta.

Federal officials charged with state crimes can move their cases to federal court if they can convince a judge that they are being charged for actions connected to their official duties, among other things.

In the Georgia case, the question of whether to change the venue — a legal maneuver known as removal — matters because it would affect the composition of a jury. If the case stays in Fulton County, Ga., the jury will come from a bastion of Democratic politics where Mr. Trump was trounced in 2020. If the case is removed to federal court, the jury will be drawn from a 10-county region of Georgia that is more suburban and rural — and somewhat more Trump-friendly. Because it takes only one not-guilty vote to hang a jury, this modest advantage could prove to be a very big deal.

The coming fights over the proper venue for the case are only one strand of a complicated tangle of efforts being launched by a gaggle of defense lawyers now representing Mr. Trump and the 18 others named in the 98-page racketeering indictment. This week, the lawyers clogged both state and federal court dockets with motions that will also determine when the case begins.

Already, one defendant’s case is splitting off as a result. Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who advised Mr. Trump after the 2020 election, has asked for a speedy trial, and the presiding state judge has agreed to it. His trial is now set to begin on Oct. 23. Another defendant, Sidney Powell, filed a similar motion on Friday, and a third, John Eastman, also plans to invoke his right to an early trial, according to one of his lawyers.

ap logoAssociated Press, Trump trial set for March 4, 2024, in federal case charging him with plotting to overturn election, Eric Tucker, Lindsay Whitehurst, Michael Michael Kunzelman, Aug. 28, 2023. A judge on Monday set a March 4, 2024, trial date for Donald Trump in the federal case in Washington charging the former president with trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting a defense request to push back the case by years.

tanya chutkan newerU.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, right, rebuffed claims by Trump’s attorneys that an April 2026 trial date was necessary to account for the huge volume of evidence they say they are reviewing and to prepare for what they contend is a novel and unprecedented prosecution. But she agreed to postpone the trial slightly beyond the January 2024 date proposed by special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team.

“The public has a right to a prompt and efficient resolution of this matter,” Chutkan said.

Justice Department log circularIf the current date holds, it would represent a setback to Trump’s efforts to push the case back until well after the 2024 presidential election, a contest in which he’s the early front-runner for the Republican nomination.

The March 2024 date would also ensure a blockbuster trial in the nation’s capital in the heat of the GOP presidential nominating calendar, forcing Trump to juggle campaign and courtroom appearances and coming the day before Super Tuesday — a crucial voting day when more than a dozen states will hold primaries and when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.

“I want to note here that setting a trial date does not depend and should not depend on the defendant’s personal or professional obligations,” Chutkan said.

Chutkan has so far appeared not only cool to Trump’s efforts to delay the case but also concerned by social media comments he’s made outside court. This month, she warned Trump’s legal team that there were limits on what he can say publicly about evidence in the investigation. She also reiterated her intention Monday for Trump to be “treated with no more or less deference than any defendant would be treated.”

The Washington case is one of four prosecutions Trump is facing. A March 4 trial would take place just weeks before a scheduled New York trial in a case charging him in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actress. Meanwhile in Atlanta on Monday, where Trump and 18 others were charged with trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was arguing to try to get the charges against him transferred from state court to federal court.

The setting of the trial date came despite strong objections from Trump lawyer John Lauro. He said defense lawyers had received an enormous trove of records from Smith’s team — a prosecutor put the total at more than 12 million pages and files — and that the case concerned novel legal issues that would require significant time to sort out.

“This is one of the most unique cases from a legal perspective ever brought in the history of the United States. Ever,” Lauro said, calling it an “enormous, overwhelming task” to review such a “gargantuan” amount of evidence.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston countered that the public had an “exceedingly” strong interest in moving the case forward to trial and said that the crux of the evidence has long been well known to the defense. Trump, she noted , is accused of “attempting to overturn an election and disenfranchise millions.”

“There is an incredibly strong public interest in a jury’s full consideration of those claims in open court,” Gaston said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This whole “speedy trial” strategy is already falling apart for Trump world, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 28, 2023. When Trump co-defendant bill palmerKenneth Chesebro filed for a speedy trial in Fulton County, there were a thousand hot takes about how this strategy was somehow magically going to get Donald Trump off the hook. But it seemed pretty obvious that this nonsensical “strategy” was simply a matter of overconfident idiots mistakenly thinking they can magic wand their way out of this, and that the whole thing would just backfire on them.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, the whole thing already seems to be falling apart. The courts responded to Chesebro’s request by simply granting it. Now he’s stuck with a speedy trial that’ll merely get him convicted and sent to prison sooner. Sidney Powell has since also filed for a speedy trial. And now John Eastman is apparently about to file for a speedy trial as well.

Because these people are all charged together under RICO, if their speedy trial requests are all granted, they’re all going to be tried together. This kenneth chesebromeans that Chesebro, right, Powell, below left, and Eastman – three lunatics – will be stuck with each other at trial. Each of them surely thinks of themself as the only sane one, and the others as crackpots. Well now they’re going to have to stand trial together, and get stuck with sidney powelleach other’s wacky lines of defense.

The kicker is that even more of the loony also-rans in this case will likely end up following suit and requesting a speedy trial, just because they see their co-defendants doing it, and they figure there must be something to it. It’s like watching a bunch of idiots following each other off a cliff because one of them came up with the wacky idea that there might be a pot of gold at the bottom.

We’re still waiting for the part where any of this is supposed to magically help Donald Trump. None of the popular theories that have been floated on social media, from discovery on down, actually apply. This is simply a matter of some very dumb people who think of themselves as geniuses because they’ve spent life failing upwards, and as a result they now think they can come up with some simplistic move on the spot that will magically get them off the hook. In reality they’re just sending themselves to prison sooner.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts in historic indictment linked to Stormy Daniels hush money probe (Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

Former President Donald J. Trump, in a blue suit, sits with his attorneys shortly before arraignment in New York City's state court on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to the 2016 presidential campaign season, reportedly involving in part hush money to women ((Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

 

Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Arrest in Vladivostok spells trouble for Putin in the "Russian" Far East, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 23 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, Aug. 28-29, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2023.The arrest by Russia's Federal Security Bureau of a former employee of the now-closed U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok for espionage reflects more on Moscow's inability to tamp down dissension in its so-called Far East than in any spying issues.

wayne madesen report logoThe former consulate employee, Robert Shonov, stands accused by the FSB of “gathering information about the special military operation, mobilization processes in Russian regions, problems, and the assessment of their influence on protest activities in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election." The U.S. diplomatic mission in Vladivostok closed in 2020.

Russian FlagIn charging Shonov with espionage, the FSB has actually tipped its hand about the problems Vladimir Putin is facing in the Russian Maritime Pacific region, particularly with conscription of young men for service in Ukraine. Many of those being targeted for military duty are from endangered non-Russian ethnic groups. The FSB charge that Shonov collected information on Far Eastern protest activities against Putin's re-election next year and passed it to "Jeffrey Sillin and David Bernstein, employees of the political department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow” demonstrates that the Kremlin is losing its grip on control of eastern Siberia. The FSB has stated it wants to question Sillin and Bernstein, both of whom have diplomatic immunity as embassy officials. The U.S. State Department responded to Russian charges as being "wholly without merit."

ny times logoNew York Times, Past Drones and Sea Mines, a Merchant Ship’s Perilous Journey in Ukraine, Jenny Gross and Valerie Hopkins, Aug. 29, 2023. Ukraine’s Danube River ports are key arteries for grain exports. But Russian threats and costly delays have made some shippers rethink the Black Sea.

For months, ships traversed the Black Sea and the Danube River without incident to load Ukrainian grain and deliver it around the world, even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified. Then in mid-July, when Russia withdrew from an agreement that allowed passage of those cargoes, everything changed.

yevgeniy prigozhin battle gear ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Wagner Mourners in Moscow Reflect Prigozhin’s Appeal Among Russians, Valerie Hopkins, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Visitors, some tearful, left flowers and other tributes to Yevgeny Prigozhin, above, the founder of the Wagner private military company, at a sidewalk memorial.

The tearful mourners gathered in Moscow to pay muted respect to the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, and nine other people killed in a suspicious plane crash last week.

wagner group logoHundreds of people placed flowers, photographs, candles and flags — including some bearing the private military group’s skull design — at a small sidewalk memorial near Red Square in Moscow.

The gathering over the weekend reflected the broader appeal Mr. Prigozhin held for the Russian public as a result of his force’s fierce fighting in Ukraine, despite an acrimonious relationship with Russia’s military leadership and the backlash from his failed mutiny in June, when the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, initially accused him of treason.

The fate of Wagner, which Mr. Prigozhin built into a global force, remains uncertain, now that Russian authorities have officially declared Mr. Prigozhin dead, and with the Kremlin reportedly considering ways to bring the group more directly under control of the state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Claims to Retake a Small Southern Village, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Reclaiming the village of Robotyne would suggest Ukrainian forces have pushed through initial Russian defenses, but tougher terrain lies ahead.

Reclaiming the village of Robotyne would suggest Ukrainian forces have pushed through initial Russian defenses, but tougher terrain lies ahead.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Robotyne’s recapture could boost Ukraine after weeks of grinding fighting.
  • Zelensky says he believes the U.S. will offer Ukraine an Israel-like relationship.
  • A pilot who became a face of Kyiv’s efforts to get F-16s dies in a training accident.
  • A Russian missile strike on an oil refinery kills three, Ukrainian officials say.
  • Russia charges a former U.S. consulate employee with collecting information about the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, A former French president gave a voice to Russian sympathies, profoundly at odds with official policy, Roger Cohen, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Remarks by Nicolas Sarkozy have raised fears that Europe’s pro-Putin chorus may grow louder as Ukraine’s plodding counteroffensive puts pressure on Western resolve.

nicolas sarkozy resized in 2010Nicolas Sarkozy, left, the former French president, was once known as “Sarko the American” for his love of free markets, freewheeling debate and Elvis. Of late, however, he has appeared more like “Sarko the Russian,” even as President Vladimir V. Putin’s ruthlessness appears more evident than ever.

French FlagIn interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.”

“People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” emmanuel macronhe told Le Figaro. “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,” he added.

His statements, to the newspaper as well as the TF1 television network, were unusual for a former president in that they are profoundly at odds with official French policy. They provoked outrage from the Ukrainian ambassador to France and condemnation from several French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, right.

  • New York Times, Russia said Ukraine fired drones at three regions, bringing the war to areas deep inside its territory, Aug. 27, 2023.
  • Divine Justice, Ukraine War Update: UNBELIEVABLE! Russians SINK THEIR OWN SHIPS Desperately, Aug. 27, 2023 (8:29 mins.).

 Relevant Recent Headlines023 (print ed.). He shored up Russian forces and drew Ukraine into a costly fight for Bakhmut, giving Moscow time to slow Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

As the Russian military reeled on the battlefield in Ukraine last autumn, a foul-mouthed, ex-convict with a personal connection to President Vladimir V. Putin stepped out of the shadows to help.

Yevgeny V. Prigozhin for years had denied any connection to the Wagner mercenary group and operated discreetly on the margins of Russian power, trading in political skulduggery, cafeteria meals and lethal force.

Now, he was front and center, touting the Wagner brand known for its savagery and personally recruiting an army of convicts to aid a flailing Russian war operation starved for personnel.

The efforts that Mr. Prigozhin and a top Russian general seen as close to him, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, would undertake in the subsequent months would alter the course of the war.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More Global News 

ny times logoNew York Times, Foreign Minister Flees Libya Amid Uproar Over Meeting With Israeli, Vivian Yee and Isabel Kershner, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The minister, Najla el-Mangoush, flew to Turkey after reports emerged that she had met with her Israeli counterpart, sparking unrest in several Libyan cities.

The Libyan foreign minister has fled to Turkey out of fear for her safety, Libyan officials said Monday, amid a growing uproar in their country over news that the minister met with her Israeli counterpart in Rome last week.

Israel’s triumphal announcement of the meeting on Sunday set off protests in several Libyan cities and prompted the prime minister to suspend the foreign minister, Najla el-Mangoush. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Libya, one of a host of Arab countries with a long history of hostility toward Israel.

The Libyan foreign ministry said the meeting in Rome last week was “informal and unplanned,” and that Ms. el-Mangoush had reaffirmed Libyan support for the Palestinians. But that did little to quell protests in the capital, Tripoli, and other parts of the country.

 mexico flag1

washington post logoWashington Post, As the number of missing people surges, Mexico’s president seeks a recount, Mary Beth Sheridan and Oscar Lopez, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A year ago, Mexico reached a horrifying milestone: 100,000 people were missing, according to an official tally — a stark symbol of the violence that has racked the country since the government declared war on drug traffickers in 2006.

andrés lópez obrador wNow, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, says the actual number is much lower than officially reported. And he is trying to prove it. In what he calls a “new census,” he has dispatched officials to check whether people initially reported as disappeared have returned to their families.

The effort has prompted a backlash from families of the disappeared and their advocates, who fear that he is trying to lower the numbers artificially before an election year. On Wednesday, the head of the government commission responsible for the official count abruptly resigned “in light of the current context.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Incumbent Claims Victory in Zimbabwe Election Amid Fraud Accusations, John Eligon, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Emmerson Mnangagwa won another five-year term, but did so by intimidating voters and manipulating the campaign process, the opposition says.

zimbabwe flag mapPresident Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe claimed victory on Saturday in an election marred by widespread allegations that the governing party, ZANU-PF, had committed fraud.

Mr. Mnangagwa’s victory over his closest competitor, Nelson Chamisa, after his first full term in office strengthened ZANU-PF’s grip on power in a nation it has led since independence from Britain in 1980. Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has suffered under disastrous economic policies that have led to soaring prices, high unemployment and a medical system lacking basic drugs and equipment.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia (left to right) convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).

 

More On Climate, Hawaiian Disaster, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As fires and floods rage, Facebook and Twitter are missing in action, Will Oremus, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have decided they don’t need the news industry. That’s causing problems when natural disasters strike.

As wildfires ravage western Canada, Canadians can’t read the news about them on Facebook or Instagram. This month, Facebook parent company Meta blocked links to news organizations on its major social networks in Canada to protest a law that would require it to pay publishers for distributing their content.

As a freak tropical storm flooded swaths of Southern California over the weekend, residents and government agencies who turned to X, formerly known as Twitter, for real-time updates struggled to discern fact from fiction. That has gotten far more difficult, officials say, since Elon Musk jumbled the site’s verification policies, removing the blue check marks from verified journalists and media outlets — instead granting them to anyone who pays a monthly fee.

Facebook and Twitter spent years making themselves essential conduits for news. Now that government agencies, the media and hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on them for critical information in times of crisis, the social media giants have decided they’re not so invested in the news mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wafter all.

elon musk safe image time thumbTech titans Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Musk, right, may not agree on much. But both have pulled back, in different ways, from what their companies once saw as a responsibility, to both their users and society, to connect people with reliable sources of information. A drumbeat of natural disasters, probably intensified by climate change, is highlighting the consequences of that retrenchment.

“Just a few years ago, Twitter was a really valuable way for us to communicate with the public,” said Brian Ferguson, deputy director of crisis communications for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “It’s much more challenging now because of some of the changes that have happened.”

x logo twitterOn Monday, after Tropical Storm Hilary soaked Los Angeles and inundated Palm Springs, Calif., Ferguson said his agency “spent a good portion of the day as part of our emergency response combating mis- and disinformation.” Widely shared posts on X showed doctored images of Los Angeles landmarks underwater and claimed the Federal Emergency Management Agency was out of money and unable to respond — none of which were true, he said.

Such hoaxes have been common on social media for years. But pre-Musk Twitter had been stepping up efforts to moderate misinformation, including hiding posts that featured misleading claims and employing a team of journalists to fact-check viral trends. The site also highlighted breaking news stories from accounts and media outlets it deemed reliable. The moves were in keeping with the pride Twitter had long taken in its role as a global hub for real-time information during emergencies, dating back to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Fukushima disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Franklin has become a major hurricane and is expected to create dangerous rip currents along the East Coast, Judson Jones and Hogla Enecia Pérez, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). A tropical storm watch was issued for Bermuda, though the eye of the storm is expected to stay away from land.

 

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).p

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Hawaii’s Big Utility Pushes Back on Blame for Deadly Wildfire, Ivan Penn, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Hawaiian Electric says power was shut off and an initial fire put out before a second blaze razed Lahaina. The county continues to blame the company.

Even before the inferno that engulfed the Maui resort of Lahaina is fully contained, local officials and Hawaii’s leading utility are at odds over a fundamental question: Did a single fire break out in the hills overlooking the town on the fateful day, or were there two?

The answer may be crucial to establishing the cause of the disaster and the liability for it.

The utility, Hawaiian Electric, acknowledged for the first time late Sunday that its power lines, buffeted by uncommonly high winds, fell and ignited a fire early on the morning of Aug. 8.

But the company said that by 6:40 a.m. — minutes after the first reports of a fire — the windstorm had caused its lines in the area to shut off automatically. And it noted that the fire was later reported “100 percent contained” by the Maui County Department of Fire and Public Safety, which left the scene and later declared that the fire had been “extinguished.”

And Hawaiian Electric said its lines were carrying no current by the time flames erupted in midafternoon and quickly consumed much of downtown Lahaina and killed at least 115 people. The cause of that fire, the utility said, “has not been determined.”

washington post logo Washington Post, Hawaii utility faces collapse as others delay on extreme weather risks, Evan Halper, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). One after another, utilities confront massive liabilities for wildfires. With the Maui fire, Hawaiian Electric faces potential insolvency, accused of being slow to respond to threats of extreme weather.

The multibillion-dollar liabilities faced by Hawaiian Electric for the deadly wildfire in Maui — compounded by Maui County’s lawsuit against the utility on Thursday — are reverberating through the electricity industry and is forcing a reckoning for power companies and their customers, nationwide.
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Hawaiian Electric, which serves nearly all of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents, is careening toward insolvency, much like Pacific Gas & Electric did in California in 2019. Investors in the company are scrambling to sell their shares, and bond rating agencies are downgrading the Hawaii utility’s ratings because of its role in potentially causing or contributing to the most deadly U.S. wildfire in a century.

It is a pattern playing out with frequency across the West, and likely to spread to other states as much of the electricity industry finds itself unable or unwilling to meet the growing challenge of adapting power systems to extreme weather. In Texas this week, the power grid is again on the brink, with officials urgently asking customers to reduce usage, even after upgrades were made in the wake of the electricity system’s collapse in winter storms in 2021 that left 200 people dead.

In Hawaiian Electric’s case, it did not power down its lines in advance of expected hurricane-force winds, a major focus of lawsuits filed against it by Maui County and other litigants.

“It is just crazymaking that we all know we will back in the same place in a year, talking about another city destroyed, by another utility using the same excuses, the same playbook and probably even the same faulty equipment from the 1980s,” said Jay Edelson, an attorney who recently helped secure Oregon wildfire victims a landmark verdict against the power company PacifiCorp. “Why do these companies keep making these decisions? I don’t understand what is going on in these boardrooms.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Over 100 confirmed safe on Maui’s list of people missing after wildfire, Timothy Bella and Kyle Rempfer, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Maui County officials released a list of 388 people Thursday who are still “unaccounted for” after the devastating fires this month, as part of Hawaii’s efforts to “un-duplicate” people reported missing. Within a day of making the list public, at least 100 people were crossed off.

“They were reported to be safe and sound,” Steven Merrill, special agent in charge of the FBI Honolulu Division, said during a news conference Friday. “Again, we don’t take that for granted. We still understand that there’s hundreds more that we’re still looking for and we will not stop until we find those.”

The list of names released Thursday was “a subset of a larger list” that still needs to be vetted, Merrill added.

“The 388 names were names that we had more information on. That’s why we released that first,” Merrill said. “That being said, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we still have hundreds of other names where we still need more information.”

The validated list of names from the FBI released Thursday night is the first of its kind for unaccounted people since the Aug. 8 disaster in Lahaina, the country’s most devastating wildfire in a century.

“We’re releasing this list of names today because we know that it will help with the investigation,” Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said in a news release. “We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed. This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”

Before the validated list was released, the estimated number of unaccounted people had fluctuated this week in what Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) described as the FBI’s efforts to “un-duplicate” people reported missing.

After Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen said Monday that the number of missing was believed to be at around 850, Merrill estimated Tuesday that there were more than 1,000 in an unconfirmed list.

Merrill said that efforts to confirm those who are unaccounted for have been complicated due to a lack of detail in some reports and the wide array of lists of tracking the unaccounted-for individuals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Animal rescuers fear time may be running out on Maui, Justine McDaniel, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Animal rescuers have been denied access to the Maui burn zone, where at least 115 people were killed, but the county says the National Guard will escort them Saturday.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

 

2024 Republican Presidential Primaries

 

This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vivek Ramaswamy Is Very Annoying. It’s Why He’s Surging in the Polls, Michelle Goldberg, right, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Of all michelle goldberg thumbthe descriptors attached to Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old political tyro enjoying a bizarre surge in the Republican primary race for second place, the most common one seems to be “annoying.”

Matt Lewis, an anti-Trump conservative writer for The Daily Beast, marveled that there are some who actually like Ramaswamy’s cocky, know-it-all persona: “As Seinfeld might say, ‘Who are these people?’”

vivek ramaswamy linked inThe answer, of course, is much of the Republican Party. The Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos polled likely Republican primary voters before and after last week’s debate. Following his performance, Ramaswamy’s favorability rating rose from 50 percent to 60 percent, even though his unfavorability rating rose even more, from 13 percent to 32 percent. Participants in a CNN focus group of Iowa Republicans declared him the debate’s winner, as did a poll released on Thursday from JL Partners. The day after the debate, his campaign reportedly raised more than $1 million.

The question is what Ramaswamy’s supporters see in this irksome figure. Some Republicans, clearly, appreciate the way he sucks up to Donald Trump, whom Ramaswamy has called “the best president of the 21st century.” But that doesn’t explain the roughly 10 percent of Republicans who tell pollsters they’re planning to vote for Ramaswamy instead of Trump.

Instead, I suspect that Ramaswamy’s fans are drawn to him for all the reasons his critics find him insufferable.

Many older white conservatives, after all, feel threatened by multiethnic younger generations that largely reject their most fundamental values about faith, gender and patriotism. Ramaswamy is part of this menacing cohort, and he’s telling Republicans that their suspicions about it are correct. 

He’s a young man running an anti-youth campaign; a centerpiece of Ramaswamy’s platform is a call to strip the franchise from most people under 25 unless they pass a civics test. And he’s a person of color who argues, even in the wake of another white supremacist mass shooting, that most American racism comes from the left. If he annoys those who find him most familiar, that’s surely part of the point.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

 

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30, 2020 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters) 

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump’s Election Lies Left the Michigan G.O.P. Broken and Battered, Nick Corasaniti, Aug. 29, 2023. Infighting between former President Trump acolytes and traditionalists has driven away donors and voters in Michigan. Can the party rebuild?

The Michigan Republican Party is starving for cash. A group of prominent activists — including a former statewide candidate — was hit this month with felony charges connected to a bizarre plot to hijack election machines. And in the face of these troubles, suspicion and infighting have been running high. A recent state committee meeting led to a fistfight, a spinal injury and a pair of shattered dentures.

republican elephant logoThis turmoil is one measure of the way Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have rippled through his party. While Mr. Trump has michigan mapjust begun to wrestle with the consequences of his fictions — including two indictments related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 results — the vast machine of activists, donors and volunteers that power his party has been reckoning with the fallout for years.

As the party looks toward the presidential election next year, the strains are glaring.

Mr. Trump’s election lies spread like wildfire in Michigan, breaking the state party into ardent believers and pragmatists wanting to move on. Bitter disputes, power struggles and contentious primaries followed, leaving the Michigan Republican Party a husk of itself.

The battleground has steadily grown safer for Democrats. No Republican has won a statewide election there since Mr. Trump won the state in 2016. (Republicans have won nonpartisan seats on the State Supreme Court.) G.O.P. officials in the state are growing concerned that they do not have a top-tier candidate to run for the open Senate seat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Looks for New Ways to Energize Black Voters, Erica L. Green and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Aug. 29, 2023. With much of his racial equity agenda thwarted, President Biden is trying to close an enthusiasm gap among the voters who helped deliver him to the White House.

During a recent town hall with the Congressional Black Caucus, Vice President Kamala Harris offered a gut check to the 200 people who had gathered to take stock of the state of civil rights in America.

“We are looking at a full-on attack on our hard-fought, hard-won freedoms,” Ms. Harris told the crowd, which erupted in applause as she spoke. “So much is at stake,” she said of the 2024 presidential election, “including our very democracy.”

In 2020, President Biden promised Black voters he would deliver a sweeping “racial equity” agenda that included a landmark federal voting rights bill, student loan relief, criminal justice reform and more. Three years later, with much of that agenda thwarted by Congress or the courts, the White House is looking for new ways to re-energize a crucial constituency that helped propel Mr. Biden to the presidency.

That means describing the stakes of the election in stark terms, as Ms. Harris did over the summer in Boston, arguing that the Republican Party is trying to reverse generations of racial progress in America. But Mr. Biden is also asking voters to judge him on a series of achievements that benefit Black Americans — but that are hardly the marquee promises from the early days of his administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Secretaries of state might decide to keep Trump off the ballot, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 29, 2023. Rarely do legal scholars jennifer rubin new headshotcompel government officials to embark on an unprecedented and hugely consequential course of action, but that is precisely what William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, authors of a law review article regarding Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, and the intellectual powerhouse duo of former judge J. Michael Luttig and Laurence H. Tribe have done.

In a remarkably short time, they have driven home the implications of Section 3: that all officials with a role in the presidential election process must consider disqualifying former president Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot if they find he “either ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion’ against the Constitution or gave ‘aid and comfort to the enemies’ of that Constitution.”

Secretaries of state certainly have heard them loud and clear. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), appearing on MSNBC (where I am a contributor), “emphasized her plan to consider the issue exclusively based on applicable law, without partisan considerations, expressing concern that this issue could become weaponized in future elections,” as legal scholar Edward B. Foley noted. Benson also indicated she would be conferring with secretaries of state in Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. But she smartly recognized that whatever she and other secretaries decide, the issue will undoubtedly travel to the Supreme Court for a final determination.

Likewise, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan (R) said recently, “When somebody makes a reasoned argument about what those provisions mean, I feel an obligation to at least listen to them.” He added, “A decision of that magnitude that’s a decision of deciding that somebody is not qualified to run, a person, is extraordinary. And it really has to be treated with that degree of importance.”

That attitude serves as a model for not only secretaries of state but also all other officials (e.g., state electors, governors) who have a role in presidential qualification and certification. The first step must be a recognition that the 14th Amendment is relevant and demands fidelity from all officials who take an oath to defend the Constitution. As Luttig and Tribe wrote, “Section 3 is no anachronism or relic from the past; rather, it applies with the same force and effect today as it did the day it was ratified — as does every other provision, clause, and word of the Constitution that has not been repealed or revised by amendment.”

Now, secretaries of state and other officials must grapple with how to make the determination. Does state law require they obtain a ruling from the state attorney general or other legal official? Do they conduct open hearings to provide transparency and educate voters? There are no easy answers because we have never witnessed the accused instigator of an attempted insurrection run for president. And though Trump is not yet the nominee, it would be reckless not to prepare for the strong likelihood that Republican primary voters will nominate their cult leader.

And that, in turn, raises a critical point: Primary voters, who might be contemptuous of the demands of democracy, should, at the very least, understand that they risk nominating someone who might not be on the ballot in one or more states. They could gamble that the hyperpartisan Supreme Court will ride to Trump’s rescue, hypocritically (for self-described originalists) ignoring the plain text of the amendment. Do primary voters want to run that risk?

And let’s also remember that all of this — the Trump reelection bid, the threat of a lawless president returning to the White House, the perilous state of the rule of law — could have been avoided had Senate Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), done their duty and convicted Trump in the impeachment trial after Jan. 6, 2021, and barred him from holding office.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise diagnosed with blood cancer, Amy B Wang and Laurie McGinley, Aug. 29, 2023. The Louisiana Republican said he has already begun treatment for multiple myeloma.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) announced Tuesday that he has a “very treatable” form of blood cancer and has begun treatment that will last the next several months.

“After a few days of not feeling like myself this past week, I had some blood work done,” Scalise said in a statement. “The results uncovered some irregularities and after undergoing additional tests, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a very treatable blood cancer.”

Scalise, 57, said he plans to work while undergoing treatment and intends to return to Washington.

  • Washington Post, Pope criticizes ‘reactionary’ conservative elements in U.S. Catholic Church, Victoria Bisset, Aug. 29, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Paranoid Style in American Plutocrats, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). If you regularly follow debates about public paul krugmanpolicy, especially those involving wealthy tech bros, it’s obvious that there’s a strong correlation among the three Cs: climate denial, Covid vaccine denial and cryptocurrency cultism.

The link between climate and vaccine denial is clear. In both cases you have a scientific consensus based on models and statistical analysis.

So where does cryptocurrency come in? Underlying the whole crypto phenomenon is the belief by some tech types that they can invent a better monetary system than the one we currently have, all without talking to any monetary experts or learning any monetary history. Anti-vax agitation and crypto enthusiasm are both aspects of a broader rise of know-nothingism, one whose greatest strength lies in an intellectually inbred community of very wealthy men.

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok’s future in the U.S. is still in limbo as the commerce secretary visits China, Sapna Maheshwari and David McCabe, Aug. 29, 2023. Gina Raimondo, who is in China this week, has said banning TikTok could “lose every voter under 35, forever.”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to China is putting a spotlight on the future of TikTok in the United States, where criticism of the app and its ties to Beijing reached a fever pitch this year.

Despite the intense pressure on the popular short-form video app, which is owned by the Chinese technology company ByteDance, efforts to ban or regulate it in Washington have not yet borne fruit. And even with all that scrutiny, Ms. Raimondo is not planning to discuss TikTok while in China, a glaring omission that reflects the impasse at which it has left the Biden administration.

The administration has been stymied by how to deal with TikTok even as intelligence officials have warned that it poses a national security threat. The app has been barred on government devices federally and in more than two dozen states, its chief executive was grilled before Congress in March and lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make it easier for the White House to ban tech companies owned by “foreign adversaries” like China.

But the White House’s options are limited. Ms. Raimondo memorably told Bloomberg News this year that if the administration banned TikTok, “the politician in me thinks you’re going to literally lose every voter under 35, forever.” (TikTok claims 150 million users in the United States.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: 5,000 pilots suspected of hiding major health issues. Most are still flying, Lisa Rein and Craig Whitlock, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Federal authorities have been investigating about 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal conditions that could make them unfit to fly.

Federal authorities have been investigating nearly 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal that they were receiving benefits for mental health disorders and other serious conditions that could make them unfit to fly, documents and interviews show.

The pilots under scrutiny are military veterans who told the Federal Aviation Administration that they are healthy enough to fly, yet failed to report — as required by law — that they were also collecting veterans benefits for disabilities that could bar them from the cockpit.

Veterans Affairs investigators discovered the inconsistencies more than two years ago by cross-checking federal databases, but the FAA has kept many details of the case a secret from the public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How a whistleblower says Booz Allen Hamilton defrauded the government, David Nakamura, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Sarah Feinberg alleged Booz Allen Hamilton billed the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars in excess fees, leading to a $377 million settlement.

Only a few months into a new finance job, Sarah Feinberg felt stunned when a senior manager with a Northern Virginia-based defense contractor called federal auditors “too stupid” to notice overcharging, according to a federal complaint she filed.

Feinberg said she had warned the manager that the company, Booz Allen Hamilton, was losing tens of millions of dollars and, in her view, billing more than it should on U.S. government contracts to cover the losses.

During the ensuing nine months, she repeatedly raised concerns with senior executives, including internal compliance officials and the chief financial officer, according to the 37-page civil complaint she filed against Booz Allen in 2016 under the federal False Claims Act.

In July, the Justice Department, which investigated her complaint, announced that Booz Allen had agreed to pay $377 million — $209 million in restitution to the federal government and the rest in penalties — to settle the matter, one of the largest awards in a government procurement case in history.

Feinberg, who said she felt vindicated and was to receive nearly $70 million for making the case known to authorities, nevertheless could not help feeling doubts about whether justice was served.

Feinberg had filed a “qui tam” lawsuit in which whistleblowers are awarded a portion of any financial judgment or settlement as incentive to come forward with evidence of fraud against the U.S. government. While the system dates back to the Civil War, when authorities sought to root out corruption in the production of war materials, the number of whistleblowers has grown significantly since Congress strengthened the law in 1986.

ny times logoNew York Times, Samuel Wurzelbacher, Celebrated as ‘Joe the Plumber,’ Dies at 49, Sam Roberts, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). For Republicans in 2008, he briefly became a symbol of Middle America when he questioned the presidential candidate Barack Obama in a televised encounter.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who briefly became “Joe the Plumber,” the metaphorical American middle-class Everyman, by injecting himself into the 2008 presidential campaign in an impromptu nationally-televised face-off with Barack Obama over taxing small businesses, died on Sunday at his home in Campbellsport, Wis., about 60 miles north of Milwaukee. He was 49.

The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his wife, Katie Wurzelbacher, said.

Mr. Obama, then a United States senator from Illinois, was campaigning on Shrewsbury Street in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008, when Mr. Wurzelbacher interrupted a football catch with his son in his front yard to mosey over and confront the Democratic nominee about his proposed tax increase for small businesses.

During a cordial but largely inconclusive five-minute colloquy in front of news cameras, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was concerned about being subject to a bigger tax bite just as he was approaching the point where he could finally afford to buy a plumbing business, which he said would generate an income of $250,000 a year.

Three days later, “Joe the Plumber,” as he was popularized by Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, was invoked some two dozen times during the final debate of the presidential campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin Supreme Court flips liberal, creating a ‘seismic shift,’ Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Standing in the marble-lined rotunda of the state capitol this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s incoming justice raised her right hand, swore to carry out her job “faithfully and impartially” and launched a new, liberal era on a powerful court long dominated by conservatives.

The fallout was immediate.

wisconsin supreme court seal CustomWithin days, the new majority stripped duties from the court’s conservative chief justice and fired its administrative director, a conservative former judge who once ran for the court. The abrupt changes prompted the chief justice to accuse her liberal colleagues of engaging in “nothing short of a coup.” Before long, Republican lawmakers threatened to impeach the court’s newest member.

Liberal groups, long accustomed to seeing the court as hostile terrain, quickly maneuvered for potential victories on a string of major issues. They filed lawsuits to try to redraw the state’s legislative districts, which heavily favor Republicans. And the Democratic attorney general sought to speed up a case challenging a 19th-century law that has kept doctors from providing abortions in Wisconsin.

“It’s an absolute seismic shift in Wisconsin policy and politics,” said C.J. Szafir, the chief executive of the conservative, Wisconsin-based Institute for Reforming Government. “We’re about to usher in a very progressive state Supreme Court, the likes that we have not seen in quite some time. And it’s really going to change how everything operates.”

The turnaround on the Wisconsin court is the result of an April election that became the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with campaigns and interest groups spending more than $50 million.

At stake in that race, with the retirement of a conservative justice who held a decisive vote on a 4-3 court, was the question of who would make crucial rulings in a swing state that could decide the winner of the 2024 presidential election. Conservatives had controlled the court for 15 years, during which they upheld a voter ID law, approved limits on collective bargaining for public workers, banned absentee ballot drop boxes and shut down a wide-ranging campaign finance investigation into Republicans.

janet protasiewiczJanet Protasiewicz, left, a Milwaukee County judge, won by 11 points and flipped control of the court to give liberals a 4-3 majority when she was sworn in on Aug. 1. Protasiewicz, who declined interview requests, spoke openly during her campaign about her support for abortion rights and opposition to what she called “rigged” maps that have given Republicans large majorities in the state legislature. Political strategists said her blunt style helped her win even as court observers fretted that she was making judges look like politicians instead of evenhanded referees.

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

 

joe biden afghan speech aug 16 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s course for U.S. on trade breaks with Clinton and Obama, David J. Lynch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The labor-friendly president, shown above in a file photo, has kept Trump tariffs while embracing active industrial policy, parting from decades of trade policy.

President Biden is making it clear that the United States’ rejection of full-throttle globalization during the Trump administration was no aberration, as he continues a remarkable break with decades of trade policy that spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations.
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Blending a tough-on-China stance with lavish federal subsidies for favored industries, the president is reshaping the U.S. approach to cross-border commerce to focus on the needs of Americans as workers rather than consumers.

Left out of the president’s strategy, to the irritation of many business groups, have been traditional trade deals, which gave American companies greater access to foreign markets in return for allowing producers in those countries to sell more goods in the United States. The White House says the old approach cost many American factory workers their jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, What China’s Economic Woes May Mean for the U.S., Lydia DePillis, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). China’s growth has stalled and its real estate companies are imploding. But the fallout is probably limited, and there may be some upside for the U.S.

The country’s growth has fallen from its usual brisk 8 percent annual pace to more like 3 percent. Real estate companies are imploding after a decade of overbuilding. And China’s citizens, frustrated by lengthy coronavirus lockdowns and losing confidence in the government, haven’t been able to consume their way out of the country’s pandemic-era malaise.

If the world’s second-largest economy is stumbling so badly, what does that mean for the biggest?

Short answer: At the moment, the implications for the United States are probably minor, given China’s limited role as a customer for American goods and the minor connections between the countries’ financial systems.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. and China Agree to Broaden Talks in Bid to Ease Tensions, Ana Swanson and Keith Bradsher, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Gina Raimondo, the U.S. commerce secretary, said the two sides would meet at least annually to discuss export restrictions and other issues.

The United States and China agreed on Monday to hold regular conversations about commercial issues and restrictions on access to advanced technology, the latest step this summer toward reducing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

gina raimondo 2019 CustomThe announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Gina Raimondo, right, the U.S. commerce secretary, who is meeting with senior commerce dept logoChinese officials in Beijing and Shanghai this week.

The agreement to hold regular discussions is the latest move toward rebuilding frayed links between the two countries, a process that had already begun during three trips in the past 10 weeks by senior American officials: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and John Kerry, the president’s climate envoy.

China Flag“I think it’s a very good sign that we agreed to concrete dialogue, and I would say, more than just kind of nebulous commitments to continue to talk, this is an official channel,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview after four hours of negotiations with China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao.

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Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, Grief and Anger Continue to Reverberate From Jacksonville Shootings, Anna Betts and Nichole Manna, Aug. 29, 2023. In the days after three Black people were killed in a racially motivated attack, new details have emerged about the gunman’s writings and the timeline of events.

Two days after a gunman killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., in a racially motivated attack, and as grief and anger reverberated through the community, new details about the gunman’s writings and the timeline of events continued to emerge.

On Saturday, the gunman, identified by the authorities as Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, from neighboring Clay County, used an AR-15-style rifle that bore swastika markings to kill two shoppers and an employee before killing himself.

At the time of the shooting, his family found a last will and testament and a suicide note in his bedroom as part of more than 20 pages of racist writings, Sheriff T.K. Waters of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said over the weekend.

On Monday, ABC News, citing a transcript of an F.B.I. conference call it had obtained, reported that Sherri E. Onks, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s field office in Jacksonville, told state and local law enforcement that the bureau had identified several documents that included “racist writings and rants that depict a hatred toward African Americans, as well as other groups.”

“One of the primary themes throughout the writings is a belief in the inferiority of Black people,” Ms. Onks said, according to ABC News. “And there’s also evidence that he harbored anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic grievances.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.N.C. Faculty Member Is Fatally Shot in Lab, Michael Levenson and Amanda Holpuch, Aug. 29, 2023. The school’s Chapel Hill campus ordered students and faculty to stay inside after warning of an “armed, dangerous person.” A suspect was later arrested.

An assailant fatally shot a faculty member in a laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday, forcing the campus into lockdown for several hours as students barricaded themselves in classrooms, dorms and bathrooms, the authorities said.

Brian James, chief of the U.N.C. Police, said at a news conference on Monday evening that a suspect was taken into custody at 2:31 p.m., about 90 minutes after the police received a 911 call reporting that shots had been fired at Caudill Labs, a science building on campus. He did not name the suspect, saying that formal charges had not been filed.

Chief James and Kevin M. Guskiewicz, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, did not name the faculty member who was killed, saying that relatives were still being notified. The police are continuing to investigate the killing and have not identified a motive or recovered the weapon that was used, the chief said. He declined to discuss what relationship, if any, the faculty member and the assailant might have had.

  • New York Times, Denver Settles With Black Lives Matter Protesters for $4.7 Million, Aug. 29, 2023.

USA TODAY via Arizona Republic, 'Shakedown': Los Angeles politician sentenced to 42 months on corruption charges, latest in city scandals, James Powel and Thao Nguyen, Aug. 29, 2023. Former Los Angeles City Council Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was sentenced to 42 months in prison on conspiracy, bribery as well as mail and wire fraud convictions on Monday.

Ridley-Thomas was convicted in March for a scheme that was executed with former University of Southern California School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Louise Flynn wherein the then County Supervisor sent the school county contracts in exchange for, “direct and indirect financial benefits.”

As a part of the scheme, Ridley-Thomas sought post-graduate admission, a full scholarship and employment for his son, Sebastian, who was the subject of an internal sexual harassment investigation by the California State Assembly where he had resigned as a representative.

The scheme also funneled $100,000 of campaign funds to Sebastian through the school via Flynn to a non-profit founded by Sebastian.

In exchange, the senior Ridley-Thomas amended a county contract through which a USC telehealth clinic would provide services to county referred patients.

Prosecutors described the scheme as a "shakedown" in a sentencing memo where the government sought a 72-month sentence.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. to pay $5.1 million settlement after judge finds Second Amendment violations, Meagan Flynn, Aug. 29, 2023. D.C. will pay $5.1 million as part of a class-action settlement with gun owners who were arrested under laws that have since been found to violate the Second Amendment, according to the settlement agreement.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth gave preliminary approval to the settlement agreement on Monday following years of litigation. Lamberth had previously ruled in September 2021 that D.C. arrested, jailed, prosecuted and seized guns from six people “based on an unconstitutional set of laws” and violated their Second Amendment rights.

The laws — a ban on carrying handguns outside the home and others that effectively banned nonresidents from carrying guns at all in D.C. — have since been struck down in federal court. They were part of a “gun control regime that completely banned carrying handguns in public,” Lamberth wrote in the 2021 ruling.

Now, D.C. will pay a total of $300,000 to the six plaintiffs and $1.9 million in attorneys fees, with the majority of the rest of the money set aside for more than 3,000 people estimated to qualify for the class-action.

The D.C. attorney general’s office declined to comment. Attorneys for the six gun owners did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The settlement agreement follows litigation in several major federal court cases over the last 15 years that have led judges to strike down highly restrictive D.C. gun laws, slowly leading to more legal gun ownership in a city where illegal weapons have dominated.

For years, most D.C. residents could not even own guns in their homes, let alone possess them in public. But that changed with the seminal 2008 Second Amendment Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated D.C.’s handgun ban.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Barrett says scrutiny welcomed and she’s developed a ‘thick skin,’ Robert Barnes, Aug. 29, 2023. Justice Amy Coney Barrett said Monday that public scrutiny of the Supreme Court is hardly new and should be welcomed, and that she has developed a “thick skin” about criticism of her role as one of the newest justices.

“With everything, there can be good and bad,” Barrett said at a conference of judges and lawyers. “With the court being in the news, to the extent that it engages people with the work of the court, and paying attention to the court and knowing what the courts do and what the Constitution has to say, that’s a positive development.”

The downside, she said, comes if there is a misperception about the court’s work or if there is the sense that it has “let people down.”

“Justices and all judges are public figures, and public criticism kind of comes with the job,” she said, noting that just a few years ago she was a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, far from the public eye. “But I’ve been at it for a couple of years now and I’ve acquired a thick skin, and I think that’s what public figures have to do; I think that’s what all judges have to do.”

Barrett, 51, was President Donald Trump’s third successful nominee to the high court, confirmed in the fall of 2020. Her appointment solidified a six-justice conservative majority that has quickly moved the court to the right, highlighted by the decision last year to overturn the guarantee of abortion rights the court established 50 years earlier in Roe v. Wade.

Barrett was addressing the Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference. She was gently interviewed by Diane S. Sykes, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago and a former colleague. Sykes was also on Trump’s list of candidates for the Supreme Court.

Sykes did not ask about the court’s recent decisions or about ethics controversies that have dogged the justices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Three killed in racially motivated shooting at Florida store, sheriff says, Andrea Salcedo and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A White man armed with a high-powered rifle covered in swastikas killed three Black people after opening fire Saturday at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., before fatally shooting himself, local law enforcement said, describing the attack as racially motivated.

“He targeted a certain group a people, and that’s Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters (R) said at a news conference Saturday evening.

Two men and one woman were killed in the shooting, he said. Authorities have not publicly identified the gunman but said he was in his early 20s and fatally shot himself after law enforcement arrived at the scene. No other people suffered gunshot wounds, and the shooter is believed to have acted alone, Waters said.

The FBI’s Jacksonville office is investigating the shooting as a hate crime, the agency said in a statement posted to social media. Images provided by authorities of an AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting showed white swastikas drawn on the weapon.

Waters said the shooter had left behind “several manifestos” in which he detailed his “disgusting ideology of hate.”

Those writings — one addressed to his parents, one to journalists and another to federal authorities — included many utterances of a slur for Black people and were the “words of a mad man,” Waters said in a televised interview on CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Justices Clash on Congress’s Power Over Supreme Court Ethics, Adam Liptak, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan sketched out dueling conceptions of their institution’s place in the constitutional structure.

john roberts oAs a young lawyer in the Reagan White House, John G. Roberts Jr., right, was tartly dismissive of the Supreme Court’s long summer break, which stretches from the end of June to the first Monday in October.

“Only Supreme Court justices and schoolchildren,” he wrote in 1983, “are expected to and do take the entire summer off.”

On the other hand, the young lawyer wrote, there is an upside to the break: “We know that the Constitution is safe for the summer.”

samuel alito frowing uncreditedThese days, members of the court find time to quarrel about the Constitution even in the warm months. The primary antagonists lately have been Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., above, and Elena Kagan, below left.

Elena Kagan O HRLast summer, they clashed over whether decisions like the one eliminating the constitutional right to abortion threatened the court’s legitimacy.

In recent months, the two justices have continued to spar, though on a different subject: whether Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate aspects of the court’s work.

The question is timely, of course, as news reports have raised ethical questions about, among other things, luxury travel provided to Justices Alito and Clarence Thomas. Those reports have led to proposed legislation to impose new ethics rules on the court.

Justice Alito, in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal last month, appeared to object, saying that “Congress did not create the Supreme Court.”

He added: “I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Artificial Intelligence Brings the Robot Wingman to Aerial Combat, Eric Lipton, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). An Air Force program shows how the Pentagon is starting to embrace the potential of a rapidly emerging technology, with far-reaching implications.

It is powered into flight by a rocket engine. It can fly a distance equal to the width of China. It has a stealthy design and is capable of carrying missiles that can hit enemy targets far beyond its visual range.

But what really distinguishes the Air Force’s pilotless XQ-58A Valkyrie experimental aircraft is that it is run by artificial intelligence, putting it at the forefront of efforts by the U.S. military to harness the capacities of an emerging technology whose vast potential benefits are tempered by deep concerns about how much autonomy to grant to a lethal weapon.

Essentially a next-generation drone, the Valkyrie is a prototype for what the Air Force hopes can become a potent supplement to its fleet of traditional fighter jets, giving human pilots a swarm of highly capable robot wingmen to deploy in battle. Its mission is to marry artificial intelligence and its sensors to identify and evaluate enemy threats and then, after getting human sign-off, to move in for the kill.

On a recent day at Eglin Air Force Base on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Maj. Ross Elder, 34, a test pilot from West Virginia, was preparing for an exercise in which he would fly his F-15 fighter alongside the Valkyrie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Three U.S. Marines Die in Air Crash in Australia, Yan Zhuang and Damien Cave, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Osprey aircraft, with 23 people on board, crashed during a training exercise near Darwin, Australia. Several others were seriously injured.

Three U.S. Marine Corps troops died Sunday after a military aircraft crashed near Darwin, Australia, during a routine training exercise. Five others have been transported to the Royal Darwin Hospital in serious condition.

The aircraft, an MV-22B Osprey that was transporting troops, crashed on Melville Island about 9:30 a.m. local time with 23 personnel on board, according to a statement from the Marine Rotational Force. That force has deployed to Australia every year since 2011 and now consists of 2,500 Marines.

The Marines were taking part in Exercise Predators Run, according to the statement, a joint military exercise also involving soldiers from the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S.-Iran prisoner deal highlights plight of other foreign detainees, Miriam Berger, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A potential prisoner swap deal between the United States and Iran — which “remains on track,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters this week — has renewed attention on the plight of other prisoners in Iran with Western passports who advocates say are detained as bargaining chips.

As an initial step in the emerging deal, a rare bright spot in U.S.-Iran relations, four Americans were moved from the harsh conditions of Iran’s Evin Prison to house arrest. The final exchange, which remains in process, is set to include the release of five Iranian prisoners in the United States and the freeing of $6 billion in oil revenue held in South Korea under U.S. sanctions, to be used for humanitarian purposes, those familiar with the talks said earlier this month.

Iran, U.S. advance deal to swap prisoners, free oil funds

As the deal takes shape, the families and supporters of other foreigners detained in Iran, many on charges that advocates and activists describe as spurious and ploys for diplomatic leverage, have urged that their cases remain in the public eye.

“The Islamic regime is targeting a certain group of people, individuals with foreign citizenship, in a systematic way,” said Gazelle Sharmahd, whose father, Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German citizen and U.S. permanent resident who ran a radio show that aired criticism of Iran’s government, is on death row in Iran, facing charges in connection to accusations of terrorism. “My father thinks only the U.S. government can get him out.”

Sharmahd held a sit-in this week in front of the State Department to protest her father’s apparent exclusion from the forthcoming deal. She was joined by the family of Shahab Dalili, an Iranian citizen and U.S. permanent resident, imprisoned in Iran since 2016.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon protested false Fox News report about fallen Marine, emails show, Paul Farhi, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The network quietly removed the story based on false claims from a congressman but did not apologize or run a correction.

The U.S. Marine Corps went up to the highest levels of Fox News last month to challenge a story that falsely claimed a fallen Marine’s family had to cover the cost of transporting her remains, emails obtained by The Washington Post show.

Fox quietly amended the digital story and then removed it from its website following more complaints from the Marines but still has not apologized or corrected the erroneous report, which had been based on a false claim quickly retracted by a congressman.

Department of Defense SealThe Marines’ communications with Fox were first reported by Military.com, which obtained the emails this week under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The July 25 FoxNews.com story relied on an account from freshman Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who stated that the family of Sgt. Nicole L. Gee had shouldered “a heavy financial burden” of $60,000 to retrieve her body from Afghanistan. Gee, 23, was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in the frantic final days of the U.S. withdrawal.

The story’s reporter, Michael Lee, quoted Mills calling the family’s supposed expenditures an “egregious injustice.” Neither Pentagon officials nor Gee’s family were quoted in the original story.

Marine Corps officials say the family did not face any financial burdens to have Gee’s body shipped to Arlington National Cemetery. They disputed the story in a series of emails to Fox executives — including Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace and editor in chief Porter Berry — shortly after the story was published.

“The allegations originally published turned out to be false, which I suspect Mr. Lee knew in the first place, and was the reason he did not seek comment from the Marine Corps,” wrote Marine Corps spokesman Maj. James Stenger in an email to the Fox executives.

Two days after his original comments to Fox, Mills walked back his claims in a statement in which he seemed to blame the Pentagon and the Gee family for being “in their time of grief, confused” about the costs associated with the transportation of Sgt. Gee’s remains. He said the Department of Defense “was able to provide clarification” about the matter.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, President of Powerful Realtors’ Group Resigns After Sexual Harassment Claims, Debra Kamin and Anna Kodé, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The president of the powerful National Association of Realtors has resigned, two days after The New York Times published an article detailing complaints from women that he exhibited a pattern of behavior that included improper touching and sending lewd photos and texts.

Kenny Parcell, the current president of the National Association of Realtors, has been the focus of sexual harassment allegations since a former employee filed a lawsuit this summer (Photo from The National Association of Realtors).Multiple women said they had been harassed or subjected to inappropriate conduct by the group’s president, Kenny Parcell, according to interviews, a lawsuit and an internal report. Mr. Parcell, 50, denied the accusations in written responses to The Times.

Kenny Parcell, right, the current president of the National Association of Realtors, has been the focus of sexual harassment allegations since a former employee filed a lawsuit this summer (Photo via The National Association of Realtors).N.A.R. confirmed

Mr. Parcell’s resignation, which was reported on Monday by Inman, a real estate news site.

Mr. Parcell was a successful Realtor in Utah who rose through the ranks of the nonprofit organization and held several senior leadership positions before taking on its top role. His one-year term as president was not scheduled to end until November. Mr. Parcell’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Mr. Parcell continued to deny the accusations even as he stepped down.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Not Over Yet: Late-Summer Covid Wave Brings Warning of More to Come, Julie Bosman, Aug. 28, 2023. Hospitalizations are still low but are on the rise in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A late-summer wave of coronavirus infections has touched schools, workplaces and local government, as experts warn the public to brace for even more Covid-19 spread this fall and winter.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Hospitalizations have increased 24 percent in a two-week period ending Aug. 12, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wastewater monitoring suggests a recent rise in Covid infections in the West and Northeast. In communities across the United States, outbreaks have occurred in recent weeks at preschools, summer camps and office buildings.

Public health officials said that the latest increase in Covid hospitalizations is still relatively small and that the vast majority of the sick are experiencing mild symptoms comparable to a cold or the flu. And most Americans, more than three months after the Biden administration allowed the 2020 declaration calling the coronavirus a public health emergency to expire, have shown little willingness to return to the days of frequent testing, mask wearing and isolation.

But for Americans who have become accustomed to feeling that the nation has moved beyond Covid, the current wave could be a rude reminder that the emerging New Normal is not a world without the virus.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Simone Biles Wins a Record 8th U.S. All-Around Gymnastics Title, Carla Correa, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). By now, it’s canon that Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time. The debate over that status largely ended years ago, when she began pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the sport.

Her consistency is also unmatched. Since 2013, Biles has earned 32 world championship and Olympic medals, even after removing herself from several finals at the Tokyo Games in 2021 to safeguard her health. The question usually isn’t whether Biles will win but rather by how much.

The answer at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Sunday was a margin of 3.9 points over the silver medalist, Shilese Jones. Biles’s victory also meant that she broke a 90-year record by becoming the first American gymnast, woman or man, to win eight national all-around titles. And, at 26, she is the oldest woman to ever win the event.

The national championships came just weeks after her return to elite competition following a two-year hiatus. She handily won a qualifying meet called the U.S. Classic earlier this month in Hoffman Estates, Ill. At the SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday, among a crowded and talented field, Biles looked better than ever.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a Bitter Lawsuit, Chess Combatants Agree to a Draw, Dylan Loeb McClain, Aug. 29, 2023 (print ed.). An American grandmaster sued Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top player, and two other parties after Carlsen accused him of cheating. A settlement has been announced.

A $100 million defamation lawsuit filed against the five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, a top chess streamer and the world’s largest chess site has been settled.

Terms were not disclosed, but, in the parlance of chess, all of the parties appear to have called it a draw, meaning there were no winners — or losers.

The settlement was announced Monday on the website Chess.com, which had been one of the defendants.

The suit was filed last October by Hans Niemann, a curly-haired 20-year-old American grandmaster. Carlsen had accused him of cheating after Niemann beat him in a game last September in a prestigious tournament in St. Louis called the Sinquefield Cup.

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ny times logo New York Times, Judge Sets Trial Date in March for Trump’s Federal Election Case, Alan Feuer and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 28, 2023. Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected efforts by Donald Trump’s legal team to postpone the trial until 2026.

tanya chutkan newerThe federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election set a trial date on Monday for early March, rebuffing Mr. Trump’s proposal to push it off until 2026.

The decision by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to start the trial on March 4 amounted to an early victory for prosecutors, who had asked for Jan. 2. But it potentially brought the proceeding into conflict with the three other trials that Mr. Trump is facing, underscoring the extraordinary complexities of his legal situation and the intersection of the prosecutions with his campaign to return to the White House.

The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has proposed taking Mr. Trump to trial on charges of tampering with the election in that state on March 4 as well. Another case, in Manhattan, in which Mr. Trump has been accused of more than 30 felonies connected to hush-money payments to a porn actress in the run-up the 2016 election, has been scheduled to go to trial on March 25.

Justice Department log circularAnd if the trial in Washington lasts more than 11 weeks, it could bump up against Mr. Trump’s other federal trial, on charges of illegally retaining classified documents after he left office and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. That trial is scheduled to begin in Florida in late May.

The March 4 date set by Judge Chutkan for the federal election case at a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington is the day before Super Tuesday, when 15 states are scheduled to hold Republican primaries or caucuses.

Judge Chutkan said that while she understood Mr. Trump had both other trial dates scheduled next year and, at the same time, was running for the country’s highest office, she was not going to let the intersection of his legal troubles and his political campaign get in the way of setting a date.

“Mr. Trump, like any defendant, will have to make the trial date work regardless of his schedule,” Judge Chutkan said, adding that “there is a societal interest to a speedy trial.”

Mr. Trump has now been indicted by grand juries four times in four places — Washington, New York, Atlanta and Florida — and prosecutors have been jockeying for position. All of them are trying to find time for their trials not only in relation to one another, but also against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s crowded calendar as the candidate leading the field for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meadows Testifies in Bid to Move Georgia Trump Case to Federal Court, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 28, 2023. Mr. Meadows, a former White House chief of staff, told a judge he believed his actions regarding the 2020 election fell within the scope of his job as a federal official.

mark meadows small customA battle over whether to move the Georgia racketeering case against Donald J. Trump and his allies to federal court began in earnest on Monday, when Mark Meadows, right, a former White House chief of staff, testified in favor of such a move before a federal judge in Atlanta.

Under questioning by his own lawyers and by prosecutors, Mr. Meadows stated emphatically on the witness stand that he believed that his actions detailed in the indictment fell within the scope of his duties as chief of staff. But he also appeared unsure of himself at times, saying often that he could not recall details of events in late 2020 and early 2021. “My wife will tell you sometimes that I forget to take out the trash,” he told Judge Steve C. Jones of United States District Court.

At another point, he asked whether he was properly complying with the judge’s instructions, saying, “I’m in enough trouble as it is.”

The effort to shift the case to federal court is the first major legal fight since the indictment of Mr. Trump, Mr. Meadows and 17 others was filed by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga. The indictment charges Mr. Trump and his allies with interfering in the 2020 presidential election in the state. Mr. Meadows is one of several defendants in the case who are trying to move it to federal court; any decision on the issue by a judge could apply to all 19 defendants.Lawyers for Mark Meadows made their bid to a judge to move the Georgia case against Donald Trump and his allies to federal court, Aug. 28, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Meadows testifies in Atlanta; March trial date for Trump in D.C., Devlin Barrett, Maegan Vazquez, Perry Stein and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 28, 2023. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has scheduled Donald Trump’s D.C. trial on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election for March 4, 2024.

At a separate hearing in Atlanta, Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been testifying for hours about Trump’s efforts to reverse Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia; the purpose of that hearing is to see if Meadows can move his state-level indictment to federal court. Trump is a front-runner in the Republican 2024 presidential contest, and the D.C. trial’s starting date is the day before the Super Tuesday primaries.

Here’s what to know

  • Trump is the only person indicted in the D.C. case so far, but his indictment alleges he enlisted six unnamed conspirators in his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory and hang on to power.
  • Trump is the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. He has been indicted in four cases — all while leading the Republican field in the 2024 presidential nomination race. He has denied wrongdoing in each case.
  • Meadows, right, is one of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in a separate, state-level indictment related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Reporting from Atlanta: Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner:

mark meadows small customUnder questioning from his own attorney, Mark Meadows, left, repeatedly described the post-election atmosphere at the Trump White House as chaotic. He testified that because he was viewed as someone who had “the ear of the president,” he was deluged by phone calls and emails, including from people questioning the outcome of the 2020 election.

“It felt like my phone number was plastered on every bathroom wall in America,” Meadows said of the calls.

A small murmur spread through the courtroom when Mark Meadows walked in with his lawyers, given that he was not required to attend and it was unclear if he would. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not attend the hearing. At least a half-dozen members of her prosecution team filed into the courtroom on the heels of the defense, and Meadows greeted several of them with a smile and a handshake.

As he testified, Mark Meadows repeatedly turned and faced toward the U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones, who is presiding over the removal hearings, directing his answers to him. Jones has played an active role in Monday’s hearing — often interrupting Fulton County prosecutor Anna Cross to either tell Meadows he had not answered her question or to pose questions of his own.

Mark Meadows also said a large part of his job as White House chief of staff was setting up phone calls and managing the president’s calendar. He said he attended numerous meetings and listened in on many phone calls that were political in nature simply to end the conversations at the right time.

In one White House meeting between Donald Trump and Pennsylvania lawmakers cited in the indictment, Meadows disputed that he attended the meeting other than to inform three of the lawmakers that they had tested positive for the coronavirus and would have to leave without seeing the president.

Former Trump chief of staff Meadows repeatedly insisted in his testimony in Atlanta there was a “federal nexus” to all of his actions mentioned in the Georgia indictment. He defended his participation in meetings and phone calls described by prosecutors as part of a plot to subvert the 2020 election results because he said there was a federal interest in “free and fair elections.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing two crises in Florida with the Jacksonville shooting and Tropical Storm Idalia, Nicholas Nehamas, Aug. 28, 2023. For the first time since declaring his bid for the Republican nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is facing a crisis in his home state.

Well, not one crisis, but two.

On Saturday, a gunman motivated by racial hatred killed three people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville. All the victims were Black. The shooter was white. And on Wednesday, a major storm is projected to strike somewhere along Florida’s Gulf coast, the first to hit the state during the 2023 hurricane season.

After the shooting, Mr. DeSantis flew back to Tallahassee from a campaign trip to Iowa. He then canceled a visit to South Carolina scheduled for Monday, citing the storm and sending his wife, Casey DeSantis, in his place. He has said he will stay in Florida for the storm’s duration and aftermath.

“This is going to be our sole focus,” Mr. DeSantis said on Monday at a news conference at the state’s emergency operation center in Tallahassee. The twin crises provide the most serious tests of Mr. DeSantis’s leadership since he began running for president in May. On the stump, he often cites his track record as governor as his biggest advantage over his rivals, almost none of whom hold executive office. He has also criticized President Biden for his response to the wildfires that devastated Maui.

But the emergencies have pulled Mr. DeSantis off the trail at a time when his campaign had seemed to stabilize after weeks of layoffs and upheaval among his staff, as well as a debate performance that drew strong reviews from many Republican voters.

Both the shooting and the storm could further spotlight criticisms that rival candidates have made of Mr. DeSantis’s stewardship of Florida since being elected as governor in 2018. After clashes on a number of race-related issues, including the way African American history is taught in schools, his relationship with Florida’s Black community is so strained that he was loudly booed when he appeared at a vigil for the shooting victims in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Mr. DeSantis has also struggled with the state’s property insurance market, a long-running problem that the governor has repeatedly tried to address with legislation. The market has been so battered by high costs that Mr. DeSantis said in July that he would “knock on wood” for no big storm to hit Florida this year.

ap logoAssociated Press, The Jacksonville shooter killed a devoted dad, a beloved mom and a teen helping support his family, Russ Bynum, Aug. 28, 2023. A.J. Laguerre worked at a Dollar General store after finishing high school to help support the grandmother who raised him. Angela Michelle Carr was an Uber driver beloved by her children. Jerrald Gallion relished weekends with his 4-year-old daughter.

All three were slain Saturday when a gunman with swastikas painted on his rifle opened fire at the Dollar General where Laguerre worked in Jacksonville. The sheriff said writings left by the killer, a 21-year-old white man, made clear that he was motivated by racism. Each victim was Black.

“I never thought I’d have to bury my baby brother,” Quan Laguerre said Monday outside the family’s house not far from the store.

“They say don’t question God,” he said. “But I just want to know why.”

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s course for U.S. on trade breaks with Clinton and Obama, David J. Lynch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The labor-friendly president, shown above in a file photo, has kept Trump tariffs while embracing active industrial policy, parting from decades of trade policy.

President Biden is making it clear that the United States’ rejection of full-throttle globalization during the Trump administration was no aberration, as he continues a remarkable break with decades of trade policy that spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations.
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Blending a tough-on-China stance with lavish federal subsidies for favored industries, the president is reshaping the U.S. approach to cross-border commerce to focus on the needs of Americans as workers rather than consumers.

Left out of the president’s strategy, to the irritation of many business groups, have been traditional trade deals, which gave American companies greater access to foreign markets in return for allowing producers in those countries to sell more goods in the United States. The White House says the old approach cost many American factory workers their jobs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: 5,000 pilots suspected of hiding major health issues. Most are still flying, Lisa Rein and Craig Whitlock, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Federal authorities have been investigating about 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal conditions that could make them unfit to fly.

Federal authorities have been investigating nearly 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal that they were receiving benefits for mental health disorders and other serious conditions that could make them unfit to fly, documents and interviews show.

The pilots under scrutiny are military veterans who told the Federal Aviation Administration that they are healthy enough to fly, yet failed to report — as required by law — that they were also collecting veterans benefits for disabilities that could bar them from the cockpit.

Veterans Affairs investigators discovered the inconsistencies more than two years ago by cross-checking federal databases, but the FAA has kept many details of the case a secret from the public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How a whistleblower says Booz Allen Hamilton defrauded the government, David Nakamura, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Sarah Feinberg alleged Booz Allen Hamilton billed the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars in excess fees, leading to a $377 million settlement.

Only a few months into a new finance job, Sarah Feinberg felt stunned when a senior manager with a Northern Virginia-based defense contractor called federal auditors “too stupid” to notice overcharging, according to a federal complaint she filed.

Feinberg said she had warned the manager that the company, Booz Allen Hamilton, was losing tens of millions of dollars and, in her view, billing more than it should on U.S. government contracts to cover the losses.

During the ensuing nine months, she repeatedly raised concerns with senior executives, including internal compliance officials and the chief financial officer, according to the 37-page civil complaint she filed against Booz Allen in 2016 under the federal False Claims Act.

In July, the Justice Department, which investigated her complaint, announced that Booz Allen had agreed to pay $377 million — $209 million in restitution to the federal government and the rest in penalties — to settle the matter, one of the largest awards in a government procurement case in history.

Feinberg, who said she felt vindicated and was to receive nearly $70 million for making the case known to authorities, nevertheless could not help feeling doubts about whether justice was served.

Feinberg had filed a “qui tam” lawsuit in which whistleblowers are awarded a portion of any financial judgment or settlement as incentive to come forward with evidence of fraud against the U.S. government. While the system dates back to the Civil War, when authorities sought to root out corruption in the production of war materials, the number of whistleblowers has grown significantly since Congress strengthened the law in 1986.

ny times logoNew York Times, Not Over Yet: Late-Summer Covid Wave Brings Warning of More to Come, Julie Bosman, Aug. 28, 2023. Hospitalizations are still low but are on the rise in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A late-summer wave of coronavirus infections has touched schools, workplaces and local government, as experts warn the public to brace for even more Covid-19 spread this fall and winter.

Hospitalizations have increased 24 percent in a two-week period ending Aug. 12, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wastewater monitoring suggests a recent rise in Covid infections in the West and Northeast. In communities across the United States, outbreaks have occurred in recent weeks at preschools, summer camps and office buildings.

Public health officials said that the latest increase in Covid hospitalizations is still relatively small and that the vast majority of the sick are experiencing mild symptoms comparable to a cold or the flu. And most Americans, more than three months after the Biden administration allowed the 2020 declaration calling the coronavirus a public health emergency to expire, have shown little willingness to return to the days of frequent testing, mask wearing and isolation.

But for Americans who have become accustomed to feeling that the nation has moved beyond Covid, the current wave could be a rude reminder that the emerging New Normal is not a world without the virus.

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy

The Guardian, Billionaire-linked US thinktank behind supreme court wealth tax case lobbying, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dominic Rushe, Aug. 27, 2023. Manhattan Institute one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the court to hear 'Moore v US.'

An influential thinktank closely linked to two billionaires who provided lavish travel gifts to conservative supreme court justices is behind a successful lobbying campaign to get the US high court to take on a case that could protect them and other billionaires from a possible future wealth tax.

The Manhattan Institute was one of eight conservative advocacy groups that filed amicus briefs urging the supreme court to take on Moore v US, a $15,000 tax case that Democrats have warned could permanently “lock in” the right of billionaires to opt out of paying fair taxes.

The billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer is chairman of the Manhattan Institute and Kathy Crow, who is married to the real estate mogul Harlan Crow, serves as a trustee of the group. Both have provided two of the justices – Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, respectively – with private travel gifts and have socialised with the judges on lavish vacations, according to reports in ProPublica and other media outlets.

The revelations have stoked serious accusations of ethical and legal violations by the two rightwing justices, who failed to disclose the travel and – in Thomas’s case – hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional gifts from the Crows, including property purchases and private tuition payments for Thomas’s great-nephew.

Thomas has called the Crows his “dearest friends” and claimed Harlan Crow “did not have business before the Court”. Alito has said he could recall speaking to Singer only on a “handful of occasions” and that the two had never discussed Singer’s business or issues before the court.

But Alito and Thomas’s dealings with the conservative billionaires have nevertheless raised questions about how the justices’ close ties might influence which cases are taken on by the court.

The supreme court announced it would hear Moore vs US on 26 June. On its face, the case appears to be centered on a relatively minor tax dispute between Charles and Kathleen Moore, a Washington-state couple, and the US government.

Charles Moore spent most of his career as a software engineer at Microsoft, where he met one of the future founders of KisanKraft, a company that provides low-cost tools to farmers in India.

In 2006, the Moores invested about $40,000 in KisanKraft. The investment gave them an 11% stake in the company, which made profits but did not pay dividends, the Moores said.

In 2017, the Trump administration passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a law that contained a one-off levy on US corporations’ foreign earnings – the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (MRT). It was estimated that MRT would raise $340bn in tax revenue. To the Moores’ chagrin, it also created an unexpected $15,000 tax liability in connection to their KisanKraft holding.

The tax was unfair and unconstitutional – they argue – because they never realized any gains from the investment. In a video interview of the couple created by the rightwing Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) – which took on a key role in the legal matter – the couple explain their decision to take legal action.

The only “return” the couple had made, Kathleen noted, was knowing that the company was helping and reaching people “all over India”. “We are doing this because we strongly believe in the rule of law in this country,” said Charles.

The couple enlisted the help of the CEI and one of the most powerful and well-connected law firms in Washington, BakerHostetler, whose clients have included Boeing, ExxonMobil and Major League Baseball, and sued the US government.


At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Their hands don’t lie: Republican candidates trash the trial by jury, Ruth Marcus, right, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). There were two surrenders ruth marcus twitter Customthis week — one by Donald Trump, and one to Donald Trump.

The second, by almost every Republican presidential candidate, was more important, more predictable and far more terrifying.

The signature moment of Wednesday’s debate was the raising of hands to pledge fealty to Trump over the rule of law, and if the ritual has become unsurprising at this point in Trump’s reign over the GOP, this particular manifestation bears noting.

Because the formulation put to the candidates — would you support Trump even if he were convicted by a jury? — was so stark, and the response so appalling. Every candidate on the stage — with the exception of former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and, depending on how you interpret his hand gestures, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — effectively declared that a trial by jury is just another American institution that must yield to the demands of Trump.

Pause to consider the implications of this answer. To answer that you would support Trump notwithstanding a jury verdict — to shoot up your hand in the eager manner of Vivek Ramaswamy or to gauge the room like a calculating Ron DeSantis — is to say: I do not trust the judgment of the American people.

 

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 CustomPolitico, Sanders hits at Cornel West over criticism of Biden, Kelly Garrity, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). “There is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America,” Sanders said.

politico CustomSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) hit back at third-party presidential hopeful Cornel West, after West knocked the prominent progressive for backing President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.

Some politicians are so fearful of former President Donald Trump retaking the White House that “they don’t really want to tell the full truth,” West said. “[Biden has] created the best economy that we can get. Is this the best that we can get? You don’t tell that lie to the people just for Biden to win,” West said in a clip played on CNN Sunday.

And while Sanders said he agrees it “certainly is not” the best economy the U.S. could create, he called on progressives to coalesce around Biden.

“Where I disagree with my good friend, Cornel West, is I think in these really very difficult times, where there is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America. … I think we’ve got to bring the entire progressive community to defeat Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be, [and] support Biden,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

However, progressives still must “demand that the Democratic Party, not just Biden, have the guts to take on corporate greed and the massive levels of income and wealth inequality that we see today,” Sanders added.

Going Deep with Russ Baker! Investigative Commentary: The Scary Truth About the GOP Candidates and Their Appeal, Russ Baker, right, founder of the investigative site Who, What W,hy and author of the best-selling Family of Secrets, Aug. 27, 2023. What russ baker cropped david welkerthe Fox debate revealed about whowhatwhy logohatred, fear and race.

Note: As I was preparing to publish the essay below, with its discussion of race and the GOP, a young white man attempted to enter the campus of a historically black college in Jacksonville, Florida, but was turned away by a security officer after refusing to identify himself. He then went to a nearby discount store, where he shot and killed three black employees. “This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters.

It’s hard to contemplate what follows without considering the impact of GOP rhetoric on impressionable people like the perpetrator.

It’s been a few days now since the first GOP debate on August 23, and pretty much everyone has already weighed in with their performance assessment. The spectacle had an average of 12.8 million viewers, which, without their star, Trump, was a larger than expected audience.

Me, I’m still wrestling with a notion I couldn’t get out of my mind.

It struck me as emblematic of larger issues that, while discussed endlessly, never result in clarity: the kinds of people who want to lead us, how they present themselves — and what all this says about their voters and advocates.

Each contender seemed to be auditioning for the role of apex predator — although they sometimes inadvertently morphed, however briefly, into a different, less alarming guise.

 

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

World Crisis Radio, World Strategic Roundup and Activisim Recommendations: Twilight of Trump, Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian, commentator, Aug. 26, 2023 (129:41 mins.). In webster tarpley 2007Atlanta, MAGA boss is arrested for fourth time as mindless corporate media keep raving that indictments only make him stronger! Three Trump co-defendants allege he ordered their misdeeds, foreshadowing flipping to come;

Former President Donald J. Trump and several of his fellow defendants, in mug shots released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Atlanta (Photos by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office).Activating Fourteenth Amendment ban on insurrectionists holding federal office rapidly gains prestigious bipartisan support from scholars and elected officials; Need legal action now by states to banish Don from ballot well before primary voting starts in January 2024;

yevgeniy prigozhin battle gear apPrigozhin, right, ends as homicidal monster and his top staffers fall victim to assassination by Putin’s secret police; Wagner mercenary units, Putin’s Foreign Legion, decapitated and in disarray; Prigozhin’s epitaph is statement admitting that there was no NATO threat to Russia on eve of February 2022 invasion -- an embarrassing fact for Mearsheimer, Chomsky, RFK Jr., Wagenknecht and other avid appeasers;

Ukrainian forces capture Robotyne on road to Melitopol and Sea of Azov, widening the breach in the first Russian defense line; Repeated strikes on Moscow and targets inside Russia; Debate on how many axes of attack are optimal;

Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).

brics logoBRICS may be viewed as a pressure group, a propaganda agency, a school of rhetoric, a brand of nostalgia, or a photo op, but they are incapable of joint action: no joint currency to challenge US dollar and no moral standing as they support the butcher of Ukraine, who is making them starve;

GOP debate shows absolute depravity of this moribund party; 60 years since Martin Luther King’s ”I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial; Trump’s rogue’s gallery photo depicts cornered kingpin snarling into the abyss.

Politico, Trump’s trial run: How an onslaught of court dates could sideline him from the campaign trail, Kyle Cheney, AAug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The former president is a defendant in four criminal cases and three civil cases — and they could all go to trial before the 2024 election.

politico CustomDonald Trump’s path to the GOP nomination is littered with court dates. He is a defendant in seven pending cases: four criminal prosecutions and three civil lawsuits. Starting this fall and continuing through the first half of 2024, he is likely to face a near-constant string of trials that will overlap, and perhaps overshadow, the primary calendar.

The cases vary in their potential to interfere with Trump’s campaign. He is unlikely to attend his three civil trials, all of which are scheduled over the next six months. But he’ll be required to be in court for his four criminal trials across four jurisdictions, and those could last for weeks at a time while voting is underway.

On Monday, the schedule may crystallize further. That’s when the judge overseeing Trump’s federal case on election fraud has signaled she will choose a trial date. If she opts for a trial in early 2024, as prosecutors have requested, Trump’s already packed courtroom calendar will get much more complicated.

Here’s a look at what we know about Trump’s upcoming trials, the key variables that could shake them up and how they will intersect with the primaries, which begin in January.

New York business fraud lawsuit: Trial date: Oct. 2, 2023, New York City Before his criminal trials begin in earnest, Trump and his business empire will go on trial in a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Tish James. The lawsuit alleges a raft of financial mismanagement and malfeasance.

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U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment of former U.S. President Trump on June 9, 2023.

U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment of former U.S. President Trump on June 9, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Eastman’s defense is shattered in state bar proceeding, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 28, 2023. John Eastman, the lawyer allegedly jennifer rubin new headshotat the center of the unprecedented and outrageous scheme to overthrow the 2020 election, faces criminal prosecution in Georgia and has been identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal case. And Eastman must defend a bar complaint in California that threatens to revoke his law license.

At a critical hearing last week in the California bar proceedings, designated legal expert Matthew A. Seligman submitted a 91-page report, which I have obtained from the state bar, that strips away any “colorable,” or legally plausible, defense that Eastman was acting in good faith in rendering advice to the now four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump.

This report has serious ramifications for Eastman’s professional licensure and his defense in Georgia. Moreover, his co-defendant and co-counsel in the alleged legal scheme, Kenneth Chesebro, who has employed many of the same excuses as Eastman, might be in serious jeopardy in his Oct. 23 trial. (Another lawyer, Sidney Powell, also requested a speedy trial.)

In his report, Seligman addressed whether “the legal positions advanced by Dr. John Eastman in relation to the counting of electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election” were reasonable.

If one follows Seligman’s legal and historical analysis, one must conclude Eastman and his legal cohorts (including co-defendant Chesebro) likely knew that their “advice” was beyond the pale

The significance of stripping away the legal plausibility of the cockamamie scheme to undermine our democracy cannot be overstated. Consider how Seligman’s conclusion shatters not only Eastman’s but also Trump’s most likely defenses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigations: Donald Trump and His Co-Defendants in Georgia Are Already at Odds, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Some defendants have already sought to move the case to federal court, while others are seeking speedy or separate trials.

Even as former President Donald J. Trump and his 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case turned themselves in one by one at an Atlanta jail this week, their lawyers began working to change how the case will play out.

They are already at odds over when they will have their day in court, but also, crucially, where. Should enough of them succeed, the case could split into several smaller cases, perhaps overseen by different judges in different courtrooms, running on different timelines.

Five defendants have already sought to move the state case to federal court, citing their ties to the federal government. The first one to file — Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff during the 2020 election — will make the argument for removal on Monday, in a hearing before a federal judge in Atlanta.

Federal officials charged with state crimes can move their cases to federal court if they can convince a judge that they are being charged for actions connected to their official duties, among other things.

In the Georgia case, the question of whether to change the venue — a legal maneuver known as removal — matters because it would affect the composition of a jury. If the case stays in Fulton County, Ga., the jury will come from a bastion of Democratic politics where Mr. Trump was trounced in 2020. If the case is removed to federal court, the jury will be drawn from a 10-county region of Georgia that is more suburban and rural — and somewhat more Trump-friendly. Because it takes only one not-guilty vote to hang a jury, this modest advantage could prove to be a very big deal.

The coming fights over the proper venue for the case are only one strand of a complicated tangle of efforts being launched by a gaggle of defense lawyers now representing Mr. Trump and the 18 others named in the 98-page racketeering indictment. This week, the lawyers clogged both state and federal court dockets with motions that will also determine when the case begins.

Already, one defendant’s case is splitting off as a result. Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who advised Mr. Trump after the 2020 election, has asked for a speedy trial, and the presiding state judge has agreed to it. His trial is now set to begin on Oct. 23. Another defendant, Sidney Powell, filed a similar motion on Friday, and a third, John Eastman, also plans to invoke his right to an early trial, according to one of his lawyers.

ap logoAssociated Press, Trump trial set for March 4, 2024, in federal case charging him with plotting to overturn election, Eric Tucker, Lindsay Whitehurst, Michael Michael Kunzelman, Aug. 28, 2023.A judge on Monday set a March 4, 2024, trial date for Donald Trump in the federal case in Washington charging the former president with trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, rejecting a defense request to push back the case by years.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rebuffed claims by Trump’s attorneys that an April 2026 trial date was necessary to account for the huge volume of evidence they say they are reviewing and to prepare for what they contend is a novel and unprecedented prosecution. But she agreed to postpone the trial slightly beyond the January 2024 date proposed by special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution team.

“The public has a right to a prompt and efficient resolution of this matter,” Chutkan said.

Justice Department log circularIf the current date holds, it would represent a setback to Trump’s efforts to push the case back until well after the 2024 presidential election, a contest in which he’s the early front-runner for the Republican nomination.

The March 2024 date would also ensure a blockbuster trial in the nation’s capital in the heat of the GOP presidential nominating calendar, forcing Trump to juggle campaign and courtroom appearances and coming the day before Super Tuesday — a crucial voting day when more than a dozen states will hold primaries and when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.

“I want to note here that setting a trial date does not depend and should not depend on the defendant’s personal or professional obligations,” Chutkan said.

Chutkan has so far appeared not only cool to Trump’s efforts to delay the case but also concerned by social media comments he’s made outside court. This month, she warned Trump’s legal team that there were limits on what he can say publicly about evidence in the investigation. She also reiterated her intention Monday for Trump to be “treated with no more or less deference than any defendant would be treated.”

The Washington case is one of four prosecutions Trump is facing. A March 4 trial would take place just weeks before a scheduled New York trial in a case charging him in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actress. Meanwhile in Atlanta on Monday, where Trump and 18 others were charged with trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was arguing to try to get the charges against him transferred from state court to federal court.

The setting of the trial date came despite strong objections from Trump lawyer John Lauro. He said defense lawyers had received an enormous trove of records from Smith’s team — a prosecutor put the total at more than 12 million pages and files — and that the case concerned novel legal issues that would require significant time to sort out.

“This is one of the most unique cases from a legal perspective ever brought in the history of the United States. Ever,” Lauro said, calling it an “enormous, overwhelming task” to review such a “gargantuan” amount of evidence.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston countered that the public had an “exceedingly” strong interest in moving the case forward to trial and said that the crux of the evidence has long been well known to the defense. Trump, she noted , is accused of “attempting to overturn an election and disenfranchise millions.”

“There is an incredibly strong public interest in a jury’s full consideration of those claims in open court,” Gaston said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s Georgia case could get real — quickly, Aaron Blake, right, Aug. 27, 2023. Key defendants charting their own course aaron blakecould reveal the strength of the case against the former president.

Former president Donald Trump’s Georgia indictment occupies an unusual space among his four criminal cases.

For a start, it might be the most compelling case, by virtue of how many associates — 18 — were also charged in the alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. There’s also the possibility that the proceedings could be televised. Finally, there is substantially more reason to believe that Trump won’t stand trial before the 2024 election in this case than there is in the three other cases.

Nonetheless, we are about to learn some significant things — and soon.

Already three key defendants have forced the issue in ways that could draw back the curtain on the strength of the case against Trump.

 

Trump georgia defendants booked msnbc

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the people who have been charged in the election inquiry in Georgia, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The indictment Georgia prosecutors filed Aug. 14 in an election interference case targeting former President Donald J. Trump and his associates includes 41 criminal charges against 19 people who are accused of helping him seek to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.

  • New York Times, Why Are Trump’s Accused Co-Conspirators Smiling for Their Mug Shots? Aug. 26, 2023.
  • New York Times, Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Dept. official, was booked in the Georgia case, leaving two defendants left yet to surrender, Aug. 25, 2023.

Former President Donald J. Trump and several of his fellow defendants, in mug shots released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Atlanta (Photos by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office).

Former President Donald J. Trump and several of his fellow defendants, in mug shots released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Atlanta (Photos by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office).

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump’s mug shot is unprecedented. And that’s just the beginning of its significance, our critic writes, Vanessa Friedman, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). As soon as it was taken, it became the de facto picture of the year. A historic image that will be seared into the public record and referred to for perpetuity — the first mug shot of an American president, taken by the Fulton County, Ga., Sheriff’s Office after Donald J. Trump’s fourth indictment. Though because it is also the only mug shot, it may be representative of all of the charges.

As such, it is also a symbol of either equality under the law or the abuse of it — the ultimate memento of a norm-shattering presidency and this social-media-obsessed, factionalized age.

“It’s dramatically unprecedented,” said Sean Wilentz, a professor of American history at Princeton University. “Of all the millions, maybe billions of photos taken of Donald Trump, this could stand as the most famous. Or notorious.” It is possible, he added, that in the future the mug shot will seem like the ultimate bookend to a political arc in the United States that began decades ago, with Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”

In the photo, Mr. Trump is posed against a plain gray backdrop, just like the 11 of his fellow defendants whose mug shots were taken before him, including Mark Meadows, Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani.

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Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 felony counts in historic indictment linked to Stormy Daniels hush money probe (Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

Former President Donald J. Trump, in a blue suit, sits with his attorneys shortly before arraignment in New York City's state court on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to the 2016 presidential campaign season, reportedly involving in part hush money to women ((Associated Press photo by Seth Wong).

 

More On Russian Mercenary Leader's Death

 

yevgeniy prigozhin battle gear ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Wagner Mourners in Moscow Reflect Prigozhin’s Appeal Among Russians, Valerie Hopkins, Aug. 28, 2023. Visitors, some tearful, left flowers and other tributes to Yevgeny Prigozhin, above, the founder of the Wagner private military company, at a sidewalk memorial.

The tearful mourners gathered in Moscow to pay muted respect to the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, and nine other people killed in a suspicious plane crash last week.

wagner group logoHundreds of people placed flowers, photographs, candles and flags — including some bearing the private military group’s skull design — at a small sidewalk memorial near Red Square in Moscow.

The gathering over the weekend reflected the broader appeal Mr. Prigozhin held for the Russian public as a result of his force’s fierce fighting in Ukraine, despite an acrimonious relationship with Russia’s military leadership and the backlash from his failed mutiny in June, when the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, initially accused him of treason.

The fate of Wagner, which Mr. Prigozhin built into a global force, remains uncertain, now that Russian authorities have officially declared Mr. Prigozhin dead, and with the Kremlin reportedly considering ways to bring the group more directly under control of the state.

Ukraine News TV, Day 551: Ukraïnian Map, RFs now standing at approximately 261k+ Military Personnel Losses, Juzzie, Aug. 28, 2023. A down to earth and simplified look at the day-by-day happenings on the ground, on the Ukraïne Map. Including news, military personnel losses for Russia, aided by imagery - for Day 551. These analysis videos tend to make commentaries on the shortfalls of an autocratic way of governance, like that of Russia's.

More over, it's been relatively easy to come across (in my daily research findings) examples of failures of this autocratic system (wherein power is consolidated by one person at the top[Putin]).

Thereby, creating a system where people within that system are afraid to speak truth to power - an inability for Russian Henchmen/Oligarchs to communicate to the Person at the top - openly, about the critical (pernicious) issues facing their country economically, militarily and technologically: An increasingly isolated and unaware Vladimir 'Presitator' Putin.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Claims to Retake a Small Southern Village, Aug. 28, 2023. Reclaiming the village of Robotyne would suggest Ukrainian forces have pushed through initial Russian defenses, but tougher terrain lies ahead.

Reclaiming the village of Robotyne would suggest Ukrainian forces have pushed through initial Russian defenses, but tougher terrain lies ahead.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Robotyne’s recapture could boost Ukraine after weeks of grinding fighting.
  • Zelensky says he believes the U.S. will offer Ukraine an Israel-like relationship.
  • A pilot who became a face of Kyiv’s efforts to get F-16s dies in a training accident.
  • A Russian missile strike on an oil refinery kills three, Ukrainian officials say.
  • Russia charges a former U.S. consulate employee with collecting information about the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Is Still Grappling With the Battlefield Yevgeny Prigozhin Left Behind, Paul Sonne, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). He shored up Russian forces and drew Ukraine into a costly fight for Bakhmut, giving Moscow time to slow Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

As the Russian military reeled on the battlefield in Ukraine last autumn, a foul-mouthed, ex-convict with a personal connection to President Vladimir V. Putin stepped out of the shadows to help.

Yevgeny V. Prigozhin for years had denied any connection to the Wagner mercenary group and operated discreetly on the margins of Russian power, trading in political skulduggery, cafeteria meals and lethal force.

Now, he was front and center, touting the Wagner brand known for its savagery and personally recruiting an army of convicts to aid a flailing Russian war operation starved for personnel.

The efforts that Mr. Prigozhin and a top Russian general seen as close to him, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, would undertake in the subsequent months would alter the course of the war.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Kremlin is considering options on bringing the private military group Wagner under its control, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Wagner could be absorbed into Russia’s Defense Ministry or its military intelligence arm. A Russian general could also be installed to lead the group, U.S. and Western officials said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian investigators confirm Prigozhin dead in plane crash after DNA tests, Lyric Li and Annabelle Timsit, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed Sunday that Yevgeniy Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash last week outside Moscow, ending days of fevered speculation about the fate of the Wagner Group leader.

The committee said in a statement that DNA testing of the remains had confirmed that all 10 victims of the crash were the same as those listed in the flight manifest, which was previously reported to include Prigozhin’s name.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

  • Washington Post, Wagner chief Prigozhin’s lingering popularity a challenge for Putin, Robyn Dixon, Aug. 27, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Renegade Mercenary Chief Who Rattled the Kremlin, Valerie Hopkins, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.).. A tycoon and Putin ally, his paramilitary force fought by Russia’s side even as he castigated its military leaders. He is believed to have died at 62 in a plane crash.

yevgeny prigozhin 2017 reuters poolThe leader of a paramilitary force that fought on Russia’s behalf in Ukraine and Africa but whose harsh judgment of its army leadership led him to instigate a rebellion, was widely believed to be dead on Thursday, a day after a plane in which he was said to be traveling crashed in Russia. He was 62.

Although his death has not been officially declared by the Russian authorities or confirmed by family members or business associates, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spoke of Mr. Prigozhin in the past tense on Thursday and offered condolences to the families of the crash’s 10 victims. And Pentagon officials for the first time openly said they believe that Mr. Prigozhin did not survive the crash, in which all on board were killed. His name was on the passenger list.

  Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More Global News 

ny times logoNew York Times, Foreign Minister Flees Libya Amid Uproar Over Meeting With Israeli, Vivian Yee and Isabel Kershner, Aug. 28, 2023. The minister, Najla el-Mangoush, flew to Turkey after reports emerged that she had met with her Israeli counterpart, sparking unrest in several Libyan cities.

The Libyan foreign minister has fled to Turkey out of fear for her safety, Libyan officials said Monday, amid a growing uproar in their country over news that the minister met with her Israeli counterpart in Rome last week.

Israel’s triumphal announcement of the meeting on Sunday set off protests in several Libyan cities and prompted the prime minister to suspend the foreign minister, Najla el-Mangoush. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Libya, one of a host of Arab countries with a long history of hostility toward Israel.

The Libyan foreign ministry said the meeting in Rome last week was “informal and unplanned,” and that Ms. el-Mangoush had reaffirmed Libyan support for the Palestinians. But that did little to quell protests in the capital, Tripoli, and other parts of the country.

 mexico flag1

washington post logoWashington Post, As the number of missing people surges, Mexico’s president seeks a recount, Mary Beth Sheridan and Oscar Lopez, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A year ago, Mexico reached a horrifying milestone: 100,000 people were missing, according to an official tally — a stark symbol of the violence that has racked the country since the government declared war on drug traffickers in 2006.

andrés lópez obrador wNow, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, says the actual number is much lower than officially reported. And he is trying to prove it. In what he calls a “new census,” he has dispatched officials to check whether people initially reported as disappeared have returned to their families.

The effort has prompted a backlash from families of the disappeared and their advocates, who fear that he is trying to lower the numbers artificially before an election year. On Wednesday, the head of the government commission responsible for the official count abruptly resigned “in light of the current context.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Risks Loom Over Panama Canal, a Vital Global Trade Link, Somini Sengupta, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Lack of rain and changing weather patterns are slowing the ship traffic that moves goods around the world.

Shallow waters, meet Christmas shopping.

Drought, aggravated by the burning of fossil fuels, is slowing down the ship traffic that carries goods in and out of the United States through the slender and vital Panama Canal, while heat and drought in the Midwest are threatening to dry out the Mississippi River, a crucial artery for American corn and wheat exports, in the months ahead.

It could be worse. There could be multiple droughts affecting several trade routes at the same time, disturbing the transport (and subsequent prices) of many types of goods like liquefied natural gas and coffee beans. That is a looming risk in a world that has become accustomed to everything everywhere at all seasons.

Last year, for instance, as Europe faced its worst dry spell in 500 years, ships carried a fraction of the cargo they normally do along the Rhine in Germany, one of the continent’s most important thoroughfares. The Rhine’s water levels are better this year, but the river faces a longer-term climate risk: The mountain snow and ice that feeds the Rhine is declining.

ny times logoNew York Times, Incumbent Claims Victory in Zimbabwe Election Amid Fraud Accusations, John Eligon, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Emmerson Mnangagwa won another five-year term, but did so by intimidating voters and manipulating the campaign process, the opposition says.

zimbabwe flag mapPresident Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe claimed victory on Saturday in an election marred by widespread allegations that the governing party, ZANU-PF, had committed fraud.

Mr. Mnangagwa’s victory over his closest competitor, Nelson Chamisa, after his first full term in office strengthened ZANU-PF’s grip on power in a nation it has led since independence from Britain in 1980. Over the past two decades, Zimbabwe has suffered under disastrous economic policies that have led to soaring prices, high unemployment and a medical system lacking basic drugs and equipment.

Mr. Mnangagwa won 52.6 percent of the vote compared with 44 percent for Mr. Chamisa, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is responsible for running the election and has faced withering criticism of showing bias in favor of ZANU-PF.

Mr. Chamisa’s party, Citizens Coalition for Change, quickly denounced the results and vowed to challenge them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cultural Gems and Green Spaces Were Razed in a Push to Modernize Cairo, Vivian Yee, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Egyptian government has demolished historic tombs, cultural centers, artisan workshops and gardens in pursuit of large-scale urban renewal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Niger’s population struggles with daily life after coup, Rachel Chason, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Nearly one month after military officers seized power, there is little obvious consensus within Niger about whether to support the coup leaders or Bazoum, who is being held captive by the military.

Ousmane Hassan, a 35-year-old Nigerien father of two, wonders when his savings will run out.

Hassan said his business, which involves transporting goods from neighboring Benin, has dried up because of sanctions imposed on Niger after the military coup July 26 that ousted the elected leader, President Mohamed Bazoum. And like people across this impoverished West African country, Hassan has watched in recent weeks as the price of food at the market increased and the country’s power supply plummeted.

Nearly one month after military officers seized power, there is little obvious consensus within Niger about whether to support the coup leaders or Bazoum, who is being held captive by the military.

 

luis rubiales sky sports

washington post logoWashington Post, FIFA provisionally suspends Spanish soccer official Luis Rubiales, Victoria Bisset, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). FIFA on Saturday provisionally suspended the president of Spain’s soccer federation after he kissed a player following Spain’s World Cup final win over England.

spain flag CustomThe sport’s governing body said in a statement that Luis Rubiales, who has refused to resign despite international outrage over Sunday’s incident, would be barred from all football-related activities at a national and international level for an initial period of 90 days. The organization announced disciplinary action against Rubiales on Thursday.

Saturday’s decision also banned both Rubiales and the Spanish soccer federation, which has threatened legal action over the accusations, from contacting the player at the center of the allegations, Jenni Hermoso (shown above with Rubiales at the time of the kiss in a photo by Fox Sports).

In statements released Friday, the midfielder said she “never consented to the kiss he gave me,” adding that she and her family had come under pressure to publicly support Rubiales.

Dozens of players on Spain’s women’s team have said they will refuse to play further matches until the Spanish federation, RFEF, removes the president from his post.

Rubiales also faced criticism for grabbing his crotch at the end of the World Cup final while Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofía, 16, stood nearby.

washington post logoWashington French FlagPost, France is about to destroy enough wine to fill more than 100 Olympic-size pools. It will cost millions, Caroline Anders, Aug. 27, 2023. Ruining so much wine may sound ludicrous, but there’s a straightforward economic reason this is happening: Making wine is getting more expensive, and people are drinking less of it.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia (left to right) convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).

 

More on Russia, Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, A former French president gave a voice to Russian sympathies, profoundly at odds with official policy, Roger Cohen, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Remarks by Nicolas Sarkozy have raised fears that Europe’s pro-Putin chorus may grow louder as Ukraine’s plodding counteroffensive puts pressure on Western resolve.

nicolas sarkozy resized in 2010Nicolas Sarkozy, left, the former French president, was once known as “Sarko the American” for his love of free markets, freewheeling debate and Elvis. Of late, however, he has appeared more like “Sarko the Russian,” even as President Vladimir V. Putin’s ruthlessness appears more evident than ever.

French FlagIn interviews coinciding with the publication of a memoir, Mr. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, said that reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “illusory,” ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain “neutral,” and insisted that Russia and France “need each other.”

“People tell me Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man that I met. I don’t find that convincing. I’ve had tens of conversations with him. He is not irrational,” emmanuel macronhe told Le Figaro. “European interests aren’t aligned with American interests this time,” he added.

His statements, to the newspaper as well as the TF1 television network, were unusual for a former president in that they are profoundly at odds with official French policy. They provoked outrage from the Ukrainian ambassador to France and condemnation from several French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, right.

  • New York Times, Russia said Ukraine fired drones at three regions, bringing the war to areas deep inside its territory, Aug. 27, 2023.
  • Divine Justice, Ukraine War Update: UNBELIEVABLE! Russians SINK THEIR OWN SHIPS Desperately, Aug. 27, 2023 (8:29 mins.).

CNN, More than 500 children have been killed in Ukraine since start of war, charity says, Sarah El Sirgany and James Frater, Aug. 23, 2023. Some 541 children have been killed in Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, British charity Save the Children said in a report on Wednesday, with this June being the deadliest month recorded.

cnn logoAs air and drone attacks tripled this summer, the international charity recorded a 16% increase in child casualties between May and August, compared to the previous four months. The agency said 95% of those attacks took place in populated areas, prompting an increase in overall civilian fatalities, citing UN verified data.

ukraine flagSince May 2023, the charity said 148 children have been killed or injured. June was the deadliest month for children so far when 11 children were killed and 43 more were injured.

“Since last February, more than 1,680 children have been killed or injured due to unrelenting hostilities. The vast majority of those casualties are attributed to missiles and drones being fired at residential areas,” Amjad Yamin, Save the Children’s Advocacy Director in Ukraine, said in a statement.

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More On Climate, Hawaiian Disaster, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As fires and floods rage, Facebook and Twitter are missing in action, Will Oremus, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have decided they don’t need the news industry. That’s causing problems when natural disasters strike.

As wildfires ravage western Canada, Canadians can’t read the news about them on Facebook or Instagram. This month, Facebook parent company Meta blocked links to news organizations on its major social networks in Canada to protest a law that would require it to pay publishers for distributing their content.

As a freak tropical storm flooded swaths of Southern California over the weekend, residents and government agencies who turned to X, formerly known as Twitter, for real-time updates struggled to discern fact from fiction. That has gotten far more difficult, officials say, since Elon Musk jumbled the site’s verification policies, removing the blue check marks from verified journalists and media outlets — instead granting them to anyone who pays a monthly fee.

Facebook and Twitter spent years making themselves essential conduits for news. Now that government agencies, the media and hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on them for critical information in times of crisis, the social media giants have decided they’re not so invested in the news mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wafter all.

elon musk safe image time thumbTech titans Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Musk, right, may not agree on much. But both have pulled back, in different ways, from what their companies once saw as a responsibility, to both their users and society, to connect people with reliable sources of information. A drumbeat of natural disasters, probably intensified by climate change, is highlighting the consequences of that retrenchment.

“Just a few years ago, Twitter was a really valuable way for us to communicate with the public,” said Brian Ferguson, deputy director of crisis communications for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “It’s much more challenging now because of some of the changes that have happened.”

x logo twitterOn Monday, after Tropical Storm Hilary soaked Los Angeles and inundated Palm Springs, Calif., Ferguson said his agency “spent a good portion of the day as part of our emergency response combating mis- and disinformation.” Widely shared posts on X showed doctored images of Los Angeles landmarks underwater and claimed the Federal Emergency Management Agency was out of money and unable to respond — none of which were true, he said.

Such hoaxes have been common on social media for years. But pre-Musk Twitter had been stepping up efforts to moderate misinformation, including hiding posts that featured misleading claims and employing a team of journalists to fact-check viral trends. The site also highlighted breaking news stories from accounts and media outlets it deemed reliable. The moves were in keeping with the pride Twitter had long taken in its role as a global hub for real-time information during emergencies, dating back to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Fukushima disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Franklin has become a major hurricane and is expected to create dangerous rip currents along the East Coast, Judson Jones and Hogla Enecia Pérez, Aug. 28, 2023. A tropical storm watch was issued for Bermuda, though the eye of the storm is expected to stay away from land.

 

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).p

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).

washington post logo Washington Post, Hawaii utility faces collapse as others delay on extreme weather risks, Evan Halper, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). One after another, utilities confront massive liabilities for wildfires. With the Maui fire, Hawaiian Electric faces potential insolvency, accused of being slow to respond to threats of extreme weather.

The multibillion-dollar liabilities faced by Hawaiian Electric for the deadly wildfire in Maui — compounded by Maui County’s lawsuit against the utility on Thursday — are reverberating through the electricity industry and is forcing a reckoning for power companies and their customers, nationwide.
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Hawaiian Electric, which serves nearly all of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents, is careening toward insolvency, much like Pacific Gas & Electric did in California in 2019. Investors in the company are scrambling to sell their shares, and bond rating agencies are downgrading the Hawaii utility’s ratings because of its role in potentially causing or contributing to the most deadly U.S. wildfire in a century.

It is a pattern playing out with frequency across the West, and likely to spread to other states as much of the electricity industry finds itself unable or unwilling to meet the growing challenge of adapting power systems to extreme weather. In Texas this week, the power grid is again on the brink, with officials urgently asking customers to reduce usage, even after upgrades were made in the wake of the electricity system’s collapse in winter storms in 2021 that left 200 people dead.

In Hawaiian Electric’s case, it did not power down its lines in advance of expected hurricane-force winds, a major focus of lawsuits filed against it by Maui County and other litigants.

“It is just crazymaking that we all know we will back in the same place in a year, talking about another city destroyed, by another utility using the same excuses, the same playbook and probably even the same faulty equipment from the 1980s,” said Jay Edelson, an attorney who recently helped secure Oregon wildfire victims a landmark verdict against the power company PacifiCorp. “Why do these companies keep making these decisions? I don’t understand what is going on in these boardrooms.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Over 100 confirmed safe on Maui’s list of people missing after wildfire, Timothy Bella and Kyle Rempfer, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Maui County officials released a list of 388 people Thursday who are still “unaccounted for” after the devastating fires this month, as part of Hawaii’s efforts to “un-duplicate” people reported missing. Within a day of making the list public, at least 100 people were crossed off.

“They were reported to be safe and sound,” Steven Merrill, special agent in charge of the FBI Honolulu Division, said during a news conference Friday. “Again, we don’t take that for granted. We still understand that there’s hundreds more that we’re still looking for and we will not stop until we find those.”

The list of names released Thursday was “a subset of a larger list” that still needs to be vetted, Merrill added.

“The 388 names were names that we had more information on. That’s why we released that first,” Merrill said. “That being said, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we still have hundreds of other names where we still need more information.”

The validated list of names from the FBI released Thursday night is the first of its kind for unaccounted people since the Aug. 8 disaster in Lahaina, the country’s most devastating wildfire in a century.

“We’re releasing this list of names today because we know that it will help with the investigation,” Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said in a news release. “We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed. This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”

Before the validated list was released, the estimated number of unaccounted people had fluctuated this week in what Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) described as the FBI’s efforts to “un-duplicate” people reported missing.

After Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen said Monday that the number of missing was believed to be at around 850, Merrill estimated Tuesday that there were more than 1,000 in an unconfirmed list.

Merrill said that efforts to confirm those who are unaccounted for have been complicated due to a lack of detail in some reports and the wide array of lists of tracking the unaccounted-for individuals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Animal rescuers fear time may be running out on Maui, Justine McDaniel, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Animal rescuers have been denied access to the Maui burn zone, where at least 115 people were killed, but the county says the National Guard will escort them Saturday.

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Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

Destruction along Front Street in Lahaina, Hawaii. As people tried to flee to safer areas, the belongings, homes and businesses they left behind were reduced to ashes. The charred remains of a car sits on a street next to a building that was destroyed by fire. Mountains are in the distance (New York Times photo by Philip Cheung).

 

This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)

ny times logoNew York Times, Vivek Ramaswamy, the Millennial, Has a Lot to Say About His Generation, Jonathan Weisman, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The 38-year-old candidate says he has a plan to fix what ails Americans his age and younger, but many of his positions are out of step with those voters.

Vivek Ramaswamy, right, rising in the polls and buoyed by the first Republican primary debate this week, was barnstorming through central Iowa on vivek ramaswamy linked inFriday with a trademark smile and a remarkably bleak generational diagnosis of what ails younger America.

Millennials like himself, the entrepreneur and political newcomer explained to an overflowing audience in Pella, Iowa, “are starved for purpose, meaning and identity”; robbed of those anchors that made America great — “faith, patriotism, hard work, family”; and stumbling from one cult to another — race, gender, sexuality and climate activism. The government “systematically lies to us,” he said. He told another gathering in Indianola, “We face a nonzero risk that the United States of America could cease to exist,” obliterated by the blossoming alliance of Russia and China.

Young Americans, he concluded, have “a black hole in our hearts.”

It is hardly Ronald Reagan’s shining city on the hill, Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century or the countless evocations of American exceptionalism that have buoyed politics for decades now, including those offered by some of his 2024 rivals. And yet somehow his evocation of a generational malaise seems to resonate, at least with the crowds that are packing the restaurants, cafes and even larger venues in the state that will cast the first ballots this January for the Republican presidential nomination.

Noticeably, however, those crowds don’t seem to include many young voters. And many of his views are out of step with those of his generation as well as with the one below it, particularly his positions on climate change — he loudly rejects prescriptions for combating it, like eliminating, or even reducing, the burning of fossil fuels — and the voting age, which he wants to raise, unless young voters can pass a civics test.

Mr. Ramaswamy, 38, has never held elective office or worked in government, and he is competing for the presidential nomination in a party whose most loyal voters are baby boomers and Gen Xers, not millennials. (The Pew Research Center defines a millennial as anyone born between 1981 and 1996.)

Yet in national polling averages, he is running third in the primary fight, far behind the front-runner, Donald J. Trump, but approaching the man who was supposed to be Mr. Trump’s biggest threat, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Mr. Ramaswamy has pitched himself as the Republican future, a conservative in Mr. Trump’s image who holds forth at campaign events near a large list of commandments he’s labeled “truth.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact-Checking Vivek Ramaswamy on the Campaign Trail, Linda Qiu, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Ramaswamy has made inaccurate claims about climate change as well as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

vivek ramaswamy linked inThe upstart Republican candidate has made inaccurate claims about climate change as well as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, while mischaracterizing his own positions and past comments.

Railing against “wokeism” and the “climate cult,” Mr. Ramaswamy has staked out unorthodox positions on a number of issues and characterized himself as the candidate most likely to appeal to young and new conservative voters. Here’s a fact check of his recent remarks on the campaign trail and during the debate.

The New Republic, Vivek Ramaswamy Paid Wikipedia Editors to Erase His Soros Fellowship and Covid Work, Prem Thakker, May 3, 2023. He announced his 2024 bid after making sure his Wikipedia page was edited. Mediaite reports that Ramaswamy seems to have paid Wikipedia editor “Jhofferman,” to remove information from his page that he presumably thought would damage his candidacy in the Republican primary. A few days later, he announced his 2024 bid.

The editor scrubbed off information related to Ramaswamy receiving the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans in 2011, during his time as a Yale law student. Paul Soros is the older brother of billionaire democratic donor George Soros, who has been the subject of perennial antisemitic conspiracy theories peddled by the right. (The fellowship Ramaswamy received is dedicated to helping immigrants and children of immigrants pursue graduate school.)

Prominent right-wing figures like Jack Posobiec have directed attention toward Ramaswamy’s past fellowship, presumably in line with the aforementioned use of Soros as a catch-all for anything “suspicious.”

Also removed from Ramaswamy’s page was his work serving on Ohio’s Covid-19 Response Team. The editor claimed that Ramaswamy had explicitly asked to remove the mention of his work on the Covid team, while the editor himself deemed the fellowship to be “extraneous material.”

After some back-and-forth with other Wikipedia contributors, information noting Ramaswamy’s Soros fellowship was later added back to the page.

The 2024 candidate, who joins other elite-educated Republicans in cosplaying as a truth-telling populist while offering no actual solutions to improve people’s material conditions, has reportedly used some of his millions of dollars to pay a Wikipedia editor to scrub his past.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ramaswamy-Pence Clash Shows New Right’s Radical Break From Reaganism, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Vivek Ramaswamy invoked Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” theme to mock a generation of Republicans he views as out of touch.

ronald reagan 1981 wDisbelief flashed across Vivek Ramaswamy’s face. The Republican presidential candidates, minus the front-runner, were 42 minutes into their first debate when former Vice President Mike Pence took issue with the young businessman’s claim that America was gripped by a national identity crisis.

“We’re not looking for a new national identity,” said Mr. Pence, 64. “The American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving, idealistic, hard-working people the world has ever known.”

“It is not morning in America,” Mr. Ramaswamy, 38, shot back in his rapid-fire Harvard debating style. “We live in a dark moment. And we have to confront the fact that we’re in an internal sort of cold, cultural civil war.”

Extolling Ronald Reagan, right, used to be the safest of safe spaces for an ambitious Republican. Yet here was an upstart candidate, with no record of public service, standing at center stage in a G.O.P. debate and invoking Mr. Reagan’s famous 1984 “morning in America” theme not as an applause line, but to mock one of the party’s staunchest conservatives — an original product of the Reagan revolution — as out of touch with America’s true condition.

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Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

Fox News debate moderators Brent Baier and Martha MacCallum are shown above.

 

More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

matt schlapp cpac

washington post logoWashington Post, CPAC urged to investigate more sexual misconduct claims against chair Matt Schlapp, Isaac Arnsdorf and Beth Reinhard, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  A senior board member of CPAC’s parent organization resigned as he urged more scrutiny of Schlapp’s alleged conduct.

'A senior board member of the parent organization behind the prominent Conservative Political Action Conference who resigned on Friday urged an independent investigation into additional allegations of sexual misconduct against Chairman Matt Schlapp.

The vice chairman of the board of the American Conservative Union, Charlie Gerow, announced his resignation on Friday in a letter to other directors that called on them to authorize an investigation including any additional allegations that they or staff have become aware of, according to multiple people familiar with the letter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Earlier this year, Schlapp was sued for alleged sexual battery and defamation by a Republican campaign operative who claimed that the CPAC leader groped his crotch during a campaign trip last fall. Schlapp has denied the claim.
In addition to that lawsuit, some board members and staffers have been told about other incidents involving Schlapp, 55, and two younger men, multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation said.

In one incident, a staffer said Schlapp attempted to kiss him while drinking late after a work function in 2017. The staffer also provided documentation from that night to The Washington Post showing physical contact that the staffer said was unsolicited.

In another incident, Schlapp allegedly made unwanted physical advances on someone else’s employee during a CPAC business trip in Palm Beach, Fla., in early 2022, according to multiple people informed of the incident. The alleged victim did not respond to requests for comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Samuel Wurzelbacher, Celebrated as ‘Joe the Plumber,’ Dies at 49, Sam Roberts, Aug. 28, 2023. For Republicans in 2008, he briefly became a symbol of Middle America when he questioned the presidential candidate Barack Obama in a televised encounter.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who briefly became “Joe the Plumber,” the metaphorical American middle-class Everyman, by injecting himself into the 2008 presidential campaign in an impromptu nationally-televised face-off with Barack Obama over taxing small businesses, died on Sunday at his home in Campbellsport, Wis., about 60 miles north of Milwaukee. He was 49.

The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his wife, Katie Wurzelbacher, said.

Mr. Obama, then a United States senator from Illinois, was campaigning on Shrewsbury Street in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008, when Mr. Wurzelbacher interrupted a football catch with his son in his front yard to mosey over and confront the Democratic nominee about his proposed tax increase for small businesses.

During a cordial but largely inconclusive five-minute colloquy in front of news cameras, Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was concerned about being subject to a bigger tax bite just as he was approaching the point where he could finally afford to buy a plumbing business, which he said would generate an income of $250,000 a year.

Three days later, “Joe the Plumber,” as he was popularized by Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, was invoked some two dozen times during the final debate of the presidential campaign.

Mr. Wurzelbacher became a folk hero of sorts during the final weeks of the contest, particularly among McCain supporters and conservative commentators, who cottoned to his remarks that Mr. Obama’s share-the-wealth prescriptions for the economy were akin to socialism or even communism and contradicted the American dream. Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, also jumped in, appearing onstage with Mr. Wurzelbacher at rallies.

But by Election Day his tenure as a burly, bald, iron-jawed John Doe eroded as the public learned that he was not a licensed plumber (he could work in Toledo only for someone with a master’s license or in outlying areas) and owed $1,200 in back taxes.

He flirted with supporting Mr. McCain, but in the end never revealed for whom he had voted that November.

In 2012, he won the Republican nomination to challenge Representative Marcy Kaptur, the Democratic incumbent in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, but was crushed in the general election, winning only 23 percent of the vote to her 73 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oliver Anthony criticizes politicians after ‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ played at GOP debate, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Oliver Anthony is criticizing politicians he said “weaponized” his hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond” — not only Democrats who consider the track a right-wing polemic, but also Republicans who embraced it at their party’s presidential debate this week.

“It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me, like I’m one of them,” Anthony said in a video published on YouTube on Friday, speaking from what looked like the cab of a rain-spattered pickup truck. “It was funny seeing my song … at the presidential debate because it’s like I wrote that song about those people, you know, so for them to have to sit there and have to listen to that, that cracks me up,” he said.

During the first Republican presidential candidate debate in Wisconsin this week, Fox played a snippet of the surprise chart-topper, in which Anthony sings about the burden of taxes, the pains of “working all day” for poor pay, and the “rich men north of Richmond” who “just wanna have total control.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin Supreme Court flips liberal, creating a ‘seismic shift,’ Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Standing in the marble-lined rotunda of the state capitol this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s incoming justice raised her right hand, swore to carry out her job “faithfully and impartially” and launched a new, liberal era on a powerful court long dominated by conservatives.

The fallout was immediate.

wisconsin supreme court seal CustomWithin days, the new majority stripped duties from the court’s conservative chief justice and fired its administrative director, a conservative former judge who once ran for the court. The abrupt changes prompted the chief justice to accuse her liberal colleagues of engaging in “nothing short of a coup.” Before long, Republican lawmakers threatened to impeach the court’s newest member.

Liberal groups, long accustomed to seeing the court as hostile terrain, quickly maneuvered for potential victories on a string of major issues. They filed lawsuits to try to redraw the state’s legislative districts, which heavily favor Republicans. And the Democratic attorney general sought to speed up a case challenging a 19th-century law that has kept doctors from providing abortions in Wisconsin.

“It’s an absolute seismic shift in Wisconsin policy and politics,” said C.J. Szafir, the chief executive of the conservative, Wisconsin-based Institute for Reforming Government. “We’re about to usher in a very progressive state Supreme Court, the likes that we have not seen in quite some time. And it’s really going to change how everything operates.”

The turnaround on the Wisconsin court is the result of an April election that became the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with campaigns and interest groups spending more than $50 million.

At stake in that race, with the retirement of a conservative justice who held a decisive vote on a 4-3 court, was the question of who would make crucial rulings in a swing state that could decide the winner of the 2024 presidential election. Conservatives had controlled the court for 15 years, during which they upheld a voter ID law, approved limits on collective bargaining for public workers, banned absentee ballot drop boxes and shut down a wide-ranging campaign finance investigation into Republicans.

janet protasiewiczJanet Protasiewicz, left, a Milwaukee County judge, won by 11 points and flipped control of the court to give liberals a 4-3 majority when she was sworn in on Aug. 1. Protasiewicz, who declined interview requests, spoke openly during her campaign about her support for abortion rights and opposition to what she called “rigged” maps that have given Republicans large majorities in the state legislature. Political strategists said her blunt style helped her win even as court observers fretted that she was making judges look like politicians instead of evenhanded referees. 

Politico, Biden has a New Hampshire problem. Enter Bernie Sanders, Lisa Kashinsky and Holly Otterbein, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Big-name Democrats are appearing in New Hampshire to sing Joe Biden’s praises as the president stays away.

politico CustomJoe Biden’s effort to strip New Hampshire of its first-in-the-nation primary could keep the sitting president from campaigning in the state in the run-up to the 2024 primaries.

But his allies can.

Onetime rival-turned-cheerleader Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont crossed state lines Saturday to deliver an economic policy speech — with plenty of praise for the Biden administration — at presidential pit-stop Saint Anselm College. California Rep. Ro Khanna headlined a major state Democratic Party fundraiser in May. And Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is keynoting New Hampshire Democrats’ annual convention next month.

Their visits are in part self-serving for a group of ambitious politicians. But they are also a way of boosting Biden in absentia as Democrats nationally and in New Hampshire continue to clash over the future of what has historically been the first-in-the-nation primary — and as Republican presidential contenders campaign through the state largely unchecked.

Biden isn’t campaigning in the early primary states yet and has little reason to because he doesn’t face a serious Democratic challenger. However, incumbent presidents facing potentially tough general election fights tend to lay their campaign groundwork and even show up for events in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s primary. Former President Barack Obama rallied in New Hampshire two months before the 2012 primary there and had seven campaign offices in the state by the time voters went to the polls in January.

But Biden has created a quandary for himself in the state. He pushed last year to strip New Hampshire of its prized first primary status and replace it at the front of the 2024 nominating calendar with South Carolina, a more diverse state that propelled him to the nomination in 2020. The Democratic National Committee approved the president’s plan, which would see New Hampshire share the second primary date with Nevada.

Yet New Hampshire law requires the state to hold its presidential primary a week before any others, and Republicans in charge of the state legislature and the governor’s office refuse to change it. And so national and state Democrats have been locked in a bitter stalemate that’s increasingly likely to end with New Hampshire holding an unsanctioned primary — one without Biden being on the ballot.

The visits by Sanders and two of the Democratic Party’s rising stars offer vehicles for touting the Biden administration’s accomplishments in a purple state that Democratic presidential candidates have carried — though sometimes narrowly — for nearly a quarter-century. Both Shapiro and Khanna are members of the Biden campaign’s national advisory board, and Sanders is an important validator for the president among progressives and young voters.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Labor Groups Target Hyundai, and Biden, Over Transition to Electric, Jonathan Weisman, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A coalition is pushing one of the world’s largest automakers to protect and train workers in return for federal money under President Biden’s signature laws.

A coalition of labor unions and civic groups in Georgia and Alabama will launch a pressure campaign on Monday targeting Hyundai’s electric vehicle plants and its clean energy suppliers, an effort that could also push the Biden administration to make good on its oft-repeated pledge to create not just jobs but “good union jobs.”

By focusing on the shift to electric vehicles at Hyundai, a nonunion carmaker expected to reap huge benefits from Mr. Biden’s prized initiatives, the coalition hopes to make inroads at other automakers, such as B.M.W. in South Carolina and Mercedes-Benz in Alabama, which similarly chose union-hostile territory for their American manufacturing bases.

The campaign could also raise the heat on domestic automakers in the middle of contract negotiations with the newly aggressive United Automobile Workers, who are focused on raising wages at electric vehicle suppliers like battery makers.

For Mr. Biden, the Hyundai campaign has political ramifications, in setting specific demands on one of the largest automakers in the world in one of the most important swing states in the 2024 presidential election, Georgia.

ny times logoNew York Times, What China’s Economic Woes May Mean for the U.S., Lydia DePillis, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). China’s growth has stalled and its real estate companies are imploding. But the fallout is probably limited, and there may be some upside for the U.S.

China FlagThe country’s growth has fallen from its usual brisk 8 percent annual pace to more like 3 percent. Real estate companies are imploding after a decade of overbuilding. And China’s citizens, frustrated by lengthy coronavirus lockdowns and losing confidence in the government, haven’t been able to consume their way out of the country’s pandemic-era malaise.

If the world’s second-largest economy is stumbling so badly, what does that mean for the biggest?

Short answer: At the moment, the implications for the United States are probably minor, given China’s limited role as a customer for American goods and the minor connections between the countries’ financial systems.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. and China Agree to Broaden Talks in Bid to Ease Tensions, Ana Swanson and Keith Bradsher, Aug. 28, 2023. Gina Raimondo, the U.S. commerce secretary, said the two sides would meet at least annually to discuss export restrictions and other issues.

The United States and China agreed on Monday to hold regular conversations about commercial issues and restrictions on access to advanced technology, the latest step this summer toward reducing tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Gina Raimondo, the U.S. commerce secretary, who is meeting with senior Chinese officials in Beijing and Shanghai this week.

The agreement to hold regular discussions is the latest move toward rebuilding frayed links between the two countries, a process that had already begun during three trips in the past 10 weeks by senior American officials: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and John Kerry, the president’s climate envoy.

“I think it’s a very good sign that we agreed to concrete dialogue, and I would say, more than just kind of nebulous commitments to continue to talk, this is an official channel,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview after four hours of negotiations with China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gina Raimondo Heads to China to Both Promote Trade, and Restrict It, Ana Swanson, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The commerce secretary’s trip may be the clearest demonstration yet of the Biden administration’s careful navigation of its relations with China.

gina raimondo 2019 CustomGina Raimondo, right, the secretary of commerce, is heading to China on Saturday with two seemingly contradictory responsibilities: a mandate to strengthen U.S. business relations with Beijing while also imposing some of the toughest Chinese trade restrictions in years.

The head of the Commerce Department is traditionally the government’s biggest champion for the business community both at home and abroad, promoting the kind of extensive ties U.S. firms have with China, the world’s second-largest economy.

commerce dept logoBut U.S.-China relations have turned chillier as China has become more aggressive in flexing its economic and military might. While China remains an important economic partner, American officials have increasingly viewed the country as a security threat and have imposed a raft of new restrictions aimed at crippling Beijing’s access to technology that could be used to strengthen the China FlagChinese military or security services.

The bulk of those restrictions — which have stoked anger and irritation from the Chinese government — have been imposed by Ms. Raimondo’s agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the Stock Market’s Summer Doldrums Are Not a Problem, Jeff Sommer, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). After a fierce rally largely propelled by a handful of tech stocks, the market’s rapid climb stalled in August. That setback could ultimately be a good thing, our columnist says.

The stock market’s monthslong rally stumbled this month. The thrill of seeing investment gains, with metronomic regularity, is gone.

I miss that feeling: scanning my investments and knowing in advance that the numbers will be larger than they were the last time I looked. But, in an important way, the market’s summer setbacks have been long awaited, and they come as something of a relief.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I want to see the rising stock market stop in its tracks. I’d prefer an endless move upward, making me, and everyone else, richer.

But that’s a fantasy. In the real world, upward stock market thrusts are always temporary. When stocks rise too quickly, they inevitably fall and sometimes crash. The stock market is essentially volatile, and for every big winner, dozens of casualties occur.

That’s why, as a second-best alternative, I hope for something more modest: a choppy market that experiences periodic downturns, but one that trends upward for very long periods.

That is, in fact, a rough description of what the stock market has been like for the past 25 years, according to statistics provided by Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for S&P Dow Jones Indices. In that period, the S&P 500 has returned 552.31 percent, or 7.8 percent, annualized, but to garner those handsome returns, an investor would have had to sit tight through countless downturns.

While August has so far been a negative month for the stock market, there have been no major downturns this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Chair’s Message Is Clear: The Fight Against Inflation Isn’t Over, Jeanna Smialek, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, said that the central bank was determined to tame inflation and stands ready to raise interest rates further, as needed.

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, used a closely watched speech to make clear that the central bank does not yet think it has gotten inflation fully under control and stands ready to raise interest rates further if needed.

Mr. Powell, who was delivering a speech Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual Jackson Hole conference in Wyoming, said that the Fed would “proceed carefully” as it decided whether to make further policy adjustments after a year and a half in which it had pushed interest rates up sharply.

But he also said that officials are warily watching economic data — which has been surprisingly resilient in recent months — as they try to assess how much their higher interest rates are really cooling the economy.

And Mr. Powell pledged in the remarks to stick with his quest to lower inflation “until the job is done.” Overall, the speech hammered home one main point: Fed policymakers are not ready to declare victory over inflation after a few good reports that have showed significant moderation in price increases. Officials want to see more progress to convince them that they truly have the situation under control.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Consumers Are Showing Signs of Stress, Retailers Say, Jordyn Holman, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Consumer spending remains resilient, but retailers’ latest earnings offered a glimpse into worrying shifts in shopping habits.

Consumers power the U.S. economy, and their capacity to spend has repeatedly defied predictions. In early 2020, after a short but severe recession caused by the pandemic, consumers splurged on big-ticket goods, from patio furniture to flat-screen TVs and home gym equipment. Then came what economists called “revenge spending” with experiences that were off-limits during lockdowns, like traveling and going to concerts, taking precedence.

Now there are signs that some shoppers are becoming more cautious, as Americans’ savings erode, inflation continues to bite and other factors tighten their wallets — namely, the resumption of student loan payments in October. Financial reports from retailers — including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Foot Locker and Nordstrom — that landed this week suggest a shift is underway, from consumers buying with abandon to spending more on their needs.

“Last year it was more psychological,” said Janine Stichter, a retail analyst at the brokerage firm BTIG. “But now that we’ve been dealing with inflation for as long as we have, I just think we’re getting to a point where savings are depleted.”

In the aggregate, consumer spending remains solid. Retail sales in July were stronger than expected, leading some economists to raise their forecasts for economic growth this quarter. A robust labor market and rising wages have buoyed consumer confidence.

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Courts, Crime, Guns, Civil Rights, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Three killed in racially motivated shooting at Florida store, sheriff says, Andrea Salcedo and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). A White man armed with a high-powered rifle covered in swastikas killed three Black people after opening fire Saturday at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., before fatally shooting himself, local law enforcement said, describing the attack as racially motivated.

“He targeted a certain group a people, and that’s Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters (R) said at a news conference Saturday evening.

Two men and one woman were killed in the shooting, he said. Authorities have not publicly identified the gunman but said he was in his early 20s and fatally shot himself after law enforcement arrived at the scene. No other people suffered gunshot wounds, and the shooter is believed to have acted alone, Waters said.

The FBI’s Jacksonville office is investigating the shooting as a hate crime, the agency said in a statement posted to social media. Images provided by authorities of an AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting showed white swastikas drawn on the weapon.

Waters said the shooter had left behind “several manifestos” in which he detailed his “disgusting ideology of hate.”

Those writings — one addressed to his parents, one to journalists and another to federal authorities — included many utterances of a slur for Black people and were the “words of a mad man,” Waters said in a televised interview on CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Justices Clash on Congress’s Power Over Supreme Court Ethics, Adam Liptak, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan sketched out dueling conceptions of their institution’s place in the constitutional structure.

john roberts oAs a young lawyer in the Reagan White House, John G. Roberts Jr., right, was tartly dismissive of the Supreme Court’s long summer break, which stretches from the end of June to the first Monday in October.

“Only Supreme Court justices and schoolchildren,” he wrote in 1983, “are expected to and do take the entire summer off.”

On the other hand, the young lawyer wrote, there is an upside to the break: “We know that the Constitution is safe for the summer.”

samuel alito frowing uncreditedThese days, members of the court find time to quarrel about the Constitution even in the warm months. The primary antagonists lately have been Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., above, and Elena Kagan, below left.

Elena Kagan O HRLast summer, they clashed over whether decisions like the one eliminating the constitutional right to abortion threatened the court’s legitimacy.

In recent months, the two justices have continued to spar, though on a different subject: whether Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate aspects of the court’s work.

The question is timely, of course, as news reports have raised ethical questions about, among other things, luxury travel provided to Justices Alito and Clarence Thomas. Those reports have led to proposed legislation to impose new ethics rules on the court.

Justice Alito, in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal last month, appeared to object, saying that “Congress did not create the Supreme Court.”

He added: “I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Once Rarely Seen, Gilgo Beach Suspect’s Family Now Barbecues on the Lawn, Corey Kilgannon, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). After Rex Heuermann was charged in a notorious string of murders, neighbors assumed his wife and children would vanish. They haven’t.

Until last month, the neighbors never saw much of the family living in the rundown house on First Avenue in Massapequa Park on Long Island.

But in the five weeks since the authorities charged the house’s owner, Rex Heuermann, in the Gilgo Beach serial killings, his wife and children have become unlikely fixtures in their neighborhood.

The family — Mr. Heuermann’s wife, Asa Ellerup, 59, and their children, Victoria, 26, and Christopher, 33 — slipped out of the house in July just before crowds of reporters and gawkers descended and investigators began to hunt for evidence in a search that lasted nearly two weeks.

But Ms. Ellerup and the children soon returned and quickly became a daily presence outside the house, sitting together on the front porch or working to put the place back together. She declined to speak to a reporter who recently stopped by.

Not so long ago, the family had a reputation as reclusive. Now, while they still have little contact with the neighbors, clouds of savory smoke regularly waft from their yard.

“They’re having barbecues on the front lawn — they never did anything like that before,” said Etienne de Villiers, 68, a retired New York City firefighter who lives next door. “Suddenly, they’re out there all the time.”

A lawyer representing the two children offered an explanation for the change in behavior: Investigators had left the house uninhabitable.

“It’s literally piled floor-to-ceiling with debris,” the lawyer, Vess Mitev, said. “It’s like someone broke in and tore the place apart.”

The unsolved Gilgo Beach case riveted the public for more than a decade, and Mr. Heuermann’s arrest on July 13 was a huge break in it. Now, a bizarre public battle is unfolding over the investigators’ search of his ramshackle home, with his family recently holding a news conference on the lawn.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Wild West spirit lives on in D.C., Colbert I. King, right, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). “A summer so lawless in D.C., it feels like the colbert king newestWild West” was the headline on a column I wrote on Aug. 28, 2015 — almost eight years ago. “Law-breaking takes place with impunity.” “The brazenness is staggering.” Words from days gone by.

The column noted that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had said repeat offenders were the city’s chief problem. Dozens of homicide suspects, she said, were under supervision pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the homicides. And almost half of them had prior gun-related arrests in D.C.

Didn’t D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III make similar headline-grabbing points this year before calling it quits and taking a job with the FBI? Indeed he did. At issue now, as back then, is what’s being done about the problem.

Colbert I. King: In D.C., many killers were previously jailed. We deserve better.

The point in calling attention to the eighth anniversary of that D.C. crime assessment is that the Wild West spirit alive in 2015 is still thriving and engulfing the city in broad daylight, ensnaring people of all ages.

ny times logoNew York Times, 3 Men Exonerated in New York, 30 Years After False Confessions, Hurubie Meko, Aug. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Prosecutors said the men had been wrongfully convicted in two cases. One involved a detective linked to the false confessions of the “Central Park Five.”

In the fall of 1992, Earl Walters, then 17, was brought to a Queens police station and questioned as a witness in a carjacking and murder. Mr. Walters was then interrogated for 16 hours, without a lawyer present, about something else: the robberies, abductions and assaults of two women. Eventually, he confessed to being a “reluctant participant” in those crimes.

Two years later, two other young men sat in interrogation rooms in Queens. The men, Armond McCloud and Reginald Cameron, had been arrested in the fatal shooting of Kei Sunada, a 22-year-old Japanese immigrant, in the stairwell of his apartment building in LeFrak City. After being questioned through the night, Mr. McCloud, then 20, and Mr. Cameron, then 19, confessed.

All three would later recant, saying investigators had coerced them into taking responsibility for the crimes.

Mr. Walters was convicted and served 20 years in prison before he was paroled in 2013. Mr. McCloud served 29 years before his release in January; Mr. Cameron pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served about nine years before his parole in 2003.

ny times logoNew York Times, Over 3,100 Charged With Pandemic Relief Fraud, Justice Department Says, Madeleine Ngo, Aug. 24, 2023 (print ed.). The department outlined several cases, including one in which the defendants were accused of using fraudulently obtained funds to solicit a murder.

For more than two years, Leon Haynes, a New Jersey tax preparer, told some of his clients that the federal government was giving out “free money” in the form of pandemic relief to people who owned businesses. According to federal prosecutors, Mr. Haynes filed more than 1,000 false tax forms, fraudulently claiming more than $124 million in Covid-19 employment tax credits for businesses that he and others owned.

Mr. Haynes was arrested at the end of July.

The complaint is one of several Covid-19 fraud cases detailed on Wednesday by the Justice Department, which has been trying to crack down on businesses and individuals who inappropriately pocketed federal relief aid.

As of this week, the federal government has charged 3,195 defendants for offenses related to pandemic fraud and seized more than $1.4 billion in relief funds, according to data released by the department.

That included the results of a three-month “sweep” to combat Covid-19 fraud, which ended in July and involved more than 50 U.S. attorneys offices and dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Artificial Intelligence Brings the Robot Wingman to Aerial Combat, Eric Lipton, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). An Air Force program shows how the Pentagon is starting to embrace the potential of a rapidly emerging technology, with far-reaching implications.

It is powered into flight by a rocket engine. It can fly a distance equal to the width of China. It has a stealthy design and is capable of carrying missiles that can hit enemy targets far beyond its visual range.

But what really distinguishes the Air Force’s pilotless XQ-58A Valkyrie experimental aircraft is that it is run by artificial intelligence, putting it at the forefront of efforts by the U.S. military to harness the capacities of an emerging technology whose vast potential benefits are tempered by deep concerns about how much autonomy to grant to a lethal weapon.

Essentially a next-generation drone, the Valkyrie is a prototype for what the Air Force hopes can become a potent supplement to its fleet of traditional fighter jets, giving human pilots a swarm of highly capable robot wingmen to deploy in battle. Its mission is to marry artificial intelligence and its sensors to identify and evaluate enemy threats and then, after getting human sign-off, to move in for the kill.

On a recent day at Eglin Air Force Base on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Maj. Ross Elder, 34, a test pilot from West Virginia, was preparing for an exercise in which he would fly his F-15 fighter alongside the Valkyrie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Three U.S. Marines Die in Air Crash in Australia, Yan Zhuang and Damien Cave, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Osprey aircraft, with 23 people on board, crashed during a training exercise near Darwin, Australia. Several others were seriously injured.

Three U.S. Marine Corps troops died Sunday after a military aircraft crashed near Darwin, Australia, during a routine training exercise. Five others have been transported to the Royal Darwin Hospital in serious condition.

The aircraft, an MV-22B Osprey that was transporting troops, crashed on Melville Island about 9:30 a.m. local time with 23 personnel on board, according to a statement from the Marine Rotational Force. That force has deployed to Australia every year since 2011 and now consists of 2,500 Marines.

The Marines were taking part in Exercise Predators Run, according to the statement, a joint military exercise also involving soldiers from the Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S.-Iran prisoner deal highlights plight of other foreign detainees, Miriam Berger, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). A potential prisoner swap deal between the United States and Iran — which “remains on track,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters this week — has renewed attention on the plight of other prisoners in Iran with Western passports who advocates say are detained as bargaining chips.

As an initial step in the emerging deal, a rare bright spot in U.S.-Iran relations, four Americans were moved from the harsh conditions of Iran’s Evin Prison to house arrest. The final exchange, which remains in process, is set to include the release of five Iranian prisoners in the United States and the freeing of $6 billion in oil revenue held in South Korea under U.S. sanctions, to be used for humanitarian purposes, those familiar with the talks said earlier this month.

Iran, U.S. advance deal to swap prisoners, free oil funds

As the deal takes shape, the families and supporters of other foreigners detained in Iran, many on charges that advocates and activists describe as spurious and ploys for diplomatic leverage, have urged that their cases remain in the public eye.

“The Islamic regime is targeting a certain group of people, individuals with foreign citizenship, in a systematic way,” said Gazelle Sharmahd, whose father, Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German citizen and U.S. permanent resident who ran a radio show that aired criticism of Iran’s government, is on death row in Iran, facing charges in connection to accusations of terrorism. “My father thinks only the U.S. government can get him out.”

Sharmahd held a sit-in this week in front of the State Department to protest her father’s apparent exclusion from the forthcoming deal. She was joined by the family of Shahab Dalili, an Iranian citizen and U.S. permanent resident, imprisoned in Iran since 2016.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon protested false Fox News report about fallen Marine, emails show, Paul Farhi, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The network quietly removed the story based on false claims from a congressman but did not apologize or run a correction.

The U.S. Marine Corps went up to the highest levels of Fox News last month to challenge a story that falsely claimed a fallen Marine’s family had to cover the cost of transporting her remains, emails obtained by The Washington Post show.

Fox quietly amended the digital story and then removed it from its website following more complaints from the Marines but still has not apologized or corrected the erroneous report, which had been based on a false claim quickly retracted by a congressman.

Department of Defense SealThe Marines’ communications with Fox were first reported by Military.com, which obtained the emails this week under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The July 25 FoxNews.com story relied on an account from freshman Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who stated that the family of Sgt. Nicole L. Gee had shouldered “a heavy financial burden” of $60,000 to retrieve her body from Afghanistan. Gee, 23, was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in the frantic final days of the U.S. withdrawal.

The story’s reporter, Michael Lee, quoted Mills calling the family’s supposed expenditures an “egregious injustice.” Neither Pentagon officials nor Gee’s family were quoted in the original story.

Marine Corps officials say the family did not face any financial burdens to have Gee’s body shipped to Arlington National Cemetery. They disputed the story in a series of emails to Fox executives — including Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace and editor in chief Porter Berry — shortly after the story was published.

“The allegations originally published turned out to be false, which I suspect Mr. Lee knew in the first place, and was the reason he did not seek comment from the Marine Corps,” wrote Marine Corps spokesman Maj. James Stenger in an email to the Fox executives.

Two days after his original comments to Fox, Mills walked back his claims in a statement in which he seemed to blame the Pentagon and the Gee family for being “in their time of grief, confused” about the costs associated with the transportation of Sgt. Gee’s remains. He said the Department of Defense “was able to provide clarification” about the matter.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Women Say Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Are Rife in Group for Realtors, Debra Kamin, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The powerful National Association of Realtors has ignored complaints, including those against the group’s president, current and former employees say.

One woman said the man put his hands down his pants in front of her. Another woman said the same man texted her a picture of his crotch. A third woman said she had a consensual relationship with the man, only to have him retaliate after it ended.

The man is Kenny Parcell, the president of the National Association of Realtors, a powerful nonprofit organization with more than $1 billion in assets Kenny Parcell, the current president of the National Association of Realtors, has been the focus of sexual harassment allegations since a former employee filed a lawsuit this summer (Photo from The National Association of Realtors).that controls access to nearly every American home listing. All three women, who worked at the Chicago-based group, said they were sexually harassed by Mr. Parcell, and described a pattern of behavior that included improper touching and lewd photos and texts.

Kenny Parcell, right, the current president of the National Association of Realtors, has been the focus of sexual harassment allegations since a former employee filed a lawsuit this summer (Photo via The National Association of Realtors).

Within the organization, known as N.A.R., and its affiliates, 29 employees and former leaders told The New York Times that even after years of complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and retribution by Mr. Parcell and other leaders, little changed. Many of these claims have begun to surface in recent weeks after Janelle Brevard, the former employee who said she had a relationship with Mr. Parcell, sued the group for racial and sexual discrimination and harassment.

“There is the sexual harassment, and then woven into it, this culture of fear,” said Stephanie Quinn, the organization’s former director of business meetings and events, who worked at N.A.R. for more than a decade. Ms. Quinn, who quit last year, said Mr. Parcell regularly expected hugs and attempted to arrange meetings with younger colleagues late at night. After an incident where she held out her palm to block a hug, he began questioning her authority over her employees and the decisions she was tasked to make, she said.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Older Adults Are Being Charged Over $300 for the New R.S.V. Vaccine, Dana G. Smith, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The shot is covered by Medicare Part D, but some with private prescription drug coverage are being asked to pay out of pocket.

Lucien Dhooge, 63, likes to get his flu shot early every year before being around college students at the University of Washington Tacoma, where he teaches law and ethics. This year, he decided to get the new vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus at the same time, so he made an appointment earlier this month for both shots at his local Walgreens in Gig Harbor, Wash.

But when he arrived at the pharmacy, he was told that the R.S.V. vaccine wasn’t covered by his insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. The out-of-pocket cost? About $330.

“I’m in pretty good health, I don’t have any pre-existing conditions and I’m willing to just take my chances,” Mr. Dhooge said, adding, “I’m not going to pay that kind of money out of pocket.”

When the Food and Drug Administration approved two R.S.V. vaccines earlier this year for adults aged 60 and up, they were heralded as a potentially lifesaving breakthrough. Every year, between 6,000 and 10,000 people in the United States over the age of 65 die from R.S.V., and 60,000 to 160,000 are hospitalized because of it. The vaccines, which are manufactured by Pfizer and GSK, are both over 80 percent effective at preventing lower respiratory symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, associated with an R.S.V. infection.
But currently, some insurance plans aren’t covering the cost, forcing people to pay hundreds of dollars if they want to be protected.

Amanda Jaffe, 69, went to her local pharmacy at the Safeway in Helena, Mont., to get the R.S.V. vaccine last week in anticipation of flying across the country next month. When the pharmacist told her the shot wasn’t covered by her Medicare Part B plan, “he seemed as surprised as me,” Ms. Jaffe said. Upon hearing the price (over $300), Ms. Jaffe thought “that’s ridiculous” and left without getting it.

Several common vaccines, including those for the flu and Covid-19, are included under Medicare Part B, which provides medical coverage. However, the R.S.V. vaccines, as well as a few others, including the vaccine for shingles, are covered under Medicare Part D, which pays for prescription drugs. As a result, Medicare enrollees without a Part D plan — roughly 16 million people — may have to pay for the R.S.V. vaccine out of pocket depending on their non-Medicare prescription drug coverage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mental Health Spending Surged During the Pandemic, Ellen Barry, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Americans’ use of mental health care pivoted to remote visits and increased considerably, a new study found. Economists think both changes are here to stay.

Use of mental health care increased substantially during the coronavirus pandemic, as teletherapy lowered barriers to regular visits, according to a large study of insurance claims published Friday in JAMA Health Forum.

From March 2020 to August 2022, mental health visits increased by 39 percent, and spending increased by 54 percent, the study found. Its examination of 1,554,895 claims for clinician visits also identified a tenfold increase in the use of telehealth.

The study covers visits for around seven million adults throughout the country who receive health insurance through their employers, so it excludes many patients with very severe mental illnesses, and it does not cover acute or residential care.

The increases are likely to be sustained, even as insurers weigh the benefit of continuing to pay more, said Christopher M. Whaley, a health care economist at the RAND Corporation and an author of the study.

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Simone Biles Wins a Record 8th U.S. All-Around Gymnastics Title, Carla Correa, Aug. 28, 2023. By now, it’s canon that Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time. The debate over that status largely ended years ago, when she began pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the sport.

Her consistency is also unmatched. Since 2013, Biles has earned 32 world championship and Olympic medals, even after removing herself from several finals at the Tokyo Games in 2021 to safeguard her health. The question usually isn’t whether Biles will win but rather by how much.

The answer at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Sunday was a margin of 3.9 points over the silver medalist, Shilese Jones. Biles’s victory also meant that she broke a 90-year record by becoming the first American gymnast, woman or man, to win eight national all-around titles. And, at 26, she is the oldest woman to ever win the event.

The national championships came just weeks after her return to elite competition following a two-year hiatus. She handily won a qualifying meet called the U.S. Classic earlier this month in Hoffman Estates, Ill. At the SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday, among a crowded and talented field, Biles looked better than ever.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prominent Scholar Who Claimed to Be Native American Resigns, Vimal Patel, Aug. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Andrea Smith, an ethnic studies professor, will leave the University of California, Riverside, in an unusual agreement that avoids an investigation.

There had been accusations for at least 15 years that Andrea Smith, a prominent ethnic studies professor, had falsely claimed to be Native American. Her scholarship was partly built on what she said was her Cherokee identity, but she never publicly — and scholars and former friends say, privately — offered a detailed explanation for her Cherokee claims.

Now, after a recent complaint by 13 faculty members, Professor Smith has agreed to retire from the University of California, Riverside, next year in an unusual separation agreement.

Signed in January, the agreement avoids an investigation into the faculty complaint, which accused her of false claims of Native identity that violated academic integrity. And it allows the university to sidestep legal battles that often come from firing tenured professors.

Dr. Smith can keep her position through August 2024 and will be allowed to teach classes until then. She will retain her retirement benefits and will have the honorary emeritus title, though that status will not be listed in the university’s directory. Riverside will pay up to $5,000 toward her legal costs of resolving the complaint.

“The negotiated separation agreement brings a timely conclusion to Professor Smith’s continued employment with the university,” John D. Warren, a university spokesman, said in a statement. “Investigations of a tenured faculty member for alleged misconduct have potential for litigation and appeals, and can unfold over the course of years.”

Professor Smith, who is not registered as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, did not respond to messages seeking comment. But in 2015, she posted a statement in which she lamented “violent identity policing.”

“I have always been, and will always be Cherokee,” she wrote. “I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true.”

While some Native scholars said the agreement was the first real accountability that Dr. Smith faced for her identity claims, they also lamented that the professor did not acknowledge deception.

And, they said, the university, in agreeing to not look into the accusations, allowed Dr. Smith to, yet again, evade a reckoning.
“She deflects, angles and wriggles — and here it is again,” said Philip Deloria, a professor at Harvard who studies Native American history and was Professor Smith’s colleague while the two were at the University of Michigan.

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Aug. 27

Top Stories

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy


At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Their hands don’t lie: Republican candidates trash the trial by jury, Ruth Marcus,

 

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The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).p

 

U.S. 2024 Republican Presidential Primaries

 

This combination of photos shows Republican presidential candidates, top row from left, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; bottom row from left, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson. (AP)

 

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

 

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

 

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Top Stories

   Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

World Crisis Radio, World Strategic Roundup and Activisim Recommendations: Twilight of Trump, Webster G. Tarpley, right, historian, commentator, Aug. 26, 2023 (129:41 mins.). In webster tarpley 2007Atlanta, MAGA boss is arrested for fourth time as mindless corporate media keep raving that indictments only make him stronger! Three Trump co-defendants allege he ordered their misdeeds, foreshadowing flipping to come;

Former President Donald J. Trump and several of his fellow defendants, in mug shots released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Atlanta (Photos by Fulton County Sheriff’s Office).Activating Fourteenth Amendment ban on insurrectionists holding federal office rapidly gains prestigious bipartisan support from scholars and elected officials; Need legal action now by states to banish Don from ballot well before primary voting starts in January 2024;

yevgeniy prigozhin battle gear apPrigozhin, right, ends as homicidal monster and his top staffers fall victim to assassination by Putin’s secret police; Wagner mercenary units, Putin’s Foreign Legion, decapitated and in disarray; Prigozhin’s epitaph is statement admitting that there was no NATO threat to Russia on eve of February 2022 invasion -- an embarrassing fact for Mearsheimer, Chomsky, RFK Jr., Wagenknecht and other avid appeasers;

Ukrainian forces capture Robotyne on road to Melitopol and Sea of Azov, widening the breach in the first Russian defense line; Repeated strikes on Moscow and targets inside Russia; Debate on how many axes of attack are optimal;

Leaders from Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Russia convene at the BRICS Summit in South Africa on Aug. 23 2023 (Pool photo).

brics logoBRICS may be viewed as a pressure group, a propaganda agency, a school of rhetoric, a brand of nostalgia, or a photo op, but they are incapable of joint action: no joint currency to challenge US dollar and no moral standing as they support the butcher of Ukraine, who is making them starve;

GOP debate shows absolute depravity of this moribund party; 60 years since Martin Luther King’s ”I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial; Trump’s rogue’s gallery photo depicts cornered kingpin snarling into the abyss.

Politico, Trump’s trial run: How an onslaught of court dates could sideline him from the campaign trail, Kyle Cheney, Aug. 26, 2023. The former president is a defendant in four criminal cases and three civil cases — and they could all go to trial before the 2024 election.

politico CustomDonald Trump’s path to the GOP nomination is littered with court dates. He is a defendant in seven pending cases: four criminal prosecutions and three civil lawsuits. Starting this fall and continuing through the first half of 2024, he is likely to face a near-constant string of trials that will overlap, and perhaps overshadow, the primary calendar.

The cases vary in their potential to interfere with Trump’s campaign. He is unlikely to attend his three civil trials, all of which are scheduled over the next six months. But he’ll be required to be in court for his four criminal trials across four jurisdictions, and those could last for weeks at a time while voting is underway.

On Monday, the schedule may crystallize further. That’s when the judge overseeing Trump’s federal case on election fraud has signaled she will choose a trial date. If she opts for a trial in early 2024, as prosecutors have requested, Trump’s already packed courtroom calendar will get much more complicated.

Here’s a look at what we know about Trump’s upcoming trials, the key variables that could shake them up and how they will intersect with the primaries, which begin in January.

New York business fraud lawsuit: Trial date: Oct. 2, 2023, New York City Before his criminal trials begin in earnest, Trump and his business empire will go on trial in a civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Tish James. The lawsuit alleges a raft of financial mismanagement and malfeasance.

 

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).p

The Waiola Church in flames during the devastating fires on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023 (Photo by Matthew Thayer of the Maui News via the Associated Press).

washington post logo Washington Post, Hawaii utility faces collapse as others delay on extreme weather risks, Evan Halper, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.). One after another, utilities confront massive liabilities for wildfires. With the Maui fire, Hawaiian Electric faces potential insolvency, accused of being slow to respond to threats of extreme weather.

The multibillion-dollar liabilities faced by Hawaiian Electric for the deadly wildfire in Maui — compounded by Maui County’s lawsuit against the utility on Thursday — are reverberating through the electricity industry and is forcing a reckoning for power companies and their customers, nationwide.
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Hawaiian Electric, which serves nearly all of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents, is careening toward insolvency, much like Pacific Gas & Electric did in California in 2019. Investors in the company are scrambling to sell their shares, and bond rating agencies are downgrading the Hawaii utility’s ratings because of its role in potentially causing or contributing to the most deadly U.S. wildfire in a century.

It is a pattern playing out with frequency across the West, and likely to spread to other states as much of the electricity industry finds itself unable or unwilling to meet the growing challenge of adapting power systems to extreme weather. In Texas this week, the power grid is again on the brink, with officials urgently asking customers to reduce usage, even after upgrades were made in the wake of the electricity system’s collapse in winter storms in 2021 that left 200 people dead.

In Hawaiian Electric’s case, it did not power down its lines in advance of expected hurricane-force winds, a major focus of lawsuits filed against it by Maui County and other litigants.

“It is just crazymaking that we all know we will back in the same place in a year, talking about another city destroyed, by another utility using the same excuses, the same playbook and probably even the same faulty equipment from the 1980s,” said Jay Edelson, an attorney who recently helped secure Oregon wildfire victims a landmark verdict against the power company PacifiCorp. “Why do these companies keep making these decisions? I don’t understand what is going on in these boardrooms.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Over 100 confirmed safe on Maui’s list of people missing after wildfire, Timothy Bella and Kyle Rempfer, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Maui County officials released a list of 388 people Thursday who are still “unaccounted for” after the devastating fires this month, as part of Hawaii’s efforts to “un-duplicate” people reported missing. Within a day of making the list public, at least 100 people were crossed off.

“They were reported to be safe and sound,” Steven Merrill, special agent in charge of the FBI Honolulu Division, said during a news conference Friday. “Again, we don’t take that for granted. We still understand that there’s hundreds more that we’re still looking for and we will not stop until we find those.”

The list of names released Thursday was “a subset of a larger list” that still needs to be vetted, Merrill added.

“The 388 names were names that we had more information on. That’s why we released that first,” Merrill said. “That being said, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we still have hundreds of other names where we still need more information.”

The validated list of names from the FBI released Thursday night is the first of its kind for unaccounted people since the Aug. 8 disaster in Lahaina, the country’s most devastating wildfire in a century.

“We’re releasing this list of names today because we know that it will help with the investigation,” Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said in a news release. “We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed. This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”

Before the validated list was released, the estimated number of unaccounted people had fluctuated this week in what Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) described as the FBI’s efforts to “un-duplicate” people reported missing.

After Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen said Monday that the number of missing was believed to be at around 850, Merrill estimated Tuesday that there were more than 1,000 in an unconfirmed list.

Merrill said that efforts to confirm those who are unaccounted for have been complicated due to a lack of detail in some reports and the wide array of lists of tracking the unaccounted-for individuals.

 joe biden afghan speech aug 16 2021

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s course for U.S. on trade breaks with Clinton and Obama, David J. Lynch, Aug. 27, 2023. The labor-friendly president, shown above in a file photo, has kept Trump tariffs while embracing active industrial policy, parting from decades of trade policy.

President Biden is making it clear that the United States’ rejection of full-throttle globalization during the Trump administration was no aberration, as he continues a remarkable break with decades of trade policy that spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations.
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Blending a tough-on-China stance with lavish federal subsidies for favored industries, the president is reshaping the U.S. approach to cross-border commerce to focus on the needs of Americans as workers rather than consumers.

Left out of the president’s strategy, to the irritation of many business groups, have been traditional trade deals, which gave American companies greater access to foreign markets in return for allowing producers in those countries to sell more goods in the United States. The White House says the old approach cost many American factory workers their jobs.

ny times logoNew York Times, What China’s Economic Woes May Mean for the U.S., Lydia DePillis, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). China’s growth has stalled and its real estate companies are imploding. But the fallout is probably limited, and there may be some upside for the U.S.

China FlagThe country’s growth has fallen from its usual brisk 8 percent annual pace to more like 3 percent. Real estate companies are imploding after a decade of overbuilding. And China’s citizens, frustrated by lengthy coronavirus lockdowns and losing confidence in the government, haven’t been able to consume their way out of the country’s pandemic-era malaise.

If the world’s second-largest economy is stumbling so badly, what does that mean for the biggest?

Short answer: At the moment, the implications for the United States are probably minor, given China’s limited role as a customer for American goods and the minor connections between the countries’ financial systems.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gina Raimondo Heads to China to Both Promote Trade, and Restrict It, Ana Swanson, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The commerce secretary’s trip may be the clearest demonstration yet of the Biden administration’s careful navigation of its relations with China.

gina raimondo 2019 CustomGina Raimondo, right, the secretary of commerce, is heading to China on Saturday with two seemingly contradictory responsibilities: a mandate to strengthen U.S. business relations with Beijing while also imposing some of the toughest Chinese trade restrictions in years.

The head of the Commerce Department is traditionally the government’s biggest champion for the business community both at home and abroad, promoting the kind of extensive ties U.S. firms have with China, the world’s second-largest economy.

commerce dept logoBut U.S.-China relations have turned chillier as China has become more aggressive in flexing its economic and military might. While China remains an important economic partner, American officials have increasingly viewed the country as a security threat and have imposed a raft of new restrictions aimed at crippling Beijing’s access to technology that could be used to strengthen the China FlagChinese military or security services.

The bulk of those restrictions — which have stoked anger and irritation from the Chinese government — have been imposed by Ms. Raimondo’s agency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: 5,000 pilots suspected of hiding major health issues. Most are still flying, Lisa Rein and Craig Whitlock, Aug. 27, 2023. Federal authorities have been investigating about 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal conditions that could make them unfit to fly.

Federal authorities have been investigating nearly 5,000 pilots suspected of falsifying their medical records to conceal that they were receiving benefits for mental health disorders and other serious conditions that could make them unfit to fly, documents and interviews show.

The pilots under scrutiny are military veterans who told the Federal Aviation Administration that they are healthy enough to fly, yet failed to report — as required by law — that they were also collecting veterans benefits for disabilities that could bar them from the cockpit.

Veterans Affairs investigators discovered the inconsistencies more than two years ago by cross-checking federal databases, but the FAA has kept many details of the case a secret from the public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How a whistleblower says Booz Allen Hamilton defrauded the government, David Nakamura, Aug. 27, 2023. Sarah Feinberg alleged Booz Allen Hamilton billed the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars in excess fees, leading to a $377 million settlement.

Only a few months into a new finance job, Sarah Feinberg felt stunned when a senior manager with a Northern Virginia-based defense contractor called federal auditors “too stupid” to notice overcharging, according to a federal complaint she filed.

Feinberg said she had warned the manager that the company, Booz Allen Hamilton, was losing tens of millions of dollars and, in her view, billing more than it should on U.S. government contracts to cover the losses.

During the ensuing nine months, she repeatedly raised concerns with senior executives, including internal compliance officials and the chief financial officer, according to the 37-page civil complaint she filed against Booz Allen in 2016 under the federal False Claims Act.

In July, the Justice Department, which investigated her complaint, announced that Booz Allen had agreed to pay $377 million — $209 million in restitution to the federal government and the rest in penalties — to settle the matter, one of the largest awards in a government procurement case in history.

Feinberg, who said she felt vindicated and was to receive nearly $70 million for making the case known to authorities, nevertheless could not help feeling doubts about whether justice was served.

Feinberg had filed a “qui tam” lawsuit in which whistleblowers are awarded a portion of any financial judgment or settlement as incentive to come forward with evidence of fraud against the U.S. government. While the system dates back to the Civil War, when authorities sought to root out corruption in the production of war materials, the number of whistleblowers has grown significantly since Congress strengthened the law in 1986

 

luis rubiales sky sports

washington post logoWashington Post, FIFA provisionally suspends Spanish soccer official Luis Rubiales, Victoria Bisset, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). FIFA on Saturday provisionally suspended the president of Spain’s soccer federation after he kissed a player following Spain’s World Cup final win over England.

spain flag CustomThe sport’s governing body said in a statement that Luis Rubiales, who has refused to resign despite international outrage over Sunday’s incident, would be barred from all football-related activities at a national and international level for an initial period of 90 days. The organization announced disciplinary action against Rubiales on Thursday.

Saturday’s decision also banned both Rubiales and the Spanish soccer federation, which has threatened legal action over the accusations, from contacting the player at the center of the allegations, Jenni Hermoso (shown above with Rubiales at the time of the kiss in a photo by Fox Sports).

In statements released Friday, the midfielder said she “never consented to the kiss he gave me,” adding that she and her family had come under pressure to publicly support Rubiales.

Dozens of players on Spain’s women’s team have said they will refuse to play further matches until the Spanish federation, RFEF, removes the president from his post.

Rubiales also faced criticism for grabbing his crotch at the end of the World Cup final while Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofía, 16, stood nearby.

 

Threats To U.S. Democracy


At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

At their debate Wednesday in Milwaukee, Republican presidential candidates raise their hands in answer to whether they would support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee if he's convicted in his criminal cases (Debate photo by Win McNamee of Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Their hands don’t lie: Republican candidates trash the trial by jury, Ruth Marcus, right, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). There were two surrenders ruth marcus twitter Customthis week — one by Donald Trump, and one to Donald Trump.

The second, by almost every Republican presidential candidate, was more important, more predictable and far more terrifying.

The signature moment of Wednesday’s debate was the raising of hands to pledge fealty to Trump over the rule of law, and if the ritual has become unsurprising at this point in Trump’s reign over the GOP, this particular manifestation bears noting.

Because the formulation put to the candidates — would you support Trump even if he were convicted by a jury? — was so stark, and the response so appalling. Every candidate on the stage — with the exception of former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and, depending on how you interpret his hand gestures, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — effectively declared that a trial by jury is just another American institution that must yield to the demands of Trump.

Pause to consider the implications of this answer. To answer that you would support Trump notwithstanding a jury verdict — to shoot up your hand in the eager manner of Vivek Ramaswamy or to gauge the room like a calculating Ron DeSantis — is to say: I do not trust the judgment of the American people.

Politico, Sanders hits at Cornel West over criticism of Biden, Kelly Garrity, Aug. 27, 2023. “There is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America,” Sanders said.

politico CustomSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hit back at third-party presidential hopeful Cornel West, after West knocked the prominent progressive for backing President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.

Some politicians are so fearful of former President Donald Trump retaking the White House that “they don’t really want to tell the full truth,” West said. “[Biden has] created the best economy that we can get. Is this the best that we can get? You don’t tell that lie to the people just for Biden to win,” West said in a clip played on CNN Sunday.

And while Sanders said he agrees it “certainly is not” the best economy the U.S. could create, he called on progressives to coalesce around Biden.

“Where I disagree with my good friend, Cornel West, is I think in these really very difficult times, where there is a real question whether democracy is going to remain in the United States of America. … I think we’ve got to bring the entire progressive community to defeat Trump or whoever the Republican nominee will be, [and] support Biden,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

However, progressives still must “demand that the Democratic Party, not just Biden, have the guts to take on corporate greed and the massive levels of income and wealth inequality that we see today,” Sanders added.

Going Deep with Russ Baker! Investigative Commentary: The Scary Truth About the GOP Candidates and Their Appeal, Russ Baker, right, founder of the investigative site Who, What W,hy and author of the best-selling Family of Secrets, Aug. 27, 2023. What russ baker cropped david welkerthe Fox debate revealed about whowhatwhy logohatred, fear and race.

Note: As I was preparing to publish the essay below, with its discussion of race and the GOP, a young white man attempted to enter the campus of a historically black college in Jacksonville, Florida, but was turned away by a security officer after refusing to identify himself. He then went to a nearby discount store, where he shot and killed three black employees. “This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters.

It’s hard to contemplate what follows without considering the impact of GOP rhetoric on impressionable people like the perpetrator.

It’s been a few days now since the first GOP debate on August 23, and pretty much everyone has already weighed in with their performance assessment. The spectacle had an average of 12.8 million viewers, which, without their star, Trump, was a larger than expected audience.

Me, I’m still wrestling with a notion I couldn’t get out of my mind.

It struck me as emblematic of larger issues that, while discussed endlessly, never result in clarity: the kinds of people who want to lead us, how they present themselves — and what all this says about their voters and advocates.

Each contender seemed to be auditioning for the role of apex predator — although they sometimes inadvertently morphed, however briefly, into a different, less alarming guise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Following Elon Musk’s lead, Big Tech is surrendering to disinformation, Naomi Nix and Sarah Ellison, Aug. 26, 2023 (print ed.).  Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against conspiracy theories ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against political misinformation, abandoning their most aggressive efforts to police online falsehoods in a trend expected to profoundly affect the 2024 presidential election.

An array of circumstances is fueling the retreat: Mass layoffs at Meta and other major tech companies have gutted teams dedicated to promoting accurate information online. An aggressive legal battle over claims that the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference.

And X CEO Elon Musk has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on the site formerly known as Twitter. In a sign of Musk’s influence, Meta briefly considered a plan last year to ban all political advertising on Facebook. The company shelved it after Musk announced plans to transform rival Twitter into a haven for free speech, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

The retrenchment comes just months ahead of the 2024 primaries, as GOP front-runner Donald Trump continues to rally supporters with false claims that election fraud drove his 2020 loss to Joe Biden. Multiple investigations into the election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump now faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Still, YouTube, X and Meta have stopped labeling or removing posts that repeat Trump’s claims, even as voters increasingly get their news on social media.

Trump capitalized on those relaxed standards in his recent interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, hosted by X. The former president punctuated the conversation, which streamed Wednesday night during the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 campaign, with false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and that the Democrats had “cheated” to elect Biden.

On Thursday night, Trump posted on X for the first time since he was kicked off the site, then known as Twitter, following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol. Musk reinstated his account in November. The former president posted his mug shot from Fulton County, Ga., where he was booked Thursday on charges connected to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “NEVER SURRENDER!” read the caption. .

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘Democracy’ was on the wall at the GOP debate. It was never in the conversation, Dan Balz, Aug. 27, 2023. The word dan balz column portrait“DEMOCRACY” was emblazoned in all-capital letters on the back wall of the stage at the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday, a seeming reminder of what is at stake in the 2024 election. Yet during two hours of bickering and disagreement among the eight participating candidates, the topic was never seriously addressed.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking at the 1963 March on Washington, DC.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking at the 1963 March on Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, An oral history of the March on Washington, the day that forced America to change, Clarence Williams and Washington Post Staff, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Post spent this summer interviewing March on Washington participants and voices from younger generations to tell the story of Aug. 28, 1963 — beyond Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream — and what it means now.

Sixty years ago, they converged on the National Mall from across the country, to demand their nation fulfill the promise of the American Dream for all.

Some arrived with intent, others by happenstance. They were college students and college dropouts, activists who organized in city offices and in sharecropping shacks, workers on Capitol Hill and at the post office.

An estimated 250,000 Americans in all arrived by bus, by train and on foot to participate in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Together, they forged a cornerstone moment in American history and in the struggle for African American equality that enslavement and Jim Crow had long denied.

[More than 1,800 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were.]

The March on Washington’s 60th anniversary arrives Monday, amid a rise in white nationalism, after George Floyd’s murder reignited protests and conversations about racism and inequality, and as the United States bitterly debates the teaching of the nation’s past.

“The only way you break the cycle,” said marcher Patricia Tyson, then 15 and now 75, “is to understand your history and talk about it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands gather to mark 60th anniversary of King’s March, Michael E. Ruane, Jasmine Hilton, Olivia Diaz and Fredrick Kunkle, Aug. 27, 2023. Speakers at Lincoln Memorial voice fears that King’s dream is newly threatened.

Sixty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led 250,000 people in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, thousands of people gathered again at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to declare that King’s dream is newly threatened and the fruits of his work are at risk.

On a sweltering August day much like the one in 1963, marchers came from distant cities to the site where King stood to assert that his crusade was being assailed, that court rulings, legislation and political extremism have undone or stymied the racial and social progress of the last half-century.

The day-long rally consisted of speeches by leaders of civil and human rights groups, and representatives from an array of other organizations. Its organizers made clear that the march was not a commemoration, but a reassertion of the demands made at the memorial in 1963.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the 1963 March on Washington Took Shape in Harlem, John Leland, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, a group of civil rights activists spent a summer planning an event many didn’t want to happen.

Sixty years ago, in the summer of 1963, a four-story townhouse on West 130th Street in Harlem became the headquarters for what was then the largest civil rights event in American history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. For one summer the house, a former home for “delinquent colored girls,” was a hive of activity — so frenetic that the receptionist twice hung up on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by mistake.

The march, which took place on Wednesday, Aug. 28, is now best remembered for Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and for the crowd of 250,000 filling the National Mall. But it would not have been possible without the organizing at 170 West 130th Street, led by Bayard Rustin, a brilliant tactician whose homosexuality and former communist ties made him a target both inside and outside the movement.

Under the aegis of the march’s patriarch, the labor leader A. Philip Randolph, Mr. Rustin brought together the heads of the five big civil rights organizations — the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, N.A.A.C.P., National Urban League, Congress of Racial Equality and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Together with Mr. Randolph, they became known as the Big Six.

It was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, following Dr. King’s tumultuous campaign to force the desegregation of Birmingham and President John F. Kennedy’s sending the National Guard to enable Black students to attend the University of Alabama; Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the N.A.A.C.P., was assassinated in June in Mississippi. As Courtland Cox, one of the march organizers, recalled, “People were sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they wanted to make a statement to the nation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A small-town feud in Kansas that sent a shock through American journalism, Jonathan O'Connell, Paul Farhi and Sofia Andrade, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The inside story of the events leading to the police raid on the Marion County Record, according to Editor Eric Meyer, Chief Gideon Cody and others.

The phone conversation between the journalist and the town’s newly hired police chief quickly turned contentious.

Tipsters had been telling Deb Gruver that Gideon Cody left the police department in Kansas City, Mo., under a cloud, supposedly threatened with kansas mapdemotion. So now she was asking him difficult questions on behalf of the weekly Marion County Record about the career change that had brought him to this prairie community of 1,900 people.

The chief bristled.

“If you’re going to be writing bad things about me,” they both recall him telling the reporter, “I might just not take the job.”

He also advised Gruver that he had hired a lawyer.

Cody later said he had been on guard during the conversation, having been warned by longtime residents that the Record could be overly aggressive in its reporting.

“If you live in Marion, you understand,” he told The Washington Post. “If you don’t live in Marion, you don’t understand.”

Gruver wouldn’t publish any of her reporting on Cody for months to come. But their confrontation in April marked an escalation in long-running tensions between a group of local journalists and the officials and community members they cover that would boil over through the summer.

The small-town intrigue might have stayed in a small town, though, had Cody not initiated a dramatic step earlier this month. Responding to a local businesswoman’s allegation that the paper had illegally accessed her driving record, Cody obtained search warrants from a magistrate judge and led half a dozen officers on an Aug. 11 raid of the Record’s offices and the home of its editor and publisher — seizing computers, servers, cellphones and other files.

The raid was so unusual, and so alarming in its implications for the news media, that it quickly exploded into an international story. Press-advocacy organizations universally condemned the raid as a breach of state and federal laws that protect the media from government intrusion. Within days, a caravan of TV news trucks was rumbling through Marion’s business district, a modest collection of low-slung brick buildings.

The emotional response to the raid was heightened by the sudden death of the editor’s 98-year-old mother, who had railed furiously at the officers sorting through her belongings at their home and collapsed a day later. The Record blamed her death on her agitation over the raid.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The two crises that have driven Republican populism in the 2020s, Jason Willick, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). When the pandemic hit and when Russia invaded Ukraine, a rally-around-the-flag effect waned as the responses became open-ended and success was left undefined.

Two international crises in the past four years have produced a populist backlash on the American right. The first was the coronavirus pandemic from 2020 to 2023, and the second is Russia’s war against Ukraine, from 2022 to the present.
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The political establishment is fretting over rising Republican skepticism about the role of the United States in the Ukraine war. That skepticism was vividly illustrated at the first GOP debate, where the few candidates who made the case for more U.S. aid to Ukraine are far behind in the primary polls. Donald Trump has made his call for swiftly ending the war a campaign centerpiece.

Meanwhile Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a distant second to Trump, owed his spot in the center of the debate stage in part to his early opposition to coronavirus shutdowns. DeSantis’s resistance to implementing some pandemic restrictions in Florida in 2020 made him a media target and, soon after, a national conservative figure.

The pandemic and the war have helped shape the modern Republican Party. To understand why Republican voters doubt the national security establishment driving Ukraine policy, it helps to understand why they came to doubt the public health establishment that drove policy during the pandemic. The parallels extend beyond populism’s mistrust of experts.

Both crises began with a rally-around-the-flag effect. As the virus tore through New York City in March 2020, the country broadly agreed on the necessity of mitigation measures. And when Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Americans united in support of Kyiv’s defenders.

But it wasn’t long before coronavirus restrictions became a culture-war flash point. Conservatives argued that the restrictions were burdening the economy, education and other parts of social and community life. The war in Ukraine has also polarized the public over time, with a recent CNN poll showing that 71 percent of Republicans oppose new funding for Kyiv. Among Democrats, 62 percent support new funding.

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More On Trump-Related Probes, Indictments

djt indicted proof

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigations: Donald Trump and His Co-Defendants in Georgia Are Already at Odds, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Some defendants have already sought to move the case to federal court, while others are seeking speedy or separate trials.

Even as former President Donald J. Trump and his 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case turned themselves in one by one at an Atlanta jail this week, their lawyers began working to change how the case will play out.

They are already at odds over when they will have their day in court, but also, crucially, where. Should enough of them succeed, the case could split into several smaller cases, perhaps overseen by different judges in different courtrooms, running on different timelines.

Five defendants have already sought to move the state case to federal court, citing their ties to the federal government. The first one to file — Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff during the 2020 election — will make the argument for removal on Monday, in a hearing before a federal judge in Atlanta.

Federal officials charged with state crimes can move their cases to federal court if they can convince a judge that they are being charged for actions connected to their official duties, among other things.

In the Georgia case, the question of whether to change the venue — a legal maneuver known as removal — matters because it would affect the composition of a jury. If the case stays in Fulton County, Ga., the jury will come from a bastion of Democratic politics where Mr. Trump was trounced in 2020. If the case is removed to federal court, the jury will be drawn from a 10-county region of Georgia that is more suburban and rural — and somewhat more Trump-friendly. Because it takes only one not-guilty vote to hang a jury, this modest advantage could prove to be a very big deal.

The coming fights over the proper venue for the case are only one strand of a complicated tangle of efforts being launched by a gaggle of defense lawyers now representing Mr. Trump and the 18 others named in the 98-page racketeering indictment. This week, the lawyers clogged both state and federal court dockets with motions that will also determine when the case begins.

Already, one defendant’s case is splitting off as a result. Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who advised M