Aug. 2023 News


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

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


Aug. 1

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Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Wagner chief Prigozhin remains a key player in Africa and Eastern Europe, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 23 books, longtime commentator of global security, and former Navy intelligence officer, Aug. 1, 2023. War wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallclouds looming over western Belarus as Wagner forces dig in.

It is becoming more and more obvious that the June 23-24 “revolt” by Wagner Group guns-for-hire in Russia was a staged event that enabled Russian yevgeny prigozhin 2017 reuters poolstrongman Vladimir Putin to gauge loyalty to him in the upper echelons of the Russian military and among high-ranking apparatchiks in his United Russia political party. Putin’s description of the revolt led by his old friend, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, as “treason” now appears to have been Russian Flagpart of an act.

Not only has Prigozhin, right, remained untouched by Putin, but he appeared at the recent Second Russian-African Heads of State Summit in St. Petersburg. He also met with Putin in Moscow five days after the mutiny. Prigozhin had nothing but praise for Putin for organizing the summit.

In St. Petersburg Prigozhin met with the President of the Central African Republic, where Wagner forces are deployed. Prigozhin announced after meeting with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra that Wagner was deploying additional military units to the country. Also present in St. Petersburg were delegates from Mali niger map Customand Burkina Faso, where Wagner also has forces on the ground, and Niger (shown on a map at left), where a recent military coup in Niger, formerly a U.S. and French ally, received support from Russia and its two satellite military juntas in niger flagMali and Burkina Faso. Prigozhin praised the CAR, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger for showing their “independence” from the West. Prigozhin praised the coup leaders of Niger for “getting rid of the colonizers.”

Following the coup in Niger, Prigozhin immediately offered to provide Wagner forces to the Niger military junta to “restore order.” Protesters in Niamey, the Niger capital, paraded in the streets waving Russian flags and carrying signs praising Putin. Similar Russian-influenced protests took place in Mali and Burkina Faso following pairs of coups in each nation since 2020.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Wagner Group as active as ever — in Niger and St. Petersburg, Wayne Madsen, left, July 31, 2023. Wagner extends reach wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallinto Niger and consolidates position in Belarus.

wayne madesen report logoThe Russian government and mercenaries working for Wagner Group apparently staged their fourth coup in Africa in three years.

A weekend coup in Niger by Presidential Guards chief Abdourahmane Tchiani against President Mohamed Bazoum followed a template that has become all-too-familiar for African nations dealing with the effects of global climate change and Islamist terrorist attacks. Tchiani and his loyalists placed Barzoumi wagner group logoand his wife under arrest and announced that the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland would be running the country. The coup was followed by protesters torching the French embassy in Niamay, the Nigerien capital, while waving Russian flags. Previously, similar actions by Russia and Wagner Group operatives followed military coups against democratically-elected governments in Mali and Burkina Faso.

The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup, announced that it was applying sanctions against the coup leaders, and stipulated that it continued to recognize Barzoumi as president of Niger. ECOWAS issued similar denunciations of a military coup in Mali in 2021 and two coups in Burkina Faso last year. However, the Wagner Group-backed military regimes continue in power in Mali and Burkina Faso with ECOWAS sanctions having little effect.


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ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Rejects Trump’s Effort to Short-Circuit Georgia Election Case, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A Fulton County judge chided Donald Trump’s lawyers for “unnecessary and unfounded legal filings” ahead of indictments expected in mid-August.

A Georgia judge forcefully rejected on Monday an effort by former President Donald J. Trump to derail an investigation into attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state — an investigation that is expected to yield indictments in mid-August.

Mr. Trump tried to get Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta to throw out evidence collected by a special grand jury and disqualify the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney.

But in a nine-page order, Judge McBurney wrote that Mr. Trump did not have the legal standing to make such challenges before indictments were handed up. The judge said the “injuries” that Mr. Trump claimed to have suffered from the two-and-a-half-year investigation “are either insufficient or else speculative and unrealized.”

The office of Ms. Willis, a Democrat, is expected to present potential indictments in the matter to a regular grand jury in the next few weeks.

The Georgia investigation is part of a swirl of legal troubles surrounding Mr. Trump, who has already been indicted on state charges in New York connected with hush-money payments in 2016, and on federal charges over his retention and handling of classified documents after leaving office in 2021.


Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump's claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia's statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts. absence of support from Georgia's Republican election officials supporting his claims. Fani Willis, left, is the district attorney for Atlanta-based Fulton County in Georgia. Her office has been probing since 2021 then-President Trump’s claiming beginning in 2020 of election fraud in Georgia and elsewhere. Trump and his allies have failed to win support for their claims from Georgia’s statewide election officials, who are Republican, or from courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Atlanta braces for possible indictments for Trump and his allies in 2020 election investigation, Holly Bailey, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). It is one of several investigations into attempts to reverse Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. A charging decision is expected during the first three weeks of August.

For more than two years, people here and across the country have watched and waited for clues that the high-profile Georgia investigation into whether former president Donald Trump and his allies broke the law in their attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state was winding to an end.

That speculation hit fever pitch in recent days with the installation of orange security barriers near the main entrance of the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta. It was the most visible sign yet of the looming charging decision in a case that has ensnared not only Trump but several high-profile Republicans who could either face charges or stand witness in a potential trial unlike anything seen before in this Southern metropolis.

It is one of several investigations into attempts to reverse Trump’s loss in 2020, including a sprawling Justice Department probe overseen by special counsel Jack Smith that has sparked its own intensifying waiting game in recent days. Smith and his team have interviewed or sought information from several witnesses also key to the Georgia investigation. Trump has said he received a letter from the Justice Department saying he could face criminal charges for his efforts after the election that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

While the pace of Smith’s investigation has been unpredictable, Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis took the unusual step of publicly telegraphing that she plans to announce a charging decision in the Georgia case during the first three weeks of August, a period that opens Monday.

“The work is accomplished,” Willis (D) told Atlanta’s WXIA-TV Saturday. “We’ve been working for two-and-a-half years. We’re ready to go.”

In Atlanta, local, state and federal law enforcement officials have been privately meeting for months to plan enhanced security measures in anticipation of that announcement. anticipation of that announcement.

All eyes are now on two criminal grand jury panels sworn in on July 11 — one group that meets on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other that meets on Thursdays and Fridays. One of the panels will probably decide whether charges should be filed in the closely watched election interference case — a decision that could put Trump, who is now under indictment in two other criminal cases, in even more legal peril.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump threatened Republicans who don’t pursue investigations against Democrats, Neil Vigdor, July 31, 2023 (print ed.). Casting Republicans as meek, former President Donald J. Trump said members of his party should pursue investigations against Democrats — or risk losing their seats.

Former President Donald J. Trump lashed out at Republicans in Congress while campaigning in Pennsylvania on Saturday, threatening members of his party who do not share his appetite for pursuing corruption investigations against President Biden and his family — and for retribution.

In a litany of grievances about his deepening legal woes and the direction of the country, the twice-indicted former president cast G.O.P. holdouts as meek during a rally in Erie, Pa., criticizing their response to what he described as politically motivated prosecutions against him.

“The Republicans are very high class,” he said. “You’ve got to get a little bit lower class.”

And then Mr. Trump, the overwhelming front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, put party members on notice.

“Any Republican that doesn’t act on Democratic fraud should be immediately primaried,” said Mr. Trump, to the roaring approval of several thousand supporters at the Erie Insurance Arena. Throughout the night he referenced the case against Hunter Biden and accused the president of complicity in his son’s troubles.

It was the first solo campaign event and the second public appearance for Mr. Trump since the Justice Department added charges against him in connection with his mishandling of classified documents after leaving office.

In a superseding indictment filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Florida, federal prosecutors presented evidence that Mr. Trump told the property manager of Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, that he wanted security camera footage there to be deleted.

Prosecutors also charged him, along with one of his personal aides, with conspiring to obstruct the government’s repeated attempts to reclaim the classified material.

On the same day that the additional charges were announced, Mr. Trump’s lawyers met with federal prosecutors to discuss another expected indictment, one centering on Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

With Mr. Trump as its standard-bearer, the Republican Party has watched Democrats in Pennsylvania secure high-profile victories in the last year, including flipping a U.S. Senate seat, holding on to the governor’s office and gaining control of the statehouse.

In 2020, Mr. Trump lost the battleground state by nearly 82,000 votes to Mr. Biden, who was born there.

Despite several courts rejecting his election lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump has continued to cling to falsehoods about results, including on Saturday.

“We got screwed,” he said, baselessly claiming that news outlets had delayed their race calls because he had been ahead. “I said, ‘Why aren’t they calling Pennsylvania?’”


U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Shores Up Democratic Support, but Faces Tight Race Against Trump, Reid J. Epstein, Ruth Igielnik and Camille Baker, Aug. 1, 2023.  A New York Times/Siena College poll found President Biden is on stronger footing, but neck-and-neck in a possible rematch against former President Trump.

President Biden is heading into the 2024 presidential contest on firmer footing than a year ago, with his approval rating inching upward and once-doubtful Democrats falling into line behind his re-election bid, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

Mr. Biden appears to have escaped the political danger zone he resided in last year, when nearly two-thirds of his party wanted a different nominee. Now, Democrats have broadly accepted him as their standard-bearer, even if half would prefer someone else.

Still, warning signs abound for the president: Despite his improved standing and a friendlier national environment, Mr. Biden remains broadly unpopular among a voting public that is pessimistic about the country’s future, and his approval rating is a mere 39 percent.

Perhaps most worryingly for Democrats, the poll found Mr. Biden in a neck-and-neck race with former President Donald J. Trump, who held a commanding lead among likely Republican primary voters even as he faces two criminal indictments and more potential charges on the horizon. Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump were tied at 43 percent apiece in a hypothetical rematch in 2024, according to the poll.

Mr. Biden has been buoyed by voters’ feelings of fear and distaste toward Mr. Trump. Well over a year before the election, 16 percent of those polled had unfavorable views of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, a segment with which Mr. Biden had a narrow lead.

“Donald Trump is not a Republican, he’s a criminal,” said John Wittman, 42, a heating and air conditioning contractor from Phoenix. A Republican, he said that even though he believed Mr. Biden’s economic stewardship had hurt the country, “I will vote for anyone on the planet that seems halfway capable of doing the job, including Joe Biden, over Donald Trump.”

To borrow an old political cliché, the poll shows that Mr. Biden’s support among Democrats is a mile wide and an inch deep. About 30 percent of voters who said they planned to vote for Mr. Biden in November 2024 said they hoped Democrats would nominate someone else. Just 20 percent of Democrats said they would be enthusiastic if Mr. Biden were the party’s 2024 presidential nominee; another 51 percent said they would be satisfied but not enthusiastic.

A higher share of Democrats, 26 percent, expressed enthusiasm for the notion of Vice President Kamala Harris as the nominee in 2024.

Mr. Biden had the backing of 64 percent of Democrats who planned to participate in their party’s primary, an indicator of soft support for an incumbent president. Thirteen percent preferred Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and 10 percent chose Marianne Williamson.

Among Democratic poll respondents who have a record of voting in a primary before, Mr. Biden enjoyed a far wider lead — 74 percent to 8 percent. He was ahead by 92 percent to 4 percent among those who voted in a Democratic primary in 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Republicans say former President Trump committed “serious federal crimes.” But they still support him, Ruth Igielnik and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 1, 2023. The share of Republicans saying the former president has committed “serious federal crimes” has grown modestly, according to a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College.

Donald J. Trump famously marveled during his first presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he would not lose any support.

He now seems intent on testing the premise of unwavering loyalty behind that statement.

The federal charges against the former president seem to have cost him few, if any, votes in the 2024 election, even as the number of Republicans who think he has committed serious federal crimes has ticked up.

He continues to hold strong in a hypothetical general election matchup, despite the fact that 17 percent of voters who prefer him over President Biden think either that he has committed serious federal crimes or that he threatened democracy with his actions after the 2020 election, according to the latest New York Times/Siena College poll.

“I think he’s committed crimes,” said Joseph Derito, 81, of Elmira, N.Y. “I think he’s done terrible things. But he’s also done a lot of good.”


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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump committee is nearly broke, plus other key takeaways from campaign filings, Maeve Reston and Anu Narayanswamy, Aug. 1, 2023. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that some of Donald Trump’s fundraising committees are spending about as much as they are taking in.

fec logo black background CustomDonald Trump’s joint fundraising committee raised $53.9 million during the first half of this year for his presidential campaign — an enviable haul that speaks to the enthusiasm of his donors and dwarfs the sums raised by his GOP rivals.

But Trump’s political committees are burning through cash as he grapples with his mounting legal bills, according to campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission Monday night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Without a recession to exploit, the GOP has lost economic coherence, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 1, 2023. After hollering for more than two jennifer rubin new headshotyears about President Biden’s handling of the economy, Republicans have lost the recession issue. And, worse for them, they don’t have a coherent economic vision.

joe biden resized orepublican elephant logoEven grouchy pundits concede that the economy is solid, suggesting the administration is “sticking the soft landing,” as the Wall Street Journal put it. (“Fresh economic data this week reinforced optimism that inflation can fall without the U.S. suffering a recession,” the Journal reported.) Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, rose at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter. The Federal Reserve and many economists now do not expect a recession. To boot, inflation is abating.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lori Vallow Daybell gets life for killing children in ‘doomsday’ case, Marisa Iati, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Lori Vallow Daybell, an Idaho mother and onetime beauty pageant contestant, was sentenced Monday to life in prison for killing two of her children in a case that included a dark religious prophecy and claims that the victims were “zombies” possessed by evil forces.

At her sentencing hearing, Vallow Daybell denied that anyone “was murdered in this case.” She said her children had visited her after their deaths and told her they were happy.

“I mourn with all of you who mourn my children and Tammy,” Vallow Daybell told the court, referring to her husband’s first wife. “Jesus Christ knows the truth of what happened here.”

Fremont County Judge Steven Boyce pointed to that denial of guilt as a factor in Vallow Daybell’s sentence, which includes no possibility of parole. He said she could have pursued legitimate options if she came to feel she could no longer care for her children.

Instead, he told her, “you chose the most evil and destructive path possible.”

A jury convicted Vallow Daybell in May of murdering her 7-year-old son, JJ Vallow, and her daughter, Tylee Ryan, who was days away from her 17th birthday, and of conspiring to kill her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Vallow Daybell was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in her children’s deaths and of grand theft for continuing to collect after their deaths Social Security money meant for the children.

The killings and other suspicious deaths allegedly linked to Vallow Daybell captured national attention because of her bizarre religious motivations. Several books, a Lifetime movie and a Netflix documentary series attempt to tell the tale.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Vallow Daybell viewed the victims as obstacles to being with Chad Daybell and that she wanted their money, the Associated Press reported. To justify her actions, the prosecution said, Vallow Daybell used her “doomsday” religious beliefs, including that she was a goddess preparing for the end of the world.

Her defense attorneys countered that she was a loving mother who, despite her unusual ideology, was not involved in the killings.

Chad Daybell, who became Vallow Daybell’s fifth husband, has been implicated in all three killings and is scheduled to stand trial in April. Prosecutors in Vallow Daybell’s case said they would not speak to reporters after her sentencing, to protect Daybell’s right to a fair trial. A message left for one of Vallow Daybell’s defense attorneys Monday was not immediately returned.

ron desantis hands outwashington post logoWashington Post, Trailing in polls, Ron DeSantis unveils economic plans echoing Trump’s, Jeff Stein and Marianne LeVine, Aug. 1, 2023. On trade, taxes, entitlements, immigration and more, the Florida governor’s policy priorities often mirror those of his 2024 presidential rival. Key takeaways from latest 2024 campaign finance filings.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Paying Lawyers, Trump’s PAC Is Nearly Broke, Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Swan, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The scramble to cover legal bills for former President Trump has prompted what appears to be the largest refund in federal campaign finance history.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s political action committee, which began last year with $105 million, now has less than $4 million left in its account after paying tens of millions of dollars in legal fees for Mr. Trump and his associates.

The dwindling cash reserves in Mr. Trump’s PAC, called Save America, have fallen to such levels that the group has made the highly unusual request of a $60 million refund of a donation it had previously sent to a pro-Trump super PAC. This money had been intended for television commercials to help Mr. Trump’s candidacy, but as he is the dominant front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, his most immediate problems appear to be legal, not political.

The super PAC, which is called Make America Great Again Inc., has already sent back $12.25 million to the group paying Mr. Trump’s legal bills, according to federal records — a sum nearly as large as the $13.1 million the super PAC raised from donors in the first half of 2023. Those donations included $1 million from the father of his son-in-law, Charles Kushner, whom Mr. Trump pardoned for federal crimes in his final days as president, and $100,000 from a candidate seeking Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

The extraordinary shift of money from the super PAC to Mr. Trump’s political committee, described in federal campaign filings as a refund, is believed to be larger than any other refund on record in the history of federal campaigns.

It comes as Mr. Trump’s political and legal fate appear increasingly intertwined. The return of money from the super PAC, which Mr. Trump does not control, to his political action committee, which he does, demonstrates how his operation is balancing dueling priorities: paying lawyers and supporting his political candidacy through television ads.

Save America, Mr. Trump’s political action committee, is prohibited by law from directly spending money on his candidacy. When Save America donated $60 million last year to Mr. Trump’s super PAC — which is permitted to spend on his campaign — it effectively evaded that prohibition.

It is not clear from the filing exactly when the refund was requested, but the super PAC did not return the money all at once. It gave back $1 million on May 1; $5 million more on May 9; another $5 million on June 1; and $1.25 million on June 30. These returns followed Mr. Trump’s two indictments this year: one in Manhattan in March, and one last month in federal court.

An additional transfer of a chunk of money to Save America came in July, according to a person familiar with the matter, suggesting that the super PAC could continue to issue refunds and therefore indirectly pay for Mr. Trump’s legal bills in the coming months. The communications director for the super PAC, Alex Pfeiffer, declined to comment on any additional transfer.

The super PAC spent more than $23 million on mostly negative advertising attacking his leading rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, earlier this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, A super PAC supporting Nikki Haley said it’s planning a $13 million ad push in Iowa and New Hampshire, Jazmine Ulloa and Alyce McFadden, Aug. 1, 2023. Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, has been struggling to gain traction in a crowded Republican field dominated by Donald Trump.

A super PAC supporting Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign said on Tuesday that it had reserved more than $13 million in television and digital ads in Iowa and New Hampshire starting in August. The outlay is the first major advertising push in support of Ms. Haley since she became the first Republican to challenge former President Donald J. Trump this year.

The group, SFA Fund Inc., is pouring $7 million into ads in Iowa and $6.2 million into ads in New Hampshire that will run over the next nine weeks. The first television ad features Ms. Haley, 51, a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, talking tough on China at a political rally, arguing that the country’s leaders “want to cover the world in communist tyranny.”

A voice-over says, “Nikki Haley: tough as nails, smart as a whip, unafraid to speak the truth.”

Polls show Ms. Haley stuck in the single digits in a primary race that has been dominated by Mr. Trump.

The first New York Times/Siena College poll of the 2024 campaign showed Mr. Trump with the support of 54 percent of likely Republican primary voters, while Ms. Haley trailed far behind with just 3 percent, the same level of support as former Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trailing in polls, Ron DeSantis unveils economic plans echoing Trump’s, Jeff Stein and Marianne LeVine, Aug. 1, 2023. On trade, taxes, entitlements, immigration and more, the Florida governor’s policy priorities often mirror those of his 2024 presidential rival. Key takeaways from latest 2024 campaign finance filings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: With DeSantis Reeling, What About Tim Scott? Ross Douthat, July 29, 2023. Last Sunday, I argued that despite his stagnation in the polls, for Republicans (and non-Republicans) who would prefer that Donald Trump not be renominated for the presidency, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida remains pretty much the only possible alternative.

Naturally the week that followed was the worst yet for DeSantis, beginning with a campaign staff purge that featured a Nazi-symbol subplot and ending with the candidate doing damage control for his suggestion that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might run his Food and Drug Administration.

tim scott oThe worst news for DeSantis, though, was new polls out of Iowa showing Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, right, creeping up on him, with around 10 percent support, to the governor’s roughly 15 percent.

One of my arguments a week ago was that no other Republican, Scott included, had yet shown any capacity to build the support that even a stagnant DeSantis enjoys. But if the governor falls into a sustained battle for second place, he’s probably finished, and Trump can probably just cruise.

Unless that battle results in a DeSantis collapse and a chance for someone else to go up against the front-runner. After all, why should DeSantis be the only non-Trump hope just because he seemed potent early on? Why not, well, Tim Scott?

Say this for Scott: He has an obvious asset that DeSantis is missing, a fundamental good cheer that Americans favor in their presidents. Say this as well: He has the profile of a potent general-election candidate, an African American and youthful-seeming generic Republican to set against Joe Biden’s senescence. Say this, finally: Scott sits in the sweet spot for the Republican donor class, as a George W. Bush-style conservative untouched by the rabble-rousing and edgelord memes of Trump-era populism.

But all of these strengths are connected to primary-campaign weaknesses. To beat Trump, you eventually need around half the Republican electorate to vote for you (depending on the wrinkles of delegate allocation). And there’s no indication that half of Republican primary voters want to return to pre-2016 conservatism, that they would favor a generic-Republican alternative to Trump’s crush-your-enemies style or that they especially value winsomeness and optimism, as opposed to a style suited to a pessimistic mood.

The reason that DeSantis seemed like the best hope against Trump was a record and persona that seemed to meet Republican voters where they are. His success was built after Trump’s election, on issues that mattered to current G.O.P. voters, not those of 30 years ago. He could claim to be better at the pugilistic style than Trump — with more to show for his battles substantively and more political success as well. On certain issues, Covid policy especially, he could claim to represent the views of Trump’s supporters better than Trump himself. And with DeSantis’s war on Disney, nobody would confuse him for a creature of the donor class.

All this set up a plausible strategy for pulling some Trump voters to DeSantis’s side by casting himself as the fulfiller of Trump’s promise — more competent, more politically able, bolder, younger and better suited to the times.

This strategy was working five months ago, and now it’s failing. But its failure doesn’t reveal an alternative pitch, and certainly Scott doesn’t appear to have one. Indeed, as The Bulwark’s Jonathan Last points out, Scott isn’t really casting himself as a Trump alternative; he’s mostly been “positioning himself as an attractive running mate for Trump, should the Almighty not intervene” and remove the former president from the race.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Crushing DeSantis and G.O.P. Rivals, Times/Siena Poll Finds, Shane Goldmacher, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump leads Ron DeSantis and others across nearly every category and region, as primary voters wave off concerns about his escalating legal jeopardy.

Former President Donald J. Trump is dominating his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, leading his nearest challenger, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, by a landslide 37 percentage points nationally among the likely Republican primary electorate, according to the first New York Times/Siena College poll of the 2024 campaign.

Mr. Trump held decisive advantages across almost every demographic group and region and in every ideological wing of the party, the survey found, as Republican voters waved away concerns about his escalating legal jeopardy. He led by wide margins among men and women, younger and older voters, moderates and conservatives, those who went to college and those who didn’t, and in cities, suburbs and rural areas.

The poll shows that some of Mr. DeSantis’s central campaign arguments — that he is more electable than Mr. Trump, and that he would govern more effectively — have so far failed to break through. Even Republicans motivated by the type of issues that have fueled Mr. DeSantis’s rise, such as fighting “radical woke ideology,” favored the former president.

Overall, Mr. Trump led Mr. DeSantis 54 percent to 17 percent. No other candidate topped 3 percent support in the poll.

Below those lopsided top-line figures were other ominous signs for Mr. DeSantis. He performed his weakest among some of the Republican Party’s biggest and most influential constituencies. He earned only 9 percent support among voters at least 65 years old and 13 percent of those without a college degree. Republicans who described themselves as “very conservative” favored Mr. Trump by a 50-point margin, 65 percent to 15 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: This is why former President Trump is so hard to beat, Nate Cohn, July 31, 2023. In the half century of modern presidential primaries, no candidate who led his or her nearest rival by at least 20 points at this stage has ever lost a party nomination.

Today, Donald J. Trump’s lead over Ron DeSantis is nearly twice as large: 37 points, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll of the likely Republican primary electorate released Monday morning.

But even if it might be a mistake to call Mr. Trump “inevitable,” the Times/Siena data suggests that he commands a seemingly unshakable base of loyal supporters, representing more than one-third of the Republican electorate. Alone, their support is not enough for Mr. Trump to win the primary. But it is large enough to make him extremely hard to defeat — perhaps every bit as hard as the historical record suggests.

Here’s what we know about the depth of the support — and opposition — to Mr. Trump from our poll, and why it’s so hard to beat the former president.
The MAGA base, defined

It’s populist. It’s conservative. It’s blue collar. It’s convinced the nation is on the verge of catastrophe. And it’s exceptionally loyal to Donald Trump.

As defined here, members of Mr. Trump’s MAGA base represent 37 percent of the Republican electorate. They “strongly” support him in the Republican primary and have a “very favorable” view of him.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time left before the Iowa caucuses in January. The candidates haven’t even set foot on a debate stage. And while no candidate has ever lost a nomination with so much support, no candidate with so much support has faced so many criminal indictments and investigations, either.


djt ron desantis cnn collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Ron DeSantis invoked Donald Trump’s legal trouble, suggesting he might step up his attacks on his rival, Nicholas Nehamas, July 31, 2023 (print ed.). Ron DeSantis’s remarks to a voter in New Hampshire suggest he may step up his attacks against the man who leads him in national polls by a wide margin.

Two days after former President Donald J. Trump used a demeaning nickname to describe Ron DeSantis to a packed hall of Iowa Republican activists, Mr. DeSantis pointedly invoked the federal indictment against his chief rival, saying that if Mr. Trump had “drained the swamp like he promised,” then he probably “wouldn’t be in the mess that he’s in right now.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday after a campaign event in New Hampshire, Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida, added that Mr. Trump’s use of “juvenile insults” served as a reminder of “why there are so many millions of voters who will never vote for him going forward.”

Mr. DeSantis has generally not used Mr. Trump’s legal troubles against him, and has instead focused on criticizing the Biden administration for what he terms the “weaponization” of federal law enforcement.

But as Mr. DeSantis seeks to reset his ailing campaign by cutting staff and organizing more informal events in the face of a fund-raising shortfall, his comments suggest he may be taking a less timid approach against the man who leads him in national polls by a wide margin. Even allies have said that his campaign has lacked a coherent message about why voters should choose him over Mr. Trump. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Meet PublicSq., the ‘anti-woke’ marketplace backed by Donald Trump Jr., Taylor Telford, Aug. 1, 2023. The ‘Pro-American’ digital marketplace has had a surge of interest as brands like Target and Bud Light have faced boycotts and backlash.

Jim Schneider, co-founder of sunglasses brand Zivah, knows his company could probably reach more customers if he sold his products on Amazon, but he isn’t interested. Zivah has found success as an early adopter of PublicSq., an online marketplace that bills itself as an alternative to “woke” corporations espousing liberal values.

Zivah (a name that comes from the Hebrew word for “light of God”) sells high-end sunglasses with names like “Glisten” and “Dazzle.” Each one bears a scripture on the inside of the temple. “In a world that seems so polarized, you see the world through a different lens,” Zivah’s website declares.

“Our target consumer really is someone who supports American values, who does not want to support a company that’s gone woke, who does not want to support a company that’s supporting abortions,” Schneider told The Washington Post. (Amazon has joined other large companies in offering to cover employees’ travel expenses for abortion and other non-life-threatening medical treatment if they don’t have access at home.) Since Zivah joined PublicSq. last year, the platform “has definitely become our biggest source of new customers,” Schneider said.


Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s alleged conduct in the new indictment is jaw-droppingly stupid, Ruth Marcus, July 29, 2023 (print ed.). If the allegations in the latest indictment of Donald Trump hold up, the former president is a common criminal — and an uncommonly stupid one.

Everyone knows, as the Watergate scandal drove home: The coverup is always worse than the crime. Everyone, that is, but Trump.

According to the superseding indictment handed up late Thursday, even after Trump knew the FBI was onto his improper retention of classified information, and even after he knew they were seeking security camera footage from the Mar-a-Lago storage areas where the material was kept — in other words, when any reasonably adept criminal would have known to stop digging holes — Trump made matters infinitely worse.

The alleged conduct — yes, even after all these years of watching Trump flagrantly flout norms — is nothing short of jaw-dropping: Trump allegedly conspired with others to destroy evidence.

As set out in the indictment’s relentlessly damning timeline, Trump enlisted his personal aide, Waltine Nauta, and a Mar-a-Lago worker, Carlos De Oliveira, in a conspiracy to delete the subpoenaed footage.



Carlos De Oliveira, center, made his first court appearance here on Monday morning, July 31, in Miami (Associated Press photo).

 Carlos De Oliveira, center, made his first court appearance here on Monday morning, July 31, in Miami (Associated Press photo). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Carlos De Oliveira makes first court appearance in Trump documents case, Shayna Jacobs and Perry Stein, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Carlos De Oliveira — the second person charged alongside Donald Trump in a case involving the alleged hoarding of sensitive government materials at Mar-a-Lago — made his first court appearance here on Monday morning and was released on a personal surety bond, with an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 10.

Chief Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres read De Oliveira the charges against him and informed him of his legal rights. De Oliveira did not have an attorney who is accredited to practice in Florida, so he was unable to enter a plea before the judge. His Washington, D.C.-based attorney, John Irving, was in court with him.

Trump and his longtime valet, Waltine “Walt” Nauta, were charged in the case last month and face additional counts in the indictment that charged De Oliveira. Both Trump and Nauta have pleaded not guilty to the initial charges. They could also be arraigned on the new charges at the hearing scheduled for Fort Pierce, Fla., on Aug. 10, though prosecutors have said they will not object if a judge allows Trump and Nauta to waive their appearance.

Torres imposed the same conditions of release on De Oliveira as were set for Trump and Nauta, prohibiting De Oliveira from speaking to witnesses about the facts of the investigation. Torres imposed the same conditions of release on De Oliveira as were set for Trump and Nauta, prohibiting De Oliveira from speaking to witnesses about the facts of the investigation.

Outside the courthouse, Irving told reporters he looked forward to seeing the government’s evidence against his client. “Unfortunately the Justice Department decided to file these charges against Mr. De Oliveira,” he said, “and now they have to put their money where their mouth is.”

Here’s what else to know about De Oliveira and the charges against him:

The 56-year-old Floridian has worked at Mar-a-Lago for more than a decade and was promoted to be the estate’s property manager in January 2022. In the early years of his employment, he impressed Trump by redoing ornate metalwork on the door at Mar-a-Lago, according to people familiar with his work.

Carlos De Oliveira’s journey from failed witness to Trump’s co-defendant

De Oliveira was charged with four crimes, including one count of making false statements and representations when he denied to the FBI any involvement in or knowledge of the moving of boxes at Mar-a-Lago that contained classified material.

Palmer Report, Analysis: No wonder Donald Trump’s campaign is broke, Bill Palmer, right, July 31, 2023. Recent quarterly fundraising numbers revealed that President Joe bill palmerBiden raised about twice as much money for his 2024 campaign as Donald Trump did.

These numbers weren’t surprising. Not that many people want to give money to someone’s “campaign” when they know the money is just going to be bill palmer report logo headerspent on his legal costs and they know he’s going to prison anyway. Some superfans are going to give money to Trump’s fake 2024 campaign anyway, out of symbolism or spite. But any potential Trump donor who’s thinking in pragmatic terms is going to simply hang onto their money.

The whole thing creates a catch-22 for Trump. Not enough people are donating to his campaign because they know it’s not real, so there isn’t enough money in the pot to begin with. Then Trump keeps raiding the piggy bank to pay for his legal costs, and pretty soon it’s empty. That point was always going to arrive eventually, and it looks like it’s arriving now.

Trump’s “Save America” PAC is so short on money, it recently had to request a $60 million refund from another Trump related PAC, according to the New York Times. It goes to show how politicians like Trump tend to shuffle money around from entity to entity for their own purposes. But if there’s not enough money coming in to begin with, and Trump is bleeding it all dry with his legal costs, then it doesn’t do much good to shuffle money around. At some point there just aren’t the funds.

So here we are fifteen months out from the 2024 election, and Donald Trump’s campaign fundraising apparatus is already running out of money. It goes to show that you can’t just pretend to run for President as a way of paying your legal bills, and expect enough people to get on board to keep things afloat. This whole thing was a transparent house of cards, and it’s starting to tumble from a financial standpoint already.

This also proves once and for all that Donald Trump’s base cannot magically save him. If Trump’s base were large enough and willing enough, his 2024 election coffers would be overflowing with money. Instead he’s only managed to raise a hilariously small amount of money for a supposed “frontrunner,” and it doesn’t even appear to be enough to cover his legal bills.

If things are looking bad for Trump now, consider that he’s days away from being criminally indicted for January 6th, and he’ll likely go on trial for that in federal court in Washington DC this year. We’re talking about Trump being tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison while it’s still 2023. In the eyes of donors, Trump is already having trouble selling himself as a viable candidate. That’s not going to get easier when he’s sent to prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, $60 Million Refund Request Shows Financial Pressure on Trump From Legal Fees, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, July 30, 2023 (print ed.). President Trump’s political team asked for a refund of money intended to help his campaign that was instead diverted to an account paying his legal bills.
President Donald J. Trump’s legal fees requested a refund on a $60 million contribution it made to the super PAC supporting the Republican front-runner, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The decision of Mr. Trump’s political action committee to ask for a refund of money that was initially raised as Mr. Trump sought donations to combat what he falsely claimed was widespread fraud is extraordinary.

It is unclear how much money was refunded.

The refund was sought as the political action committee, Save America, spent more than $40 million in legal fees incurred by Mr. Trump and witnesses in various legal cases related to him this year alone, according to another person familiar with the matter.

The numbers will be part of the Save America Federal Election Commission filing that is expected to be made public late on Monday.

That $40 million was in addition to $16 million that Save America spent in the previous two years on legal fees. Since then, Mr. Trump has been indicted twice and has expanded the size of his legal team, and his two co-defendants in the case related to his retention of classified material work for him. The total legal spending is roughly $56 million.

The PAC was the entity in which Mr. Trump had parked the more than $100 million raised when he sought donations after losing the 2020 election. Mr. Trump claimed he needed the support to fight widespread fraud in the race. Officials, including some with his campaign, turned up no evidence of widespread fraud.

Mr. Trump used some of that $100 million for other politicians and political activities in 2022, but he also used it to pay more than $16 million in legal fees, most of them related to investigations into him, and at least $10 million of which was for his own personal fees.

The situation signals a potential money crisis as Mr. Trump runs a campaign while under indictment in two jurisdictions and, soon, potentially a third, while also paying the legal fees of a number of witnesses who are close to him or who work for him.

Mr. Trump has long told associates that lawyers and other people contracted to work for him should do so for free, because they get free publicity. And he has told several associates that legal defense funds are organized only by people who are guilty of crimes, according to people who have heard the remarks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump aide Carlos De Oliveira’s journey from failed witness to defendant, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Josh Dawsey, July 30, 2023 (print ed.). A proffer session gone sour leads to an indictment, underscoring investigators’ hopes and fears about Trump staffers.Carlos De Oliveira, a middle-aged property manager from Florida, met with federal investigators in April for what is called a “queen for a day” session — a chance to set the record straight about prosecutors’ growing suspicions of his conduct at Donald Trump’s Florida home and private club. It did not go well, according to people familiar with the meeting.

djt indicted proofDe Oliveira, 56, knew Mar-a-Lago better than almost anyone. He’d worked there for more than a decade, and in January 2022 he was promoted to property manager, overseeing the estate. In the early years of De Oliveira’s employment, people familiar with the situation said, he’d impressed his boss by redoing ornate metalwork on doors at the property.

On Thursday, De Oliveira was indicted alongside Trump and his co-worker Waltine “Walt” Nauta — all three accused of seeking to delete security footage the Justice Department was requesting as part of its classified documents investigation.

De Oliveira is the third defendant in the first-ever federal criminal case against a former president. Trump, who was initially indicted with Nauta in June, is charged with mishandling dozens of classified documents in his post-presidency life and allegedly scheming with his two employees to cover up what he’d done.

This previously unreported account of De Oliveira’s actions at Mar-a-Lago, and later statements to federal investigators, shows how the longtime Trump employee has become a key figure in the investigation, one whose alleged actions could bolster the obstruction case against the former president. Most people interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations or details of an ongoing criminal probe.

De Oliveira’s attorney, John Irving, declined to comment.

The series of discussions between De Oliveira and investigators highlight how prosecutors led by special counsel Jack Smith have approached Trump employees with a mixture of hope and suspicion: hope that the former president’s employees could explain what had happened inside Mar-a-Lago, and suspicion that whatever misdeeds may have occurred, they might have been aided by servants who stayed loyal to the boss — even after the FBI came knocking.

When FBI agents arrived at Mar-a-Lago the morning of Aug. 8 with a court-issued search warrant, De Oliveira was one of the first people they turned to. They asked him to unlock a storage room where boxes of documents were kept, people familiar with what happened said. De Oliveira said he wasn’t sure where the key was, because he’d given it to either the Secret Service agents guarding the former president or staffers for Trump’s post-presidency office, the people said.

Frustrated, the agents simply cut the lock on the gold-colored door. The incident became part of what investigators would see as a troubling pattern with the answers De Oliveira gave them as they investigated Trump, the people said. Current and former law enforcement officials said witnesses often mislead them, particularly early in investigations. But those bad answers get more dangerous as agents continue to gather information.

Investigators’ interest in De Oliveira started to rise when security camera footage from the mansion showed him helping Nauta move boxes back into the storage area more than two months earlier, on June 2, 2022, the people said. That was just a day before a federal prosecutor and agents visited Mar-a-Lago to recover classified documents in response to a grand jury subpoena and to look around the place.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the superseding indictment and third defendant affect the Trump documents case, Perry Stein, July 29, 2023 (print ed.). The superseding indictment filed against Donald Trump in the classified documents investigation this week — and the addition of a third defendant — expand the scope of the crimes the former president is accused of committing and could bolster the case against him, according to legal experts.

Federal prosecutors filed three new charges against Trump in his alleged keeping and hiding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, essentially replacing the initial indictment in the case with a new one that reveals more evidence and brings the total federal charges against the former president to 40.
The third co-defendant is Mar-a-Lago employee Carlos De Oliveira, who is accused of lying to the FBI in a January interview and “altering, destroying, mutilating or concealing” an item or document. Waltine “Walt” Nauta, a longtime Trump aide who was charged alongside the former president in the initial June indictment, was also slapped with additional charges involving altering or concealing an item or document.

Both Trump and Nauta pleaded not guilty when they were arraigned on the initial charges. A lawyer for Nauta declined to comment on the new charges Thursday night, and a spokesman for Trump dismissed the superseding indictment as an attempt to harass the former president.

The superseding indictment accuses Trump of working with his employees to try to delete security camera footage from being reviewed by investigators, while adding a new count of willfully retaining national defense information. That count is related to Trump allegedly showing a top secret military document about Iran to other people who, like him, lacked the security clearance required to see such material.

The additional charges of lying to investigators could send a warning signal to other witnesses, the legal experts said: The case against Trump and his employees is strong and growing, and witnesses should cooperate with federal prosecutors if they want to avoid getting indicted themselves.

While every legal maneuver in cases involving Trump is heavily scrutinized, experts say superseding indictments are exceedingly common. Having multiple co-defendants in a single case — rather than trying co-defendants in separate trials — is also business as usual.

“Why would you try the same case three times? You are presenting the same case,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Chicago. “People who are charged with the same acts are usually, overwhelmingly charged together. That’s the presumption. You do it once, you don’t do it three or five times.”

Legal experts said it is hard to say exactly what propelled the Justice Department to file the initial indictment against Trump and Nauta in June, then add additional charges and another defendant weeks later. But they noted there are many common reasons lawyers would do so.

Among them: Prosecutors could have gathered additional evidence, or other witnesses may have decided to speak with investigators after they read the first indictment.

“There is a lot of intrigue but not a lot of answers,” said Scott Sundby, a University of Miami law professor. “It certainly suggests that more pieces are snapping into place.”

Alison Siegler, director of the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at University of Chicago Law School, said that the superseding indictment suggests that officials were still working to gather more evidence after they charged Trump in June. In many investigations, prosecutors file their indictments only once, after they have completed

ny times logoNew York Times, New Trump Charges Highlight Long-Running Questions About Obstruction, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, July 29, 2023 (print ed). The accusation that former President Trump wanted security footage deleted added to a pattern of concerns about his attempts to stymie prosecutors.

When Robert S. Mueller III, the first special counsel to investigate Donald J. Trump, concluded his investigation into the ties between Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, his report raised questions about whether Mr. Trump had obstructed his inquiry.

Justice Department officials and legal experts were divided about whether there was enough evidence to show Mr. Trump broke the law, and his attorney general — chosen in part because he was skeptical of the investigation — cleared him of wrongdoing.

Four years after Mr. Mueller’s report was released, Jack Smith, the second special counsel to investigate Mr. Trump, added new charges on Thursday to an indictment over his handling of classified documents, setting out evidence of a particularly blatant act of obstruction.

Justice Department log circularThe indictment says that just days after the Justice Department demanded security footage from Mar-a-Lago, his residence and private club in Florida, Mr. Trump told the property manager there that he wanted security camera footage deleted. If proved, it would be a clearer example of criminality than what Mr. Mueller found, according to Andrew Goldstein, the lead investigator on Mr. Mueller’s obstruction investigation.

“Demanding that evidence be destroyed is the most basic form of obstruction and is easy for a jury to understand,” said Mr. Goldstein, who is now a white-collar defense lawyer at the firm Cooley.

“It is more straightforwardly criminal than the obstructive acts we detailed in the Mueller report,” he said. “And if proven, it makes it easier to show that Trump had criminal intent for the rest of the conduct described in the indictment.”

The accusation about Mr. Trump’s desire to have evidence destroyed adds another chapter to what observers of his career say is a long pattern of gamesmanship on his part with prosecutors, regulators and others who have the ability to impose penalties on his conduct.

And it demonstrates how Mr. Trump viewed the conclusion of the Mueller investigation as a vindication of his behavior, which became increasingly emboldened — particularly in regards to the Justice Department — throughout the rest of his presidency, a pattern that appears to have continued despite having lost the protections of the office when he was defeated in the election.

In his memoir of his years in the White House, John R. Bolton, who served as Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, described Mr. Trump’s approach as “obstruction as a way of life.”

was located, and observed and pointed out surveillance cameras.”


djt confidential markings

The warrant authorizing the search of former president Donald Trump’s home said agents were seeking documents possessed in violation of the Espionage Act.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Icing on the cake, Bill Palmer, right, July 29, 2023. One of the reasons a criminal investigation into a crime boss like Donald Trump takes time is that bill palmerwitnesses have to be produced to testify to his guilt in order to get a conviction – and not all witnesses are necessarily looking to do so. For instance Jack Smith appears to have obtained the cooperation of the “Trump Employee 4” named in yesterday’s new criminal charges. But Smith is also clearly looking to get the cooperation of people like Carlos De Oliveira. Since he’s not cooperating, he’s been indicted.

bill palmer report logo headerThis doesn’t mean the story is over when it comes to De Oliveira. In fact the story is just beginning. Up to now he’s presumably been of the belief that Donald Trump could protect him in all this. But that came crashing down yesterday when De Oliveira was hit with criminal charges that’ll put him in prison for much of the rest of his life. All you have to do is read the charging document to see that there’s almost no chance De Oliveira will be acquitted at trial.

The question is how to drive that point home to De Oliveira now, so he relents and cuts a cooperation deal or immunity deal against Trump and the others. One tactic is to simply let the indictment sink in for a moment. Once you’re being arrested, charged, arraigned, and meeting with attorneys every day, you start to realize that this is your life now – and it’ll only get worse once you’re convicted.

To that end, family members and neighbors of De Oliveira are already telling CNN that they think he’s “trapped” in all of this, and that they can’t imagine how he got caught up in it. This is good. It suggests that the people in De Oliveira’s life will be inclined to try to convince him to pull himself back out of it.

With everyone who’s cut a cooperation deal, there was a prior point where they insisted (and maybe even believed) that they would never cut a deal no matter what. But that certainty starts going out the window once your life starts getting ripped to pieces in front of you.

william casey reagan libraryAnd so we wait, because this kind of thing is a waiting game. Jack Smith has from now, until whenever this criminal trial starts, to keep chipping away at Carlos De Oliveira (and for that matter Walt Nauta, right) in the name of getting one or both of them to flip in time to testify against Trump at the trial. The kicker is because there are now two Trump co-defendants, they each now have to consider the possibility that the other might flip first and get the “good” deal.

Relevant Recent Headlines

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More On U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Cancels Space Command Move to Alabama Amid Tuberville Feud, Karoun Demirjian, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden’s decision comes as Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, has held up military promotions to protest an abortion access policy.

President Biden canceled an order by former President Donald J. Trump to move the United States Space Command headquarters to Alabama, prompting an outcry from Republicans who accused him of acting out of political spite amid a fierce partisan standoff over the Pentagon’s abortion access policies.

The decision came as a blockade of military promotions by Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, dragged into its sixth month. Mr. Tuberville has refused to consent to the promotions of senior generals and admirals in protest of a Pentagon policy that reimburses military personnel who have to travel to obtain an abortion or fertility treatments.

House Republicans have also taken aim at the rule, instituted after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion, adding language to the annual defense policy bill to cancel it.

Mr. Biden made his decision after the head of Space Command, Gen. James Dickinson, argued that moving the headquarters to Alabama from its current location in Colorado Springs would hurt military readiness, particularly as the United States is racing to compete with China in space, according to a Defense Department official who spoke about it on the condition of anonymity.

“Locating Headquarters U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs ultimately ensures peak readiness in the space domain for our nation during a critical period,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said, arguing it would “enable the command to most effectively plan, execute and integrate military space power into multi-domain global operations.”

But in a statement, Mr. Tuberville said the reversal, which benefits a Democratic-led state, “looks like blatant patronage politics, and it sets a dangerous precedent that military bases are now to be used as rewards for political supporters rather than for our security.”

Representative Mike D. Rogers of Alabama, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, promised retribution for the decision, pledging to investigate whether administration officials had intentionally manipulated the selection process.

“It’s clear that far-left politics, not national security, was the driving force behind this decision,” Mr. Rogers said in a statement. “This fight is far from over.”

In the final days of his White House tenure, in January 2021, Mr. Trump ordered that Space Command, which was established in 2019 and temporarily placed in Colorado, move to a permanent home in Alabama. After Mr. Biden took office, his administration reviewed the decision, but a final determination as to the permanent location of the command’s headquarters was delayed, while lawmakers squabbled over the extent to which Mr. Trump had selected Alabama merely to reward a deeply Republican state.

“Over the past two and half years, we have repeatedly made the case that the Trump administration’s decision to relocate U.S. Space Command was misguided,” Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, said in a statement. “Today’s decision restores integrity to the Pentagon’s basing process and sends a strong message that national security and the readiness of our armed forces drive our military decisions.”

Alabama lawmakers and their supporters in the Republican Party take an opposing view. They have long argued that Mr. Trump’s decision to place the command in Alabama settled the matter, and believed that senior military commanders were on their side. In a bid to prevent Space Command from becoming entrenched in Colorado while Mr. Biden made his decision, Republicans in the House included language in their version of the annual defense bill forbidding the military from spending any money on construction of Space Command facilities until the Biden administration made a decision about the headquarters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Radicalization of the Young Right, Michelle Goldberg, right, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In December 2021, the podcast “Know Your Enemy” — michelle goldberg thumbbilled as a leftist’s guide to the conservative movement — welcomed Nate Hochman, a young man whom the host Sam Adler-Bell described as “the boy wonder of the new right.”

At the time, Hochman was a 23-year-old National Review writer who’d already cycled through several of the prestigious fellowships available to aspiring young conservative intellectuals. (He’d later contribute to The New York Times.) Matthew Sitman, Adler-Bell’s co-host and a former conservative himself, considered Hochman a friend, and on the podcast, Hochman mostly came across as thoughtful and reasonable, eager to find the places where left- and right-leaning critics of liberalism agree.

When Sitman condemned the right’s cruelty toward trans people, Hochman conceded some of his points. “Do I love the way that some people on the right talk about sensitive culture issues surrounding stuff like transgenderism always? No,” said Hochman. “Could we use more empathy and humility in the way that we approach these questions? Absolutely.”

In March, Hochman went to work for Ron DeSantis, who at the time still looked like the most viable standard-bearer for a post-Trump Republican Party. But last week, Hochman was fired from DeSantis’s ailing presidential campaign after tweeting out a video ending with the candidate’s face superimposed over a sonnenrad, a Nazi symbol. It soon emerged that Hochman hadn’t simply shared the spot, which mixed message-board memes and media headlines like “Florida City Cancels L.G.B.T.Q.+ Pride Parade as Ron DeSantis Prepares to Sign Anti-Drag Bill.” As Axios reported, he’d secretly created it.

Though the video’s imagery is clearly fascist — the sonnenrad, or sunwheel, is flanked by two rows of marching soldiers — Hochman has said that he didn’t know what the symbol meant. Given that he is Jewish, I’m inclined to believe that rather than being a covert Nazi, Hochman is simply a callow young man immersed in a milieu in which fascist idioms are so commonplace they can be picked up inadvertently. But whatever his motives, his trajectory from conservative intellectual wunderkind to disgraced troll tells us quite a bit about the culture of the young right.



Washington Post, Overstock is now Bed Bath & Beyond. Here’s what you need to know, Jaclyn Peiser, Aug. 1, 2023. Overstock officially swaps its name out for Bed Bath & Beyond. Shoppers searching for either retailer online will wind up on the same landing page.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meet PublicSq., the ‘anti-woke’ marketplace backed by Donald Trump Jr., Taylor Telford, Aug. 1, 2023. The ‘Pro-American’ digital marketplace has had a surge of interest as brands like Target and Bud Light have faced boycotts and backlash.

Jim Schneider, co-founder of sunglasses brand Zivah, knows his company could probably reach more customers if he sold his products on Amazon, but he isn’t interested. Zivah has found success as an early adopter of PublicSq., an online marketplace that bills itself as an alternative to “woke” corporations espousing liberal values.

Zivah (a name that comes from the Hebrew word for “light of God”) sells high-end sunglasses with names like “Glisten” and “Dazzle.” Each one bears a scripture on the inside of the temple. “In a world that seems so polarized, you see the world through a different lens,” Zivah’s website declares.

“Our target consumer really is someone who supports American values, who does not want to support a company that’s gone woke, who does not want to support a company that’s supporting abortions,” Schneider told The Washington Post. (Amazon has joined other large companies in offering to cover employees’ travel expenses for abortion and other non-life-threatening medical treatment if they don’t have access at home.) Since Zivah joined PublicSq. last year, the platform “has definitely become our biggest source of new customers,” Schneider said.

Washington Post, Limit FBI’s access to powerful spy tool, White House panel says, Ellen Nakashima and Tim Starks, Aug. 1, 2023.

washington post logoWashington Post, After massive Hungarian passport fraud, U.S. tightens travel restrictions, Loveday Morris, Aug. 1, 2023. The United States on Tuesday said it would restrict access for Hungarians to its visa-waiver program amid concerns that foreign nationals have used fraudulently obtained passports to enter the country.

Hungarians will only be able to enter the country once during a single year following the online screening process that allows for visa-free travel, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary announced. Citizens of other countries in the 40-member visa-free travel program are generally entitled to multiple visits over a two-year period with no need to apply again.

“It is an unfortunate decision in response to the inaction of the government of Hungary to respond to serious security concerns which we have been engaging on over many years and multiple administrations,” said U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman.

The move comes against the backdrop of an increasingly fractious relationship between Hungary and the United States over Budapest’s stance during the Ukraine war, and amid heightened fears about Russian espionage in the West.

The abuse of Hungarian passports has been a long-running concern of the United States. A Department of Homeland Security document from 2018 showed that at that point, about 700 non-Hungarians had fraudulently obtained passports and assumed fake identities, with at least 65 of them entering the United States through the visa-waiver program.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Spoke With Son’s Associates, but Not About Business, Former Partner Says, Luke Broadwater, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Republicants accused President Biden of lying, while Democrats said the testimony showed that Hunter Biden was selling the illusion of access to his father.

President Biden met with and spoke to his son Hunter’s international business associates on a number of occasions over a decade as Hunter Biden sought to drum up consulting deals, including while his father was vice president, his former business partner told Congress on Monday.

However, in nearly five hours of closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Devon Archer, the former partner, asserted that the elder Mr. Biden was not party to any of his son’s business deals and that Hunter Biden had tried to sell the illusion that he was providing access to his powerful father when he was not, according to Democrats on the panel.

Mr. Archer’s testimony, which he provided in response to a subpoena, was the latest bit of evidence in an investigation by House Republicans into Hunter Biden’s business dealings and conduct. Republicans have claimed repeatedly — and so far without proof — that the investigations implicate the president in corruption and crimes.

Republicans pointed to the interview as evidence that President Biden had lied when he claimed he had no involvement in his son’s business dealings, and some said that was grounds for impeaching the elder Mr. Biden.

Mr. Archer told lawmakers during the session that Hunter Biden had put his father on speakerphone to talk to his business partners about 20 times over a decade, according to both Republicans and Democrats in the room.

Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the Oversight Committee, said Mr. Archer had testified that Mr. Biden was put on the phone to sell “the brand.” The phone calls were made during a range of events, including a dinner in Paris with a French energy company and another in China with the executive of an investment fund, Mr. Comer said.

“Devon Archer’s testimony today confirms Joe Biden lied to the American people when he said he had no knowledge about his son’s business dealings and was not involved,” Mr. Comer said in a statement.

But Democrats said that Mr. Archer had described the conversations in which the elder Mr. Biden participated as short and casual — about topics like the weather — and his interactions as little more than stopping by a dinner or a hotel for a brief handshake or a few pleasantries over the phone.

“The witness was very, very consistent that none of those conversations ever had to do with any business dealings or transactions,” said Representative Dan Goldman, Democrat of New York and a member of the Oversight Committee who participated in the interview. “They were purely what he called ‘casual conversation.’”

Politico, An ex-Hunter Biden business associate told lawmakers that the First Son put his father on the phone during multiple dinners for “casual” chats, Jordain Carney, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Devon Archer’s account was confirmed by two House Oversight Committee members in the meeting.

politico CustomEx-Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer told House Oversight Committee members on Monday that Hunter Biden had put his father on the phone while out at dinner on multiple occasions — but that the conversations were “niceties.”

Reps. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) confirmed Archer’s remarks to lawmakers during a closed-door interview. According to Hunter Biden’s former longtime business partner, the phone calls happened roughly 20 times over 10 years.

“Hunter spoke to his father every day, and approximately 20 times over the course of a 10-year relationship, Hunter may have put his father on the phone with any number of different people. And they never once spoke about any business dealings. … It was all casual conversation, niceties, the weather, what’s going on,” Goldman told reporters.

Who was on the other end? Goldman added that, according to Archer, Hunter Biden would “occasionally would put his father on to say hello to whomever he happened to be caught at dinner with.”

Per Goldman, Archer said that sometimes Joe Biden got put on the phone with Hunter Biden’s business associates, and at other times the now-president spoke with individuals his son knew in a more personal capacity.

The GOP readout: Biggs echoed Goldman’s recollection of the interview, while adding that Archer described the ability to get Joe Biden on the phone as a gesture designed to show “power” and “substance.”

Goldman confirmed that Archer said Hunter Biden was “selling the illusion of access to his father.” Goldman added that Hunter Biden, according to Archer, “tried to get credit for things that Mr. Archer testified Hunter had nothing to do with.”

“When Vice President Biden went to Ukraine on his own … Hunter said, ‘Well, let’s tell them that I have no idea what is going to happen, but I can take credit for the fact that he is going.’ He was not involved in any of that at all, but he was trying to get credit with Burisma on behalf of actions that his father took that were completely unrelated,” Goldman added.

What else they said: While Goldman and Biggs offered similar recollections of Archer’s comments on the phone calls, the two lawmakers differed beyond that.

According to Goldman, Archer told the committee that Ukrainian gas company Burisma saw the nation’s prosecutor general Viktor Shokin — whom then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed to fire from his post — as “in their pocket” and under company control.

According to Biggs, however, Archer said he didn’t have direct knowledge of Burisma’s view of Shokin.

Biggs also said that Archer told the committee that Burisma would have gone under without involvement of the “Biden brand,” which made it less likely that the Ukrainian company would face legal pressure. Biggs said he asked Archer to clarify what the “Biden brand” meant — and that Archer responded: Joe Biden.

Goldman said that Archer clarified that, after Biggs left the room, saying that Hunter Biden had a D.C. brand.



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ny times logoNew York Times, The Secret History of Gun Rights: How Lawmakers Armed the N.R.A., Mike McIntire, July 31, 2023 (print ed.). They served in Congress and on the N.R.A.’s board at the same time. Over decades, a small group of legislators led by a prominent Democrat pushed the gun lobby to help transform the law, the courts and views on the Second Amendment.

Long before the National Rifle Association tightened its grip on Congress, won over the Supreme Court and prescribed more guns as a solution to gun violence — before all that, Representative John D. Dingell Jr. had a plan.

First jotted on a yellow legal pad in 1975, it would transform the N.R.A. from a fusty club of sportsmen into a lobbying juggernaut that would enforce elected officials’ allegiance, derail legislation behind the scenes, redefine the legal landscape and deploy “all available resources at every level to influence the decision making process.”

“An organization with as many members, and as many potential resources, both financial and influential within its ranks, should not have to go 2d or 3d Class in a fight for survival,” Mr. Dingell wrote, advocating a new aggressive strategy. “It should go First Class.”

To understand the ascendancy of gun culture in America, the files of Mr. Dingell, a powerful Michigan Democrat who died in 2019, are a good place to start. That is because he was not just a politician — he simultaneously sat on the N.R.A.’s board of directors, positioning him to influence firearms policy as well as the private lobbying force responsible for shaping it.

And he was not alone. Mr. Dingell was one of at least nine senators and representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, with the same dual role over the last half-century — lawmaker-directors who helped the N.R.A. accumulate and exercise unrivaled power.

Their actions are documented in thousands of pages of records obtained by The New York Times, through a search of lawmakers’ official archives, the papers of other N.R.A. directors and court cases. The files, many of them only recently made public, reveal a secret history of how the nation got to where it is now.

Over decades, politics, money and ideology altered gun culture, reframed the Second Amendment to embrace ever broader gun rights and opened the door to relentless marketing driven by fear rather than sport. With more than 400 million firearms in civilian hands today and mass shootings now routine, Americans are bitterly divided over what the right to bear arms should mean.

The lawmakers, far from the stereotype of pliable politicians meekly accepting talking points from lobbyists, served as leaders of the N.R.A., often prodding it to action. At seemingly every hint of a legislative threat, they stepped up, the documents show, helping erect a firewall that impedes gun control today.

Over decades, a small group of legislators led by a prominent Democrat pushed the gun lobby to help transform the law, the courts and views on the Second Amendment.


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ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Party Switch that Blew Up North Carolina Politics, Kate Kelly and David Perlmutt, July 31, 2023 (print ed.). Tricia Cotham, a Democrat who supported abortion rights, was encouraged to run for a state House seat by powerful Republicans. Once elected, she joined them.

When Tricia Cotham, a former Democratic lawmaker, was considering another run for the North Carolina House of Representatives, she turned to a powerful party leader for advice. Then, when she jumped into the Democratic primary, she was encouraged by still other formidable allies.

She won the primary in a redrawn district near Charlotte, and then triumphed in the November general election by 18 percentage points, a victory that helped Democrats lock in enough seats to prevent, by a single vote, a Republican supermajority in the state House.

Except what was unusual — and not publicly known at the time — was that the influential people who had privately encouraged Ms. Cotham to run were Republicans, not Democrats. One was Tim Moore, the redoubtable Republican speaker of the state House. Another was John Bell, the Republican majority leader.

“I encouraged her to run because she was a really good member when she served before,” Mr. Bell recalled in an interview.

Three months after Ms. Cotham took office in January, she delivered a mortal shock to Democrats and to abortion rights supporters: She switched parties, and then cast a decisive vote on May 3 to override a veto by the state’s Democratic governor and enact a 12-week limit on most abortions — North Carolina’s most restrictive abortion policy in 50 years.

Overnight, Ms. Cotham became a heroine to Republicans and anti-abortion advocates across the country, even as Democrats vilified her as a traitor whose unexpected party flip had changed health care policy in a politically purple state of more than 10 million people.

More perplexing to many Democrats was why she did it. Ms. Cotham came from a family with strong ties to the Democratic Party, campaigned as a progressive on social issues and had even co-sponsored a bill to codify a version of Roe v. Wade into North Carolina law.

Interviews with former and current political allies depict her as someone who had grown alienated from Democratic Party officials and ideals. Republican leaders cultivated her before she ran and, seeing her growing estrangement, seized a chance to coax her across party lines.

Before the switch, Ms. Cotham chafed at what she perceived as a lack of support from other Democrats. Once she was elected, Mr. Moore said, he made it clear that she would be welcomed by Republicans.

“Never in my life did I think that one person could have that kind of impact, that will affect the lives of thousands of people for years to come,” said Ann Newman, a Democratic activist in Ms. Cotham’s district. Ms. Newman recently asked for — and received — a refund of the $250 she had donated to Ms. Cotham’s 2022 campaign.

Her change of parties has left many of Ms. Cotham’s constituents feeling angry and betrayed, and has allowed Republicans to flex the power of their new supermajority well beyond the abortion issue, overturning a string of vetoes by the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, including six on June 27 alone.

Ms. Cotham, 44, has defended her switch and said she had delivered on many promises she made to voters.

“I campaigned on Medicaid expansion,” she said in a statement to The New York Times. “I campaigned on supporting children, housing, safer communities, a strong economy and increasing health care options. I’ve done all of this and more.”
Yet there is no question that Ms. Cotham has dealt a grievous blow to Democratic policy goals in North Carolina.

Late in March, just a few days before switching parties, she skipped a pivotal gun-control vote, helping Republicans loosen gun restrictions in the state. After she became a Republican, she sponsored a bill to expand student eligibility for private-school vouchers, voted to ban gender-affirming care for minors and voted to outlaw discussions of race or gender in state job interviews.

“This switch has been absolutely devastating,” said state Representative Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats worry their most loyal voters won’t turn out for Biden in 2024, Colby Itkowitz, Sabrina Rodriguez and Michael Scherer, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Democrats are worried about a potential drop next year in turnout among Black voters, the party’s most loyal constituency, who played a consequential role in delivering the White House to President Biden in 2020 and will be crucial in his bid for reelection.

dnc square logoTheir concern stems from a 10 percentage-point decline in Black voter turnout in last year’s midterms compared with 2018, a bigger drop than among any other racial or ethnic group, according to a Washington Post analysis of the Census Bureau’s turnout survey. Such warning signals were initially papered over by other Democratic successes in 2022: The party picked up a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock won reelection in Georgia and anticipated losses in the House were minimal.

But in key states like Georgia, the center of Democrats’ plans to mobilize Black voters in large margins for Biden in 2024, turnout in last year’s midterms was much lower among younger and male Black voters, according to internal party analysis.

The drop in Black turnout has become a focus for Democratic leaders as the party reorients to next year’s presidential contest. Biden’s election in 2020 hinged on narrow victories in states like Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that former president Donald Trump had won in 2016. Democratic activists are cautioning that the party can’t afford to let support from Black voters slip.

W. Mondale Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project, shared a dire assessment of Democrats’ potential turnout problems with Black men. In many of the battleground states, he said many Black men are “sporadic or non-voters,” meaning they are registered, but have voted in one or none of the past three presidential elections. Robinson said Democrats spend too much time focused on converting “conservative-leaning White women” in the suburbs who they see as swing voters. Instead, he said, they should focus more on turning out Black men, viewing them as swing voters who are debating whether to vote or stay home.

“The Democratic Party has been failing epically at reaching this demographic of Black men — and that’s sad to say,” Robinson said. “Black men are your second-most stable base overwhelmingly, and yet you can’t reach them in a way that makes your work easier.”

Biden’s political team says it has received the message and is taking action, especially among younger Black men.

“We have to meet them where they are and we have to show them why the political process matters and what we have accomplished that benefits them,” said Cedric L. Richmond, a former Biden adviser who is now a senior adviser at the Democratic National Committee. He said there will be a clear focus on making Black voters aware of how they have benefited from Biden administration policies, learning from the errors of past Democratic efforts that fell short.

“We will not make the mistake that others made of not drawing all the connections,” he said.

Black voter advocates say the challenge is particularly acute among Black men, many of whom say they feel alienated from the political process and were hurt by policies pushed by both parties that led to increased incarceration and a decline in manufacturing jobs decades ago. Many say their lives haven’t improved regardless of which party was in power, and are dispirited after the country elected Trump, life was upended by a global pandemic and violence worsened in urban areas.

Many Democrats interviewed said they were less worried about Black women, whose voting enthusiasm has historically been more robust than that of Black men. Black women were a huge factor in Biden’s victory in 2020. Advocates expect that trend to continue, particularly with Vice President Harris on the ticket and the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who both made history as the first Black women in their roles.

Terrance Woodbury, chief executive of HIT Strategies, a polling firm focused on young, non-White voters, has been shopping around a PowerPoint presentation to liberal groups warning of the need to act soon to convince Black voters that they have benefited from Biden’s time in office.

Part of the problem, he argues, is that the party’s focus on Trump and Republican extremism is less likely to motivate younger Black men than arguments focused on policy benefits. The messaging, he has argued, must focus on how Black communities have benefited from specific policies.


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ny times logoNew York Times, The Struggle to Save Portland, Michael Corkery, July 30, 2023 (print ed.). One man’s story shows how the Oregon city’s progressive identity is being challenged by the dual problems of fentanyl and homelessness.

Come to Portland, his sister said. It’s green and beautiful, people are friendly and there are plenty of jobs.

In 2018, Anthony Saldana took his sister’s advice. He left Las Vegas, where he was working in a casino, and moved to a Portland suburb.

He rented an apartment and got a job at Home Depot. Mr. Saldana, though, never quite found his footing. By early 2021, he was living in a tent, under a tree on the edge of a highway in Portland.

He wouldn’t let his sister, Kaythryn Richardson, visit him and shared only a few details with her about his life on the streets. He told her about the “bad people” terrorizing him and about the Disney movies he had watched to drown out the chaos that was slowly pulling him under.

“Hello sister,” he texted last October. “I’m hurting.”

All of Portland, it seems, has been trying to figure out what has been happening to people like Mr. Saldana, and to Portland itself.

This city of 635,000, home to the world’s largest bookstore and majestic views of snowcapped Mount Hood, has long grappled with homelessness. But during the pandemic this perennial problem turned into an especially desperate and sometimes deadly crisis that is dividing Portland over how to fix it.

While other cities in the West, like San Diego and Phoenix, face similar issues, the suffering on Portland’s streets has dealt a singular challenge to the city’s identity as a liberal bastion that prides itself on embracing transplants from across the country.

In 2022, Portland experienced a spate of homicides and other violence involving homeless victims that rattled many in the community: a 42-year-old homeless woman shot in the face by two teenagers who were hunting rats with a pellet gun; a 26-year-old homeless woman stabbed in the chest outside her tent; another homeless woman, 31, fatally shot at close range by a stranger.

The search for answers points in many directions — to city and county officials who allowed tents on the streets because the government had little to offer in the way of housing, to Oregon voters who backed decriminalizing hard drugs and to the unrest that rocked Portland in 2020 and left raw scars.

But what has turbocharged the city’s troubles in recent years is fentanyl, the deadly synthetic drug, which has transformed long standing problems into a profound test of the Portland ethos.

Outreach workers in Portland say rampant fentanyl use has coincided with the increasing turmoil among many homeless residents.

Doctors who care for people living on the streets say fentanyl addiction is proving harder to treat than many other dependencies.

Yet, as they have for years, legions of volunteers — professionals, recovering addicts and anarchists — routinely hand out sandwiches, wound kits and clementines around the encampments. Those volunteers include people like Jakob Hollenbeck, 23, who last year befriended a group camped out across the street from his house in Portland’s upscale Pearl District.

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U.S. Economy, Jobs, Student Loans

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Goldilocks and the Bidenomics Bears, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). It’s hard to overstate how good the U.S. economic news paul krugmanhas been lately. It was so good that it didn’t just raise hopes for the future; it led to widespread rethinking of the past. Basically, Bidenomics, widely reviled and ridiculed a year ago, looks a lot better in retrospect. It’s starting to look as if the administration got it mostly right, after all.

About the economic news: First up was the employment report for June, which didn’t just show continuing solid job growth. It showed that once you adjust for population aging, the employed share of American adults is at its highest level in decades.

It’s still too soon to be sure that we’ll manage to pull off a soft landing, but the prospects for getting inflation under control without a recession have never looked better.

This is all great news. But why should it make us reconsider the past?

Well, when Covid disrupted the economy, it was clear to everyone except the most extreme laissez-faire types that the government needed to step in to limit the economic pain. Indeed, the CARES Act, enacted in 2020 under Donald Trump, was remarkably generous. In fact, it looked more or less as if it had been written by Democrats, which, to a large extent, it was.

The next big fiscal package, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, was far more controversial. The economy had not yet fully bounced back from Covid, so there was a strong case for doing something. But how much? Do too little and the economy might run cold, failing to achieve full recovery — as many economists now believe it did for many years after the 2008 financial crisis. Do too much and the economy might overheat, leading to excessive inflation.

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Climate, Environment, Disasters, Transportation, Energy

 climate change photo

New York Times, A Deadly Summer for Hikers in the Southwest, Jacey Fortin, Aug. 1, 2023. At least seven heat-related deaths are suspected in state and national parks during a record-breaking heat wave.

For hikers in the American Southwest, this searing hot summer has been an exceptionally dangerous one.

A teenager collapsed at Big Bend National Park in Texas in late June, while his stepfather crashed a car as he sought help. Both died. A woman never finished her trek along a remote trail last month in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. And two people visiting Death Valley in California perished during some of hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth.

Altogether, national and state parks have reported at least seven possible heat-related deaths so far this summer, as a brutal heat wave has baked the Southwest. Data on hiking fatalities is spotty, and officials caution that causes for the recent deaths have not been confirmed. But the deaths would appear to be the most for the months of June and July in at least a decade.

The losses provide a glimpse of how climate change is reshaping the environment within some of America’s most popular parks, and of the risks that hikers encounter among iconic sights on increasingly hot and dry trails.

“We’re seeing this enormous spike of these really tragic events right now,” said Dr. Grant Lipman, a former professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine who founded GOES Health, an app for people seeking medical information in the wilderness.

washington post logoWashington Post, When every day somewhere is a climate record of some sort, William Booth, Aug. 1, 2023. July was the world’s hottest month. This may also be one of the coolest summers you will experience for the rest of your life.

News of the hottest June was quickly eclipsed by the declaration of Earth’s hottest day, a record that would be broken 16 more times before the end of July, which registered as Earth’s hottest month.

We are living through Earth’s hottest month on record, scientists say

And it’s not going to end, really. We are on a streak.

For decades to come, under almost all scenarios, climate scientists say we should be prepared to see records shattered so frequently, so routinely, that the statistics and the superlatives — warmest, wettest, lowest, driest — might melt together in the public mind like asphalt in August.

ny times logoNew York Times, Phoenix’s Month in Hell: 31 Days of Extreme Heat Test the City, Jack Healy, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A continuous stretch of days reaching or exceeding 110 degrees has filled emergency rooms and even withered the mighty saguaro cactus.

Patients with heat stroke and burns from the asphalt are swamping hospitals. Air-conditioners are breaking down at homeless shelters. The medical examiner’s office is deploying trailer-sized coolers to store bodies, for the first time since the early days of Covid.

For 31 straight days — from the last day of June through Sunday, the second-to-last day of July — Phoenix has hit at least 110 degrees, not merely breaking its 18-day record in 1974, but setting a significant new one. The city smashed through another record last week, racking up the most 115-degree days ever in a calendar year, part of a global heat wave that made July Earth’s hottest month on record.

This has been Phoenix’s July in hell — an entire month of merciless heat that has ground down people’s health and patience in the city of 1.6 million, while also straining a regionwide campaign to protect homeless people and older residents who are most vulnerable.

“I’m so sick of this,” Rae Hicks, 45, said this past week as she sat with her 7-year-old son on the floor of a clammy cooling center in Tempe, their suitcases clustered around them.

It was 118 degrees outside, and they had nowhere to stay after the center closed down that evening, like thousands of other people around Phoenix left homeless by rising rents and a resurgence of evictions. The record heat has made their summer a desperate game of survival — bouncing between libraries, supermarkets and relief centers during the day, and sleeping in motels, cars or shelter beds at night to avoid the scorching streets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Heat Is Costing the U.S. Economy Billions in Lost Productivity, Coral Davenport, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). From meatpackers to home health aides, workers are struggling in sweltering temperatures and productivity is taking a hit.

As much of the United States swelters under record heat, Amazon drivers and warehouse workers have gone on strike in part to protest working conditions that can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

On triple-digit days in Orlando, utility crews are postponing checks for gas leaks, since digging outdoors dressed in heavy safety gear could endanger their lives. Even in Michigan, on the nation’s northern border, construction crews are working shortened days because of heat.

Now that climate change has raised the Earth’s temperatures to the highest levels in recorded history, with projections showing that they will only climb further, new research shows the impact of heat on workers is spreading across the economy and lowering productivity.

Extreme heat is regularly affecting workers beyond expected industries like agriculture and construction. Sizzling temperatures are causing problems for those who work in factories, warehouses and restaurants and also for employees of airlines and telecommunications firms, delivery services and energy companies. Even home health aides are running into trouble.

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More On U.S. Supreme Court



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washington post logoWashington Post, Alito says Congress has no authority to police Supreme Court ethics, Robert Barnes, July 29, 2023 (print ed.). Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., above, said in an interview published Friday that Congress has no authority to impose an ethics policy on the Supreme Court, and he hinted that other justices share his view.

In a piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal opinions section, Alito noted that he and other justices voluntarily comply with disclosure statutes, but he said mandating an ethics code would be beyond Congress’s powers.

“I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” Alito said. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”

Asked if other justices agree, Alito replied: “I don’t know that any of my colleagues have spoken about it publicly, so I don’t think I should say. But I think it is something we have all thought about.” Allegations of ethics breaches among the justices and reports of luxurious vacations paid for by private benefactors — including a fishing trip to Alaska for Alito — have put the court in the spotlight recently. Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act, which seeks to impose on the court disclosure rules as strict as those governing members of the House and the Senate.

It is unusual for a justice to comment so definitively on the constitutionality of legislation, especially when bills are under consideration, and any law that is passed could come before the court.

The Journal article, headlined “Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court’s Plain-Spoken Defender,” was notable for another reason: It was written in part by David B. Rivkin Jr., a Washington lawyer well-known in conservative legal circles, who has an upcoming case before the court. Rivkin parenthetically disclosed that in the piece, writing that he and his law partner Andrew Grossman represent a couple in Moore v. U.S., a tax dispute the Supreme Court will hear in the coming term.

Rivkin and Journal editorial features editor James Taranto noted that Alito has now spoken with them “on the record for four hours in two wide-ranging sessions,” one in April in Alito’s chambers and the other in early July in the Journal’s New York offices.

The court granted Rivkin’s petition to hear Moore v. U.S. at the end of June.

As the subject of Supreme Court ethics has taken a more urgent tone, it has also acquired a partisan sheen, with Republicans saying the call for stronger ethics and disclosure rules is a ploy to delegitimize an increasingly conservative court because liberals disagree with its decisions. That division seems to doom the ethics bill’s chances in the Senate, and there is no interest among Republican leaders of the House in pushing such legislation.

Constitutional scholars who testified before the Senate committee split on the role Congress may play in prescribing the ethical responsibilities of a separate branch of government, although there is no dispute about Congress’s authority regarding federal courts below the Supreme Court.


 Members of the Supreme Court pose for a portrait in 2022. With the limits on how justices can make money, book deals have long been enticing (New York Times photo by

Members of the Supreme Court pose for a portrait in 2022. With the limits on how justices can make money, book deals have long been enticing (New York Times photo by Erin Schaff).

ny times logoNew York Times, More Income for the Supreme Court: Million-Dollar Book Deals, Steve Eder, Abbie VanSickle and Elizabeth A. Harris, July 28, 2023 (print ed.). The deals have become highly lucrative for the justices, including for those who used court staff members to help research and promote their books.

Only three months into Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first Supreme Court term, she announced a book deal negotiated by the same powerhouse lawyer who represented the Obamas and James Patterson.

The deal was worth about $3 million, according to people familiar with the agreement, and made Justice Jackson the latest Supreme Court justice to parlay her fame into a big book contract.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch had made $650,000 for a book of essays and personal reflections on the role of judges, while Justice Amy Coney Barrett received a $2 million advance for her forthcoming book about keeping personal feelings out of judicial rulings. Those newer justices joined two of their more senior colleagues, Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, in securing payments that eclipse their government salaries.

In recent months reports by ProPublica, The New York Times and others have highlighted a lack of transparency at the Supreme Court, as well as the absence of a binding ethics code for the justices. The reports have centered on Justice Thomas’s travels and relationships with wealthy benefactors, in addition to a luxury fishing trip by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. with a Republican megadonor and the lucrative legal recruiting work of the wife of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

The book deals are not prohibited under the law, and income from the advances and royalties are reported on the justices’ annual financial disclosure forms. But the deals have become highly lucrative for the justices, including for those who have used court staff members to help research and promote their books.

Earlier this year, Justice Jackson confirmed her publishing agreement with an imprint of Penguin Random House for her forthcoming memoir, “Lovely One.” But like her colleagues, her first public acknowledgment of the financial arrangement behind the deal is likely to be in her future annual financial disclosures. The New York Times learned the rough dollar amount of her advance, a figure that had not previously been disclosed, from people familiar with the deal.

Justice Sotomayor has received about $3.7 million total for a memoir documenting her path from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench and her children’s books. The justice’s administrative court staff urged organizers of events where her books were sold to buy more copies, according to a recent report in The Associated Press, which cited public records.

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More on Russia, Ukraine

ny times logoNew York Times, Ukraine is racing to scale up its drone fleet and attack more frequently in Russia, a Times analysis of video evidence found, Christiaan Triebert, Haley Willis, Yelyzaveta Kovtun and Alexander Cardia, Aug. 1, 2023. Officials in Ukraine rarely discuss attacks on targets inside Russia, including Moscow. But video evidence shows an increasing effort to launch long-range strikes inside the country.

At least three different Ukrainian-made drones have been used in attacks inside Russia, including Moscow, according to an analysis by The New York Times, indicating a Ukrainian role in strikes that the government in Kyiv has long shrouded in mystery.

Ukrainian officials have declined to claim or deny responsibility for drone strikes on Russian territory. But the three drone models, which appear capable of flying hundreds of miles from Ukraine to Moscow, were used in strikes in Russia.

The Times analysis, based on flight footage, images of prototypes and wreckage on the ground, as well as interviews with experts and officials, also found that Ukraine is racing to scale up its homegrown drone fleet, and to attack more frequently in Russia.

Public glimpses of Ukraine’s long-range drone industry are rare: One of the few appeared months ago, in the profile of a popular 23-year-old Ukrainian influencer who had been raising money for the war effort.

ny times logoNew York Times, Drone Hits Moscow Building Housing Ministries for Second Time in Two Days, Staff Reports, Aug. 1, 2023. Russian officials blamed Ukraine, which has made it increasingly clear it would target symbolic and military-related sites deep inside Russia.

Russia said a drone hit the same building in central Moscow for the second time in 48 hours, blaming Ukraine, which has made it increasingly clear it would target symbolic and military-related sites deep inside Russia.

Two other drones were shot down on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. Moscow’s mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, said a third drone hit the 21st floor of a tower damaged in a strike over the weekend.

Ukraine does not generally confirm or deny responsibility for attacks within Russia’s borders, but President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials have signaled in recent days that strikes inside Russia are part of Kyiv’s strategy. Video of the overnight attacks early Tuesday strongly suggested that a drone used in the attack was one of the Ukrainian-made long-range models identified by The New York Times.

Ukrainian officials have become more open in their view that targets inside Russia are legitimate.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • Central Moscow is hit for the second time in two days in a drone attack.
  • Ukraine is moving to export its grain through Croatia’s ports.
  • Extensive minefields impede Ukraine’s counteroffensive, military experts say.

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin’s Crackdown Leaves Transgender Russians Bracing for Worse, Neil MacFarquhar and Georgy Birger, Aug. 1, 2023. A new law underscores how Vladimir Putin is using the war in Ukraine as justification for greater restrictions on L.G.B.T.Q. life.

Jan Dvorkin had raised and nurtured his adopted son in Moscow for seven years until, one day in May, the Russian authorities notified him they were revoking custody. A woman Mr. Dvorkin knew had filed an official complaint, saying that because he was transgender and gay, he was an unfit parent.

When Mr. Dvorkin asked the woman why she had reported him, she told him he had brought it on himself, and “that I could have easily avoided it by staying in the closet.”

He managed to find another family to take the boy, who is deaf, so that the child would not be sent to an orphanage.

Mr. Dvorkin’s experience underscores the increasingly repressive treatment gay and transgender people are subjected to across Russia — a hardship that seems certain to grow as the government leverages the war in Ukraine as justification for greater restrictions on L.G.B.T.Q. life.

The latest crackdown came last week when President Vladimir V. Putin signed a law that criminalized all surgery and hormone treatments used for gender transitions.

That law comes on top of a measure enacted last December prohibiting the representation of L.G.B.T.Q. relationships in any media — streaming services, social platforms, books, music, posters, billboards and film.

Critics, including legal and medical professionals and gay rights activists, view the campaign as an effort to distract from Russia’s military failings in Ukraine — by creating a boogeyman it can portray as a threat from a deviant and corrupt West.

“It is a common practice to look for internal enemies when their external enemy turns out to be tougher than expected,” Mr. Dvorkin, 32, said in an interview from Moscow. “With no success on the front line, Putin found an easy enemy, a vulnerable group whom he can defeat in Russia.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Construction to break German dependence on Russian gas is hitting a snag: bombs from old wars, Catie Edmondson, Aug. 1, 2023. The choreography of finding and clearing unexploded, decades-old munitions has become routine on Germany’s northern coast.

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, the port at Wilhelmshaven has emerged as a critical hub for German efforts to break the country’s dependence on Russian energy. It is there, on the North Sea coast, that officials would like to build a giant new terminal to import liquefied natural gas from other sources.

There is just one problem that has slowed the plans: the construction site is littered with bombs from previous wars.

History is never far below the surface in Germany. Residents are frequently evacuated — sometimes by the thousands — when unexploded munitions are discovered at construction sites and need to be defused. As Germany tries to shore up its energy independence, unexploded wartime munitions have set back the construction of new wind farms and natural gas terminals alike.

But the situation at Wilhelmshaven is particularly acute, serving as a costly reminder of how the relics of past conflicts can complicate efforts to respond to the current one.

ny times logoNew York Times, Missiles Strike Zelensky’s Hometown a Day After His Warning to Russia, Staff Reports, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Kryvyi Rih, in central Ukraine, was attacked hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the war was “returning to the territory of Russia.”

Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, was attacked hours after he warned that the war was “returning to the territory of Russia.”

A day after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine appeared to warn of more attacks inside Russia, two Russian missiles slammed into a residential building and university complex in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih on Monday, killing at least five people and injuring dozens of others, Ukrainian officials said.

The unusually pointed warning from Ukraine’s leader followed a series of apparent Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory, suggesting that Kyiv would try to match Russia’s tactic of striking far from the front lines. But Russia’s weapons have proved far deadlier for civilians, as they were again on Monday in Kryvyi Rih, Mr. Zelensky’s steel-producing hometown.

Shortly after the attack, Mr. Zelensky posted video from the scene that showed smoke pouring out of a building that had a gaping hole where several upper floors had been. Hours later he said that “difficult” rescue operations were ongoing and that it appeared Russia had used ballistic missiles in the strike.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  • A Russian missile strike kills 5 people in Kryvyi Rih.
  • Saudi Arabia will host talks about Ukraine’s peace plan, diplomats say.
  • A new recording says that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group will stop recruiting.
  • Ukraine boosts its fuel supply before winter.
  • Extensive minefields impede Ukraine’s counteroffensive, military experts say.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 5 dead, 53 injured after missile attack on Zelensky’s hometown, Jennifer Hassan and Lyric Li, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Emergency services in Kryvyi Rih are working to rescue those buried under the rubble, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Spending Boom Fuels Russia’s Wartime Economy, Raising Bubble Fears, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Economic strength has helped maintain support for the war in Ukraine, but some have warned Russia’s spending could threaten its financial stability.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Anna, a Russian entrepreneur, made a snap decision to open a real estate agency, hoping to create a safety net from the economic fallout of the conflict. The career change has paid off.

Within weeks, she landed a deal for a stately 18th-century apartment, with parquet floors and high ceilings in the prestigious center of Russia’s former imperial capital of St. Petersburg. Since the war, the owner had stopped coming to Russia, allowing her client to buy it for roughly 40 percent below its current value.

“We in Russia have become accustomed to living in a state of permanent crisis,” said Anna, who declined to use her full name given the political scrutiny. She has bought two investment properties for herself and brokered the sale of 150 others in the past year. Amid the constant shocks, she said, people are looking for “a window of opportunity” to secure their income.

Her business has been underpinned by a state-led spending boom that has propped up the national economy despite the swiftest and most far-reaching campaign of sanctions imposed by Western nations in modern history.

The economic strength has created a sense of well-being among Russians and helped to maintain popular support for President Vladimir V. Putin’s war. But some economists, as well as Russia’s respected central bank chief, have warned that the spending is threatening the country’s financial stability.

ny times logoNew York Times, Austria is still buying nearly as much natural gas from Russia as it was before the war, Patricia Cohen, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Austria, unlike most European Union countries, is still buying nearly as much natural gas from Russia as it was before the war in Ukraine.

In the 17 months since Moscow ordered soldiers into Ukrainian territory, countries across Europe have moved with surprising speed to reduce their longstanding dependence on cheap Russian gas.

Germany, which got 55 percent of its supply from Russia before the war, now imports zero. Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have halted or are close to halting flows. And Italy has been steadily trimming imports, and pledges to be free of Russian natural gas by the end of this year.

By contrast, Austria, which received nearly 80 percent of its gas from Russia before the invasion, still got more than half its total from Russia in May. And in March, when demand was higher, the figure reached 74 percent. As long as Russia is selling gas, Austria will buy it, the chief executive of the Austrian energy company OMV Group said this month.

The government’s difficulties in weaning itself off Russian gas, which it has pledged to do, have drawn complaints from critics who say Austria’s gas payments are helping to finance Moscow’s war machine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid the Counterattack’s Deadly Slog, a Glimmer of Success for Ukraine, Carlotta Gall, July 31, 2023 (print ed.). Recapturing a village was such welcome news that President Volodymyr Zelensky announced it himself. But Russian defenses have stymied progress elsewhere.

For 10 days, Ukrainian marines fought street by street and house by house to recapture the southeastern village of Staromaiorske, navigating artillery fire, airstrikes and hundreds of Russian troops.

ukraine flagThe Russians put up a ferocious defense but that ended on Thursday when they folded and the Ukrainians claimed victory. “Some ran away, some were left behind,” said an assault commander from Ukraine’s 35th Marine Brigade, who uses the call sign Dikyi, which means Wild. “We were taking captives,” he added.

The recapture of Staromaiorske, a small village that is nonetheless critical to Ukraine’s southern strategy, was such a welcome development for Ukraine that President Volodymyr Zelensky announced it himself.

The counteroffensive has largely been a brutal lesson for Ukrainian troops, who have struggled to seize back territory across the southern region of Zaporizhzhia. In two months, Ukrainian troops have advanced less than 10 miles at any point along the region’s 100-mile front.

Victories, like the one at Staromaiorske, represent a potential breakthrough in the fighting, Ukrainian officials said, perhaps opening the way for a broader push by their country’s forces.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Can Never Forgive This’: In Odesa, Attacks Stoke Hatred of Russia, Valerie Hopkins, Photographs by Emile Ducke, July 30, 2023 (print ed.).July 29, 2023. Standing on a bridge overlooking the road to Odesa’s main port, Nina Sulzhenko surveyed the damage wrought by a recent Russian missile strike: The House of Scientists, one of the Ukrainian city’s best-loved buildings, was in shambles. The mansion’s destroyed gardens spilled down over a ruined residential complex, and burned bricks lay strewn across the sidewalk.

“I feel pain, and I want revenge,” said Ms. Sulzhenko, 74. “I don’t have the words to say what we should do to them.”

She gestured toward other buildings in various stages of ruin. “Look at the music school! Look at what they did! The fact that those who live next to us, and lived among us, could do this to us — we can never forgive this. Never.”

Hers was a common sentiment in Odesa this past week after a series of missile strikes damaged the city’s port and 29 historic buildings in its Belle- Époque city center, including the Transfiguration Cathedral, one of Ukraine’s largest.

Odesa plays an important role in the mind of imperial Russians, and especially President Vladimir V. Putin, who views it as an integral part of Russian culture. But if Mr. Putin believed that Odesans would feel a reciprocal bond, he could not have been more mistaken, residents and city officials interviewed this past week said. Especially after the recent spate of missile attacks.

“The Odesan people are tired,” the city’s mayor, Gennadiy Trukhanov, said. “People are tired of uncertainty, tired of anxious nights, of not falling asleep. But if the enemy is counting on this, he is wrong. Because this fatigue turns into the strongest hatred.”

The missile attacks — accompanied by hours of air raid alerts — have been part of the escalating hostilities in the Black Sea after Russia pulled out of a deal that had enabled millions of tons of food to be exported out of Ukraine’s ports.

 Relevant Recent Headlines


More Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, Child-care worker charged with abusing 91 girls over 15 years, Adela Suliman, Aug. 1, 2023. Police in Australia charged a former child-care worker with abusing 91 girls over the course of 15 years in a case they said was “beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination.”

australian flag wavingThey announced 1,623 charges Tuesday against the unnamed 45-year-old man, which included 136 counts of rape and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10.

The alleged crimes took place between 2007 and 2022 while he was working at 10 child-care centers in Brisbane, one in Sydney and an early learning center in an unnamed overseas country, police said. The man also recorded his alleged offenses on phones and cameras, they said.

“This is one of the most horrific child abuse cases that I’ve seen in nearly 40 years of policing,” New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald told reporters Tuesday. “It’s beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination what this person did to these children.”

Twitter under fire for reinstating account that posted child sex abuse

The charges announced Tuesday are the culmination of a years-long investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) after Queensland police found images and videos of alleged child abuse on the dark web in 2014.

The man, from Australia’s Gold Coast, was arrested in Brisbane last August, police said, and was at the time charged with making and distributing child abuse material allegedly on the dark web. The AFP launched “Operation Tenterfield” immediately after his arrest, it said in the Tuesday statement, and he remains in custody.

While the dark web is not in itself illegal, it is a layer of the internet visible only with special browsers, where some participants undertake illicit activities including hacking and cybercrime, drug offenses and child pornography.

“The AFP believes the man recorded all his alleged offending” while working at the child-care centers, police said, adding that they are not naming the centers to protect the alleged victims’ identities.

ny times logoNew York Times, ISIS Affiliate Claims Responsibility for Deadly Attack at Rally in Pakistan, Christina Goldbaum, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The death toll from Sunday’s suicide bombing, which targeted a political rally near the border with Afghanistan, rose to at least 54 people, an official said.

The Islamic State affiliate in South Asia claimed responsibility on Monday for a suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan that killed dozens of people and injured about 200 more, in the latest bloody sign of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

The death toll from the explosion on Sunday, which targeted a political rally in the Bajaur district near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, rose to at least 54 people, Shaukat Abbas, a senior officer at the provincial police’s counterterrorism department, said on Monday.

The Islamic State affiliate, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, claimed on Monday that a suicide bomber had carried out the attack, characterizing it as part of the group’s war against democracy as a system of government, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The blast was among the deadliest terrorist attacks in months in Pakistan, where some militant groups operating along the border with Afghanistan have become more active over the past year. The rise in violence represents a grim shift: Since 2014, when security forces carried out a major military operation to flush militants out of Pakistan, the country has experienced relative calm.

But several high-profile attacks this year — including a bombing in Peshawar that killed more than 100 people and an hourslong assault on the police headquarters in the port city of Karachi — have sent shock waves across the country, with scenes of bloodshed that seemed to announce militancy’s return to Pakistan.

The attacks have raised questions about whether Pakistan’s security establishment can stamp out militancy without the American air and other military support it relied on during the 2014 security operation. The violence has also stoked tensions between Pakistani officials and the Taliban administration in Afghanistan, which the Pakistani authorities have accused of providing haven to some militant groups. Taliban officials have denied that claim.

“The attack in Bajaur unquestionably presents a significant escalation of ISK’s growing capacity and aggressive stance in northwest Pakistan — a region which is already home to many other militant factions,” said Amira Jadoon, the co-author of “The Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Strategic Alliances and Rivalries,” using another abbreviation for the Islamic State affiliate.

“It also shows ISK’s continued ability to access and operate on both sides of the border, as it has done so in the past.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Tide of Terror Shifts in Haiti as U.S. Nurse and Her Child Are Abducted, Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). This, along with other recent kidnappings, may signal the end of a brief respite, as gangs tighten their grip after being targets of vigilante violence.

An American nurse and her daughter have been abducted in Haiti, in the latest kidnapping episode to draw international notice, as a resurgence of violence grips the capital, Port-au-Prince.

In a brief statement on Saturday, El Roi Haiti, a faith-focused humanitarian organization, identified the woman as Alix Dorsainvil, the group’s community nurse and the wife of the group’s director. She and her child were taken from El Roi’s campus near the capital on Thursday, according to the statement.

No further details have been made public.

“We are aware of reports of the kidnapping of two U.S. citizens in Haiti,” a U.S. State Department official told The Times by email, adding that U.S. officials were working with their Haitian counterparts and declining to comment further on the matter.

  • New York Times, West African Nations Threaten Military Action Unless Niger Coup Is Undone, July 31, 2023.
  • New York Times, The Brains Behind Netanyahu’s Judicial Overhaul, July 31, 2023. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is the face of his government’s effort to reduce judicial power. His justice minister, Yariv Levin, is the main architect.

 Relevant Recent Headlines


U.S. Migrants, Homeless, Drug Addicts

ny times logoNew York Times, Scenes From a City That Only Hands Out Tickets for Using Fentanyl, Photographs by Jordan Gale, Text by Jan Hoffman, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Oregon’s experiment to curb overdoses by decriminalizing small amounts of illicit drugs is in its third year, and life has changed in Portland.

For the past two and a half years, Oregon has been trying an unusual experiment to stem soaring rates of addiction and overdose deaths. People caught with small amounts of illicit drugs for “personal use,” including fentanyl and methamphetamine, are fined just $100 — a sanction that can be waived if they participate in a drug screening and health assessment. The aim is to reserve prosecutions for large-scale dealers and address addiction primarily as a public health emergency.

When the proposal, known as Measure 110, was approved by nearly 60 percent of Oregon voters in November 2020, the pandemic had already emptied downtown Portland of workers and tourists. But its street population was growing, especially after the anti-police protests that had spread around the country that summer. Within months of the measure taking effect in February 2021, open-air drug use, long in the shadows, burst into full view, with people sitting in circles in parks or leaning against street signs, smoking fentanyl crushed on tinfoil.

Since then, Oregon’s overdose rates have only grown. Now, tents of unhoused people line many sidewalks in Portland. Monthslong waiting lists for treatment continue to lengthen. Some politicians and community groups are calling for Measure 110 to be replaced with tough fentanyl possession laws. Others are pleading to give it more time and resources.

The following is a mosaic of voices and images from Portland today.

On her walk to work at Forte Portland, a coffee shop and wine bar that she operates with her brother in the sunken lobby of a commercial building, Jennifer Myrle sidesteps needles, shattered glass and human feces. Often, she says, someone is passed out in front of the lobby’s door, blocking her entrance. The other day, a man lurched in, lay down on a Forte couch, stripped off his shirt and shoes, and refused to leave.

“At four in the afternoon the streets can feel like dealer central,” Ms. Myrle said. “At least 20 to 30 people in ski masks, hoodies and backpacks, usually on bikes and scooters. There’s no point calling the cops.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Migrants Will Sleep Outdoors Because ‘There Is No More Room,’ Adams Says, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jay Root, Aug. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Mayor Eric Adams said New York had run out of shelter space for migrants, and he defended a troubled contractor working with the city on its response.

The images outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan early Monday were stark: Scores of migrants huddled in a line stretching more than a block, some still sleeping as they waited to be processed in New York City’s intake center.

Hours later, Mayor Eric Adams declared that the city had entered a new phase in its migrant crisis, and that the scene outside the Roosevelt Hotel could become more common and widespread.

As the Adams administration struggles to respond to an influx of 90,000 migrants from the southern border, the mayor, a Democrat, said that the city had run out of indoor space to house people and that the situation was only going to deteriorate.

“It’s not going to get any better,” he said at a news conference at City Hall on Monday. “From this moment on, it’s downhill. There is no more room.”

Mr. Adams said that he wanted to “localize this madness” so that people sleeping outdoors were contained to certain parts of the city, without identifying the potential locations or making it clear if people would be sleeping on sidewalks or in tents.

“Our next phase of the strategy now that we have run out of room, we have to figure out how we’re going to localize the inevitable that there’s no more room indoors,” he said at an unrelated news conference on public safety.

But Mr. Adams warned that migrants would not be allowed to sleep wherever they want: “I can assure you that this city is not going to look like other cities where there are tents up and down every street.”

The mayor’s comments came a day after The New York Times revealed that the city gave a medical services firm a no-bid $432 million contract to assist with its migrant crisis. The firm, DocGo, has bused hundreds of asylum seekers upstate to cities including Albany, but many of the migrants there said that they felt misled and abandoned, and that local security guards hired by DocGo had repeatedly threatened them.

DocGo, which provided Covid testing and vaccination services during the pandemic, is also involved in running the city’s “arrival center” for migrants at the Roosevelt Hotel. Over the weekend, people were seen sleeping outside the hotel with blankets, and vans were provided so that people could cool off on a hot summer day.

The Roosevelt, a sprawling 1,000-room hotel on East 45th Street near Grand Central Terminal, had been closed for nearly three years when Mr. Adams announced in May that it would serve as an arrival center. Staff members from DocGo help with the intake process and provide medical services, according to city officials.

Mr. Adams defended DocGo at the news conference on Monday, saying that it had done good work responding to the pandemic and the migrant crisis. The mayor said he still had confidence in the firm while vowing to correct any deficiencies.

“We’re going to scrutinize them,” Mr. Adams said. “We’re going to make sure — here’s your contract, here are the services, if you do something wrong we’re going to bring you in, and say you have to correct it. But they’ve done a herculean job of this humanitarian crisis that we’re facing.”

washington post logoWashington Post, After massive Hungarian passport fraud, U.S. tightens travel restrictions, Loveday Morris, Aug. 1, 2023. The United States on Tuesday said it would restrict access for Hungarians to its visa-waiver program amid concerns that foreign nationals have used fraudulently obtained passports to enter the country.

hungary flagHungarians will only be able to enter the country once during a single year following the online screening process that allows for visa-free travel, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary announced. Citizens of other countries in the 40-member visa-free travel program are generally entitled to multiple visits over a two-year period with no need to apply again.

“It is an unfortunate decision in response to the inaction of the government of Hungary to respond to serious security concerns which we have been engaging on over many years and multiple administrations,” said U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman.

The move comes against the backdrop of an increasingly fractious relationship between Hungary and the United States over Budapest’s stance during the Ukraine war, and amid heightened fears about Russian espionage in the West.

The abuse of Hungarian passports has been a long-running concern of the United States. A Department of Homeland Security document from 2018 showed that at that point, about 700 non-Hungarians had fraudulently obtained passports and assumed fake identities, with at least 65 of them entering the United States through the visa-waiver program.

ny times logoNew York Times, Driver Charged With Plowing Car Into Migrant Workers, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Updated Aug. 1, 2023. The driver, who said he accidentally stepped on the gas, turned himself into the police in Lincolnton, N.C., on Monday.

A 68-year-old man who plowed his S.U.V. into a group of six migrant workers outside a Walmart in Lincolnton, N.C., on Sunday turned himself into police on Monday evening, saying he accidentally hit the gas while trying to park and fled in a panic, the police said.

The man, Daniel Gonzalez, of Hickory, N.C., was arrested and charged with a felony hit-and-run after he arrived at the police station just before 6 p.m. together with several family members, the The City of Lincolnton Police Department said in a statement.

The family said Mr. Gonzalez had contacted them earlier that day to say he had been in “an accident” while parking at Walmart, and “hit the gas by accident,” according to police. He also told his family he “panicked and left the scene,” the police said.

On Sunday, police said what appeared to be “an intentional assault” took place just after 1:15 p.m. in Lincolnton, a city of less than 12,000 people about 30 miles northwest of Charlotte, noting that they had reviewed footage of Mr. Gonzalez crossing a median before hitting the group of migrant workers.

  • New York Times, In California, a Crucial Test in How to Address Homelessness, July 31, 2023. One of the state’s largest homeless encampments was recently shut down in Oakland, but that didn’t stop the problem.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Had a Migrant Crisis. It Hired a Covid Expert to Help, Jay Root, July 30, 2023. DocGo received a $432 million no-bid contract to relocate hundreds of asylum seekers. Many said they have been threatened and lied to.

Lured by the promise of jobs, legal assistance and a more welcoming environment, hundreds of asylum seekers have boarded buses headed north to Albany, in search of a life better than they had found in New York City.

But once they settled in the state capital, many said they realized they had been misled and all but abandoned.

Instead of state identification cards, they were given dubious work eligibility and residency letters on what appeared to be a fake letterhead. At the bargain-rate motels where the migrants were relocated, many said they were treated like prisoners in halfway houses, living under written threats that they would be barred from seeking asylum if they were caught drinking or smoking.

They complained that crucial mail about their asylum cases had been lost, and worried that they now faced an hourslong trip to the courts where those cases will be heard.

Nearly three months after Mayor Eric Adams ushered in a new policy calling for the city to relocate migrants outside the five boroughs, the program has been plagued by problems, drawing attention to the no-bid contractor leading the effort.

More than 1,500 migrants have been sent to places as far as Buffalo, with more on the way. But many of the migrants have been greeted by protests at their new homes, as well as mistreatment and the false hope of jobs.

Behind the broken promises is a medical services company, DocGo, that once contracted with the city to provide Covid testing and vaccination services, but pivoted to migrant care as the pandemic waned and a new crisis emerged.

The city awarded DocGo a $432 million contract, which took effect in early May, without subjecting it to competitive bidding. The contract called for DocGo to house migrants and provide them with services including case management, medical care, food, transportation, lodging and round-the-clock security.

But its efforts to resettle migrants in Albany have been rocky, at best. Local authorities have expressed frustration at the lack of coordination between DocGo and agencies that could provide services to the migrants; local security guards hired by DocGo have repeatedly threatened the migrants; and finding steady work has been nearly impossible.

 Relevant Recent Headlines


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

ny times logoNew York Times, On a school bus crossing the U.S., families of mass shooting victims are finding support in “the worst club imaginable,” Mike Baker, Aug. 1, 2023.
Manuel and Patricia Oliver had already been on the road for more than a week when they pulled their school bus bearing an American flag into a city park in Uvalde, Texas. They were unsure of just how many people would greet them on that sweltering day.

Then the families started arriving. Parents, grandparents, siblings and other kin of some of the 22 people killed last year at Robb Elementary streamed into the park, embracing the Olivers and each other. So, too, did a woman who lost her daughter at a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, where 10 people were killed in 2018. The Olivers had driven halfway across the country to Uvalde with their own story: The couple’s son, Joaquin, was one of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., five years ago.

The Olivers came to Texas one day last month to find others who also understand what their lives had become and to work with them to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

“I’m looking to help and also to receive help,” Mr. Oliver said. “We all know that we exist. What if we start planning together? What if we can support each other?”

As mass shootings continue to erupt through schools, malls and entertainment venues across the country, a growing league of families have found themselves bound to one another by unfathomable grief. In late-night phone calls and in-person gatherings, they have shared advice and tears with other parents from shootings past, knowing that no one else could understand what it means to lose a child in a method so violent, and so public.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Craigslist for Guns, With No Background Checks, Serge F. Kovaleski and Glenn Thrush, Aug. 1, 2023.  A federal gun law passed last year gave the Biden administration a powerful new tool to increase background checks on “private” firearms sales. Will the administration use it?

Federal law requires background checks only for purchases made through the approximately 80,000 businesses that sell, ship, import or manufacture weapons licensed through the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Unlicensed private sellers, by contrast, can legally sell their wares at gun shows, out of their houses and, increasingly, through online platforms such as Armslist that match buyers with sellers.

The growing digital loophole is causing alarm among gun-control advocates, and some of those whose relatives were targeted with powerful weapons purchased with relative ease online.

“It’s not like selling a car radio,” Alexzandria’s father, Andre Bell, said in an interview. “It’s a gun.”

But the regulatory landscape might be changing. Senate Democrats, long blocked in their attempts to require universal background checks, negotiated a provision into the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, signed into law last year, that is expected to vastly increase the number of background checks in the unregulated gun market.

The regulations required to put the new law into effect — expected to be released soon — would require anyone who earns a profit from selling firearms to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks.

Previously, dealers were required to join the federal system only if they derived their chief livelihood from selling weapons. Failing to register carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Roosevelt Library Takes an Unflinching Look at Race, Aug. 1, 2023. A new exhibition explores Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “mixed” record on civil rights — and the charged debate over racism in the New Deal.


hunter biden beard

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden’s plea deal in jeopardy over questions about immunity, Perry Stein, Karl Baker, Devlin Barrett and Matt Viser, July 27, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors and defense lawyers could not agree on whether admitting to two tax crimes would immunize President Biden’s son, above, from future charges.

The plea deal for Hunter Biden was on the brink of falling apart Wednesday, when the two sides could not agree on whether admitting to two tax crimes would immunize the president’s son from possible additional charges.

irs logoU.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika pressed federal prosecutors and Biden’s lawyers to come to some “meeting of the minds.” But that appeared unlikely, as the two sides said they did not see eye to eye about the precise terms of their own plea agreement.

Justice Department log circularAt one point in the hearing, Biden’s lawyer declared there was no deal — meaning that a long-running criminal investigation that Republicans have used to accuse both the president and his son of corruption might lead to a trial after all.

“As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void,” Biden lawyer Chris Clark said.

The confusion over what, exactly, Biden would get or not get by pleading guilty stems in part from the unusual way his plea deal was structured — with a guilty plea to two tax misdemeanors, and a diversion program, not a guilty plea, for an illegal gun possession charge.

That arrangement allowed Biden to admit the facts of the gun case without technically pleading guilty to the charge. It also created a bifurcated deal in which the assurances Biden wants that he won’t be pursued for other tax or foreign lobbying charges were not part of the tax case, but part of the gun diversion agreement, lawyers said in court.

Deals to plead guilty can sometimes fall apart under closer scrutiny from a federal judge, but even when that happens, the two sides often find a way to eventually resolve the issue and enter a deal acceptable to the court.

On Wednesday, the judge urged the prosecutors and defense lawyers to spend some more time talking, in the hopes that the guilty plea hearing might be salvaged. As the two sides spoke to each other, it became more clear how far apart they were.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish by blowing this up,” Clark told prosecutors. One of those prosecutors, Leo Wise, pointed to papers related to the case and said he was bound by the terms in them.

Clark shot back: “Then we misunderstood, we’re ripping it up.”

The deal Biden struck in June meant he would likely stay out of jail if he stays drug-free for two years.

At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, Biden said he was prepared to enter the plea. Then Noreika asked whether he would still enter the plea if it was possible additional charges might be filed against him in the future. When Biden answered no, he would not, the judge ordered a break in the proceeding.

The probe was opened in 2018, during the Trump administration, and has been a favorite talking point for Republican critics of President Biden and his family. Republican politicians have repeatedly accused Hunter Biden of broad wrongdoing in his overseas business deals and, since his father was elected, predicted that the Biden administration would be reluctant to pursue the case.

Papers filed in federal court in Wilmington when the plea agreement was reached indicate that Hunter Biden had agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges of failure to pay in 2017 and 2018. A court document says that in both those years, Biden was a resident of D.C., received taxable income of more than $1.5 million and owed more than $100,000 in income tax that he did not pay on time.

Prosecutors planned to recommend a sentence of probation for those counts, according to people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe elements of the case that are not yet public. Hunter Biden’s representatives have previously said that he eventually paid the IRS what he owed.

A second court filing is about the charge of illegally possessing a weapon, which involves a handgun Biden purchased at a time when he was abusing drugs. In that case, the letter says, “the defendant has agreed to enter a Pretrial Diversion Agreement with respect to the firearm Information.” Handling the gun charge as a diversion case means Biden will not technically be pleading guilty to that crime.

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U.S. Military, Intelligence, Foreign Policy 

washington post logoWashington Post, Brazil rejects U.S. extradition request for alleged Russian spy, Shera Avi-Yonah, July 29, 2023. Brazilian justice officials said Thursday they can’t approve a U.S. request to extradite an alleged Russian spy because they have already been processing Moscow’s own request for the man.

Sergey Cherkasov, 37, was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in March with acting as an illegal agent of a Russian intelligence service while attending Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington as a master’s student. He faces additional U.S. charges including visa fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud, according to a complaint.
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Cherkasov is serving a sentence in Brazil on charges of using fraudulent documents.

Brazil’s justice minister, Flávio Dino, said on Twitter that Cherkasov will remain imprisoned in Brazil for the time being. A Russian request for Cherkasov on allegations of drug trafficking had been conditionally approved by Brazil’s Supreme Court earlier this year, making Brazil unable to complete the U.S. request, the Brazilian Justice Ministry stated. However, the Russian request is also pending Brazil’s own spying investigation into Cherkasov.
Paulo Ferreira, one of Cherkasov’s lawyers, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday night. He told the Wall Street Journal his client is not a Russian spy.

The Justice Department and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Justice Department’s March complaint alleges Cherkasov acted as a type of deep-cover Russian agent called an “illegal.” Such agents operate without any known link to their home government and often build elaborate false identities.

Cherkasov lived under the alias Victor Muller Ferreira, a Brazilian citizen, but U.S. and Brazilian authorities say he was actually born in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

Cherkasov was seen by some as a potential bargaining chip in a prisoner swap the United States is seeking to negotiate in exchange for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held in Russia on espionage allegations. Gershkovich and the Journal both say the charge is false, and the State Department says he has been wrongfully detained.

  • Washington Post, Limit FBI’s access to powerful spy tool, White House panel says, Ellen Nakashima and Tim Starks, Aug. 1, 2023.

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More U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, A Senator’s New Wife and Her Old Friends Draw Prosecutors’ Attention, Tracey Tully, Aug. 1, 2023. In a new inquiry, investigators appear focused on the possibility that Nadine Menendez or Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey received undisclosed gifts.

In early 2019, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his new girlfriend, Nadine Arslanian, were riding high.

He had avoided a federal bribery conviction after his trial ended with a hung jury, and the couple had begun traveling the world.

Mr. Menendez proposed to Ms. Arslanian that October in India with a grand gesture, singing “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” outside the Taj Mahal. They married a year later in a small ceremony in Queens and were showered with gifts from a dozen influential friends, including the head of one of New Jersey’s largest health care systems and a lawyer who would later become the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey.

The senator moved into his wife’s modest split-level house in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and they have since attended two state dinners at the White House, dining with the president of France and the prime minister of India.

But their whirlwind romance has taken a sudden dark turn.

Mr. Menendez, the 69-year-old Democratic chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, is under investigation by the Justice Department for the second time in less than a decade. And this time, his wife is also in prosecutors’ cross hairs.

The new inquiry, led by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, appears to be focused at least in part on the possibility that either the senator or his wife received undisclosed gifts from a company run by a friend of Ms. Menendez, and that those gifts might have been given in exchange for political favors, according to two people with knowledge of the matter and subpoenas issued in the case.

Unlike her husband, who took a seat on a New Jersey school board as a 20-year-old and rose to prominence in Hudson County’s famously sharp-elbowed political scrum, Ms. Menendez, 56, has lived a mainly private life.

She holds a master’s degree in French language and civilization from New York University, but did not work outside the home while raising her two children in Bergen County, N.J., according to court records and longtime friends. She is described by friends, acquaintances and two former lawyers in much the same way: social, smart and highly fashion-conscious.

She struggled financially after a 2005 divorce and even faced foreclosure. But by 2020, the year she and Mr. Menendez were married, she had formed an international consulting company, and her assets included bars of gold bullion then valued at as much as $250,000.

Ms. Menendez, who is represented by a Washington-based lawyer, now finds herself at the center of an investigation that carries the risk of steep criminal penalties and could alter the political playing field in New Jersey and in Washington as her husband prepares to run for a fourth term next year.

The senator’s campaign finance reports underscore the gravity of the new federal inquiry. He has spent roughly $290,000 since January in connection with the investigation, federal election records show, and last month he created a new defense fund to avoid further draining his political accounts.

The full scope of the federal inquiry, including Ms. Menendez’s role, remains unknown. But the investigation appears to focus at least in part on the couple’s connection to a 40-year-old New Jersey businessman, Wael Hana, who has known Ms. Menendez since before she started dating the senator.
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She and Mr. Hana were part of a group of friends who frequently socialized at restaurants in northern New Jersey; some of them shared an affinity for Cuban cigars. Several members of the network have received subpoenas, according to a friend who was interviewed by prosecutors and lawyers representing other people in the case.

Mr. Hana began operating a start-up company, IS EG Halal, in New Jersey in 2019, and it soon became the sole entity authorized to certify that any halal food product imported into Egypt from anywhere in the world had been prepared according to Islamic law.

It was an unlikely development, given that Mr. Hana, a United States citizen born in Egypt, has said in court papers that he had no prior experience in the halal industry.

Before 2019, four companies in the United States had divvied up the work of ensuring that meat exported to Egypt was free from ingredients prohibited by Islamic law and met strict processing standards, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The decision to give authorization solely to one company did not require United States approval. But it was an abrupt pivot by the government of Egypt, and news stories at the time chronicled how the steep new fees for certification were expected to lead to higher meat prices in a country that is home to 90 million Muslims.

In November 2019, the F.B.I. searched Mr. Hana’s home and offices. Investigators seized computers, cellphones, Mr. Hana’s passport and “every single piece of paper” in the company’s headquarters, Mr. Hana’s lawyer, Lawrence S. Lustberg, said in a court filing. Mr. Hana was not charged, and Mr. Lustberg, in the filing, said that his client was told he was not a target of the investigation.

Federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. are now investigating whether the senator or Ms. Menendez received a luxury car or an apartment in Washington from Mr. Hana’s company. It is, however, unclear which, if any, of Mr. Menendez’s official acts as a senator is under scrutiny by prosecutors.

Mr. Hana’s spokeswoman, Ellen Davis, has said that he got the halal business without assistance from any U.S. public official. “Allegations about cars, apartments, cash and jewelry being provided by anyone associated with IS EG Halal to Senator Menendez or his wife at all — let alone in exchange for any kind of favorable treatment — are totally without basis,” she said in May. She declined additional comment.

The investigation has reached in other directions as well.

Prosecutors have asked for any correspondence from Ms. Menendez, Senator Menendez or a prominent New Jersey developer, Fred Daibes, about a bill that has stalled in Trenton, according to a person familiar with a subpoena issued in May to State Senator Nick Sacco who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

The legislation would limit the height of buildings near the Palisades along the Hudson River and could have scuttled a skyscraper complex at 115 River Road in Edgewater, which Mr. Daibes has been planning to build for years.

Mr. Daibes, whose company owns the building where IS EG Halal has its headquarters in Edgewater, pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal bank-fraud charge last year; his sentencing, which is expected to result only in probation, was recently rescheduled for the fourth time.

 dianne feinstein mitch mcconnell nyt

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Reluctant to Retire, Leaders Raise a Tough Question: How Old Is Too Old? Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, July 30, 2023 (print ed.). Two troubling moments involving Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mitch McConnell, above, thrust questions about aging out of Congress and into the national conversation.

After a series of troubling moments this week, an uncomfortable question has become unavoidable, leaving voters, strategists and even politicians themselves wondering: Just how old is too old to serve in public office?

For years, like so many children of aging parents across America, politicians and their advisers in Washington tried to skirt that difficult conversation, wrapping concerns about their octogenarian leaders in a cone of silence. The omertà was enabled by the traditions of a city that arms public figures with a battalion of aides, who manage nearly all of their professional and personal lives.

“I don’t know what the magic number is, but I do think that as a general rule, my goodness, when you get into the 80s, it’s time to think about a little relaxation,” said Trent Lott, 81, a former Senate majority leader who retired at the spry age of 67 to start his own lobbying firm. “The problem is, you get elected to a six-year term, you’re in pretty good shape, but four years later you may not be so good.”

Two closely scrutinized episodes this week thrust questions about aging with dignity in public office out of the halls of Congress and into the national conversation.

On Wednesday, video of Senator Mitch McConnell, 81, freezing for 20 seconds in front of television cameras reverberated across the internet and newscasts. Less than 24 hours later, another clip surfaced of Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, appearing confused when asked to vote in committee.

A political discussion on the issue of age has been building for months, as the country faces the possibility of a presidential contest between the oldest candidates in American history. President Biden, 80, already the oldest president to sit in the White House, is vying for a second term, and Donald J. Trump, 77, is leading the Republican primary race.

ap logoAssociated Press via Politico, Judge blocks Arkansas law allowing librarians to be criminally charged over ‘harmful’ materials, Staff Report, July 29, 2023. The lawsuit comes as lawmakers in an increasing number of conservative states push for measures making it easier to ban or restrict access to books. Arkansas is temporarily blocked from enforcing a law that would have allowed criminal charges against librarians and booksellers for providing “harmful” materials to minors, a federal judge ruled Saturday.

politico CustomU.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which also would have created a new process to challenge library materials and request that they be relocated to areas not accessible by kids. The measure, signed by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this year, was set to take effect Aug. 1.

Arkansas is temporarily blocked from enforcing a law that would have allowed criminal charges against librarians and booksellers for providing “harmful” materials to minors, a federal judge ruled Saturday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which also would have created a new process to challenge library materials and request that they be relocated to areas not accessible by kids. The measure, signed by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this year, was set to take effect Aug. 1.

A coalition that included the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock had challenged the law, saying fear of prosecution under the measure could prompt libraries and booksellers to no longer carry titles that could be challenged.

The judge also rejected a motion by the defendants, which include prosecuting attorneys for the state, seeking to dismiss the case.

The ACLU of Arkansas, which represents some of the plaintiffs, applauded the court’s ruling, saying that the absence of a preliminary injunction would have jeopardized First Amendment rights.

“The question we had to ask was — do Arkansans still legally have access to reading materials? Luckily, the judicial system has once again defended our highly valued liberties,” Holly Dickson, the executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas, said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes as lawmakers in an increasing number of conservative states are pushing for measures making it easier to ban or restrict access to books. The number of attempts to ban or restrict books across the U.S. last year was the highest in the 20 years the American Library Association has been tracking such efforts.

Laws restricting access to certain materials or making it easier to challenge them have been enacted in several other states, including Iowa, Indiana and Texas.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rep. Dean Phillips Says He Is Considering a Run Against Biden, Reid J. Epstein, July 30, 2023 (print ed.). Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat who has for months been saying in public what many in his party only whisper in private — that the 80-year-old President Biden should not seek re-joe biden twitterelection because of his age — said he was considering challenging Mr. Biden in next year’s primary.

democratic donkey logoMr. Phillips, 54, is in his third term in Congress representing a district that includes the suburbs west of Minneapolis. In a text message, he confirmed his interest in running but declined a request to be interviewed. He said he had “been overwhelmed with outreach and encouragement” and needed to assess his next steps.

Mr. Phillips would be an extreme long shot if he were to challenge Mr. Biden. Polls show that Democrats, who were once wary about Mr. Biden seeking re-election, have coalesced behind him. The party’s major donor class is backing the president, who raised $72 million with the Democratic National Committee and his joint fund-raising committee during the three-month reporting period that ended June 30.

Mr. Phillips had $277,000 in his congressional fund-raising account at the end of June.

An heir to a Minnesota liquor fortune who showcased himself driving a gelato truck in his first House campaign, Mr. Phillips has been known in Congress for embracing the moderate suburban politics that were at the core of the general election coalition that propelled Mr. Biden’s 2020 victory. He was first elected in 2018, when he and dozens of fellow Democrats flipped Republican-held districts as suburban voters turned against President Donald J. Trump.

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

washington post logoWashington Post, An abortion ban made them teen parents. This is life two years later, Caroline Kitchener, Photos by Carolyn Van Houten, Aug. 1, 2023. Brooke, a teenager in Texas, ran up against a new abortion law when she got pregnant. Now, she and her husband, Billy, are parenting their twin girls and struggling to hold it together.

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Exclusive: Doctors who put lives at risk with covid misinformation rarely punished, Lena H. Sun, Lauren Weber and Hayden Godfrey, July 28, 2023 (print ed.). Medical boards received more than 480 complaints related to covid misinformation. A Post investigation found at least 20 doctors have been punished.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Steep Cost of Ron DeSantis’s Covid Vaccine Turnabout, Sharon LaFraniere, Patricia Mazzei and Albert Sun, July 23, 2023 (print ed.). The Florida governor lost enthusiasm for the shot before the Delta wave. It’s a grim chapter he now leaves out of his retelling of his pandemic response.

600 Americans daily and hundreds of thousands of deaths still to come, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, heard her cellphone ring. It was Dr. Scott Rivkees, the Florida surgeon general. He was distraught.

“‘You won’t believe what happened,’” she said he told her. Months before Covid vaccines would become available, Gov. Ron DeSantis had decided that the worst was over for Florida, he said. Mr. DeSantis had begun listening to doctors who believed the virus’s threat was overstated, and he no longer supported preventive measures like limiting indoor dining.

Mr. DeSantis was going his own way on Covid.

Nearly three years later, the governor now presents his Covid strategy not only as his biggest accomplishment, but as the foundation for his presidential campaign. Mr. DeSantis argues that “Florida got it right” because he was willing to stand up for the rights of individuals despite pressure from health “bureaucrats.” On the campaign trail, he says liberal bastions like New York and California needlessly traded away freedoms while Florida preserved jobs, in-person schooling and quality of life.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2But a close review by The New York Times of Florida’s pandemic response, including a new analysis of the data on deaths, hospitalizations and vaccination rates in the state, suggests that Mr. DeSantis’s account of his record leaves much out.

As he notes at most campaign stops, he moved quickly to get students back in the classroom, even as many of the nation’s school districts were still in remote learning. National research has suggested there was less learning loss in school districts with more in-person instruction.

Some other policies remain a matter of intense debate. Mr. DeSantis’s push to swiftly reopen businesses helped employment rebound, but also likely contributed to the spread of infections.

But on the single factor that those experts say mattered most in fighting Covid — widespread vaccinations — Mr. DeSantis’s approach proved deeply flawed. While the governor personally crusaded for Floridians 65 and older to get shots, he laid off once younger age groups became eligible.

Tapping into suspicion of public health authorities, which the Republican right was fanning, he effectively stopped preaching the virtues of Covid vaccines. Instead, he emphasized his opposition to requiring anyone to get shots, from hospital workers to cruise ship guests.

That left the state particularly vulnerable when the Delta variant hit that month. Floridians died at a higher rate, adjusted for age, than residents of almost any other state during the Delta wave, according to the Times analysis. With less than 7 percent of the nation’s population, Florida accounted for 14 percent of deaths between the start of July and the end of October.

Of the 23,000 Floridians who died, 9,000 were younger than 65. Despite the governor’s insistence at the time that “our entire vulnerable population has basically been vaccinated,” a vast majority of the 23,000 were either unvaccinated or had not yet completed the two-dose regimen.

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U.S. Media, Arts, High Tech


x logo twitter

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What’s in a Name? Musk/Twitter Edition, Paul Krugman, July 28, 2023 (print ed.). I have (well-managed) arthritis and take pain reducers every day. I normally buy generic acetaminophen; but many people still buy brand-name Tylenol, even though it costs much more.

There’s a long-running debate among economists about why people are willing to pay a premium for name brands. Some emphasize ignorance — one influential study found that health professionals are more likely than the public at large to buy generic painkillers, because they realize that they’re just as effective as name brands. Others suggest that there may be a rational calculation involved: The quality of name brands may be more reliable, because the owners of these brands have a reputation to preserve. It doesn’t have to be either-or; the story behind the brand premium may depend on the product.

What’s clear is that brand names that for whatever reason inspire customer loyalty have real value to the company that owns them and shouldn’t be changed casually.

So what the heck does Elon Musk, the owner of TAFKAT — the app formerly known as Twitter — think he’s doing, changing the platform’s name to X, with a new logo many people, myself included, find troubling?

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