Sept. 2022 News, Views

 

 

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in September 2022

 

September Update

Sept. 1

Top Headlines

 

President Joe Biden speaks outside Independence Hall on Sept. 1, 2022 (Associated Press photo).

 

More On U.S. Voting, Civil Rights Under Attack

 

Trump Probes, Reactions, Riot Threats

 

U.S. Education Issues

More On Ukraine War

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

More On Trump’s Supporters

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

 

U.S. Law, Military, Security, Crime

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 
U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Political Violence, Gun Laws

 

Top Stories

 

President Joe Biden speaks outside Independence Hall on Sept. 1, 2022 (Associated Press photo).

President Joe Biden speaks outside Independence Hall on Sept. 1, 2022 (Associated Press photo).

Politico, Biden takes another swipe at ‘MAGA Republicans’ in prime-time speech, Jonathan Lemire and Meridith McGraw, Sept. 1, 2022. Thursday night’s speech comes with familiar setting and framework, but the context is new: It’s the White House’s closing argument for the midterms.

politico CustomWith the political winds at his back, President Joe Biden commanded a prime-time stage Thursday in Philadelphia and singled out his predecessor as an example of the extremism that he believes “threatens American democracy” and fuels many of the Republicans on the ballot in November.

“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do no favor to pretend otherwise,” Biden declared. “We have to be honest with each other and ourselves: too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal.

Just hours earlier, the latest hearing played out in a Florida courtroom over the boxes of classified documents found in Trump’s Palm Beach estate. A federal judge indicated she would consider temporarily barring Justice Department investigators from reviewing seized materials. And as Biden forcefully addressed election deniers and the rise in political violence, his predecessor spent the morning defending Jan. 6 rioters. He vowed, should he run and be re-elected, to offer “full pardons” and a formal apology to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to overturn the results of the election and now face charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump vows pardons, government apology to Capitol rioters if he’s elected, Mariana Alfaro, Sept. 1, 2022. The comments came on the same day President Biden was delivering a prime-time address warning of the threat to democracy from “MAGA Republicans” and election deniers.

Former president Donald Trump said he would issue full pardons and a government apology to rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and violently attacked law enforcement to stop the democratic transfer of power.

“I mean full pardons with an apology to many,” he told conservative radio host Wendy Bell on Thursday morning. Such a move would be contingent on Trump running and winning the 2024 presidential election.

Supporters of the former president attacked the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college win in the 2020 election, the worst attack on the seat of democracy in more than two centuries. The insurrection left four people dead and an officer who had been sprayed with a powerful chemical irritant, Brian D. Sicknick, suffered a stroke and died the next day. Some 140 members of law enforcement were injured as rioters attacked them with flagpoles, baseball bats, stun guns, bear spray and pepper spray.

 

 

thomas webster dc police

D.C. Police body-camera footage shows Marine veteran and retired NYPD officer Thomas Webster scream profanities and attack officers during the Jan. 6 riot. (Video: U.S. Attorney’s Office)

washington post logoWashington Post, NYPD veteran who assaulted police receives longest Jan. 6 sentence yet: 10 years, Tom Jackman, Sept. 1, 2022. Body-camera video shows former NYPD cop attack police during Capitol riot, DOJ says. The punishment for Thomas Webster is the stiffest so far for a Capitol riot defendant.

A former New York City police officer and Marine Corps veteran, who swung a flagpole at police before tackling one officer and yanking his gas mask off during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday, the longest sentence handed down so far among the more than 860 people charged in the insurrection.

Thomas Webster, 56, of Goshen, N.Y., was the first riot defendant facing the felony charge of assaulting an officer to try his luck with a jury. Twelve others have pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Webster took the witness stand at his trial and testified that he was acting in self-defense, saying D.C. police officer Noah Rathbun had instigated the fight.

Video showed Webster yelling at police on the Lower West Plaza of the Capitol, as officers struggled to maintain a perimeter outside the building. Rathbun then pushed Webster in the face — Rathbun testified his hand slipped off Webster’s shoulder — before Webster swung and smashed a Marine Corps flagpole on a bike rack and then tackled Rathbun. Webster pulled the officer’s gas mask off, causing Rathbun to begin choking on tear gas, the officer testified.

The jury took three hours before finding Webster guilty in May of the assault and four other felony charges.
Thomas Webster, left, is seen in this still image from a body camera, attacking D.C. Police Officer Noah Rathbun outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Image from Government’s Sentencing Memorandum to the US District Court for the District of Columbia)

In the government’s sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hava Mirell said Webster’s argument that “a 20-year NYPD veteran believed he was entitled to retaliate with deadly and dangerous force against the vulnerable and non-violent Officer Rathbun is not only absurd, but dangerous. It may cause others to follow suit and use violence against an officer because of a political grievance.”

 djt fbi evidence mar a lago

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump’s cache of stolen classified files resembles those of America’s most notorious spies, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallintelligence officer and NSA analyst, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2022. Trump’s treason may have led to deaths of U.S. informants and intelligence assets in Saudi Arabia and Russia. Trump’s cache of stolen classified wayne madesen report logofiles resembles those of America’s most notorious spies.

Photographic evidence of the classified documents Donald Trump had strewn around Mar-a-Lago presents the U.S. Intelligence Community with the shocking depth and breadth of the compromise by Trump and his associates, Kash Patel and John Solomon, right, of America’s most sensitive intelligence.

john solomonAs damage assessment teams from across 17 U.S. intelligence agencies conduct in-depth analyses of compromised intelligence sources, technical methods, and relationships with foreign intelligence services, federal law enforcement photographic evidence of unprotected classified documents at Mar-a-Lago will give the most seasoned U.S. counterintelligence professional pause.

The cache of documents resembles those seized from America’s most notorious spies, including Jonathan Pollard, Robert Hanssen, Aldrich Ames, shown below left in a mug shot, and John Walker.

A photograph of the files on the floor at Mar-a-Lago was contained in a Department of Justice filing to federal Judge Aileen Cannon. A naturalized citizen born in Cali, Colombia, Cannon was selected by Trump’s lawyers within the U.S. District Court Circuit for South Florida after engaging in a favorable judge-shopping spree.

The gambit of Trump’s legal team is to stall further legal action against him and the aldrich ames muggovernment’s damage assessment efforts by arguing for the appointment of a third-party “special master” to oversee a document filtering process.

Trump elected to have such information stored in unsecured locations around Mar-a-Lago, which sees heavy traffic of foreign nationals. Many of the documents seized at the Palm Beach location were marked NOFORN, which means Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals.

It is the HCS-P files that may have caused the most damage to America’s Human Intelligence sources. There is informed speculation that Jared Kushner shared critical HUMINT with his friend and financial benefactor — to the tune of $2 billion — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), right. The October 2, 2018 grisly assassination of Washington Post mohammed bin salman al saudcolumnist Jamal Khashoggi and the torture and beating of several Saudi princes and businessmen by MbS’s ruthless secret police may be a by-product of the compromise of HUMINT to the Saudis.

In March, MbS carried out a mass execution of 81 people, 41 of whom were Shi’as, for what the Saudi Interior Ministry described as “terrorism.” How many of those executed had been U.S. intelligence assets may never be known but Kushner’s reported compromise of U.S. classified information to MbS may have placed some Saudis or citizens of other countries on MbS’s execution list.

There are also questions surrounding the suspicious deaths of several Russian oligarchs subsequent to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of these deaths fit a pattern when it comes to Putin silencing those who are opposed to his policies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Keeps Door Open to Special Master in Trump Documents Inquiry, Patricia Mazzei, Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage, Sept. 1, 2022. A judge signaled that she remained open to granting Donald Trump’s request to appoint an independent arbiter to examine materials from the Mar-a-Lago search. She notably did not direct the F.B.I. to stop working with the files, and she indicated that she would unseal a more detailed inventory of what was seized.

A federal judge signaled on Thursday that she remained open to granting former President Donald J. Trump’s request to appoint an independent arbiter to go through documents the F.B.I. seized from him last month, but stopped short of making a final decision.

aileen cannonAfter a nearly two-hour hearing, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, right, of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, reserved judgment on the question of whether to appoint a so-called special master in the case, saying she would issue a written order “in due course.”

Notably, Judge Cannon did not direct the F.B.I. to stop working with the files, which the Justice Department has said have already undergone a preliminary review by law enforcement officials.

Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump in 2020, also indicated that she would unseal a more detailed list of the documents the F.B.I. took during its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. She had earlier ordered the Justice Department to provide the list to Mr. Trump’s legal team at its request. It was not clear when it would become public.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. life expectancy down for second straight year, fueled by covid-19, Akilah Johnson and Sabrina Malhi, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Life expectancy in the United States fell in 2021 for the second year in a row, reflecting the merciless toll exacted by covid-19 on the nation’s health, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2This is the biggest continuous decline in life expectancy at birth since the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. Americans can now expect to live as long as they did in 1996, according to provisional data released by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, life expectancy dropped from 77 years in 2020 to 76.1 years in 2021.

The biggest decline was among Native Americans, whose life expectancy in 2021 plummeted to 65, the age of eligibility for Medicare; in a single year, Native Americans forfeited nearly two years of life. White people had the second-biggest drop, losing a full year of life expectancy, while Black people lost 0.7 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC advisers recommend new coronavirus boosters targeting omicron, Lena H. Sun, Sept. 1, 2022. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to endorse the recommendation on the reformulated vaccine within hours, allowing some clinicians, pharmacies and other providers to begin administering shots as early as this weekend.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended that millions of Americans, including those as young as 12, should get an omicron-targeting coronavirus booster shot to bolster defenses against serious illness and death during a potential fall or winter rise in covid-19 cases.

The vote was 13-1 in favor of updated boosters from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to endorse the recommendation on the reformulated vaccine within hours, allowing some clinicians, pharmacies and other providers to begin administering shots as early as this weekend.

Thursday’s action, along with authorization of the shots a day earlier by the Food and Drug Administration, marked another turning point in the pandemic and reflected the persistent struggle to tamp down illness and death 2½ years since the pandemic dawned.

Several members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices expressed concern about the lack of clinical data about the reformulated boosters, but they also noted the harm in waiting for clinical data until November.

Matthew Daley, a physician at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, said the cost of waiting until later November to roll out the updated booster shot could be an additional 9,700 deaths and 137,000 hospitalizations, based on projections presented at the day-long meeting.

“I think that is the tension that I feel for sure,” Daley said. But with the FDA decision, “we’re now in the position where we have millions of doses of bivalent vaccines that are ready and available. And I think they’re going to be an effective tool for disease prevention this fall and into the end of the winter.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Most U.N. Inspectors Leave Embattled Nuclear Plant, Andrew E. Kramer, Sept. 1, 2022. Part of the U.N. ukraine flagmission departed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after roughly four hours, leaving five experts behind to continue assessing its safety.

Here’s what we know:

  • Part of the U.N. mission departed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after roughly four hours, leaving five experts behind to continue assessing its safety.
  • The inspectors braved shelling as they crossed the front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
  • The Zaporizhzhia plant deployed emergency backup measures after it was struck by shelling.
  • Pencil, chalk and first-aid kits: Ukrainian children return to school in the midst of war.
  • Putin pays respects to Gorbachev, but won’t attend his funeral, the Kremlin says.
  • Russia is taking drastic measures to fill its military ranks, the U.S. says.
  • A Russian paratrooper seeking asylum in France describes disarray in Putin’s military.

 

U.S. Voting, Civil Rights Under Attack

 

brian sicknick

washington post logoWashington Post, A second man pleads guilty to Jan. 6 assault on officer Sicknick, who died of natural causes the next day, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 1, 2022. A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Thursday to a chemical-spray assault on three police officers in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, including Brian D. Sicknick, above, who later collapsed and died the following day.

 

julian khater george taniosIn a plea deal with federal prosecutors, Julian Khater, above left, a smoothie-shop owner of State College, Pa., admitted to assaulting and injuring law enforcement officers with a dangerous weapon. Along with co-defendant George Tanios, above right, Khater had faced a 10-count indictment that included felony charges of rioting and obstructing Congress’s confirmation of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Tanios pleaded guilty on July 27 to reduced misdemeanor charges.

Khater pleaded guilty to counts punishable by up to 20 years in prison but faces a likely sentence of 78 to 97 months under federal guidelines negotiated with prosecutors. He has spent 17 months behind bars since his arrest and will be sentenced Dec. 13.

Khater’s plea resolves one of the most high-profile attacks on police in the Jan. 6 riot, in which nearly 140 defendants have been charged with felony assault against an officer.

Childhood friends Khater, 33, and Tanios, 40, deployed chemical spray against officers holding back a violent crowd on the West Terrace of the Capitol, injuring Sicknick and others at a thin point in police lines.

  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 thirty-five years, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas (r).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win, emails show, Emma Brown, Sept. 1, 2022. The conservative activist and wife of the Supreme Court justice emailed lawmakers in two states in the weeks after the election.

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory not only in Arizona, as previously reported, but also in a second battleground state, Wisconsin, according to emails obtained under state public-records law.

kathy bernierThe Washington Post reported this year that Ginni Thomas emailed 29 Arizona state lawmakers, some of them twice, in November and December 2020. She urged them to set aside Biden’s popular-vote victory and “choose” their own presidential gary tauchenselectors, despite the fact that the responsibility for choosing electors rests with voters under Arizona state law.

The new emails show that Thomas also messaged two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin: state Sen. Kathy Bernier, left, then chair of the Senate elections committee, and state Rep. Gary Tauchen, right,. Bernier and Tauchen received the email at 10:47 a.m. on Nov. 9, virtually the same time the Arizona lawmakers received a verbatim copy of the message from Thomas. The Bernier email was obtained by The Post, and the Tauchen email was obtained by the watchdog group Documented and provided to The Post.

Thomas sent all of the emails via FreeRoots, an online platform that allowed people to send pre-written emails to multiple elected officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jan. 6 Panel Calls Gingrich to Testify, Saying He Had Role in Trump Plot, Luke Broadwater, Sept. 1, 2022. In a letter to the former House speaker, the select committee said the Georgia Republican had deliberately incited anger among voters with false claims of election fraud.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Thursday asked former Speaker Newt Gingrich to sit for a voluntary interview about his involvement in former President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

In a letter to Mr. Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who held the speakership in the late 1990s, the committee said its investigators had obtained evidence that he was in contact with senior advisers to Mr. Trump about television advertisements that amplified false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and other aspects of the scheme to block the transfer of power, both before and after a mob attacked the Capitol.

“Some of the information we have obtained includes email messages that you exchanged with senior advisers to President Trump and others, including Jared Kushner and Jason Miller, in which you provided detailed input into television advertisements that repeated and relied upon false claims about fraud in the 2020 election,” Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the committee, wrote in a letter to Mr. Gingrich.

“These advertising efforts were not designed to encourage voting for a particular candidate,” Mr. Thompson added. “Instead, these efforts attempted to cast doubt on the outcome of the election after voting had already taken place. They encouraged members of the public to contact their state officials and pressure them to challenge and overturn the results of the election.”

 

Joe President Joe Biden addresses the nation from Philadelphia (Photo by Jim Watson for AFP via Getty Images).

Joe President Joe Biden addresses the nation from Philadelphia (Photo by Jim Watson for AFP via Getty Images).

Steady, Commentary: Precarious Democracy, Dan Rather, right, and Elliot Kirschner, Sept. 1, 2022. President Biden frames the danger — and the dan rather 2017midterms. The backdrop for President Joe Biden’s address tonight should serve as a stark reminder: Democracy is always precarious, and a more perfect union is always a work in progress.

dan rather steady logoEven before this nation’s founding, as delegates gathered in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and again to draft the Constitution, there was no guarantee that their labors would produce a viable nation, or an enduring one.

The United States that emerged was one of high ideals that were tragically unmatched by reality. Enfranchisement was severely limited, especially according to gender and race. And the great original sin of America, slavery, was written into law.

It is essential that we remember where we came from in order to make sense of the present and the fight for a better future.

We glorify the past and minimize the suffering that progress demanded at our peril. Many we now revere as American heroes understood that democracy could never be taken for granted and could always be improved.

They saw injustice and were not silent.

They saw challenges and were not daunted.

They saw a future and refused to give up on hope.

People like Lincoln, Dr. King, Eleanor Roosevelt, countless others of fame, and millions more who made change possible were not only idealists, they were organizers, strategists, and technicians. They could summon soaring rhetoric but always in the service of action.

From picket lines to battle lines, from the ballot box to the classroom, from the halls of government to the wards of a county hospital, the bonds of citizenship and the protections of our freedoms are forged in the courage and commitment of sustained engagement.

It mattered less what Biden said tonight than that he was saying something. We face a moment of inflection that threatens the continuation of our republic. As with destructive forces of the past, it is essential to name the threat. And Biden wanted to do just that. If there were a drinking game for every time Biden said, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” we would be well past intoxicated.

This is a president who is eager to use the bully pulpit to define the political battleground. For all the high ideals that infused his words tonight, make no mistake: Biden had a laser focus on the midterm elections, just two months away. After a summer of racking up legislative victories, he has seen his poll numbers rise along with the prospects of Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

To portray “MAGA Republicans” as instigators of violence, including against law enforcement, is to state the facts and recognize a grave threat to this nation. To call out the lies that are undermining the integrity of our election is to shine a spotlight on a rising tide of anti-democratic forces. To stand up in the face of conspiracy theories is to highlight the importance of the truth.

But these efforts are also about securing votes and putting political opponents on the defensive. Energy, President Biden is betting, is contagious. And he believes there is an energy in the nation now to rally for our democracy. He believes Democrats can peel off just enough Republicans and win over independents to give his agenda new life in the next Congress. We shall see. Many factors, including the economy and inflation (which seems to be improving), will play a role as well.

The midterm election season has now begun in earnest. It will take place amid a news cycle of a former president under investigation for serious crimes and a congressional inquiry into a violent insurrection. There is a bloody war in Europe and an unsettled economic picture. What happens in November will determine the future of this nation in profound ways that reach the very heart of our democracy. The stakes are that high, as Biden tried to make clear.

But another thing is also clear: He thinks that his party can win. And that running flat out and directly against MAGA Republicans — and for the “soul of the nation” — is a path to victory.

Recent Headlines

 

President Biden talks about his plan to reduce gun crime Tuesday at an event in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque for Reuters.)President Biden talks about his plan to reduce gun crime Tuesday at an event in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque for Reuters.)

 

More On Trump Probes, Reactions, Riots, Supporters

 

christina bobb resized

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. filing points to new legal trouble for Trump and lawyers, experts say, Perry Stein, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 1, 2022. The evidence laid out in the filing could build a case that Trump attorneys Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, above, obstructed the government’s investigation into documents taken to Mar-a-Lago.

There’s no way to predict whether the Justice Department will ultimately pursue charges against the former president or his associates. But in a court filing Tuesday night, government lawyers recounted numerous instances in which Trump’s lawyers allegedly misled government officials during the investigation, and in which Trump or his team appear to have haphazardly handled materials that contained national security secrets.

The evidence laid out in the filing, experts said, could build a legal case that Trump attorneys Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb obstructed the government’s investigation, allegedly telling FBI agents and prosecutors that they had handed over all classified documents when in fact many remained in Trump’s possession.

Politico, Judge considers temporary limit on DOJ access to Trump documents, Josh Gerstein, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu, Sept. 1, 2022. Government lawyers argue in hearing that there’s ‘evidence of three significant federal crimes’ but judge may allow special review.

A federal judge indicated Thursday that she’s seriously considering temporarily barring Justice Department investigators from reviewing material politico Customseized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, right, suggested that she’s mulling imposing that restriction, while potentially allowing an exception for the intelligence community to continue reviewing national security risks from the potential exposure of the seized documents.

aileen cannonJustice Department attorneys pushed back sharply against that outcome, warning against any disruption to their ongoing criminal investigation of Trump’s handling of classified documents. Cannon, who previously said she’s inclined to appoint an outside review of the materials seized form Trump’s estate, appeared undeterred during a 90-minute hearing that featured arguments from DOJ counterintelligence officials and Trump’s legal team.

Justice Department attorneys repeatedly pleaded with Cannon not to interrupt their ongoing criminal probe, emphasizing that the search warrant executed on Aug. 8 was clearly valid and authorized to obtain “evidence of three significant federal crimes.”

“He is no longer the president and because he is no longer the president he did not have the right to take those documents,” said Jay Bratt, the chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence division. “He was unlawfully in possession of them…This plaintiff does not have an interest in the classified and other presidential records.”

Cannon, a Trump appointee, said she was concerned about a couple of instances in which the investigative team had flagged potentially privileged material that was not screened out during the initial review of records by the DOJ “filter team” assigned to prevent such occurrences. She also indicated she might support a special master with broad purview to screen documents for any potentially subject to executive privilege claims by Trump — despite DOJ’s argument that no such claim could ever be upheld.

 

lindsey graham npr

ny times logoNew York Times, Lindsey Graham Can Be Questioned About Election Activity, Richard Fausset, Sept. 1, 2022. Judge Says, Prosecutors in Atlanta have called Mr. Graham to testify before a special grand jury investigating efforts to overturn former President Trump’s election loss.

Prosecutors in Atlanta have called the Republican senator to testify before a special grand jury investigating efforts by Donald J. Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss.

In a setback for Senator Lindsey Graham, a federal judge ruled on Thursday that prosecutors can ask him about certain elements of his November 2020 phone calls with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state. Mr. Raffensperger has said that in those calls, Mr. Graham suggested rejecting mail-in votes in the presidential election from counties with high rates of questionable signatures.

The order from U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May must now be taken up for consideration by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is the latest twist in a protracted legal drama in which Mr. Graham has sought to avoid appearing before a special grand jury in Atlanta that is investigating efforts by Donald J. Trump and his allies to overturn Mr. Trump’s narrow loss in the state in 2020.

Mr. Graham’s phone calls to Mr. Raffensperger were followed, weeks later, by a call from Mr. Trump himself, who asked Mr. Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes to put him over the top.

Mr. Graham has argued that he should not have to comply at all with a subpoena to testify before the special grand jury. His lawyers raised issues of sovereign immunity and the fact that Mr. Graham is “a high-ranking government official.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago filing reveals damning details on the Trump papers saga, Editorial Board, Sept. 1, 2022. Americans following the Mar-a-Lago search saga have, until this week, had to imagine what all the fuss was about, based on written descriptions of what the FBI found when it scoured former president Donald Trump’s home on Aug. 8. That changed late Tuesday, when the Justice Department released a photograph showing several sets of papers labeled “Top Secret/SCI,” in menacing red-lettered folders, strewn on a carpeted floor alongside a cardboard box containing at least one framed Time magazine cover.

The image of materials apparently found in the so-called 45 Office, Mr. Trump’s post-presidential working space, speaks powerfully to the grave concerns that appear to have driven Attorney General Merrick Garland to approve the search. Worse for Mr. Trump, the government included it in a court filing that provided the clearest accounting yet of the extent to which, according to the government’s narrative, the Trump team delayed the investigation — and might have deceived the investigators.

The DOJ’s filing came in an official response to Mr. Trump’s lawyers, who asked a federal judge for special review of the documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. The government made a persuasive case that, because the United States, not the former president, owns the papers in question, he lacks standing to request judicial relief or oversight. Along the way, the Justice Department revealed several alarming details about the probe.

Not only did Mr. Trump’s representatives neglect to turn over all the documents taken from the White House, they did so multiple times. First, they furnished 15 boxes to the National Archives. Then, after a grand jury subpoena, they provided a single additional envelope they said they had found after a thorough search. Once the FBI conducted its own search, investigators uncovered more than twice the amount of materials than were in the envelope. Some of these papers were in the storage room that the representatives insisted was the only location records had been placed. Some of them were elsewhere.

A federal judge unsealed a redacted affidavit last week, which the Justice Department had used to justify its search, and it included a reference to potential obstructive behavior. Now, the public knows more about what is behind the suspicion. Mr. Garland’s decision to inspect Mar-a-Lago looks more sensible and less precipitous than many had rushed to charge in the days following the FBI search.

In the weeks since the FBI search, Mr. Trump’s defenders have argued that the former president might have declassified the documents or that they were subject to executive privilege. Yet the Trump team never made these arguments as investigators sought their return, the government’s Tuesday filing said, suggesting that they are after-the-fact justifications rather than serious legal arguments.

Concerns about Justice Department politicization look less credible. Separately, the DOJ has also placed new restrictions on administration-appointed employees preventing them from attending fundraisers or campaign events, an additional safeguard of the department’s independence.

There is still a huge amount the public does not know about the Trump documents case, such as the potential harm of having these papers in such insecure circumstances, and big questions the nation’s leaders will have to consider, such as whether prosecuting a former president — and possible 2024 candidate — would be good for the country. The reasonable approach is to wait and watch; Mr. Garland has earned the public’s patience.

djt confidential markings

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The photo of classified documents from Trump’s resort, annotated, Philip Bump, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The Justice Department submitted the photograph as part of a court filing. Here’s what we learned from it.

Now we get to the heart of the matter: what investigators found. Let’s start with that document at the bottom center of the photo. It has a cover sheet indicating that it is classified as “secret.” The government has default cover sheets for various classification levels, ranging from a blue “confidential” classification to an orange “top secret.”

You’ll notice that the documents with the “TOP SECRET/SCI” markings in the photo have a yellow border and not an orange one. Similarly, the document at the bottom center has an orangeish-red-bordered cover sheet (not a purely red one) and is marked “SECRET/SCI.” That “SCI” is important — as are other markings on the cover sheet that provide more information about the document’s classification.

Politico, Trump team makes its 11th hour plea for independent review, Josh Gerstein, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The filing argues the ex-president’s team hasn’t had fair insight into what the DOJ is doing. But it’s also notable for what is omitted.

Donald Trump’s lawyers contended Wednesday that the Department of Justice is trampling on his rights and demanded an independent review of materials the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

politico CustomBut the former president’s lawyers sidestepped the most serious obstruction-of-justice claims prosecutors aired against him just hours earlier, and Trump’s legal team notably avoided echoing an assertion their client resurfaced earlier in the day: that he had declassified the documents at issue in the dispute.

In a 19-page court filing, Trump’s attorneys insisted that an outside “special master” should consider whether any of the materials seized from Trump’s estate are subject to executive privilege. They argued that they couldn’t simply accept the Justice Department’s word that it had carefully screened out any attorney-client privileged records, particularly because investigators have not yet provided a detailed inventory of the items seized from Mar-a-Lago.

“There is no guarantee that the ‘limited set’ of potentially privileged materials identified by the Privilege Review Team constitutes all privileged materials among the Seized Materials,” Trump’s attorneys Lindsey Halligan, James Trusty and Evan Corcoran wrote as they pushed U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon to appoint an outsider to conduct a review.

 

kellye soRelle lawyers for trump

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Lawyer for Oath Keepers Is Arrested in Connection With Jan. 6 Attack, Alan Feuer and Ken Bensinger, Sept. 1, 2022. The top lawyer for the Oath Keepers militia, who was with the group’s leader outside the Capitol on Jan. 6., 2021, was charged on Thursday with conspiring to obstruct a joint session of Congress that day as lawmakers met to certify the results of the 2020 election.

The lawyer, Kellye SoRelle, shown above in a file photo graphic, was the latest member of the right-wing extremist group to be indicted in connection with the Capitol attack. The indictment, handed up in Federal District Court in Washington, also accused Ms. SoRelle, 43, of tampering with evidence connected to the Justice Department’s grand jury investigation of Jan. 6 and illegally entering and remaining in a restricted area of the Capitol grounds.

Unlike several other members of the Oath Keepers — including the group’s founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes — Ms. SoRelle, who was arrested on Thursday morning in Junction, Texas, was not charged with seditious conspiracy. Mr. Rhodes and a group of other Oath Keepers facing the sedition charges are set to go on trial in Washington at the end of the month.

Ms. SoRelle has not been directly involved in the criminal defense of any of the Oath Keepers charged in connection with Jan. 6. She performed legal work for the organization and briefly served as its interim president after Mr. Rhodes was arrested.

Ms. SoRelle often told reporters that she was cooperating with the Justice Department’s inquiry into the Oath Keepers’ role in the Capitol attack, and the charges filed against her came almost nine months after Mr. Rhodes was arrested. She also claimed to have spoken several times to staff investigators working with the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6.

In January, a federal magistrate judge in Texas wrote in an order denying bail to Mr. Rhodes that Mr. Rhodes and Ms. SoRelle were in a romantic relationship — something that she adamantly denied.

She was not indicted along with any other members of the group, although at times prosecutors have initially charged suspects alone and later moved them into larger cases with multiple defendants.

While there is no evidence that Ms. SoRelle entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, she took part in video conferences with Oath Keepers members in the weeks leading up to the attack and was with Mr. Rhodes in the crowd outside the Capitol as other members of the group stormed the building.

 

Former Trump lawyer John Eastman testifying (Photo by Susan Walsh of the Associated Press).

Former Trump lawyer John Eastman testifying (Photo by Susan Walsh of the Associated Press).

Politico, Eastman appears before Atlanta-area grand jury probing Trump election scheme, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Eastman, along with other Trump-aligned attorneys, pushed state legislatures to appoint pro-Trump presidential electors in a handful of states where Joe Biden was the certified winner.

politico CustomAttorney John Eastman, an architect of former President Donald Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election and remain in office, appeared Wednesday before the Atlanta-area grand jury investigating that effort, his lawyers indicated.

Eastman’s counsel, Charles Burnham and Harvey Silvergate, indicated in a statement that Eastman pleaded the Fifth and asserted attorney-client privilege “where appropriate.”

Eastman is the latest member of Trump’s inner circle in the chaotic aftermath of the 2020 election to face questions from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for his role to overturn the election results in Georgia. Eastman, along with other Trump-aligned attorneys, pushed state legislatures to appoint pro-Trump presidential electors in a handful of states where Joe Biden was the certified winner, creating a conflict that they had hoped then-Vice President Mike Pence would resolve on Jan. 6 in Trump’s favor.

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents already examined by FBI, Justice Dept. tells judge, Devlin Barrett, Aug. 30, 2022 (print ed.). A ‘filter team’ has completed its review of material possibly covered by attorney-client privilege, the court filing says.

FBI agents have already finished their examination of possibly privileged documents seized in an Aug. 8 search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, according to a Justice Department court filing Monday that could undercut the former president’s efforts to have a special master appointed to review the files.

Justice Department log circularThe “filter team” used by the Justice Department to sort through the documents and weed out any material that should not be reviewed by criminal investigators has completed its review, the brief filed by Justice Department prosecutors says. The filing came in response to a decision Saturday by U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon to hold a hearing this week on Trump’s motion seeking the appointment of a special master.

The filing says prosecutors will provide more information later this week. But it notes that even before the judge’s weekend ruling, the filter team had “identified a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information, completed its review of those materials, and is in the process of following the procedures” spelled out in the search warrant to handle any privilege disputes.

 truth social logo

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Exclusive: Trump left Sarasota media company weeks before federal subpoenas were issued, Chris Anderson, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Trump removed himself from the board of his Sarasota-based social media company, records show, just weeks before the company was issued federal subpoenas by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and a grand jury in Manhattan.

Trump, the chairman of Trump Media and Technology Group, was one of six board members removed on June 8, state business records show.

Among the board members removed were Kashyap Patel, Trump’s former point man in the White House; Scott Glabe, a former assistant to Trump who was counsel for the media company; and Donald Trump, Jr.

The SEC served Trump Media and Technology Group with a subpoena on June 27, according to a regulatory filing. Trump’s media company owns Truth Social, an app similar to Twitter. Trump was banned by Twitter for inflammatory remarks concerning the insurrection.

Four days later, on July 1, a grand jury in the Southern District of New York handed the company another federal subpoena, an action that typically means a potential criminal investigation is in progress.

The investigations appear to be related to a proposed merger between Trump’s media company and a blank-check company called Digital World Acquisitions Corp., according to a recent regulatory filing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s why the Trump GOP’s crazy quotient is expanding, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 1, 2022. Donald Trump and his post-dana milbank newesttruth pioneers have expanded the frontiers of fakery this week.

The former president used his Truth Social site on Monday to demand that he be declared “the rightful winner” of the 2020 election, and he followed that by posting and sharing on Tuesday a barrage of QAnon slogans and themes, doctored photos and false conspiracy notions, including a claim that the “FBI colluded with Antifa” in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and a forged tweet falsely purporting to be from Ivanka Trump calling covid vaccines “useless.”
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Later Tuesday, a court filing by the Justice Department included a sworn certification from Trump’s office that flagrantly misrepresented the status of classified documents hoarded at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s “custodian of records,” Christina Bobb, certified “on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump” on June 3 that after “a diligent search,” it had turned over “any and all” classified documents taken to Trump’s residence. But the FBI later seized at Mar-a-Lago more than 100 documents with (often colorful) classification markings. “That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made” by Trump’s team, the filing said.

If it appears the volume of deception coming from MAGA Republicans is increasing, that’s because it is. Two academics from New York University set about documenting the proliferation of rubbish in a study they described this week for The Post’s Monkey Cage feature. They found that 36 percent of the news that Republican congressional candidates shared on social media came from unreliable sources on an average day from January to July, up from 8 percent for the same period in 2020. (The news shared by Democratic candidates from unreliable sources rose to 2 percent from 1 percent.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump should fill Christians with rage. How come he doesn’t? Michael Gerson, right, former chief speechwriter for Republican President George W. Bush, Sept. 1, 2022. In many American michael gerson file photoplaces on a pleasant Sunday afternoon it is possible, as I recently did, to have coffee in the city at a bohemian cafe draped with rainbow banners, then to drive 30 or 45 minutes into the country to find small towns where Confederate and Trump flags are flown. The United States sometimes feels like two nations, divided by adornments defiantly affirming their political and cultural affinities.

But as a religious person (on my better days), what concerns me are the perverse and dangerous liberties many believers have taken with their own faith. Much of what considers itself Christian America has assumed the symbols and identity of white authoritarian populism — an alliance that is a serious, unfolding threat to liberal democracy.

Christ’s revolt against the elites could hardly be more different from the one we see today. Conservative evangelicalism has, in many ways, become the kind of religious tradition against which followers of Jesus were initially called to rebel. And because of the pivotal role of conservative Christians in our politics, this irony is a matter of urgency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump-Led Extremism a Direct Threat to America, Biden Plans to Say in Speech, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sept. 1, 2022. President Biden’s prime-time speech comes amid deep divisions. About three-quarters of Americans think the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, a poll found.

joe biden flag profile uncredited palmerPresident Biden will travel to Philadelphia on Thursday for a prime-time address in which he will accuse Republicans loyal to former President Donald J. Trump of embracing a form of extremism that is a direct threat to the United States.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the speech, a senior White House official said the president would state in direct language how “MAGA Republicans” have put the nation’s institutions at risk and undermined democratic values.

The focus on threats to democracy is a return to the issue that Mr. Biden said drove him to run for the presidency, after white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

The speech is intended to deliver a dark message about threats to the very fabric of American democracy.

But aides said Mr. Biden would try to strike a tricky balance nine weeks before the midterm elections, seeking to offer a sense of optimism about the country’s future and urging Americans to fight against extremism.

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U.S. Education Issues

washington post logoWashington Post, American students’ test scores plunged during the pandemic to levels unseen for decades, Donna St. George, Sept. 1, 2022. Math scores dropped seven points since the start of the pandemic, marking a first-ever decline, while reading scores slipped five points, producing the largest dip in 30 years on the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which is often called “the nation’s report card.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans are readying lawsuits to block Biden’s student debt plan, Tony Romm, Jeff Stein and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Sept. 1, 2022. GOP attorneys general, top lawmakers and conservative groups are discussing legal options, alleging the White House’s move to cancel student debt is illegal.

Republican state attorneys general and other leading conservatives are quietly exploring a slew of potential lawsuits targeting President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt — challenges that could limit or invalidate the policy before it takes full effect.

In recent days, a number of GOP attorneys general from states including Arizona, Missouri and Texas have met privately to discuss a strategy that could see multiple cases filed in different courts around the country, according to a person familiar with their thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the confidential talks.

Other influential conservatives — including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and allies of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank — are mulling their own options as they ratchet up criticism of Biden’s debt-relief plan, two additional people familiar with the matter said. And a conservative advocacy group founded by a major Trump donor said it would file a lawsuit against the policy.

“The conservative public interest law firms in our network are exploring filing lawsuits against this. They are doing background legal research, trying to find out who might be the most suitable clients for them,” John Malcolm, director of the Meese Center at the Heritage Foundation, said in an interview. “They have to find a client with the standing and the gumption to take on a lawsuit. There are several groups in our network who are exploring that right now.”

How President Biden decided to go big on student loan forgiveness

All of the sources cautioned that no decisions have been made — and as of Thursday morning, no lawsuits appeared to have been filed. But a legal battle could carry stark financial consequences for millions of student borrowers, who rejoiced last week after Democrats delivered on a long-standing promise to erase some of their debt.

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Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, California Lawmakers Approve Sweeping Climate Measures, Brad Plumer, Sept. 1, 2022. After lobbying by the governor, lawmakers adopted $54 billion in climate spending and voted to keep open the state’s last nuclear plant.

California took some of its most aggressive steps yet to fight global warming as lawmakers passed a flurry of new climate bills late Wednesday, including a record $54 billion in climate spending, a measure to prevent the state’s last nuclear power plant from closing, sharp new restrictions on oil and gas drilling and a mandate that California stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045.

The bills, passed around midnight at the end of a frenzied two-year legislative session in Sacramento, marked a victory for Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has sought to portray himself as a climate leader as he has raised his national profile and begun drawing speculation about a possible White House run.

Mr. Newsom upended the legislative session in mid-August when he urged lawmakers to pass several major new climate bills. In the end, all of his proposals passed but one: a bill to strengthen the state’s 2030 target for slashing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, which fell short by four votes in the State Assembly.

“Together with the Legislature’s leadership, the progress we make on the climate crisis this year will be felt for generations and the impact will spread far beyond our borders,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mississippi Crisis Highlights Climate Threat to Drinking Water Nationwide, Christopher Flavelle, Rick Rojas, Jim Tankersley and Jack Healy, Sept. 1, 2022. Aging infrastructure and underinvestment have left cities’ water systems in tatters. Now flooding and other climate shocks are pushing them to failure.

Flash floods, wildfires and hurricanes are easy to recognize as ravages of a fast-changing climate. But now, climate change has also emerged as a growing threat to clean, safe drinking water across the country.

The deluge that knocked out a fraying water plant in Jackson, Miss., this week, depriving more than 150,000 people of drinking water, offered the latest example of how quickly America’s aging treatment plants and decades-old pipes can crumple under the shocks of a warming world.

“There’s a crisis at hand,” said Mikhail V. Chester, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University. “The climate is simply changing too fast, relative to how quickly we could change our infrastructure.”

Earlier this summer, more than 25,000 people lost their water, some for weeks, after deadly floods ripped through eastern Kentucky, breaking water lines as they obliterated entire neighborhoods.

Utility companies across Texas spent the summer coping with hundreds of water-main breaks as record heat baked and shifted the drought-stricken soil surrounding pipes. This came after a bitter winter storm that plunged Texas into freezing darkness in February 2021 and caused thousands of pipes to burst.

And from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, supercharged hurricanes like Harvey and Ida now regularly debilitate water suppliers, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to boil their water or scramble for bottles days or weeks after the storms pass.

This is on top of the slower-moving threats such as rising sea levels that can contaminate water supplies with saltwater, or a Western “mega-drought” that is withering reservoirs and parching the Colorado River that supplies water to some 40 million people.

 

pakistan floods aug 28 2022 ap zahid hussain

washington post logoWashington Post, Pakistan seeks flood aid, but U.S. has long blocked compensation for climate damages, Shannon Osaka, Aug. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The deadly floods Pakistan is suffering raise a difficult question: Who should pay for the damage climate change is causing in the developing world?

Since mid-June, torrential rain has changed the landscape of Pakistan, submerging villages and fields, destroying homes and killing at least 1,000 people. But if the human toll is catastrophic, the financial toll is almost unimaginable: According to Pakistan’s finance minister, the damage so far will likely exceed $10 billion, or a whopping 4 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.
10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint

“Pakistan was already facing the disastrous effects of climate change,” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s minister of climate change, said at a news conference on Thursday. “Now the most devastating monsoon rains in a decade are causing incessant destruction across the country.”

But even as Pakistan turns to donors around the world asking for aid, there is one thing that the country will almost certainly not receive: Compensation from the countries — including the United States — that are most responsible for planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

While the two issues may seem unconnected, for decades developing countries have asked richer ones to provide funding for the costs they face from heat waves, floods, droughts, sea-level rise and other climate-related disasters. They argue that the nations that became wealthy from burning fossil fuels such as the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Japan also heated up the planet, causing “loss and damage” in poorer countries.

The issue has become a flash point in global climate negotiations. In the landmark 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, countries agreed to recognize and “address” the loss and damage caused by those dangerous climate impacts. Last year, at the major U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators from developing countries hoped that negotiators would finally create a formal institution to funnel cash to the countries most affected by climate disasters.

But the United States, despite being the largest historical emitter of carbon dioxide, has blocked such efforts at every turn. In Glasgow, the Biden administration joined a group of countries in resisting efforts to establish payments to developing countries that have been hit hard by climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mississippi’s Capital Loses Water as Troubled System Faces Fresh Crisis, Rick Rojas, Aug. 30, 2022. In Jackson, residents have long contended with boil-water notices and service disruptions. But officials say the system has been pushed to the brink.

The drinking water system in Mississippi’s capital was nearing collapse on Tuesday, severing access to safe running water for more than 150,000 people as officials scrambled to confront what they described as the “massively complicated task” of distributing bottled water and devising a plan to restore service.

The water system in Jackson, the state’s largest city, has been in crisis for years, crippled by aging and inadequate infrastructure and the lack of resources to bolster it. Residents have long contended with disruptions in service and frequent boil-water notices, including one that had already been in effect for more than a month because of cloudiness found in water samples.

The situation worsened this week as officials said that the city’s largest water treatment plant was failing. Homes and businesses were left with little to no water pressure. And officials warned that whatever did flow from faucets was not safe to consume, as it was probably untreated water that was coming straight from the city’s reservoir.

tate reeves“Until it is fixed, it means we do not have reliable running water at scale,” Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, right, said during an emergency briefing on Monday evening. “It means the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.”

And, he added, it was unclear how long it would take to bring that back.

Days of torrential rain have raised the threat of flooding in Jackson and engorged the Pearl River, which snakes through Jackson, and the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir, a 33,000-acre lake northeast of the city. Though the rising water failed to reach the high levels that had been feared, city officials said it rose high enough to affect water treatment operations.

“The water shortage is likely to last the next couple of days,” city officials said in a statement on Monday.

However, state officials offered a more dire outlook, saying the city’s water system appeared to be barreling toward a breaking point even before the floods. “It was a near certainty that Jackson would begin to fail to produce running water sometime in the next several weeks or months if something didn’t materially improve,” Mr. Reeves, a Republican, said on Monday.

Public schools in Jackson switched to virtual learning, and the lack of water disrupted the operations of many businesses.

Yet the situation is exasperatingly familiar for many in Jackson, as the reliability of the city’s water system has been undermined by repeated failures in recent years. In 2021 the system was hobbled for weeks after a powerful winter storm bombarded Mississippi with snow and ice, causing pipes and water mains to burst.

The water system is, in many ways, emblematic of the broader struggles facing Jackson, which is the seat of power for the state government yet has been drained over decades of resources. The city’s tax base shrunk as white residents fled for surrounding suburbs, taking much of their wealth and tax revenue with them. In the wake of that, Jackson, which is now about 82 percent Black, has grappled with chronic issues with crime and faulty infrastructure, and elected officials say the Republican-controlled state Legislature has failed to invest in the city.

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Trump’s Supporters

 

alina habba

Politico, Days before Mar-a-Lago subpoena, Trump lawyer claimed she scoured Trump’s office, closets and drawers, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). A filing by Alina Habba, above, in the case over Trump’s business empire could create exposure in the matter of classified information being stored at the ex-president’s home.

An entranceway to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The DOJ came to believe that Trump’s team had withheld and concealed many additional classified documents, which led to the Aug. 8 search warrant executed by the FBI.

Just six days before the Justice Department subpoenaed to recover highly sensitive documents housed at Mar-a-Lago, one of Former President Donald Trump’s attorneys scoured the estate searching for records in response to a separate legal matter.

The attorney, Alina Habba, told a New York State court that on May 5, she conducted a search of Trump’s private residence and office at Mar-a-Lago that was so “diligent” it included “all desks, drawers, nightstands, dressers, closets, etc.” She was looking for records in response to a subpoena issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating matters related to the Trump Organization.

The same filing also includes an affidavit from Trump himself, indicating that he “authorized Alina Habba to search my private residence and personal office located at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida for any and all documents responsive to the Subpoena.” Habba indicated she conducted similar searches at Trump’s residences and office at his Bedminster estate.

The filing submitted to the New York AG’s office raises key questions in relation to the separate Mar-a-Lago probe, chiefly, whether Habba ended up handling any of the documents that DOJ later discovered at Trump’s club; and, if so, whether she has the clearance to have done so. In her sworn affidavit, Habba said that she searched many of the locations that would later be scrutinized by the FBI during its Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago — and where investigators say they uncovered a significant volume of highly classified government secrets. The documents, those investigators stated, “had colored cover sheets indicating their classification status” making clear their significance.

“Classified documents were found in both the Storage Room and in the former President’s office,” DOJ revealed in a court filing Tuesday night, also noting, “Three classified documents that were not located in boxes, but rather were located in the desks in the ‘45 Office.’”

Habba did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Press aides and attorneys for Trump also did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But experts in the field predicted that her statement to James’ office would generate interest from investigators.

Recent Headlines

 

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine Live Updates: U.N. mission arrives at Ukraine nuclear plant for inspection despite ‘increased military activity,’ Adela Suliman and John Hudson, Sept. 1, 2022. The expert mission led by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi reached the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after delays.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

  • The IAEA team was aware of “increased military activity” near the plant, Grossi said Thursday before heading to the site from the city of Zaporizhzhia. He vowed that his team would continue with its mission nonetheless. “Having come so far, we are not stopping,” Grossi said. Russia has controlled the facility since March, and both Kyiv and Moscow have publicly supported the visit by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. “The risks are very, very high,” Grossi added. “Wish us luck.”
  • “The Russians are shelling the pre-agreed route of the IAEA mission,” Ukraine’s regional governor for Zaporizhzhia, Oleksandr Starukh, said earlier Thursday on Telegram. “We demand that the Russian Federation stop the provocations and grant the IAEA unhindered access to the Ukrainian nuclear facility.” Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-run energy agency, also said the town of Enerhodar, near the power station, has “come under fire” from Russian helicopters.
  • Russia in turn accused Ukraine of attempting to disrupt the IAEA mission. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned Thursday what he called Ukraine’s “absolutely barbaric provocative shelling.” He said Moscow remained ready to cooperate with the IAEA mission. Earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused a Ukrainian “sabotage group” of trying to seize the plant, compelling Russian forces to take measures to “destroy the enemy.” The Washington Post could not independently verify the accounts of either side.
  • The exact parameters of the IAEA inspection remain undefined. According to Grossi, the mission “seeks to prevent a nuclear accident” and will assess the safety and security of the plant, as well as speak to staff. The IAEA will also push for a “continued presence” at the plant, he said Thursday. However, Russian officials have said his team would probably get only one day to inspect the facility. The trip aims to remove the risk of a nuclear disaster like the one that occurred in Chernobyl in 1986.
  • The director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, is visiting Ukraine and has cautioned both sides “to stop playing with fire” regarding the Zaporizhzhia plant. He said it would be almost “impossible” to provide humanitarian assistance to the region in the event of a “nuclear leak.”

Battlefield updates

  • “The Russian military is suffering from severe manning shortages in Ukraine,” a U.S. official told The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. It’s likely that Russia’s Defense Ministry will move to recruit “contract service members to make up for these personnel shortages, including by compelling wounded soldiers to reenter combat … and paying bonuses to conscripts.”
  • The battle for Kherson has not “stalled or failed,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych. He urged patience on Thursday, saying the fight for the strategic southern port city seized by Russia at the start of the war is being “carried out in a planned manner” and warning that “there will be no quick wins.” The Pentagon said Wednesday it was aware of some “forward movement” in Kherson by Ukrainian forces but would not provide details.
  • Ukrainian forces are continuing their southern offensive using “long-range strikes against Russian command and logistics locations,” according to a daily intelligence update from Britain’s Defense Ministry. It also said the Ukrainian air force is likely using “high speed anti-radiation missiles” known as HARMs, which are designed to locate and destroy Russian radars. This could be a “a major set-back to Russia’s already troubled situational awareness,” it said.

Global impact

  • The number of Ukrainian refugees who have left the country has hit 7 million, according to the United Nations. More than 1.3 million people have fled to neighboring Poland, and thousands of others to Slovakia, Romania and Hungary among other countries. Millions of people also remain displaced internally, it added.
  • Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said his personal goodbye to Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday, according to Russian state media. The Kremlin earlier said that Putin could not attend Gorbachev’s funeral on Saturday. Instead, the Russian president visited him privately in Moscow Central Clinical Hospital, leaving flowers with the former Soviet leader. Gorbachev died in Moscow at age 91 this week. Western leaders have praised him, though his legacy in Russia is complicated.
  • The Kremlin has slammed a European Union decision to suspend a visa facilitation accord with Russia as “ridiculous.” Spokesman Peskov said the decision, making it more difficult and expensive for Russian tourists to get visas, would be bad for Russians. It falls short of a blanket ban that some E.U. leaders had been demanding. The 27-member bloc has already banned Russian flights from E.U. airspace and imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 people linked to the war, but the question of tourism remains deeply contested.
  • A new U.S. military aid package for Ukraine could be announced in the coming days, National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said in a call with reporters Wednesday, according to CNBC. “We have committed more than $13 billion in security assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces, and we will continue to do that,” he said. The news comes just a week since Biden announced an aid package worth $3 billion.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Draft for Russia’s Army? Putin Opts for Domestic Stability Instead, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Western officials are puzzled by President Vladimir Putin’s decision to avoid conscription. But analysts say he is trying to prevent a public backlash.

President Vladimir V. Putin says Russia is fighting for its very existence in Ukraine, taking on a country that is conspiring with the West to destroy his nation. In high-octane talk shows on state television, the war is presented as a continuation of the Soviet Union’s fight for survival against Nazi Germany.

ukraine flagBut if the battle is existential, the Kremlin’s actions do not bear that out. Six months into the biggest land war in Europe since World War II, Russia continues to wage it with a military that is essentially at peacetime strength — even as the invasion’s loudest cheerleaders increasingly clamor for Mr. Putin to declare a draft and put his nation on a war footing.

The debate over a draft has grown more urgent in recent weeks as Ukraine has gained momentum on the southern front and the killing of an ultranationalist commentator in a car bombing outside Moscow has magnified the voices of Russia’s most radical hawks. To those hawks, the Kremlin — which continues to refer to the war as a “special military operation” and insists it is going “according to plan” — is underestimating the enemy and lulling Russian society into a false sense of security.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine Updates: U.N. Inspectors Are Expected to Visit Embattled Nuclear Plant on Thursday, Andrew E. Kramer, Marc Santora and Lynsey Addario, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). As the convoy headed toward an active battlefield, Russia backed a permanent presence of inspectors at the Zaporizhzhia complex in Ukraine.

Experts from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency are expected to visit the imperiled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday, a day after they embarked on one of the most complicated missions in the agency’s history.

ukraine flagThe group, which includes 14 experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency, left Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, early Wednesday morning in a convoy of armored S.U.V. vehicles and traveled south. Hours after they departed Kyiv, a Russian official said Moscow would support plans for the inspectors to set up a permanent presence at the facility.

The plant, which is controlled by Russian forces but operated by Ukrainian engineers, is in the middle of an active battlefield where frequent shelling has raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

On Wednesday afternoon, the nuclear inspectors reached the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, which lies across the Dnipro River from the plant, and they were expected to cross into Russian-held territory on Thursday morning.

“As you know, we have a very, very important task there to perform, to assess the real situation there, to help stabilize the situation as much as we can,” the I.A.E.A. director general, Rafael M. Grossi, told reporters in Kyiv before departing.

Mr. Grossi said the mission had secured safety guarantees from both the Russian and Ukrainian militaries, though dangers lingered. “We are going to a war zone,” he said, “we are going to occupied territory.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: With War in Ukraine, Putin Tries to Unravel Gorbachev’s Legacy, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). President Vladimir V. Putin calls the end of the Soviet Union a “genuine tragedy” for Russia, and he blamed Mikhail S. Gorbachev for bending to the demands of a treacherous and duplicitous West.

The day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Feb. 24, the legacy of Mikhail S. Gorbachev loomed over President Vladimir V. Putin’s predawn speech.

“The paralysis of power and will is the first step toward complete degradation and oblivion,” Mr. Putin intoned, referring to the Soviet Union’s collapse. “We lost confidence for only one moment, but it was enough to disrupt the balance of forces in the world.”

mikhail gorbachev white house library 1987For Mr. Putin, the end of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” a “genuine tragedy” for millions of Russians because it left them scattered across newly formed national borders. The disaster was caused, in Mr. Putin’s telling, by the weak nerves of a leader too willing to bend to the demands of a treacherous and duplicitous West — a mistake, the Kremlin’s televised propaganda now often reminds viewers, that Mr. Putin is determined not to repeat.

In Ukraine, Mr. Putin is fighting in the shadows of the empire whose end Mr. Gorbachev presided over, having started a war that has killed thousands in the name of restoring Moscow’s dominance over what it claims to be Russian lands. But Mr. Putin’s battle to reverse Mr. Gorbachev’s legacy extends beyond territorial control to the personal and political freedoms that the last Soviet president ushered in — and that the Kremlin is now fast unraveling.

“All of Gorbachev’s reforms are now zero, in ashes, in smoke,” a friend of Mr. Gorbachev’s, the radio journalist Aleksei A. Venediktov, said in a July interview. “This was his life’s work.”

President Vladimir Putin has called the end of the Soviet Union a “genuine tragedy” for Russia, and blamed Mikhail Gorbachev for bending to the West’s demands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Full Russian tourist ban in E.U. topic of fierce debate, Emily Rauhala and Beatriz Ríos, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). With fighting raging in eastern Ukraine and Europe bracing for a war-induced recession, should Russians be allowed to enjoy the end of summer in southern France? Shop for luxury goods in Italy? Visit family in Finland?

Those questions will be part of a debate this week among European Union foreign ministers gathering for an informal meeting in Prague. And while E.U. countries were united in banning Russian flights from their airspace and placing more than 1,200 individuals on their sanctions list, a blanket ban on Russian tourists is proving far more divisive.

volodymyr zelenski t shirt siegeUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, is pushing for one. “Let them live in their own world until they change their philosophy,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post this month. “This is the only way to influence Putin.”

Calls grow to ban E.U. visas for Russians, but not all Ukrainians agree

He has support from E.U. countries that share a border with Russia — the Baltics and Finland — as well as from Poland and the Czech Republic.

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U.S. Elections, Politics

 

Alaska congressional special election winner Mary Peltola, right, with rival Sarah Palin and Nick Begich to her left, answers questions from a reporter prior to a forum for candidates for the U.S. House at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association annual conference at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage on August 31, 2022 (ADN Photo by Marc Lester ADN).

Alaska congressional special election winner Mary Peltola, right, with rival Sarah Palin and Nick Begich to her left, answers questions from a reporter prior to a forum for candidates for the U.S. House at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association annual conference at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage on August 31, 2022 (ADN Photo by Marc Lester ADN).

Anchorage Daily News (ADN), Democrat Mary Peltola wins special U.S. House election, will be first Alaska Native elected to Congress, Iris Samuels, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Democrat Mary Peltola was the apparent winner of Alaska’s special U.S. House race and is set to become the first Alaska Native in Congress, after votes were tabulated Wednesday in the state’s first ranked choice election.

Peltola led Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin after ballots were tallied and votes for third-place GOP candidate Nick Begich III were redistributed to his supporters’ second choices. Peltola, a Yup’ik former state lawmaker who calls Bethel home, is now slated to be the first woman to hold Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat.

If results are confirmed as expected by the state review board later this week, she will succeed U.S. Rep. Don Young, the Republican who held the office for nearly five decades — since before Peltola was born. The special election was triggered by Young’s death in March.

It is an outcome largely seen as an upset. Peltola would be the first Democrat to join Alaska’s three-person congressional delegation since U.S. Sen. Mark Begich lost reelection in 2014. And she defeated two Republicans to do so. Combined, Palin and Nick Begich III, nephew of Mark Begich and grandson of former U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, commanded nearly 60% of first-place votes.

Begich was the first candidate eliminated, after no other candidate exceeded the 50% threshold needed to win under Alaska’s ranked choice voting system. The second-place votes of Begich’s supporters were then tallied in what is called an instant runoff. Only half of Begich’s voters ranked Palin second — not enough for her to overtake Peltola.

Peltola had 39.7% of the first-place votes to Palin’s 30.9%. In the instant runoff, Peltola ended up with 91,206 votes to Palin’s 85,987, or 51.47% to 48.53%

Peltola ran a largely positive campaign as Begich and Palin traded barbs in the final weeks before the Aug. 16 special election, emerging as the victor with a platform that highlighted her position as the only candidate on the ballot who supports abortion access — an issue that has become important to voters with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision removing federal protections for access to the procedure (the procedure remains protected under the Alaska Constitution).

Peltola has also said she is “pro-fish” and emphasized her plans to protect subsistence fisheries in Alaska as salmon stocks decline in the region where she has fished throughout her life.

Peltola is Yup’ik, was raised in rural villages, and calls Bethel home. She served in the state House between 1999 and 2009, representing the Bethel region. During her time in the Legislature, she led the Bush Caucus, bringing together lawmakers representing communities in Alaska off the road system and building a reputation as someone who can work across party lines.

 While in the Legislature, Peltola’s path overlapped with Palin’s as governor. Both politicians were pregnant while in office. They traded friendly text messages on election day earlier this month.

After leaving the state House, Peltola worked in community relations for Donlin Gold, a mining project on the Kuskokwim River. Before announcing her congressional bid, she worked on fisheries management and rural food security as executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Peltola, a mother of four and grandmother of two, turned 49 on Wednesday.

Peltola emerged as the winner from an original field of 48 primary race candidates, which included several sitting and former lawmakers, Alaska Native leaders and Santa Claus.

Peltola is now set to head to Washington for just four months, serving out the rest of Young’s term. Peltola, Palin and Begich are set to advance to the November election that will determine who will hold the seat for the full two-year term that will begin in January.

ny times logoNew York Times, Newly Aggressive Biden Shifts From Compromise to Combat, Michael D. Shear, Updated Sept. 1, 2022. President Biden is spending less time hailing the virtues of unity and more time calling out Republicans.

President Biden likes to say there is nothing America cannot do if the country is united and its rival parties are willing to work together.

But with just two months until the midterm elections, Mr. Biden is purposely spending less time hailing the virtues of compromise and more time calling out dangers to democracy — using some of the sharpest and most combative language of his presidency.

He has accused Republicans of embracing “semi-fascism” by paying fealty to former President Donald J. Trump. He has blasted the party for being “full of anger, violence, hate and division.” And he has warned that the danger from Republicans loyal to Mr. Trump went far beyond differences in policy.

“They’re a threat to our very democracy,” he said of a party that he has spent a half-century working with to find common ground. “They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace political violence.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to deliver prime-time address Thursday on ‘the continued battle for the soul of the nation,’ Mariana Alfaro and Tyler Pager, Aug. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The speech, one of Biden’s few in prime time, reaffirms his rhetorical shift to a greater stress on the threat to democratic values.

joe biden twitterPresident Biden will deliver a prime-time address Thursday on the fight for democracy in America and “the continued battle for the soul of the nation,” a White House official said Monday, an address that is likely to confirm his growing rhetorical emphasis on the anti-democratic forces he sees as capturing much of the Republican Party.

Speaking at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, the president is expected to highlight his administration’s achievements and argue that the country’s democratic values will be at stake during the midterm elections.

“He will talk about the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack,” the official said. “He will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the content of the speech.

Democrats see the once unthinkable: A narrow path to keeping the House

Biden in recent days has adopted a message for the midterm elections that includes fiery denunciations of what he calls the authoritarian strains in the Republican Party, notably during a speech last Thursday saying many in the GOP had turned toward “semi-fascism.” He added that the “MAGA Republicans,” as he called them, “embrace political violence. They don’t believe in America.”

Politico, ‘There’s enormous frustration’: Trump forces Republicans off-script… again, Meridith McGraw, Andrew Desiderio, Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Having once decried the search of Mar-a-Lago, defenders of the ex-president are now warning of civil unrest if the investigation leads to prosecution.

The investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of classified national security records is forcing Republicans into a strained defense during a pre-midterm sprint in which they’d much rather be talking about Joe Biden.

politico CustomAfter having decried the FBI’s search of the ex-president’s home, many Trump defenders went silent upon the release on Friday of the probable-cause affidavit that revealed the extent of Trump’s efforts to hold onto the top-secret documents. GOP worries about the developments of the case and Trump announcing a 2024 run before November are giving way to a subtle, broader warning about putting the former president too much on the ballot this fall.

“Republicans should focus on defeating Democrats, and every Democrat should have the word Biden in front of their name,” said Trump ally and former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich. “The Republican focus should be to win the election in November. Trump will do a fine job defending himself. He’ll be fine.”

Some top Republicans acknowledge the growing angst and concern, as it’s become clearer that Trump may have been warehousing some of America’s most sensitive secrets in an unsecured basement — and even refused to turn them over when the National Archives and Justice Department tried to recover them. One top Republican fundraiser asked to describe the mood among donors, said, “There is enormous frustration.”

“The question is, is there willingness to express that frustration,” the fundraiser added. “I don’t know the answer to that. But there is real frustration, and with the exception of people who are too stupid to understand the need to be frustrated, it is nearly universal.”

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U.S. Governance, Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, It seems everyone is mad at airlines. Fall could bring calmer skies, Ian Duncan and Michael Laris, Sept. 1, 2022. Labor Day will unofficially close out a season many travelers would rather forget, but also marks the start of a possible reprieve for the airline industry.

Pilots are picketing. Passenger complaints are up while stock prices are down. The federal government wants to tighten protections for ticket holders.

As a summer marked by flight cancellations and delays winds down to its final holiday weekend, it seems no one is especially happy with America’s airlines.

Labor Day will unofficially close out a season that many travelers would rather forget, but it also marks the start of a possible reprieve for the airline industry. With flight schedules easing into the quieter fall months — about 1,000 fewer flights will take off daily in September than August — beleaguered carriers are looking to shore up operations, boost reliability and win back the goodwill of workers and travelers alike.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to clear another $1.5B in debt for Westwood College students, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). The move will grant full, automatic federal student loan forgiveness to 79,000 people.

The Education Department said Tuesday it will grant full, automatic cancellation of $1.5 billion in education debt held by former students of the defunct for-profit chain Westwood College.

The move covers 79,000 people who were enrolled at Westwood from Jan. 1, 2002, to Nov. 17, 2015, when it ceased enrolling new borrowers in advance of its 2016 closure. Former students are not required to submit an application and will receive a letter from the Education Department informing them of the pending discharge.

“Westwood College’s exploitation of students and abuse of federal financial aid place it in the same circle of infamy occupied by Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute,” said Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal. “Westwood operated on a culture of false promises, lies, and manipulation in order to profit off student debt that burdened borrowers long after Westwood closed.”

The Biden administration has been working through scores of petitions from former students of for-profit schools requesting the department cancel their debt under a statute known as “borrower defense to repayment.” Applications piled up at the department amid a series of college closures and the Trump administration’s efforts to delay and limit loan cancellation.

What started as a trickle of approvals in the early months of the Biden administration turned into a deluge this summer, with widespread cancellation of the debt held by former students of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech. With this latest announcement, the administration has now approved $14.5 billion in discharges for nearly 1.1 million borrowers who were defrauded by their colleges.

In the case of Westwood, the department said the institution routinely lied about graduates’ job prospects, promising prospective students employment in their field within six months after completion. Westwood inflated earnings outcomes in its marketing materials and falsely guaranteed students that it would pay their bills if they failed to find work.

The move will grant full, automatic federal student loan forgiveness to 79,000 people

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World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, Putin and other leaders react to Mikhail Gorbachev’s death, Bryan Pietsch, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). World leaders reacted to the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, in Moscow at the age of 91 on Tuesday, with Western leaders hailing him for opening up the Soviet Union and creating the conditions for the end of the Cold War.

Russian FlagPresident Biden, in a statement, called Gorbachev “a man of remarkable vision.” He also said that the Soviet leader’s policies of “glasnost” and “perestroika,” or openness and restructuring, were the “acts of a rare leader — one with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it.”

To say he risked his career is perhaps an understatement — the dislike toward Gorbachev among many Soviet loyalists was so clear that it became the focus of a Pizza Hut commercial in which he starred.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his “deepest condolences,” a spokesman told the Interfax news agency, adding that Putin will “send a telegram of condolences to his family and friends.”

dmitry peskovKremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, right, said Gorbachev “is a statesman who will forever remain in the history of our country. Many argue about the role he played. But the fact that he was an extraordinary person, a unique person, is unequivocal. He is known, remembered and will be remembered all over the world.

“Gorbachev gave impetus to the end of the Cold War, and he sincerely wanted to believe that it would end and that an eternal romantic period would begin between the new Soviet Union and the West,” Peskov continued, and used the occasion to slam the West, which has backed Ukraine in its fight against invading Russia. “This romanticism did not come true … the bloodthirstiness of our opponents showed itself.”

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he was “deeply saddened” by Gorbachev’s passing. “Mikhail Gorbachev was a one-of-a kind statesman who changed the course of history,” he wrote on Twitter. “The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace.”

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Absolute Warfare’: Cartels Terrorize Mexico as Security Forces Fall Short, Maria Abi-Habib and Oscar Lopez, Photographs by Alejandro Cegarra, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The president put a transformative security strategy in place to tackle soaring violence, but three years later, criminal cartels have expanded their reach. The president disbanded the Federal Police and created the National Guard to tackle soaring violence, but three years later, criminal cartels have expanded their reach.

 

muqtada al sadr

ny times logoNew York Times, Iraqi Shiite Cleric Tells Supporters to Go Home After Clashes Kill 24, Jane Arraf, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Muqtada al-Sadr, shown above in a file photo, called for protesters to leave Baghdad’s Green Zone, after two days of violence that left many fearing a new phase of political chaos.

The influential Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr tried on Tuesday to defuse an eruption of violence in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, calling on his followers to stand down after at least 24 people were killed in two days of clashes with security forces.

The violence, after three years of relative stability in Baghdad, began on Monday shortly after Mr. Sadr declared on Twitter that he was quitting politics for good. His supporters went out to protest and stormed the heavily protected Green Zone in Baghdad, home to Iraqi government offices, the United Nations and diplomatic missions including the U.S. Embassy.

After coming under fire from government security forces, who included members of Iran-backed militias, fighters loyal to Mr. Sadr armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades emerged to take on the security forces.

Although political turmoil and street protests are common in Iraq, this round of violence laid bare the risk of an even more dangerous and unstable phase, fueled by political paralysis, the breaching of state institutions and divisions among the country’s Shiite majority.

Some in Iraq have feared the country could descend into another cycle of violence after two decades of frequent warfare. Following the U.S. invasion in 2003, a sectarian civil war between Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim factions broke out. Then there was a yearslong battle to drive out Islamic State after the terrorist group took over large parts of the country.

In recent years, rivalries among Shiites have become the main driver of Iraqi political instability. Iran-backed Shiite militias formed in 2014 to fight the Sunni Islamic State group have become a permanent part of Iraqi government security forces, with some more answerable to Shiite Iran than the Iraqi government.

Mr. Sadr, in contrast, is seen as an Iraqi nationalist and a thorn in the side of Iran and its continuing influence in neighboring Iraq.

Elections last year in October were seen as a fresh start for the country — a response to massive protests against a corrupt and dysfunctional government. Instead they led to the current political deadlock.

Mr. Sadr, appearing at a news conference on Tuesday in Najaf, a southern city holy to Shiite Muslims worldwide, called on his supporters to withdraw immediately from the Green Zone, where the fighting over the past two days has been focused. He said he was sorry about what had happened.

“Regardless of who started the sedition yesterday,” he said, referring to the violent clashes, “I say that my head is down and I apologize to the Iraqi people.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel sentences Gaza aid worker convicted of funding Hamas to 12 years, Shira Rubin and Hazem Balousha, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). An Israeli court sentenced a former Gaza aid chief from a major international organization to 12 years in prison on Tuesday after convicting him of siphoning millions of agency dollars to Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the enclave.

Independent audits and investigations carried out in recent years found no evidence of wrongdoing, said World Vision International, which employed Mohammed al-Halabi as the head of its Gaza operation from 2014 until his arrest in 2016.

The Beersheba district court in southern Israel ruled in June that Halabi was guilty of funneling $50 million and tons of steel to Hamas, which the United States and European Union classify as a terrorist organization.

Israel says Gaza World Vision director diverted millions to Hamas’s military wing

Kevin Jenkins, president of World Vision International, said in a statement on the organization’s website that it was difficult to “reconcile” the allegations because the organization’s cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past 10 years was only around $22.5 million.

In June 2016, Israeli security forces arrested Halabi at the Erez Crossing Point between Gaza and Israel, and he was indicted in August of that year. He has been in prison for the past six years while awaiting a resolution to the legal proceedings.

“The arrest, six-year trial, unjust verdict and this sentence are emblematic of actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank,” World Vision said Tuesday in a statement on its website. “It adds to the chilling impact on World Vision and other aid or development groups working to assist Palestinians.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Military, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio police officer fatally shoots Black man in bed, body camera shows, Marina Lopes and Brittany Shammas, Sept. 1, 2022. 
An Ohio police officer shot and killed a Black man who was in bed as officers attempted to serve an arrest warrant just before 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to body-camera footage released by authorities.

The footage shows Columbus police Officer Ricky Anderson pushing open a bedroom door and firing at Donovan Lewis, 20, as he sat up in bed. Lewis was unarmed and found next to what appeared to be a vape pen. Officers had entered the apartment with a police dog to serve arrest warrants for domestic violence, assault and improper handling of a firearm, Columbus police Sgt. Joe Albert said.

Lewis was pronounced dead at a hospital less than an hour after being shot inside the apartment in Columbus, the state capital. The incident drew national attention to the city’s police department, which had been under scrutiny after other shootings in recent years.

City officials, while expressing sympathy for Lewis, said they were awaiting the results of a probe being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

“Donovan Lewis lost his life. As a parent, you know, I sympathize, and I grieve with his mother,” Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said during a Tuesday news conference. “I grieve with our community, but we’re going to allow this investigation to take place.”

A spokesman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations confirmed that the agency was reviewing the shooting but declined to comment further. Anderson, a 30-year member of the force who is assigned to the canine unit, has been placed on paid administrative leave per department policy, Albert said.

Rex Elliott, an attorney representing the Lewis family, described the officer’s actions as reckless and inexcusable during a Thursday news conference. Flanked by relatives of Lewis who wiped away tears, he said the man was “treated like an animal.”

In the video, officers knock on the apartment door multiple times and identify themselves before two men come out and are handcuffed. Police then stand at the doorway with guns pointed and loudly announce that they will send in a dog.

“Columbus police. If you are inside, make yourself known,” one officer says. Off camera, a man can be heard saying, “They are sleeping.” The officer repeats: “Come on out. Come out now.”

One officer then follows a police dog to Lewis’s room and opens the door. Immediately after a light illuminates Lewis propping himself on his mattress, Anderson fires. As Lewis writhes and moans in the bed, he is told to “crawl” out of the room and to stop resisting arrest. He was handcuffed on the bed and died at a hospital.

Recent Headlines

 

Media, Culture, Education, Sports News

 washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter is finally testing an edit button, Rachel Lerman, Sept. 1, 2022. Users have been asking for the ability to edit tweets for twitter bird Customyears. The social media company announced Thursday that employees internally were testing the ability to edit a tweet shortly after its posted.

The feature will expand later this month to subscribers of Twitter’s premium service, called Twitter Blue. The feature has limitations — tweets can only be edited for 30 minutes, and they will be labeled with icon to let others know the tweet has been changed.

Business Insider, Inside the crisis at ‘Reveal’ and the Center for Investigaive Reporting after a turbelent summer, Steven Perlberg, Aug. 31, 2022. Layoffs, senior executives quitting, a staff no confidence letter leading to the CEO’s departure, and a monthly burn rate of $700k+. It’s been a summer of turmoil at the Center for Investigative Reporting / @reveal.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Forced Birth Laws, Privacy, #MeToo, Trafficking

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans in key races scrap online references to Trump, abortion, Colby Itkowitz, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Attempts by Republicans in competitive contests to pivot away from these issues have emboldened Democrats to mount an aggressive offense. Yesli Vega, a Republican running for the U.S. House in a competitive Virginia district, no longer mentions her connection to former president Donald Trump in the bio section at the top of her Twitter page.

republican elephant logoColorado state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, also running in a battleground House race, has stopped promoting language defending the “Sanctity of Life” on her campaign website. Now, there is no mention of abortion at all, a review of the website showed.

And the campaign of Blake Masters, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona, has removed from his campaign website references to strict antiabortion positions he once championed, along with references to false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

At least nine Republican congressional candidates have scrubbed or amended references to Trump or abortion from their online profiles in recent months, distancing themselves from divisive subjects that some GOP strategists say are two of the biggest liabilities for the party ahead of the post-Labor Day sprint to Election Day.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Mass Shootings, Political Violence, Gun Laws

washington post logoWashington Post, Safeway employee saved lives by confronting Oregon gunman, police say, Jonathan Edwards, Aug. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Donald Surrett Jr., an Army veteran turned grocery store employee, died Sunday trying to disarm a 20-year-old shooter in Bend, Ore.

Donald Surrett Jr. could have run away Sunday when a man armed with an AR-style rifle started shooting inside the Bend, Ore., grocery store where Surrett worked. He could have hidden.

Instead, the 66-year-old Safeway employee tried to disarm the shooter.

Surrett “may very well have prevented further deaths,” Bend police spokeswoman Sheila Miller said Monday, choking up as she spoke of Surrett during a news conference. “Mr. Surrett acted heroically during this terrible incident.”

Surrett was one of two people killed Sunday evening during a shooting that erupted as the weekend waned and people tried to squeeze in some shopping before the start of the workweek. The “heinous attack” disrupted life in Bend, a small central Oregon city known for the Deschutes River, outdoor recreation and craft breweries. On Monday, Mayor Pro-Tem Anthony Broadman said he refused to become accustomed to such shootings.

“We need to guard against the cynicism of thinking of these attacks … as regular, unavoidable things,” Broadman said. “I won’t accept that. I know the community of Bend won’t accept that. We have to stand together. We will.”

Shootings at grocery stores are occurring more often, twisting an unremarkable errand into an unforgettable nightmare. Guns Down America, a nonprofit organization promoting gun control, counted 448 such incidents in which 137 people were killed during the 16½-month span between Jan. 1, 2020, and May 14, the day a gunman massacred 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo. Included in the data: 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo. Three months later, one person was killed at a supermarket in Decatur, Ga. Three months after that, someone was fatally shot at a Kroger market in the Memphis area.

Sunday’s attack at the Safeway in Bend started around 7 p.m. when Ethan Blair Miller left his apartment armed with the AR-style rifle and a shotgun and almost immediately started shooting, Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz said Monday at the news conference. Miller then went south to the Forum Shopping Center where, he continued to fire while in the parking lot of Costco and Big Lots, according to a department news release.

Miller, 20, entered the Safeway using the store’s west entrance, where he shot and killed Glenn Edward Bennett, an 84-year-old Bend resident, police said in the release. He kept firing as he roved through the store, until Surrett confronted and tried to disarm him in the produce section, police said.

Surrett was fatally shot. Officers swarmed the store from the back and the front about three minutes after the first 911 call and, at 7:08 p.m., found Miller with a self-inflicted gunshot wound next to a rifle and a shotgun, according to the release.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Responses

 

fda logo

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Authorizes Updated Covid Booster Shots, Targeting Omicron, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Sept. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The agency cleared two options targeting subvariants that are currently dominant. Millions of Americans could receive the doses as soon as next week.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the first redesign of coronavirus vaccines since they were rolled out in late 2020, setting up millions of Americans to receive new booster doses targeting Omicron subvariants as soon as next week.

The agency cleared two options aimed at the BA.5 variant of Omicron that is now dominant: one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for use in people as young as 12, and the other by Moderna, for those 18 and older.

Biden administration officials have argued that even as researchers work to understand how protective the new shots might be, inoculating Americans again in the coming weeks could help curb the persistently high number of infections and deaths.

“The idea here is not just to increase the antibodies right now, but also to hopefully give us a longer duration of protection” that will hold up through the winter, Dr. Peter Marks, the top vaccine regulator at the F.D.A., said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

An average of about 90,000 infections and 475 deaths are recorded every day around the United States, almost three years into a pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans and driven a historic drop in life expectancy.

But there are also hopeful signs. Even with high case counts, fewer than 40,000 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, a decrease of 10 percent since early August and far fewer than during the Delta-driven surge last summer or the Omicron-fueled wave last winter. Deaths have also remained somewhat flat in recent weeks, a sign that vaccines are helping to prevent the worst outcomes of Covid-19.

American Society for Microbiology, Microbiologists study giant viruses in climate-endangered Arctic Epishelf Lake, Staff Report, Aug. 30, 2022. Less than 500 miles from the North Pole, the Milne Fiord Epishelf Lake is a unique freshwater lake that floats atop the Arctic Ocean, held in place only by a coating of ice.

The lake is dominated by single-celled organisms, notably cyanobacteria, that are frequently infected by unusual “giant viruses.” Investigators from Université Laval, Québec, Canada have produced the first assessment of the abundance of the viruses in this lake. The research is published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Viruses are key to understanding polar aquatic ecosystems, as these ecosystems are dominated by single celled microorganisms, which are frequently infected by viruses. These viruses, and their diversity and distribution in the Milne Fiord Lake have seldom been studied. The team is now working to sequence the giant viruses, an effort that will likely lead to understanding how the viruses influence the lake’s ecology via their interactions with the cyanobacteria they infect.

Quickly rising temperatures limit the time remaining to for microbiologists to develop a clear picture of the biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles of these ice-dependent environments, as well as the consequences of the rapid, irreversible changes in temperature. “The ice shelf that holds the lake in place is deteriorating every year, and when it breaks up, the lake will drain into the Arctic Ocean and be lost,” said corresponding author Alexander I. Culley.

The remote lake in the High Arctic could only be reached by helicopter, when weather conditions allowed. The research team collected water samples and sequenced all the DNA in the lake water, allowing them to identify the viruses and microorganisms within it. The study establishes a basis for advancing understanding of viral ecology in diverse global environments, particularly in the High Arctic.

“High bacterial abundance coupled with a possible prevalence of lytic lifestyle at this depth suggests that viruses have an important role in biomass turnover,” said Mary Thaler, Ph.D., a member of Culley’s team at Université Laval. “Lytic lifestyle” refers to the release of daughter virus particles as the host microbial cell is destroyed.

The most dramatic change observed in the Milne Fiord Epishelf Lake was a multiyear decline in the abundance of cyanobacteria. The researchers attributed that drop to the increasing marine influence in the freshwater lake, “since cyanobacteria have very low abundance in the Arctic Ocean,” they wrote.

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