April 2023 News


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

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




New York Daily News, Guilty verdict for pro-Trump troll who tried to trick voters out of casting Hillary Clinton ballots in 2016



April 1

Trump Indictment Update

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Other Top Headlines

President Biden promises help to the community surrounding Rolling Fork in Mississippi following fatal hurricane damage (Reuters photo by Tom Brenner on March 31, 2023)..reuters

U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control


More On Trump Prosecutions, Allies, Insurrectionists


Global Conflicts, Threats, Migration, Human Rights


More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration


U.S. Budget, Banks, Economy, Jobs, CryptoCurrency


U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance


Ukraine War


 Disasters, Climate, Environment, U.S. Transportation, Energy


climate change photo


U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, Stalking, Rape Laws, Politics


Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy


U.S. Media, Education, Arts, Sports


Trump Indictment Update


djt march 2020 Custom

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New York Times, As Trump Awaits Charges, U.S. Legal System Enters Uncharted Territory, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Donald J. Trump was weighing his next steps on Friday after becoming the first president to face criminal charges, an unprecedented moment in American politics that has drawn sharply partisan responses from Democrats and Republicans and heralds a tumultuous stretch for a deeply divided nation.

A day after a grand jury voted to indict Mr. Trump, Republicans continued to unleash furious criticism at the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, whose office rebuked House Republicans for attempting to interfere in the case. Mr. Trump is likely to be arraigned on Tuesday, when the charges against him will be unsealed. A lawyer for the former president said that he would not take a plea deal and was prepared to go to trial, as some of his supporters derided the legal proceedings as a witch hunt.

Here’s where the Trump election investigation in Georgia stands: Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim:

Prosecutors in Georgia are expected to make a decision soon on whether to seek indictments in their investigation of Donald J. Trump and some of his allies over their efforts to interfere with the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state.

Mr. Trump and his associates had numerous interactions with Georgia officials after the election, including a call in which he urged the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes,” the number he would have needed to overcome President Biden’s lead in the state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Preparations underway for Trump’s arraignment in N.Y. court on Tuesday, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey, Shayna Jacobs and Perry Stein, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump is expected to appear in court on Tuesday. No other former president has ever been charged with a crime. Secret Service tour courthouse where former president will appear after surrendering to face criminal charges.

Former president Donald Trump plans to fly to New York on Monday and stay overnight before appearing in a specially secured Manhattan courthouse to be arraigned on still-unspecified criminal charges, people briefed on the arrangements said.

The first-ever indictment of a former president — who is also a 2024 White House hopeful — brings unusual security challenges to the courthouse complex in Lower Manhattan, even as it continues to roil the political landscape.

alvin bragg twitterOn Friday, Trump lashed out on social media at the judge assigned to the case and a prosecutor from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Republican lawmakers focused their ire on Bragg, right, an elected Democrat, while Bragg’s deputy pushed back against demands from GOP committee chairs that the district attorney come to Capitol Hill and explain his investigation.

Being charged with, or convicted of, a crime would not disqualify Trump from running for president or holding the office. But the optics and logistics of campaigning while navigating a legal case could get complicated. For the moment, Trump and his advisers are ramping up their fundraising efforts and making the rounds of GOP lawmakers and party leaders, leaving his lawyers to negotiate his surrender to law enforcement and his security detail to coordinate logistics with police.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s G.O.P. Rivals, Shielding Him, Reveal Their 2024 Predicament, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, April 1, 2023. Many of Donald Trump’s potential opponents snapped into line behind him, showing how hard it may be to persuade Republican voters to choose an alternative.

ron desantis oLast week, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, right, took a measured dig at Donald J. Trump by publicly mocking the circumstances that led New York investigators to the former president.

“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” Mr. DeSantis said.

But as soon as Mr. Trump was indicted this week, Mr. DeSantis promptly vowed to block his state from assisting a potential extradition. In a show of support for his fellow Republican, Mr. DeSantis called the case “the weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda.”

In the hours after a grand jury indicted Mr. Trump, many of his potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination snapped into line behind him, looking more like allies than competitors. All passed on the opportunity to criticize him, and some rushed to his defense, expressing concerns about the legitimacy of the case.

The turnaround by some prospective contenders was so swift and complete that it caught even the Trump team off guard. One close ally suggested to Mr. Trump that he publicly thank his rivals. (As of Friday evening, he had not.)

The reluctance to directly confront Mr. Trump put his strength as a front-runner on full display. His would-be challengers have been sizing up political billiard balls for the possibility of an increasingly tricky bank shot: persuading Republican voters to forsake him, while presenting themselves as the movement’s heir apparent.

In one reflection of Mr. Trump’s durability, his team said it had raised more than $4 million in the 24 hours after the indictment was made public by The New York Times.

“There has been a narrative for a while that we could have Trump policies with someone more electable, but the reaction to the indictment showed that power is unique to Trump,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in an interview. “Trump was the leading contender for the nomination before the indictment, and now he’s the prohibitive favorite.”

The closest any possible Republican challenger came to criticizing Mr. Trump was former Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who told Fox Business Network on Friday that while the yet-to-be-revealed charges might not end up being substantial, Mr. Trump should “step aside” now that he has been indicted.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Manhattan district attorney’s office criticized top Republicans for trying to interfere in the investigation, Jonah E. Bromwich and Luke Broadwater, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). The letter described as unfounded the three members’ allegations that the investigation was politically motivated.

A day after filing charges against Donald J. Trump, the Manhattan district attorney’s office wrote a letter criticizing three influential congressional Republicans for their efforts to interfere in the investigation into the former president.

djt michael cohen disloyalThe letter was addressed to three committee chairmen who had demanded that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, left, provide them with communications, documents and testimony related to the inquiry into Mr. Trump.

The office’s letter noted that before being indicted, Mr. Trump had used his social media platform to denigrate Mr. Bragg, and had threatened “death and destruction” if he were to be charged.

“You could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury,” Leslie Dubeck, the general counsel for the district attorney’s office, wrote.

“Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to collaborate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges,” Ms. Dubeck wrote, describing as unfounded the three members’ allegations that the investigation was politically motivated.

The letter, addressed to Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; James R. Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee; and Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, chairman of the Administration Committee, repeated portions of an earlier one Ms. Dubeck had sent them, calling the Republican request for confidential information about the investigation unprecedented.


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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out against judge who will hear his criminal case, Perry Stein and Shayna Jacobs, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, above, left, also presided over prosecutions of the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg.

Former president Donald Trump is quite familiar with New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, the judge who oversaw the grand jury that indicted Trump this week and will preside over the criminal proceedings that follow.

Merchan, 60, who has sat on the New York bench since 2009, also presided over the jury trial last year of Trump’s namesake real estate company, which resulted in a conviction in December, and the prosecution of the company’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

On Friday, the first former president ever charged with a crime lashed out at Merchan on social media, declaring that the judge “HATES ME.”

Merchan “is the same person who ‘railroaded’ my 75 year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to take a ‘plea’ deal,” Trump wrote.

The former president continued: “He strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t ‘plead,’ VICIOUSLY. APPEALING.”

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny and is serving a five-month jail sentence. Trump was not personally implicated in that case.

But on Tuesday, Trump is expected to appear before Merchan for an arraignment hearing in a different criminal matter. His indictment remains under seal, which means the specific charges are not known. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is believed to have been investigating a payment made before the 2016 presidential election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, to keep her from publicly discussing a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years earlier.

The judge, who was born in Colombia and grew up in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, has held various posts as a lawyer and jurist in New York government since the 1990s, including working as a family court judge in the Bronx and as an assistant district attorney in the New York County district attorney’s office. He now works at the New York Supreme Court, a felony-level trial court with branches in each New York City borough and each county around the state.

As part of his portfolio, Merchan oversees a specialized court that gives treatment options and merit-based plea agreements to eligible defendants who are in the throes of mental illness when they commit crimes. The program prioritizes treatment and recovery. Graduates can see their charges reduced or dismissed. 

World Crisis Radio, Opinion and historical commentary: Trump indicted, showing justice still exists in US after all! Webster G. Tarpley, right, author, strategist, April 1, 2023 (113:15 mins.). NY DA Alvin Bragg becomes a webster tarpley 2007national hero by delivering the indispensable indictment in time to save democratic legality; Trump responds with innuendos of violence; Indictment to be read at arraignment next Tuesday at 2:15 pm; Manhattan DA”s action renews tradition of black America as the moral conscience of the nation;

AG Garland’s feckless performance makes his resignation mandatory;

Trump camp may now be decimated by indictments, civil suits and defections; An extinction event for Republican Party looms;

Meddling MAGAt extremists should be halted at the Hudson River, since their attempted sabotage of Bragg’s case has no legal basis; Is Putin offering political asylum?; Kremlin warlord admits that sanctions are disrupting the Russian war economy;

A bad week for oligarchs, from Trump to Netanyahu and beyond; Xi eyes Russian territory beyond Amur and Ussuri Rivers, seized from China during 1850s Opium Wars;

DeSantis attacks full faith and credit clause of US Constitution by refusing to cooperate with transfer of accused felon Trump from Florida to New York if needed; Breaking: In defeat for Murdoch, Delaware judge orders Dominion vs Fox case to trial!

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The Guardian, Finland to formally join Nato within days, Jens Stoltenberg says, Peter Beaumont and agencies, March 31, 2023. After Turkish ratification, Helsinki says move will improve regional stability and security Finland will formally be welcomed into Nato “within days” after Turkey’s ratification of the Nordic country’s accession to the western defence alliance, the Nato secretary general has announced.

“All 30 Nato allies have now ratified the accession protocol,” Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday. “Finland will formally join our alliance in the coming days.”

finland flagThe move brings to an end decades of Finnish neutrality over Nato, and has been driven by concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares a border with Russia.

In a statement after the Turkish vote, the Finnish government said joining the alliance would strengthen the country’s security and improve stability and security in the region.

Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, tweeted: “As allies, we will give and receive security. We will defend each other. Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application.”

Finland’s imminent accession to Nato came as Russia said on Friday that a ceasefire in Ukraine would not enable it to achieve the goals of its “special military operation” at the moment.

The Kremlin was reacting after the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko – Russia’s closest ally – called for an immediate ceasefire without preconditions, and for Moscow and Kyiv to start negotiations on a lasting peace settlement.

Finland’s membership represents the first enlargement since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.

Despite Turkey initially delaying Finland’s bid to join the western defence alliance, the speed of Finland’s negotiations and accession process has been striking and comes as Moscow prepares to take over the chair of the UN security council.

With any Nato expansion requiring the support of all of its members, Ankara had delayed an even quicker accession by Finland, citing concerns about the country’s support for Kurdish groups and about arms exports.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, said this month that Finland had satisfied Ankara’s objections after taking steps to crack down on groups seen by Ankara as “terrorists” and to free up defence exports. This week, Turkish officials said Finland had fulfilled its obligations under a memorandum signed last year, in which the two countries pledged to address Turkey’s security concerns.

Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, tweeted: “As allies, we will give and receive security. We will defend each other. Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application.”

Finland’s imminent accession to Nato came as Russia said on Friday that a ceasefire in Ukraine would not enable it to achieve the goals of its “special military operation” at the moment.

The Kremlin was reacting after the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko – Russia’s closest ally – called for an immediate ceasefire without preconditions, and for Moscow and Kyiv to start negotiations on a lasting peace settlement.

Finland’s membership represents the first enlargement since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.

Despite Turkey initially delaying Finland’s bid to join the western defence alliance, the speed of Finland’s negotiations and accession process has been striking and comes as Moscow prepares to take over the chair of the UN security council.

With any Nato expansion requiring the support of all of its members, Ankara had delayed an even quicker accession by Finland, citing concerns about the country’s support for Kurdish groups and about arms exports.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, said this month that Finland had satisfied Ankara’s objections after taking steps to crack down on groups seen by Ankara as “terrorists” and to free up defence exports. This week, Turkish officials said Finland had fulfilled its obligations under a memorandum signed last year, in which the two countries pledged to address Turkey’s security concerns.

Swedish flagSweden, however, which applied to join Nato at the same time last May, is still being blocked by Ankara over similar complaints.

Stoltenberg said on Twitter: “I look forward to raising Finland’s flag at Nato HQ in the coming days. Together we are stronger and safer.”

Finland, which has an 832-mile border with Russia, is set to become the seventh Nato country on the Baltic Sea, further isolating Russia’s coastal access at St Petersburg and on its small exclave of Kaliningrad.

Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, tweeted: “As allies, we will give and receive security. We will defend each other. Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application.”

Finland’s imminent accession to Nato came as Russia said on Friday that a ceasefire in Ukraine would not enable it to achieve the goals of its “special military operation” at the moment.

The Kremlin was reacting after the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko – Russia’s closest ally – called for an immediate ceasefire without preconditions, and for Moscow and Kyiv to start negotiations on a lasting peace settlement.

Finland’s membership represents the first enlargement since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.

Despite Turkey initially delaying Finland’s bid to join the western defence alliance, the speed of Finland’s negotiations and accession process has been striking and comes as Moscow prepares to take over the chair of the UN security council.

With any Nato expansion requiring the support of all of its members, Ankara had delayed an even quicker accession by Finland, citing concerns about the country’s support for Kurdish groups and about arms exports.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, said this month that Finland had satisfied Ankara’s objections after taking steps to crack down on groups seen by Ankara as “terrorists” and to free up defence exports. This week, Turkish officials said Finland had fulfilled its obligations under a memorandum signed last year, in which the two countries pledged to address Turkey’s security concerns.

Sweden, however, which applied to join Nato at the same time last May, is still being blocked by Ankara over similar complaints.

Stoltenberg said on Twitter: “I look forward to raising Finland’s flag at Nato HQ in the coming days. Together we are stronger and safer.”

Finland, which has an 832-mile border with Russia, is set to become the seventh Nato country on the Baltic Sea, further isolating Russia’s coastal access at St Petersburg and on its small exclave of Kaliningrad.

Sweden, however, which applied to join Nato at the same time last May, is still being blocked by Ankara over similar complaints.

Stoltenberg said on Twitter: “I look forward to raising Finland’s flag at Nato HQ in the coming days. Together we are stronger and safer.”

Finland, which has an 832-mile border with Russia, is set to become the seventh Nato country on the Baltic Sea, further isolating Russia’s coastal access at St Petersburg and on its small exclave of Kaliningrad.


Other Top Stories


President Biden promises help to the community surrounding Rolling Fork in Mississippi following fatal hurricane damage (Reuters photo by Tom Brenner on March 31, 2023)..reutersPresident Biden promises help to the community surrounding Rolling Fork in Mississippi following fatal hurricane damage (Reuters photo by Tom Brenner on March 31, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden surveyed the damage from a tornado that killed 26 in a small town in Mississippi last week, Michael D. Shear, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Surrounded by piles of lumber and twisted metal, the president promised that the federal government was “not just here for today.”

President Biden vowed on Friday that the federal government would help Mississippi recover and rebuild from devastation caused by a deadly tornado that ripped through rural parts of the state last week.

The storm left at least 26 people dead and injured dozens in Rolling Fork, a town of about 2,000, and across a wide swath of the Mississippi Delta, leaving the struggling region grasping for help to respond on behalf of those affected.

“This is tough stuff,” Mr. Biden said after arriving in his motorcade, which drove past home after home that had been reduced to piles of lumber and twisted metal.

“The thing that really always amazes me, in all the tornadoes I’ve been to of late, is that you have one house standing and one house, from here to the wall, totally destroyed,” he said. “It’s but for the grace of God.”

Mr. Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, met privately with families affected by the storms at South Delta Elementary School, which had parts of its roof ripped off and trees toppled.

Afterward, the couple walked through streets damaged by the tornado, stopping briefly to speak with residents whose homes were torn to shreds by the high winds.

As he toured the wreckage, Mr. Biden saw a devastated town with many homes half standing and roofs torn away. Power lines remained on the ground. Blue plastic tarpaulins covered the roofs of houses that still had walls to attach to. A couch cushion hung on the branches of a tree.

On one overturned truck, one member of the town strung an American flag.

“I’ve been to too many sites like this over the last two years around the country,” Mr. Biden told a small group of people who had gathered for his short speech. “And I always see the same thing in America. When the neighborhood’s in trouble, the whole neighborhood comes to help.”

Throughout the day, Mr. Biden was accompanied by Tate Reeves, the state’s Republican governor, who had repeatedly clashed with the president over Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr. Biden had called out the governor for failing to implement what he called common-sense health restrictions, while Mr. Reeves labeled the president’s coronavirus policies “tyrannical” in a war of words that went back and forth for days.

That ill will was nowhere to be found on Friday, as Mr. Reeves warmly welcomed Mr. Biden — and the help of the federal government — to his beleaguered state.

Former Trump White House senior advisors Jared Kushner, center, and Ivanka Trump, Trump's daughter and Kushner's wife, meet with Saudi leader Mohammad bin Salman on the former president's first international trip of his administration, to Saudi Arabia in May 2017. Bin Salman's regime later authorized a $2 billion investment into Kushner's private operations promptly after Trump's presidency.

Former Trump White House senior advisors Jared Kushner, center, and Ivanka Trump, Trump’s daughter and Kushner’s wife, meet with Saudi leader Mohammad bin Salman on the former president’s first international trip of his administration, to Saudi Arabia in May 2017. Bin Salman’s regime later authorized a $2 billion investment into Kushner’s private operations, thereby augmenting the money flows from Middle Eastern royalty into Kushner companies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kushner Firm Got Hundreds of Millions From 2 Persian Gulf Nations, Jonathan Swan, Kate Kelly, Maggie Haberman and Mark Mazzetti, March 31, 2023 (print ed.). The infusion of money from interests in the two Persian Gulf monarchies reflects the close ties to Middle Eastern countries established by Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

Wealth funds in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have invested hundreds of millions of dollars with Jared Kushner’s private equity firm, according to people with knowledge of the transactions, joining Saudi Arabia in backing the venture launched by former President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law as he left the White House.

The infusion of money from interests in the two rival Persian Gulf monarchies reflects the continued efforts by Mr. Trump and his aides and allies to profit from the close ties they built to the Arab world during his presidency and the desire of leaders in the region to remain on good terms with Mr. Kushner as his father-in-law seeks the presidency again.

The Emiratis invested more than $200 million with Mr. Kushner’s firm, Affinity Partners, two people told about the transactions said. The U.A.E.’s embassy in Washington declined to comment. A Qatari entity invested a similar sum, according to two people with knowledge of that deal. A spokesman for the Qatari embassy in Washington declined to comment.

The investment from the U.A.E. came through a sovereign wealth fund, but the identity of the Qatari investor is unclear. An Affinity Partners official did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Top Emirati officials have a close relationship with Mr. Kushner, forged during the Trump administration. And the Kushner family has previously benefited from Qatari funds. A Qatar-linked company helped bail out the Kushners’ debt-ridden tower in midtown Manhattan, 666 Fifth Avenue, during the Trump presidency.

But despite these relationships, Emirati and Qatari officials were at first reluctant to invest in Mr. Kushner’s private equity fund, at least in part because of the political risks involved, according to people familiar with both governments’ internal deliberations. The Times previously reported that Qatari officials feared they would face unfavorable treatment if they turned down Mr. Kushner’s invitation to invest and Mr. Trump returned to power.

It is not unusual for insiders from both parties to benefit financially from deals abroad after leaving government service, particularly in the Middle East. There is a long history of firms populated by former officials from Democratic administrations signing lucrative contracts with Gulf nations, and there are few laws or ethics guidelines prohibiting it.

But the scale of the investments Mr. Kushner’s venture has received from the Gulf countries — in the range of $2.5 billion — and the timing, coming relatively soon after his leaving the White House, are striking and have drawn criticism from Democrats and ethics experts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rules that Dominion, Fox News lawsuit will go to trial, Jeremy Barr and Sarah Ellison, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). A judge ruled on Friday that Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News will go to trial next month, notwithstanding motions from both parties requesting that he decide the case in their favor before a jury weighs in.

Delaware Superior Court’s Judge Eric M. Davis denied motions for summary judgment from Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation. He granted some of Dominion’s competing motions while denying other aspects.

fox news logo Small“We are gratified by the Court’s thorough ruling soundly rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses, and finding as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false,” Dominion said in a statement. ‘We look forward to going to trial.”

“This case is and always has been about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news,” Fox said in its own statement. “FOX will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions poised to lose Medicaid as pandemic coverage protections end, Amy Goldstein, March 31, 2023 (print ed.). At the end of this week, states will begin to sever an anticipated 15 million low-income Americans from Medicaid rolls that ballooned to record heights because of a pandemic-era promise that people with the health insurance could keep it — a federal promise that is going away.

The end to the temporary guarantee that preserved the safety-net health coverage for the past three years saddles every state with an immense undertaking: sorting out which Medicaid beneficiaries actually belong. Around the country, officials have been preparing for months, but the result is a bumpy landscape consisting of states that vary in how ready they are for this daunting work.

Five states will start April 1 — the first date allowed under a recent federal law — to cut off beneficiaries who no longer qualify for Medicaid or have not provided proof they still deserve the coverage. Nearly all other states will begin to remove people between May and July. Already, almost half the states have set in motion the preliminary work of checking eligibility.

This Medicaid “unwinding,” as it is called, is a reprise of a pre-pandemic practice of requiring low-income people to demonstrate each year that they qualified for the coverage. But federal and state health officials and grass-roots advocates are bracing for what they say looms as the nation’s biggest health-insurance disruption since the Affordable Care Act came into existence more than a decade ago. That disruption is among the most profound ways the government is gravitating away from a pandemic footing, retreating from generous policies it adopted to help Americans in an emergency.

The scale of the undertaking has no precedent. The number of Americans relying on Medicaid has soared by about one-third — to 85 million as of late last year — since just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020. Those who joined during that time did not need to pay attention to renewal notices from their states — which now could cost them their insurance.

And within state governments, many Medicaid agencies are strained by shortages of eligibility workers and call-center staffers to advise beneficiaries, while employees hired in the past three years have not until now needed to learn how to conduct renewals.


U.S. Mass Shootings, Gun Control


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ny times logoNew York Times, Protesters Against Gun Violence Confront Tennessee Lawmakers, Shawn Paik, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Hundreds of people, including students, gathered at the Tennessee State Capitol to demand that lawmakers pass stronger gun laws.

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Republican Party Says It Wants to ‘Protect Children,’ but Not All Children, Jamelle Bouie, right, March 31, 2023. Here are a few of jamelle bouiethe things the Republican Party is prepared to do to protect children.

The Republican Party — in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kentucky — is prepared to ban or strictly limit the public performance of drag and other gender-nonconforming behavior.

“This bill gives confidence to parents that they can take their kids to a public or private show and will not be blindsided by a sexualized performance,” Jack Johnson, the Senate majority leader in Tennessee and one of the sponsors of the state’s ban, wrote on Twitter.

“I can’t think of anything good that can come from taking children and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men who are dressed like women,” said Gary Stubblefield, an Arkansas state senator who wants to enact a similar ban there.

There is a lot, in other words, that the Republican Party is prepared to do to protect children from the world at large. But there are limits. There are lines the Republican Party won’t cross.

The Republican Party will not, for example, support universal school lunch to protect children from hunger.

And in the wake of yet another school massacre — in Nashville, where a shooter killed three adults and three children at a private Christian school — Republicans refuse to do anything that might reduce the odds of another shooting or make it less likely that a child dies of gun violence.

“There isn’t anybody here that, if they could find the right approach, wouldn’t try to do something because they feel that pain,” said Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota in an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday. “And yet, when we start talking about bans or challenging on the Second Amendment, I think the things that have already been done have gone about as far as we’re going to with gun control.”

“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” said Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, who represents the district in question. “And we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals.”

In 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control, firearms were the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We’re About to Find Out How Far the Supreme Court Will Go to Arm America, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir, “Just a Journalist”), March 29, 2023. How much linda greenhouse cover just a journalistfurther will the Supreme Court go to assist in the arming of America? That has been the question since last June, when the court ruled that New York’s century-old gun licensing law violated the Second Amendment. Sooner than expected, we are likely to find out the answer.

On March 17, the Biden administration asked the justices to overturn an appeals court decision that can charitably be described as nuts, and accurately as pernicious. The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit invalidated a federal law that for almost 30 years has prohibited gun ownership by people who are subject to restraining orders for domestic violence.

nra logo CustomThe Fifth Circuit upheld the identical law less than three years ago. But that was before President Donald Trump put a Mississippi state court judge named Cory Wilson on the appeals court. (As a candidate for political office in 2015, Wilson said in a National Rifle Association questionnaire that he opposed both background checks on private gun sales and state licensing requirements for potential gun owners.)

Judge Wilson wrote in a decision handed down in March that the appeals court was forced to repudiate its own precedent by the logic of the Supreme Court’s decision in the New York licensing case. He was joined by another Trump judge, James Ho, and by Edith Jones, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan; Judge Jones has long been one of the most aggressive conservatives on the country’s most conservative appeals court.

Now it is up to the justices to say whether that analysis is correct.

Fifteen years after the Supreme Court’s Heller decision interpreted the Second Amendment to convey an individual right to own a gun, there is no overstating the significance of the choice the court has been asked to make. Heller was limited in scope: It gave Americans a constitutional right to keep handguns at home for self-defense. The court’s decision last June in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen was on the surface also quite limited, striking down a law that required a showing of special need in order to obtain an unrestricted license to carry a concealed gun outside the home. New York was one of only a half-dozen states with such a requirement, as the court put it in the Bruen decision.

What was not limited about the New York decision — indeed, what was radical — was the analysis that Justice Clarence Thomas employed in his opinion for the 6-3 majority. Following Heller, courts had evaluated gun restrictions by weighing the personal Second Amendment claim against the government’s interest in the particular regulation, a type of balancing test that has long been common in constitutional adjudication. The Bruen decision rejected that approach, instead placing history above all else.

Relevant Recent Headlines

Nashville mass murderer Audrey Hale is shown at left in a file photo and at right via a security camera showing the killing spree claiming six victims, three of them nine-year-olds..

Nashville mass murderer Audrey Hale is shown at left in a file photo and at right via a security camera showing the killing spree claiming six victims, three of them nine-year-olds


More On Trump Prosecutions, Allies, Insurrectionists

Former President Trump faces varied legal and political threats, including an escalating New York criminal investigation into purported campaign finance crimes involving payments in 2016 to hide his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, shown above left on the cover of her memoir

Former President Trump faces varied legal and political threats, including an escalating New York criminal investigation into purported campaign finance crimes involving payments in 2016 to hide his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, shown above left on the cover of her memoir “Full Disclosure.”

washington post logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Indictment Is About the Crimes That Helped Elect Him, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 31, 2023. Even some people eager to michelle goldberg thumbsee Donald Trump held accountable for his depthless corruption have been uneasy about his indictment in New York.

As I write this, we don’t know exactly what those charges are or the degree to which, as many have speculated, they rely on an untested legal theory. But it is a mistake to treat this indictment — which, according to The New York Times, includes more than two dozen counts — as tangential to Trump’s other misdeeds. Contrary to what Jones said, the conduct at issue in this case is directly tied to the 2016 election and the question of whether Trump cheated to win it.

djt impeachment graphicMost of the legal trouble that Trump has faced since entering politics has stemmed from his willingness to skirt the law and, at times, betray the country in his drive to get and keep power. Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation didn’t prove that he engaged in a criminal conspiracy, but it did show that his campaign both “welcomed” and received Russian help in his first bid for president. Trump’s first impeachment, in 2019, was about his attempt to extort President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine into manufacturing dirt on Joe Biden, the rival he most feared.

Trump is under criminal investigation in Georgia and Washington, D.C., for his attempts to subvert the outcome in the 2020 race. Each time he failed to face consequences for breaching rules meant to safeguard America’s electoral system, he escalated his behavior, to the point of attempting a coup. Escaping conviction in his second impeachment, for trying to overthrow the democratic system he was sworn to protect, he now treats Jan. 6 as something heroic, honoring rioters at his most recent campaign rally.

djt stormy daniels screengrabCompared with these offenses, the hush money payments to Trump’s paramours might seem like a minor issue, but it’s part of a pattern of anti-democratic behavior. As The Wall Street Journal reported, in addition to hearing about the payoff to the porn film star Stormy Daniels, shown at left, the grand jury in New York heard extensive questioning about the payoff to a Playboy model, Karen McDougal. Both women were going to tell their stories before the 2016 election. Unlawful means were used to silence them, which is why Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, went to prison.

As Cohen told a judge while pleading guilty to campaign finance crimes, tax evasion and bank fraud in 2018, his payments to Daniels and McDougal were made “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” David Pecker, the former C.E.O. of American Media, onetime parent company of the National Enquirer, said in a non-prosecution agreement with the Southern District of New York that he’d paid $150,000 to McDougal to “suppress the model’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

ny times logoNew York Times, American politics has a long history of candidates who were indicted or convicted of crimes but sought office again, Richard Fausset, April 1, 2023. Donald J. Trump may be the first former president in history to be indicted on criminal charges. But he is hardly the first political candidate — or even the first presidential one — to run for office after being charged with or convicted of crimes.

American history is rife with them. Some were flat-out rogues. Some turned out to be wrongly accused. Others sought to convince voters that they deserved forgiveness, redemption and another term in office. Several succeeded.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The media is getting Donald Trump’s arrest narrative entirely wrong, Bill Palmer, right, April 1, 2023. The major media outlets keep telling us, bill palmerover and over again, that Donald Trump’s indictment and arrest are a somber moment and an embarrassment for our country. In fact pretty much every host, panelist, and guest who’s appeared on MSNBC and CNN over the past 48 hours has just happened to hold that same exact opinion. The wannabe political pundits on Twitter who are trying to get themselves booked on MSNBC and CNN all curiously happen to be expressing that same position as well.

bill palmer report logo headerBut as these folks in the industry all line up to try to portray themselves as being judicious, back in the real world it’s a very different story. No one in the real world thinks Trump’s indictment and arrest are a somber moment for the country. Having a career criminal as President was an embarrassment for our country. His indictment and arrest are a joyous celebration for democracy, because it means justice is being served.

Donald Trump isn’t being arrested because he was a crappy President, or because we don’t like him. He’s being arrested because he committed felony level crimes. A lot of them. So many crimes in fact that he’s being criminally indicted in three different jurisdictions.

Trump isn’t some tireless public servant who made a single error in judgment and had to be arrested for it. That would be a somber moment. But this is a career criminal who’s being arrested for crimes he committed in the name of trying to get into office to begin with.

And in other jurisdictions he’s being indicted for crimes he committed in the name of trying to avoid leaving office, crimes he committed on his way out of office, and crimes he’s committed since leaving office. This is not some somber thing. It’s long overdue justice for a career criminal who’s spent years harming the entire nation in criminal fashion.

The media shouldn’t even be framing this in terms of a former President who’s being arrested. They should be framing it in terms of a career criminal who’s finally facing justice and never should have been President to begin with.

It’s also worth pointing out that Trump was never legitimately President. He committed hush money felonies, and his campaign conspired with Russia, during the 2016 election cycle in order to get into office in the first place. The idea that we now have to sit around and lament over his downfall, just because he once illegally occupied the White House, is beyond absurd. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty about popping the champagne over this. America has more than earned that right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s Response to Trump’s Indictment? 4 Ways to Say No Comment, Katie Rogers, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden believes joe biden resized othat presidents should not comment on pending legal matters. He also does not want to be baited into a reaction,  President Biden has nothing to say about the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump. He had so little to say to reporters on Friday, in fact, that he said nothing in four different ways:

Would the indictment divide the country? “I have no comment on that.”

Was he worried about protests? “No. I’m not going to talk about the Trump indictment.”

The strategy behind his “no comment” response is twofold: Mr. Biden and his advisers want to avoid a situation in which Mr. Trump tries to bait him into a reaction, according to two people familiar with the thinking inside the White House.

But most of all, White House officials say, Mr. Biden believes that presidents should not comment on pending legal matters. (Not commenting on legal investigations, of course, was a common practice for presidents until Mr. Trump took office.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Rule of Law Now Depends on Republicans, David French, right, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Trump and his defenders are priming his david french croppedsupporters to reject our legal system. “Probably not the best time to give up your AR-15. And I think most people know that.” With those words, spoken the night The New York Times broke the news that a Manhattan grand jury indicted Donald Trump, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson signaled the next, dangerous phase of the Trumpist assault on the rule of law. We began to watch a replay of the circumstances that led to the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

It continued. The former Fox News host Glenn Beck told Carlson that he predicted that by 2025 America would be “at war,” “we’ll have a currency collapse, and we will live in a virtual police state.” The Bill of Rights is “gone,” Beck said.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican businessman and presidential candidate, put out a video statement saying that America is “skating on thin ice as a country right now” and that “we may be heading on our way to a national divorce.”

Perhaps the most disturbing reaction came from Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is polling second to Trump in primary polls. Just after the indictment news broke (and without seeing the charges), he tweeted that the indictment was “un-American” and then ominously declared that “Florida will not assist in an extradition request” for Trump.

DeSantis’s statement was a shot at our constitutional order. Governors don’t have the constitutional authority to block extradition requests from other states. Article IV of the Constitution contains an extradition clause, which declares that when a person charged with a crime is “found in another state,” then he or she “shall” be “delivered up” and “removed” to “the state having jurisdiction of the crime.”

Federal statutes and Supreme Court authority require the “executive authority” of the state to “cause” the defendant “to be arrested and secured.” In all likelihood, Trump will surrender voluntarily to New York authorities, but if he does not, then the Constitution and federal statutes apply, and DeSantis cannot block Trump’s arrest.

Moreover, all of these immediate reactions come after Trump himself warned of “potential death and destruction” before the indictment and briefly posted an image of him holding a baseball bat next to an image of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. Trump also posted, “Our country is being destroyed as they tell us to be peaceful.” The implications are obvious.

To fully understand the Trumpist threat to the rule of law, it’s necessary to discuss what the rule of law means. A nation truly governed by the rule of law isn’t going to have a perfect legal system — no human system can be perfect — but it will have a double check against injustice. The rule of law depends on both substance and process, just laws and just processes, and respect for the rule of law depends on peacefully complying with the legal process even when you’re utterly convinced the underlying legal charge is wrong.

Indeed, in the absence of that understanding, social peace is impossible. We simply cannot and do not delegate to defendants and their supporters the decision as to whether to comply with legal processes. AR-15s are not a component of American jurisprudence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The unhinged GOP defense of Trump is the real ‘test’ for our democracy, Greg Sargent, right, and Paul Waldman, April 1, 2023. greg sargentBecause the indictment of a former president is unprecedented in U.S. history, it has become a media cliche to assert that the prosecution of Donald Trump will “test our democracy.” The oft-expressed idea is that if the public dismisses the new charges against Trump as banana republic-style political persecution, it would show democracy failing the “test.”

But this gets the story wrong. Declaring that the indictment is testing our democracy in this way doesn’t capture what makes this moment so fraught. If anything is posing a test, it’s largely the Republican response to it.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s charges are reportedly related to hush money that Trump paid to a porn actress, which has led some Republicans to dismiss them as weak. But that’s not all Republicans are saying. Many are taking the position that any charges against Trump (who has denied wrongdoing) should be seen as presumptively illegitimate no matter the counts against Trump or the facts that underlie them.

“It is beyond belief,” raged Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, that Bragg “has indicted a former President and current presidential candidate for pure political gain.”

The careful reader will note that Youngkin’s complaint is not simply that the indictment itself is flimsy. That is not what makes the charges “political.” Rather, it’s that Trump was indicted at all.

Similarly, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) railed that the indictment has already “irreparably damaged our country” and “weaponized our sacred system of justice.” Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance called it “a direct assault” on tens of millions of Trump supporters. Another Republican called it “a threat to our Republic.” One conservative leader compared it to “old Soviet show trials.”

None of those claims is contingent on the charges against Trump ultimately proving weak. The argument is essentially that they constitute a mortal threat to the country simply by virtue of having been filed against Trump in the first place.

Emptywheel, Analysis: Trump’s People Have Attempted to Cover Up That He Cheated to Cover Up Cheating in 2016 at Least Six Times, Emptywheel (Marcy marcy wheelerWheeler, right), March 31, 2023. Among the things Trump said in his tweet yesterday complaining that he had been “indicated” is that his criminal prosecution was “a continuing attack on our once free and fair elections.”

Thanks to the former President for reminding us what the charges against him, in part, are about: That he cheated to win.

karen mcdougal playboyWhether it would have made a difference or not, Donald Trump believed it sufficiently important to lie to American voters about fucking two women– both Karen McDouga, left, and Stormy Daniels — that both were paid in the last months of his 2016 campaign to prevent voters from finding out.

Paying his former sex partners to hide from voters that he cheated on Melania is not, itself, illegal.

Having corporations pay sex workers for the purpose of benefitting a political campaign is. The company that owned the National Enquirer paid for the first payment, to McDougal; Trump Organization, by reimbursing the payment that Michael Cohen made, eventually paid for the second payment, to Daniels.

The charges brought against Trump in NY reportedly relate, at least in part, to the second payment — to the treatment of the reimbursement to Cohen as a legal retainer rather than a reimbursement for a political donation. That is, the cheapskate billionaire, who could have legally paid off the women himself, allegedly covered up his cover-up.

Trump’s eponymous corporate persons have already been found guilty of serving as personal slush funds. In 2019, he admitted the Trump Foundation had engaged in self-dealing. And last year, a jury convicted Trump Organization of compensating employees via untaxed benefits rather than salary.

The new charges against Trump aren’t so much unprecedented, as they simply charge Trump’s biological person with the same crimes for which his corporate persons have already been convicted.

But there’s more history here, too. On multiple occasions, agents of Donald Trump reportedly engaged in further attempts to cover-up this cover-up.

Trump Organization withheld multiple documents from investigators. Most known documents that were withheld — such as the email showing Cohen had a substantive conversation with a Dmitri Peskov aide during the election — pertain to Russia, but it’s certainly possible they withheld others.

djt michael cohenIn 2018, in the days after SDNY seized phones that included recordings of conversations about the hush payments, Trump is suspected of floating a pardon to Cohen to keep him quiet, about this and about the impossibly lucrative Trump Tower deal both had lied to hide from voters in 2016.

Note that the payments for Cohen’s legal fees — which stopped after he pled guilty — are another expense that Trump Organization may not have accounted for properly.

There’s a lot of shite being written about how the indictment of a former President — for actions that stem from cheating to win — will test democracy.

republican elephant logoBut Trump’s serial cover-ups of his own actions in this and other matters already threaten democracy.

Trump is right: This is about free and fair elections. This is, like most of his allegedly criminal behavior, about his refusal to contest elections fairly. It’s about his corruption of the entire Republican Party, from top to bottom. And it’s about one of at least six times that Trump and his agents have tried to cover up that he cheated to win in 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP response to Trump is one hell of an indictment, Dana Milbank, right, March 31, 2023. “If they can come for him, they can dana milbank newestcome for anyone,” tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.).

Of course, we hardly need reminders that Trump still dominates the GOP. Earlier this week, the House Administration Committee held a hearing where lawmakers and witnesses not only echoed Trump’s “big lie” from 2020 but alleged, without evidence, that there was “government voter suppression” followed by a “coverup” in a 2022 House race in Pennsylvania that Democrats won.

Still, the Republicans’ mimicry (conscious or unconscious) of Trump should put one thing into sharper focus. The debate about whether this helps or hurts Trump’s fight for the GOP nomination is beside the point. When it comes to any would-be Republican standard-bearer, the mantra is clear: We are all Trumpians now.

 douglass mackey 2E

New York Daily News, Guilty verdict for pro-Trump troll who tried to trick voters out of casting Hillary Clinton ballots in 2016, Ellen Moynihan and John Annese, Mar 31, 2023. A Brooklyn jury on Friday convicted pro-Trump troll Douglass Mackey, above, of plotting to trick voters out of casting a ballot during the 2016 presidential election.

The case, which sought to address if any of the toxic stew of Internet disinformation during the 2016 election rose to the level of a crime, has been closely watched by both anti-extremist groups and right-wing politicians and pundits.

Mackey showed no outward reaction when the verdict was read in Brooklyn Federal Court — but his father, seated in the gallery, heaved a sigh.

An appeal is likely, said Mackey’s lawyer, Andrew Frisch. “This was the first chapter of litigation of this case,” Frisch said. “We would have preferred to win, but I’m confident about the way forward.”

Mackey, 33, of West Palm Beach, Fla., who gained fame on the Internet as the Twitter user “Ricky Vaughn,” posted two images made to look like fake Hillary Clinton ads telling people they could vote by text instead of in-person.

Douglass Mackey, who the feds say went by the Twitter name Ricky Vaughan, was allegedly a prominent anonymous anti-Semite, racist and Trump-booster online before the 2016 election.
Douglass Mackey, who the feds say went by the Twitter name Ricky Vaughan, was allegedly a prominent anonymous anti-Semite, racist and Trump-booster online before the 2016 election.
Federal prosecutors called the images part of a plot to disenfranchise Black and women voters, but Mackey insisted that he was simply “s–tposting” and sharing ridiculous memes.

The jury started deliberating Monday afternoon, but it soon became clear that it couldn’t reach a consensus on whether Mackey committed a federal crime.

By end-of-day Tuesday, the jurors wrote a note telling Judge Ann Donnelly they had “completed” their deliberations and couldn’t come to a unanimous decision, and similar notes followed by the end of Wednesday.

Donnelly told them to press on. On Friday, the doubters had been convinced, voting Mackey guilty.

Prosecutors argued that Mackey posted the images to trick Black voters and women in particular, pointing to his past posts describing Black people as “gullible” and saying women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

“The defendant did this for the most simple, straightforward and obvious reason of all — that he wanted people to fall for it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Turner Buford told the jury.

Mackey testified that he was only posting non-serious “memes” that he didn’t think anyone would take seriously. Even though he was a member of the group chats where the fake ads were workshopped, he claimed he “had the group on mute” and wasn’t paying attention to the stream of messages.

“It was no criminal conspiracy. It was the internet,” defense lawyer Frisch said in his closing argument. He added that although roughly 4,900 people called the vote-by-text number, “No one was tricked.”

“If a single voter was tricked, the government would have called that person as their first witness,” he said.

Douglass Mackey tweeted official-looking fake campaign ads for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, urging people to vote by text instead of in person, according to the feds.

Prosecutors presented a string of witnesses, including a Clinton staffer and the owner of a text message marketing company.

They showed pages of group chat logs where pro-Trump trolls discussed how to make the text-by-vote images look convincing. The trolls also tested out ideas like photoshopping MAGA hats on celebrities like Ariana Grande, and posting fake Clinton ads with the logo “Draft our Daughters” to trick people into believing that Clinton wanted to send young women to war.

A key witness for the prosecution — a notorious troll with the screen name “Microchip” — was allowed to testify anonymously. He said the fake vote-by-text ads were designed to “defraud voters of their right to vote,” and described Mackey as a leader in the group chats, someone respected for his large following and his strategic use of memes.

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More On U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Marshals Service uses go-between to dodge Biden’s private prison order, Joe Davidson, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). When the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) faced difficulties implementing President Biden’s executive order to phase out the use of private prisons, the agency found a way to dodge his directive — with White House approval.

The January 2021 order is explicit, declaring that the government “shall not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.”

Jettisoning the privately owned Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown, however, presented serious logistical problems for the service. So, to keep using the facility, the agency employed a middleman to get around Biden’s prohibition, according to the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

Biden’s directive put the Marshals Service in a jam. It was issued just 30 days before the expiry of the contract with the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, which held 541 Marshals Service inmates. The White House Counsel’s Office approved a 90-day contract extension, but not the additional two years the Marshals Service wanted.

After exploring other possibilities, Justice Department officials “determined that there were no viable options for relocating the NEOCC prisoners that met the needs of the judiciary, the affected pretrial prisoners, and the Department,” the inspector general’s report said.

ny times logoWashington Post, Park Police pulled over a Black Secret Service officer — twice, Rachel Weiner, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). A federal appeals court this week affirmed that the officers who pulled over Nathaniel Hicks owe him $730,000 in damages

Nathaniel Hicks recalled crying three times in his adult life: when his grandmother died, when his father died, and when he was stopped by the U.S. Park Police.

It began with a gun in his face and lasted an hour, during which Hicks had been detained twice and missed the motorcade he was supposed to lead as a U.S. Secret Service officer on July 11, 2015. Hicks sued the two Park Police officers involved, Gerald Ferreyra and Brian Phillips, and a jury in 2021 awarded him $730,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed Hicks’s jury award after the officers, who were sued personally, appealed. The officers argued that the law protects government employees from such suits as long as the constitutional violation wasn’t clear from prior cases. The U.S. Supreme Court has also decreed that such lawsuits can only be brought against federal officers in an extremely narrow set of circumstances.

Hicks cleared both bars. The Fourth Circuit agreed with a Maryland district judge that the officers should have known they were violating Hicks’s Fourth Amendment rights and that they did so in a way similar to the search that first led the Supreme Court to allow civil rights lawsuits against federal workers in 1971.

The facts of the case were largely undisputed. Ferreyra saw Hicks’s unmarked car on the shoulder of the road and approached from the passenger side for a “welfare check.” When he saw the gun in its holster on the passenger seat, Ferreyra pointed his service weapon at Hicks and repeatedly yelled, with expletives, “Don’t touch the gun.” Hicks followed orders to roll down the window and immediately identified himself as a U.S. Secret Service officer, showing his credentials. Ferreyra took the gun and credentials while continuing to yell commands at Hicks not to move.

Though there was no evidence of a crime, Ferreyra insisted that Hicks wait for a Park Police officer to arrive from Anacostia, 25 minutes away. In the meantime Phillips arrived at the scene and interrogated Hicks about whether he was sleeping and why he left his gun on the seat. Hicks did not answer — he was on the phone with his own supervisor, explaining the situation.

The motorcade, which was protecting the Secretary of Homeland Security, came and went without Hicks; Phillips waved as it passed. When the Park Police sergeant arrived, he talked to Hicks’s supervisor by phone and finally ended the stop.

Hicks began driving away and called his superior again to figure out where to go. But within minutes he was pulled over — by Phillips, who demanded Hicks’s license and registration. Hicks was let go a second time without a ticket.

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Global Conflicts, Threats, Migration, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexican military accused of hindering probe of 43 missing students, Oscar Lopez and Mary Beth Sheridan, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). International investigators seeking to wrap up an exhaustive investigation into Mexico’s biggest human-rights scandal — the disappearance of 43 students — said Friday that the military is obstructing their efforts at a crucial moment.

mexico flag1The investigators told a news conference that the military has denied the existence of documents with critical information, even though it was clear they existed and the president had ordered the release of the evidence. The army went so far as to secretly move key documents to a different location, according to the experts’ report.

The military “have not handed over the information,” said Carlos Beristain, a member of the panel named by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate the 2014 disappearance of the students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college. “They have denied it exists. To us, this is serious.”

andrés lópez obrador wThe Ayotzinapa case shocked Mexicans for its brutality and revelations of complicity between drug-traffickers, government officials and security forces. The investigators accused Mexico’s former leader, Enrique Peña Nieto, of covering up the disappearances. On taking office in 2018, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, vowed to solve the case. “I assure you that there will be no impunity,” he said.

Yet the longtime leftist has become increasingly dependent on the military, vastly expanding its budget and its responsibilities to include building airports and a giant tourist train.

“For the military to be as defiant of not only the requests of human rights investigators, but of the president himself in turning over evidence related to the disappearance of the 43 students, it is a very dangerous sign,” said Kate Doyle, a senior analyst at the Washington-based National Security Archive who has studied the case.

Mexico’s crisis of the disappeared points to the country’s darkest secrets

The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report. There was no immediate response from the president’s spokesman to a message seeking reaction.

The students disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014, after commandeering buses with the aim of traveling to a protest in Mexico City — a largely tolerated practice in their rural region. But that night, the unarmed students were attacked in the southern city of Iguala by local police and gunmen working for a drug cartel, according to the investigation. In the ensuing melee, six people were killed and dozens wounded. The 43 students were captured by police — and never seen again. Remains of three bodies have been found. No one has been convicted in the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Israel’s Crises Pile Up, a Far-Right Minister Is a Common Thread, Patrick Kingsley, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, is an advocate of contentious plans to overhaul the judiciary. He has also exacerbated tensions with Palestinians.

Israel FlagAs protests and unrest swept across Israel this week, many Israelis issued impassioned calls for moderation and dialogue to resolve one of the most serious domestic crises in the country’s history.

But one government leader seemed determined to raise the stakes even higher: Bezalel Smotrich, the settler activist who serves as finance minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. Mr. Smotrich is a leading proponent of the government plan to assert greater control over the Supreme Court, the issue that has fueled weeks of mass protests.

“We must not stop the reform in any way,” Mr. Smotrich said in a video message to his supporters on Monday before Mr. Netanyahu announced a delay of the plan. Mr. Smotrich instructed his followers to counter the antigovernment protests with demonstrations of their own, a call that prompted widespread fears of violent confrontations on Israel’s streets. “We will not let them steal our voice and our country,” he added.

Then Mr. Smotrich resumed his day job, preparing for a new national budget. That afternoon, he gave a detailed speech to lawmakers about fiscal responsibility and market uncertainty. “The greatest service that we can do for Israel’s citizens,” he said in Parliament, “is to combat inflation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Italy imposed a temporary ban on ChatGPT over privacy concerns, Adam Satariano, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). The artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT was temporarily banned in Italy on Friday, the first known instance of the chatbot being blocked by a Western government as a result of privacy concerns.

Italy’s data protection authority said OpenAI, the California company that makes ChatGPT, unlawfully collected personal data from users and did not have an age-verification system in place to prevent minors from being exposed to illicit material.

The order is a sign of the policy challenges emerging for the developers of cutting-edge A.I. after the release of ChatGPT. The program has dazzled users with its ability to draft essays, engage in humanlike conversations and perform more complex tasks like writing computer code, but it has raised alarms about the spread of misinformation, the effects on employment and broader risks to society.

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U.S. Politics, Elections, Economy, Governance


djt hillary clinton 3rd debate puppet comment

Emptywheel, Analysis: Douglass Mackey’s Criminal Twitter Trolling, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), March 31, 2023. For the entire time since MattyDickPics marcy wheelerstarted complaining about the fact he couldn’t see nonconsensual pictures of Hunter Biden’s dick, he and other apologists for disinformation have claimed there was nothing to the effort to suppress the vote using Twitter.

A jury in Brooklyn just decided otherwise. Douglass Mackey — who was indicted for attempting to suppress the Black and Latino vote in 2016 — was found guilty of conspiring to violate his targets’ right to vote.

douglass mackeyAs proven at trial, between September 2016 and November 2016, Mackey, left, conspired with other influential Twitter users and with members of private online groups to use social media platforms, including Twitter, to disseminate fraudulent messages that encouraged supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (shown with Trump at their third debate in 2016) to “vote” via text message or social media which, in reality, was legally invalid.

For example, on November 1, 2016, in or around the same time that Mackey was sending tweets suggesting the importance of limiting “black turnout,” the defendant tweeted an image depicting an African American woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign. The ad stated: “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” and “Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” The fine print at the bottom of the deceptive image stated: “Must be 18 or older to vote. One vote per person. Must be a legal citizen of the United States. Voting by text not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii. Paid for by Hillary For President 2016.”

The tweet included the typed hashtag “#ImWithHer,” a slogan frequently used by Hillary Clinton. On or about and before Election Day 2016, at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted “Hillary” or some derivative to the 59925 text number, which had been used in multiple deceptive campaign images tweeted by Mackey and his co-conspirators.

Several hours after tweeting the first image, Mackey tweeted an image depicting a woman seated at a conference room typing a message on her cell phone. This deceptive image was written in Spanish and mimicked a font used by the Clinton campaign in authentic ads. The image also included a copy of the Clinton campaign’s logo and the “ImWithHer” hashtag.

The people with whom Mackey conspired are a collection of leading figures in the (Russian-backed) alt-Right.

I plan to return to this trial in weeks ahead.

But for the moment, this verdict says that all the disinformation that Matt Taibbi and Elon Musk are working to replatform on Twitter has been found to be potentially criminal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Youngkin’s actions put the brakes on voting rights for former felons, Editorial Board, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Norfolk resident King Kadian Divine recently saw a Facebook post about a policy change by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) regarding the restoration of voting rights to people who have served time for felony offenses.

The 32-year-old Mr. Divine spent more than a decade behind bars stemming from a 2008 robbery and had his rights restored after being released in 2021. He was concerned that the policy might affect his own situation, so he contacted American Civil Liberties Union policy strategist Shawn Weneta, who confirmed that he was okay.

Others like him who don’t make such an effort may decide to stay away from the polls for fear of running afoul of the law.

“To me, it is important solely because it gives you a voice, and when you’re talking about someone who, because of a mistake, might have been stripped of their voice, it gives a small fraction of that back,” says Mr. Divine. “It’s an esteem-builder to anyone who’s coming home.”

If only that sentiment prevailed in the executive mansion. Instead, Mr. Youngkin has embarked on a policy that appears to treat voting not as an urgent and fundamental right but rather as a perk that the state government can leave in bureaucratic limbo. We say “appears” here because the administration has passed up opportunity after opportunity to detail its policy, leaving the public unsure of the criteria on which their applications are judged.

Whatever the particulars of the current policy, they appear to upend more than a decade of bipartisan progress in rights restoration in Virginia. As governor, Robert F. McDonnell (R), who served from 2010 to 2014, streamlined the process and made whole about 8,000 people. Successors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam, both Democrats, went further, enfranchising about 300,000. The impressive number of restorations under his leadership, Mr. McAuliffe claimed, was his “proudest achievement.”

As for Mr. Youngkin’s numbers? They’ve “fallen off a cliff,” as state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) put it in an email to commonwealth Secretary Kay Coles James. After his first several months in office last year, Mr. Youngkin issued a news release touting the restoration of rights to more than 3,400 Virginians — an outcome that suggested continuity with previous administrations. Over a five-month span (from May through October), however, the governor promulgated a mere 800 restorations.

Advocates and legislators are struggling to determine what happened. Sheba Williams, executive director of the advocacy group Nolef Turns, noticed this year that the application form for rights restoration had changed, adding fields for a question about whether the applicant had been convicted of a violent crime and paid all fines, fees and restitution. Explanations as to how the administration is processing — or not processing — the applications are scarce, however. “Apparently the ground has changed under our feet,” says Arina van Breda, a volunteer with the League of Women Voters. “You change the process, you do it secretly … and it just seems very antidemocratic, frankly, and sneaky.”

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U.S. Budget, Banks, Economy, Jobs, CryptoCurrencies

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fed’s Preferred Inflation Gauge Cooled Notably in February, Jeanna Smialek, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). A closely watched measure of price increases has provided encouraging news as the Fed considers when to stop raising rates. The measure of inflation most closely watched by the Federal Reserve slowed substantially in February, an encouraging sign for policymakers as they consider whether to raise interest rates further to slow the economy and bring price increases under control.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures Index cooled to 5 percent on an annual basis in February, down from 5.3 percent in January and slightly lower than economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast. It was the lowest reading for the measure since September 2021.

After removing food and fuel prices, which are volatile month to month, a “core” measure that tries to gauge underlying inflation trends also cooled by more than expected on both an annual and monthly basis.

The fresh data provides the latest evidence that inflation has turned a corner and is decelerating, though the process is gradual and bumpy at times. And the report is one of many that Fed officials will take into account as they approach their next interest rate decision, on May 3. Central bankers are watching how inflation, the labor market and consumer spending shape up. They also will be closely monitoring financial markets and credit measures to get a sense of how significantly recent bank failures are likely to weigh on lending, which could slow down the economy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Debt Talks Are Frozen as House Republicans Splinter Over a Fiscal Plan, Catie Edmondson, March 31, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans who have said they will not vote to raise the national debt limit without deep spending cuts are backing away from their promise to balance the budget and struggling to unite their fractious majority behind a fiscal plan, paralyzing progress on talks to avert a catastrophic default as soon as this summer.

Determined to use the coming confrontation over the national debt to extract sweeping spending concessions from Democrats, House G.O.P. leaders announced a series of lofty goals earlier this year — driven in large part by the demands of the hard-right faction of their party. They include balancing the federal budget in 10 years and freezing spending at prepandemic levels, all without touching Social Security, Medicare or military funding.

But even as they continue to deride President Biden’s $6.8 trillion budget proposal, released this month, House Republicans have begun to inch away from their own stated objectives, plagued by divisions that have prevented them from agreeing on a plan of their own that can draw enough support to pass with their slim majority.

The pledge to balance the nation’s budget has gone by the wayside, initially softened to a commitment to put the nation “on a path toward” a balanced budget and now seemingly scrapped altogether. The timetable for when Republicans say they will put out a budget blueprint has continued to slip. And after the Budget Committee chairman told reporters that the party was finalizing a list of specific cuts to bring to negotiations with Mr. Biden, Speaker Kevin McCarthy threw cold water on the idea, saying, “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

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More On Ukraine War


ny times logoNew York Times, China Draws Lessons From Russia’s Losses in Ukraine, and Its Gains, Chris Buckley, April 1, 2023. With an eye on a possible conflict over Taiwan, analysts are gleaning insights on the importance of supply lines, the power of nuclear threats and more.

Thousands of miles from the cities that Russia is bombing in Ukraine, China has been studying the war.

China FlagIn an indirect struggle between two superpowers on the other side of the world, Beijing sees a source of invaluable lessons on weapons, troop power, intelligence and deterrence that can help it prepare for potential wars of its own.

In particular, Chinese military analysts have scrutinized the fighting for innovations and tactics that could help in a possible clash over Taiwan, the island democracy that Beijing wants to absorb and the United States has at times pledged to defend.

The war is a “proving ground,” they say, that gives China a chance to learn from successes and failures on both sides. The New York Times examined nearly 100 Chinese research papers and media articles that deliver assessments of the war by Chinese military and weapons-sector analysts. Here is some of what they have covered:

With an eye on China’s development of hypersonic missiles, which can be highly maneuverable in flight, they have analyzed how Russia used these weapons to destroy an ammunition bunker, a fuel depot and other targets.

They have studied how Ukrainian troops used Starlink satellite links to coordinate attacks and circumvent Russian efforts to shut their communications, and warned that China must swiftly develop a similar low-orbit satellite system and devise ways to knock out rival ones.

They have argued that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia deterred Western powers from directly intervening in Ukraine by brandishing nuclear weapons, a view that could encourage expansion of China’s own nuclear weapons program.

Ukraine has offered “a new understanding of a future possible world war,” Maj. Gen. Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the National Defense University in Beijing, wrote in the Guangming Daily newspaper, in January. He also wrote: “Russia’s strategy of nuclear deterrence certainly played a role in ensuring that NATO under the United States’ leadership did not dare to directly enter the war.”

Pentagon officials have said that Russia’s troubled invasion serves as a stark warning to China against risking a war over Taiwan, which lies about 100 miles off its coast. Russian forces have been dogged by shortfalls of weapons and ammunition and failures in intelligence, resulting in stalled advances and the heavy loss of soldiers’ lives. Some Chinese analysts have been blunt in their views of how Russia has foundered.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Pounds Eastern Ukraine but Hasn’t Secured Decisive Breakthrough in Offensive, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, April 1, 2023. The eastern town of Avdiivka, which has been under assault since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion more than a year ago, bore the brunt of the latest attacks.

Russian FlagMoscow’s forces are struggling to achieve a decisive breakthrough months into an offensive aimed at capturing all of the Donbas region, even as the Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday that Russian jets, drones and artillery had been pounding eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine repelled 70 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours on its eastern front, the military’s General Staff said in its morning update. The town of Avdiivka, which has been under assault since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, bore the brunt of the attacks. Fighting also continued to rage in Bakhmut, a city where both sides have sustained heavy casualties, and in Marinka.

The fighting has posed a dilemma for Ukrainian authorities in the towns and cities under attack. They have for months urged civilians to leave, but some residents have remained, often hiding in basements amid relentless shelling, motivated by a commitment to their homes, by economic insecurity, or by ill health and other factors.

A deadly attack in Avdiivka on Friday underscored the painful toll.

“A 5-month-old boy and his grandmother were killed, while the child’s mother and father were injured,” the head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. The family had refused to evacuate before the attack, Mr. Kyrylenko added.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Ukrainian Convicts, a Strange Odyssey Through Russian Prisons, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Ekaterina Bodyagina and Ivan Nechepurenko, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). When Russian troops left Kherson, they took with them 2,500 Ukrainian convicts from local prisons, the start of a journey highlighting the war’s absurdity.

Oleksandr Fedorenko’s odyssey began with a triumph for his native Ukraine.

It was last October, and Ukrainian troops were pressing an offensive that would ultimately liberate the southern city of Kherson. As Russian occupation forces prepared to withdraw, they took with them 2,500 Ukrainian criminals from the city’s jails, including Mr. Fedorenko.

What followed over the next several months was a bizarre journey that took some of the convicts more than 4,000 miles through five prisons and five countries.

“We were received with shouts, beatings, humiliations,” said Mr. Fedorenko, 47, who had been serving time in Kherson for theft, describing his introduction to a Russian-controlled prison. “Face to the ground, don’t look, don’t speak, and blows, blows, blows.”

The Russians’ behavior befuddled the convicts from the start, with no one, including apparently their new jailers, having much of an idea what to do with them.

First, the prisoners were left largely to their own devices in their Ukrainian jails. Then they were unexpectedly, and with no explanation, shipped to Russian-controlled territory. But nothing underscored their haphazard treatment better than what happened when some of them reached the end of their original sentences.

The convicts were pleasantly surprised when Russian guards came to escort them out of jail when their sentences expired. But at the prison’s entrance, a bigger shock awaited: Some were immediately detained again by the Russian police and accused of violating immigration laws; they were fined and charged with illegally entering the country.

“They asked me, ‘How did you enter Russia?,’” said Ruslan Osadchyi, another Kherson prisoner. “‘You brought me here, under the muzzles of automatic guns!’”

“Like everything in Russia, it was completely absurd,” Mr. Osadchyi added.

No Russian official has publicly acknowledged the transfer of Kherson prisoners into Russia, a possible violation of international law, which prohibits the forced removal of people from an occupied zone. Officials in the Russian penal system and national police did not respond to requests for comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia and Ukraine Step Up Recruiting Efforts, Staff Reports, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Russia and Ukraine are stepping up recruitment efforts to bolster their badly depleted militaries, another sign that both sides are steeling themselves for a long war.

Russian FlagPresident Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed a decree on Thursday authorizing a larger than normal spring draft. And although the new recruits are unlikely to be sent to the battlefield immediately, the draft will create a bigger pool of potential troops for Russia’s army, which has suffered immense casualties, if the war continues for years.

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U.S. Abortion, #MeToo, LGBQT, Rape Laws 


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washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon raises alarm over Sen. Tuberville’s gambit on abortion policy, Dan Lamothe, March 30, 2023 (print ed.). Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has put a hold on nearly 160 military promotions, some for very senior positions, citing his objections to its policy post-Roe v. Wade.

The Pentagon is raising alarm over one Republican senator’s bid to block the promotion of nearly 160 senior U.S. military officers in a dispute arising from the Defense Department’s abortion policy, joining top Democrats in labeling the political showdown a threat to national security.

ted cruz ketanji brown jackson hearing baby book 2022Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that by impeding these officers’ promotions, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), right, had caused a “ripple effect in the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be.”

Department of Defense SealThe remarks were Austin’s most direct in a dispute that has grown increasingly acrimonious since Tuberville, earlier this month, promised he would require the promotions to be approved one-by-one, rather than in batches — what Congress calls unanimous consent. The nominations can still move ahead, but would require time-consuming steps by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who complained Tuesday that Tuberville’s gambit was tantamount to “hostage taking.”

“The women of our military,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor, “are more than capable of making their own decisions when it comes to their health. They do not need the senior senator from Alabama making decisions on their behalf. And they certainly do not need any senator throwing a wrench in the function, the vital functioning of our military when they work every day to keep us safe.”

Tuberville fired back at his critics, saying during Tuesday’s hearing that the Pentagon’s policy, which allows military personnel to recoup associated travel expenses if they are stationed in states that ban or restrict the procedure, approves the use of taxpayer dollars to terminate pregnancies despite a congressional block on such spending via a decades-old law known as the Hyde Amendment.

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Climate, Environment, Weather, Energy, Disasters, U.S. Transportation


ny times logoNew York Times, Pamela Smart, Who Inspired ‘To Die For,’ Is Denied Parole Bid, Corey Kilgannon, March 30, 2023 (print ed.). New Hampshire’s highest court turned away an attempt at winning a hearing for Ms. Smart, who plotted to have a teenage lover kill her husband.

ny times logoNew York Times, Storms Kill at Least 9 as Tornadoes Tear Through Midwest and South, Gwen Moritz, McKenna Oxenden, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Mike Ives, Updated April 1, 2023. Tornadoes in Arkansas injured at least 30 people. One person was killed and at least 28 others were hospitalized after a roof collapsed at a theater in Illinois.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla and Musk Lose Ruling on Factory Union Issues, Noam Scheiber, April 1, 2023. A court upheld a finding that Tesla wrongly fired a worker involved in labor organizing and that a Twitter post by Elon Musk was illegally anti-union.

A federal appeals court on Friday affirmed a finding that Tesla illegally fired an employee involved in union organizing, and that the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, had illegally threatened workers’ stock options if they chose to unionize.

The opinion, by three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, allows the National Labor Relations Board to enforce a 2021 order requiring Tesla to reinstate, with back pay, the employee, Richard Ortiz, and Mr. Musk to delete a Twitter post suggesting workers could lose stock options if they unionize.

“I look forward to returning to work at Tesla and working with my co-workers to finish the job of forming a union,” Mr. Ortiz said in a statement.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on the ruling.

The finding comes as other companies run by Mr. Musk have had workers raise concerns about labor law violations. Last year, eight former employees at SpaceX, the rocket manufacturer led by Mr. Musk, filed charges of unfair labor practices, saying the company had retaliated against them for helping to write a letter asking for better enforcement of its stated policies on sexual harassment. The cases are pending.


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washington post logoWashington Post, DOJ sues Norfolk Southern over toxic train derailment in Ohio, Steven Mufson, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). The lawsuit could be costly to the railroad, seeking damages for a fiery disaster that prompted evacuations in East Palestine, killed fish and prompted a huge cleanup.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department filed a major civil suit Friday against Norfolk Southern Railway after one of its trains carrying toxic chemicals derailed near the Ohio town of East Palestine on Feb. 3 and burst into flames.

The federal lawsuit, which could impose heavy costs on the railroad, comes less than two months after the train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed in the eastern Ohio border town, forcing East Palestinians from their homes, prompting reports of nausea and rashes and killing thousands of fish.

“No community should have to go through what East Palestine residents have faced,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a statement Friday. He added that the legal action would ensure the railroad “cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage they have inflicted as we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again.”

ny times logoNew York Times, California to Require Half of All Heavy Trucks Sold by 2035 to Be Electric, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). The state is setting limits to try to eliminate emissions from transportation, the sector of the U.S. economy that generates the most greenhouse gases.

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Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Did No-Mandate Sweden End Up With Such an Average Pandemic? David Wallace-Wells, April 1, 2023. If you know one thing about Sweden’s pandemic, it is almost certainly that the country followed a radical, contrarian public health path. Its hands-off approach to Covid-19 mitigation — no stay-at-home orders to begin with, and no mask mandates later on — was one that many on the pandemic left quickly derided as sadistic public policy and many on the pandemic right praised as enlightened.

That was the story three years ago, and although the terms of the debate have been somewhat frozen in time since, the argument has been burning again.

sweden flagIn recent weeks, the former state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of the Swedish response, has been taking a sort of victory lap through the media. Norway’s top epidemiologist has expressed support bordering on envy, and on social media those who believe the pandemic response went overboard have been excitedly sharing charts purporting to show that Sweden “won” the pandemic — in theory, a vindication for public health libertarianism.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2But as with so much in this pandemic, our narratives are blinding us as much as they help us to see. Earlier this month, I wrote about the ways in which American discourse about the initial pandemic response has been shifting toward a new consensus that the country did too much — an unsettling response given the death toll, one that treats the million-plus dead almost as an afterthought (or perhaps a totally independent variable).

In 2023, when Americans talk about the range of possible approaches, they still invariably refer to two countries as conceptual anchors: China and Sweden. In that previous newsletter, I wrote about how our hardening narrative about China’s pandemic disaster has drifted away from reality — however unhappy or uncomfortable it would have been for most Americans to live through “zero Covid” in Shanghai, by every concrete measure the country outperformed the United States overall, making our objections more political than epidemiological in nature.

The same type of confusion applies to Sweden. You may think of the country as the pandemic’s libertarian poster child, which is how the country’s leaders have described their course as well. But three years on it is hard to treat Sweden as an exceptional example of anything, because overall, compared to its neighbors and peer countries, it has in fact had a remarkably average pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will we repeat the same mistake we made on boosters? Leana S. Wen, right, March 31, 2023 (print ed.). Federal health officials leana wenneed to allow vulnerable individuals desperate to receive their second bivalent booster to do so. This would be in line with what Canadian and British officials have already decided, as I wrote in my column this week. With so many vaccine doses in our supply, why not let Americans who want an extra one get it?

The delay by the Food and Drug Administration and CDC is reminiscent of what happened a year and a half ago, when the United States lagged Israel, Germany, Britain and other countries in recommending initial boosters to high-risk groups. At that point, the booster guidance inexplicably did not include recipients of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. J&J recipients were left in the dark for so long that the city of San Francisco overrode federal health authorities to give boosters to this group.

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Media, Education, Arts, High Tech


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ny times logoNew York Times, Tech Fix: Twitter’s Blue Check Apocalypse Is Upon Us. Here’s What to Know, Brian X. Chen and Ryan Mac, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk, above, Twitter’s owner, is changing the platform’s longstanding practice of verifying accounts. That has implications for a range of users.

The blue check mark on Twitter has long conferred a special status. Only certain accounts — typically those of public figures whose identities were confirmed — have been bestowed the symbol.

twitter bird CustomNow that is changing.

Starting on Saturday, many Twitter accounts will lose the check mark under modifications being made by Elon Musk, the social media company’s owner. Individual users must buy a subscription to Twitter’s Blue service, which costs $8 a month, to obtain the badge. Businesses that are currently unverified will have to pay $1,000 a month if they want a gold check mark verifying their account.

The move, which will help Twitter generate revenue by making certain features exclusive to subscribers, has implications for a range of users on the platform. Here’s what to know.

For those of you who primarily use Twitter to follow celebrities and news sites, this policy change will affect what you see and read on the service.

What does the change mean for Twitter users?

For those of you who primarily use Twitter to follow celebrities and news sites, this policy change will affect what you see and read on the service.

You may see fewer tweets from accounts you care about in your timeline, for instance, because individuals who choose not to pay for Twitter Blue will become less visible on the site.

 It may become harder for most users to discern real people from phony accounts. If check marks are removed from the accounts of celebrities who are unwilling to pay for Blue, for example, it could become difficult to distinguish their accounts from impersonators.

Mr. Musk has said only posts from paid accounts with blue checks will be visible in Twitter’s “For You” tab, the default timeline of tweets that the platform shows you based on your interests. The only exception, he later said, will be posts from nonverified accounts that you already follow, which will continue showing up in your timeline.

All of this means it is likely to become tougher to discover posts from accounts without the blue check marks. For example, if you follow lots of news about sports and a nonverified account tweets some sports-related news, you won’t see it in your timeline unless you already follow that account. In the past, you may have found that content purely because it went viral.

One caveat to these likely changes is that Mr. Musk is not known for always following through on his public intentions. So parts of the check-mark policy could change as Twitter rolls it out.

Will people start paying for the check marks?

That all depends on whether the account holder derives enough value from having a blue check mark to justify paying for it.

Celebrities and institutions might choose not to pay because they already have large numbers of followers who will continue to see their posts.

The New York Times, which has nearly 55 million followers on Twitter, said on Thursday that it would not pay for the verified badge for its institutional accounts, including @nytimes. The Times also told its journalists that it would not reimburse them for a Twitter Blue subscription, except in rare cases when it was necessary for reporting.

But other types of Twitter users may choose to pay for the check marks. Those include some small businesses that use Twitter to market their services and want their content to reach broader audiences. In this scenario, paying for verification will essentially be an advertising expense.

Among social media companies such as Meta and Snap, Twitter is the smallest social network, and the company continues to shrink in size and relevance.

Mr. Musk has shed much of Twitter’s staff, leaving the company with fewer than 2,000 employees, down from 7,500 when he took over in October. The site still has problems with bots posting spam and impostor accounts impersonating public figures. Security issues, glitches and bugs are piling up. And some influencers and journalists are migrating to other platforms, including Mastodon, LinkedIn and Instagram.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Elon Musk’s Twitter pushes hate speech, extremist content into ‘For You’ pages, Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy B. Merrill, April 1, 2023 (print ed.). A Washington Post analysis found that accounts following dozens of Twitter handles pushing hate speech were subjected to an algorithmic echo chamber, in which Twitter fed additional hateful and racist content to users.

twitter bird CustomTwitter is amplifying hate speech in its “For You” timeline, an unintended side effect of an algorithm that is supposed to show users more of what they want.

According to a Washington Post analysis of Twitter’s recommendation algorithm, accounts that followed “extremists” — hate-promoting accounts identified in a list provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center — were subjected to a mix of other racist and incendiary speech. That included tweets from a self-proclaimed Nazi, for example, a user the account did not follow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In the Utah Ski Trial, We Are All Gwynoccent, Elizabeth Spiers, April 1, 2023. This case has reminded us that the justice system is easily exploited in ways that are wasteful and stupid.

In what was the second highest profile legal deliberation this week, jurors determined on Thursday that Gwyneth Paltrow was not liable for damages in a ski crash between her and a retired optometrist, Terry Sanderson, causing him, he alleged, a traumatic brain injury. Mr. Sanderson was denied the $300,000 he sued for, and Ms. Paltrow, whose net worth is reportedly north of $200 million, was awarded the amount she requested in a countersuit: $1.

Unlike in many other courtroom spectacles, such as the Alex Murdaugh criminal trial that ended a few weeks ago, in the Paltrow/Sanderson civil trial, neither party inflicted or suffered life-altering harm from the events in question — unless you count Mr. Sanderson’s claim that the accident has impeded his ability to taste wine properly, or Ms. Paltrow’s lament that she lost half a day of skiing.

As a working person who pretty much never has half a day to ski and can’t taste wine properly even with all of my mental faculties intact, I have trouble mustering up much sympathy for either of them. As a taxpayer whose money supports and pays for the machinery of our judicial system, I’m irritated that this trial happened and that until Thursday it was dominating what seemed like every major newscast.

When a wealthy, famous person ends up in front of court cameras, it’s a reminder that we have a two-tiered justice system that overwhelmingly favors the rich and disproportionately punishes the poor and people of color. This case has also reminded us that the justice system is easily exploited in other ways, some of which are wasteful and stupid. Why must we be forced to ponder whether or not Ms. Paltrow is friends with Taylor Swift?

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