Sept. 2022 News (Part 2)

 

 JIPLogo

Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and views in September 2022. Part 2 covers the period from Sept. 19 to the end of the month. Part 1 covers the earlier part of the month.

 

Sept. 21

Top Headlines

 

Challenges To American Democracy

 

Puerto Rican Hurricane, Power Failure

 

U.S. Immigration Laws, Disputes

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

Other Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral, UK Next Steps

 

Forced Birth Laws, Abortion, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Top Stories

Politico, Special master expresses skepticism with Trump team’s assertions, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Judge Raymond Dearie pushed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly for refusing to back up the former president’s claim that he declassified the highly sensitive national security-related records discovered in his residence.

politico CustomThe senior federal judge tasked with reviewing the materials seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate sharply questioned the former president’s attorneys Tuesday during their first hearing before his courtroom.

raymond dearieJudge Raymond Dearie, right, pushed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly for refusing to back up the former president’s claim that he declassified the highly sensitive national security-related records discovered in his residence.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” said Dearie, the “special master” picked by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon to vet Trump’s effort to reclaim the materials taken by federal investigators.

Trump has argued that the 11,000 documents taken from Mar-a-Lago were rightfully in his possession, including about 100 bearing classification markings that suggest they contain some of the nation’s most closely guarded intelligence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: ‘Very Harmful’ Lack of Health Data Blunts U.S. Response to Outbreaks, Sharon LaFraniere, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Major data gaps, the result of decades of underinvestment in public health, have undercut the response to the coronavirus and now to monkeypox. Information is scattered across databases, many of which are incompatible with each other. Fixing the problem will be expensive and time-consuming.

After a middle-aged woman tested positive for Covid-19 in January at her workplace in Fairbanks, public health workers sought answers to questions vital to understanding how the virus was spreading in Alaska’s rugged interior.

The woman, they learned, had underlying conditions and had not been vaccinated. She had been hospitalized but had recovered. Alaska and many other states have routinely collected that kind of information about people who test positive for the virus. Part of the goal is to paint a detailed picture of how one of the worst scourges in American history evolves and continues to kill hundreds of people daily, despite determined efforts to stop it.

But most of the information about the Fairbanks woman — and tens of millions more infected Americans — remains effectively lost to state and federal epidemiologists. Decades of underinvestment in public health information systems has crippled efforts to understand the pandemic, stranding crucial data in incompatible data systems so outmoded that information often must be repeatedly typed in by hand. The data failure, a salient lesson of a pandemic that has killed more than one million Americans, will be expensive and time-consuming to fix.

The precise cost in needless illness and death cannot be quantified. The nation’s comparatively low vaccination rate is clearly a major factor in why the United States has recorded the highest Covid death rate among large, wealthy nations. But federal experts are certain that the lack of comprehensive, timely data has also exacted a heavy toll.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. can’t ban gun sales to people indicted on felony charges, judge says, Derek Hawkins, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). A federal law barring people under felony indictment from purchasing guns is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Texas ruled Monday in an early test of a watershed decision by the Supreme Court expanding firearm access.

U.S. District Judge David Counts found that the law’s prohibitions clashed with the high court’s June decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, in which a 6-3 conservative majority ruled that law-abiding Americans have a right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense.

The 25-page opinion by Counts, a Donald Trump appointee, invoked the language of originalism, the conservative legal theory that judges should interpret the Constitution based on how it was understood when it was adopted.

The judge said he found little historical evidence that the law barring those under felony indictment from obtaining a firearm “aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition.”

“The Second Amendment is not a ‘second class right,’ ” Counts wrote. “After Bruen, the Government must prove that laws regulating conduct covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text align with this Nation’s historical tradition. The Government does not meet that burden.”

Accordingly, he said, the law was unconstitutional.

The Justice Department said it intended to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The case arose from the indictment of Jose Gomez Quiroz of West Texas, who bought a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun in 2021 while facing state charges of burglary and jumping bail.

According to the ruling, Quiroz denied at the time of sale and background check that he was under indictment. After waiting a week, he picked up the weapon from a retailer in Alpine, Tex.

Politico, OSCE Ukrainian staff members sentenced in Russian-separatist kangaroo court, Stephanie Liechtenstein, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Three employees of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been imprisoned in eastern Ukraine.

politico CustomUkrainian forces have recently pushed Russian troops back across thousands of square miles in northeastern Ukraine, liberating dozens of towns and cities from Russian rule. But for millions of Ukrainians living in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk, the reality of life under Russian proxy rule is grim.

And for Ukrainians suspected of collaborating with Kyiv and trapped behind enemy lines, it’s even worse. In June, POLITICO reported on hundreds of local staffers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring mission who were working in eastern Ukraine to support the mission’s efforts in observing a fragile ceasefire. Many of them were left behind when foreign staff were evacuated in the war’s first days.

Now, two of these team members have been sentenced to more than a decade behind bars in sham trials by separatist courts in Luhansk.

On Monday, Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine sentenced OSCE mission members Dmitry Shabanov and Maxim Petrov to 13 years in prison for alleged treason. They are accused of having passed secret information to U.S. intelligence services, charges the OSCE vehemently denies.

The legal proceedings against Shabanov and Petrov were only launched last week by the so-called “Supreme Court” of the unrecognized Luhansk “people’s republic” in eastern Ukraine. The court proceedings were held entirely behind closed doors.

OSCE chairman-in-office, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid “unequivocally condemned” the sentencing in a joint statement.

“Our colleagues remain OSCE staff members and had been performing official duties as mandated by all 57 participating States,” Schmid said. “I call for their immediate and unconditional release, along with our other colleague who is also being detained.”

 

More On Ukraine War

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: U.S. Shores Up Ukraine Support as Energy Crisis in Europe Looms, Chris Cameron and Helene Cooper, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration is trying to keep its allies on board as the Russian invasion has sent energy prices soaring. In promising Ukraine billions of dollars in long-term military aid, the Biden administration is seeking to prove that U.S. support in the war can outlast Russia’s determination.

Russian FlagRallying American lawmakers and the public around that assistance, and billions in more immediate help, has been relatively painless for President Biden. But he must also keep Europe on board as the Russian invasion has sent energy prices soaring and created what could become the continent’s worst economic crisis in a generation.

American officials insist they have not seen any cracks in the NATO alliance, whose members, to varying degrees, have agreed to back Ukraine in the defense of its homeland. Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes, from routing Russian troops in the northeast to isolating Russian units in the south, will also help shore up resolve in Europe, American officials say.

ukraine flagBut the jump in energy prices in Europe, and the prospect of frigid homes in the looming cold months, has led to anxiety. Russia heightened those concerns by recently announcing that Gazprom, the state-owned energy company, would not resume the flow of natural gas to Europe through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Mr. Putin, military and diplomatic analysts say, believes that a gas shortage will weaken European support for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vladimir Putin kept Russia and the world waiting hours for a speech that never happened, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). It felt like a possible turning point in Moscow’s seven-month war against Ukraine: President Vladimir V. Putin, with Russia reeling from losses on the battlefield, was going to make a prime-time address to the nation.

Russian state media figures breathlessly touted the upcoming speech for several hours Tuesday. Rumors swirled that he could announce some sort of escalation of the war, as he had threatened in a news conference last week.

And then … they declared it was postponed.

“Are you waiting?” Margarita Simonyan, the editor of the state-run television network RT, wrote on Telegram at 9:37 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday.

“Go to bed,” she wrote 42 minutes later.

There was no official explanation from the Kremlin about why the speech was delayed — or even that it had been planned at all. But coming on a day when Russia’s occupation authorities in four Ukrainian regions announced “referendums” starting Friday on joining Russia, the back-and-forth telegraphed the breakneck speed — and apparent improvisation — with which the Kremlin is plotting out its next moves.

The referendums, analysts say, would be a prelude to annexation of the territory by Russia — at which point Moscow could declare it would treat any further attacks on those regions, parts of which are still controlled by Ukraine, as an attack on Russia itself, and threaten nuclear retaliation.

In addition, Russian Parliament on Tuesday passed a law that introduced the concepts of “mobilization” and “martial law” into Russia’s criminal code — further stoking speculation that Mr. Putin could officially declare war and a nationwide draft.

“People who can’t organize a speech undertook to organize a mobilization,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, posted on Twitter in a jab at the Kremlin.

By late Tuesday evening in Moscow, some of the Russian media figures who had said that Mr. Putin’s speech was coming said it would now come on Wednesday instead.

“Get up by around 8,” Dmitri Smirnov, a pro-Kremlin journalist who covers Mr. Putin, cryptically wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin is reeling. Now is the time to help Ukraine win, Max Boot, right, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Russian dictator Vladimir Putin max boot screen shotkeeps going from bad to worse in his invasion of Ukraine. From his perspective, the last week has been an unmitigated catastrophe.

Ukraine’s stunning, surprisingly successful Kharkiv offensive has continued rolling on, having already liberated an estimated 3,500 square miles from Russian rule — i.e., more than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Ukrainian troops are now nearing Luhansk province, which they had lost in July. That makes it increasingly unlikely that Putin will ever achieve even his scaled-down objective of conquering the Donbas region. (Luhansk is one of two provinces that make up Donbas.)

The Russian forces keep trying and, so far failing, to reestablish a new defensive line. Over the weekend, Ukrainian troops crossed the Oskil River, a natural barrier to their advance. The Russian retreat has revealed disarray and low morale in the ranks of Putin’s military. In Izyum, Russian troops have left behind more mass graves of their victims to be uncovered by war-crimes investigators.

Putin has never counted on being loved, but his rule has depended on an aura of fear and power that is now being drained away — to be replaced with revulsion and contempt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, a leading buyer of Russian energy and weapons, openly rebuked Putin during a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. China’s Xi Jinping has not openly criticized Putin, but neither has he supported the Russian dictator. Chinese companies are not filling the vacuum left behind by Western firms exiting Russia, and China is not supplying weapons to Russia, forcing Putin to go weapons-shopping in Iran and North Korea.

One indicator of Putin’s reduced status in the world is how several other world leaders kept him waiting before meetings in Samarkand — employing against him one of his own favorite tactics for asserting dominance.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Documents Scandal

mar a lago aerial Custom

Politico, Analysis: How Judge Cannon broke with conservatives in Trump documents case, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Trump-appointed judge is a member of the Federalist Society, but her decisions on the Mar-a-Lago documents are well outside of conservative precedent.

politico CustomWhen Donald Trump flooded the federal bench with judicial appointments, a leading critique was that they were Federalist Society clones who favored muscular executive power and rejected what some perceive as meddling by the courts in executive branch affairs.

Judge Aileen Cannon’s recent orders in the fight over the classified records the former president is accused of keeping at Mar-a-Lago have turned that perception on its ear.

A 41-year-old former federal prosecutor and Trump nominee, Cannon issued a series of decisions last week granting unusual requests from the former president in the probe over the storage of files in his home.

The judge appointed a semi-retired jurist to oversee the the review process, ordered that Trump’s attorneys be given copies of everything that was taken and, in the government’s view, effectively halted the investigation by declaring that prosecutors and the FBI could not use the seized records to question any witnesses.

The rulings were widely chastised by a wide array of legal experts, including many from the right, who noted how far out of the conservative judicial mainstream they were. Cannon, during her confirmation process in 2020, had included on her relatively-thin resume that she’d been a member of the right-leaning Federalist Society for a decade-and-a-half, since around the time she entered University of Michigan law school.

Recent Headlines

djt confidential markings

 

Other Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

tom barrack cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Adviser’s Trial May Shed Light on Foreign Influence Campaigns, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Thomas Barrack, shown above in a file screenshot from a TV interview, a private equity executive and informal advisor to former President Trump, is accused of working secretly for the United Arab Emirates.

The trial of Thomas J. Barrack Jr., an informal adviser to former President Donald J. Trump accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates, could shed light on how foreign governments jockeyed for access to the Trump administration — efforts that may have created lucrative opportunities for businessmen close to the White House.

Jury selection for the trial, which is expected to last into October, begins Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. Prosecutors have accused Mr. Barrack — a Los Angeles-based private-equity investor — of using his sway with Mr. Trump to advance the interests of the Emiratis and of serving as a secret back channel for communications without disclosing his efforts to the attorney general, as the government contends he should have.

While Mr. Barrack served the Emirati government, prosecutors say, he was also seeking money from the rulers for investment funds, including one that would support projects to boost Mr. Trump’s agenda and benefit from his policies.

In 2019, prosecutors say, Mr. Barrack repeatedly lied to the F.B.I. about his activities.

Mr. Barrack has denied wrongdoing. In court filings, his lawyers have suggested that prosecutors delayed charging him until Mr. Trump left office and said the charges were not supported by facts. A spokesman for Mr. Barrack declined to comment.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Immigration Laws, DisputesICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Criminal Investigation Is Opened After Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Edgar Sandoval and Eliza Fawcett, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). A county sheriff in Texas announced on Monday that he had opened a criminal investigation into flights that took 48 migrants from a shelter in San Antonio to the island resort of Martha’s Vineyard last week.

Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, said that he had enlisted agents from his office’s organized crime task force and that it was too early to determine which laws might have been broken. But he said it was clear that many of the migrants had been misled and lured away from Texas to score political points.

The migrants, caught in a mounting political fight between Republican governors of border states and Democratic officials, were flown to Massachusetts by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida last week. A day later, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington.

A migrant appears to have been paid to recruit other Venezuelan migrants, who have been crossing the southwest border in greater numbers, from the area around a migrant resource center in San Antonio, Sheriff Salazar said. The migrants were “lured under false pretenses” with promises of work and a better life, he added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron Desantis’s move prompted liberals’ condemnation, and more such flights may follow, Lisa Lerer and Michael C. Bender, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). For months, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona have been busing migrants across the country, using immigrants as political props as they try to score points in the midterm elections and bolster their conservative bona fides.

But last week, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, supercharged the tactic, flying two chartered planeloads of undocumented migrants out of Texas — about 700 miles from the Florida state line — to Martha’s Vineyard, the moneyed Massachusetts vacation spot frequented by liberal celebrities and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The migrants had not set foot in Florida and said they were misled about their destination. The island was unprepared to handle the influx. But Mr. DeSantis got exactly the reaction he wanted.

Liberal condemnation. Conservative applause. And national attention.

Days after the migrants got off their planes, Mr. DeSantis flew across the country himself — to events for Republican candidates for governor in Wisconsin and Kansas where he promoted his stunt. He received standing ovations.

Recent Headlines:

 

Puerto Rican Hurricane, Power Failure

 

puerto rico fiona path 2022

 ny times logoNew York Times, Fiona Leaves Puerto Rico in the Dark on the Anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Laura N. Pérez Sánchez and Patricia Mazzei, Photographs by Erika P. Rodriguez, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Puerto Rico will once again find itself mostly without power on Tuesday, the five year anniversary of when Hurricane Maria tore through the island. While Hurricane Fiona will be the direct culprit, Puerto Ricans also blame years of continued disruptions, the result of a slow effort to build a stable grid.

puerto rico flagHurricane Fiona deluged Puerto Rico with unrelenting rain and terrifying flash floods on Monday, forcing harrowing home rescues and making it difficult for power crews to reach many parts of the island.

Now the island is once again in darkness, five years after Hurricane Maria inflicted more damage on Puerto Rico than any other disaster in recent history.

While Fiona will be the direct culprit, Puerto Ricans will also blame years of power disruptions, the result of an agonizingly slow effort to finally give the island a stable grid. Hurricane Maria, a near-Category 5 storm, hit on Sept. 20, 2017, leaving about 3,000 dead and damaging 80 percent of the system. The last house was not reconnected to the system until nearly a year later. Hurricane Fiona, with far less ferocious winds, is the strongest storm to reach the island since.

  • New York Times, The devastation partly reflects factors that preceded the storm. Here are three reasons for Puerto Rico’s power outage.

 Recent Headlines

 

Challenges To American Democracy

ny times logoNew York Times, The Story So Far: Where 6 Investigations Into Donald Trump Stand, Peter Baker, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The former president finds himself without the power of the presidency, staring at a host of prosecutors and lawyers who have him and his associates in their sights.

Former President Donald J. Trump has set up his office on the second floor of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part replica of the Oval Office and part homage to his time in the real White House.

On the wall during a visit last year were six favorite photographs, including ones with Queen Elizabeth II and Kim Jong-un. On display were challenge coins, a plaque commemorating his border wall and a portrait of the former president fashioned out of bullet casings, a present from Jair Bolsonaro, the so-called Trump of Brazil.

This has become Mr. Trump’s fortress in exile and his war room, the headquarters for the wide-ranging and rapidly escalating conflict with investigators that has come to consume his post-presidency. It is a multifront war, with battlefields in New York, Georgia and the nation’s capital, featuring a shifting roster of lawyers and a blizzard of allegations of wrongdoing that are hard to keep straight.

Never before has a former president faced an array of federal, state and congressional investigations as extensive as Mr. Trump has, the cumulative consequences of a career in business and eventually politics lived on the edge, or perhaps over the edge. Whether it be his misleading business practices or his efforts to overturn a democratic election or his refusal to hand over sensitive government documents that did not belong to him, Mr. Trump’s disparate legal troubles stem from the same sense that rules constraining others did not apply to him.

The story of how he got to this point is both historically unique and eminently predictable. Mr. Trump has been fending off investigators and legal troubles for a half century, since the Justice Department sued his family business for racial discrimination and through the myriad inquiries that would follow over the years. He has a remarkable track record of sidestepping the worst outcomes, but even he may now find so many inquiries pointing in his direction that escape is uncertain.

His view of the legal system has always been transactional; it is a weapon to be used, either by him or against him, and he has rarely been intimidated by the kinds of subpoenas and affidavits that would chill a less litigious character. On the civil side, he has been involved in thousands of lawsuits with business partners, vendors and others, many of them suing him because he refused to pay his bills.

While president, he once explained his view of the legal system to some aides, saying that he would go to court to intimidate adversaries because just threatening to sue was not enough.

“When you threaten to sue, they don’t do anything,” Mr. Trump told aides. “They say, ‘Psshh!’” — he waved his hand in the air — “and keep doing what they want. But when you sue them, they go, ‘Oooh!’” — here he made a cringing face — “and they settle. It’s as easy as that.”

When he began losing legal battles as president with regularity, he lashed out. At one point when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a traditionally liberal bench based in California, ruled against one of his policies, he demanded that aides get rid of the court altogether. “Let’s just cancel it,” he said, as if it were a campaign event, not a court system established under law. If it required legislation, then draft a bill to “get rid” of the judges, he said, using an expletive.

Recent Headlines

 

Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral, UK Next Steps

 ny times logoNew York Times, From Mourning to Crises: U.K. Prime Minister Pivots to Mounting Woes, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Liz Truss’s government will roll out major initiatives to confront an array of economic and social problems: soaring energy costs, surging inflation and pressure on public services.

The flowers have been cleared. Union Jacks no longer fly at half-staff. Ads have replaced Queen Elizabeth II’s image on bus shelters. A day after burying their revered monarch, Britons returned to normal life on Tuesday to confront a torrent of pressing problems they had set aside in 10 days of mourning.

Hours after the funeral ended, Prime Minister Liz Truss left for New York, where she is holding a round of diplomatic meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which could set the tone for Britain’s relations with the United States and the European Union while she is in office.

At home, her government will roll out major initiatives this week to confront the array of economic and social problems Britain faces: soaring energy costs; surging inflation; pressure on public services, most notably the National Health Service; higher interest rates; and the specter of a recession.

Recent Headlines
 

 

queen elizabeth funeral 9 19 022 david ramos getty

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Democratic plan to avert a 2024 Trump coup quietly advances, Greg Sargent, right, and Paul Waldman, Sept. 20, 2022.As voters approach elections that could elevate political saboteurs to crucial offices in multiple battleground greg sargentstates, Democrats are working to forestall a disaster in 2024. To that end, this week, the House will vote on a bill that reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — in hopes of preventing future efforts to exploit holes in that arcane law, as President Donald Trump tried in 2020.

To understand these reforms, you need to become familiar with what one might call “the Mastriano Scenario.”

Imagine that virulent insurrectionist Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, pulls off a win this November. Then, in 2024, Gov. Mastriano corruptly certifies the state’s presidential electors for Trump or another GOP candidate, in defiance of the popular vote choosing the Democrat. If a GOP-controlled House opted to count those fake electors, they might stand, resulting in chaos or worse.

That could very well happen under the current law regulating such things — the Electoral Count Act — if it is not reformed. Revising the ECA is key to preventing this (among other things) from happening.

The new ECA reform bill in the House — called the Presidential Election Reform Act — is the work of Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The Democratic-controlled House will vote on it within days.

The bill would do a lot of things, such as clarifying that the vice president’s role in counting electors is merely ceremonial. But for our purposes here, what matters is the bill’s safeguards against the Mastriano Scenario.

In this regard, the House bill attempts to improve on another ECA reform bill that a bipartisan group of senators introduced in July. That Senate bill set important standards: It specified that states must appoint electors in compliance with election rules in place before the election, so a state legislature can’t just appoint the popular vote loser’s electors. It established a new judicial review mechanism to oversee that process.

The new House bill goes further in safeguarding against future coup attempts. This is deep in the weeds, but bear with us.

Under the Senate bill, if a corrupt governor certifies electors in defiance of the popular vote, an aggrieved candidate can take it to court. A federal judicial panel would weigh in and designate which electors are the legitimate ones, subject to Supreme Court review. Congress would be required to count those legitimate electors.

But there, a problem might arise. If the corrupt governor simply ignores the new law and disregards what the court said — and certifies fake electors in defiance of that court ruling — then a GOP-controlled House of Representatives could also ignore the new law and count those fake electors.

The House bill adds an additional safeguard: If a corrupt governor defies that judicial panel review and refuses to certify the electors the panel deemed the legitimate ones, the House measure empowers that panel to designate another state official to certify those legitimate electors.

 

mike lindell screengrab

Politico, Judge refuses Lindell motion to dismiss suit brought by voting machine company, Kelly Hooper, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The complaint is one of a flurry of cases filed after the 2020 election by Smartmatic and Dominion against Trump allies and media outlets who have spread false allegations about the companies’ voting systems.

politico CustomA Minnesota District Court judge on Monday denied MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s motion to throw out a lawsuit brought by a voting technology company that claims he defamed it by pushing the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.

Smartmatic, a company that provided election technology and services to Los Angeles in the 2020 election, alleges in the complaint that both Lindell, shown above in a file photo, and MyPillow defamed the voting tech company by falsely promoting the theory that its machines had been hacked or rigged in favor of President Joe Biden. Lindell is a staunch supporter ofsmartmatic former President Donald Trump and has falsely maintained since 2020 that Trump won the election over Biden.

Smartmatic also alleges that Lindell, who has advertised promo codes for MyPillow products to viewers and listeners during TV and radio segments where he pushed the false narrative that voting technology was rigged in the 2020 election, used deceptive trade practices.

The complaint is one of a flurry of cases filed after the 2020 election by Smartmatic and Dominion, another voting technology company, against Trump allies and media outlets who have spread false allegations about the companies’ voting systems.

Lindell moved to dismiss Smartmatic’s complaint, arguing that the company failed to adequately plea the defamation claim, and that the deceptive trade practices claim fails because Lindell was acting in a personal, not professional, capacity when making statements about the 2020 election. MyPillow separately moved to dismiss Smartmatic’s complaint, arguing that it is shielded by the First Amendment and that it did not make any statements about Smartmatic. The company also argued that Lindell’s statements can’t be imputed to MyPillow.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright on Monday denied both Lindell’s and MyPillow’s motions to dismiss the complaint. The court concluded that Smartmatic has alleged sufficient facts to support its defamation claim, including its claims that Lindell’s statements were false, that his defamatory statements were communicated to outside parties, that he knew or should have known his statements were false and that he acted with actual malice in promoting them.

The court concluded that MyPillow can be vicariously liable for Lindell’s actions, since the CEO intentionally promoted MyPillow while allegedly defaming Smartmatic in the media and during public appearances. The court also maintained that Smartmatic can pursue its claim that Lindell violated the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practice law, since the company has alleged sufficient evidence to its claim that Lindell’s statements were made in part to promote MyPillow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Will North Carolina’s Senate Race Break Democratic Hearts Again? Jonathan Weisman, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Winning hasn’t been easy for Democrats since the state’s blue wave in 2008. But polling is evenly divided as Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd compete this year.

The pep rally at the Lenny Boy Brewing Company Friday night was a packed and raucous show of confidence as Democratic officials greeted the “next senator” from North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, and the Mecklenburg County faithful asked about her plans for after her inevitable triumph come Election Day.

Then the Rev. Derinzer Johnson, a North Carolina native recently returned from New Jersey, grabbed a microphone, with a worried look, to plead with Ms. Beasley, a former state chief justice: Let him help her.

“Being close is not good enough — you’ve got to win,” he said later. “They’re not organized,” he said of Ms. Beasley’s political team. “They’re campaigning, but they’re not organized.”

The contest for the seat of Senator Richard M. Burr, a Republican who is retiring, may be 2022’s sleeper race, garnering far less attention than the colorful campaigns in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. Even Ohio has captured more of the spotlight, though North Carolina is a more evenly divided state and public polling has shown Ms. Beasley knotted in a statistical tie with her Republican opponent, Representative Ted Budd.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Subway System to Install Security Cameras in All Train Cars, Patrick McGeehan and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sept. 20, 2022. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the decision, which grew from a pilot project after a mass shooting in Brooklyn, was intended to ease riders’ anxiety.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will install security cameras in every train car in order to reassure riders about the safety of New York City’s subways in the wake of high-profile shootings, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday.

Ms. Hochul said the authority would spend $5.5 million of state and federal funds to place two cameras in each of more than 6,400 cars in the system. The installation would expand a pilot program that began this summer, she said.

While the system’s nearly 500 subway stations are equipped with surveillance cameras, its trains are not. Ms. Hochul said that the new cameras will monitor the entire car and that fitting out an entire train would take about 40 hours. The cameras cannot be monitored live, Ms. Hochul said, but they will provide investigators with video footage after a crime.

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subway?” Ms. Hochul said at a news conference in a subway yard in Queens. “You’re absolutely right. That is our intent, to get the message out that we’re going to be having surveillance of activity on the subway trains, and that’s going to give people great ease of mind.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Return to Center Stage. Their Own, Nicholas Kulish, Sept. 20, 2022. After going dark during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Clinton Global Initiative is back.

After a six-year hiatus, the Clinton Global Initiative returned to New York City this week, bringing together leaders from the worlds of nonprofit, government and business, with a few celebrities sprinkled in for good measure. It has been an eventful few years since they last gathered in 2016.

“The challenges we face are steep, but they pretty much have been steep for a long time now,” former President Bill Clinton said in his opening remarks at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. “And CGI is always and has always been about what we can do and not what we can’t do.”

The Clinton Global Initiative began in 2005 and quickly became something akin to a Davos-on-the-Hudson event, but one with a greater focus on philanthropy, nonprofits and corporate do-gooding. The way it differed from most conferences is that it required participants to make commitments, sometimes in dollars, other times in targets — such as for creating jobs or delivering clean water.

Up to the hiatus in 2016, attendees announced more than 3,700 commitments, which by the organization’s own tally had helped more than 435 million people in over 180 countries.

In many ways the early days were the high-water mark of the philanthrocapitalism era, when trust in the wealthy and celebrities to save the world ran high. In turn, many significant organizations modeled themselves after the Clintons’ endeavor.

Then in 2016, in the heat of the general election campaign fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, with reporters asking a lot of questions about the foundation and its donors, Mr. Clinton announced that the 2016 meeting would be the final version of the initiative.

Now, as world leaders gathered in New York for the first fully in-person United Nations General Assembly in three years, the goal is to recapture that old Clinton magic, and to see if there is still room in a field of thought-leading, pledge-making symposia crowding the city this week.

Advisers to Mr. Clinton said that in the years since, he had longed to restart the event. “He would tell me regularly when we were just talking before a board meeting, ‘I was just out last night and someone was saying when are you going to start CGI again?’” said Robert Harrison, former chief executive of the Clinton Global Initiative, from 2007 to 2016, and a board member of the Clinton Foundation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rally With Trump? Some G.O.P. Candidates Aren’t Thrilled About It, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Whether invited or not, former President Trump is holding rallies in battleground states, putting some Republicans seeking swing votes in an awkward spot.

Former President Donald J. Trump is preparing to swoop into Ohio on Saturday to rally Republicans behind J.D. Vance in a key Senate race. Two weeks earlier, he did the same for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.

Neither candidate invited him.

Instead, aides to the former president simply informed the Senate campaigns that he was coming. Never mind that Mr. Trump, while viewed heroically by many Republicans, remains widely disliked among crucial swing voters.

The question of how to handle Mr. Trump has so bedeviled some Republican candidates for Senate that they have held private meetings about the best way to field the inevitable calls from his team, according to strategists familiar with the discussions.

This awkward state of affairs reflects the contortions many Republican candidates are going through as they leave primary season behind and pivot to the general election, when Democrats are trying to bind them to the former president.

Recent Headlines

 

President Biden, left, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su at the White House on Sept. 15, 2022.

President Biden, left, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su at the White House on Sept. 15, 2022.

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

 United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, World Leaders Convene at the U.N. for the First Time in 3 Years, Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 20, 2022. Dignitaries are meeting in New York to discuss sweeping crises that include climate change, food insecurity and the war in Ukraine.

joe biden headshotWorld leaders’ speeches at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly begin on Tuesday with a notable change of protocol: The president of the United States will not be speaking on the first day.

Because he was in London on Monday attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II along with many other world leaders, President Biden will speak on Wednesday morning.

The United States hosts the U.N. headquarters, so the American president traditionally speaks second after Brazil, whose leader has traditionally spoken first since the 1950s.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the U.N., opened the session with a speech about a divided world in peril facing enormous challenges, from the threat of multilateralism, to conflict, climate change and food insecurity. Mr. Guterres told reporters last week that he will set out a call to action with concrete steps for tackling and overcoming these challenges.

President Emmanuel Macron of France will be another notable speaker on Tuesday afternoon, reiterating the threat to world order and international law because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine and its many rippling effects will be a major theme of the General Assembly this week. But there are not many world leaders who have access to both presidents of Russia and Ukraine.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is also scheduled to speak on Tuesday. He has emerged as a key figure in mediating between Ukraine and Russia and, together with Mr. Guterres, led the negotiations that resulted in a deal that allowed Ukraine’s grain to be shipped out of ports in the Black Sea.

The United States, the European Union and the African Union are jointly hosting a conference on Tuesday to address the global food insecurity crisis and appease the concerns of developing countries who say the West has ignored their problems and focused too much of its attention and aid on Ukraine.

Kishida Fumio, the prime minister of Japan, had been expected to speak on Tuesday, but his trip to New York has been delayed because of a typhoon in Japan. He will be leaving Japan on Tuesday to take on the U.N. stage.

Some other speakers on Tuesday:

  • Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who faces a tight election next month, will be the first world leader to give remarks. He is likely to call for the international community to address the Ukraine conflict’s humanitarian impact, particularly on energy and food.
  • Olaf Scholz, the new chancellor of Germany, which could face an energy crisis this winter because of the standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan and Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will both likely address the many challenges in the Middle East.

 

mark frerichs ap

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hostage released by Taliban in exchange for Afghan detainee, Haq Nawaz Khan and Susannah George, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. hostage Mark Frerichs, above, a civilian contractor who was abducted in Kabul over two years ago was released in exchange for an Afghan detainee held in U.S. federal prison, a top Taliban official announced Monday.

Frerichs’s family welcomed his release in a statement, saying they were “grateful and excited to learn that he has been freed,” after being held for more than two and a half years.

“I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day,” Charlene Cakora, his sister said in the statement released by Camden Advisory Group that has been advocating for his release. “We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us.”

Frerichs’s release was the subject of negotiations between senior U.S. officials and the Taliban leading up to the signing of the U.S. withdrawal agreement in Doha and in the months that followed after the Biden administration oversaw the end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan last year.

As the withdrawal neared without a deal securing his’ release, his family and advocates feared the United States would lose all leverage to free him. But a senior administration official said Monday “bringing Mark home has been a top priority for President Biden and his national security team.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran says no nuclear deal without U.S. guarantees it won’t walk out again, Karen DeYoung, Sept. 19, 2022. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, in his first U.S. media interview, said that the Biden administration’s promise to adhere to a new nuclear agreement was “meaningless” without guarantees that the United States would not again unilaterally withdraw from the deal in the future.

“If it’s a good deal and fair deal, we would be serious about reaching an agreement. It needs to be lasting,” said Raisi, speaking through an interpreter in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” conducted last week in Tehran and broadcast Sunday evening. But he added: “We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we’ve already seen from them. That is why if there is no guarantee, there is no trust.”

Tehran’s demand for guarantees that the United States would stay in a new agreement has become a principal sticking point in the failure of Iran and world powers to negotiate a deal to replace the 2015 version from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2018. Negotiations that began nearly a year and a half ago have now sputtered to a virtual stop.

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Feels Pain of Global Disruptions Wrought by War and Pandemic, Staff Report, Sept. 20, 2022. The country’s economy has been very hard hit by cascading crises which have disrupted worldwide trade.

When the state-owned factory where Hesham el-Atar worked for 15 years was liquidated this month, he had a feeling it was linked to international pressure on the Egyptian government to reduce its role in the economy amid a severe downturn.

Mr. el-Atar, 39, was a supervisor at the factory, El Nasr Coke and Chemicals Plant, which turned coal into a fuel called coke used in iron and steel production. Now, with his daily expenses rising, he said that he fears he will not be able to find another job near his home in the city of El Saf, about two hours south of the Egyptian capital.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I have four kids. We’re used to a certain standard of living. It will have to change.”

Egypt, which relies heavily on imported goods and foreign borrowing, has been badly battered by the cascading disruptions to global trade from the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine. The exit of foreign investment capital, a collapse in tourism and spiking commodity prices have all translated into a foreign-currency shortage.

The government has responded by implementing more onerous import rules, devaluing the local currency and pushing up interest rates. It has also taken steps to privatize or shut down state-owned enterprises, a key demand of international investors and creditors who say the government’s outsized role in the economy hinders private investment.

But at the same time, Egypt has succeeded in raising more than $22 billion this year in investment pledges from wealthy Gulf allies leery of seeing one of the pillars of the Arab world on the brink after a decade of tumult that began with the country’s 2011 uprising.

ny times logoNew York Times, In One Corner of Kosovo, Cheers Still Ring Out for Vladimir Putin, Andrew Higgins, Sept. 20, 2022. Many ethnic Serbs, nursing grievances against NATO for a 1999 bombing campaign that broke Serbia’s grip on the territory, see Mr. Putin as a savior.
When Europeans and Americans recoiled in horror this spring at evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine, Nebjosa Jovic, a university administrator in northern Kosovo, decided he had to act: He organized a street protest to cheer Russia on.

“We wanted to send a message to the West, especially its headquarters in the United States, to stop persecuting Russians,” Mr. Jovic said.

Only a few people showed up, Mr. Jovic said, because of the “circle of fear” that envelops northern Kosovo, a mostly ethnic Serb region out of step with the rest of the country, where ethnic Albanians, most of whom strongly support Ukraine, make up more than 90 percent of the population.

Viewed from London or Washington, the horrors visited on Ukraine by Russia offer a clear and inescapable moral choice. But, filtered through the prism of grievance and history in places tormented by their own strife, Ukraine’s misery fades in favor of local claims to victimhood.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. proposes suspending $7.5B in funding for Orban’s Hungary over corruption, Emily Rauhala, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). The European Commission on Sunday proposed the suspension of billions of dollars in funding for Hungary over concerns about corruption, a first-of-its kind move that could deepen the stand-off between Brussels and Budapest — if it goes ahead.

european union logo rectangleThe commission will ask European Union countries to approve the suspension of 65 percent of funding from three programs, amounting to roughly $7.5 billion, according to E.U. officials. But the commission seemed to leave the door open for Hungary to make reforms and keep the money in the end.

hungary flagThis is the first time the E.U. is using a new measure aimed at protecting its budget by making funding conditional on certain standards. “Today’s decision is a clear demonstration of the Commission’s resolve to protect the E.U. budget, and to use all tools at our disposal to ensure this important objective,” said Johannes Hahn, commissioner in charge of Budget and Administration said in a statement.

Announcing the possible suspension, Hahn mentioned three problem areas: systematic irregularities in procurement, problems related to the prevention of conflict of interest and issues related to Hungary’s anti-corruption framework. He noted, however, that the Hungarian side has committed to a package of 17 reform measures to address E.U. concerns.

E.U. member states will have a month to decide whether or not to proceed, with the possibility of extending by two months, according to commission. An E.U. official on Wednesday suggested the extension is likely. A qualified majority is required to move forward.

The move comes just days after the European parliament declared the country has become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” under the current government — and after years of acrimony between the E.U. and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.

 

 In a photo provided by the Armenian government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was greeted by Alen Simonyan, the president of the National Assembly, on Saturday outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (Photo by via PHOTOLURE and the Associated Press).

In a photo provided by the Armenian government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was greeted by Alen Simonyan, the president of the National Assembly, on Saturday outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (Photo by via PHOTOLURE and the Associated Press).

Politico, Pelosi’s visit fires debate in Armenia over alliance with Russia, Gabriel Gavin, Sept. 19, 2022. The US House Speaker could hardly have timed her trip better, as Yerevan questions the merits of relying on Moscow as its main security ally. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a reputation for visiting hotspots. Her recent travels to Armenia raises debate about the country’s political allegiances.

politico CustomCrowds lined the streets of Yerevan hours before Nancy Pelosi’s fleet of seven slick black cars pulled into the center of the Armenian capital on Sunday. Waving American flags, thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the speaker of the House of Representatives as she paid a historic visit to the Caucasian nation, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Those U.S. flags carried a significant political message about the country’s political allegiances. For years, Armenia chose to be a key strategic ally of the Kremlin, but many are now increasingly questioning whether Moscow can act as guarantor of the nation’s security against the superior firepower of neighboring Azerbaijan, which launched a massive artillery bombardment on Tuesday. Since then 135 Armenians and 77 Azeris have died in a conflict that looks at risk of breaking through a fragile ceasefire.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin mired in a war that is rapidly turning against him in Ukraine, Yerevan is finding that its appeals for help from a Moscow-led security grouping, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are falling on deaf ears. That’s a pivotal strategic problem as the enemy in Azerbaijan is lavishly supported by Turkey, a regional military heavyweight that Yerevan associates with the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I.

The thousands who took to the streets of Yerevan, close to where the U.S. delegation was holding meetings, demanded their country withdraw from that Russian-led military partnership. Billboards featuring Putin were torn down, crowds chanted Pelosi’s name, and demonstrators held up signs reading “CSTO go screw yourself.”

“All my life we have been a Russian colony,” said Anna, a protestor who brought her seven-year-old daughter to the rally. “It’s time for us to try something else.”

Another demonstrator angrily confronted a Russian journalist after spotting his nationality printed on a press card. “Why are you here? Why don’t you go back to Russia and report on what is going on there?” she demanded. “You are occupiers!”

Pelosi’s condemnation of the Azeri attack, naturally, received a less than warm welcome in Baku, which insists Azerbaijan is only responding to coming under fire from Armenian territory. “Groundless and unfair accusations against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva tweeted following the speech. “Such statements serve not to strengthen fragile peace in the region, but rather to escalate tension.”

While Armenia is becoming more hostile to the Kremlin, Baku seems to be drawing closer to it. Just two days before Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine in February, Aliyev met with Vladimir Putin, signing off on a comprehensive agreement that they said “brings our relations to the level of an alliance.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. charges 47 with ‘brazen’ theft of $250 million of pandemic food aid meant for kids, Tony Romm, Sept. 20, 2022. 
Defendants used fake names of nonexistent children to take cash meant to pay for meals that they instead put toward houses, cars and other luxury goods, prosecutors said.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department charged 47 defendants Tuesday for allegedly defrauding a federal program that provided food for needy children during the pandemic, describing the scheme — totaling $250 million — as the largest uncovered to date targeting the government’s generous stimulus aid.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants — a network of individuals and organizations tied to Feeding Our Future, a Minnesota-based nonprofit — allegedly put the wrongly obtained federal pandemic funds toward luxury cars, houses and other personal purchases in what amounted to a case of “brazen” theft.

“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The alleged scheme centered on the Federal Child Nutrition Program, which is administered by the Agriculture Department to provide free meals to the children of lower-income families. Congress greatly expanded the program over the course of the pandemic, including by allowing a wider array of organizations to distribute food at a larger range of locations.

The changes to federal law opened the door for Feeding Our Future to play a greater role in distributing meals, the Justice Department contends, and the group disbursed more than $200 million over the course of 2021. In doing so, though, federal prosecutors alleged the company’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, oversaw a vast fraud scheme across Minnesota.

It was the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: Two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money spared the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines into millions of arms, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman who staged her own kidnapping sentenced to 18 months in prison, Julian Mark, Sept. 20, 2022. Sherri Papini, 40, has never explained why she concocted the story, which she stuck to for five years.

For more than five years, Sherri Papini insisted that, in November 2016, she was abducted by two masked women who held her captive for 22 days, starved her and branded her shoulder with a hot tool.

In April, the now-40-year-old mother of two admitted that she staged the abduction that prompted a multistate search. And on Monday, during her sentencing in a federal courtroom in Sacramento, she repented.

“I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor,” she said before the judge, according to the Sacramento Bee, adding, “I am choosing to humbly accept responsibility.”

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb sentenced Papini to 18 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to mail fraud and making false statements, according to the Justice Department. Shubb called Papini a “manipulator,” the Bee reported, and said the eight-month sentence recommended by prosecutors would not suffice.

The judge also ordered Papini to pay $309,902 in restitution to the California Victim Compensation Board, the Social Security Administration and the agencies that investigated the sham kidnapping. Her motive for concocting the story remains unclear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor suspended over claim he pressured defendant for nude photos, Jonathan Edwards, Sept. 20, 2022. Ronnie Goldy Jr. provided a defendant with legal favors for years in exchange for her nude photos, court officials allege.

Elected prosecutor Ronnie Goldy Jr. had spent about three years helping a defendant out of legal jams in exchange for nude photos of her, but on June 15, 2018, he asked for something more, court officials said.

“When do I get to see a video?” Goldy, the top prosecutor for several rural counties east of Lexington, Ky., allegedly asked her in a Facebook message.

“When am I not gonna have a warrant hahaha,” the woman countered, according to a court report.

“Lol. Good point,” Goldy allegedly replied before sending another message: “Incentives never hurt.”

Twelve days later, Goldy followed up, telling the woman she owed him “big time,” according to a report filed last week with the Kentucky Supreme Court. When the woman asked why, Goldy allegedly responded that the “Judge is about to withdraw some warrants.”

On Friday, the state Supreme Court temporarily suspended Goldy from practicing law for allegedly engaging in a quid pro quo relationship. For seven years, he did legal favors for the female defendant, demanding nude images and “sexual favors” in return, according to a report written by Jean Chenault Logue, a state judge who served as a special commissioner overseeing Goldy’s case.

Under Kentucky law, a commonwealth’s attorney like Goldy can’t be removed from office except by impeachment. But Logue recommended Goldy’s suspension from practicing law, saying the inquiry commission had presented enough evidence to show that Goldy’s “professional misconduct poses a substantial threat of harm to the public.”

 nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

ny times logoNew York Times, Law Enforcement Funding Package Splits Democrats Ahead of Midterms, Annie Karni and Stephanie Lai, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A measure to provide more money for local police departments has become mired in a long-running debate among Democrats about the politics of crime.

Legislation to increase funding for local police departments has hit a snag on Capitol Hill amid deep Democratic divisions, as progressives balk at steering more money to law enforcement and moderates clamor for action that could blunt Republicans’ efforts to paint them as soft on crime ahead of the midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shown above in a file photo, has pledged for weeks to bring up a package of bills that would provide funding for hiring more police officers, increasing salaries, investing in officer safety and training and body cameras, as well as mental health resources for officers.

But the measures, championed by vulnerable Democrats from conservative-leaning districts, have become mired in a yearslong internal feud about the politics of crime, leaving the party without an answer to Republican attacks and some of its members livid.

abigail spanberger twitter“I have heard a whole host of reasons for people wanting to excuse inaction,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, left, Democrat of Virginia, who is in a difficult re-election race in a competitive district that includes the suburbs of Richmond, and is a lead proponent of the legislation. “The sort of generalized excuses — I’ve heard it a lot. Tomorrow it will be, ‘It’s raining.’”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who pressed successfully for the package to include measures to strengthen accountability for police misconduct, have also pushed to move ahead with it.

A spokesman for the caucus said that the issue remains a priority for the group.

Yet a small group of progressives has so far refused to back the legislation, leaving Democrats short of the votes they would need to bring it up. House Democratic leaders do not want to put their party’s divisions on display at a time when the political map is looking more favorable for them than it did just a few months ago. So Ms. Pelosi has been holding off on announcing any vote, as lawmakers continue discussions with those withholding their support.

pramila jayapal resized oRepresentative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has positioned herself as the principal roadblock to the legislation, arguing that it would provide a blank check to police departments.

“The answer is not just putting more money in,” Ms. Jayapal said. “I’m not sure that this has a chance of moving forward, given all of the challenges around it.”

Because of Democrats’ slim majority in the House, the opposition of Ms. Jayapal and just three other liberals would be enough to block it from proceeding to a vote. Talks among her, moderate Democrats and party leaders were continuing on Monday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, with some still hopeful for a potential breakthrough.

 

adnad sayed

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Vacates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed, Subject of ‘Serial,’ Michael Levenson, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his high school classmate Hae Min Lee. The judge gave prosecutors 30 days to proceed with a new trial or drop the case.

In a remarkable reversal, Adnan Syed walked out of prison on Monday for the first time since he was a teenager, having spent 23 years fighting his conviction on charges that he murdered his former high school girlfriend, a case that was chronicled in the first season of the hit podcast “Serial.”

Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated the conviction “in the interests of justice and fairness,” finding that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that could have helped Mr. Syed at trial and discovered new evidence that could have affected the outcome of his case.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide if they will proceed with a new trial or drop the charges against Mr. Syed, who was ordered to serve home detention until then. Prosecutors said that an investigation had pointed to two possible “alternative suspects,” although those individuals have not been named publicly or charged.

“At this time, we will remove the shackles from Mr. Syed,” Judge Phinn declared after announcing her decision. Moments later, Mr. Syed walked onto the courthouse steps, smiling as a crowd of supporters shouted and cheered. He gave a small wave and climbed into a waiting SUV, without saying anything to reporters who pressed around him.

Mr. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence after he was convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a park in Baltimore in 1999.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time, had steadfastly maintained his innocence, and questions about whether he had received a fair trial drew widespread attention when “Serial” debuted in 2014. The podcast became a pop-culture sensation with its detailed examination over 12 episodes of the case against Mr. Syed, including the peculiarities of his lawyer, who agreed to be disbarred amid complaints of wrongdoing in 2001 and died in 2004.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Faces Potential Fiscal Crisis as $10 Billion Deficit Looms, Dana Rubinstein, Sept. 19, 2022. A persistent pandemic-driven downturn has caused revenue from business and personal-income taxes to fall in New York City, while tourism and job losses have yet to recover.

Recent Headlines

 

Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP senator says he won’t back Graham’s proposed national abortion ban, María Luisa Paúl, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Another Republican senator says he won’t support the bill Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) introduced that would ban most abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said abortion policy should be left up to states during a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“At this point, to have Congress step back and to tell all of the states that we know better than them how to handle this is probably not the right direction to go,” Rounds said, adding: “I think the states are in a better shape to explore and to find the right direction on a state-by-state basis.”

The senator, who as South Dakota’s governor signed a bill in 2006 that sought to ban most abortions there, is the latest in a growing list of Republicans to have voiced opposition to Graham’s bill. That bill, introduced Sept. 13, would allow some states’ stricter abortion laws to remain, but impose new restrictions on other states.

Recent Headlines

 

lindsey graham npr

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Quebec Lithium Mine May Help Make Electric Cars Affordable, Jack Ewing, Photographs by Brendan George Ko, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). The project is also illustrating how difficult it is to mine lithium, and to break China’s dominance in processing the metal and turning it into batteries.

About 350 miles northwest of Montreal, amid a vast pine forest, is a deep mining pit with walls of mottled rock. The pit has changed hands repeatedly and been mired in bankruptcy, but now it could help determine the future of electric vehicles.

The mine contains lithium, an indispensable ingredient in electric car batteries that is in short supply. If it opens on schedule early next year, it will be the second North American source of that metal, offering hope that badly needed raw materials can be extracted and refined close to Canadian, U.S. and Mexican auto factories, in line with Biden administration policies that aim to break China’s dominance of the battery supply chain.

Having more mines will also help contain the price of lithium, which has soared fivefold since mid-2021, pushing the cost of electric vehicles so high that they are out of reach for many drivers. The average new electric car in the United States costs about $66,000, just a few thousand dollars short of the median household income last year.

But the mine outside La Corne, operated by Sayona Mining, an Australian company, also illustrates the many hurdles that must be overcome to produce and process the materials needed to wean automobiles from fossil fuels. The mine has had several owners, and some of them filed for bankruptcy. As a result, some analysts and investors warn that many mines being developed now may never be viable.

Dozens of lithium mines are in various stages of development in Canada and the United States. Canada has made it a mission to become a major source of raw materials and components for electric vehicles. But most of these projects are years away from production. Even if they are able to raise the billions of dollars needed to get going, there is no guarantee they will yield enough lithium to meet the continent’s needs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Billions in Climate Deal Funding Could Help Protect U.S. Coastal Cities, Stephanie Lai, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Communities are hoping that the Democrats’ new climate law will help restore coastal habitats, part of a program that emphasizes nature-based solutions.

Claire Arre, a marine biologist, waded through the sand in search of an Olympia oyster on a recent sunny afternoon, monitoring the bed her organization had built to clean up the surrounding watershed and contemplating all that could be done if she could get her hands on federal funding to expand the work.

Ms. Arre’s project aims to combat climate change using nature instead of human-engineered construction, and it is one of many across the nation’s 254 coastal counties that is eligible for billions in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the sprawling climate, health care and tax bill signed last month by President Biden.

The measure could “have a direct result in getting our next restoration project off the ground and sharing the beneficial impacts here into another area,” said Ms. Arre, the director of marine restoration for Orange County Coastkeeper, a nonprofit group, as she meticulously scanned the site, surrounded by sandbars and cliffs, pickleweed and docked boats.

The group hopes to expand to nearby Huntington Harbour, and it has been seeking funding to do so.

A little-noticed section of Democrats’ climate legislation, which made the largest federal investment in history to combat the warming of the planet, injects $2.6 billion over five years into coastal communities across the country through grants to fund projects that prepare and respond to hazardous climate-related events and disturbances. The program makes up less than 1 percent of the total climate investment in the law, but it is widely regarded as a significant step and the latest sign of a shift by the federal government toward funding nature-based climate solutions.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Strongest storm in decades battering Alaska, Zach Rosenthal and Jacob Feuerstein, Sept. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Massive amounts of water are sloshing ashore, raising the ocean as much as a dozen feet and slamming vulnerable coastal communities with severe erosion.

A powerful extratropical cyclone is blasting into the western coast of Alaska — bringing potential perils from a storm surge that threatens to top out at 18 feet and gusts that will reach up to 90 mph.

“This continues to be a dangerous storm as it is producing water levels above higher than any seen over at least 50 years,” the National Weather Service’s Fairbanks office wrote in its Saturday morning forecast discussion. The National Weather Service has issued several warnings to account for a multitude of hurricane-like threats.

As the powerhouse system approached Alaska late Friday and into early Saturday, roaring south-to-southwesterly winds battered the state’s west coast. Through Saturday morning, widespread gusts had reached 45 to 77 mph.

Massive amounts of water, shoved north by the high winds, were sloshing ashore, raising the ocean multiple feet and battering vulnerable coastal communities with severe erosion. The tide gauge in Nome, which is known for being the end point of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, showed water levels more than 7 feet above normal levels early Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, North America’s largest birds return to Northern California after a 130-year absence, Alice Li, Kasha Patel and Melina Mara, Sept. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Once pushed to the brink of extinction, condors have benefited from a plan created by the Yurok Tribe and government partners to release the birds into Redwood National Park.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Free Expression, Culture, Education, Sports News

ny times logoThe Athletic via New York Times, LIV Golf Wants Official World Ranking Status. Here’s Why It Matters, Brendan Quinn, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). Fifty LIV golfers signed a letter sent to the chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking on Tuesday, requesting the breakaway tour receive world ranking points for its events.

The letter, signed by Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, among others, argued the exclusion of LIV players “undermines the historical value of OWGR.”

“Some 23 tours are integrated into the OWGR universe, and LIV has earned its place among them,” the golfers wrote to Peter Dawson, OWGR chairman. “Four LIV golfers have held the (No. 1) position on the OWGR, and one is currently (No. 2). LIV’s roster includes 21 of the last 51 winners of the four majors. The level of competition at the average LIV event is at least equal to that at the average PGA Tour event.”

LIV Golf applied for admission to the OWGR in mid-July, but its tournaments do not currently receive ranking points. The controversial tour has three more events in 2022, next convening in Bangkok from Oct. 7-9.
go-deeper.

As Tuesday’s letter makes clear, LIV’s greatest argument to be included in the OWGR is not its format, but its talent. No matter what the rankings say, it’s without question that players like Smith, Johnson and others are among the world’s best. By not counting their play, LIV argues, the rankings lack validity. It’s not a bad case to make, but in terms of the OWGR’s standards for ranking points to be awarded by how a competition is formatted, LIV otherwise isn’t compliant.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden is right. The pandemic is over, Leana S. Wen, right, Sept. 21, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden’s off-the-cuff comment leana wenduring a “60 Minutes” interview that “the pandemic is over” has sparked outrage from all sides. Republicans are accusing Biden of hypocrisy as he asks Congress for more covid-19 funding, while some on the left point to the disease’s continued death toll as evidence that the pandemic is nowhere near its finish line.

These criticisms don’t detract from Biden’s point. He’s right. By multiple definitions, the pandemic is over. That doesn’t mean that the coronavirus is no longer causing harm; it simply signals the end of an emergency state as covid has evolved into an endemic disease.

A pandemic is something that upends our daily lives and profoundly alters the way that we work, go to school, worship and socialize. That was certainly the case in March 2020. I was among the public health experts who urged people to “stay home, save lives.” We called for Americans to avoid “play dates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship.” Employers sent workers home en masse. Schools pivoted to remote instruction.

Things changed with the arrival of vaccines. Many individuals, once vaccinated, began resuming their pre-pandemic activities. Others, like my family, waited until younger kids could receive the shots. By now, the vast majority of Americans have been vaccinated or recovered from covid-19 or both. The preventive antibody Evusheld and treatments such as Paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies provide further protection against severe illness.

Leana S. Wen, a Washington Post contributing columnist who writes the newsletter The Checkup with Dr. Wen, is a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and author of the book “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.” Previously, she served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, Biden declares that ‘the pandemic is over’ in the U.S., surprising some officials, Dan Diamond, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.).. Impromptu remarks in ‘60 Minutes’ interview may complicate White House struggle to secure additional funding for coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says the Pandemic Is Over. But at Least 400 People Are Dying Daily, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden made the remark in an interview that aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday night. By Monday, the backlash was in full swing.

Politico, Biden on ‘60 Minutes’: ‘The pandemic is over,’ David Cohen and Adam Cancryn, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). President Joe Biden said “the pandemic is over” in discussing Covid during an interview that aired on Sunday evening on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

joe biden resized oThe president also called former President Donald Trump “totally irresponsible“ in his handling of classified documents, and hedged on whether he was fully committed to seeking reelection.

politico Custom“The pandemic is over,” the president told Scott Pelley as they talked last week at the Detroit Auto Show. “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

Despite Biden’s statement, Covid has continued to exact a toll in the United States and around the world. The John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center lists more than 2 million Covid cases in the country in the last 28 days, with hundreds dying from the disease every day.

Biden’s insistence on Sunday night that the pandemic is over caught several of his own health officials by surprise. The declaration was not part of his planned remarks ahead of the “60 Minutes” interview, two administration officials familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

Biden’s statement was the most definite one he has made about the pandemic since assuming the presidency in January 2021. He was less definitive when asked whether he planned to seek reelection.

“Is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” Biden said, saying he would make his decision after the November midterms.

He did qualify his remarks by saying it had always been his “intention” to seek another term and explained that “election laws” would come into play if he were to announce his candidacy at this juncture.

In the interview, parts of which were recorded at the White House before Biden flew to Britain to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the president also said he was startled to see the photograph of top-secret documents on the floor of the residence at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, calling Trump “totally irresponsible.”

Recent Headlines

 

Sept. 20

Top Headlines

 

Challenges To American Democracy

 

Puerto Rican Hurricane, Power Failure

 

U.S. Immigration Laws, Disputes

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

Other Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral

 

queen elizabeth funeral 9 19 022 david ramos getty

 

Forced Birth Laws, Abortion, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Top Stories

Politico, Special master expresses skepticism with Trump team’s assertions, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Sept. 20, 2022. Judge Raymond Dearie pushed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly for refusing to back up the former president’s claim that he declassified the highly sensitive national security-related records discovered in his residence.

politico CustomThe senior federal judge tasked with reviewing the materials seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate sharply questioned the former president’s attorneys Tuesday during their first hearing before his courtroom.

raymond dearieJudge Raymond Dearie, right, pushed Trump’s lawyers repeatedly for refusing to back up the former president’s claim that he declassified the highly sensitive national security-related records discovered in his residence.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” said Dearie, the “special master” picked by U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon to vet Trump’s effort to reclaim the materials taken by federal investigators.

Trump has argued that the 11,000 documents taken from Mar-a-Lago were rightfully in his possession, including about 100 bearing classification markings that suggest they contain some of the nation’s most closely guarded intelligence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: ‘Very Harmful’ Lack of Health Data Blunts U.S. Response to Outbreaks, Sharon LaFraniere, Sept. 20, 2022. Major data gaps, the result of decades of underinvestment in public health, have undercut the response to the coronavirus and now to monkeypox. Information is scattered across databases, many of which are incompatible with each other. Fixing the problem will be expensive and time-consuming.

After a middle-aged woman tested positive for Covid-19 in January at her workplace in Fairbanks, public health workers sought answers to questions vital to understanding how the virus was spreading in Alaska’s rugged interior.

The woman, they learned, had underlying conditions and had not been vaccinated. She had been hospitalized but had recovered. Alaska and many other states have routinely collected that kind of information about people who test positive for the virus. Part of the goal is to paint a detailed picture of how one of the worst scourges in American history evolves and continues to kill hundreds of people daily, despite determined efforts to stop it.

But most of the information about the Fairbanks woman — and tens of millions more infected Americans — remains effectively lost to state and federal epidemiologists. Decades of underinvestment in public health information systems has crippled efforts to understand the pandemic, stranding crucial data in incompatible data systems so outmoded that information often must be repeatedly typed in by hand. The data failure, a salient lesson of a pandemic that has killed more than one million Americans, will be expensive and time-consuming to fix.

The precise cost in needless illness and death cannot be quantified. The nation’s comparatively low vaccination rate is clearly a major factor in why the United States has recorded the highest Covid death rate among large, wealthy nations. But federal experts are certain that the lack of comprehensive, timely data has also exacted a heavy toll.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. can’t ban gun sales to people indicted on felony charges, judge says, Derek Hawkins, Sept. 20, 2022. A federal law barring people under felony indictment from purchasing guns is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Texas ruled Monday in an early test of a watershed decision by the Supreme Court expanding firearm access.

U.S. District Judge David Counts found that the law’s prohibitions clashed with the high court’s June decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, in which a 6-3 conservative majority ruled that law-abiding Americans have a right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense.

The 25-page opinion by Counts, a Donald Trump appointee, invoked the language of originalism, the conservative legal theory that judges should interpret the Constitution based on how it was understood when it was adopted.

The judge said he found little historical evidence that the law barring those under felony indictment from obtaining a firearm “aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition.”

“The Second Amendment is not a ‘second class right,’ ” Counts wrote. “After Bruen, the Government must prove that laws regulating conduct covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text align with this Nation’s historical tradition. The Government does not meet that burden.”

Accordingly, he said, the law was unconstitutional.

The Justice Department said it intended to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The case arose from the indictment of Jose Gomez Quiroz of West Texas, who bought a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun in 2021 while facing state charges of burglary and jumping bail.

According to the ruling, Quiroz denied at the time of sale and background check that he was under indictment. After waiting a week, he picked up the weapon from a retailer in Alpine, Tex.

Politico, OSCE Ukrainian staff members sentenced in Russian-separatist kangaroo court, Stephanie Liechtenstein, Sept. 20, 2022. Three employees of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been imprisoned in eastern Ukraine.

politico CustomUkrainian forces have recently pushed Russian troops back across thousands of square miles in northeastern Ukraine, liberating dozens of towns and cities from Russian rule. But for millions of Ukrainians living in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk, the reality of life under Russian proxy rule is grim.

And for Ukrainians suspected of collaborating with Kyiv and trapped behind enemy lines, it’s even worse. In June, POLITICO reported on hundreds of local staffers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring mission who were working in eastern Ukraine to support the mission’s efforts in observing a fragile ceasefire. Many of them were left behind when foreign staff were evacuated in the war’s first days.

Now, two of these team members have been sentenced to more than a decade behind bars in sham trials by separatist courts in Luhansk.

On Monday, Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine sentenced OSCE mission members Dmitry Shabanov and Maxim Petrov to 13 years in prison for alleged treason. They are accused of having passed secret information to U.S. intelligence services, charges the OSCE vehemently denies.

The legal proceedings against Shabanov and Petrov were only launched last week by the so-called “Supreme Court” of the unrecognized Luhansk “people’s republic” in eastern Ukraine. The court proceedings were held entirely behind closed doors.

OSCE chairman-in-office, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid “unequivocally condemned” the sentencing in a joint statement.

“Our colleagues remain OSCE staff members and had been performing official duties as mandated by all 57 participating States,” Schmid said. “I call for their immediate and unconditional release, along with our other colleague who is also being detained.”

 

U.S. Immigration Laws, DisputesICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, For the first time, arrests of undocumented immigrants on the southwestern U.S. border exceeded 2 million in a year, Eileen Sullivan, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The historic pace of undocumented immigrants entering the country continued as the Biden administration tried to steer clear of immigration issues with the midterm elections approaching.

For the first time, the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants along the southwestern border exceeded two million in one year, according to newly released government data, continuing a historic pace of undocumented immigrants coming to the country.

The number of arrests at the border increased slightly from July to August, with a total of more than 2.1 million for the first 11 months of the 2022 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

In an unusual step, Biden administration officials gave some reporters a background briefing on Monday before Customs and Border Protection’s routine monthly release of data. Officials noted that the number of removals over the past year — more than 1.3 million — was more than any previous year.

The administration in recent months has tried to steer clear of immigration issues as the midterm elections approach and Republicans campaign on the message that the border is unsecured. Last week, two Republican governors paid for dozens of immigrants who were released from government custody to be transported to Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., an escalation of efforts to show Democratic areas inside the country what it is like on the southwestern border.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Criminal Investigation Is Opened After Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Edgar Sandoval and Eliza Fawcett, Sept. 20, 2022. A county sheriff in Texas announced on Monday that he had opened a criminal investigation into flights that took 48 migrants from a shelter in San Antonio to the island resort of Martha’s Vineyard last week.

Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, said that he had enlisted agents from his office’s organized crime task force and that it was too early to determine which laws might have been broken. But he said it was clear that many of the migrants had been misled and lured away from Texas to score political points.

The migrants, caught in a mounting political fight between Republican governors of border states and Democratic officials, were flown to Massachusetts by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida last week. A day later, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington.

A migrant appears to have been paid to recruit other Venezuelan migrants, who have been crossing the southwest border in greater numbers, from the area around a migrant resource center in San Antonio, Sheriff Salazar said. The migrants were “lured under false pretenses” with promises of work and a better life, he added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron Desantis’s move prompted liberals’ condemnation, and more such flights may follow, Lisa Lerer and Michael C. Bender, Sept. 20, 2022. For months, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona have been busing migrants across the country, using immigrants as political props as they try to score points in the midterm elections and bolster their conservative bona fides.

But last week, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, supercharged the tactic, flying two chartered planeloads of undocumented migrants out of Texas — about 700 miles from the Florida state line — to Martha’s Vineyard, the moneyed Massachusetts vacation spot frequented by liberal celebrities and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The migrants had not set foot in Florida and said they were misled about their destination. The island was unprepared to handle the influx. But Mr. DeSantis got exactly the reaction he wanted.

Liberal condemnation. Conservative applause. And national attention.

Days after the migrants got off their planes, Mr. DeSantis flew across the country himself — to events for Republican candidates for governor in Wisconsin and Kansas where he promoted his stunt. He received standing ovations.

 

Puerto Rican Hurricane, Power Failure

 

puerto rico fiona path 2022

 ny times logoNew York Times, Fiona Leaves Puerto Rico in the Dark on the Anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Laura N. Pérez Sánchez and Patricia Mazzei, Photographs by Erika P. Rodriguez, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Puerto Rico will once again find itself mostly without power on Tuesday, the five year anniversary of when Hurricane Maria tore through the island. While Hurricane Fiona will be the direct culprit, Puerto Ricans also blame years of continued disruptions, the result of a slow effort to build a stable grid.

Hurricane Fiona deluged Puerto Rico with unrelenting rain and terrifying flash floods on Monday, forcing harrowing home rescues and making it difficult for power crews to reach many parts of the island.

Now the island is once again in darkness, five years after Hurricane Maria inflicted more damage on Puerto Rico than any other disaster in recent history.

While Fiona will be the direct culprit, Puerto Ricans will also blame years of power disruptions, the result of an agonizingly slow effort to finally give the island a stable grid. Hurricane Maria, a near-Category 5 storm, hit on Sept. 20, 2017, leaving about 3,000 dead and damaging 80 percent of the system. The last house was not reconnected to the system until nearly a year later. Hurricane Fiona, with far less ferocious winds, is the strongest storm to reach the island since.

  • New York Times, The devastation partly reflects factors that preceded the storm. Here are three reasons for Puerto Rico’s power outage.

 washington post logoWashington Post, All of Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona slams island, Matthew Cappucci, Jacqueline Alemany and Praveena Somasundaram, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The National Hurricane Center warned that both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic should expect “catastrophic flooding” from the slow-moving storm.

puerto rico flagPuerto Ricans across the archipelago are waking up to destruction and no electricity after the passage of a slow-moving Category 1 storm that dropped copious rain, triggering catastrophic flooding and landslides. Hurricane Fiona is expected to strengthen as it leaves the U.S. territory and hurtles toward the Dominican Republic and its popular resort city, Punta Cana.

The tempest’s unexpectedly calamitous arrival came days before the fifth anniversary of one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history, Hurricane Maria, which left Puerto Rico in the dark for months and killed more than 3,000 people. The federal government set aside billions for reconstruction, but the sluggish recovery has left its communities vulnerable.

Here’s what to know

  • Luma Energy, the private consortium managing Puerto Rico’s electric transmission and distribution, said it has restored power to 100,000 customers in the northern part of the big island.
  • Heavy rainfall is expected to continue through the end of the week, causing concern for areas of central and southern Puerto Rico where Fiona has already dropped up to 27 inches in some places.
  • Fiona is expected to become a major hurricane as it swirls into the Atlantic by Wednesday with winds of up to 90 mph.
  • White House, President Biden Approves Puerto Rico Emergency Declaration

 

Challenges To American Democracy

ny times logoNew York Times, The Story So Far: Where 6 Investigations Into Donald Trump Stand, Peter Baker, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The former president finds himself without the power of the presidency, staring at a host of prosecutors and lawyers who have him and his associates in their sights.

Former President Donald J. Trump has set up his office on the second floor of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part replica of the Oval Office and part homage to his time in the real White House.

On the wall during a visit last year were six favorite photographs, including ones with Queen Elizabeth II and Kim Jong-un. On display were challenge coins, a plaque commemorating his border wall and a portrait of the former president fashioned out of bullet casings, a present from Jair Bolsonaro, the so-called Trump of Brazil.

This has become Mr. Trump’s fortress in exile and his war room, the headquarters for the wide-ranging and rapidly escalating conflict with investigators that has come to consume his post-presidency. It is a multifront war, with battlefields in New York, Georgia and the nation’s capital, featuring a shifting roster of lawyers and a blizzard of allegations of wrongdoing that are hard to keep straight.

Never before has a former president faced an array of federal, state and congressional investigations as extensive as Mr. Trump has, the cumulative consequences of a career in business and eventually politics lived on the edge, or perhaps over the edge. Whether it be his misleading business practices or his efforts to overturn a democratic election or his refusal to hand over sensitive government documents that did not belong to him, Mr. Trump’s disparate legal troubles stem from the same sense that rules constraining others did not apply to him.

The story of how he got to this point is both historically unique and eminently predictable. Mr. Trump has been fending off investigators and legal troubles for a half century, since the Justice Department sued his family business for racial discrimination and through the myriad inquiries that would follow over the years. He has a remarkable track record of sidestepping the worst outcomes, but even he may now find so many inquiries pointing in his direction that escape is uncertain.

His view of the legal system has always been transactional; it is a weapon to be used, either by him or against him, and he has rarely been intimidated by the kinds of subpoenas and affidavits that would chill a less litigious character. On the civil side, he has been involved in thousands of lawsuits with business partners, vendors and others, many of them suing him because he refused to pay his bills.

While president, he once explained his view of the legal system to some aides, saying that he would go to court to intimidate adversaries because just threatening to sue was not enough.

“When you threaten to sue, they don’t do anything,” Mr. Trump told aides. “They say, ‘Psshh!’” — he waved his hand in the air — “and keep doing what they want. But when you sue them, they go, ‘Oooh!’” — here he made a cringing face — “and they settle. It’s as easy as that.”

When he began losing legal battles as president with regularity, he lashed out. At one point when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a traditionally liberal bench based in California, ruled against one of his policies, he demanded that aides get rid of the court altogether. “Let’s just cancel it,” he said, as if it were a campaign event, not a court system established under law. If it required legislation, then draft a bill to “get rid” of the judges, he said, using an expletive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans in key battleground races refuse to say they will accept results, Amy Gardner, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Annie Linskey, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Of the 19 GOP candidates questioned by The Washington Post, a dozen declined to answer or refused to commit. Democrats overwhelmingly said they would respect the results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A new and improved version of Electoral Count Act reform, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 20, 2022. The compromise jennifer rubin new headshotproposal that Senate negotiators cobbled together earlier this year to reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act was a good start to prevent a repeat of the 2020 coup attempt. But the bill was far from perfect, as testimony before the Senate Rules Committee highlighted.

Fortunately, two members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) put forth their own improved version on Monday, as described in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal.

Their proposal makes a number of key changes to the law, which stipulates the certification of electoral votes. For example:

  • It confirms that the vice president has only a ceremonial role.
  • It specifies that members of Congress can only object to electoral votes if they concern “the explicit constitutional requirements for candidate and elector eligibility and the 12th Amendment’s explicit requirements for elector balloting.” Interestingly, the proposal makes clear that one objection might be that the candidate is ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from federal office anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” In other words, it would serve as a trip wire for challenging former president Donald Trump on the basis that he instigated an “insurrection.”
  • It raises the threshold for Congress to vote on an objection from one lawmaker in each chamber to one-third of each chamber.
  • The proposal also avoids some of the confusing language included in the Senate proposal regarding state certification. The House version is a helpful and precise description of the correct process:

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Separatist regions push to join Russia in sign of apparent panic about Ukrainian gains, David L. Stern, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Pro-Russian officials in the two self-declared separatist “republics” pleaded for urgent votes calling on Moscow to immediately annex the territories.

Russian FlagPro-Russian officials in the two self-declared separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine pleaded Monday for urgent votes calling on Moscow to immediately annex the territories, a sign of apparent panic that the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine is failing.
We’re following changes at the palace after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Get the Post Elizabeth newsletter for updates.

The appeals from authorities in the Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics came as Ukrainian forces continued to extend their gains of recent days, having already pushed Russian troops out of most of the northeast Kharkiv region.

Access to the front line by journalists is restricted. But there were reports that Ukrainian troops had pushed into the city of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region, and also of fighting around the city of Slovyansk in the Donetsk region — indications that Russia was at imminent risk of losing territory it had previously controlled in the eastern Donbas region.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kyiv alleges ‘terrorism’ after Russian strike near second nuclear plant, David L. Stern, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A Russian rocket hit just 300 yards from the reactors of Ukraine’s second biggest nuclear power plant in Mykolaiv region, officials said, disabling three high-voltage electricity lines and a hydropower unit.

ukraine flagUkrainian officials accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” on Monday after a rocket reportedly hit just hundreds of yards from the reactors at Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant, disabling three high-voltage electricity lines and a hydropower unit, and blowing out windows.

Energoatom, the Ukrainian national nuclear power company, said that a “powerful explosion occurred” roughly 300 yards from the reactors of the Southern Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, which is located near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk, just after midnight on Monday, sending shock waves that damaged buildings and shattered more than 100 windows.

Details of the rocket strike, which Energoatom reported on its Telegram channel, could not be independently verified. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a short video in his own Telegram channel of what appeared to be footage of the strike taken from a closed-circuit camera, along with photos of the subsequent damage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: U.S. Shores Up Ukraine Support as Energy Crisis in Europe Looms, Chris Cameron and Helene Cooper, Sept. 20, 2022. The Biden administration is trying to keep its allies on board as the Russian invasion has sent energy prices soaring. In promising Ukraine billions of dollars in long-term military aid, the Biden administration is seeking to prove that U.S. support in the war can outlast Russia’s determination.

Rallying American lawmakers and the public around that assistance, and billions in more immediate help, has been relatively painless for President Biden. But he must also keep Europe on board as the Russian invasion has sent energy prices soaring and created what could become the continent’s worst economic crisis in a generation.

American officials insist they have not seen any cracks in the NATO alliance, whose members, to varying degrees, have agreed to back Ukraine in the defense of its homeland. Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes, from routing Russian troops in the northeast to isolating Russian units in the south, will also help shore up resolve in Europe, American officials say.

But the jump in energy prices in Europe, and the prospect of frigid homes in the looming cold months, has led to anxiety. Russia heightened those concerns by recently announcing that Gazprom, the state-owned energy company, would not resume the flow of natural gas to Europe through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Mr. Putin, military and diplomatic analysts say, believes that a gas shortage will weaken European support for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vladimir Putin kept Russia and the world waiting hours for a speech that never happened, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 20, 2022. It felt like a possible turning point in Moscow’s seven-month war against Ukraine: President Vladimir V. Putin, with Russia reeling from losses on the battlefield, was going to make a prime-time address to the nation.

Russian state media figures breathlessly touted the upcoming speech for several hours Tuesday. Rumors swirled that he could announce some sort of escalation of the war, as he had threatened in a news conference last week.

And then … they declared it was postponed.

“Are you waiting?” Margarita Simonyan, the editor of the state-run television network RT, wrote on Telegram at 9:37 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday.

“Go to bed,” she wrote 42 minutes later.

There was no official explanation from the Kremlin about why the speech was delayed — or even that it had been planned at all. But coming on a day when Russia’s occupation authorities in four Ukrainian regions announced “referendums” starting Friday on joining Russia, the back-and-forth telegraphed the breakneck speed — and apparent improvisation — with which the Kremlin is plotting out its next moves.

The referendums, analysts say, would be a prelude to annexation of the territory by Russia — at which point Moscow could declare it would treat any further attacks on those regions, parts of which are still controlled by Ukraine, as an attack on Russia itself, and threaten nuclear retaliation.

In addition, Russian Parliament on Tuesday passed a law that introduced the concepts of “mobilization” and “martial law” into Russia’s criminal code — further stoking speculation that Mr. Putin could officially declare war and a nationwide draft.

“People who can’t organize a speech undertook to organize a mobilization,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, posted on Twitter in a jab at the Kremlin.

By late Tuesday evening in Moscow, some of the Russian media figures who had said that Mr. Putin’s speech was coming said it would now come on Wednesday instead.

“Get up by around 8,” Dmitri Smirnov, a pro-Kremlin journalist who covers Mr. Putin, cryptically wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin is reeling. Now is the time to help Ukraine win, Max Boot, right, Sept. 20, 2022. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin max boot screen shotkeeps going from bad to worse in his invasion of Ukraine. From his perspective, the last week has been an unmitigated catastrophe.

Ukraine’s stunning, surprisingly successful Kharkiv offensive has continued rolling on, having already liberated an estimated 3,500 square miles from Russian rule — i.e., more than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Ukrainian troops are now nearing Luhansk province, which they had lost in July. That makes it increasingly unlikely that Putin will ever achieve even his scaled-down objective of conquering the Donbas region. (Luhansk is one of two provinces that make up Donbas.)

The Russian forces keep trying and, so far failing, to reestablish a new defensive line. Over the weekend, Ukrainian troops crossed the Oskil River, a natural barrier to their advance. The Russian retreat has revealed disarray and low morale in the ranks of Putin’s military. In Izyum, Russian troops have left behind more mass graves of their victims to be uncovered by war-crimes investigators.

Putin has never counted on being loved, but his rule has depended on an aura of fear and power that is now being drained away — to be replaced with revulsion and contempt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, a leading buyer of Russian energy and weapons, openly rebuked Putin during a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. China’s Xi Jinping has not openly criticized Putin, but neither has he supported the Russian dictator. Chinese companies are not filling the vacuum left behind by Western firms exiting Russia, and China is not supplying weapons to Russia, forcing Putin to go weapons-shopping in Iran and North Korea.

One indicator of Putin’s reduced status in the world is how several other world leaders kept him waiting before meetings in Samarkand — employing against him one of his own favorite tactics for asserting dominance.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

eric herschmann senate tv via getty

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Was Warned Late Last Year of Potential Legal Peril Over Documents, Maggie Haberman, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A former White House lawyer sought to impress on former President Trump the seriousness of the issue and the potential for legal exposure.

A onetime White House lawyer under President Donald J. Trump warned him late last year that Mr. Trump could face legal liability if he did not return government materials he had taken with him when he left office, three people familiar with the matter said.

The lawyer, Eric Herschmann, shown above on Senate television defending the president during an impeachment trial, sought to impress upon Mr. Trump the seriousness of the issue and the potential for investigations and legal exposure if he did not return the documents, particularly any classified material, the people said.

The account of the conversation is the latest evidence that Mr. Trump had been informed of the legal perils of holding onto material that is now at the heart of a Justice Department criminal investigation into his handling of the documents and the possibility that he or his aides engaged in obstruction.

In January, not long after the discussion with Mr. Herschmann, Mr. Trump turned over to the National Archives 15 boxes of material he had taken with him from the White House. Those boxes turned out to contain 184 classified documents, the Justice Department has said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: The odds of Donald Trump being criminally indicted just went through the roof, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 20, 2022. Once Donald bill palmerTrump’s special master stunt finishes quickly failing, he’ll have to start working on actual trial defenses with the expectation of being indicted. One of Trump’s best trial defenses would probably be that he was too clueless to know that he wasn’t allowed to have the classified documents he took. No one really believes this, but it’s a question of reasonable doubt. The bad news for Trump is that this defense just got fully wiped out.

bill palmer report logo headerLast year, former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told Trump that he was breaking the law by possessing those documents and advised him to return them, according to a new report from the New York Times. Why is this important? When a lawyer (particularly one who used to work with you) informs you that you’re committing a crime by keeping something in your possession, and you continue to keep it in your possession anyway, it proves that you know you’re possessing it illegally. Yet Trump continued to keep the documents for another year after that.

It’s previously been reported that Herschmann testified against Trump to a DOJ grand jury, which means the DOJ already has Herschmann’s testimony about having informed Trump that he was committing crimes. This is the kind of thing that will help make sure Trump is actually convicted at trial, because now he can’t just play dumb to the jury and pretend he’s too stupid to understand how classified documents work.

We’re not the only ones who see it that way. Legal expert Laurence Tribe responded to the news by tweeting that an “Espionage Act indictment of Trump not long after the midterms seems all but inevitable.” The DOJ likes to keep building its case until it has enough in hand to make a conviction a near certainty. Herschmann’s testimony puts that over the top.

Politico, Analysis: How Judge Cannon broke with conservatives in Trump documents case, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 20, 2022. Trump-appointed judge is a member of the Federalist Society, but her decisions on the Mar-a-Lago documents are well outside of conservative precedent.

When Donald Trump flooded the federal bench with judicial appointments, a leading critique was that they were Federalist Society clones who favored muscular executive power and rejected what some perceive as meddling by the courts in executive branch affairs.

Judge Aileen Cannon’s recent orders in the fight over the classified records the former president is accused of keeping at Mar-a-Lago have turned that perception on its ear.

A 41-year-old former federal prosecutor and Trump nominee, Cannon issued a series of decisions last week granting unusual requests from the former president in the probe over the storage of files in his home.

The judge appointed a semi-retired jurist to oversee the the review process, ordered that Trump’s attorneys be given copies of everything that was taken and, in the government’s view, effectively halted the investigation by declaring that prosecutors and the FBI could not use the seized records to question any witnesses.

The rulings were widely chastised by a wide array of legal experts, including many from the right, who noted how far out of the conservative judicial mainstream they were. Cannon, during her confirmation process in 2020, had included on her relatively-thin resume that she’d been a member of the right-leaning Federalist Society for a decade-and-a-half, since around the time she entered University of Michigan law school.

 mar a lago aerial Custom

Politico, Trump scored some Mar-a-Lago probe wins. The venue’s now shifted, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The ex-president’s team of lawyers will get their first audience before new judicial bodies and judges on Tuesday.

Donald Trump put the Justice Department on its heels, courtesy of a single federal judge who gave him the benefit of almost every doubt.

politico CustomNow, his team of lawyers is preparing to test whether they can replicate their fortune in front of a potentially more skeptical audience.

On Tuesday, Trump will make his first bid to convince an appeals court panel to grant him the same deference that U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon did when she blocked the Justice Department’s criminal review of the national security secrets stashed at his Mar-a-Lago home. Just hours later, Trump’s attorneys will make a similar pitch to senior federal judge Raymond Dearie, who Cannon tapped as a “special master” to review the documents the FBI seized.

The twin developments come days after the Trump appointed Cannon shocked legal experts with her Sept. 5 order stymieing the Justice Department’s criminal review of the Mar-a-Lago documents.

Her order also farmed out the next steps of the process to Dearie, who is now tasked with vetting Trump’s claim that some of the documents should be returned and prevented from being considered by criminal investigators. DOJ’s effort to overturn aspects of her decision is slated to be heard by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump’s team may have reason for optimism about their odds in that next round of the legal fight. The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit has six of 11 judges nominated by the former president. Dearie, meanwhile, was one of the two judges suggested by Trump’s team for the role of special master. (DOJ also agreed with his appointment after Trump proposed it.)

But it’s unlikely that either forum will prove as hospitable to Trump as Cannon’s courthouse.

A South Florida-based jurist, Cannon never pushed Trump or his lawyers to take firm positions on whether he had, as president, actually declassified any of the materials he brought to his estate or designated any as his personal property. Instead, she treated both claims as legitimate possibilities and deputized Dearie to conduct an independent review of the documents.

“When push comes to shove, I find it hard to believe that [Trump] will maintain his short term victory with a long term win,” said David Weinstein, a white collar defense attorney who formerly worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida, where Cannon is now based.

Recent Headlines

djt confidential markings

 

Other Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

tom barrack cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Adviser’s Trial May Shed Light on Foreign Influence Campaigns, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Thomas Barrack, shown above in a file screenshot from a TV interview, a private equity executive and informal advisor to former President Trump, is accused of working secretly for the United Arab Emirates.

The trial of Thomas J. Barrack Jr., an informal adviser to former President Donald J. Trump accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates, could shed light on how foreign governments jockeyed for access to the Trump administration — efforts that may have created lucrative opportunities for businessmen close to the White House.

Jury selection for the trial, which is expected to last into October, begins Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. Prosecutors have accused Mr. Barrack — a Los Angeles-based private-equity investor — of using his sway with Mr. Trump to advance the interests of the Emiratis and of serving as a secret back channel for communications without disclosing his efforts to the attorney general, as the government contends he should have.

While Mr. Barrack served the Emirati government, prosecutors say, he was also seeking money from the rulers for investment funds, including one that would support projects to boost Mr. Trump’s agenda and benefit from his policies.

In 2019, prosecutors say, Mr. Barrack repeatedly lied to the F.B.I. about his activities.

Mr. Barrack has denied wrongdoing. In court filings, his lawyers have suggested that prosecutors delayed charging him until Mr. Trump left office and said the charges were not supported by facts. A spokesman for Mr. Barrack declined to comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Former Accounting Firm Begins Turning Over Documents to Congress, Luke Broadwater, Sept. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Mazars USA delivered an initial set of documents related to former President Trump’s finances to the House Oversight Committee as part of a settlement. Mazars USA, the longtime accounting firm for former President Donald J. Trump that cut ties with him and his family business this year, has begun turning over documents related to his financial dealings to Congress.

mazars logoAfter a yearslong legal fight, the House Oversight Committee has received a first trove of documents from the firm, which recently entered into a legal settlement agreeing to produce a range of financial documents from several years before Mr. Trump took office and during his early presidency. Mazars said in February it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it had prepared for the Trump Organization.

More tranches of documents are expected to follow.

“They have sent us a number of documents,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the committee, said in an interview Saturday. “We’re reviewing them.”

Recent Headlines

 

Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral, UK Regal Reactions

 

queen elizabeth funeral 9 19 022 david ramos getty

Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin was driven to Windsor Castle after the monarch was escorted one last time by a military procession through central London and past Buckingham Palace (Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands Pay Tribute as Britain Says Final Farewell to Its Queen, Mark Landler, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). More than 100 world leaders, including President Biden, attended the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, and Britons lined the streets for a procession that took her to her final resting place at Windsor Castle.

United Kingdom flagQueen Elizabeth II was laid to rest on Monday after a majestic state funeral that drew tens of millions of Britons together in a vast expression of grief and gratitude, as they bade farewell to a sovereign whose seven-decade reign had spanned their lives and defined their times.

It was the culmination of 10 days of mourning since the queen died on Sept. 8 in Scotland — a highly choreographed series of rituals that fell amid a deepening economic crisis and a fraught political transition in Britain — and yet everything about the day seemed destined to be etched into history.

Tens of thousands of people lined the route of the cortege past the landmarks of London. In Hyde Park, people watching the service on large screens joined in “The Lord’s Prayer” when it was recited at Westminster Abbey. Thousands more cheered, many strewing flowers in the path of her glass-topped hearse, as the queen’s coffin was driven to Windsor Castle, where she was buried next to her husband, Prince Philip.

“In this changing world, she was a pillar of the old world,” said Richard Roe, 36, who works in finance in Zurich and flew home for the funeral. “It’s nice to have something that’s stable and stands for good values.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Queen Elizabeth II buried after historic state funeral, Adela Suliman, Jennifer Hassan, Karla Adam, Ellen Francis, Annabelle Timsit and William Booth, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). King Charles III led the somber pageant after an elaborate state funeral at Westminster Abbey that included two minutes of silence nationwide, a mournful song by the queen’s bagpiper and a rendition of “God Save the King.”

Thousands who camped out overnight along the streets of London and millions more watching around the globe are tracking the queen’s ceremonial journey and paying final tribute to the country’s’ longest-reigning monarch before she is buried next to her husband, Prince Philip.

President Biden and other world leaders attended the service in the abbey, a 13th-century church where the queen’s coronation took place almost 70 years ago. About 2,000 guests — including more than 90 world leaders, representatives from dozens of royal families, and members of the House of Windsor, among them the queen’s great-grandchildren George and Charlotte — also attended. Britain’s last state funeral was held in 1965 for wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Here’s how the day is unfolding

  • The queen’s lying in state came to an end Monday, with the final public mourner viewing her coffin in Westminster Hall. People waited as long as 14 hours in what became known as “The Queue.”
  • The religious service incorporated choral music used at state funerals since the early 18th century, a sermon by the archbishop of Canterbury and a reading by the prime minister.
  • The procession made its way from Westminster Abbey to London’s Wellington Arch, with members of Britain’s royal family walking behind the coffin. Police are calling it their biggest security operation since World War II. The coffin will then be transported by hearse to the royal Windsor estate, west of London.

 ny times logoNew York Times, From Mourning to Crises: U.K. Prime Minister Pivots to Mounting Woes, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Sept. 20, 2022. Liz Truss’s government will roll out major initiatives to confront an array of economic and social problems: soaring energy costs, surging inflation and pressure on public services.

The flowers have been cleared. Union Jacks no longer fly at half-staff. Ads have replaced Queen Elizabeth II’s image on bus shelters. A day after burying their revered monarch, Britons returned to normal life on Tuesday to confront a torrent of pressing problems they had set aside in 10 days of mourning.

Hours after the funeral ended, Prime Minister Liz Truss left for New York, where she is holding a round of diplomatic meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which could set the tone for Britain’s relations with the United States and the European Union while she is in office.

At home, her government will roll out major initiatives this week to confront the array of economic and social problems Britain faces: soaring energy costs; surging inflation; pressure on public services, most notably the National Health Service; higher interest rates; and the specter of a recession.

The United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth, shown in a pool photo by Jane Barlow.

The United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth, shown in a pool photo by Jane Barlow. SkyNews, Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96, Buckingham Palace announces, Sept. 8, 2022.

Recent Headlines

king charles uniform

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Democratic plan to avert a 2024 Trump coup quietly advances, Greg Sargent, right, and Paul Waldman, Sept. 20, 2022.As voters approach elections that could elevate political saboteurs to crucial offices in multiple battleground greg sargentstates, Democrats are working to forestall a disaster in 2024. To that end, this week, the House will vote on a bill that reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — in hopes of preventing future efforts to exploit holes in that arcane law, as President Donald Trump tried in 2020.

To understand these reforms, you need to become familiar with what one might call “the Mastriano Scenario.”

Imagine that virulent insurrectionist Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, pulls off a win this November. Then, in 2024, Gov. Mastriano corruptly certifies the state’s presidential electors for Trump or another GOP candidate, in defiance of the popular vote choosing the Democrat. If a GOP-controlled House opted to count those fake electors, they might stand, resulting in chaos or worse.

That could very well happen under the current law regulating such things — the Electoral Count Act — if it is not reformed. Revising the ECA is key to preventing this (among other things) from happening.

The new ECA reform bill in the House — called the Presidential Election Reform Act — is the work of Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The Democratic-controlled House will vote on it within days.

The bill would do a lot of things, such as clarifying that the vice president’s role in counting electors is merely ceremonial. But for our purposes here, what matters is the bill’s safeguards against the Mastriano Scenario.

In this regard, the House bill attempts to improve on another ECA reform bill that a bipartisan group of senators introduced in July. That Senate bill set important standards: It specified that states must appoint electors in compliance with election rules in place before the election, so a state legislature can’t just appoint the popular vote loser’s electors. It established a new judicial review mechanism to oversee that process.

The new House bill goes further in safeguarding against future coup attempts. This is deep in the weeds, but bear with us.

Under the Senate bill, if a corrupt governor certifies electors in defiance of the popular vote, an aggrieved candidate can take it to court. A federal judicial panel would weigh in and designate which electors are the legitimate ones, subject to Supreme Court review. Congress would be required to count those legitimate electors.

But there, a problem might arise. If the corrupt governor simply ignores the new law and disregards what the court said — and certifies fake electors in defiance of that court ruling — then a GOP-controlled House of Representatives could also ignore the new law and count those fake electors.

The House bill adds an additional safeguard: If a corrupt governor defies that judicial panel review and refuses to certify the electors the panel deemed the legitimate ones, the House measure empowers that panel to designate another state official to certify those legitimate electors.

 

mike lindell screengrab

Politico, Judge refuses Lindell motion to dismiss suit brought by voting machine company, Kelly Hooper, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The complaint is one of a flurry of cases filed after the 2020 election by Smartmatic and Dominion against Trump allies and media outlets who have spread false allegations about the companies’ voting systems.

politico CustomA Minnesota District Court judge on Monday denied MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s motion to throw out a lawsuit brought by a voting technology company that claims he defamed it by pushing the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.

Smartmatic, a company that provided election technology and services to Los Angeles in the 2020 election, alleges in the complaint that both Lindell, shown above in a file photo, and MyPillow defamed the voting tech company by falsely promoting the theory that its machines had been hacked or rigged in favor of President Joe Biden. Lindell is a staunch supporter ofsmartmatic former President Donald Trump and has falsely maintained since 2020 that Trump won the election over Biden.

Smartmatic also alleges that Lindell, who has advertised promo codes for MyPillow products to viewers and listeners during TV and radio segments where he pushed the false narrative that voting technology was rigged in the 2020 election, used deceptive trade practices.

The complaint is one of a flurry of cases filed after the 2020 election by Smartmatic and Dominion, another voting technology company, against Trump allies and media outlets who have spread false allegations about the companies’ voting systems.

Lindell moved to dismiss Smartmatic’s complaint, arguing that the company failed to adequately plea the defamation claim, and that the deceptive trade practices claim fails because Lindell was acting in a personal, not professional, capacity when making statements about the 2020 election. MyPillow separately moved to dismiss Smartmatic’s complaint, arguing that it is shielded by the First Amendment and that it did not make any statements about Smartmatic. The company also argued that Lindell’s statements can’t be imputed to MyPillow.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright on Monday denied both Lindell’s and MyPillow’s motions to dismiss the complaint. The court concluded that Smartmatic has alleged sufficient facts to support its defamation claim, including its claims that Lindell’s statements were false, that his defamatory statements were communicated to outside parties, that he knew or should have known his statements were false and that he acted with actual malice in promoting them.

The court concluded that MyPillow can be vicariously liable for Lindell’s actions, since the CEO intentionally promoted MyPillow while allegedly defaming Smartmatic in the media and during public appearances. The court also maintained that Smartmatic can pursue its claim that Lindell violated the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practice law, since the company has alleged sufficient evidence to its claim that Lindell’s statements were made in part to promote MyPillow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Will North Carolina’s Senate Race Break Democratic Hearts Again? Jonathan Weisman, Sept. 20, 2022. Winning hasn’t been easy for Democrats since the state’s blue wave in 2008. But polling is evenly divided as Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd compete this year.

The pep rally at the Lenny Boy Brewing Company Friday night was a packed and raucous show of confidence as Democratic officials greeted the “next senator” from North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, and the Mecklenburg County faithful asked about her plans for after her inevitable triumph come Election Day.

Then the Rev. Derinzer Johnson, a North Carolina native recently returned from New Jersey, grabbed a microphone, with a worried look, to plead with Ms. Beasley, a former state chief justice: Let him help her.

“Being close is not good enough — you’ve got to win,” he said later. “They’re not organized,” he said of Ms. Beasley’s political team. “They’re campaigning, but they’re not organized.”

The contest for the seat of Senator Richard M. Burr, a Republican who is retiring, may be 2022’s sleeper race, garnering far less attention than the colorful campaigns in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. Even Ohio has captured more of the spotlight, though North Carolina is a more evenly divided state and public polling has shown Ms. Beasley knotted in a statistical tie with her Republican opponent, Representative Ted Budd.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Subway System to Install Security Cameras in All Train Cars, Patrick McGeehan and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sept. 20, 2022. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the decision, which grew from a pilot project after a mass shooting in Brooklyn, was intended to ease riders’ anxiety.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will install security cameras in every train car in order to reassure riders about the safety of New York City’s subways in the wake of high-profile shootings, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday.

Ms. Hochul said the authority would spend $5.5 million of state and federal funds to place two cameras in each of more than 6,400 cars in the system. The installation would expand a pilot program that began this summer, she said.

While the system’s nearly 500 subway stations are equipped with surveillance cameras, its trains are not. Ms. Hochul said that the new cameras will monitor the entire car and that fitting out an entire train would take about 40 hours. The cameras cannot be monitored live, Ms. Hochul said, but they will provide investigators with video footage after a crime.

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subway?” Ms. Hochul said at a news conference in a subway yard in Queens. “You’re absolutely right. That is our intent, to get the message out that we’re going to be having surveillance of activity on the subway trains, and that’s going to give people great ease of mind.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Return to Center Stage. Their Own, Nicholas Kulish, Sept. 20, 2022. After going dark during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Clinton Global Initiative is back.

After a six-year hiatus, the Clinton Global Initiative returned to New York City this week, bringing together leaders from the worlds of nonprofit, government and business, with a few celebrities sprinkled in for good measure. It has been an eventful few years since they last gathered in 2016.

“The challenges we face are steep, but they pretty much have been steep for a long time now,” former President Bill Clinton said in his opening remarks at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. “And CGI is always and has always been about what we can do and not what we can’t do.”

The Clinton Global Initiative began in 2005 and quickly became something akin to a Davos-on-the-Hudson event, but one with a greater focus on philanthropy, nonprofits and corporate do-gooding. The way it differed from most conferences is that it required participants to make commitments, sometimes in dollars, other times in targets — such as for creating jobs or delivering clean water.

Up to the hiatus in 2016, attendees announced more than 3,700 commitments, which by the organization’s own tally had helped more than 435 million people in over 180 countries.

In many ways the early days were the high-water mark of the philanthrocapitalism era, when trust in the wealthy and celebrities to save the world ran high. In turn, many significant organizations modeled themselves after the Clintons’ endeavor.

Then in 2016, in the heat of the general election campaign fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, with reporters asking a lot of questions about the foundation and its donors, Mr. Clinton announced that the 2016 meeting would be the final version of the initiative.

Now, as world leaders gathered in New York for the first fully in-person United Nations General Assembly in three years, the goal is to recapture that old Clinton magic, and to see if there is still room in a field of thought-leading, pledge-making symposia crowding the city this week.

Advisers to Mr. Clinton said that in the years since, he had longed to restart the event. “He would tell me regularly when we were just talking before a board meeting, ‘I was just out last night and someone was saying when are you going to start CGI again?’” said Robert Harrison, former chief executive of the Clinton Global Initiative, from 2007 to 2016, and a board member of the Clinton Foundation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rally With Trump? Some G.O.P. Candidates Aren’t Thrilled About It, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Whether invited or not, former President Trump is holding rallies in battleground states, putting some Republicans seeking swing votes in an awkward spot.

Former President Donald J. Trump is preparing to swoop into Ohio on Saturday to rally Republicans behind J.D. Vance in a key Senate race. Two weeks earlier, he did the same for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.

Neither candidate invited him.

Instead, aides to the former president simply informed the Senate campaigns that he was coming. Never mind that Mr. Trump, while viewed heroically by many Republicans, remains widely disliked among crucial swing voters.

The question of how to handle Mr. Trump has so bedeviled some Republican candidates for Senate that they have held private meetings about the best way to field the inevitable calls from his team, according to strategists familiar with the discussions.

This awkward state of affairs reflects the contortions many Republican candidates are going through as they leave primary season behind and pivot to the general election, when Democrats are trying to bind them to the former president.

Recent Headlines

 

President Biden, left, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su at the White House on Sept. 15, 2022.

President Biden, left, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su at the White House on Sept. 15, 2022.

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

 United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, World Leaders Convene at the U.N. for the First Time in 3 Years, Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 20, 2022. Dignitaries are meeting in New York to discuss sweeping crises that include climate change, food insecurity and the war in Ukraine.

joe biden headshotWorld leaders’ speeches at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly begin on Tuesday with a notable change of protocol: The president of the United States will not be speaking on the first day.

Because he was in London on Monday attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II along with many other world leaders, President Biden will speak on Wednesday morning.

The United States hosts the U.N. headquarters, so the American president traditionally speaks second after Brazil, whose leader has traditionally spoken first since the 1950s.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the U.N., opened the session with a speech about a divided world in peril facing enormous challenges, from the threat of multilateralism, to conflict, climate change and food insecurity. Mr. Guterres told reporters last week that he will set out a call to action with concrete steps for tackling and overcoming these challenges.

President Emmanuel Macron of France will be another notable speaker on Tuesday afternoon, reiterating the threat to world order and international law because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine and its many rippling effects will be a major theme of the General Assembly this week. But there are not many world leaders who have access to both presidents of Russia and Ukraine.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is also scheduled to speak on Tuesday. He has emerged as a key figure in mediating between Ukraine and Russia and, together with Mr. Guterres, led the negotiations that resulted in a deal that allowed Ukraine’s grain to be shipped out of ports in the Black Sea.

The United States, the European Union and the African Union are jointly hosting a conference on Tuesday to address the global food insecurity crisis and appease the concerns of developing countries who say the West has ignored their problems and focused too much of its attention and aid on Ukraine.

Kishida Fumio, the prime minister of Japan, had been expected to speak on Tuesday, but his trip to New York has been delayed because of a typhoon in Japan. He will be leaving Japan on Tuesday to take on the U.N. stage.

Some other speakers on Tuesday:

  • Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who faces a tight election next month, will be the first world leader to give remarks. He is likely to call for the international community to address the Ukraine conflict’s humanitarian impact, particularly on energy and food.
  • Olaf Scholz, the new chancellor of Germany, which could face an energy crisis this winter because of the standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan and Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will both likely address the many challenges in the Middle East.

 

mark frerichs ap

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hostage released by Taliban in exchange for Afghan detainee, Haq Nawaz Khan and Susannah George, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. hostage Mark Frerichs, above, a civilian contractor who was abducted in Kabul over two years ago was released in exchange for an Afghan detainee held in U.S. federal prison, a top Taliban official announced Monday.

Frerichs’s family welcomed his release in a statement, saying they were “grateful and excited to learn that he has been freed,” after being held for more than two and a half years.

“I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day,” Charlene Cakora, his sister said in the statement released by Camden Advisory Group that has been advocating for his release. “We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us.”

Frerichs’s release was the subject of negotiations between senior U.S. officials and the Taliban leading up to the signing of the U.S. withdrawal agreement in Doha and in the months that followed after the Biden administration oversaw the end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan last year.

As the withdrawal neared without a deal securing his’ release, his family and advocates feared the United States would lose all leverage to free him. But a senior administration official said Monday “bringing Mark home has been a top priority for President Biden and his national security team.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran says no nuclear deal without U.S. guarantees it won’t walk out again, Karen DeYoung, Sept. 19, 2022. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, in his first U.S. media interview, said that the Biden administration’s promise to adhere to a new nuclear agreement was “meaningless” without guarantees that the United States would not again unilaterally withdraw from the deal in the future.

“If it’s a good deal and fair deal, we would be serious about reaching an agreement. It needs to be lasting,” said Raisi, speaking through an interpreter in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” conducted last week in Tehran and broadcast Sunday evening. But he added: “We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we’ve already seen from them. That is why if there is no guarantee, there is no trust.”

Tehran’s demand for guarantees that the United States would stay in a new agreement has become a principal sticking point in the failure of Iran and world powers to negotiate a deal to replace the 2015 version from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2018. Negotiations that began nearly a year and a half ago have now sputtered to a virtual stop.

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Feels Pain of Global Disruptions Wrought by War and Pandemic, Staff Report, Sept. 20, 2022. The country’s economy has been very hard hit by cascading crises which have disrupted worldwide trade.

When the state-owned factory where Hesham el-Atar worked for 15 years was liquidated this month, he had a feeling it was linked to international pressure on the Egyptian government to reduce its role in the economy amid a severe downturn.

Mr. el-Atar, 39, was a supervisor at the factory, El Nasr Coke and Chemicals Plant, which turned coal into a fuel called coke used in iron and steel production. Now, with his daily expenses rising, he said that he fears he will not be able to find another job near his home in the city of El Saf, about two hours south of the Egyptian capital.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I have four kids. We’re used to a certain standard of living. It will have to change.”

Egypt, which relies heavily on imported goods and foreign borrowing, has been badly battered by the cascading disruptions to global trade from the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine. The exit of foreign investment capital, a collapse in tourism and spiking commodity prices have all translated into a foreign-currency shortage.

The government has responded by implementing more onerous import rules, devaluing the local currency and pushing up interest rates. It has also taken steps to privatize or shut down state-owned enterprises, a key demand of international investors and creditors who say the government’s outsized role in the economy hinders private investment.

But at the same time, Egypt has succeeded in raising more than $22 billion this year in investment pledges from wealthy Gulf allies leery of seeing one of the pillars of the Arab world on the brink after a decade of tumult that began with the country’s 2011 uprising.

ny times logoNew York Times, In One Corner of Kosovo, Cheers Still Ring Out for Vladimir Putin, Andrew Higgins, Sept. 20, 2022. Many ethnic Serbs, nursing grievances against NATO for a 1999 bombing campaign that broke Serbia’s grip on the territory, see Mr. Putin as a savior.
When Europeans and Americans recoiled in horror this spring at evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine, Nebjosa Jovic, a university administrator in northern Kosovo, decided he had to act: He organized a street protest to cheer Russia on.

“We wanted to send a message to the West, especially its headquarters in the United States, to stop persecuting Russians,” Mr. Jovic said.

Only a few people showed up, Mr. Jovic said, because of the “circle of fear” that envelops northern Kosovo, a mostly ethnic Serb region out of step with the rest of the country, where ethnic Albanians, most of whom strongly support Ukraine, make up more than 90 percent of the population.

Viewed from London or Washington, the horrors visited on Ukraine by Russia offer a clear and inescapable moral choice. But, filtered through the prism of grievance and history in places tormented by their own strife, Ukraine’s misery fades in favor of local claims to victimhood.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. proposes suspending $7.5B in funding for Orban’s Hungary over corruption, Emily Rauhala, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). The European Commission on Sunday proposed the suspension of billions of dollars in funding for Hungary over concerns about corruption, a first-of-its kind move that could deepen the stand-off between Brussels and Budapest — if it goes ahead.

european union logo rectangleThe commission will ask European Union countries to approve the suspension of 65 percent of funding from three programs, amounting to roughly $7.5 billion, according to E.U. officials. But the commission seemed to leave the door open for Hungary to make reforms and keep the money in the end.

hungary flagThis is the first time the E.U. is using a new measure aimed at protecting its budget by making funding conditional on certain standards. “Today’s decision is a clear demonstration of the Commission’s resolve to protect the E.U. budget, and to use all tools at our disposal to ensure this important objective,” said Johannes Hahn, commissioner in charge of Budget and Administration said in a statement.

Announcing the possible suspension, Hahn mentioned three problem areas: systematic irregularities in procurement, problems related to the prevention of conflict of interest and issues related to Hungary’s anti-corruption framework. He noted, however, that the Hungarian side has committed to a package of 17 reform measures to address E.U. concerns.

E.U. member states will have a month to decide whether or not to proceed, with the possibility of extending by two months, according to commission. An E.U. official on Wednesday suggested the extension is likely. A qualified majority is required to move forward.

The move comes just days after the European parliament declared the country has become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” under the current government — and after years of acrimony between the E.U. and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.

 

 In a photo provided by the Armenian government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was greeted by Alen Simonyan, the president of the National Assembly, on Saturday outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (Photo by via PHOTOLURE and the Associated Press).

In a photo provided by the Armenian government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was greeted by Alen Simonyan, the president of the National Assembly, on Saturday outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (Photo by via PHOTOLURE and the Associated Press).

Politico, Pelosi’s visit fires debate in Armenia over alliance with Russia, Gabriel Gavin, Sept. 19, 2022. The US House Speaker could hardly have timed her trip better, as Yerevan questions the merits of relying on Moscow as its main security ally. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a reputation for visiting hotspots. Her recent travels to Armenia raises debate about the country’s political allegiances.

politico CustomCrowds lined the streets of Yerevan hours before Nancy Pelosi’s fleet of seven slick black cars pulled into the center of the Armenian capital on Sunday. Waving American flags, thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the speaker of the House of Representatives as she paid a historic visit to the Caucasian nation, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Those U.S. flags carried a significant political message about the country’s political allegiances. For years, Armenia chose to be a key strategic ally of the Kremlin, but many are now increasingly questioning whether Moscow can act as guarantor of the nation’s security against the superior firepower of neighboring Azerbaijan, which launched a massive artillery bombardment on Tuesday. Since then 135 Armenians and 77 Azeris have died in a conflict that looks at risk of breaking through a fragile ceasefire.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin mired in a war that is rapidly turning against him in Ukraine, Yerevan is finding that its appeals for help from a Moscow-led security grouping, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are falling on deaf ears. That’s a pivotal strategic problem as the enemy in Azerbaijan is lavishly supported by Turkey, a regional military heavyweight that Yerevan associates with the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I.

The thousands who took to the streets of Yerevan, close to where the U.S. delegation was holding meetings, demanded their country withdraw from that Russian-led military partnership. Billboards featuring Putin were torn down, crowds chanted Pelosi’s name, and demonstrators held up signs reading “CSTO go screw yourself.”

“All my life we have been a Russian colony,” said Anna, a protestor who brought her seven-year-old daughter to the rally. “It’s time for us to try something else.”

Another demonstrator angrily confronted a Russian journalist after spotting his nationality printed on a press card. “Why are you here? Why don’t you go back to Russia and report on what is going on there?” she demanded. “You are occupiers!”

Pelosi’s condemnation of the Azeri attack, naturally, received a less than warm welcome in Baku, which insists Azerbaijan is only responding to coming under fire from Armenian territory. “Groundless and unfair accusations against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva tweeted following the speech. “Such statements serve not to strengthen fragile peace in the region, but rather to escalate tension.”

While Armenia is becoming more hostile to the Kremlin, Baku seems to be drawing closer to it. Just two days before Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine in February, Aliyev met with Vladimir Putin, signing off on a comprehensive agreement that they said “brings our relations to the level of an alliance.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. charges 47 with ‘brazen’ theft of $250 million of pandemic food aid meant for kids, Tony Romm, Sept. 20, 2022. 
Defendants used fake names of nonexistent children to take cash meant to pay for meals that they instead put toward houses, cars and other luxury goods, prosecutors said.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department charged 47 defendants Tuesday for allegedly defrauding a federal program that provided food for needy children during the pandemic, describing the scheme — totaling $250 million — as the largest uncovered to date targeting the government’s generous stimulus aid.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants — a network of individuals and organizations tied to Feeding Our Future, a Minnesota-based nonprofit — allegedly put the wrongly obtained federal pandemic funds toward luxury cars, houses and other personal purchases in what amounted to a case of “brazen” theft.

“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The alleged scheme centered on the Federal Child Nutrition Program, which is administered by the Agriculture Department to provide free meals to the children of lower-income families. Congress greatly expanded the program over the course of the pandemic, including by allowing a wider array of organizations to distribute food at a larger range of locations.

The changes to federal law opened the door for Feeding Our Future to play a greater role in distributing meals, the Justice Department contends, and the group disbursed more than $200 million over the course of 2021. In doing so, though, federal prosecutors alleged the company’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, oversaw a vast fraud scheme across Minnesota.

It was the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: Two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money spared the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines into millions of arms, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman who staged her own kidnapping sentenced to 18 months in prison, Julian Mark, Sept. 20, 2022. Sherri Papini, 40, has never explained why she concocted the story, which she stuck to for five years.

For more than five years, Sherri Papini insisted that, in November 2016, she was abducted by two masked women who held her captive for 22 days, starved her and branded her shoulder with a hot tool.

In April, the now-40-year-old mother of two admitted that she staged the abduction that prompted a multistate search. And on Monday, during her sentencing in a federal courtroom in Sacramento, she repented.

“I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor,” she said before the judge, according to the Sacramento Bee, adding, “I am choosing to humbly accept responsibility.”

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb sentenced Papini to 18 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to mail fraud and making false statements, according to the Justice Department. Shubb called Papini a “manipulator,” the Bee reported, and said the eight-month sentence recommended by prosecutors would not suffice.

The judge also ordered Papini to pay $309,902 in restitution to the California Victim Compensation Board, the Social Security Administration and the agencies that investigated the sham kidnapping. Her motive for concocting the story remains unclear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor suspended over claim he pressured defendant for nude photos, Jonathan Edwards, Sept. 20, 2022. Ronnie Goldy Jr. provided a defendant with legal favors for years in exchange for her nude photos, court officials allege.

Elected prosecutor Ronnie Goldy Jr. had spent about three years helping a defendant out of legal jams in exchange for nude photos of her, but on June 15, 2018, he asked for something more, court officials said.

“When do I get to see a video?” Goldy, the top prosecutor for several rural counties east of Lexington, Ky., allegedly asked her in a Facebook message.

“When am I not gonna have a warrant hahaha,” the woman countered, according to a court report.

“Lol. Good point,” Goldy allegedly replied before sending another message: “Incentives never hurt.”

Twelve days later, Goldy followed up, telling the woman she owed him “big time,” according to a report filed last week with the Kentucky Supreme Court. When the woman asked why, Goldy allegedly responded that the “Judge is about to withdraw some warrants.”

On Friday, the state Supreme Court temporarily suspended Goldy from practicing law for allegedly engaging in a quid pro quo relationship. For seven years, he did legal favors for the female defendant, demanding nude images and “sexual favors” in return, according to a report written by Jean Chenault Logue, a state judge who served as a special commissioner overseeing Goldy’s case.

Under Kentucky law, a commonwealth’s attorney like Goldy can’t be removed from office except by impeachment. But Logue recommended Goldy’s suspension from practicing law, saying the inquiry commission had presented enough evidence to show that Goldy’s “professional misconduct poses a substantial threat of harm to the public.”

 nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

ny times logoNew York Times, Law Enforcement Funding Package Splits Democrats Ahead of Midterms, Annie Karni and Stephanie Lai, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A measure to provide more money for local police departments has become mired in a long-running debate among Democrats about the politics of crime.

Legislation to increase funding for local police departments has hit a snag on Capitol Hill amid deep Democratic divisions, as progressives balk at steering more money to law enforcement and moderates clamor for action that could blunt Republicans’ efforts to paint them as soft on crime ahead of the midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shown above in a file photo, has pledged for weeks to bring up a package of bills that would provide funding for hiring more police officers, increasing salaries, investing in officer safety and training and body cameras, as well as mental health resources for officers.

But the measures, championed by vulnerable Democrats from conservative-leaning districts, have become mired in a yearslong internal feud about the politics of crime, leaving the party without an answer to Republican attacks and some of its members livid.

abigail spanberger twitter“I have heard a whole host of reasons for people wanting to excuse inaction,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, left, Democrat of Virginia, who is in a difficult re-election race in a competitive district that includes the suburbs of Richmond, and is a lead proponent of the legislation. “The sort of generalized excuses — I’ve heard it a lot. Tomorrow it will be, ‘It’s raining.’”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who pressed successfully for the package to include measures to strengthen accountability for police misconduct, have also pushed to move ahead with it.

A spokesman for the caucus said that the issue remains a priority for the group.

Yet a small group of progressives has so far refused to back the legislation, leaving Democrats short of the votes they would need to bring it up. House Democratic leaders do not want to put their party’s divisions on display at a time when the political map is looking more favorable for them than it did just a few months ago. So Ms. Pelosi has been holding off on announcing any vote, as lawmakers continue discussions with those withholding their support.

pramila jayapal resized oRepresentative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has positioned herself as the principal roadblock to the legislation, arguing that it would provide a blank check to police departments.

“The answer is not just putting more money in,” Ms. Jayapal said. “I’m not sure that this has a chance of moving forward, given all of the challenges around it.”

Because of Democrats’ slim majority in the House, the opposition of Ms. Jayapal and just three other liberals would be enough to block it from proceeding to a vote. Talks among her, moderate Democrats and party leaders were continuing on Monday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, with some still hopeful for a potential breakthrough.

 

adnad sayed

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Vacates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed, Subject of ‘Serial,’ Michael Levenson, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his high school classmate Hae Min Lee. The judge gave prosecutors 30 days to proceed with a new trial or drop the case.

In a remarkable reversal, Adnan Syed walked out of prison on Monday for the first time since he was a teenager, having spent 23 years fighting his conviction on charges that he murdered his former high school girlfriend, a case that was chronicled in the first season of the hit podcast “Serial.”

Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated the conviction “in the interests of justice and fairness,” finding that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that could have helped Mr. Syed at trial and discovered new evidence that could have affected the outcome of his case.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide if they will proceed with a new trial or drop the charges against Mr. Syed, who was ordered to serve home detention until then. Prosecutors said that an investigation had pointed to two possible “alternative suspects,” although those individuals have not been named publicly or charged.

“At this time, we will remove the shackles from Mr. Syed,” Judge Phinn declared after announcing her decision. Moments later, Mr. Syed walked onto the courthouse steps, smiling as a crowd of supporters shouted and cheered. He gave a small wave and climbed into a waiting SUV, without saying anything to reporters who pressed around him.

Mr. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence after he was convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a park in Baltimore in 1999.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time, had steadfastly maintained his innocence, and questions about whether he had received a fair trial drew widespread attention when “Serial” debuted in 2014. The podcast became a pop-culture sensation with its detailed examination over 12 episodes of the case against Mr. Syed, including the peculiarities of his lawyer, who agreed to be disbarred amid complaints of wrongdoing in 2001 and died in 2004.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Faces Potential Fiscal Crisis as $10 Billion Deficit Looms, Dana Rubinstein, Sept. 19, 2022. A persistent pandemic-driven downturn has caused revenue from business and personal-income taxes to fall in New York City, while tourism and job losses have yet to recover.

Recent Headlines

 

Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP senator says he won’t back Graham’s proposed national abortion ban, María Luisa Paúl, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Another Republican senator says he won’t support the bill Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) introduced that would ban most abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said abortion policy should be left up to states during a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“At this point, to have Congress step back and to tell all of the states that we know better than them how to handle this is probably not the right direction to go,” Rounds said, adding: “I think the states are in a better shape to explore and to find the right direction on a state-by-state basis.”

The senator, who as South Dakota’s governor signed a bill in 2006 that sought to ban most abortions there, is the latest in a growing list of Republicans to have voiced opposition to Graham’s bill. That bill, introduced Sept. 13, would allow some states’ stricter abortion laws to remain, but impose new restrictions on other states.

Recent Headlines

 

lindsey graham npr

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

 ny times logoNew York Times, How a Quebec Lithium Mine May Help Make Electric Cars Affordable, Jack Ewing, Photographs by Brendan George Ko, Sept. 20, 2022. The project is also illustrating how difficult it is to mine lithium, and to break China’s dominance in processing the metal and turning it into batteries.

About 350 miles northwest of Montreal, amid a vast pine forest, is a deep mining pit with walls of mottled rock. The pit has changed hands repeatedly and been mired in bankruptcy, but now it could help determine the future of electric vehicles.

The mine contains lithium, an indispensable ingredient in electric car batteries that is in short supply. If it opens on schedule early next year, it will be the second North American source of that metal, offering hope that badly needed raw materials can be extracted and refined close to Canadian, U.S. and Mexican auto factories, in line with Biden administration policies that aim to break China’s dominance of the battery supply chain.

Having more mines will also help contain the price of lithium, which has soared fivefold since mid-2021, pushing the cost of electric vehicles so high that they are out of reach for many drivers. The average new electric car in the United States costs about $66,000, just a few thousand dollars short of the median household income last year.

But the mine outside La Corne, operated by Sayona Mining, an Australian company, also illustrates the many hurdles that must be overcome to produce and process the materials needed to wean automobiles from fossil fuels. The mine has had several owners, and some of them filed for bankruptcy. As a result, some analysts and investors warn that many mines being developed now may never be viable.

Dozens of lithium mines are in various stages of development in Canada and the United States. Canada has made it a mission to become a major source of raw materials and components for electric vehicles. But most of these projects are years away from production. Even if they are able to raise the billions of dollars needed to get going, there is no guarantee they will yield enough lithium to meet the continent’s needs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Billions in Climate Deal Funding Could Help Protect U.S. Coastal Cities, Stephanie Lai, Sept. 20, 2022. Communities are hoping that the Democrats’ new climate law will help restore coastal habitats, part of a program that emphasizes nature-based solutions.

Claire Arre, a marine biologist, waded through the sand in search of an Olympia oyster on a recent sunny afternoon, monitoring the bed her organization had built to clean up the surrounding watershed and contemplating all that could be done if she could get her hands on federal funding to expand the work.

Ms. Arre’s project aims to combat climate change using nature instead of human-engineered construction, and it is one of many across the nation’s 254 coastal counties that is eligible for billions in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the sprawling climate, health care and tax bill signed last month by President Biden.

The measure could “have a direct result in getting our next restoration project off the ground and sharing the beneficial impacts here into another area,” said Ms. Arre, the director of marine restoration for Orange County Coastkeeper, a nonprofit group, as she meticulously scanned the site, surrounded by sandbars and cliffs, pickleweed and docked boats.

The group hopes to expand to nearby Huntington Harbour, and it has been seeking funding to do so.

A little-noticed section of Democrats’ climate legislation, which made the largest federal investment in history to combat the warming of the planet, injects $2.6 billion over five years into coastal communities across the country through grants to fund projects that prepare and respond to hazardous climate-related events and disturbances. The program makes up less than 1 percent of the total climate investment in the law, but it is widely regarded as a significant step and the latest sign of a shift by the federal government toward funding nature-based climate solutions.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Strongest storm in decades battering Alaska, Zach Rosenthal and Jacob Feuerstein, Sept. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Massive amounts of water are sloshing ashore, raising the ocean as much as a dozen feet and slamming vulnerable coastal communities with severe erosion.

A powerful extratropical cyclone is blasting into the western coast of Alaska — bringing potential perils from a storm surge that threatens to top out at 18 feet and gusts that will reach up to 90 mph.

“This continues to be a dangerous storm as it is producing water levels above higher than any seen over at least 50 years,” the National Weather Service’s Fairbanks office wrote in its Saturday morning forecast discussion. The National Weather Service has issued several warnings to account for a multitude of hurricane-like threats.

As the powerhouse system approached Alaska late Friday and into early Saturday, roaring south-to-southwesterly winds battered the state’s west coast. Through Saturday morning, widespread gusts had reached 45 to 77 mph.

Massive amounts of water, shoved north by the high winds, were sloshing ashore, raising the ocean multiple feet and battering vulnerable coastal communities with severe erosion. The tide gauge in Nome, which is known for being the end point of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, showed water levels more than 7 feet above normal levels early Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, North America’s largest birds return to Northern California after a 130-year absence, Alice Li, Kasha Patel and Melina Mara, Sept. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Once pushed to the brink of extinction, condors have benefited from a plan created by the Yurok Tribe and government partners to release the birds into Redwood National Park.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Free Expression, Culture, Education, Sports News

 

Anti-Trump Womens March on Washington, Jan. 21 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry via Twitter and the Voice of America).

Anti-Trump Womens March on Washington, Jan. 21 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry via Twitter and the Voice of America).

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step, Ellen Barry, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). As American feminists came together in 2017 to protest Donald Trump, Russia’s disinformation machine set about deepening the divides among them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Pentagon opens sweeping review of clandestine psychological operations, Ellen Nakashima, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Complaints about the U.S. military’s influence operations using Facebook and Twitter have alarmed some in the White House and other federal agencies.

The Pentagon has ordered a sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare after major social media companies identified and took offline fake accounts suspected of being run by the U.S. military in violation of the platforms’ rules.

Department of Defense SealColin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, last week instructed the military commands that engage in psychological operations online to provide a full accounting of their activities by next month after the White House and some federal agencies expressed mounting concerns over the Defense Department’s attempted manipulation of audiences overseas, according to several defense and administration officials familiar with the matter.

The takedowns in recent years by Twitter and Facebook of more than 150 bogus personas and media sites created in the United States was disclosed last month by internet researchers Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory. While the researchers did not attribute the sham accounts to the U.S. military, two officials familiar with the matter said that U.S. Central Command is among those whose activities are facing scrutiny. Like others interviewed for this report, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military operations.

The researchers did not specify when the takedowns occurred, but those familiar with the matter said they were within the past two or three years. Some were recent, they said, and involved posts from the summer that advanced anti-Russia narratives citing the Kremlin’s “imperialist” war in Ukraine and warning of the conflict’s direct impact on Central Asian countries. Significantly, they found that the pretend personas — employing tactics used by countries such as Russia and China — did not gain much traction, and that overt accounts actually attracted more followers.

Centcom, headquartered in Tampa, has purview over military operations across 21 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central and South Asia. A spokesman declined to comment.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement that the military’s information operations “support our national security priorities” and must be conducted in compliance with relevant laws and policies. “We are committed to enforcing those safeguards,” he said.

ny times logoThe Athletic via New York Times, LIV Golf Wants Official World Ranking Status. Here’s Why It Matters, Brendan Quinn, Sept. 20, 2022. Fifty LIV golfers signed a letter sent to the chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking on Tuesday, requesting the breakaway tour receive world ranking points for its events.

The letter, signed by Cam Smith, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, among others, argued the exclusion of LIV players “undermines the historical value of OWGR.”

“Some 23 tours are integrated into the OWGR universe, and LIV has earned its place among them,” the golfers wrote to Peter Dawson, OWGR chairman. “Four LIV golfers have held the (No. 1) position on the OWGR, and one is currently (No. 2). LIV’s roster includes 21 of the last 51 winners of the four majors. The level of competition at the average LIV event is at least equal to that at the average PGA Tour event.”

LIV Golf applied for admission to the OWGR in mid-July, but its tournaments do not currently receive ranking points. The controversial tour has three more events in 2022, next convening in Bangkok from Oct. 7-9.
go-deeper.

As Tuesday’s letter makes clear, LIV’s greatest argument to be included in the OWGR is not its format, but its talent. No matter what the rankings say, it’s without question that players like Smith, Johnson and others are among the world’s best. By not counting their play, LIV argues, the rankings lack validity. It’s not a bad case to make, but in terms of the OWGR’s standards for ranking points to be awarded by how a competition is formatted, LIV otherwise isn’t compliant.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oakland is closing public schools, raising tough questions in the proud city, Scott Wilson, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Black Oakland is being overwhelmed by the arrival of White and Latino residents, low Black birthrates, high costs, and the gentrification transforming the city.

More than half the students who attended Parker were Black, kids such as Rochelle Jenkins’s 12-year-old twin daughters, Zoraya and Zariah, who navigated a few side streets to class each day. Now they walk farther, along avenues featuring stripped-to-the-rims cars and medians full of trash, to a new school with new teachers and new kids they do not yet know.

“We were devastated,” said Jenkins, a bus driver who shuttles Facebook employees to and from work each day. “We have begged them not to do this because of the ripple effect it will have on our neighborhood. This was a place that truly supported the lives of Black and Brown children.”
Former Parker Elementary School students Zariah and Zoraya Jenkins, 12-year-old twins, walk through East Oakland to their new school in late August. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Oakland is closing public schools, a precise and grim measure of a city’s health. In the case of this proud city, the trend has clarified for many that Oakland, traditionally a place of radical blue-state politics, barricade-and-bullhorn protests and a grass-roots character, has fallen from vanguard to some rung far below.

Black Oakland is simply withering, overwhelmed by the steady arrival of White and Latino residents, by low Black birthrates and a cost-driven exodus, and by the uneven but pervasive gentrification transforming this city of 434,000 people.

There are not enough children to keep seven schools open after this academic year, district officials say, and it happens that the children no longer there to keep them open are predominantly Black in a city where race has defined its local identity and its national outlook for generations.

Parker Elementary, with a student body of roughly 300 children, was one of two schools that closed at the end of the last academic year. Five more will close at the end of this one, out of a total of roughly 80 campuses. Four of the seven closing schools have majority-Black student bodies. In two others, Black enrollment is disproportionately high compared with others in the district. Four other schools will partially close or merge, forcing many students elsewhere.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden is right. The pandemic is over, Leana S. Wen, right, Sept. 20, 2022. President Biden’s off-the-cuff comment leana wenduring a “60 Minutes” interview that “the pandemic is over” has sparked outrage from all sides. Republicans are accusing Biden of hypocrisy as he asks Congress for more covid-19 funding, while some on the left point to the disease’s continued death toll as evidence that the pandemic is nowhere near its finish line.

These criticisms don’t detract from Biden’s point. He’s right. By multiple definitions, the pandemic is over. That doesn’t mean that the coronavirus is no longer causing harm; it simply signals the end of an emergency state as covid has evolved into an endemic disease.

A pandemic is something that upends our daily lives and profoundly alters the way that we work, go to school, worship and socialize. That was certainly the case in March 2020. I was among the public health experts who urged people to “stay home, save lives.” We called for Americans to avoid “play dates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship.” Employers sent workers home en masse. Schools pivoted to remote instruction.

Things changed with the arrival of vaccines. Many individuals, once vaccinated, began resuming their pre-pandemic activities. Others, like my family, waited until younger kids could receive the shots. By now, the vast majority of Americans have been vaccinated or recovered from covid-19 or both. The preventive antibody Evusheld and treatments such as Paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies provide further protection against severe illness.

Leana S. Wen, a Washington Post contributing columnist who writes the newsletter The Checkup with Dr. Wen, is a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and author of the book “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.” Previously, she served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, Biden declares that ‘the pandemic is over’ in the U.S., surprising some officials, Dan Diamond, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.).. Impromptu remarks in ‘60 Minutes’ interview may complicate White House struggle to secure additional funding for coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says the Pandemic Is Over. But at Least 400 People Are Dying Daily, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). President Biden made the remark in an interview that aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday night. By Monday, the backlash was in full swing.

Politico, Biden on ‘60 Minutes’: ‘The pandemic is over,’ David Cohen and Adam Cancryn, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). President Joe Biden said “the pandemic is over” in discussing Covid during an interview that aired on Sunday evening on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

joe biden resized oThe president also called former President Donald Trump “totally irresponsible“ in his handling of classified documents, and hedged on whether he was fully committed to seeking reelection.

politico Custom“The pandemic is over,” the president told Scott Pelley as they talked last week at the Detroit Auto Show. “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

Despite Biden’s statement, Covid has continued to exact a toll in the United States and around the world. The John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center lists more than 2 million Covid cases in the country in the last 28 days, with hundreds dying from the disease every day.

Biden’s insistence on Sunday night that the pandemic is over caught several of his own health officials by surprise. The declaration was not part of his planned remarks ahead of the “60 Minutes” interview, two administration officials familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

Biden’s statement was the most definite one he has made about the pandemic since assuming the presidency in January 2021. He was less definitive when asked whether he planned to seek reelection.

“Is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” Biden said, saying he would make his decision after the November midterms.

He did qualify his remarks by saying it had always been his “intention” to seek another term and explained that “election laws” would come into play if he were to announce his candidacy at this juncture.

In the interview, parts of which were recorded at the White House before Biden flew to Britain to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the president also said he was startled to see the photograph of top-secret documents on the floor of the residence at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, calling Trump “totally irresponsible.”

 

Sept. 19

Top Headlines

 

Challenges To American Democracy

 

Puerto Rican Hurricane, Power Failure

 

U.S. Immigration Laws, Disputes

 

More On Ukraine War

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

Other Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Shootings, Gun Laws

 

Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral

 

queen elizabeth funeral 9 19 022 david ramos getty

 

Forced Birth Laws, Abortion, Privacy Rights

 

Food, Water, Energy, Climate, Disasters

 

U.S. Media, Culture, Sports, Education

 

Pandemic, Public Health

 

Top Stories

 

 

Anti-Trump Womens March on Washington, Jan. 21 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry via Twitter and the Voice of America).

Anti-Trump Womens March on Washington, Jan. 21 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry via Twitter and the Voice of America).

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step, Ellen Barry, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). As American feminists came together in 2017 to protest Donald Trump, Russia’s disinformation machine set about deepening the divides among them.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Special Master Dearie quickly holds Donald Trump’s feet to the fire, as Trump’s stunt backfires, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 19, bill palmer2022. For some reason Donald Trump and his attorneys thought that Judge Raymond Dearie, who has been a federal judge since the 1980s and has a reputation and career to protect, would somehow be a favorable special master pick for them. Trump and his team are quickly finding out that things don’t work that way.

bill palmer report logo headerSpecial Master Dearie is already ordering Trump to provide evidence that he had actually declassified any of the documents that were seized from his home. This corners Trump, because he’s been trying to take the position that he blanket declassified every document he ever touched, without providing any evidence of this. Not surprisingly, Trump’s team has filed a response to Dearie, saying it doesn’t want to provide any such evidence because it might need it for its eventual criminal defense.

raymond dearieThis essentially means that Trump is going to lose, and he’s going to lose quickly. This Special Master, right, is going to turn around and say that since Trump can’t provide any evidence these documents were declassified, they’re outside the Special Master’s purview, and therefore his work is done.

Trump will probably end up asking his pet judge to ditch this Special Master and appoint another one. But by that time the Court of Appeals will have seized control of the entire thing anyway, and it’ll be out of the hands of Trump’s pet judge. It took Trump six years to find just one of his appointed judges who was willing to set herself on fire for Trump’s sake, and now Trump has burned that judge in a way that bought him, what, a week? What a waste. Trump’s got nothing.

 

U.S. Immigration Laws, DisputesICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, For the first time, arrests of undocumented immigrants on the southwestern U.S. border exceeded 2 million in a year, Eileen Sullivan, Sept. 19, 2022. The historic pace of undocumented immigrants entering the country continued as the Biden administration tried to steer clear of immigration issues with the midterm elections approaching.

For the first time, the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants along the southwestern border exceeded two million in one year, according to newly released government data, continuing a historic pace of undocumented immigrants coming to the country.

The number of arrests at the border increased slightly from July to August, with a total of more than 2.1 million for the first 11 months of the 2022 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

In an unusual step, Biden administration officials gave some reporters a background briefing on Monday before Customs and Border Protection’s routine monthly release of data. Officials noted that the number of removals over the past year — more than 1.3 million — was more than any previous year.

The administration in recent months has tried to steer clear of immigration issues as the midterm elections approach and Republicans campaign on the message that the border is unsecured. Last week, two Republican governors paid for dozens of immigrants who were released from government custody to be transported to Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., an escalation of efforts to show Democratic areas inside the country what it is like on the southwestern border.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Criminal Investigation Is Opened After Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Edgar Sandoval and Eliza Fawcett, Sept. 20, 2022. A county sheriff in Texas announced on Monday that he had opened a criminal investigation into flights that took 48 migrants from a shelter in San Antonio to the island resort of Martha’s Vineyard last week.

Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, said that he had enlisted agents from his office’s organized crime task force and that it was too early to determine which laws might have been broken. But he said it was clear that many of the migrants had been misled and lured away from Texas to score political points.

The migrants, caught in a mounting political fight between Republican governors of border states and Democratic officials, were flown to Massachusetts by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida last week. A day later, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington.

A migrant appears to have been paid to recruit other Venezuelan migrants, who have been crossing the southwest border in greater numbers, from the area around a migrant resource center in San Antonio, Sheriff Salazar said. The migrants were “lured under false pretenses” with promises of work and a better life, he added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gov. Ron Desantis’s move prompted liberals’ condemnation, and more such flights may follow, Lisa Lerer and Michael C. Bender, Sept. 20, 2022. For months, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona have been busing migrants across the country, using immigrants as political props as they try to score points in the midterm elections and bolster their conservative bona fides.

But last week, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, supercharged the tactic, flying two chartered planeloads of undocumented migrants out of Texas — about 700 miles from the Florida state line — to Martha’s Vineyard, the moneyed Massachusetts vacation spot frequented by liberal celebrities and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The migrants had not set foot in Florida and said they were misled about their destination. The island was unprepared to handle the influx. But Mr. DeSantis got exactly the reaction he wanted.

Liberal condemnation. Conservative applause. And national attention.

Days after the migrants got off their planes, Mr. DeSantis flew across the country himself — to events for Republican candidates for governor in Wisconsin and Kansas where he promoted his stunt. He received standing ovations.

 

Puerto Rican Hurricane, Power Failure

 

puerto rico fiona path 2022

 ny times logoNew York Times, Fiona Leaves Puerto Rico in the Dark on the Anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Laura N. Pérez Sánchez and Patricia Mazzei, Photographs by Erika P. Rodriguez, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Puerto Rico will once again find itself mostly without power on Tuesday, the five year anniversary of when Hurricane Maria tore through the island. While Hurricane Fiona will be the direct culprit, Puerto Ricans also blame years of continued disruptions, the result of a slow effort to build a stable grid.

Hurricane Fiona deluged Puerto Rico with unrelenting rain and terrifying flash floods on Monday, forcing harrowing home rescues and making it difficult for power crews to reach many parts of the island.

Now the island is once again in darkness, five years after Hurricane Maria inflicted more damage on Puerto Rico than any other disaster in recent history.

While Fiona will be the direct culprit, Puerto Ricans will also blame years of power disruptions, the result of an agonizingly slow effort to finally give the island a stable grid. Hurricane Maria, a near-Category 5 storm, hit on Sept. 20, 2017, leaving about 3,000 dead and damaging 80 percent of the system. The last house was not reconnected to the system until nearly a year later. Hurricane Fiona, with far less ferocious winds, is the strongest storm to reach the island since.

  • New York Times, The devastation partly reflects factors that preceded the storm. Here are three reasons for Puerto Rico’s power outage.

 washington post logoWashington Post, All of Puerto Rico without power as Hurricane Fiona slams island, Matthew Cappucci, Jacqueline Alemany and Praveena Somasundaram, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The National Hurricane Center warned that both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic should expect “catastrophic flooding” from the slow-moving storm.

puerto rico flagPuerto Ricans across the archipelago are waking up to destruction and no electricity after the passage of a slow-moving Category 1 storm that dropped copious rain, triggering catastrophic flooding and landslides. Hurricane Fiona is expected to strengthen as it leaves the U.S. territory and hurtles toward the Dominican Republic and its popular resort city, Punta Cana.

The tempest’s unexpectedly calamitous arrival came days before the fifth anniversary of one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history, Hurricane Maria, which left Puerto Rico in the dark for months and killed more than 3,000 people. The federal government set aside billions for reconstruction, but the sluggish recovery has left its communities vulnerable.

Here’s what to know

  • Luma Energy, the private consortium managing Puerto Rico’s electric transmission and distribution, said it has restored power to 100,000 customers in the northern part of the big island.
  • Heavy rainfall is expected to continue through the end of the week, causing concern for areas of central and southern Puerto Rico where Fiona has already dropped up to 27 inches in some places.
  • Fiona is expected to become a major hurricane as it swirls into the Atlantic by Wednesday with winds of up to 90 mph.
  • White House, President Biden Approves Puerto Rico Emergency Declaration

 

Challenges To American Democracy

ny times logoNew York Times, The Story So Far: Where 6 Investigations Into Donald Trump Stand, Peter Baker, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The former president finds himself without the power of the presidency, staring at a host of prosecutors and lawyers who have him and his associates in their sights.

Former President Donald J. Trump has set up his office on the second floor of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part replica of the Oval Office and part homage to his time in the real White House.

On the wall during a visit last year were six favorite photographs, including ones with Queen Elizabeth II and Kim Jong-un. On display were challenge coins, a plaque commemorating his border wall and a portrait of the former president fashioned out of bullet casings, a present from Jair Bolsonaro, the so-called Trump of Brazil.

This has become Mr. Trump’s fortress in exile and his war room, the headquarters for the wide-ranging and rapidly escalating conflict with investigators that has come to consume his post-presidency. It is a multifront war, with battlefields in New York, Georgia and the nation’s capital, featuring a shifting roster of lawyers and a blizzard of allegations of wrongdoing that are hard to keep straight.

Never before has a former president faced an array of federal, state and congressional investigations as extensive as Mr. Trump has, the cumulative consequences of a career in business and eventually politics lived on the edge, or perhaps over the edge. Whether it be his misleading business practices or his efforts to overturn a democratic election or his refusal to hand over sensitive government documents that did not belong to him, Mr. Trump’s disparate legal troubles stem from the same sense that rules constraining others did not apply to him.

The story of how he got to this point is both historically unique and eminently predictable. Mr. Trump has been fending off investigators and legal troubles for a half century, since the Justice Department sued his family business for racial discrimination and through the myriad inquiries that would follow over the years. He has a remarkable track record of sidestepping the worst outcomes, but even he may now find so many inquiries pointing in his direction that escape is uncertain.

His view of the legal system has always been transactional; it is a weapon to be used, either by him or against him, and he has rarely been intimidated by the kinds of subpoenas and affidavits that would chill a less litigious character. On the civil side, he has been involved in thousands of lawsuits with business partners, vendors and others, many of them suing him because he refused to pay his bills.

While president, he once explained his view of the legal system to some aides, saying that he would go to court to intimidate adversaries because just threatening to sue was not enough.

“When you threaten to sue, they don’t do anything,” Mr. Trump told aides. “They say, ‘Psshh!’” — he waved his hand in the air — “and keep doing what they want. But when you sue them, they go, ‘Oooh!’” — here he made a cringing face — “and they settle. It’s as easy as that.”

When he began losing legal battles as president with regularity, he lashed out. At one point when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a traditionally liberal bench based in California, ruled against one of his policies, he demanded that aides get rid of the court altogether. “Let’s just cancel it,” he said, as if it were a campaign event, not a court system established under law. If it required legislation, then draft a bill to “get rid” of the judges, he said, using an expletive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans in key battleground races refuse to say they will accept results, Amy Gardner, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Annie Linskey, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Of the 19 GOP candidates questioned by The Washington Post, a dozen declined to answer or refused to commit. Democrats overwhelmingly said they would respect the results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A new and improved version of Electoral Count Act reform, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 20, 2022. The compromise jennifer rubin new headshotproposal that Senate negotiators cobbled together earlier this year to reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act was a good start to prevent a repeat of the 2020 coup attempt. But the bill was far from perfect, as testimony before the Senate Rules Committee highlighted.

Fortunately, two members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) put forth their own improved version on Monday, as described in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal.

Their proposal makes a number of key changes to the law, which stipulates the certification of electoral votes. For example:

  • It confirms that the vice president has only a ceremonial role.
  • It specifies that members of Congress can only object to electoral votes if they concern “the explicit constitutional requirements for candidate and elector eligibility and the 12th Amendment’s explicit requirements for elector balloting.” Interestingly, the proposal makes clear that one objection might be that the candidate is ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from federal office anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” In other words, it would serve as a trip wire for challenging former president Donald Trump on the basis that he instigated an “insurrection.”
  • It raises the threshold for Congress to vote on an objection from one lawmaker in each chamber to one-third of each chamber.
  • The proposal also avoids some of the confusing language included in the Senate proposal regarding state certification. The House version is a helpful and precise description of the correct process:

Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine War

washington post logoWashington Post, Separatist regions push to join Russia in sign of apparent panic about Ukrainian gains, David L. Stern, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Pro-Russian officials in the two self-declared separatist “republics” pleaded for urgent votes calling on Moscow to immediately annex the territories.

Russian FlagPro-Russian officials in the two self-declared separatist “republics” in eastern Ukraine pleaded Monday for urgent votes calling on Moscow to immediately annex the territories, a sign of apparent panic that the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine is failing.
We’re following changes at the palace after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Get the Post Elizabeth newsletter for updates.

The appeals from authorities in the Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics came as Ukrainian forces continued to extend their gains of recent days, having already pushed Russian troops out of most of the northeast Kharkiv region.

Access to the front line by journalists is restricted. But there were reports that Ukrainian troops had pushed into the city of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region, and also of fighting around the city of Slovyansk in the Donetsk region — indications that Russia was at imminent risk of losing territory it had previously controlled in the eastern Donbas region.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kyiv alleges ‘terrorism’ after Russian strike near second nuclear plant, David L. Stern, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A Russian rocket hit just 300 yards from the reactors of Ukraine’s second biggest nuclear power plant in Mykolaiv region, officials said, disabling three high-voltage electricity lines and a hydropower unit.

ukraine flagUkrainian officials accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” on Monday after a rocket reportedly hit just hundreds of yards from the reactors at Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant, disabling three high-voltage electricity lines and a hydropower unit, and blowing out windows.

Energoatom, the Ukrainian national nuclear power company, said that a “powerful explosion occurred” roughly 300 yards from the reactors of the Southern Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, which is located near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk, just after midnight on Monday, sending shock waves that damaged buildings and shattered more than 100 windows.

Details of the rocket strike, which Energoatom reported on its Telegram channel, could not be independently verified. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a short video in his own Telegram channel of what appeared to be footage of the strike taken from a closed-circuit camera, along with photos of the subsequent damage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: U.S. Shores Up Ukraine Support as Energy Crisis in Europe Looms, Chris Cameron and Helene Cooper, Sept. 20, 2022. The Biden administration is trying to keep its allies on board as the Russian invasion has sent energy prices soaring. In promising Ukraine billions of dollars in long-term military aid, the Biden administration is seeking to prove that U.S. support in the war can outlast Russia’s determination.

Rallying American lawmakers and the public around that assistance, and billions in more immediate help, has been relatively painless for President Biden. But he must also keep Europe on board as the Russian invasion has sent energy prices soaring and created what could become the continent’s worst economic crisis in a generation.

American officials insist they have not seen any cracks in the NATO alliance, whose members, to varying degrees, have agreed to back Ukraine in the defense of its homeland. Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes, from routing Russian troops in the northeast to isolating Russian units in the south, will also help shore up resolve in Europe, American officials say.

But the jump in energy prices in Europe, and the prospect of frigid homes in the looming cold months, has led to anxiety. Russia heightened those concerns by recently announcing that Gazprom, the state-owned energy company, would not resume the flow of natural gas to Europe through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Mr. Putin, military and diplomatic analysts say, believes that a gas shortage will weaken European support for Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vladimir Putin kept Russia and the world waiting hours for a speech that never happened, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 20, 2022. It felt like a possible turning point in Moscow’s seven-month war against Ukraine: President Vladimir V. Putin, with Russia reeling from losses on the battlefield, was going to make a prime-time address to the nation.

Russian state media figures breathlessly touted the upcoming speech for several hours Tuesday. Rumors swirled that he could announce some sort of escalation of the war, as he had threatened in a news conference last week.

And then … they declared it was postponed.

“Are you waiting?” Margarita Simonyan, the editor of the state-run television network RT, wrote on Telegram at 9:37 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday.

“Go to bed,” she wrote 42 minutes later.

There was no official explanation from the Kremlin about why the speech was delayed — or even that it had been planned at all. But coming on a day when Russia’s occupation authorities in four Ukrainian regions announced “referendums” starting Friday on joining Russia, the back-and-forth telegraphed the breakneck speed — and apparent improvisation — with which the Kremlin is plotting out its next moves.

The referendums, analysts say, would be a prelude to annexation of the territory by Russia — at which point Moscow could declare it would treat any further attacks on those regions, parts of which are still controlled by Ukraine, as an attack on Russia itself, and threaten nuclear retaliation.

In addition, Russian Parliament on Tuesday passed a law that introduced the concepts of “mobilization” and “martial law” into Russia’s criminal code — further stoking speculation that Mr. Putin could officially declare war and a nationwide draft.

“People who can’t organize a speech undertook to organize a mobilization,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, posted on Twitter in a jab at the Kremlin.

By late Tuesday evening in Moscow, some of the Russian media figures who had said that Mr. Putin’s speech was coming said it would now come on Wednesday instead.

“Get up by around 8,” Dmitri Smirnov, a pro-Kremlin journalist who covers Mr. Putin, cryptically wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Putin is reeling. Now is the time to help Ukraine win, Max Boot, right, Sept. 20, 2022. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin max boot screen shotkeeps going from bad to worse in his invasion of Ukraine. From his perspective, the last week has been an unmitigated catastrophe.

Ukraine’s stunning, surprisingly successful Kharkiv offensive has continued rolling on, having already liberated an estimated 3,500 square miles from Russian rule — i.e., more than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Ukrainian troops are now nearing Luhansk province, which they had lost in July. That makes it increasingly unlikely that Putin will ever achieve even his scaled-down objective of conquering the Donbas region. (Luhansk is one of two provinces that make up Donbas.)

The Russian forces keep trying and, so far failing, to reestablish a new defensive line. Over the weekend, Ukrainian troops crossed the Oskil River, a natural barrier to their advance. The Russian retreat has revealed disarray and low morale in the ranks of Putin’s military. In Izyum, Russian troops have left behind more mass graves of their victims to be uncovered by war-crimes investigators.

Putin has never counted on being loved, but his rule has depended on an aura of fear and power that is now being drained away — to be replaced with revulsion and contempt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, a leading buyer of Russian energy and weapons, openly rebuked Putin during a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. China’s Xi Jinping has not openly criticized Putin, but neither has he supported the Russian dictator. Chinese companies are not filling the vacuum left behind by Western firms exiting Russia, and China is not supplying weapons to Russia, forcing Putin to go weapons-shopping in Iran and North Korea.

One indicator of Putin’s reduced status in the world is how several other world leaders kept him waiting before meetings in Samarkand — employing against him one of his own favorite tactics for asserting dominance.

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Documents Scandal

 

eric herschmann senate tv via getty

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Was Warned Late Last Year of Potential Legal Peril Over Documents, Maggie Haberman, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A former White House lawyer sought to impress on former President Trump the seriousness of the issue and the potential for legal exposure.

A onetime White House lawyer under President Donald J. Trump warned him late last year that Mr. Trump could face legal liability if he did not return government materials he had taken with him when he left office, three people familiar with the matter said.

The lawyer, Eric Herschmann, shown above on Senate television defending the president during an impeachment trial, sought to impress upon Mr. Trump the seriousness of the issue and the potential for investigations and legal exposure if he did not return the documents, particularly any classified material, the people said.

The account of the conversation is the latest evidence that Mr. Trump had been informed of the legal perils of holding onto material that is now at the heart of a Justice Department criminal investigation into his handling of the documents and the possibility that he or his aides engaged in obstruction.

In January, not long after the discussion with Mr. Herschmann, Mr. Trump turned over to the National Archives 15 boxes of material he had taken with him from the White House. Those boxes turned out to contain 184 classified documents, the Justice Department has said.

Palmer Report, Analysis: The odds of Donald Trump being criminally indicted just went through the roof, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 20, 2022. Once Donald bill palmerTrump’s special master stunt finishes quickly failing, he’ll have to start working on actual trial defenses with the expectation of being indicted. One of Trump’s best trial defenses would probably be that he was too clueless to know that he wasn’t allowed to have the classified documents he took. No one really believes this, but it’s a question of reasonable doubt. The bad news for Trump is that this defense just got fully wiped out.

bill palmer report logo headerLast year, former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told Trump that he was breaking the law by possessing those documents and advised him to return them, according to a new report from the New York Times. Why is this important? When a lawyer (particularly one who used to work with you) informs you that you’re committing a crime by keeping something in your possession, and you continue to keep it in your possession anyway, it proves that you know you’re possessing it illegally. Yet Trump continued to keep the documents for another year after that.

It’s previously been reported that Herschmann testified against Trump to a DOJ grand jury, which means the DOJ already has Herschmann’s testimony about having informed Trump that he was committing crimes. This is the kind of thing that will help make sure Trump is actually convicted at trial, because now he can’t just play dumb to the jury and pretend he’s too stupid to understand how classified documents work.

We’re not the only ones who see it that way. Legal expert Laurence Tribe responded to the news by tweeting that an “Espionage Act indictment of Trump not long after the midterms seems all but inevitable.” The DOJ likes to keep building its case until it has enough in hand to make a conviction a near certainty. Herschmann’s testimony puts that over the top.

Politico, Analysis: How Judge Cannon broke with conservatives in Trump documents case, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 20, 2022. Trump-appointed judge is a member of the Federalist Society, but her decisions on the Mar-a-Lago documents are well outside of conservative precedent.

When Donald Trump flooded the federal bench with judicial appointments, a leading critique was that they were Federalist Society clones who favored muscular executive power and rejected what some perceive as meddling by the courts in executive branch affairs.

Judge Aileen Cannon’s recent orders in the fight over the classified records the former president is accused of keeping at Mar-a-Lago have turned that perception on its ear.

A 41-year-old former federal prosecutor and Trump nominee, Cannon issued a series of decisions last week granting unusual requests from the former president in the probe over the storage of files in his home.

The judge appointed a semi-retired jurist to oversee the the review process, ordered that Trump’s attorneys be given copies of everything that was taken and, in the government’s view, effectively halted the investigation by declaring that prosecutors and the FBI could not use the seized records to question any witnesses.

The rulings were widely chastised by a wide array of legal experts, including many from the right, who noted how far out of the conservative judicial mainstream they were. Cannon, during her confirmation process in 2020, had included on her relatively-thin resume that she’d been a member of the right-leaning Federalist Society for a decade-and-a-half, since around the time she entered University of Michigan law school.

 mar a lago aerial Custom

Politico, Trump scored some Mar-a-Lago probe wins. The venue’s now shifted, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The ex-president’s team of lawyers will get their first audience before new judicial bodies and judges on Tuesday.

Donald Trump put the Justice Department on its heels, courtesy of a single federal judge who gave him the benefit of almost every doubt.

politico CustomNow, his team of lawyers is preparing to test whether they can replicate their fortune in front of a potentially more skeptical audience.

On Tuesday, Trump will make his first bid to convince an appeals court panel to grant him the same deference that U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon did when she blocked the Justice Department’s criminal review of the national security secrets stashed at his Mar-a-Lago home. Just hours later, Trump’s attorneys will make a similar pitch to senior federal judge Raymond Dearie, who Cannon tapped as a “special master” to review the documents the FBI seized.

The twin developments come days after the Trump appointed Cannon shocked legal experts with her Sept. 5 order stymieing the Justice Department’s criminal review of the Mar-a-Lago documents.

Her order also farmed out the next steps of the process to Dearie, who is now tasked with vetting Trump’s claim that some of the documents should be returned and prevented from being considered by criminal investigators. DOJ’s effort to overturn aspects of her decision is slated to be heard by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Trump’s team may have reason for optimism about their odds in that next round of the legal fight. The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit has six of 11 judges nominated by the former president. Dearie, meanwhile, was one of the two judges suggested by Trump’s team for the role of special master. (DOJ also agreed with his appointment after Trump proposed it.)

But it’s unlikely that either forum will prove as hospitable to Trump as Cannon’s courthouse.

A South Florida-based jurist, Cannon never pushed Trump or his lawyers to take firm positions on whether he had, as president, actually declassified any of the materials he brought to his estate or designated any as his personal property. Instead, she treated both claims as legitimate possibilities and deputized Dearie to conduct an independent review of the documents.

“When push comes to shove, I find it hard to believe that [Trump] will maintain his short term victory with a long term win,” said David Weinstein, a white collar defense attorney who formerly worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida, where Cannon is now based.

Recent Headlines

djt confidential markings

 

Other Trump Probes, Disputes, Rallies, Supporters

 

tom barrack cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Adviser’s Trial May Shed Light on Foreign Influence Campaigns, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Thomas Barrack, shown above in a file screenshot from a TV interview, a private equity executive and informal advisor to former President Trump, is accused of working secretly for the United Arab Emirates.

The trial of Thomas J. Barrack Jr., an informal adviser to former President Donald J. Trump accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates, could shed light on how foreign governments jockeyed for access to the Trump administration — efforts that may have created lucrative opportunities for businessmen close to the White House.

Jury selection for the trial, which is expected to last into October, begins Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. Prosecutors have accused Mr. Barrack — a Los Angeles-based private-equity investor — of using his sway with Mr. Trump to advance the interests of the Emiratis and of serving as a secret back channel for communications without disclosing his efforts to the attorney general, as the government contends he should have.

While Mr. Barrack served the Emirati government, prosecutors say, he was also seeking money from the rulers for investment funds, including one that would support projects to boost Mr. Trump’s agenda and benefit from his policies.

In 2019, prosecutors say, Mr. Barrack repeatedly lied to the F.B.I. about his activities.

Mr. Barrack has denied wrongdoing. In court filings, his lawyers have suggested that prosecutors delayed charging him until Mr. Trump left office and said the charges were not supported by facts. A spokesman for Mr. Barrack declined to comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Former Accounting Firm Begins Turning Over Documents to Congress, Luke Broadwater, Sept. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Mazars USA delivered an initial set of documents related to former President Trump’s finances to the House Oversight Committee as part of a settlement. Mazars USA, the longtime accounting firm for former President Donald J. Trump that cut ties with him and his family business this year, has begun turning over documents related to his financial dealings to Congress.

mazars logoAfter a yearslong legal fight, the House Oversight Committee has received a first trove of documents from the firm, which recently entered into a legal settlement agreeing to produce a range of financial documents from several years before Mr. Trump took office and during his early presidency. Mazars said in February it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it had prepared for the Trump Organization.

More tranches of documents are expected to follow.

“They have sent us a number of documents,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the committee, said in an interview Saturday. “We’re reviewing them.”

Recent Headlines

 

Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral, UK Regal Reactions

 

queen elizabeth funeral 9 19 022 david ramos getty

Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin was driven to Windsor Castle after the monarch was escorted one last time by a military procession through central London and past Buckingham Palace (Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Thousands Pay Tribute as Britain Says Final Farewell to Its Queen, Mark Landler, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). More than 100 world leaders, including President Biden, attended the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, and Britons lined the streets for a procession that took her to her final resting place at Windsor Castle.

United Kingdom flagQueen Elizabeth II was laid to rest on Monday after a majestic state funeral that drew tens of millions of Britons together in a vast expression of grief and gratitude, as they bade farewell to a sovereign whose seven-decade reign had spanned their lives and defined their times.

It was the culmination of 10 days of mourning since the queen died on Sept. 8 in Scotland — a highly choreographed series of rituals that fell amid a deepening economic crisis and a fraught political transition in Britain — and yet everything about the day seemed destined to be etched into history.

Tens of thousands of people lined the route of the cortege past the landmarks of London. In Hyde Park, people watching the service on large screens joined in “The Lord’s Prayer” when it was recited at Westminster Abbey. Thousands more cheered, many strewing flowers in the path of her glass-topped hearse, as the queen’s coffin was driven to Windsor Castle, where she was buried next to her husband, Prince Philip.

“In this changing world, she was a pillar of the old world,” said Richard Roe, 36, who works in finance in Zurich and flew home for the funeral. “It’s nice to have something that’s stable and stands for good values.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Queen Elizabeth II buried after historic state funeral, Adela Suliman, Jennifer Hassan, Karla Adam, Ellen Francis, Annabelle Timsit and William Booth, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). King Charles III led the somber pageant after an elaborate state funeral at Westminster Abbey that included two minutes of silence nationwide, a mournful song by the queen’s bagpiper and a rendition of “God Save the King.”

Thousands who camped out overnight along the streets of London and millions more watching around the globe are tracking the queen’s ceremonial journey and paying final tribute to the country’s’ longest-reigning monarch before she is buried next to her husband, Prince Philip.

President Biden and other world leaders attended the service in the abbey, a 13th-century church where the queen’s coronation took place almost 70 years ago. About 2,000 guests — including more than 90 world leaders, representatives from dozens of royal families, and members of the House of Windsor, among them the queen’s great-grandchildren George and Charlotte — also attended. Britain’s last state funeral was held in 1965 for wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Here’s how the day is unfolding

  • The queen’s lying in state came to an end Monday, with the final public mourner viewing her coffin in Westminster Hall. People waited as long as 14 hours in what became known as “The Queue.”
  • The religious service incorporated choral music used at state funerals since the early 18th century, a sermon by the archbishop of Canterbury and a reading by the prime minister.
  • The procession made its way from Westminster Abbey to London’s Wellington Arch, with members of Britain’s royal family walking behind the coffin. Police are calling it their biggest security operation since World War II. The coffin will then be transported by hearse to the royal Windsor estate, west of London.

 ny times logoNew York Times, From Mourning to Crises: U.K. Prime Minister Pivots to Mounting Woes, Mark Landler and Stephen Castle, Sept. 20, 2022. Liz Truss’s government will roll out major initiatives to confront an array of economic and social problems: soaring energy costs, surging inflation and pressure on public services.

The flowers have been cleared. Union Jacks no longer fly at half-staff. Ads have replaced Queen Elizabeth II’s image on bus shelters. A day after burying their revered monarch, Britons returned to normal life on Tuesday to confront a torrent of pressing problems they had set aside in 10 days of mourning.

Hours after the funeral ended, Prime Minister Liz Truss left for New York, where she is holding a round of diplomatic meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which could set the tone for Britain’s relations with the United States and the European Union while she is in office.

At home, her government will roll out major initiatives this week to confront the array of economic and social problems Britain faces: soaring energy costs; surging inflation; pressure on public services, most notably the National Health Service; higher interest rates; and the specter of a recession.

The United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth, shown in a pool photo by Jane Barlow.

The United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth, shown in a pool photo by Jane Barlow. SkyNews, Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96, Buckingham Palace announces, Sept. 8, 2022.

Recent Headlines

king charles uniform

 

U.S. Politics, Economy, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Democratic plan to avert a 2024 Trump coup quietly advances, Greg Sargent, right, and Paul Waldman, Sept. 20, 2022.As voters approach elections that could elevate political saboteurs to crucial offices in multiple battleground greg sargentstates, Democrats are working to forestall a disaster in 2024. To that end, this week, the House will vote on a bill that reforms the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — in hopes of preventing future efforts to exploit holes in that arcane law, as President Donald Trump tried in 2020.

To understand these reforms, you need to become familiar with what one might call “the Mastriano Scenario.”

Imagine that virulent insurrectionist Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, pulls off a win this November. Then, in 2024, Gov. Mastriano corruptly certifies the state’s presidential electors for Trump or another GOP candidate, in defiance of the popular vote choosing the Democrat. If a GOP-controlled House opted to count those fake electors, they might stand, resulting in chaos or worse.

That could very well happen under the current law regulating such things — the Electoral Count Act — if it is not reformed. Revising the ECA is key to preventing this (among other things) from happening.

The new ECA reform bill in the House — called the Presidential Election Reform Act — is the work of Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The Democratic-controlled House will vote on it within days.

The bill would do a lot of things, such as clarifying that the vice president’s role in counting electors is merely ceremonial. But for our purposes here, what matters is the bill’s safeguards against the Mastriano Scenario.

In this regard, the House bill attempts to improve on another ECA reform bill that a bipartisan group of senators introduced in July. That Senate bill set important standards: It specified that states must appoint electors in compliance with election rules in place before the election, so a state legislature can’t just appoint the popular vote loser’s electors. It established a new judicial review mechanism to oversee that process.

The new House bill goes further in safeguarding against future coup attempts. This is deep in the weeds, but bear with us.

Under the Senate bill, if a corrupt governor certifies electors in defiance of the popular vote, an aggrieved candidate can take it to court. A federal judicial panel would weigh in and designate which electors are the legitimate ones, subject to Supreme Court review. Congress would be required to count those legitimate electors.

But there, a problem might arise. If the corrupt governor simply ignores the new law and disregards what the court said — and certifies fake electors in defiance of that court ruling — then a GOP-controlled House of Representatives could also ignore the new law and count those fake electors.

The House bill adds an additional safeguard: If a corrupt governor defies that judicial panel review and refuses to certify the electors the panel deemed the legitimate ones, the House measure empowers that panel to designate another state official to certify those legitimate electors.

 

mike lindell screengrab

Politico, Judge refuses Lindell motion to dismiss suit brought by voting machine company, Kelly Hooper, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). The complaint is one of a flurry of cases filed after the 2020 election by Smartmatic and Dominion against Trump allies and media outlets who have spread false allegations about the companies’ voting systems.

politico CustomA Minnesota District Court judge on Monday denied MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s motion to throw out a lawsuit brought by a voting technology company that claims he defamed it by pushing the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.

Smartmatic, a company that provided election technology and services to Los Angeles in the 2020 election, alleges in the complaint that both Lindell, shown above in a file photo, and MyPillow defamed the voting tech company by falsely promoting the theory that its machines had been hacked or rigged in favor of President Joe Biden. Lindell is a staunch supporter ofsmartmatic former President Donald Trump and has falsely maintained since 2020 that Trump won the election over Biden.

Smartmatic also alleges that Lindell, who has advertised promo codes for MyPillow products to viewers and listeners during TV and radio segments where he pushed the false narrative that voting technology was rigged in the 2020 election, used deceptive trade practices.

The complaint is one of a flurry of cases filed after the 2020 election by Smartmatic and Dominion, another voting technology company, against Trump allies and media outlets who have spread false allegations about the companies’ voting systems.

Lindell moved to dismiss Smartmatic’s complaint, arguing that the company failed to adequately plea the defamation claim, and that the deceptive trade practices claim fails because Lindell was acting in a personal, not professional, capacity when making statements about the 2020 election. MyPillow separately moved to dismiss Smartmatic’s complaint, arguing that it is shielded by the First Amendment and that it did not make any statements about Smartmatic. The company also argued that Lindell’s statements can’t be imputed to MyPillow.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright on Monday denied both Lindell’s and MyPillow’s motions to dismiss the complaint. The court concluded that Smartmatic has alleged sufficient facts to support its defamation claim, including its claims that Lindell’s statements were false, that his defamatory statements were communicated to outside parties, that he knew or should have known his statements were false and that he acted with actual malice in promoting them.

The court concluded that MyPillow can be vicariously liable for Lindell’s actions, since the CEO intentionally promoted MyPillow while allegedly defaming Smartmatic in the media and during public appearances. The court also maintained that Smartmatic can pursue its claim that Lindell violated the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practice law, since the company has alleged sufficient evidence to its claim that Lindell’s statements were made in part to promote MyPillow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Will North Carolina’s Senate Race Break Democratic Hearts Again? Jonathan Weisman, Sept. 20, 2022. Winning hasn’t been easy for Democrats since the state’s blue wave in 2008. But polling is evenly divided as Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd compete this year.

The pep rally at the Lenny Boy Brewing Company Friday night was a packed and raucous show of confidence as Democratic officials greeted the “next senator” from North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, and the Mecklenburg County faithful asked about her plans for after her inevitable triumph come Election Day.

Then the Rev. Derinzer Johnson, a North Carolina native recently returned from New Jersey, grabbed a microphone, with a worried look, to plead with Ms. Beasley, a former state chief justice: Let him help her.

“Being close is not good enough — you’ve got to win,” he said later. “They’re not organized,” he said of Ms. Beasley’s political team. “They’re campaigning, but they’re not organized.”

The contest for the seat of Senator Richard M. Burr, a Republican who is retiring, may be 2022’s sleeper race, garnering far less attention than the colorful campaigns in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. Even Ohio has captured more of the spotlight, though North Carolina is a more evenly divided state and public polling has shown Ms. Beasley knotted in a statistical tie with her Republican opponent, Representative Ted Budd.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Subway System to Install Security Cameras in All Train Cars, Patrick McGeehan and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sept. 20, 2022. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the decision, which grew from a pilot project after a mass shooting in Brooklyn, was intended to ease riders’ anxiety.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will install security cameras in every train car in order to reassure riders about the safety of New York City’s subways in the wake of high-profile shootings, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday.

Ms. Hochul said the authority would spend $5.5 million of state and federal funds to place two cameras in each of more than 6,400 cars in the system. The installation would expand a pilot program that began this summer, she said.

While the system’s nearly 500 subway stations are equipped with surveillance cameras, its trains are not. Ms. Hochul said that the new cameras will monitor the entire car and that fitting out an entire train would take about 40 hours. The cameras cannot be monitored live, Ms. Hochul said, but they will provide investigators with video footage after a crime.

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subway?” Ms. Hochul said at a news conference in a subway yard in Queens. “You’re absolutely right. That is our intent, to get the message out that we’re going to be having surveillance of activity on the subway trains, and that’s going to give people great ease of mind.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Return to Center Stage. Their Own, Nicholas Kulish, Sept. 20, 2022. After going dark during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Clinton Global Initiative is back.

After a six-year hiatus, the Clinton Global Initiative returned to New York City this week, bringing together leaders from the worlds of nonprofit, government and business, with a few celebrities sprinkled in for good measure. It has been an eventful few years since they last gathered in 2016.

“The challenges we face are steep, but they pretty much have been steep for a long time now,” former President Bill Clinton said in his opening remarks at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. “And CGI is always and has always been about what we can do and not what we can’t do.”

The Clinton Global Initiative began in 2005 and quickly became something akin to a Davos-on-the-Hudson event, but one with a greater focus on philanthropy, nonprofits and corporate do-gooding. The way it differed from most conferences is that it required participants to make commitments, sometimes in dollars, other times in targets — such as for creating jobs or delivering clean water.

Up to the hiatus in 2016, attendees announced more than 3,700 commitments, which by the organization’s own tally had helped more than 435 million people in over 180 countries.

In many ways the early days were the high-water mark of the philanthrocapitalism era, when trust in the wealthy and celebrities to save the world ran high. In turn, many significant organizations modeled themselves after the Clintons’ endeavor.

Then in 2016, in the heat of the general election campaign fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump, with reporters asking a lot of questions about the foundation and its donors, Mr. Clinton announced that the 2016 meeting would be the final version of the initiative.

Now, as world leaders gathered in New York for the first fully in-person United Nations General Assembly in three years, the goal is to recapture that old Clinton magic, and to see if there is still room in a field of thought-leading, pledge-making symposia crowding the city this week.

Advisers to Mr. Clinton said that in the years since, he had longed to restart the event. “He would tell me regularly when we were just talking before a board meeting, ‘I was just out last night and someone was saying when are you going to start CGI again?’” said Robert Harrison, former chief executive of the Clinton Global Initiative, from 2007 to 2016, and a board member of the Clinton Foundation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rally With Trump? Some G.O.P. Candidates Aren’t Thrilled About It, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Whether invited or not, former President Trump is holding rallies in battleground states, putting some Republicans seeking swing votes in an awkward spot.

Former President Donald J. Trump is preparing to swoop into Ohio on Saturday to rally Republicans behind J.D. Vance in a key Senate race. Two weeks earlier, he did the same for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.

Neither candidate invited him.

Instead, aides to the former president simply informed the Senate campaigns that he was coming. Never mind that Mr. Trump, while viewed heroically by many Republicans, remains widely disliked among crucial swing voters.

The question of how to handle Mr. Trump has so bedeviled some Republican candidates for Senate that they have held private meetings about the best way to field the inevitable calls from his team, according to strategists familiar with the discussions.

This awkward state of affairs reflects the contortions many Republican candidates are going through as they leave primary season behind and pivot to the general election, when Democrats are trying to bind them to the former president.

Recent Headlines

 

President Biden, left, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su at the White House on Sept. 15, 2022.

President Biden, left, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su at the White House on Sept. 15, 2022.

 

World News, Human Rights, Disasters

 

 United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, World Leaders Convene at the U.N. for the First Time in 3 Years, Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 20, 2022. Dignitaries are meeting in New York to discuss sweeping crises that include climate change, food insecurity and the war in Ukraine.

joe biden headshotWorld leaders’ speeches at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly begin on Tuesday with a notable change of protocol: The president of the United States will not be speaking on the first day.

Because he was in London on Monday attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II along with many other world leaders, President Biden will speak on Wednesday morning.

The United States hosts the U.N. headquarters, so the American president traditionally speaks second after Brazil, whose leader has traditionally spoken first since the 1950s.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the U.N., opened the session with a speech about a divided world in peril facing enormous challenges, from the threat of multilateralism, to conflict, climate change and food insecurity. Mr. Guterres told reporters last week that he will set out a call to action with concrete steps for tackling and overcoming these challenges.

President Emmanuel Macron of France will be another notable speaker on Tuesday afternoon, reiterating the threat to world order and international law because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine and its many rippling effects will be a major theme of the General Assembly this week. But there are not many world leaders who have access to both presidents of Russia and Ukraine.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is also scheduled to speak on Tuesday. He has emerged as a key figure in mediating between Ukraine and Russia and, together with Mr. Guterres, led the negotiations that resulted in a deal that allowed Ukraine’s grain to be shipped out of ports in the Black Sea.

The United States, the European Union and the African Union are jointly hosting a conference on Tuesday to address the global food insecurity crisis and appease the concerns of developing countries who say the West has ignored their problems and focused too much of its attention and aid on Ukraine.

Kishida Fumio, the prime minister of Japan, had been expected to speak on Tuesday, but his trip to New York has been delayed because of a typhoon in Japan. He will be leaving Japan on Tuesday to take on the U.N. stage.

Some other speakers on Tuesday:

  • Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who faces a tight election next month, will be the first world leader to give remarks. He is likely to call for the international community to address the Ukraine conflict’s humanitarian impact, particularly on energy and food.
  • Olaf Scholz, the new chancellor of Germany, which could face an energy crisis this winter because of the standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan and Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will both likely address the many challenges in the Middle East.

 

mark frerichs ap

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hostage released by Taliban in exchange for Afghan detainee, Haq Nawaz Khan and Susannah George, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). U.S. hostage Mark Frerichs, above, a civilian contractor who was abducted in Kabul over two years ago was released in exchange for an Afghan detainee held in U.S. federal prison, a top Taliban official announced Monday.

Frerichs’s family welcomed his release in a statement, saying they were “grateful and excited to learn that he has been freed,” after being held for more than two and a half years.

“I am so happy to hear that my brother is safe and on his way home to us. Our family has prayed for this each day,” Charlene Cakora, his sister said in the statement released by Camden Advisory Group that has been advocating for his release. “We never gave up hope that he would survive and come home safely to us.”

Frerichs’s release was the subject of negotiations between senior U.S. officials and the Taliban leading up to the signing of the U.S. withdrawal agreement in Doha and in the months that followed after the Biden administration oversaw the end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan last year.

As the withdrawal neared without a deal securing his’ release, his family and advocates feared the United States would lose all leverage to free him. But a senior administration official said Monday “bringing Mark home has been a top priority for President Biden and his national security team.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran says no nuclear deal without U.S. guarantees it won’t walk out again, Karen DeYoung, Sept. 19, 2022. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, in his first U.S. media interview, said that the Biden administration’s promise to adhere to a new nuclear agreement was “meaningless” without guarantees that the United States would not again unilaterally withdraw from the deal in the future.

“If it’s a good deal and fair deal, we would be serious about reaching an agreement. It needs to be lasting,” said Raisi, speaking through an interpreter in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” conducted last week in Tehran and broadcast Sunday evening. But he added: “We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we’ve already seen from them. That is why if there is no guarantee, there is no trust.”

Tehran’s demand for guarantees that the United States would stay in a new agreement has become a principal sticking point in the failure of Iran and world powers to negotiate a deal to replace the 2015 version from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2018. Negotiations that began nearly a year and a half ago have now sputtered to a virtual stop.

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Feels Pain of Global Disruptions Wrought by War and Pandemic, Staff Report, Sept. 20, 2022. The country’s economy has been very hard hit by cascading crises which have disrupted worldwide trade.

When the state-owned factory where Hesham el-Atar worked for 15 years was liquidated this month, he had a feeling it was linked to international pressure on the Egyptian government to reduce its role in the economy amid a severe downturn.

Mr. el-Atar, 39, was a supervisor at the factory, El Nasr Coke and Chemicals Plant, which turned coal into a fuel called coke used in iron and steel production. Now, with his daily expenses rising, he said that he fears he will not be able to find another job near his home in the city of El Saf, about two hours south of the Egyptian capital.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I have four kids. We’re used to a certain standard of living. It will have to change.”

Egypt, which relies heavily on imported goods and foreign borrowing, has been badly battered by the cascading disruptions to global trade from the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine. The exit of foreign investment capital, a collapse in tourism and spiking commodity prices have all translated into a foreign-currency shortage.

The government has responded by implementing more onerous import rules, devaluing the local currency and pushing up interest rates. It has also taken steps to privatize or shut down state-owned enterprises, a key demand of international investors and creditors who say the government’s outsized role in the economy hinders private investment.

But at the same time, Egypt has succeeded in raising more than $22 billion this year in investment pledges from wealthy Gulf allies leery of seeing one of the pillars of the Arab world on the brink after a decade of tumult that began with the country’s 2011 uprising.

ny times logoNew York Times, In One Corner of Kosovo, Cheers Still Ring Out for Vladimir Putin, Andrew Higgins, Sept. 20, 2022. Many ethnic Serbs, nursing grievances against NATO for a 1999 bombing campaign that broke Serbia’s grip on the territory, see Mr. Putin as a savior.
When Europeans and Americans recoiled in horror this spring at evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine, Nebjosa Jovic, a university administrator in northern Kosovo, decided he had to act: He organized a street protest to cheer Russia on.

“We wanted to send a message to the West, especially its headquarters in the United States, to stop persecuting Russians,” Mr. Jovic said.

Only a few people showed up, Mr. Jovic said, because of the “circle of fear” that envelops northern Kosovo, a mostly ethnic Serb region out of step with the rest of the country, where ethnic Albanians, most of whom strongly support Ukraine, make up more than 90 percent of the population.

Viewed from London or Washington, the horrors visited on Ukraine by Russia offer a clear and inescapable moral choice. But, filtered through the prism of grievance and history in places tormented by their own strife, Ukraine’s misery fades in favor of local claims to victimhood.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. proposes suspending $7.5B in funding for Orban’s Hungary over corruption, Emily Rauhala, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). The European Commission on Sunday proposed the suspension of billions of dollars in funding for Hungary over concerns about corruption, a first-of-its kind move that could deepen the stand-off between Brussels and Budapest — if it goes ahead.

european union logo rectangleThe commission will ask European Union countries to approve the suspension of 65 percent of funding from three programs, amounting to roughly $7.5 billion, according to E.U. officials. But the commission seemed to leave the door open for Hungary to make reforms and keep the money in the end.

hungary flagThis is the first time the E.U. is using a new measure aimed at protecting its budget by making funding conditional on certain standards. “Today’s decision is a clear demonstration of the Commission’s resolve to protect the E.U. budget, and to use all tools at our disposal to ensure this important objective,” said Johannes Hahn, commissioner in charge of Budget and Administration said in a statement.

Announcing the possible suspension, Hahn mentioned three problem areas: systematic irregularities in procurement, problems related to the prevention of conflict of interest and issues related to Hungary’s anti-corruption framework. He noted, however, that the Hungarian side has committed to a package of 17 reform measures to address E.U. concerns.

E.U. member states will have a month to decide whether or not to proceed, with the possibility of extending by two months, according to commission. An E.U. official on Wednesday suggested the extension is likely. A qualified majority is required to move forward.

The move comes just days after the European parliament declared the country has become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy” under the current government — and after years of acrimony between the E.U. and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.

 

 In a photo provided by the Armenian government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was greeted by Alen Simonyan, the president of the National Assembly, on Saturday outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (Photo by via PHOTOLURE and the Associated Press).

In a photo provided by the Armenian government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was greeted by Alen Simonyan, the president of the National Assembly, on Saturday outside Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (Photo by via PHOTOLURE and the Associated Press).

Politico, Pelosi’s visit fires debate in Armenia over alliance with Russia, Gabriel Gavin, Sept. 19, 2022. The US House Speaker could hardly have timed her trip better, as Yerevan questions the merits of relying on Moscow as its main security ally. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a reputation for visiting hotspots. Her recent travels to Armenia raises debate about the country’s political allegiances.

politico CustomCrowds lined the streets of Yerevan hours before Nancy Pelosi’s fleet of seven slick black cars pulled into the center of the Armenian capital on Sunday. Waving American flags, thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the speaker of the House of Representatives as she paid a historic visit to the Caucasian nation, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Those U.S. flags carried a significant political message about the country’s political allegiances. For years, Armenia chose to be a key strategic ally of the Kremlin, but many are now increasingly questioning whether Moscow can act as guarantor of the nation’s security against the superior firepower of neighboring Azerbaijan, which launched a massive artillery bombardment on Tuesday. Since then 135 Armenians and 77 Azeris have died in a conflict that looks at risk of breaking through a fragile ceasefire.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin mired in a war that is rapidly turning against him in Ukraine, Yerevan is finding that its appeals for help from a Moscow-led security grouping, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are falling on deaf ears. That’s a pivotal strategic problem as the enemy in Azerbaijan is lavishly supported by Turkey, a regional military heavyweight that Yerevan associates with the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I.

The thousands who took to the streets of Yerevan, close to where the U.S. delegation was holding meetings, demanded their country withdraw from that Russian-led military partnership. Billboards featuring Putin were torn down, crowds chanted Pelosi’s name, and demonstrators held up signs reading “CSTO go screw yourself.”

“All my life we have been a Russian colony,” said Anna, a protestor who brought her seven-year-old daughter to the rally. “It’s time for us to try something else.”

Another demonstrator angrily confronted a Russian journalist after spotting his nationality printed on a press card. “Why are you here? Why don’t you go back to Russia and report on what is going on there?” she demanded. “You are occupiers!”

Pelosi’s condemnation of the Azeri attack, naturally, received a less than warm welcome in Baku, which insists Azerbaijan is only responding to coming under fire from Armenian territory. “Groundless and unfair accusations against Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva tweeted following the speech. “Such statements serve not to strengthen fragile peace in the region, but rather to escalate tension.”

While Armenia is becoming more hostile to the Kremlin, Baku seems to be drawing closer to it. Just two days before Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine in February, Aliyev met with Vladimir Putin, signing off on a comprehensive agreement that they said “brings our relations to the level of an alliance.”

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Mass Shootings, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. charges 47 with ‘brazen’ theft of $250 million of pandemic food aid meant for kids, Tony Romm, Sept. 20, 2022. 
Defendants used fake names of nonexistent children to take cash meant to pay for meals that they instead put toward houses, cars and other luxury goods, prosecutors said.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department charged 47 defendants Tuesday for allegedly defrauding a federal program that provided food for needy children during the pandemic, describing the scheme — totaling $250 million — as the largest uncovered to date targeting the government’s generous stimulus aid.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants — a network of individuals and organizations tied to Feeding Our Future, a Minnesota-based nonprofit — allegedly put the wrongly obtained federal pandemic funds toward luxury cars, houses and other personal purchases in what amounted to a case of “brazen” theft.

“These indictments, alleging the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date, underscore the Department of Justice’s sustained commitment to combating pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who perpetrate it,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The alleged scheme centered on the Federal Child Nutrition Program, which is administered by the Agriculture Department to provide free meals to the children of lower-income families. Congress greatly expanded the program over the course of the pandemic, including by allowing a wider array of organizations to distribute food at a larger range of locations.

The changes to federal law opened the door for Feeding Our Future to play a greater role in distributing meals, the Justice Department contends, and the group disbursed more than $200 million over the course of 2021. In doing so, though, federal prosecutors alleged the company’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, oversaw a vast fraud scheme across Minnesota.

It was the largest burst of emergency spending in U.S. history: Two years, six laws and more than $5 trillion intended to break the deadly grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The money spared the U.S. economy from ruin and put vaccines into millions of arms, but it also invited unprecedented levels of fraud, abuse and opportunism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman who staged her own kidnapping sentenced to 18 months in prison, Julian Mark, Sept. 20, 2022. Sherri Papini, 40, has never explained why she concocted the story, which she stuck to for five years.

For more than five years, Sherri Papini insisted that, in November 2016, she was abducted by two masked women who held her captive for 22 days, starved her and branded her shoulder with a hot tool.

In April, the now-40-year-old mother of two admitted that she staged the abduction that prompted a multistate search. And on Monday, during her sentencing in a federal courtroom in Sacramento, she repented.

“I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor,” she said before the judge, according to the Sacramento Bee, adding, “I am choosing to humbly accept responsibility.”

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb sentenced Papini to 18 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to mail fraud and making false statements, according to the Justice Department. Shubb called Papini a “manipulator,” the Bee reported, and said the eight-month sentence recommended by prosecutors would not suffice.

The judge also ordered Papini to pay $309,902 in restitution to the California Victim Compensation Board, the Social Security Administration and the agencies that investigated the sham kidnapping. Her motive for concocting the story remains unclear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor suspended over claim he pressured defendant for nude photos, Jonathan Edwards, Sept. 20, 2022. Ronnie Goldy Jr. provided a defendant with legal favors for years in exchange for her nude photos, court officials allege.

Elected prosecutor Ronnie Goldy Jr. had spent about three years helping a defendant out of legal jams in exchange for nude photos of her, but on June 15, 2018, he asked for something more, court officials said.

“When do I get to see a video?” Goldy, the top prosecutor for several rural counties east of Lexington, Ky., allegedly asked her in a Facebook message.

“When am I not gonna have a warrant hahaha,” the woman countered, according to a court report.

“Lol. Good point,” Goldy allegedly replied before sending another message: “Incentives never hurt.”

Twelve days later, Goldy followed up, telling the woman she owed him “big time,” according to a report filed last week with the Kentucky Supreme Court. When the woman asked why, Goldy allegedly responded that the “Judge is about to withdraw some warrants.”

On Friday, the state Supreme Court temporarily suspended Goldy from practicing law for allegedly engaging in a quid pro quo relationship. For seven years, he did legal favors for the female defendant, demanding nude images and “sexual favors” in return, according to a report written by Jean Chenault Logue, a state judge who served as a special commissioner overseeing Goldy’s case.

Under Kentucky law, a commonwealth’s attorney like Goldy can’t be removed from office except by impeachment. But Logue recommended Goldy’s suspension from practicing law, saying the inquiry commission had presented enough evidence to show that Goldy’s “professional misconduct poses a substantial threat of harm to the public.”

 nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

ny times logoNew York Times, Law Enforcement Funding Package Splits Democrats Ahead of Midterms, Annie Karni and Stephanie Lai, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). A measure to provide more money for local police departments has become mired in a long-running debate among Democrats about the politics of crime.

Legislation to increase funding for local police departments has hit a snag on Capitol Hill amid deep Democratic divisions, as progressives balk at steering more money to law enforcement and moderates clamor for action that could blunt Republicans’ efforts to paint them as soft on crime ahead of the midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shown above in a file photo, has pledged for weeks to bring up a package of bills that would provide funding for hiring more police officers, increasing salaries, investing in officer safety and training and body cameras, as well as mental health resources for officers.

But the measures, championed by vulnerable Democrats from conservative-leaning districts, have become mired in a yearslong internal feud about the politics of crime, leaving the party without an answer to Republican attacks and some of its members livid.

abigail spanberger twitter“I have heard a whole host of reasons for people wanting to excuse inaction,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, left, Democrat of Virginia, who is in a difficult re-election race in a competitive district that includes the suburbs of Richmond, and is a lead proponent of the legislation. “The sort of generalized excuses — I’ve heard it a lot. Tomorrow it will be, ‘It’s raining.’”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who pressed successfully for the package to include measures to strengthen accountability for police misconduct, have also pushed to move ahead with it.

A spokesman for the caucus said that the issue remains a priority for the group.

Yet a small group of progressives has so far refused to back the legislation, leaving Democrats short of the votes they would need to bring it up. House Democratic leaders do not want to put their party’s divisions on display at a time when the political map is looking more favorable for them than it did just a few months ago. So Ms. Pelosi has been holding off on announcing any vote, as lawmakers continue discussions with those withholding their support.

pramila jayapal resized oRepresentative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has positioned herself as the principal roadblock to the legislation, arguing that it would provide a blank check to police departments.

“The answer is not just putting more money in,” Ms. Jayapal said. “I’m not sure that this has a chance of moving forward, given all of the challenges around it.”

Because of Democrats’ slim majority in the House, the opposition of Ms. Jayapal and just three other liberals would be enough to block it from proceeding to a vote. Talks among her, moderate Democrats and party leaders were continuing on Monday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, with some still hopeful for a potential breakthrough.

 

adnad sayed

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Vacates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed, Subject of ‘Serial,’ Michael Levenson, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his high school classmate Hae Min Lee. The judge gave prosecutors 30 days to proceed with a new trial or drop the case.

In a remarkable reversal, Adnan Syed walked out of prison on Monday for the first time since he was a teenager, having spent 23 years fighting his conviction on charges that he murdered his former high school girlfriend, a case that was chronicled in the first season of the hit podcast “Serial.”

Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated the conviction “in the interests of justice and fairness,” finding that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that could have helped Mr. Syed at trial and discovered new evidence that could have affected the outcome of his case.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide if they will proceed with a new trial or drop the charges against Mr. Syed, who was ordered to serve home detention until then. Prosecutors said that an investigation had pointed to two possible “alternative suspects,” although those individuals have not been named publicly or charged.

“At this time, we will remove the shackles from Mr. Syed,” Judge Phinn declared after announcing her decision. Moments later, Mr. Syed walked onto the courthouse steps, smiling as a crowd of supporters shouted and cheered. He gave a small wave and climbed into a waiting SUV, without saying anything to reporters who pressed around him.

Mr. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence after he was convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a park in Baltimore in 1999.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time, had steadfastly maintained his innocence, and questions about whether he had received a fair trial drew widespread attention when “Serial” debuted in 2014. The podcast became a pop-culture sensation with its detailed examination over 12 episodes of the case against Mr. Syed, including the peculiarities of his lawyer, who agreed to be disbarred amid complaints of wrongdoing in 2001 and died in 2004.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Faces Potential Fiscal Crisis as $10 Billion Deficit Looms, Dana Rubinstein, Sept. 19, 2022. A persistent pandemic-driven downturn has caused revenue from business and personal-income taxes to fall in New York City, while tourism and job losses have yet to recover.

Recent Headlines

 

Forced Birth Laws, Privacy Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP senator says he won’t back Graham’s proposed national abortion ban, María Luisa Paúl, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Another Republican senator says he won’t support the bill Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) introduced that would ban most abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said abortion policy should be left up to states during a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“At this point, to have Congress step back and to tell all of the states that we know better than them how to handle this is probably not the right direction to go,” Rounds said, adding: “I think the states are in a better shape to explore and to find the right direction on a state-by-state basis.”

The senator, who as South Dakota’s governor signed a bill in 2006 that sought to ban most abortions there, is the latest in a growing list of Republicans to have voiced opposition to Graham’s bill. That bill, introduced Sept. 13, would allow some states’ stricter abortion laws to remain, but impose new restrictions on other states.

Recent Headlines

 

lindsey graham npr

 

Water, Space, Energy, Climate, Disasters

climate change photo

 ny times logoNew York Times, How a Quebec Lithium Mine May Help Make Electric Cars Affordable, Jack Ewing, Photographs by Brendan George Ko, Sept. 20, 2022. The project is also illustrating how difficult it is to mine lithium, and to break China’s dominance in processing the metal and turning it into batteries.

About 350 miles northwest of Montreal, amid a vast pine forest, is a deep mining pit with walls of mottled rock. The pit has changed hands repeatedly and been mired in bankruptcy, but now it could help determine the future of electric vehicles.

The mine contains lithium, an indispensable ingredient in electric car batteries that is in short supply. If it opens on schedule early next year, it will be the second North American source of that metal, offering hope that badly needed raw materials can be extracted and refined close to Canadian, U.S. and Mexican auto factories, in line with Biden administration policies that aim to break China’s dominance of the battery supply chain.

Having more mines will also help contain the price of lithium, which has soared fivefold since mid-2021, pushing the cost of electric vehicles so high that they are out of reach for many drivers. The average new electric car in the United States costs about $66,000, just a few thousand dollars short of the median household income last year.

But the mine outside La Corne, operated by Sayona Mining, an Australian company, also illustrates the many hurdles that must be overcome to produce and process the materials needed to wean automobiles from fossil fuels. The mine has had several owners, and some of them filed for bankruptcy. As a result, some analysts and investors warn that many mines being developed now may never be viable.

Dozens of lithium mines are in various stages of development in Canada and the United States. Canada has made it a mission to become a major source of raw materials and components for electric vehicles. But most of these projects are years away from production. Even if they are able to raise the billions of dollars needed to get going, there is no guarantee they will yield enough lithium to meet the continent’s needs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Billions in Climate Deal Funding Could Help Protect U.S. Coastal Cities, Stephanie Lai, Sept. 20, 2022. Communities are hoping that the Democrats’ new climate law will help restore coastal habitats, part of a program that emphasizes nature-based solutions.

Claire Arre, a marine biologist, waded through the sand in search of an Olympia oyster on a recent sunny afternoon, monitoring the bed her organization had built to clean up the surrounding watershed and contemplating all that could be done if she could get her hands on federal funding to expand the work.

Ms. Arre’s project aims to combat climate change using nature instead of human-engineered construction, and it is one of many across the nation’s 254 coastal counties that is eligible for billions in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the sprawling climate, health care and tax bill signed last month by President Biden.

The measure could “have a direct result in getting our next restoration project off the ground and sharing the beneficial impacts here into another area,” said Ms. Arre, the director of marine restoration for Orange County Coastkeeper, a nonprofit group, as she meticulously scanned the site, surrounded by sandbars and cliffs, pickleweed and docked boats.

The group hopes to expand to nearby Huntington Harbour, and it has been seeking funding to do so.

A little-noticed section of Democrats’ climate legislation, which made the largest federal investment in history to combat the warming of the planet, injects $2.6 billion over five years into coastal communities across the country through grants to fund projects that prepare and respond to hazardous climate-related events and disturbances. The program makes up less than 1 percent of the total climate investment in the law, but it is widely regarded as a significant step and the latest sign of a shift by the federal government toward funding nature-based climate solutions.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Strongest storm in decades battering Alaska, Zach Rosenthal and Jacob Feuerstein, Sept. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Massive amounts of water are sloshing ashore, raising the ocean as much as a dozen feet and slamming vulnerable coastal communities with severe erosion.

A powerful extratropical cyclone is blasting into the western coast of Alaska — bringing potential perils from a storm surge that threatens to top out at 18 feet and gusts that will reach up to 90 mph.

“This continues to be a dangerous storm as it is producing water levels above higher than any seen over at least 50 years,” the National Weather Service’s Fairbanks office wrote in its Saturday morning forecast discussion. The National Weather Service has issued several warnings to account for a multitude of hurricane-like threats.

As the powerhouse system approached Alaska late Friday and into early Saturday, roaring south-to-southwesterly winds battered the state’s west coast. Through Saturday morning, widespread gusts had reached 45 to 77 mph.

Massive amounts of water, shoved north by the high winds, were sloshing ashore, raising the ocean multiple feet and battering vulnerable coastal communities with severe erosion. The tide gauge in Nome, which is known for being the end point of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, showed water levels more than 7 feet above normal levels early Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, North America’s largest birds return to Northern California after a 130-year absence, Alice Li, Kasha Patel and Melina Mara, Sept. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Once pushed to the brink of extinction, condors have benefited from a plan created by the Yurok Tribe and government partners to release the birds into Redwood National Park.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Media, Free Expression, Culture, Education, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, Oakland is closing public schools, raising tough questions in the proud city, Scott Wilson, Sept. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Black Oakland is being overwhelmed by the arrival of White and Latino residents, low Black birthrates, high costs, and the gentrification transforming the city.

More than half the students who attended Parker were Black, kids such as Rochelle Jenkins’s 12-year-old twin daughters, Zoraya and Zariah, who navigated a few side streets to class each day. Now they walk farther, along avenues featuring stripped-to-the-rims cars and medians full of trash, to a new school with new teachers and new kids they do not yet know.

“We were devastated,” said Jenkins, a bus driver who shuttles Facebook employees to and from work each day. “We have begged them not to do this because of the ripple effect it will have on our neighborhood. This was a place that truly supported the lives of Black and Brown children.”
Former Parker Elementary School students Zariah and Zoraya Jenkins, 12-year-old twins, walk through East Oakland to their new school in late August. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Oakland is closing public schools, a precise and grim measure of a city’s health. In the case of this proud city, the trend has clarified for many that Oakland, traditionally a place of radical blue-state politics, barricade-and-bullhorn protests and a grass-roots character, has fallen from vanguard to some rung far below.

Black Oakland is simply withering, overwhelmed by the steady arrival of White and Latino residents, by low Black birthrates and a cost-driven exodus, and by the uneven but pervasive gentrification transforming this city of 434,000 people.

There are not enough children to keep seven schools open after this academic year, district officials say, and it happens that the children no longer there to keep them open are predominantly Black in a city where race has defined its local identity and its national outlook for generations.

Parker Elementary, with a student body of roughly 300 children, was one of two schools that closed at the end of the last academic year. Five more will close at the end of this one, out of a total of roughly 80 campuses. Four of the seven closing schools have majority-Black student bodies. In two others, Black enrollment is disproportionately high compared with others in the district. Four other schools will partially close or merge, forcing many students elsewhere.

Recent Headlines

 

Public Health, Pandemic, Responses

Politico, Biden on ‘60 Minutes’: ‘The pandemic is over,’ David Cohen and Adam Cancryn, Sept. 19, 2022 (print ed.). President Joe Biden said “the pandemic is over” in discussing Covid during an interview that aired on Sunday evening on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

joe biden resized oThe president also called former President Donald Trump “totally irresponsible“ in his handling of classified documents, and hedged on whether he was fully committed to seeking reelection.

politico Custom“The pandemic is over,” the president told Scott Pelley as they talked last week at the Detroit Auto Show. “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

Despite Biden’s statement, Covid has continued to exact a toll in the United States and around the world. The John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center lists more than 2 million Covid cases in the country in the last 28 days, with hundreds dying from the disease every day.

Biden’s insistence on Sunday night that the pandemic is over caught several of his own health officials by surprise. The declaration was not part of his planned remarks ahead of the “60 Minutes” interview, two administration officials familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

Biden’s statement was the most definite one he has made about the pandemic since assuming the presidency in January 2021. He was less definitive when asked whether he planned to seek reelection.

“Is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” Biden said, saying he would make his decision after the November midterms.

He did qualify his remarks by saying it had always been his “intention” to seek another term and explained that “election laws” would come into play if he were to announce his candidacy at this juncture.

In the interview, parts of which were recorded at the White House before Biden flew to Britain to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the president also said he was startled to see the photograph of top-secret documents on the floor of the residence at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, calling Trump “totally irresponsible.”

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top