Nov. 2023 News

 

 

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

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

 

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Nov. 2

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A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The militant Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land, and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

 

More On Israel’s War With Hamas

 

More On U.S. National  Politics

 

More On Trump Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

 

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

 

Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

 

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

 

 U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

U.S. Supreme Court

 

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

 

More On Disasters, Climate Change, Environment, Transportation

 

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More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

 

U.S. Economy, Jobs, Strikes, High Tech

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U.S. Abortion, Family Planning, #MeToo

 

Pandemics, Public Health, Privacy

 

Media, High Tech, Sports, Education, Sports, Culture

 

Top Stories:

 

A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The militant Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land, and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The militant Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land, and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday. (AP Photo by Adel Hana.)

ny times logo New York Times, Hundreds of Dual Nationals and Injured Gazans Cross Into Egypt, Vivian Yee, Hiba Yazbek, Iyad Abuheweila and Victoria Kim, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). After weeks of waiting, hundreds of people were allowed to leave the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the first of thousands of foreigners, aid workers and critically wounded patients who were expected to exit in the coming days.

Israel FlagBy Wednesday night, buses had ferried 361 foreign nationals over the border to Egypt, and ambulances had carried 45 severely injured Palestinians, along with some of their family members, to Egyptian hospitals, according to Al Qahera, an Egyptian state-owned television channel. They left behind the destruction and the most immediate suffering wrought by the war between Israel and Hamas, the group that controls Gaza.

Videos verified by The Times show there was another Israeli airstrike in the Jabaliya neighborhood of Gaza on Wednesday, about half a mile from the site of Tuesday’s strike. The destruction is of similar magnitude with several large buildings completely flattened. Footage from the scene shows rescue workers and residents digging through the rubble and carrying what appear to be injured and dead people.
Video

Ambulances shuttled 76 critically injured people and their family members into Egypt, and the gravely wounded were being taken to hospitals.

 

benjamin netanyahu frown

New York Times, Netanyahu Finds Himself at War in Gaza and at Home, Isabel Kershner, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apologized for accusing military and security officials of lapses that led to the Hamas massacre but declined to accept responsibility himself.

Politico, Netanyahu may not last, Biden and aides increasingly believeJonathan Lemire, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The Israeli prime minister’s political obituary has been written before. But U.S. officials are already gauging potential successors.

politico CustomJoe Biden and top aides have discussed the likelihood that Benjamin Netanyahu’s political days are numbered — and the president has conveyed that sentiment to the Israeli prime minister in a recent conversation.

The topic of Netanyahu’s short political shelf life has come up in recent White House meetings involving Biden, according to two senior administration officials. That has included discussions that have taken place since Biden’s trip to Israel, where he met with Netanyahu.

Biden has gone so far as to suggest to Netanyahu that he should think about lessons he would share with his eventual successor, the two administration officials added.

Israel FlagA current U.S. official and a former U.S. official both confirmed that the administration believes Netanyahu has limited time left in office. The current official said the expectation internally was that the Israeli PM would likely last a matter of months, or at least until the early fighting phase of Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip was over, though all four officials noted the sheer unpredictability of Israeli politics.

“There’s going to have to be a reckoning within Israeli society about what happened,” said the official who, like others, was granted anonymity to detail private conversations. “Ultimately, the buck stops on the prime minister’s desk.”

The administration’s dimming view of Netanyahu’s political future comes as the president and his foreign policy team try to work with, and diplomatically steer, the Israeli leader as his country pursues a complicated and bloody confrontation with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza and attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Biden’s trip to Tel Aviv last month was one largely of support, but privately he also urged Netanyahu to proceed cautiously and not widen the war, according to the two senior administration officials. The president pushed the prime minister to prioritize a two-state solution and be mindful of the steps beyond an effort to decapitate Hamas, including the challenges of any sort of future occupation of Gaza.

At one point during the trip, Biden advised Netanyahu to consider the scenario he was leaving for his successor — an implicit suggestion that Netanyahu might not be in power for the duration of what will likely be a lengthy conflict.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:The Putin-Xi-GOP plot to present the U.S. and its allies with a two-front war, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 1-2, 2023. In Russian Flagthe world of Vladimir Putin’s wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallspycraft, Xi Jinping’s superpower tradecraft, Iran’s regional troublemaking, and the U.S. Republican Party’s willingness to sell out America’s national security and democracy — as well as the security of Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan — a grand conspiracy is just what the forces of fascism appear to have ordered.

wayne madesen report logoThere is a growing belief in Western capitals that repeated visits of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Moscow in 2022 and earlier this year were part of a plan to have Hamas engineer a major international diversion away from Ukraine. Moscow’s thinking is that the West would prioritize military assistance for Israel over that for Ukraine. And Haniyeh djt maga hatcould not have given Putin a better present when it launched its surprise attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, the Russian leader’s birthday.

It is clear that the goal of Russia, Hamas, and Hamas ally Iran are attempting to present the West with an untenable two-front war, one in which they believe will result in the West sacrificing Ukraine for Israel. Working to bring such an outcome to fruition is the new and un-vetted U.S. Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Johnson from Louisiana.

 Washington Post, FBI director pushes back sharply against critics in new interview, Devlin Barrett, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Devlin Barrett, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Christopher A. Wray, who has been increasingly under attack from congressional Republicans, said the people accusing the law enforcement agency of bias are themselves trying to gain a political advantage at the FBI’s expense.

christopher-wray-o.jpgFBI Director Christopher A. Wray, right, who has been increasingly under attack from congressional Republicans, pushed back against his critics in a new interview, saying the people accusing the law enforcement agency of bias are themselves trying to gain a political advantage at the FBI’s expense.

“I have found almost invariably, the people screaming the loudest about the politicization of the FBI are themselves the most political, and more often than not, making claims of politicization to advance their own views or goals, and they often don’t know the facts or are choosing to ignore them,” Wray said in a Wednesday episode of the podcast “FBI Retired Case File Review.”

FBI logoWray pointed out, as he has before, that when President Donald Trump nominated him in 2017 to be the FBI director, not a single Republican senator voted against him. “It’s utterly bewildering to me that I or the FBI would be accused of bias against conservatives or any political party,” he said.

A number of Republican congressmen — particularly lawmakers loyal to Trump — have been on the warpath against the FBI, threatening to cut the agency’s funding and reduce its legal authority over what they claim is a pattern of politically motivated decision-making in cases involving elected officials and President Biden’s son Hunter.

That bad blood was evident Tuesday when Wray appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and was attacked by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) over the Hunter Biden investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republican Rep. Ken Buck to retire from House, cites election denialism by others in GOP, Amy B Wang, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said Wednesday that he would not seek reelection next year, expressing disappointment that many fellow Republicans continue to push the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

republican elephant logo“I have decided that it is time for me to do some other things,” Buck said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I always have been disappointed with our inability in Congress to deal with major issues, and I’m also disappointed that the Republican Party continues to rely on this lie that the 2020 election was stolen.”

U.S. House logoBuck’s announcement came hours after Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.) also said she would not seek reelection next year.

Like Buck, Granger was one of the roughly two dozen Republicans who opposed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for the speakership last month — and who drew criticism from hard-right parts of the Republican base for doing so. The holdouts ultimately forced Jordan to withdraw from the race, and both Buck and Granger later backed House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) for the leadership position.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House nominates Asia lead Kurt Campbell to be Blinken’s deputy, Ellen Nakashima, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden has nominated the architect of his Asia strategy to a top position at the State Department at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine and fresh turmoil in the Middle East threaten to divert attention from what his administration has called its most consequential geopolitical challenge: China.

Concerns have emerged among Washington’s Asian allies that the prospect of a spiraling conflict between Israel and Hamas could bog the United States down as happened a decade ago in the fight against the Islamic State, say former U.S. officials. But Biden’s nomination of Kurt Campbell to serve as deputy secretary of state is reassuring, they said.

“They’ll still be worried,” said Victor Cha, a White House Asia director under President George W. Bush, of allies including South Korea and Japan. “But having Kurt as the Number Two in the State Department will give some sense of confidence that the administration is committed to advancing and implementing its Indo-Pacific strategy.”

On Wednesday, Buck hinted that other Republican lawmakers could soon announce “in the near future” that they would also be leaving Congress.

Buck has clashed with the majority of the Republican conference in recent months, notably for opposing his party’s launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. In a September op-ed for The Washington Post, Buck criticized the inquiry as one that relied “on an imagined history.”

“[I]mpeachment is a serious matter and should have a foundation of rock-solid facts,” Buck wrote then.

Buck was also one of eight Republican lawmakers who voted with Democrats to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership last month. During the Republicans’ struggle to elect a new speaker, Buck steadfastly opposed Jordan over his election denialism.

Last month, Buck told NBC News that he had received death threats and a notice of eviction from his office in Colorado because his landlord was upset over Buck’s vote against Jordan for speaker. Buck said then that he did not blame Jordan but pundits and groups putting out “misinformation and hateful information.”

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP plan to fund Israel aid with IRS cuts would cost $90 billion, tax chief says, Jacob Bogage and Jeff Stein, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Reducing funds for the tax agency is a top priority of House Republicans, setting up a budget clash with the Senate and White House.

House Republicans’ plan to pay for emergency aid to Israel by cutting the Internal Revenue Service’s budget would increase the deficit by $90 billion over 10 years, the chief of the tax agency said Tuesday.
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Seeking to pay for $14 billion of proposed aid to Israel sought by both parties, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Monday unveiled legislation that would cut roughly $14 billion from funds recently approved by Democrats to expand the IRS. But Daniel Werfel, who was nominated by President Biden as the IRS commissioner last year, said the cuts would lead to greater expense by reducing audits of the wealthy and large corporations and hampering the agency’s ability to collect revenue that funds the government.

House GOP demands IRS budget cuts along with Israel aid

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last year that the $80 billion IRS expansion would cut the deficit by more than $100 billion by improving collections and enforcement. The IRS expansion was approved to pay for Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature economic legislation, in 2022.

Although it specifies that taxpayer services would be spared from cuts, the House GOP bill does not identify precisely how it would cut $14 billion from that $80 billion expansion that has improved a broad range of agency functions. The GOP bill also would prohibit the CBO from counting the legislation against existing domestic spending caps.

“This type of the cut, over the cost of the Inflation Reduction Act, would actually cost taxpayers $90 billion — that’s with a ‘B,’” Werfel told The Washington Post.

The nonpartisan budget office estimated that the GOP bill would add $12.5 billion to the deficit through 2033 — far less than Werfel’s estimate of $90 billion — and projected it would result in $26.8 billion in lost tax revenue.

The IRS has said it is ramping up efforts to focus on taxpayers with more than $1 million of income and more than $250,000 of outstanding tax debt. Starting in September, the IRS has started contacting about 1,600 new taxpayers in that category who collectively owe hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, according to the Treasury Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Strikes on refugee camp leave hundreds dead and injured, Gaza Health Ministry says, Susannah George, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). 400 Americans stuck in Gaza, Blinken says; Gaza is now a ‘graveyard’ for children, UNICEF says.

Strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza killed and injured hundreds of people Tuesday, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and the director of Gaza’s Indonesian hospital. Exact figures for the dead and injured have yet to be determined amid ongoing rescue efforts. Footage from the scene streamed by Al Jazeera showed dozens of people digging through rubble to reach trapped people.

Amid an air campaign, Israel is pressing deeper into Gaza with tanks and soldiers as its ground offensive expands in the densely populated Palestinian enclave. The Israeli military said Tuesday it was “striking in all parts of the Gaza Strip,” particularly on the north, despite warning residents to move south for shelter.

The Middle East will not see stability until the world embraces a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said Tuesday.

“Egypt has shouldered the burden of the Palestinian issue for years,” he said, and “will never allow the killing of the Palestinian cause.”

Key updates

  • Egyptian PM centers security concerns in Gaza border visit
  • Hundreds killed and injured in strikes on Jabalya refugee camp, Gaza Health Ministry says
  • 400 Americans stuck in Gaza, Blinken says

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Dual Nationals and Injured Palestinians Cross to Egypt, Vivian Yee, Hiba Yazbek and Victoria Kim, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The crossings, shown on Egyptian state TV, were the first since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel; Hundreds of foreign passport holders were also moving through checkpoints at the border as part of a negotiated deal.

Israel FlagSome people with dual nationalities and seriously injured Palestinians arrived in Egypt on Wednesday, Egyptian state-owned TV said, as the Gaza border opened for the first such crossings since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel.

Three critically injured people from Gaza arrived at an Egyptian hospital near the border, a hospital official said. And Egyptian state TV showed what it said was a group of foreign or dual nationals carrying luggage on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, where they were to have documents checked.

The crossings came after a deal negotiated late Tuesday among Israel, Egypt, Hamas, the United States and Qatar. Egypt was set to receive hundreds of people on Wednesday, according to Western diplomats in Cairo and Jerusalem and the Gaza authorities.

palestinian flagThe Rafah crossing has been the focus of heated international negotiations as the only possible escape route, as well as the only entry point for relief supplies, as Israel retaliated for an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas by starting a three-week bombing campaign and sending troops deep into Gaza. The toll of Israeli strikes in Gaza deepened on Tuesday when Hamas and hospital officials said that many people had been killed or injured in an Israeli airstrike on the Jabaliya neighborhood. On Wednesday, the Gazan interior ministry said that another airstrike in the same area had killed and injured more people.

Early Wednesday, Gaza’s two million residents appeared to have been once again plunged into a communication blackout. The strip’s main telecommunications provider said around 4 a.m. that its services had been disrupted. Over the weekend, as Israel began its ground invasion, residents endured a panic-inducing 34-hour blackout, cut off from the outside world and each other and unable to contact emergency services.

  • Here’s what else to know:
  • Israel said its strike on Tuesday in the Jabaliya area, home to Gaza’s largest refugee camp, had successfully targeted Hamas militants, including a commander who was central to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed 1,400 people. A Hamas spokesman denied that a commander had been in the area. Nearly 8,800 people have been killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.
  • American citizens are not expected to be among Wednesday’s evacuees, other than those working for certain aid groups, but they are slated to follow in batches later in the week, three of the diplomats said. A U.S. State Department email sent to U.S. citizens in Gaza said “limited departures from Gaza may begin this week.”
  • Israeli forces continued to press deeper into Gaza on Tuesday, reaching the Al Karama neighborhood north of Gaza City and advancing toward a major highway that runs through the enclave, the Gazan interior ministry said. The Hamas-run ministry said Israel’s military appeared to be seeking “to separate the northern Gaza Strip from its south.”
  • The Pentagon said that American commandos were on the ground in Israel to help locate the more than 200 hostages seized during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.
  • The U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, plans to travel to Israel on Friday to meet with Israeli government officials before going to other countries in the region, the State Department said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why is the Rafah border crossing so important for Gaza? Emma Bubola, Lauren Leatherby and Vivian Yee, Updated Nov. 1, 2023. The access point, where aid trucks have entered from Egypt and people are waiting to leave, is the only land crossing into Gaza that Israel does not control.

After Israel imposed a complete siege of the Gaza Strip in response to the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the strip’s border crossing with Egypt became even more critical, as the only point not controlled by Israel where aid has come in and some people have been allowed out.

In typical times, the access point is alive with commercial traffic and people traveling to and from Gaza. But for two weeks after the war began, nothing passed through the crossing, which is near the southern Gazan city of Rafah, as diplomatic talks to allow people and supplies to pass were hammered out. Amid deteriorating conditions in Gaza and Israel’s persistent bombardment of the enclave, Israeli strikes have hit the crossing at least four times.

Since the border opened on Oct. 21 after negotiations between Egypt, Israel, the United States and the United Nations, aid trucks have started trickling in, though aid officials say that supplies have met only a small fraction of Gaza’s need for food, water and medicine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Risk of a Wider Middle East War Threatens a ‘Fragile’ World Economy, Patricia Cohen, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). After shocks from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there’s little cushion if the fighting between Hamas and Israel becomes a regional conflict.

Fears that Israel’s expanding military operations in Gaza could escalate into a regional conflict are clouding the global economy’s outlook, threatening to dampen growth and reignite a rise in energy and food prices.

Rich and poor nations were just beginning to catch their breath after a three-year string of economic shocks that included the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Stinging inflation has been dropping, oil prices have stabilized and predicted recessions have been avoided.

Now, some leading international financial institutions and private investors warn that the fragile recovery could turn bad.

“This is the first time that we’ve had two energy shocks at the same time,” said Indermit Gill, chief economist at the World Bank, referring to the impact of the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East on oil and gas prices.

Those price increases not only chip away at the buying power of families and companies but also push up the cost of food production, adding to high levels of food insecurity, particularly in developing countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

As it is, nations are already struggling with unusually high levels of debt, limp private investment and the slowest recovery in trade in five decades, making it tougher for them to grow their way out of the crisis. Higher interest rates, the result of central bank efforts to tame inflation, have made it more difficult for governments and private companies to get access to credit and stave off default.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Years of Vowing to Destroy Israel, Iran Faces a Dilemma, Farnaz Fassihi, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). With Israel bent on crushing Iran’s ally Hamas, Tehran must decide whether it and the proxy militias it arms and trains will live up to its fiery rhetoric.

For more than four decades, Iran’s rulers have pledged to destroy Israel. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rarely appears in public without wearing a black-and-white checkered Palestinian kaffiyeh.

Iranian military commanders gloat over training and arming groups across the region that are enemies of Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas. And when Hamas conducted the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people, Iranian officials praised it as a momentous achievement, shattering the Jewish state’s sense of security.

Now Iran faces a dilemma, weighing how it and its proxy militias — known as the axis of resistance — should respond to Israel’s invasion of Gaza and the killing of thousands of Palestinians, and whether to bolster its revolutionary credentials at the risk of igniting a broader regional war.

“There is no need for Iran to directly get involved in the war and attack Israel itself because it has the resistance axis militia who follow Iran’s policies and strategies and act on its behalf,” said Nasser Imani, an analyst close to the government, in a telephone interview from Tehran. “Right now Iran is in control mode — it is telling all of them, including Hezbollah, to keep things boiling but have restraint.”

For the time being, Iranian officials are publicly signaling they do not want a full-scale war.

“I want to reiterate that we are not pursuing the spreading of this war,” Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said in a recent interview at Iran’s mission to the United Nations. He was in New York to attend U.N. meetings related to the war. But, he added, “The region is at a boiling point and any moment it may explode and this may be unavoidable. If this happens, all sides will lose control.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A transformed Trump family will take center stage in a New York courtroom, Jonathan O’Connell, Josh Dawsey, Shayna Jacobs and Isaac President Donald Trump officialArnsdorf, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The relationships between Donald Trump and his three eldest children are likely to be on display as they are all scheduled to take the witness stand in the civil fraud trial in New York over the Trump Organization’s business practices.

Donald Trump had been a pariah on Wall Street for years when a banker in Deutsche Bank’s private wealth department started speaking with his daughter Ivanka. After a number of meetings, the banker emailed a supervisor in 2011 with an important update about the future of the Trump business.

“Ivanka Trump will become a client for sure. She is the heir apparent of this Empire,” wrote the banker, Rosemary Vrablic, according to an email that is part of a filing in a civil case against Trump now underway in New York.

Grounded in its real estate empire, the family’s future seemed clear then.

But Trump’s four-year presidency — and the tumultuous period of investigations and criminal and civil litigation since he left office — have reshaped much of the Trump family’s wealth, business and dynamics with one another, according to court filings, financial records, emails and interviews with people close to the family.

Ivanka Trump, once considered by Trump’s business partners to be the most likely of his children to take over the Trump Organization, has largely stepped away from the limelight of both business and politics, at times telling others she was stung by the scrutiny she received in Washington, according to people who know her. She and husband Jared Kushner, who both served as senior White House aides when her father was in office, now spend most of their time in Miami, after purchasing a mansion on a private island while Kushner lures Middle Eastern business for his investment fund.

These days, it is Trump’s second son, Eric, who as executive vice president of the Trump Organization is most involved in the family real estate business, while his eldest, Donald Trump Jr., is said by campaign advisers to be more interested in politics. Of the three, Eric Trump now speaks most regularly to his father, Trump advisers say, as the two have grown closer as a result of the second Trump son’s leadership of the family business. One adviser estimated the two now speak multiple times a day.

The relationships between Trump and his three eldest children are likely to be on display over the next two weeks, as Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka are all scheduled to take the witness stand in the civil fraud trial in New York over the Trump Organization’s business practices. Donald Jr., 45, is up first, scheduled to appear on Wednesday; Eric Trump, 39, is scheduled to appear the following day, and Ivanka Trump, 42, on Nov. 8. Trump himself is scheduled to testify on Monday.

The four criminal trials Trump separately faces potentially threaten his freedom and could affect next year’s elections, as Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. They involve allegations that he tried to overturn a presidential election, mishandled classified documents, obstructed justice and directed a hush money payment to an adult-film actress.

But the New York civil trial potentially has more immediate ramifications for Trump’s family.

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Jr. Denies Responsibility for Company Business Statements, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s son began the Trump family’s parade to the witness stand in the civil fraud case.

Donald Trump Jr. testified on Wednesday that he had no involvement in annual financial statements that his family’s business gave banks and insurers despite language in the statements themselves suggesting that he was partially responsible for them.

His contention, which came during the trial of a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, capped an afternoon of otherwise unremarkable testimony from Mr. Trump, who is the first of his family members to testify about the case.

Asked whether he worked on one such statement, from 2017, Mr. Trump was clear: “I did not. The accountants worked on it. That’s what we pay them for.”

He soon clarified that his conversations with others at the company may have informed the financial statement. The attorney general, Letitia James, has said such papers were filled with fraud that helped the company, the Trump Organization, gain favorable treatment from lenders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Holds Rates Steady and Pledges to Proceed Carefully, Jeanna Smialek, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). The Federal Reserve left interest rates at 5.25 to 5.5 percent, but its chair, Jerome Powell, said policymakers could still raise rates again.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday while keeping alive the possibility of a future increase, striking a cautious stance as rapid inflation retreats but is not yet vanquished.

federal reserve system CustomRates have been on hold in a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent since July, up from near-zero as recently as March 2022. Policymakers think that borrowing costs are high enough to achieve their goal of curbing economic growth if they are kept at this level over time.

By cooling demand, the Fed is hoping to prod companies to raise prices less quickly. While the economy has held up so far — growth was unusually strong over the summer — inflation has come down since 2022. Overall price increases decelerated to 3.4 percent as of September, from more than 7 percent at their peak.

Fed policymakers are now trying to wrestle inflation the rest of the way back to 2 percent. The combination of economic resilience and moderating inflation has given officials hope that they might be able to slow growth gradually and relatively painlessly in a rare “soft landing.” At the same time, the economy’s surprising endurance is forcing the Fed to question whether it has done enough to tamp down demand and price increases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cornell student charged with making death threats to Jewish community, Praveena Somasundaram, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). A Cornell University student was arrested Tuesday and accused of making death threats toward the school’s Jewish community in online messages, including one post that talked about shooting up a building frequented by Jewish students, federal officials announced.

Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old from Pittsford, N.Y., was charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications, federal prosecutors said. In one post, he threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York said in a news release. He also allegedly made graphic, violent death threats to Jewish men and babies and spoke of sexually assaulting Jewish women.

It is unclear whether Dai has an attorney to represent him. Attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful Tuesday evening. His first court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, prosecutors said. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Posted over the weekend, the online messages raised concerns on Cornell University’s campus about the safety of Jewish students. Cornell’s police department plans to continue its increased presence on campus, which began after the online incident, Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, said in a statement Tuesday.

“We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Malina said. “We know that our campus community will continue to support one another in the days ahead.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) applauded the efforts by law enforcement in handling the case.

“Threatening a mass shooting or horrific antisemitic violence is outrageous and unacceptable,” she tweeted late Tuesday. “Grateful to our law enforcement partners who have worked to keep @Cornell students and all New Yorkers safe from the forces of hate.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Colleges braced for antisemitism and violence. It’s happening, Jack Stripling, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). ‘I have Jewish blood on my hands,’ a Tulane student said after aiding a classmate who was assaulted at a pro-Palestinian rally.

Recent days have witnessed what Jewish students and watchdog groups describe as a raft of antisemitic incidents on college campuses. Jewish students at Cooper Union in New York City sheltered in a library as pro-Palestinian demonstrators banged on the glass walls of the building. At a pro-Palestinian protest near Tulane University, at least two students were assaulted in a melee that began when someone tried to burn an Israeli flag. And anonymous posters flooded a Cornell message board with threats, prompting the school’s president to alert the FBI. “If you see a Jewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throats,” one message said. Another threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews.”

College administrators braced at the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict for an outbreak of antisemitism, Islamophobia, harassment and even violence. Free speech advocates predicted infringements on constitutional rights. Now, as the raid by Hamas against Israeli civilians gives way to wider combat in the region, those fears appear to be coming to fruition. The solemn and peaceable candlelight vigils from earlier this month preceded uglier confrontations, leaving Jewish college students feeling anxious, afraid and unsafe.

Amid what the Biden administration on Monday described as an “alarming rise” of antisemitism on college campuses, some Jewish students say they feel more vulnerable than ever before.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Under Shroud of Secrecy, Israel’s Invasion of Gaza Has Begun, Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). After an air campaign that killed thousands of Palestinians, Israel has begun a ground assault. It has deliberately made it hard to tell what is happening.

Israel FlagWhen Israeli ground forces advanced en masse into the Gaza Strip on Friday evening, just after the Jewish Sabbath began, they did it so secretly that it was hours before the outside world understood what had happened.

In the three days since the long-anticipated invasion began, Israel’s military has operated with a similar ambiguity, defying expectations by carrying out a more incremental ground operation than was initially anticipated. While it has continued to decimate Gaza and its people with aerial bombardments, much of the ground force appears to have hung back from Gaza City, Hamas’s stronghold in northern Gaza, and stayed instead in the countryside on the city’s fringes.

Under U.S. pressure to temper their response to the Hamas killing of more than 1,400 people on Israeli soil, Israel has even avoided describing the operation as an invasion. The loss of life, though, in Gaza continues to rise, with the Palestinian death toll so far over 8,000, according to Hamas officials.

“Everything is happening in darkness,” said Andreas Krieg, a war expert at King’s College, London, adding that “there’s a very small group of people who actually know what’s going on, even inside Israel.”

The goal of such strategic ambiguity is threefold, analysts say.

First, it keeps Hamas uncertain about Israel’s next steps. And, at least for now, it allows Israeli soldiers to maintain a siege of Gaza City, where Hamas has dug a network of underground tunnels and fortifications. By doing so, Israel avoids — or at least puts off — bloody urban combat inside the city.

The fog may also buy Israel some time.

Not only may it help put off scrutiny from both internal and external critics, it gives Israel a chance to assess the plans of Hamas allies like Hezbollah, a militia in Lebanon that has exchanged fire with Israel in recent days. Israeli officials fear the militia may be weighing a more forceful attack of its own.

“Modern war is conducted not only with tanks and airplanes,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said in a phone interview. “It’s a cyberwar, a psychological war, and an informational war.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Conditions Worsen in Gaza as Israeli Troops Advance, Hiba Yazbek and Victoria Kim, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Israeli ground troops are edging closer to densely populated Gaza City in an apparent attempt to cut off the northern part of the enclave, Gazan officials said.

Israeli ground troops and tanks pushed deeper into the Gaza Strip and were edging closer to the territory’s main city, local authorities said on Tuesday, as humanitarian officials warned that two million Palestinian civilians there faced a growing catastrophe.

Israel FlagThe Gazan Interior Ministry said Israeli forces were in al Karama, a neighborhood north of densely populated Gaza City, and Salah al-Din Street, the strip’s main north-south highway. It added that the forces were trying to reach Al-Rasheed Street, a coastal highway, “as they seek to separate the northern Gaza Strip from its south.”

palestinian flagThe Israeli military continued to offer few details about its ground invasion, now in a fifth day, saying only that its forces were “conducting fierce battles” against the armed group Hamas inside the strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday categorically dismissed any possibility of a cease-fire, even as United Nations humanitarian officials told the Security Council that an immediate halt to the fighting was vital to save civilian lives.

“The scale of the horror people are experiencing in Gaza is really hard to convey,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s chief official for humanitarian and relief affairs, said in a statement on Monday. “People are becoming increasingly desperate, as they search for food, water and shelter amid the relentless bombing campaign that is wiping out whole families and entire neighborhoods.”

Here’s what else to know:

  • Despite growing international criticism of Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza, Mr. Netanyahu said that pleas for a cease-fire amounted to “calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism.”
  • Photos, satellite images and videos verified by The New York Times showed formations of troops and armored vehicles approaching Gaza City and nearby population centers from the north, east and south.
  • The World Health Organization said that services had been “severely reduced” at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, Gaza’s only cancer center, after “extremely concerning reports of airstrikes” in its vicinity over the last two days.
  • Israel said its forces had rescued a soldier abducted on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants, Ori Megidish. The foreign ministry also confirmed the death of Shani Louk, a 23-year-old German-Israeli citizen believed to have been kidnapped at a music festival.
  • Hamas’s armed wing released a video on Monday of three women who were being held hostage. One of them sharply criticized Mr. Netanyahu, saying they were being held in “unbearable conditions” and demanding that he free Hamas prisoners. In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu’s office called the footage “cruel psychological propaganda” and said Israel was doing everything it could to bring the hostages home.

state dept map logo SmallPolitico, Senate confirms Jack Lew as ambassador to Israel, over Republican pushback, Joe Gould and Connor O’Brien, Oct. 31, 2023. Lew will have to take up Washington’s call to protect civilians in Gaza amid the widening human suffering there.

politico CustomThe Senate confirmed Jack Lew as the U.S. ambassador to Israel in a largely party line vote Tuesday, installing a permanent envoy to the country as its war against Hamas rages on in Gaza.

Lew was approved 53-43 — a tight tally reminiscent of the Senate’s narrow vote in 2017 to confirm then-President Donald Trump’s pick, David Friedman. U.S. ambassadors to Israel, a country that has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress, have traditionally been approved by voice vote or through unanimous consent.

Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were the only Republicans to break ranks and support Lew.

senate democrats logoLew will have to take up Washington’s call to protect civilians in Gaza amid the widening human suffering there. The administration has been pushing for an immediate increase in humanitarian aid, and it’s also trying to keep the war from expanding — partially by sending Israel enough weapons that it can deter Iran and other rivals from launching other attacks on the country.

Tuesday’s vote capped Democratic efforts to fast-track Lew’s confirmation to the important post, despite Republican objections. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and others cited the urgency of the relationship, the need for the U.S. to support Israel in its war with Hamas and the importance of protecting America’s citizens and diplomatic corps in Israel.

“Jacob Lew is eminently qualified to serve in this post. He has extensive experience. He has the political acumen that we need for our ambassador at this time. He has the respect of the Israeli officials,” Cardin said in a floor speech ahead of the vote.

Cardin accused Lew’s Republican opponents of using his nomination to double down on their opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Lew had a role in.

Lew, a Treasury secretary under former President Barack Obama, advanced 12-9 out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a mostly partisan vote this month. The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), said this month he would vote against Lew; he and Republicans took aim at Lew as a top player in lifting sanctions on Tehran as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Risch and others accusing him of being less than transparent.

“This is the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. We should vote ‘no’ and support Israel” Risch said in a Senate floor speech ahead of the vote.

During his confirmation hearing, Lew denied accusations by Republicans that he secretly gave Iran access to U.S. financial markets, saying, “my actions are what kept them from getting full access to the world financial system.” He also made clear that in Tehran, he believes the U.S. is dealing with “an evil, malign government that funds its evil and malign activities first.”

Israel has been without a Senate-confirmed ambassador since July when the last top diplomat, Thomas Nides, stepped down. The post has since been filled on an interim basis by career diplomat Stephanie Hallett. Biden nominated Lew in September.

Lew, who is Jewish, received endorsements from the Jerusalem Post, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch.

Politico, RFK Jr.’s 2024 bid is a threat to Republicans — and donor data shows it, Brittany Gibson and Jessica Piper, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). A Politico analysis of his donor base reveals a lot about who is powering this unconventional candidate.

politico CustomRobert F. Kennedy Jr. is collecting checks from past Donald Trump donors at a much higher rate than former Joe Biden contributors, a sign the independent presidential hopeful may pull more from the Republican electorate than Democratic voters.

A Politico analysis of campaign finance records also shows that Kennedy’s bid has drawn millions of dollars from donors who kept their wallets shut in the last two presidential elections, suggesting he is activating people who have been turned off by what major parties have been offering.

Though both parties insist Kennedy will be a non-factor in the campaign, there’s clear anxiety about his potential impact, especially among Republicans. The analysis of Kennedy’s campaign donations as of the most recent filing deadline shows why: His large-dollar donor base has a clear Republican lean. That also fits with limited polling that suggests Kennedy might draw more support from Republican-leaning voters.

Most of the $10 million Kennedy raised from large-dollar donors through Sept. 30 came from voters who did not make any federal donations during either the 2016 or 2020 election cycles.

Of those who did, 2,100 donors — giving nearly $2 million — previously made contributions on the Republican donation service WinRed since 2020. Far fewer donors previously gave through the Democratic tool ActBlue: roughly 1,700 contributors who gave $1.4 million.

Kennedy is running as a self-described “spoiler,” and the draw that the former Democrat has with both the GOP and those who don’t have an obvious political home makes him an unpredictable threat to the establishment of both parties. Some Republicans are already trying to redefine Kennedy as a “typical Democrat,” revealing they’re worried about his appeal to GOP voters.
RFK Jr. announces independent run for president

Both Kennedy and Trump present a fundamental question to voters, said Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio): “Do you think the country has been well-governed by the bipartisan establishment for the past generation?”

“When Kennedy goes out there and runs against that establishment, he has to appreciate it probably ends up splitting votes off from President Trump,” said Vance, who has endorsed Trump’s 2024 campaign.

Federal law requires campaigns to disclose donations only from donors who give at least $200. The POLITICO examination relies on Federal Election Commission data of those large-dollar donors, who make up about two-thirds of Kennedy’s money raised through Sept. 30, the latest campaign finance reporting deadline.

That data shows more than 500 of Kennedy’s biggest donors gave to Trump’s 2020 campaign, more than three times the number of donors who gave to Biden in that race. And in this cycle, more than 160 donors have given to both Trump and Kennedy, while only a handful have given to both Biden and Kennedy.

It’s not just Trump. More than 160 of Kennedy’s donors have also given to biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who also brands himself as an anti-establishment candidate. Another 100 also contributed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has leaned into his anti-vaccine stance on the campaign trail.

“Some members of our party like his positions on vaccines, but other than that he’s a liberal,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). “That’s not going to work.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Home-School Nation: Home schooling’s rise from fringe to fastest-growing form of education, Peter Jamison, Laura Meckler, Prayag Gordy, Clara Ence Morse and Chris Alcantara, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A district-by-district look at home schooling’s explosive growth, which a Post analysis finds has far outpaced the rate at private and public schools.

In March 2020, an involuntary form of home schooling — remote learning — was thrust upon American families everywhere. Millions could not wait to get their kids back to school, but for hundreds of thousands of others, the idea of teaching their kids at home was appealing. A surge in home schooling became one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic.

Yet there has been scant reliable data on the magnitude of the growth or the nature of the new home-schoolers. As part of a year-long series, The Washington Post set out to understand who the new home-schoolers are, where they live, how many there are and why they made these choices.

This research has included more than 100 interviews and two groundbreaking data projects: the collection and analysis of six years of enrollment and home-schooling registration figures in nearly 7,000 school districts, and a national poll of home-school parents.

The results paint a picture of home schooling as the fastest growing part of the U.S. education system, embraced by families more diverse than ever before, who are engaged in new and different ways of home education from the home-schoolers who preceded them.

 

More On Israel’s War With Hamas

Politico, House GOP announces standalone $14.3B Israel aid package, setting up Senate clash, Sarah Ferris, Jennifer Scholtes, Anthony Adragna and Connor O’Brien, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). mike johnson oHouse Speaker Mike Johnson receives a standing ovation from House Republicans as he gives a speech shortly after being elected Speaker in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on October 25, 2023.

politico CustomSpeaker Mike Johnson, right,  on Monday unveiled the House GOP’s $14.3 billion aid package for Israel’s military drive against Hamas, which he has vowed to pass on the floor this week.

Unlike other recent supplemental assistance packages, the House GOP plans to offset the cost of the Israel funding — largely by cutting funds to the Internal Revenue Service, likely in an attempt to win over conservative hardliners. Despite that leadership effort, the legislation already faces significant scrutiny from conservatives, who want to make sure the spending is fully offset.

U.S. House logo“I will be a NO vote,” wrote Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). “We simply can’t afford it.”

The 13-page bill represents Johnson’s first major piece of legislation to head to the House floor, besides a resolution of support for Israel djt maga hatlast week. Yet it will run into significant trouble across the Capitol, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are eying a far larger global aid package, which would include funding for Israel, but also Ukraine.

Schumer bristled at the House GOP’s bill shortly after its release, criticizing its narrow scope as well as its targeting of IRS funds.

“We believe, our Democratic Caucus, we should be doing all of it together: Israel, Ukraine, South Pacific, etc. And obviously a pay-for like that makes it much harder to pass,” Schumer said.

Earlier Monday, Johnson told reporters he intends to speak with Schumer about the Israel-only funding bill this week.

Johnson has indicated he wants to keep aid to Israel separate from that for Ukraine, assuming such an option could pass the GOP-led House. That approach stands in stark contrast to the Senate, where both Schumer and McConnell are pushing to bundle the two issues together.

“There are lots of things going on around the world that we have to address, and we will,” Johnson said in a Sunday interview on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “But right now, what’s happening in Israel takes the immediate attention, and I think we’ve got to separate that and get it through.”

To cover the cost of the measure, it would claw back $14.3 billion from IRS funding Democrats provided in their signature climate and tax package last year to beef up tax enforcement.

The House Republican bill comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s request for $106 billion in emergency aid, and it matches the president’s request for $14.3 billion for Israel. The administration has also asked for more than $61 billion for Ukraine and about $10 billion in humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Gaza.

The House measure includes $4 billion in Pentagon funding to transfer to Israel for Iron Dome and David’s Sling, two missile defense systems to defend against rocket attacks. The package also includes $4.4 billion for the Pentagon to replace inventories of weapons and equipment sent to Israel as well as to reimburse the military for training and other services. Another $3.5 billion would go to the State Department in foreign military financing to help arm Israel.

The bill includes:

$4.4 billion for the Pentagon to use broadly on “attacks in Israel,” through next September. The military can also tap into that money to backfill weapons and reimburse itself for training.
$801.4 million for the Army to use on ammunition.
$10 million for the Navy to use on weapons.
$38.6 million for the Air Force to buy missiles.
$4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, two missile defense systems to defend against rocket attacks.
$1.2 billion would go toward research and development efforts for Iron Beam, Israel’s air defense laser project.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel’s Air and Ground Forces Put More Pressure on Gaza, Isabel Kershner and Vivek Shankar, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden called on Israel to protect civilians as it expanded its invasion and struck hundreds of targets from the air over the weekend.

Israel FlagIsraeli forces were attacking Gaza by land and air, military officials said on Monday, as infantry and armored units fought inside the enclave and warplanes struck hundreds of targets over the weekend.

Entering a fourth day of what a military spokesman described as an “extended ground operation” against Hamas, Israel continued to warn palestinian flaghospitals in northern Gaza to evacuate, the World Health Organization said overnight. But as Israeli troops sought to move deeper inside the territory, the agency again urged Israel to rescind the warning, saying it was impossible to clear hospitals without risking the lives of patients. Health facilities are already damaged or overflowing and facing severe shortages of medicines.

Palestinian health officials say more than 8,000 people have been killed in Gaza, many of them children, since Israel began launching retaliatory airstrikes in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed some 1,400 people in Israel. President Biden on Sunday reiterated support for Israel’s right to protect itself, according to the White House, while underscoring “the need to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of civilians.”

  • Here’s what else to know:
  • The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli strikes had damaged sections of the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City, while Palestinian media reported that the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital in Gaza had also been damaged.
  • Forty-seven trucks carrying food, water, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Sunday, according to a Palestinian official at the crossing. That was the largest one-day total in the nine days since the shipments began, but remained a fraction of what the United Nations says civilians need in Gaza.
  • The Israeli military carried out a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin overnight and at least four Palestinians were killed, the Palestinian health ministry said. The Israeli Army said its soldiers engaged in a gunfight with armed Palestinians in a refugee camp and that an Israeli drone struck from the air. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since Oct. 7, according to U.N. figures.
  • The Israeli military said overnight that it had responded to fire from Syrian and Lebanese territory.

 

 Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023 (APA Images photo by Naaman Omar via Wikimedia Commons).

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023 (APA Images photo by Naaman Omar via Wikimedia Commons).

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Biden’s Support for Israel Now Comes With Words of Caution, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The administration has become more critical of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks, a shift that U.S. officials attribute to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel FlagThree days after Hamas terrorists slaughtered more than 1,400 Israelis, President Biden assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that he supported his vow to “avenge this black day” and to turn Gaza “into a ruin” from the air and on the ground.

“I told him if the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing, our response would be swift, decisive and overwhelming,” Mr. Biden recalled saying during a call between the two leaders on Oct. 10.

joe biden black background resized serious fileBut the president’s message, in which he emphatically joined the mourning that was sweeping through Israel, has shifted dramatically over the past three weeks. While he continues to declare unambiguous support for Israel, Mr. Biden and his top military and diplomatic officials have become more critical of Israel’s response to the terrorist attacks and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The president and his senior aides still cling to the hope that the new war between Israel and Hamas might eventually give way to a resumption of talks about normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could even offer some leverage for a return to the two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine exist side by side.

But in the short run, American officials have grown more strident in reminding the Israelis that even if Hamas terrorists are deliberately intermingling with civilians, operations must be tailored to avoid nonmilitary casualties. Last week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at the United Nations that “humanitarian pauses must be considered,” a move that Israel has rejected.

“While Israel has the right — indeed, the obligation — to defend itself, the way it does so matters,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that “it means food, water, medicine and other essential humanitarian assistance must be able to flow into Gaza and to the people who need them.”

On Sunday, just a day after Israeli military leaders said Hamas terrorists were using a hospital in Gaza as a command center, Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, was more blunt. Mr. Sullivan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields “creates an added burden for the Israeli Defense Forces.”

He added, “This is something that we talk about with the Israelis on a daily basis.” He then noted that hospitals were not legitimate military targets just as Israel was warning that another major hospital in Gaza had to be emptied out before the next round of bombing.

Administration officials said the shift in tone and substance was the result of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where the health ministry says more than 8,000 people have been killed, provoking outrage in the United States and around the world.

 

benjamin netanyahu frown

ny times logoNew York Times, Netanyahu Finds Himself at War in Gaza and at Home, Isabel Kershner, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apologized for accusing military and security officials of lapses that led to the Hamas massacre but declined to accept responsibility himself.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a message: His military and security chiefs, he said, had failed to provide him with any warning of the surprise Hamas assault on Oct. 7. He appeared to be placing all the blame on them for the colossal lapses — even as Israeli forces were broadening a risky ground war in Gaza.

The country awoke to a furious response, including from within Mr. Netanyahu’s own war cabinet. The post on X, formerly Twitter, was deleted, and the Israeli leader apologized in a new one. “I was wrong,” he said.

But the damage was done.

For many Israelis, the episode confirmed suspicions of rifts and disarray at the top during one of the worst crises in the country’s 75-year history and reinforced qualms about Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership.

“He’s in survival mode,” said Gadi Wolfsfeld, an expert in political communications at Reichman University in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

“He’s been in difficult circumstances before, and he still believes he can come out of this and continue to be prime minister when this is all done,” Professor Wolfsfeld said, adding, “The only thing driving him is staying in power.”

Among the first to call out Mr. Netanyahu’s middle-of-the night comments was Benny Gantz, the centrist former defense minister and military chief who, for the sake of national unity, left the ranks of the parliamentary opposition to join Mr. Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet in the days after the massacre by Hamas. At least 1,400 people were killed in those attacks — it was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust — and at least 239 were taken as hostages to Gaza.

washington post logo Washington Post, Israeli tanks penetrate deep into Gaza as Hamas hostage video emerges, Miriam Berger, Hajar Harb and William Booth, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Israeli forces reported moving deeper into the Gaza Strip and directly engaging Hamas militants as the ground incursions gather pace.

Moving quickly overnight, Israeli tanks and soldiers entered the outskirts of Gaza City on Monday, reaching the main highway that goes north and south through the 25-mile-long enclave. The forces were so close to the city that those ground troops called in airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Israel FlagA string of incidents Monday shows evidence of the deepest penetration of Gaza by Israeli ground forces since they began incursions three days ago, as a relentless bombing campaign continues, with the military confirming that combined infantry, armor and engineering forces are all inside Gaza’s borders.

Hamas, the militant group that controls the besieged enclave, also released a chilling video of three of its hostages delivering a harsh statement addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with one woman almost screaming at the Israeli leader, “Free, free us now. Free their civilians, free their prisoners, free us, free us all, let us return to our families now. Now! Now! Now!”

ny times logoNew York Times, Posters of kidnapped Israelis along U.S. sidewalks have ignited a firestorm, Katherine Rosman, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In the weeks since Hamas attacked Israel, fliers depicting the hostages have become ubiquitous. But in cities and college campuses across the globe, anti-Israel protesters have removed them.

“KIDNAPPED,” the posters say, in bright red block letters above pictures of people taken hostage by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, urgent reminders of the men, women and children still being held hostage in Gaza.

But on college campuses and in cities around the world in recent weeks, people have been caught tearing them down.

palestinian flag“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” a man says in a video posted on social media as he watches two young people at the University of Southern California shove wadded-up posters into the trash.

“They’re making the conflict worse,” one of the young people replies, adding, “I’m not a fan of Hamas.”

In the weeks since the war in the Middle East started, the “kidnapped” posters, created by Israeli street artists, have grown ubiquitous, papering public spaces across the United States, Western Europe and beyond. Available to anyone with an internet connection, they can be printed out and pasted onto lampposts, boarded-up storefronts and subway entrances.

Displaying the posters has become a form of activism, keeping the more than 200 hostages seized by Hamas in full view of the public. But removing the posters has quickly emerged as its own form of protest — a release valve and also a provocation by those anguished by the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians in the years before Oct. 7 and since the bombing of Gaza began. Some of those caught destroying the posters have been condemned on social media. A dentist in Boston and a person in South Florida, among others, have lost their jobs.

The battle has inflamed already tense emotions. And it captures one of the most fervently debated questions of the war: Whose suffering should command public attention and sympathy?

washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken, Austin press for Israel, Ukraine aid in Senate testimony, Michael Birnbaum, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The Biden administration is seeking billions of dollars in emergency funds to help both countries.

President Biden’s two top foreign policy lieutenants testified in the Senate on Tuesday on behalf of a $105 billion request to support Israel, Ukraine and other security priorities, amid uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans are willing to keep the funding taps open for Kyiv.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced questioning from the Senate Appropriations Committee over the White House’s strategy as it seeks to bolster the defenses of both Ukraine and Israel, the closest U.S. ally in the Mideast. The hearing was one of the first public indicators of whether Biden will be able to win congressional support for his political strategy on Ukraine — which is to request $61 billion, a major sum, in the hope that he won’t have to ask again before the 2024 elections.

Funding for defense aid for Ukraine and Israel enjoys relatively wide bipartisan backing, but a growing number of Republicans have become skeptical on help for Kyiv, leaving its approval in doubt.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The closer you look, the more Netanyahu resembles Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 31, 2023. Roughly 80 percent of Israelis blame jennifer rubin new headshotPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition government for the Hamas catastrophe, according to a poll by the Hebrew newspaper Maariv.

During the unfolding pogrom, and in the days and in the weeks after, the utter lack of effective, empathetic action by the government has left Israelis fuming. (Government inaction left a void that volunteers, including thousands who participated in pro-democracy protests, are now filling.)

After an announcement of a new phase in the Gaza military action (about which many Israelis have mixed emotions), Netanyahu declared at roughly 1 a.m. on Sunday, “Contrary to the false claims: Under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of Hamas’s war intentions.” He added, “On the contrary, all the security officials, including the head of military intelligence and the head of the Shin Bet, assessed that Hamas had been deterred and was looking for a settlement. This assessment was submitted again and again to the prime minister and the cabinet by all the security forces and intelligence community, up until the outbreak of the war.”

In saying so, Netanyahu is both crediting Hamas with the element of surprise and daring supporters to remain mum in the face of his self-serving comment. This was very much akin to four-times indicted former president Donald Trump’s declaration that Hezbollah was “very smart.”

The reaction was fierce and immediate. Benny Gantz, the leader of a major opposition party who agreed to be part of a special war cabinet, denounced the tweet. “On this morning in particular, I want to support and strengthen all the security forces and [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers, including the IDF chief of staff, the head of military intelligence, the head of the Shin Bet,” Gantz added early Sunday. “When we are at war, leadership must display responsibility, make the correct decisions and strengthen the forces in a way that they will understand what we demand from them …. [T]he prime minister must retract his statement.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Jamaal Bowman’s calls for Israel to stand down are fueling a perilous primary challenge, Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Representative Jamaal Bowman was already facing blowback from Jewish leaders in his district and a growing primary threat for bucking his party’s stance on Israel.

But on Friday, he did not show any hesitation as he grabbed the megaphone at a cease-fire rally back home in the New York City suburbs to demand what only a dozen other members of Congress have: that both Israel and Hamas lay down their arms.

He condemned Hamas’s brutal murder of 1,400 Israelis. He condemned the governments of the United States and Israel for facilitating what he called the “erasure” of Palestinian lives. And with Palestinian flags waving, Mr. Bowman said, “I am ashamed, quite ashamed to be a member of Congress at times when Congress doesn’t value every single life.”

Forget about retreating to safer political ground. In the weeks since Hamas’s assault, Mr. Bowman, an iconoclastic former middle-school principal with scant foreign policy experience, has repeatedly inserted himself into the center of a major fight fracturing his party’s left between uncompromising pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian factions.

Mr. Bowman frames his actions as a moral imperative, but they are already courting political peril. Local Jewish leaders have denounced his approach as blaming both sides for the gravest attack against their people since the Holocaust. A potentially formidable primary challenger, George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, has begun taking steps toward entering the race.

Even some Jewish supporters publicly defending Mr. Bowman have grown wary. When a group of constituents who call themselves “Jews for Jamaal” held a private call with the congressman last week, they warned him he should be prepared to pay a political price if he does not support a multibillion-dollar military aid package for Israel now pending before Congress, according to three people on the call.

Similar coalitions are lining up primary fights across the country against other members of Democrats’ left-wing “Squad” over their views on Israel, including Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Cori Bush of Missouri and Summer Lee of Pennsylvania.

 

israeli tanks gaza cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Is ‘Expanding’ Ground Operations in the Gaza Strip, Isabel Kershner, Vivian Nereim and Vivek Shankar, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Two days after sending soldiers into Gaza, Israel’s military warned residents to head south with increasing “urgency.” Phone and internet connections were returning to parts of the strip after a near-total blackout.

Israel FlagThe Israeli military on Sunday signaled a heavier assault on Gaza, saying it had expanded its ground incursion overnight, and warned with increasing “urgency” that Palestinian civilians should move to the southern part of the coastal strip.

The precise number of soldiers who have been sent into Gaza since Friday remained unclear, but the military’s chief spokesman said that Israeli forces were “gradually expanding the ground activity and the scope of our forces,” and that they were “progressing through the stages of the war according to plan.”

For more than two weeks — as Israel set the stage for its ground incursion with an intense aerial bombing campaign that Palestinians say has killed thousands of people, many of them children — the Israeli military has been calling on Gazans to move south, toward the border with Egypt. The demand has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, worsening Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, even as Israel continued to bombard areas in the south.

palestinian flagLate last week, Palestinians said that airstrikes had damaged telecommunications networks, leaving Gazans without phone or internet service as Israel began an intensified ground operation late Friday.

Phone and internet connectivity in Gaza partially returned on Sunday, according to the U.N. relief agency that aids Palestinians and Netblocks, which tracks internet outages. And the Israeli military said, without giving details, that humanitarian efforts to send more aid to Gaza — led by Egypt and the United States — would be expanded on Monday.

 

Smoke rising from bombed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 29, 2023 (EPA photo by Hannibal Hanschke via Shutterstock and The New York Times).

Smoke rising from bombed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 29, 2023 (EPA photo by Hannibal Hanschke via Shutterstock and The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Please, Israel, Don’t Get Lost in Hamas’s Tunnels, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). I am watching the Israel-Hamas tom friedman twitterwar in Gaza today and thinking about one of the world leaders I’ve most admired: Manmohan Singh. He was India’s prime minister in late November 2008 when 10 Pakistani jihadist militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, widely believed to be linked to Pakistan’s military intelligence, infiltrated India and killed more than 160 people in Mumbai, including 61 at two luxury hotels. What was Singh’s military response to India’s Sept. 11?

He did nothing.

Singh never retaliated militarily against the nation of Pakistan or Lashkar camps in Pakistan. It was a remarkable act of restraint. What was the logic? In his book Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, India’s foreign minister at the time, Shivshankar Menon, explained, making these key points:

Chief among the reasons, Menon said, was that any military response would have quickly obscured just how outrageous and terrible the raid on Indian civilians and tourists was; “the fact of a terrorist attack from Pakistan on India with official involvement on the Pakistan side” would have been lost. Once India retaliated, the world would immediately have had what Menon called a “ho-hum reaction.” Just another Pakistani-Indian dust-up — nothing unusual here.

Moreover, Menon wrote, “an Indian attack on Pakistan would have united Pakistan behind the Pakistan Army, which was in increasing domestic disrepute,” and “an attack on Pakistan would also have weakened the civilian government in Pakistan, which had just been elected to power and which sought a much better relationship with India than the Pakistan Army was willing to consider.” He continued, “A war scare, and maybe even a war itself, was exactly what the Pakistan Army wanted to buttress its internal position.”

In conclusion, said Menon, “by not attacking Pakistan, India was free to pursue all legal and covert means to achieve its goals of bringing the perpetrators to justice, uniting the international community to force consequences on Pakistan for its behavior and to strengthen the likelihood that such an attack would not take place again.”

I understand that Israel is not India — a country of 1.4 billion people, covering a massive territory. The loss of more than 160 people in Mumbai, some of them tourists, was not felt in every home and hamlet, as were Hamas’s killing of roughly 1,400 Israelis, the maiming of countless others and the kidnapping of more than 200 people. Pakistan also has nuclear weapons to deter retaliation.

Nevertheless, it is instructive to reflect on the contrast between India’s response to the Mumbai terrorist attack and Israel’s response to the Hamas slaughter.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government immediately raced into a plan to, as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant put it, “wipe out” Hamas “from the face of the earth.” And in three weeks Israel has inflicted easily more than triple the number of civilian casualties and caused far more destruction in Gaza than Israel suffered, while committing itself to taking military control of Gaza — an operation, on a relative population basis, that is roughly equivalent to the United States deciding almost overnight to occupy half of Mexico. The Israeli plan, according to Netanyahu, will be a “long and difficult” battle to “destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home.”

As I said, Israel is not India, and there is no way that it could be expected to turn the other cheek — not in that neighborhood. But what is Netanyahu’s plan?

The Israeli officials I speak with tell me they know two things for sure: Hamas will never again govern Gaza, and Israel will not govern a post-Hamas Gaza. They suggest that they will set up an arrangement similarly seen in parts of the West Bank today, with Palestinians in Gaza administering day-to-day life and Israeli military and Shin Bet security teams providing the muscle behind the scenes.

This is a half-baked plan. Who are these Palestinians who will be enlisted to govern Gaza on Israel’s behalf? What happens the morning after a Palestinian working for Israel in Gaza is found murdered in an alley with a note pinned to his chest: “Traitor,’’ signed “the Hamas underground.”

In sum, dear reader, I understand why Israel believes it needs to destroy Hamas and thereby deter others in the neighborhood from ever contemplating such a thing. But the view from Washington is that Israel’s leadership does not have a viable plan to win or a leader who can navigate the stresses and complexity of this crisis. Israel needs to know that the tolerance of its American ally for massive civilian casualties in Gaza in an open-ended military operation is not unlimited. In fact, we may soon be approaching the limit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Israel can defeat Hamas, it would be a major blow against Iran’s proxy strategy, Max Boot, Oct. 30, 2023. Ever since the horrific Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, there has been a Jesuitical — or is it Talmudic? — debate over Iran’s degree of responsibility.

U.S. and Israeli officials have said they have no evidence that Iran planned or authorized the attack, but there is no doubt that Iran was, at the very least, morally culpable for the massacre of 1,400 Israeli civilians — which Iranian leaders praised.

According to the State Department, Iran provides $100 million a year in funding for Palestinian terrorist groups, along with training in military tactics. Many are now calling for Iran to be held to account for its support of terrorism. But while it’s easy to demand that we stop “appeasing” Iran, it’s much harder to say what we should be doing. As veteran U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller told me, “We have a strategic problem with Iran, and we have no strategic solution.”

This is not, of course, a new dilemma. It’s been going on for nearly half a century, ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution resulted in the seizure of more than 50 hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. We recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bomber attacks mounted by Hezbollah against the U.S. Marine and French military barracks in Beirut. Those bombings killed 241 U.S. military personnel and 58 French troops. Iran has only recently admitted its responsibility, but the U.S. intelligence community had proof at the time of Iran’s involvement. Yet the United States never effectively retaliated. Instead, the Reagan administration traded arms for hostages with Tehran.

washington post logoWashington Post, The lesson all Gazans learn: When you hear a rocket, you know it won’t hit you, Atef Abu Saif, Oct. 30, 2023. Atef Abu Saif is the author of six novels and since 2019 has been minister of culture for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Abu Saif was visiting family in Gaza, where he grew up, when bombs began to fall Oct. 7 — in retaliation for Hamas’s surprise attack earlier that day that killed 1,400 Israelis. He began sending voice notes to friends abroad, describing the fraying texture of everyday life, creating a diary of life under siege.

The following excerpts, which have been edited for length, clarity and style, track roughly three weeks, from Oct. 7 to 26.

washington post logoWashington Post, New danger for Ukraine: Taking Israel’s side in war against Hamas and Gaza, Isobel Koshiw, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s immediate and forceful support for Israel in its fight against Hamas has imperiled almost a year of concerted efforts by Kyiv to win the support of Arab and Muslim nations in its war against Russia.

ukraine flagZelensky’s early statements backing Israel after the surprise attack by Hamas, in which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed, helped Ukraine stay in the international spotlight, and placed it firmly on the side of the United States.

Israel FlagZelensky’s position also drew attention to the increasingly close relationship between Russia and Iran, which is a main sponsor of Hamas, a sworn enemy of Israel, and also an important supplier of drones and other weapons for Moscow.

Hamas and Russia are the “same evil, and the only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a speech to NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly on Oct. 9.

But with Israel’s military operation set to enter its fourth week, and Palestinian civilian casualties mounting, the war in Gaza is posing one of the most difficult diplomatic tests for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

Countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which at times have provided crucial support to Ukraine, have accused the West of double standards in Gaza, alluding to the broad condemnation of civilian deaths in Ukraine compared with the muted criticism of Israel.

Tension with Muslim and Arab nations, however, is just one risk facing Kyiv, which must now also contend with the world’s attention shifting largely to new war in the Middle East, as well as competing demands for U.S. military support at a time when House Republicans just elected a new speaker, Mike Johnson (La.), who has opposed sending additional aid to Ukraine.

Russia prison population plummets as convicts are sent to war

Some experts noted that Israel had already made clear it was not going to reciprocate with greater support for Ukraine.

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Biden’s speech was notable for a number of reasons, one of which is how rarely he addresses the American people in such a prominent setting about why Ukraine (and now Israel) matters to them. Biden’s most extensive speeches on Ukraine during the year and a half of the war have typically been delivered while overseas. While at home, Biden mostly talks with the public about economic issues and other matters he believes are more central to Americans and their daily lives. Critics and allies alike have long called on him to do more to explain to the American public why the rest of the world is important to them, and here he has tried to do just that (Pool photo by Jonathan Ernst on Oct. 19, 2023).

 

More On U.S. National Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, George Santos to Keep Seat After House Votes Not to Expel Him, Michael Gold, Luke Broadwater and Grace Ashford, Nov. 1, 2023. A group of New York Republicans, eager to distance themselves from their embattled colleague, failed in their push to remove him from office.

A Republican-led effort to expel Representative George Santos of New York failed decisively on Wednesday night, after a group of lawmakers from Mr. Santos’s home state could not persuade nearly U.S. House logoenough of their colleagues that his admitted lies and federal indictment were sufficient grounds to oust him.

Even as House members condemned Mr. Santos for lying to voters and donors about his biography and résumé and apparently falsifying ties to the Holocaust and Sept. 11, many said that expelling him now — nearly a year before his trial is even set to begin — would set a dangerous precedent.

republican elephant logoWith Republicans holding a razor-thin majority that they are loath to imperil, many of them, including Speaker Mike Johnson, chose to defer judgment on Mr. Santos’s fate to the conclusion of the criminal case or a continuing House Ethics investigation. But dozens of Democrats also opposed the motion to expel Mr. Santos, even as their party has been unified in calling for his resignation.
Lies, Charges and Questions Remaining in the George Santos Scandal

George Santos has told so many stories they can be hard to keep straight. We cataloged them, including major questions about his personal finances and his campaign fund-raising and spending.

The vote — 213 opposed to 179 in favor, with 19 representatives voting “present” — is the second time in nearly six months that Mr. Santos, 35, has evaded a push to expel him. And it has cleared the way for him to remain in office as he fights the 23-count federal indictment accusing him of involvement in a range of fraudulent schemes.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Blocks Censure of Tlaib on Charge of Antisemitism, Robert Jimison, Nov. 1, 2023. Some Republicans joined Democrats in refusing to back a move to rebuke Representative Rashida Tlaib, a far-left Democrat, for her criticism of Israel.

The House on Wednesday turned aside a Republican effort to formally reprimand Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, for her participation in a recent pro-Palestinian protest in which she accused Israel of genocide, as a solid bloc of Republicans joined Democrats to reject the move.

democratic donkey logoThe vote was 222 to 186 to table, or kill, a censure resolution against Ms. Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of Congress, offered by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia. The measure accused Ms. Tlaib of “antisemitic activity” and referred to the Oct. 8 protest as an “insurrection.”

Twenty-three Republicans broke with their party in voting to kill it.

U.S. House logoIt was the first in a series of back-to-back disciplinary actions scheduled for action on Wednesday by the House, which is resuming legislative business this week after nearly a month of paralysis and Republican infighting. The measures amounted to a round of partisan blame-laying and institutional strife and featured dueling accusations of antisemitism.

Following the vote on censuring Ms. Tlaib, the House had planned to turn to an effort to formally rebuke Ms. Greene for “racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories,” citing her past antisemitic statements, anti-L.G.B.T.Q.+ remarks and her praise and support for those charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. But that measure was dropped abruptly after the censure of Ms. Tlaib failed.

Though some Democrats have both publicly and privately expressed discomfort with some of Ms. Tlaib’s comments, all of them supported the effort to kill the censure. Some cited the language in Ms. Greene’s resolution that referred to the Oct. 8 protest as an “insurrection” — a term that also alienated some Republicans.

Many Democrats argued the measure amounted to a racist broadside against Ms. Tlaib.

“They want to censure her because she’s brown,” Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Democrat of Florida, said on his way to the vote.

And some Republicans said they did not want to waste time on partisan measures when there was legislative work to be done.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump 14th Amendment Disqualification Trial Can Continue, Judge Rules, Maggie Astor, Nov. 1, 2023. Donald Trump’s team asked for the Colorado case to be thrown out, arguing that his words before the Capitol attack were protected by the First Amendment.

A Colorado judge on Wednesday refused a request from lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump to throw out a case challenging his eligibility to hold office again, saying she was not yet prepared to decide on what she called “significant legal issues, many of which have never been decided by any court.”

The decision by the judge, Sarah B. Wallace, means the trial will continue through Friday before a final ruling.

It came after a lawyer for Mr. Trump asked for a “directed verdict” — essentially a conclusion, even before the defense had called any witnesses, that no legally sufficient basis existed for the plaintiffs to prevail. The Trump team argued that his words and actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol were protected by the First Amendment. Judge Wallace, who is presiding over the case in a state district court in Denver, declined to grant the request.

The case — one of several similar ones around the country — was filed by six Colorado voters who argue that Mr. Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from office anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after having taken an oath to support it.

ny times logoNew York Times, A judge suggested that she might delay former President Trump’s classified documents trial, Alan Feuer, Nov. 1, 2023. Responding to a request from the former president’s lawyers, Judge Aileen Cannon said she could make “reasonable adjustments” to the timetable for the trial, which is scheduled to start in May.

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of mishandling classified documents signaled on Wednesday that she was inclined to make some “reasonable adjustments” to the timing of the case, expressing concern that it could “collide” with Mr. Trump’s other federal trial.

Justice Department log circularSpeaking during a hearing in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, did not specify how she planned to change the schedule of the documents case and said she would soon issue a written order with the details.

But she seemed skeptical that the trial date in the documents case — now set for May 20 — could comfortably coexist with Mr. Trump’s Washington-based trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, which is set to start in early March.

“I’m having a hard time seeing, realistically, how this work can be accomplished in this compressed time period,” Judge Cannon said.

Politico, Why George Santos is sticking around (for now), Olivia Beavers, Nicholas Wu and Daniella Diaz, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Santos’ New York GOP critics may be getting help from new Republican allies on this week’s expulsion vote. It’s highly unlikely to be enough.

politico CustomAs soon as Wednesday, the House will battle over proposed punishments for three of its most polarizing members. One of this week’s votes will mark a test for new Speaker Mike Johnson, who will have to corral Republicans to oppose a resolution that would further slim down his four-seat majority by expelling Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

A group of New York Republicans, led by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, is pushing this week’s privileged resolution to expel the indicted Santos, whose politically toxic fabrications have bogged down his delegation-mates in their efforts to hold onto swing districts.

Santos’ GOP critics — including fellow New York Republicans Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Nick Langworthy and Brandon Williams — are now trying to put their political distance from him on the record. This time, as they’d hoped, they may be getting help from new Republican allies.

One GOP lawmaker told Olivia of a likely vote to join New York colleagues in voting to remove Santos. This Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity, signaled a desire to help shield battleground-seat members whose reelections are threatened by the scandal-plagued Santos.

But the New York Republicans will need to get dozens of colleagues to join them in order to reach the two-thirds support needed to expel Santos from the House. And that’s a pretty steep climb – particularly since Johnson has indicated that he doesn’t support booting Santos before the New Yorker stands trial on the dozens of charges that he has pleaded not guilty to.

Santos’ trial on his latest set of federal charges isn’t set to start until September, meaning that a verdict might not come until close to the 2024 election. Given that Santos has multiple GOP opponents in a primary race that will end earlier next year, he may also face little incentive to leave Congress after that verdict comes down.

But Santos isn’t the only target in this week’s dueling House votes.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib faces censure over her stance on Israel’s drive to defeat Hamas, particularly her outspoken advocacy for ending Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. That push is being led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and must come to a vote within two days of introduction, which likely sets up a Wednesday vote. Only a simple majority of the House is needed to pass it.

Greene’s resolution argues that Tlaib’s support for a pro-ceasefire protest in a House office building, which was organized by Jewish-led groups, amounted to an “insurrection.” Although some in the party were outraged at Tlaib for her outspoken criticism of the Israeli government, the harsh language in Greene’s measure makes it unlikely that many, if any, Democrats will vote yes. Democrats will likely move to table it as soon as it comes up.

And Greene herself faces a censure vote that Democrats unleashed after she moved against Tlaib — citing the Georgia conservative’s past flirtations with antisemitic tropes and comparison of vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. The Democratic-controlled House had voted to strip Greene of her committees during the last Congress over controversial remarks and actions.

That’s not all: Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) has introduced a resolution to censure Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for pulling a fire alarm during a vote for a funding bill last month. A person familiar with the censure told POLITICO that McClain’s measure is taking the normal course through committee, but Republicans hope there is action on it soon.

Bowman has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for triggering the false alarm and agreed to pay a fine.

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Illegal Border Crossings Are at Sustained Highs, Ashley Wu, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). For the second year in a row, the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border surpassed two million, according to government data released this month.

The 2022 fiscal year set a record of 2.2 million illegal border crossings. These numbers do not include crossings at official checkpoints. Including those, migrant crossings in the 2023 fiscal year hit a record high.

Immigration is a major issue for President Biden. Republicans say his immigration policies are too weak to reduce numbers at the border. Members of his own party — like the mayors of Chicago and New York — have said their cities do not have enough resources to provide shelter and other assistance to the growing number of migrants.

Shifting U.S. policies, global migration patterns and changing migrant demographics all factor into the high levels of illegal border crossings of the past few years.

ny times logoNew York Times, From Smugglers and TikTok, Migrants Get a Message: Go to New York, Jay Root, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Many migrants entering the U.S. have been steered to the city by relatives, politicians and smugglers, in part because of its right-to-shelter policy.

Since the spring of 2022, New York City officials say more than 130,000 migrants have come through the city’s shelter system, with about half still there. The influx of migrants, which still accounts for about 600 arrivals each day, has overwhelmed the city’s capacity to care for them and, in turn, made New York and its Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, unlikely players in a national crisis.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has bused more than 20,000 migrants to New York City from his state, saying last year in an interview on Fox News that as a so-called sanctuary city, New York deserved to be “getting a taste of what we have to deal with.”

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, recently told Bloomberg News that the migrants “are given an option about anywhere they want to go,” although in practice, the state only sends migrants to six Democrat-led cities.

washington post logoWashington Post, After setback, antiabortion forces struggle before key Ohio vote, Annie Gowen, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is on the Nov. 7 ballot in Ohio, the latest Republican state to take up the issue.

Students hoping to get others to vote “no” on an upcoming Ohio amendment to ensure abortion rights took the soft approach at a recent event at the University of Cincinnati.

ohio mapThe signs in their booth were alarmist — “Late-Term Abortion is on the Ballot” — but the young “Students for Life” advocates opted for a moderate appeal as they stopped students hurrying back and forth to class.

“We’re not voting necessarily today on whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice,” Kristin Drummond, 19, a medical science major from Kentucky, told one freshman who said she favored abortion rights. “This is about whether or not this amendment is something we should have, because it’s very extreme.”

Three months after a failed attempt by abortion opponents to make it harder to amend the state constitution, Ohioans will head to the polls again Nov. 7 to decide whether to enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution. Early voting is already underway, television ads are proliferating and millions in political money is flowing into Ohio. The amendment’s backers have outraised the antiabortion side, but together they have spent more than $40 million on television advertising and other expenses so far, campaign records show.

Abortion is currently legal in Ohio up until 22 weeks. A six-week ban was briefly in place last year before being put on hold by a judge, but not before the number of abortions dropped and patients fled to other states for care — including a 10-year-old rape victim whose case caused a national uproar.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Louisiana hometown guided by faith and family, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). While many Shreveport, La., residents hoped his new role would benefit the area, others were less confident, a reflection of the country’s ideological and racial divides.

mike johnson oIn this small town masquerading as a city, a mention of newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson during the lunchtime rush at Strawn’s Eat Shop Too (“home of the ice box pie”) drew an interruption.

“Are you talking about Mike Johnson?” said a woman in a flowered blouse, gold-cross necklace and gray ponytail. “I’m his mom.”

U.S. House logoJeanne “Jee Jee” Johnson, 69, had been sharing a “celebration lunch” Thursday with her cousin here in the central Broadmoor neighborhood, pausing to greet fellow diners as her cellphone exploded with well wishes.

Johnson saw her son’s selection in spiritual terms. “God did this,” she said. “ … It’s so good for America.”

In northwest Louisiana, people navigate their lives by family and faith. The politician raised here shares a heavy reliance on both.

Mike Johnson, 51, is a staunch conservative who championed religious causes before he was elected to the state legislature in 2015 and to Congress the following year. Although more low-profile than other Donald Trump supporters in Congress, he played a pivotal role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election and opposes abortion rights, gun control and same-sex marriage, views shared by many supporters at home.

In accepting the speakership last week, Johnson prayed on the House floor and said, “God is the one that raises up those in authority.” His wife, Kelly Lary Johnson, a pastoral counselor whose brother is a local Baptist minister, prayed for her husband for days leading up to his selection as speaker, both the new speaker and Jeanne Johnson said.

“It’s a cultural conservatism, a view not only of politics but of religion and faith,” said Royal Alexander, 56, a conservative lawyer, referring to what guides much of the community and Johnson, who he got to know after college. “People here are rugged individualists who want to make their own decisions.”

The Ark-La-Tex region in northwest Louisiana that includes Johnson’s hometown is full of historic Black and White churches, more like neighboring Arkansas, Texas and the rest of the Bible Belt than the rest of the state. It’s often overshadowed by flashier cities to the south: New Orleans and the state capital, Baton Rouge. The idea that one of its sons is now second in line to the presidency has been met with joyous surprise in many quarters. But views are mixed about whether his ascension will benefit all residents, who remain divided, like much of the country, along ideological and racial lines.

Residents call the metro area of about 760,000 Shreveport-Bossier, encompassing Shreveport — population 180,000, where Johnson was raised on the west bank of the Red River — and growing suburbs to the east in Bossier Parish, where the speaker now lives.

But there are vast distinctions between the two sides, the residue of disinvestment and white flight by families like Johnson’s.

The city proper is about 57% Black, 37% White and 3% Latino, according to the most recent census. Bossier Parish, home to about 130,000 people, is about 70% White, 24% Black, 7% Latino. Overall, Shreveport-Bossier’s median household income is about $48,600, below the national median of nearly $75,000. About 22% of Johnson’s district lives below the poverty level.

 

mike johnson 2016

ny times logoNew York Times, For Mike Johnson, Religion Is at the Forefront of Politics and Policy, Annie Karni, Ruth Graham and Steve Eder, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The new House speaker has put his faith at the center of his political career, and aligned himself with a cohort that some describe as Christian nationalism.

In the moments before he was to face a vote on becoming speaker of the House this week, Representative Mike Johnson posted a photograph on social media of the inscription carved into marble atop the chamber’s rostrum: “In God We Trust.”

His colleagues celebrated his candidacy by circulating an image of him on bended knee praying for divine guidance with other lawmakers on the House floor.

And in his first speech from the chamber as speaker, Mr. Johnson cast his ascendance to the position second in line to the presidency in religious terms, saying, “I believe God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment.”

Mr. Johnson, a mild-mannered conservative Republican from Louisiana whose elevation to the speakership on Wednesday followed weeks of chaos, is known for placing his evangelical Christianity at the center of his political life and policy positions. Now, as the most powerful Republican in Washington, he is in a position to inject it squarely into the national political discourse, where he has argued for years that it belongs.

mike johnson 2016 New York Times, The House G.O.P has its leader. But his fund-raising abilities are stirring a deep sense of uncertainty, Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The former speaker, Kevin McCarthy, was a prolific fund-raiser for his House colleagues. The new speaker, Mike Johnson, doesn’t yet have the same juice.

kevin mccarthyThe decision to oust Kevin McCarthy, right, as speaker and replace him with a little-known congressman, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has left a glaring financial gap for House Republicans headed into 2024 when the party has to defend its narrow and fragile majority.

Mr. McCarthy’s political operation brought in more than 100 times the amount of money that Mr. Johnson has collected so far in 2023 — $78 million to roughly $608,000, according to federal records and public disclosures. And in Mr. Johnson’s entire congressional career, dating to his first run in 2016, the Louisiana Republican has raised a total of $6.1 million — less than Mr. McCarthy’s average monthly take this year.

The willingness of House Republicans to trade a party rainmaker for a member who has raised less than some more junior colleagues has caused a deep sense of uncertainty at the highest levels of the conference, even as relieved lawmakers united behind Mr. Johnson to end weeks of political paralysis.

“Mike Johnson is not known to be a prolific fund-raiser. He’s raised money to meet his needs in a noncompetitive seat in Louisiana,” said Tom Reynolds, a former New York congressman and past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It remains to be seen: Can he raise money to help the members when it comes time next year?”

The decision to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker and replace him with a little-known congressman, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has left a glaring financial gap for House Republicans headed into 2024 when the party has to defend its narrow and fragile majority.

Mr. McCarthy’s political operation brought in more than 100 times the amount of money that Mr. Johnson has collected so far in 2023 — $78 million to roughly $608,000, according to federal records and public disclosures. And in Mr. Johnson’s entire congressional career, dating to his first run in 2016, the Louisiana Republican has raised a total of $6.1 million — less than Mr. McCarthy’s average monthly take this year.

The willingness of House Republicans to trade a party rainmaker for a member who has raised less than some more junior colleagues has caused a deep sense of uncertainty at the highest levels of the conference, even as relieved lawmakers united behind Mr. Johnson to end weeks of political paralysis.

“Mike Johnson is not known to be a prolific fund-raiser. He’s raised money to meet his needs in a noncompetitive seat in Louisiana,” said Tom Reynolds, a former New York congressman and past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It remains to be seen: Can he raise money to help the members when it comes time next year?”

  • New York Times, Mike Johnson has said that his views on race were shaped by raising a Black child, Oct. 28, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Primary Battles Brew Over Progressive Democrats’ Stances on Israel, Jonathan Weisman, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Representative Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, who joined calls for a cease-fire, has become one of several progressive lawmakers facing new pressure.

As Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh observed a special evening of prayer on Oct. 22 for the Israeli captives in Gaza, Representative Summer Lee, the progressive Democrat whose district includes the synagogue, paid her respects. She was late to arrive and could not stay long, but the rabbi, Seth Adelson, called her chief of staff the next day to offer his thanks.

Then on Wednesday, to the rabbi’s dismay, Ms. Lee was one of only 10 members of the House — nine of them Democrats from the party’s left flank — to vote against a bipartisan resolution “standing with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists.”

Two days later, the Jewish community of Pittsburgh solemnly marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of 11 of its members by a white supremacist.

“I am a little disappointed that she has not been more proactive in finding the right language and forum in which to speak to and support her Jewish constituents on Israel,” Rabbi Adelson said in an interview, speaking slowly to choose his words carefully. His own son has been called to active duty in the Israel Defense Forces, and he added that the division in Ms. Lee’s district — racial, religious, ethnic — over Israel and Palestine “is not helpful.”

Perhaps nowhere in the United States is there a Jewish community more shaken by the wanton slaughter of Israelis by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 than in Pittsburgh, where the deadliest antisemitic attack in the nation’s history was perpetrated by a shooter who told police, “I just want to kill Jews.”

Those still-raw wounds could reopen as political leaders inside and outside the community exploit divisions over Israeli and Palestinian suffering — and amplify a brewing fight over Pittsburgh’s freshman representative in Congress, Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee, 35, won a heated Democratic primary in 2022 against a Jewish lawyer, Steve Irwin, who was backed by much of the Democratic establishment, and by pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Democratic Majority for Israel. Her victory was hailed as a breakthrough: She was the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.

But the newfound unity for Democrats that came with that triumph has been frayed since Hamas’s attack and with Israel’s punishing response. On Friday, in an interview as she headed to a remembrance of the attack five years before, she railed against Israeli actions that “look increasingly like a genocide of innocent Gazans, half of them children.” And she conceded: “I don’t think there’s a way to make everyone happy in politics. My job is to make everyone safe.”

“Israel is one issue; it’s an important issue to a subsection of our community,” she said. “But to pretend it’s the only issue is insulting and damaging.”

Such talk has already drawn Ms. Lee a challenger ahead of the April 23 primary: Bhavini Patel, a 29-year-old member of the borough council in suburban Edgewood, who suggested as the setting for an interview a cafe in Squirrel Hill, the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Pittsburgh where the Tree of Life shooting took place.

Ms. Patel’s biography could be her calling card: The daughter of Indian immigrants, she worked in her mother’s Gujarati food truck before becoming the first of her family to go to college. But since Hamas’s slaughter of 1,400 Israelis, Ms. Patel said she had been spending her time with the voters of Squirrel Hill, talking about a conflict half a world away.

“Something that keeps coming up in my conversations is that Congresswoman Lee continues to equivocate,” she said. “We’re responding to something that is evil — the murder, rape, kidnapping of children, men, women and grandparents. There shouldn’t be any equivocation on this.”

Ms. Patel’s could be one of many Democratic primary challenges buoyed by the confrontations between staunch defenders of Israel and lawmakers promoting Palestinian rights. In Minneapolis, Sarah Gad, a defense and civil rights lawyer, has challenged Representative Ilhan Omar, the former Somali refugee known for her clashes with Jewish colleagues.

In the northern suburbs of New York, George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, is contemplating a challenge to Representative Jamaal Bowman, who defeated the staunchly pro-Israel chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, in 2020.

And progressive organizations are girding for possible challenges to Representatives Cori Bush of Missouri, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and others, funded from the deep pockets of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.

“They spent a historic amount of money to intervene, and try and buy primaries in 2022,” said Usamah Andrabi, spokesman for Justice Democrats, the liberal insurgent group that helped elect many of the progressives now on the primary target list. “I think we will see a doubling and tripling down, because no one in the Democratic leadership is trying to stop them.”

Officially, AIPAC is neutral for now.

“There will be a time for political action, but right now our priority is building and sustaining congressional support for Israel’s fight to permanently dismantle Hamas,” said the group’s spokesman, Marshall Wittmann.

But AIPAC’s jabs have already begun. Responding to a post by Mr. Bowman extolling his “Ceasefire Now” resolution, the lobbying group called it “a transparent ploy to paint Israel as the aggressor and allow Hamas to control Gaza.” Hitting Ms. Lee, AIPAC wrote on X, “Emboldening a group that massacres Israelis and uses Palestinians as human shields will never achieve peace.”

MSNBC, Commentary: ‘Chickens coming home to roost’: Former Marine on Senator Tuberville’s military blockade, Nicolle Wallace, Nov. 1, 2023. Paul Rieckhoff, Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and NBC News Correspondent Ali Vitali join Nicolle Wallace on Deadline White House to discuss the continuing fallout on America’s military readiness as a result of Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of military appointments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Obama’s Presidential Center Is Rising, Finally, in Chicago, Mitch Smith, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The city beat out others to host Barack Obama’s presidential center. But as construction continues on the South Side, some residents fear being priced out.

More than eight years have passed since Barack Obama proclaimed that his presidential center would be built on Chicago’s South Side, where he got his start as a community organizer and politician.

The announcement brought a swell of pride to the city, which beat out Honolulu, Mr. Obama’s birthplace, and New York City, where he attended college, to land the museum honoring America’s first Black president.

Two presidents and multiple lawsuits later, the center is finally taking shape, its half-finished concrete skeleton rising along Stony Island Avenue near Lake Michigan. The planned opening? Late 2025.

Many South Siders are proud of Mr. Obama and excited about the museum, which is expected to bring investment to long-neglected blocks, employ people from the neighborhood and draw tourists to a part of Chicago that many visitors overlook. But there is also widespread angst, built up over years, that the center will drive up rents and change the essence of the city’s southern lakefront, home to many Black residents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Native American population exploded, the Census shows. Here’s why, Andrew Van Dam, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). This week, we explore one of America’s great demographic mysteries: Why did the 2020 Census show the American Indian and Alaska Native population soaring by 85 percent?

Forget about Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”: We’re pretty sure the most anticipated debut related to Native Americans this year is a much-delayed and much-less-snappily named release from the U.S. Census Bureau known as Detailed Demographic and Housing Characteristics File A.
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The report provides the most detailed data we’ve ever had on America’s racial and ethnic origins, including stunningly exhaustive data on nearly 1,200 tribes, native villages and other entities. We hoped it would shed light on one of the biggest mysteries in the 2020 Census: Why did the Native American population skyrocket by 85 percent over the past decade?

washington post logoWashington Post, The horrific crash that led California to yank Cruise’s driverless cars off the roads, Trisha Thadani, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The whiplash from approval to ban in just two months highlights the fragmented oversight governing the fledgling industry.

Two months before Cruise’s driverless cars were yanked off the streets here for rolling over a pedestrian and dragging her about 20 feet, California regulators said they were confident in self-driving technology and gave the company permission to operate its robotaxi service around the city.
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That approval was a pivotal moment for the self-driving car industry, as it expanded one of the biggest test cases in the world for the technology. But now, following a horrendous Oct. 2 crash that critically injured a jaywalking pedestrian — and Cruise’s initial misrepresentation over what actually happened that night — officials here are rethinking whether self-driving cars are ready for the road, and experts are encouraging other states to do the same.

This Thursday, just two days after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s driverless permits, the company said it would suspend all driverless operations around the country to examine its process and earn back public trust.

“It was just a matter of time before an incident like this occurred,” San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said of the Oct. 2 crash. “And it was incredibly unfortunate that it happened, but it is not a complete surprise.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Mass Shootings, Other U.S. Gun Attacks

washington post logoWashington Post, Deadly Weapon, Divided Nation: Co-workers at a Louisville bank knew he was struggling. They didn’t expect he’d buy an AR-15, Robert Klemko, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Six months after a bank employee killed five co-workers and wounded eight others, survivors, victims’ families and his parents wonder why it was so easy for a troubled young man to get a rifle.

About a year before Connor Sturgeon gunned down his co-workers at Old National Bank in April, some close to the 25-year-old knew he was having problems.

While few details have emerged publicly about what motivated Sturgeon to kill, interviews with survivors, victims’ families and Sturgeon’s parents reveal frustration, sorrow and anger over how easy it had been for someone with apparent mental health problems to obtain a semiautomatic rifle built for mass violence. The interviews found that, six months after Sturgeon’s assault, those involved are struggling to understand why Sturgeon took aim at his co-workers and whether it could have been prevented.

Sturgeon’s personal and workplace difficulties, the extent of which have not been previously reported, point to a larger debate over whether the AR-15 and other similarly destructive weapons are too easy to get — particularly for troubled young men who gun industry critics say are often the targets of marketing campaigns built around masculinity, military imagery or sex appeal. The intersection of mental health and gun violence emerged as a flash point again after last week’s mass shootings in Maine, where the man suspected of killing 18 people had previously been hospitalized and received mental health treatment, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

 

 

robert card collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Maine Sheriff Says He Sent Statewide Alert About Gunman Last Month, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Chelsia Rose Marcius, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The sheriff said the gunman had threatened the Army base where he was assigned, prompting an alert to all law enforcement agencies in the state weeks ago.

A sheriff in Maine says he sent an alert to all law enforcement agencies in the state last month after learning that an Army reservist had made threats against his base, a notification that came weeks before the reservist fatally shot 18 people in America’s deadliest mass shooting this year.

Sheriff Joel Merry of Sagadahoc County said he sent the alert sometime in September in an effort to find the reservist, Robert R. Card II, 40, who was said to have made threats regarding the Army Reserve center in Saco, Maine. He said he sent a deputy to Mr. Card’s home but that the deputy did not find him there, prompting the sheriff to send out the notice.

The revelation is the strongest sign yet that law enforcement was aware that Mr. Card was a potential danger before he carried out a rampage at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston on Wednesday night.

“The guys, from what I know, paid due diligence to this and did attempt to locate Mr. Card and they couldn’t,” Sheriff Merry said in an interview on Saturday night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maine shooting live updates Suspect found dead of self-inflicted gunshot, Staff Report, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The body of Robert Card, the 40-year-old suspect in the country’s deadliest mass killing of the year, was found by authorities, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced at a news conference late Friday night. Card was found with an apparent self-inflicted wound, a law enforcement official told The Washington Post. In a separate statement, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect wanted for the shootings “has been located and is deceased.”

Authorities earlier on Friday evening identified and released family photos of the 18 people shot to death at a bowling alley and a bar on Wednesday night in Lewiston, a town of about 38,000. Thirteen more people were injured in the shootings. Divers and aerial crews had been searching the Androscoggin River near where Card’s vehicle was found, authorities said Friday morning, and officers had recovered his cellphone. Shelter-in-place orders were lifted for all but four communities in the state earlier on Friday, signaling a break in the case might have been close.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maine congressman reverses his opposition to assault weapons ban, Maegan Vazquez and Tom Bell, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who had enjoyed an A+ rating from gun rights advocates, said he regretted his past opposition to an assault weapons ban and said he would now support a ban.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who had enjoyed an A+ rating from gun rights advocates, said Thursday that he regretted his past opposition to an assault weapons ban and would now support one.

“The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine,” Golden said.

“To the victims and their families,” he said, “I ask for your forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.” Golden said he didn’t think a mass killing like the one in his hometown could happen in Maine, which has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation.

“I had the false confidence that our community was above this,” he added.

Last year, House Democrats narrowly passed an assault weapons ban for the first time in roughly 30 years. Golden, who represents a competitive swing district and is a member of the moderate group of Blue Dog Democrats, was one of five House Democrats who voted against the ban. The legislation was never brought to a vote in the Senate.

It’s unlikely the Republican-led House would move forward with a similar ban in this Congress.

At Thursday’s news conference alongside other officeholders, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was pressed on whether she, too, would support an assault weapons ban. She said she thinks it’s “more important” and more effective to ban “very high-capacity magazines.”

Wayne Madsen Report,  Investigative Commentary: The sinister network of fascist libertarian non-profits spreading neo-Nazism and autocratic rule around the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallglobe, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books, prolific public affairs commentator and former Navy intelligence officer, Oct. 27-29, 2023. The advancement of a congressional backbencher and Christian Dominionist to the U.S. Speaker of the House — third in the presidential line of succession; a second-round Argentine presidential candidate who is an unabashed fascist; and the alarming electoral strength in Germany of a neo-Nazi party can all be traced to a shadowy global network of non-profits groups and think tanks having one goal — the transformation of the world into a corporate-dominated fascist federation of authoritarian dictatorships.

wayne madesen report logoNot since the days of the Nationalist International (Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Nationalisten — IAdN), which from 1934 to 1941 coordinated global far-right activities from Berlin, has the world witnessed a coordinated group dedicated to the worldwide advancement of fascism.

Operating from Suite 305 at 4075 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia — amid a cluster of high-rises in the Washington, DC exurb of Ballston — the sinister Atlas Network commands a massive tranche of funds from corporate donors to ensure the election of far-right candidates and parties to positions of power.

These include individuals like Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) newly-minted as the House Speaker, firebrand fascist Javier Milei who is in a run-off with a center-leftist for president of Argentina, and the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany (AfD), which had a strong showing for seats in the legislatures of Bavaria and Hesse, Germany’s two populous and politically-powerful states. In a single month, the Atlas Network has helped move the United States, Argentina, and Germany closer to nationalist authoritarian governance.

The Atlas Network is, perhaps, the greatest threat to democracy the world has never heard of. Advocates for democracy should organize to expose this many-tentacled corporate creature.

 

A woman leaves a candle in front of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges).

 A woman leaves a candle in front of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges).

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Years After Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack, Recovery Mixes With Fresh Grief, Ruth Graham, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Tree of Life community was “universally embraced” after an antisemitic shooting. But with Israel engaged in war, some now feel alone.

It has been five years since a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshipers and wounding six others in the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

A lot can happen in a half a decade. One of the three congregations that met at Tree of Life hired its first rabbi. New nonprofit organizations sprung up to serve survivors and others affected by antisemitism and violence. Plans to reconfigure and expand the building took shape, with a celebrity architect at the helm. And in August, the gunman was convicted on an array of federal charges and sentenced to death.

For some in the Tree of Life community, however, this year’s anniversary is not arriving with the sense of healing they hoped for. Weeks after more than 1,400 people were killed in a Hamas terror attack in southern Israel, many American Jews have felt their sense of safety shattered.

Now, Israeli airstrikes are pummeling Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis in the territory is worsening, with food and water in short supply and civilian deaths mounting.

But as many Jews in the United States are grieving the civilian deaths in Israel, and worried for families and friends there, some also feel abandoned by former political allies — including many of the same people and organizations that embraced Tree of Life five years ago.

Muslim organizations raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims in the weeks after the attack; Catholic parishes organized special collections. Thousands of people attended vigils, and statements of support poured in from across the world.

“Following the shooting and the trial, we were universally held by our community,” said Michael Bernstein, the chairman of the Tree of Life center, a new nonprofit that will be housed at the site of the attack. “There was this true sense, especially as American Jews, that we belong.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Fred Guttenberg, left, father of Parkland high school mass murder shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, approaches then-Supreme Court Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as part of the father's gun-control advocacy (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik on Sept. 4, 2018).

Fred Guttenberg, left, father of Parkland high school mass murder shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, approaches then-Supreme Court Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as part of the father’s gun-control advocacy (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik on Sept. 4, 2018).

 

More On Trump Court Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Judge Cannon Makes FATAL MISTAKE, Jack Smith WILL MAKE HER PAY, Ben Meiselas, Nov. 1, 2023. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on a new order by Judge Aileen Cannon where she completely butchers the meaning of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) and how this is something Special Counsel Jack Smith could appeal. Meiselas compares the order by Judge Cannon with Judge Tanya Chutkan’s order issued at the same time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police officers recall Jan. 6 during Colorado hearing aimed at kicking Trump off ballot, Patrick Marley, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). At a historic hearing Monday, attorneys for a group of voters argued that former president Donald Trump should not appear on Colorado ballots next year because, they contend, he fomented an insurrection and is barred by the U.S. Constitution from running again. Trump’s attorneys disputed those claims and said voters — not judges — should decide whether he deserves another term.

The first day of the hearing, which is expected to last a week, featured an exhaustive retelling of what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by a Democratic lawmaker who had to evacuate and two police officers who tried to stop the rioters. Both officers said they feared for their lives, and one described the assault on the Capitol as a “terrorist attack.”

The case is part of an interlocking set of legal challenges across the country seeking to remove Trump from the ballot under a section of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that was meant to ensure supporters of the Confederacy did not gain office after the Civil War. The efforts have divided legal scholars on whether the provision can be invoked against Trump, but most acknowledge that these challenges are unlikely to succeed.

“This was an insurrection that Trump led,” attorney Eric Olson said in his opening statement. “As we’ve seen, he summoned and organized the mob. He gave the mob a common purpose — to disrupt [Vice President] Mike Pence’s certification of the election.”

Olson, a former state solicitor general, noted Trump used the word “fight” 20 times in a speech to supporters ahead of the riot. When his backers got to the Capitol grounds, Trump deployed his Twitter account to further rile them up, Olson said. Trump assisted them by holding off on sending help to put down the riot, he argued.

Trump attorney Scott Gessler in his opening statement rejected the idea that Trump engaged in an insurrection, noting that in the same speech, Trump told his supporters to behave peacefully.

“Frankly, President Trump didn’t engage,” Gessler said. “He didn’t carry a pitchfork to the Capitol grounds. He didn’t lead a charge. He didn’t get into a fistfight with legislators. He didn’t goad President Biden into going out back and having a fight. He gave a speech in which he asked people to peacefully and patriotically go to the Capitol to protest.”

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Reinstates Gag Order on Trump in Election Case, Alan Feuer, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that her order should stay in effect while the former president’s lawyers pursue an appeal.

A federal judge reinstated a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump on Sunday that had been temporarily placed on hold nine days earlier, reimposing restrictions on what Mr. Trump can say about witnesses and prosecutors in the case in which he stands accused of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

tanya chutkan newerIn making her decision, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, right, also denied a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to freeze the gag order for what could have been a considerably longer period, saying it can remain in effect as a federal appeals court in Washington reviews it.

Judge Chutkan’s ruling about the order was posted publicly on PACER, the federal court database, late on Sunday, but her detailed order explaining her reasoning was not immediately available because of what appeared to be a glitch in the computer system.

Justice Department log circularThe dispute about the gag order, which was initially put in place on Oct. 16 after several rounds of court filings and a hard-fought hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, has for weeks pitted two significant legal arguments against each other.

From the start, Mr. Trump’s lawyers, largely led by John F. Lauro, have argued that the order was not merely a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights. Rather, the order “silenced” him at a critical moment: just as he has been shoring up his position as the Republican Party’s leading candidate for president in the 2024 election.

Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, have countered that even though Mr. Trump is running for the country’s highest office, he does not have permission to issue public statements threatening or intimidating people involved in the election interference case, especially if those remarks might incite violence in those who read or hear them.

When she first imposed the gag order, Judge Chutkan sided with the government, acknowledging Mr. Trump’s First Amendment rights but saying that she intended to treat him like any other criminal defendant — even if he was running for president.

Mr. Trump’s constitutional rights could not permit him “to launch a pretrial smear campaign” against people involved in the case, she said, adding, “No other defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case.”

Soon after Judge Chutkan issued the gag order, Mr. Lauro began the process of appealing it. A few days later, he asked the judge to freeze the order until the appeals court made its own decision, saying that the ruling she had put in place was “breathtakingly overbroad” and “unconstitutionally vague.”

djt indicted proof

washington post logoWashington Post, Hearings begin as Trump critics attempt to kick him off ballots, Patrick Marley, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Lawsuits in Colorado and Minnesota center on the 14th Amendment, which bars those who engage in an insurrection from running for office.

In two courtrooms 900 miles apart, judges next week will begin to weigh an unprecedented and historic question: Is former president Donald Trump eligible to run for office again given his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol?
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Starting on Monday in Denver, a week-long hearing featuring witnesses and legal scholars will explore whether Jan. 6 qualified as an insurrection, which could bar Trump from the ballot in Colorado. On Thursday, the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether an obscure part of the Constitution might keep Trump off the ballot there. In coming weeks, courts around the country might hold similar proceedings.

The legal strategy, pursued by an unusual mix of conservatives and liberals, is unlike any tried before against a candidate for president. Legal experts are deeply divided on the merit of the theory, but even its backers acknowledge they face stiff challenges.

 

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: Cannon Fodder, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). What’s ahead. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, below right, is set to hold a hearing in Florida on Wednesday to discuss scheduling in Donald Trump’s classified-documents case. We will be there, looking for any signs of whether she thinks the current May 20 trial date is going to hold or be pushed back.

aileen cannonOne key issue is how much time Trump and his legal team get to review the piles of secret evidence in the case. Trump’s lawyers have accused the government of being too slow to provide access to the full catalogue of classified papers, and insist they need more time to prepare.

Under the current schedule, both sides have until Friday to file their pretrial motions — arguments for what should be allowed or not allowed at trial.

And in New York, three of Trump’s adult children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — are expected to be called as witnesses in the civil fraud trial against their father, Donald Jr. and Eric, and the family business. More on that trial below.

Now, a recap of what you may have missed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jenna Ellis Could Become a Star Witness Against Trump, Norman Eisen and Amy Lee Copeland, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). (Mr. Eisen is a co-author of a Brookings report on the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney’s Trump investigation. Ms. Copeland is a criminal defense and appellate lawyer in Savannah, Ga.),

When Jenna Ellis last week became the most recent lawyer to join in an accelerating series of guilty pleas in the Fulton County, Ga., prosecution of Donald Trump and his co-conspirators, she offered a powerful repudiation of the “Big Lie” that could potentially cut the legs out from under Donald Trump’s defense, make her a star witness for prosecutors and a potent weapon against the former president’s political ambitions.

Ms. Ellis admitted that the allegations of election fraud she peddled as an advocate for the effort to overturn the 2020 election were false. Two other plea deals, from Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, have been important, but Ms. Ellis is in a unique position to aid prosecutors in the Georgia case and possibly even the parallel federal one — as well as Mr. Trump’s opponents in the court of public opinion.

Ms. Ellis pleaded guilty to a felony count of aiding and abetting the false statements made by co-defendants (including Rudy Giuliani) to the Georgia Senate about supposed voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election. These included that “10,315 or more dead people voted” in Georgia, “at least 96,000 mail-in ballots were counted” erroneously and “2,506 felons voted illegally.”

These lies were at the cutting edge of Mr. Trump’s assault on the election. Both the state and federal criminal prosecutions allege that Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators knowingly deployed falsehoods like these in their schemes to overturn the election.

Ms. Ellis emerged from her plea hearing as a likely star witness for prosecutors, starting with the one who secured her cooperation, the Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis. Unlike Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell, in pleading guilty Ms. Ellis spoke in detail about her “responsibilities as a lawyer.” Tearing up, she talked about the due diligence that “I did not do but should have done” and her “deep remorse for those failures of mine.” The judge, a tough former prosecutor, thanked her for sharing that and noted how unusual it was for a defendant to do so.

Trials are about the evidence and the law. But they are also theater, and the jury is the audience. In this case, the jury is not the only audience — the Georgia trials will be televised, so many Americans will also be tuned in. Ms. Ellis is poised to be a potent weapon against Mr. Trump in the courtroom and on TVs.

That is bad news for her former co-defendants — above all, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump. Ms. Ellis was most closely associated with Mr. Giuliani, appearing by his side in Georgia and across the country. If her court appearance last week is any indication, she will be a compelling guide to his alleged misconduct. She will also add to what is known about it; she and Mr. Giuliani undoubtedly had many conversations that are not yet public and that will inform the jury. And because Mr. Giuliani was the senior lawyer on the case, her pointed statement that she was misled by attorneys “with many more years of experience” hits him directly.

Ms. Ellis’s likely trial testimony will also hit Mr. Trump hard. She has now effectively repudiated his claims that he won the election — an argument that is expected to be a centerpiece of his trial defense. Coming from a formerly outspoken MAGA champion, her disagreement has the potential to resonate with jurors.

It also builds on substantial other evidence against the former president, which includes voluminous witness testimony collected by the House Jan. 6 committee indicating that many advisers told him the election was not stolen — and that in private he repeatedly admitted as much.

Meidas Touch Network, Judge HITS Trump with 9 PAGES of DOOM to MUZZLE his THREATS, Michael Popok, Oct. 30, 2023. We now have the actual 9 page written order from Judge Chutkan reimposing her gag order against Donald Trump and it’s worse than we thought for Trump. Michael Popok of Legal AF explains how Judge Chutkan has not only increase the likelihood that Donald Trump will lose in his efforts to appeal her gag order, but she also used an explosive racist recent social media post example of Donald Trump to prove a point that her gag order is appropriate and easily understood by all the parties.

 

Former President Donald Trump, with defense counsel Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil fraud charges for lying about his finances on Oct. 25, 2023 (New York Times photo by Dave Sanders).

Former President Donald Trump on Oct. 25, 2023, with defense counsel Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil fraud charges for lying about his finances  (New York Times photo by Dave Sanders).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ordered to Pay $10,000 in New Punishment for Breaking Gag Order, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Outside Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial, the former president made comments to reporters that the judge found were an attack on a court employee.

A Manhattan judge briefly ordered Donald J. Trump to the witness stand on Wednesday after accusing him of breaking a gag order with critical comments that seemed aimed at a law clerk, and then fined him $10,000.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, who is presiding over Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial, issued the punishment after finding that Mr. Trump earlier in the day had violated an order that prevents him from discussing court staff. Mr. Trump said that his comments had referred not to the clerk, whom he had previously attacked, but to his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, a witness.

From the stand, Mr. Trump, wearing a navy suit and limiting the duration of his usual monologues, said that while he had not been speaking about the clerk, Allison Greenfield, he thought she was “maybe unfair, and I think she’s very biased against me.”

Mr. Trump left the stand after about three minutes. Justice Engoron said that he had not found the former president credible and levied the fine.

The episode was remarkable and wholly unexpected: While Mr. Trump has been voluble in his own defense outside the courtroom, he had not testified in open court in more than a decade, and as soon as he did, the judge found against him. For the former president, who is expected to testify later in the civil fraud trial and has been criminally indicted four other times, it was a harsh preview of what may await.

During a break in the proceedings on Wednesday, Mr. Trump had called Justice Engoron partisan — which is allowable under the order. But he continued, saying, “with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him. Perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

After the break, the judge said he was concerned that the overheated environment in the courtroom could result in real danger.

“I am very protective of my staff,” Justice Engoron said, adding, “I don’t want anyone to get killed.”

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, protested that the former president had been referring to Mr. Cohen, his former fixer, who was testifying for a second day. Mr. Trump did clearly refer to Mr. Cohen immediately after the initial comment, calling him a “discredited witness.”

The judge responded that the target of the comments had seemed clear to him and, after lunch, called the hearing.

Mr. Trump trotted to the witness stand and faced the courtroom for his brief questioning by the judge. Justice Engoron asked whether he had in the past referred to Ms. Greenfield as “partisan” and whether he always refers to Mr. Cohen as “Michael Cohen.” His lawyers, from the defense table, assured the judge that Mr. Trump has far more derogatory ways of referring to Mr. Cohen.

After Justice Engoron issued the fine, the trial resumed, with Mr. Trump’s lawyers prompting Mr. Cohen to admit that he had lied on past occasions. Soon, another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Clifford S. Robert, called for an immediate verdict, given Mr. Cohen’s contradictions. Justice Engoron denied the request, and Mr. Trump slid his chair back and stormed out of the courtroom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are pushing to reinstate a gag order on former President Trump in the federal election case, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). In court filings, the special counsel’s office said the gag order was needed to keep the former president from making “harmful and prejudicial attacks” on people in the federal election case.

President Donald Trump officialFor much of this week, after a federal judge temporarily froze the gag order she imposed on him, former President Donald J. Trump has acted like a mischievous latchkey kid, making the most of his unsupervised stint.

Justice Department log circularAt least three times in the past three days, he has attacked Jack Smith, the special counsel leading his federal prosecutions, as “deranged.” Twice, he has weighed in about testimony attributed to his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who could be a witness in the federal case accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.

Each of Mr. Trump’s comments appeared to violate the gag order put in place less than two weeks ago to limit his ability to intimidate witnesses in the case, assail prosecutors or otherwise disrupt the proceeding. And after the former president was fined $10,000 on Wednesday for flouting a similar directive imposed on him by the judge presiding over a civil trial he is facing in New York, federal prosecutors asked that he face consequences for his remarks about the election interference case as well.

On Friday, the judge who imposed the federal order, Tanya S. Chutkan, put it on hold for a week to allow the special counsel’s office and lawyers for Mr. Trump to file more papers about whether she should set it aside for an even longer period as an appeals court considers its merits.

 

Former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell in 2020 (Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell in 2020 (Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Should Have Known Better, Jesse Wegman, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). In Fulton County, Ga., three of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers — Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis — have now pleaded guilty to crimes in service of Mr. Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election and stay in the White House.

All three have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the sprawling state RICO case against Mr. Trump. Two other Trump lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and John sidney powell mugEastman, still face criminal charges in the Georgia case. They, along with Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell, right, have also been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the related federal prosecution of Mr. Trump, which will probably benefit from the guilty pleas in Georgia.

The charges in the plea agreements vary, but the underlying story is the same: Fifty years after Watergate, the nation is once again confronted with a president who grossly abused the powers of his office, leading to criminal prosecutions. And once again, that abuse relied heavily on the involvement of lawyers. If Mr. Trump’s 2020 racket was “a coup in search of a legal theory,” as one federal judge put it, these lawyers provided the theory, and the phony facts to back it up. In doing so, they severely tarnished their profession.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary:Trump Gets OUTMANEUVERED by Federal Judge in BRILLIANT New Order, Michael Popok, Oct. 28, 2023. Judge Chutkan presiding over the DC election criminal case against Donald Trump has called his bluff.

Trump doesn’t want an unfiltered television feed of the actual trial to go to the American people, or does he?

Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on the judge’s decision today to have Donald Trump state his position on the record as to whether he wants his trial televised for the American people to make their decision before election day, or whether he wants to continue to hide in the shadows and cowardly attack prosecutors witnesses an judges on social media and in hallway statements to right wing media. Which is it?

 

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jenna Ellis, Former Trump Lawyer, Pleads Guilty in Georgia Election Case, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Ms. Ellis agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progressed against the former president and 15 remaining defendants.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotJenna Ellis, right, a Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty, was closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Jenna Ellis, a pro-Trump lawyer who amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors in Georgia.

Addressing a judge in an Atlanta courtroom, she tearfully expressed regret for taking part in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

Ms. Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony. She is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case, which charged Mr. Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

georgia mapMs. Ellis agreed to be sentenced to five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. She has already written an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and she agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progresses.

Prosecutors struck plea deals last week with Kenneth Chesebro, an architect of the effort to deploy fake Trump electors in Georgia and other swing states, and Sidney Powell, an outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who spun wild conspiracy claims in the aftermath of the election.

The charges fall into several baskets. Several of the individual counts stem from false claims of election fraud that Giuliani and two other Trump lawyers made at legislative hearings in December 2020. Another batch of charges concerns a plan to vote for a false slate of pro-Trump electors. A third raft of charges accuses several Trump allies of conspiring to steal voter data and tamper with voting equipment in Coffee County, Ga.

Late last month, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman charged along with Ms. Powell with taking part in a breach of voting equipment and data at a rural Georgia county’s elections office, pleaded guilty in the case.

fulton county jail

republican elephant logoFani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., obtained an indictment of the 19 defendants in August (shown above) on racketeering and other charges, alleging that they took part in a criminal enterprise that conspired to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Ms. Ellis, unlike the other defendants who have pleaded guilty, asked the court to let her give a statement. She cried as she rose from the defense table and said, “As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously.”

djt maga hatShe said that after Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020, she believed that challenging the election results on his behalf should have been pursued in a “just and legal way.” But she said that she had relied on information provided by other lawyers, including some “with many more years of experience than I,” and failed to do her “due diligence” in checking the veracity of their claims.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).“If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges,” Ms. Ellis told Judge Scott McAfee, right, of Fulton County Superior Court. “I look back on this experience with deep remorse. For those failures of mine, your honor, I’ve taken responsibility already before the Colorado bar, who censured me, and I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia.”

In March, Ms. Ellis admitted in a sworn statement in Colorado, her home state, that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread voting fraud had occurred and had led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement Ms. Ellis made to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado.

Though she is still able to practice law in Colorado, the group that brought the original complaint against her, leading to the censure, said on Tuesday that new action would be coming.

“We do plan to file a new complaint in Colorado based on the guilty plea, so that the bar can assess the matter in light of her criminal conduct,” said Michael Teter, managing director of the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group.

Ms. Ellis’s new misgivings about Mr. Trump and his refusal to accept his election loss were evident before her plea on Tuesday.

Last month, on her Christian broadcasting radio show, she called Mr. Trump “a friend” and added, “I have great love and respect for him personally.” But she said on the show that she could not support him politically again, because he displayed a “malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.”

ny times logodavid french croppedNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Are Going Down. Is He? David French, right, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Ellis, Powell and Chesebro guilty pleas represent an advance for both the state election prosecution in Georgia and the federal election prosecution in Washington. While their guilty pleas came in the Georgia case (they’re not charged in the federal prosecution, though Powell and Chesebro have been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in that case), the information they disclose could be highly relevant to Jack Smith, the special counsel investigating Trump.

Perhaps as important or even more important, the three attorneys’ admissions may prove culturally and politically helpful to those of us who are attempting to break the fever of conspiracy theories that surround the 2020 election and continue to empower Trump. At the same time, however, it’s far too soon to tell whether the prosecution has made real progress on Trump himself. The ultimate importance of the plea deals depends on the nature of the testimony from the lawyers, and we don’t yet know what they have said — or will say.

djt maga hatTo understand the potential significance of these plea agreements, it’s necessary to understand the importance of Trump’s legal team to his criminal defense. As I’ve explained in various pieces and as the former federal prosecutor Ken White explained to me when I guest-hosted Ezra Klein’s podcast, proof of criminal intent is indispensable to the criminal cases against Trump, both in Georgia and in the federal election case. While the specific intent varies depending on the charge, each key claim requires proof of conscious wrongdoing, such as an intent to lie or the intent to have false votes cast.

One potential element of Trump’s intent defense in the federal case is that he was merely following the advice of lawyers. In other words, how could he possess criminal intent when he simply did what his lawyers told him to do? He’s not the one who is expected to know election laws. They are.

According to court precedent that governs the federal case, a defendant can use advice of counsel as a defense against claims of criminal intent if he can show that he “made full disclosure of all material facts to his attorney” before he received the advice and that “he relied in good faith on the counsel’s advice that his course of conduct was legal.”

There is a price, though, for presenting an advice-of-counsel defense. The defendant waives attorney-client privilege, opening up his oral and written communications with his lawyers to scrutiny by a judge and a jury. There is no question that a swarm of MAGA lawyers surrounded Trump at each step of the process, much as a cloud of dirt surrounds the character Pigpen in the “Peanuts” cartoons, but if the lawyers have admitted to engaging in criminal conduct, then that weakens his legal defense. This was no normal legal team, and their conduct was far outside the bounds of normal legal representation.

Apart from the implications of the advice-of-counsel defense, their criminal pleas, combined with their agreements to cooperate, may grant us greater visibility into Trump’s state of mind during the effort to overturn the election. The crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege prevents a criminal defendant from shielding his communications with his lawyers when those communications were in furtherance of a criminal scheme. If Ellis, Powell or Chesebro can testify that the lawyers were operating at Trump’s direction — as opposed to Trump following their advice — then that testimony could help rebut his intent defense.

If you think it’s crystal clear that the guilty pleas are terrible news for Trump — or represent that elusive “we have him now” moment that many Trump opponents have looked for since his moral corruption became clear — then it’s important to know that there’s a contrary view. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, a respected former federal prosecutor, argued that Powell’s guilty plea, for example, was evidence that Willis’s case was “faltering” and that her RICO indictment “is a dud.”

“When prosecutors cut plea deals with cooperators early in the proceedings,” McCarthy writes, “they generally want the pleading defendants to admit guilt to the major charges in the indictment.” Powell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Ellis and Chesebro each pleaded to a single felony charge, but they received punishment similar to Powell’s. McCarthy argues that Willis allowed Powell to plead guilty to a minor infraction “because minor infractions are all she’s got.” And in a piece published Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy argued that the Ellis guilty plea is more of a sign of the “absurdity” of Willis’s RICO charge than a sign that Willis is closing in on Trump, a notion he called “wishful thinking.”

There’s another theory regarding the light sentences for the three lawyers. When Powell and Chesebro sought speedy trials, they put the prosecution under pressure. As Andrew Fleischman, a Georgia defense attorney, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter), it was “extremely smart” to seek a quick trial. “They got the best deal,” Fleischman said, “because their lawyers picked the best strategy.”

As a general rule, when you’re evaluating complex litigation, it is best not to think in terms of legal breakthroughs (though breakthroughs can certainly occur) but in terms of legal trench warfare. Think of seizing ground from your opponent yard by yard rather than mile by mile, and the question at each stage isn’t so much who won and who lost but rather who advanced and who retreated. Willis has advanced, but it’s too soon to tell how far.

djt michael cohenPolitico, As Trump glowers, Michael Cohen takes the stand against him, Erica Orden, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Cohen,shown above left in a file photo, testified that Donald Trump directed him to “reverse engineer” the value of Trump’s assets to inflate Trump’s net worth.

politico CustomMichael Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime loyal aide turned vocal antagonist, took the witness stand Tuesday to testify against Trump in a $250 million civil fraud trial, telling the judge that the former president ordered Cohen to falsify financial documents.

In measured tones, Cohen testified that when he worked for Trump as his lawyer and fixer, Trump directed him to modify documents that represented Trump’s net worth so that they reflected the number Trump desired.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen said, “and my responsibility, along with [former Trump Organization CFO] Allen Weisselberg, predominantly, was to reverse engineer the various different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump had tasked us.”

President Donald Trump officialAs Cohen delivered that testimony, Trump, who was seated at the defense table, grew red in the face and shook his head. Trump didn’t look at Cohen as he entered the courtroom, but as Cohen spoke on the witness stand, Trump trained his eyes on him and either crossed his arms or leaned forward over the defense table.
Trump calls Michael Cohen ‘a proven liar’ ahead of testimony

Cohen didn’t look at his former boss as he testified, instead directing his attention entirely to the lawyer from the New York attorney general’s office who was questioning him.

Cohen is one of the central witnesses in Attorney General Tish James’ case against Trump, which accuses him, his adult sons and his business associates of inflating his net worth in order to obtain favorable terms from banks and insurers.

Cohen’s testimony Tuesday marks a fresh front in his efforts to take down Trump after years of defending him. That defense ended five years ago, when Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance crimes that he and federal prosecutors said Trump directed him to commit, and Cohen began speaking publicly.

djt threat graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Files More Motions to Derail Federal Jan. 6 Case, Alan Feuer, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s lawyers made a series of arguments seeking dismissal of the federal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump officialLawyers for former President Donald J. Trump fired off a barrage of new attacks on Monday night against the federal charges accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, filing nearly 100 pages of court papers seeking to have the case thrown out before it reaches a jury.

In four separate motions to dismiss — or limit the scope of — the case, Mr. Trump’s legal team made an array of arguments on legal and constitutional grounds, some of which strained the boundaries of credulity.

The lawyers claimed, largely citing news articles, that President Biden had pressured the Justice Department to pursue a “nakedly political” selective prosecution of Mr. Trump. They asserted that prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, had failed to prove any of the three conspiracy counts brought against the former president.

Justice Department log circularAnd they argued that under the principle of double jeopardy, Mr. Trump could not be tried on the election interference charges since he had already been acquitted by the Senate on many of the same accusations during his second impeachment.

The lawyers also tried to persuade Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, that the allegations against Mr. Trump, accusing him of wielding lies about election fraud in a vast campaign to pressure others to help him stay in power, were based on examples of “core political speech” and were therefore protected by the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment fully protects opinions and claims on widely disputed political and historical issues,” one of the lawyers, John F. Lauro, wrote, adding, “It confers the same protection on the same statements made in advocating for government officials to act on one’s views.”

Mr. Lauro’s free speech claims, developed in a 31-page brief filed to Judge Chutkan in Federal District Court in Washington, were some of the most substantial arguments he made on Monday night, and they essentially sought to rewrite the underlying narrative of Mr. Smith’s indictment.

Takeaways From Trump’s Indictment in the 2020 Election Inquiry

  • Four charges for the former president. Former President Donald Trump was charged with four counts in connection with his widespread efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment was filed by the special counsel Jack Smith in Federal District Court in Washington. Here are some key takeaways:
  • The indictment portrayed an attack on American democracy. Smith framed his case against Trump as one that cuts to a key function of democracy: the peaceful transfer of power. By underscoring this theme, Smith cast his effort as an effort not just to hold Trump accountable but also to defend the very core of democracy.
  • Trump was placed at the center of the conspiracy charges. Smith put Trump at the heart of three conspiracies that culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to obstruct Congress’s role in ratifying the Electoral College outcome. The special counsel argued that Trump knew that his claims about a stolen election were false, a point that, if proved, could be important to convincing a jury to convict him.
  • Trump didn’t do it alone. The indictment lists six co-conspirators without naming or indicting them. Based on the descriptions provided, they match the profiles of Trump lawyers and advisers who were willing to argue increasingly outlandish conspiracy and legal theories to keep him in power. It’s unclear whether these co-conspirators will be indicted.
  • Trump’s political power remains strong. Trump may be on trial in 2024 in three or four separate criminal cases, but so far the indictments appear not to have affected his standing with Republican voters. By a large margin, he remains his party’s front-runner in the presidential primaries.

 

fulton county jailWashington Post, Here’s who else was charged in the Georgia case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley and Jon Swaine, Aug. 16, 2023 (print ed.). Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman and Sidney Powell are among the 18 others, above, besides Trump who were indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jenna Ellis’s tearful guilty plea should worry Rudy Giuliani, Aaron Blake, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). For the third time in less than week, a lawyer who worked for Donald Trump has pleaded guilty in the Fulton County, Ga., election interference case. Jenna Ellis on Tuesday joined Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro in cutting a deal that will require her to testify truthfully about the other defendants, including presumably Trump himself.

djt maga hatHer centrality to the case, relative to the others, is debatable. Ellis often served more as a spokesperson than an actual practicing lawyer, though certain actions clearly involved legal strategizing and proximity to Trump. But her plea came with something the others did not: a tearful statement to the court that suggested she is prepared to cast blame up the chain. Whether and how much that includes Trump is a big question. But it would seem to be bad news for Rudy Giuliani and potentially, by extension, for Trump himself.

Ellis pleaded guilty to illegally conspiring to overturn the 2020 election loss of Trump in Georgia. Specifically, she admitted to aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony that will result in three to five years probation and other penalties. The deal cited false claims from Giuliani, her frequent traveling companion as they worked to overturn the election results, and a Trump campaign lawyer in Georgia, Ray Smith. Both were indicted alongside Trump, Ellis and the others.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Plea Deals in Georgia Trump Case, Fani Willis Is Building Momentum, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Fulton County district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump and his allies often uses her state’s racketeering law to pressure lower-rung defendants to cooperate.

Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., had no shortage of doubters when she brought an ambitious racketeering case in August against former president Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies. It was too broad, they said, and too complicated, with so many defendants and multiple, crisscrossing plot lines for jurors to follow.

But the power of Georgia’s racketeering statute in Ms. Willis’s hands has become apparent over the last six days. Her office is riding a wave of momentum that started with a guilty plea last Thursday from Sidney K. Powell, the pro-Trump lawyer who had promised in November 2020 to “release the kraken” by exposing election fraud, but never did.

Then, in rapid succession, came two more guilty pleas — and promises to cooperate with the prosecution and testify — from other Trump-aligned lawyers, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis. While Ms. Powell pleaded guilty only to misdemeanor charges, both Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Ellis accepted a felony charge as part of their plea agreements.

A fourth defendant, a Georgia bail bondsman named Scott Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanor charges.

With Mr. Trump and 14 of his co-defendants still facing trial in the case, the question of the moment is who else will flip, and how soon. But the victories notched thus far by Ms. Willis and her team demonstrate the extraordinary legal danger that the Georgia case poses for the former president.

And the plea deals illustrate Ms. Willis’s methodology, wielding her state’s racketeering law to pressure smaller-fry defendants to roll over, take plea deals, and apply pressure to defendants higher up the pyramids of power.

The strategy is by no means unique to Ms. Willis. “This is how it works,” said Kay L. Levine, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta, referring to large-scale racketeering and conspiracy prosecutions. “People at the lower rungs are typically offered a good deal in order to help get the big fish at the top.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Retaliates Against Iran in Syria, Trying to Ward Off Attacks on Troops, Eric Schmitt and Victoria Kim, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Pentagon has increased resources amid fears of a widening war. The U.N. General Assembly is set to vote on a call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The United States carried out airstrikes on facilities used by Iranian forces in eastern Syria early Friday, U.S. officials said, trying to ward off more attacks on American forces in a region bracing for further escalation in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Biden administration has sent more U.S. military resources to the Middle East in an effort to deter Iran — and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — from engaging in a regional war after Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise attack into southern Israel. The U.S. strikes were in retaliation for nearly daily attacks against American forces over the past 10 days and were an escalation from targeting the militias in Iraq and Syria that Tehran helps arm, train and equip.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said that the airstrikes had been “narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense,” and “do not constitute a shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict.” Nineteen U.S. troops based in Iraq and Syria suffered traumatic brain injuries after rocket and drone attacks from Iran-backed militants last week, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

 From left, Jodie Haydon, her husband, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Biden and Jill Biden (New York Times photo by Erin Schaff on Oct. 25, 2023).

From left, Jodie Haydon, her husband, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Biden and Jill Biden (New York Times photo by Erin Schaff on Oct. 25, 2023).

 

Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, China and Russia cast U.S. as agent of global instability at military forum, Meaghan Tobin, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Chinese and Russian military officials on Monday criticized the United States as an agent of global instability at a Beijing military forum, where Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, also threatened grave consequences over Western involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Russian Flag“The Western policy of steady escalation of the conflict with Russia carries the threat of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” he said, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency.

sergei shoigu.uniformedShoigu, above, made the remarks at the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, China’s annual international military summit, where the country’s second-highest-ranked military official, Zhang Youxia, also issued oblique criticisms of the United States — while leaving the way open to improve military ties with Washington.

Chinese defense minister removed after just seven months in latest purge

China Flag“Some countries deliberately create turbulence and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” said Zhang, the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, in his keynote address, referring to the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Extremist attacks escalate in Niger after coup topples American ally, Rachel Chason, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Islamist militants in Niger have significantly stepped up their attacks in the months since generals here ousted the elected president, jettisoning the counterterrorism support of French forces and throwing into doubt cooperation with the American military.

niger flagUntil the coup in late July, this West African nation had been a reliable ally of the United States and Europe — a democratic success story in a region plagued by coups, a key ally in battling Islamic extremism and a counterweight to Russia’s growing regional influence.

But the coup leaders, buoyed by a wave of anti-French sentiment sweeping France’s former West African colonies, are increasingly isolated from their onetime allies. Directing much of its vitriol at France, the new government has pressured the French ambassador to leave and asked all of France’s 1,500 troops to depart in the coming months.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Australian woman arrested in suspected mushroom poisoning deaths, Rachel Pannett, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Australian police have taken a woman into custody for questioning as part of their months-long investigation into the mysterious deaths of three people in a suspected case of mushroom poisoning.

Erin Patterson invited two couples to lunch at her rural home in the state of Victoria one Saturday in late July. A week later, three of the four guests were dead, and the other was seriously ill. Authorities suspect they ate death cap mushrooms, or Amanita phalloides, one of the deadliest known mushrooms to humans

ny times logoNew York Times, The World Is Becoming More African, Declan Walsh, Photographs by Hannah Reyes Morales, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Africa has the fastest growing, youngest population of any continent. By 2050, one in four people on the planet will be African.

Astonishing change is underway in Africa, where the population is projected to nearly double to 2.5 billion over the next quarter-century — an era that will not only transform many African countries, experts say, but also radically reshape their relationship with the rest of the world.

Birthrates are tumbling in richer nations, creating anxiety about how to care for, and pay for, their aging societies. But Africa’s baby boom continues apace, fueling the youngest, fastest growing population on earth.

In 1950, Africans made up 8 percent of the world’s people. A century later, they will account for one-quarter of humanity, and at least one-third of all young people aged 15 to 24, according to United Nations forecasts.

The median age on the African continent is 19. In India, the world’s most populous country, it is 28. In China and the United States, it is 38.

 

sudan sudanese flag on the map of africa

ny times logoNew York Times, Students on the Run, Schools Taken by Troops and a Generation’s Catastrophe, Abdi Latif Dahir, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). With an estimated 19 sudan flagpngmillion children out of school for months because of war, Sudan could become “the worst education crisis in the world,” the U.N. said.

Universities and primary and secondary schools across Sudan remain closed six months after the war began, jeopardizing the future of an entire generation. With an estimated 19 million children out of school, Sudan is on the verge of becoming “the worst education crisis sudan internal mapin the world,” the United Nations Children’s Fund warned this month.

Teachers across the northeast African nation have gone unpaid and young people out of school have been exposed to physical and mental threats, abdel fattah abdelrahman burhan 2019including recruitment into armed groups.

Universities and government educational offices have been destroyed or used as defense positions, and at least 171 schools have been turned into emergency shelters for displaced people, according to a spokesman with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“If this war continues, the damage to the education system will be irreparable,” said Munzoul Assal, who until April was a social mohamed hamdan dagalo hemetti 2022anthropology professor at the Faculty of Economics and Social Studies at the University of Khartoum.

The war between the Sudanese Army, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, above right, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, left, a paramilitary chief generally known as “Hemetti, has killed up to 9,000 people and injured thousands more, according to the U.N.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Israel’s Gaza offensive stirs a wave of global protest, Ishaan Tharoor, Oct. 29, 2023. The horrific Oct. 7 attack orchestrated by Hamas on villages and kibbutzim in southern Israel killed at least 1,400 people and led to the abduction of about 230 hostages.

Their fate now hangs in the balance after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had entered a new phase of the fighting with an expanded ground assault on Gaza. He invoked the biblical battles of the Israelites thousands of years ago to underscore the mission: “To defeat the murderous enemy, and to ensure our existence in our land.”

Israel FlagFor the 2.3 million people living in Gaza, daily life was enough of an ordeal before they had to reckon with the consequences of being shut off from the reach of friends and loved ones elsewhere, as well as connections with international media and relief agencies. Amid constant bombardments and a string of Israeli evacuation warnings, many families in Gaza have been compelled to relocate multiple times in a desperate search for safe sanctuary. Whole residential neighborhoods are now piles of toxic dust and debris. WiFi signals and phone charging stations are scarce commodities.

Abdul Raouf Shaath, a photojournalist in Gaza, managed to transmit a voice message to my colleagues, expressing his fears that the enclave was “now being annihilated from the eyes of the world” and “removed from the noise of the world.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vatican’s most crucial synod since 1960s ends with divide over women deacons, LGBTQ+, Anthony Faiola and Stefano Pitrelli, Oct. 29, 2023.  The most contentious topic at the month-long synod was how and whether to welcome LGBTQ+ Catholics.

ny times logoNew York Times, As China Looks to Broker Gaza Peace, Antisemitism Surges Online, Oct. 29, 2023. China’s state-run media has blamed the United States for deepening the crisis, while perpetuating tropes of Jewish control of American politics.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel’s Hidden Victims, Arab Bedouins, Were Attacked by Hamas Too, Adam Goldman and Gal Koplewitz, Oct. 29, 2023. At least 17 died in the Hamas attacks, and many more in the impoverished community have since lost their livelihoods in Jewish farms that were ransacked.

During their murderous Oct. 7 rampage, Hamas militants attacked Zikkim Beach near the Gaza Strip where Abd Alrahman Aatef Ziadna and his family had been camping along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr. Ziadna, 26, was slain inside his tent, and four members of his Bedouin family vanished.

Since the slaughter of 1,400 Israelis and foreigners by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, the world’s sympathies have focused on the Jewish communities closest to Gaza, where many of the victims lived. Atrocities were also committed against one of Israel’s more hidden minorities, Bedouin Arabs.

At least 17 people killed in the Hamas attacks were Bedouins in and around Rahat, the biggest city in an impoverished, predominantly Bedouin area of southern Israel. Another victim there was an Arab paramedic from northern Israel who had come to work at the all night music and dance festival where 260 people were slain.

Ayesha Ziadna, 29, a relative of the Ziadnas who were attacked on the beach, said that the four members of the family who disappeared are still missing, as are a number of other residents of the area, though the exact number was not immediately clear.

Dr. Yasmeen Abu Fraiha, who grew up in the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, said she rushed to her hospital in Beer Sheva as the staff scrambled to treat hundreds of patients that day, including victims who had lost limbs and others who had been shot, including Bedouins. They treated children, seniors and foreigners too.

Hamas did not directly target Bedouins, but “rockets and bullets don’t discriminate,” Dr. Fraiha said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Li Keqiang, Chinese Premier Eclipsed by Xi Jinping, Dies at 68, Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.).  Mr. Li, who retired in March, was muscled out of the premier’s usual roles by Mr. Xi. His death from a heart attack shocked Chinese citizens.

China FlagChina’s former premier Li Keqiang, who came to power promising to improve the lot of private companies and restrain the reach of the state but was overshadowed by the hard-line top leader, Xi Jinping, died early Friday. He was 68.

Mr. Li, who was visiting Shanghai, suffered a heart attack on Thursday and died just after midnight on Friday, China Central Television, the state broadcaster, announced. “All efforts to resuscitate him failed,” its report said.

Mr. Li, who had a doctorate in economics, exemplified a generation of highly educated Chinese leaders who rose up as Mao Zedong’s generation faded from politics. As premier, Mr. Li spoke of giving markets a greater role in the economy, and he promised a fairer playing field for private companies, saying they would get the same access as state-owned firms to bank loans, land and other resources.

But his efforts had limited success as he and his allies lost much of their influence. Mr. Xi, China’s most dominant leader in decades, instead promoted a circle of loyalists, defended a central role for state-owned enterprises and pushed for tight supervision of the economy by the ruling Communist Party, emphasizing security and ideology over growth.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian Teenager Dies Weeks After Mysterious Collapse, Christopher F. Schuetze, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The death of Armita Geravand comes after word of her injuries fueled outrage because she was so young and because of previous cases in which women have been brutalized for protesting dress codes.

died weeks after she collapsed and fell into a coma following what many believe was an encounter over not covering her hair in public.

Ms. Geravand’s death, nearly a month after she was believed to have been shoved by officers for not wearing a head scarf on a subway car in Tehran, was announced by Iran’s state news agency IRNA on Saturday. That report repeated the government line that Ms. Geravand’s coma had been caused by hitting her head after a fainting spell.

Ms. Geravand’s case has fueled outrage among many Iranians because of her young age and because of previous cases in which hundreds of women have been brutalized by the morality police for not wearing head scarves. In Ms. Geravand’s case, the Iranian authorities released only limited footage of the incident.

The circumstances of her case have prompted comparisons with Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody in September 2022 led to the most significant wave of anti-government protests since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Ms. Amini’s death touched off widespread, monthslong demonstrations in which Iranian women publicly violated dress codes, mostly by eschewing head scarves, in huge protests that rattled the country.

With international and domestic pressure mounting, Iran said in December that it was abolishing its morality police. But this summer, the government created a special unit to enforce laws in Iran that require women to cover their hair with a hijab and wear loosefitting robes.

Station camera footage released by the government captured only part of the incident involving Ms. Geravand. The video shows her entering the subway car with friends without wearing a head scarf. It then shows her friends pulling her unconscious body back onto the platform. Footage from inside the subway car was not released.

The story was reported by Farzad Seifikaran, a journalist with Zamaneh Media, an independent Persian-language news site, based in Amsterdam. He said people familiar with the incident had told him that Ms. Geravand and two of her friends had argued with officers enforcing the hijab rule and that one of them had pushed Ms. Geravand, who hit her head on a metal object as she fell.

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More On Climate, Disasters, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Offshore Wind Firm Cancels N.J. Projects, as Industry’s Prospects Dim, Stanley Reed and Tracey Tully, Nov. 1, 2023.  Denmark’s Orsted said it would be forced to write off as much as $5.5 billion as wind developers in the U.S. face wrenching financing costs.

Plans to build two wind farms off the coast of New Jersey were scrapped, the company behind them said on Wednesday, a blow to the state’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the latest shakeout in the U.S. wind industry.

The move, which will force Orsted, a Danish company, to write off as much as $5.6 billion, will crimp the Biden administration’s plans to make the wind industry a critical component of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. High inflation and soaring interest rates are making planned projects that looked like winners several years ago no longer profitable.

“The world has in many ways, from a macroeconomic and industry point of view, turned upside down,” Mads Nipper, Orsted’s chief executive, said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.

The two projects, known as Ocean Wind 1 and 2, were destined to provide green energy to New Jersey. They were strongly backed by the state’s governor, Phil Murphy, a Democrat with national ambitions who stresses his environmental credentials but who has lately drawn scorn for falling short in combating climate change. On Wednesday he suggested that Orsted was a dishonest broker and insisted that the “future of offshore wind” along the state’s 130-mile coastline remained strong.

ny times logoNew York Times, The new speaker, from Louisiana oil country, has said he does not believe burning fossil fuels is changing the climate, Lisa Friedman, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). New House Speaker Champions Fossil Fuels and Dismisses Climate Concerns. Representative Mike Johnson comes from Louisiana oil country and has said he does not believe burning fossil fuels is changing the climate.

mike johnson oRepresentative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, right, the newly elected House speaker, has questioned climate science, opposed clean energy and received more campaign contributions from oil and gas companies than from any other industry last year.

Even as other Republican lawmakers increasingly accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is dangerously heating the planet, the unanimous election of Mr. Johnson on Wednesday suggests that his views may not be out of step with the rest of his party.

Indeed, surveys show that climate science has been politicized in the United States to an extent not experienced in most other countries. A Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday found that a vast majority of Democrats polled — 85 percent — said that climate change is an extremely or very serious problem, while 47 percent of Republicans viewed climate change as not too serious or not a problem at all.

“It should concern us all that someone with such extreme views and so beholden to the fossil fuel industry has such power and influence during a time when bold action is more critical than ever,” said Ben Jealous, the executive director of the Sierra Club, an environment group.

Mr. Johnson, whose district includes Shreveport, a former oil town that has diversified over the past decade, was first elected to Congress in 2016. A former constitutional lawyer, he does not sit on committees that decide the fate of major energy issues.

But he has consistently voted against dozens of climate bills and amendments, opposing legislation that would require companies to disclose their risks from climate change and bills that would reduce leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. He has voted for measures that would cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency.

At a town hall in 2017, Mr. Johnson said: “The climate is changing, but the question is, is it being caused by natural cycles over the span of the Earth’s history? Or is it changing because we drive S.U.V.s? I don’t believe in the latter. I don’t think that’s the primary driver.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, An apocalyptic dust plume killed off the dinosaurs, study says, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Dust from the Chicxulub impact would have lingered in the atmosphere for 15 years, cooling Earth by 60 degrees and shutting down photosynthesis for two years. The mighty dinosaurs may have been done in by dust, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience.

For decades, scientists have known that a giant asteroid smashed into what is now the Yucatán Peninsula roughly 66 million years ago. Most experts agree the event triggered a mass extinction that wiped out three-quarters of all species, including almost all the dinosaurs.
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But precisely how the impact led to an apocalypse has remained unsettled, with much attention focused on the “impact winter” that occurred afterward — a period of cold, global darkness.

In 1980, scientists posited that the asteroid kicked up a big cloud of pulverized rock dust that starved plants of sunlight. But more recent investigations focused on sun-blocking soot from the initial impact and subsequent global wildfires, or on long-lived sulfur aerosols released by the cataclysm.

The question of how the sun was blocked, and for how long, has been critical to tease out because it shaped the evolution of life on the planet in fundamental ways. A prolonged period of darkness that shut down plants’ ability to turn sunlight into energy could have led to the collapse of the entire food chain. Understanding how life responded and, in some cases, outlasted such an extreme climatic event may provide insight into future extinctions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hurricane Otis death toll rises to 45; dozens still missing, Lorena Rios, Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.).  Increasingly desperate families continued to search for missing loved ones Monday as authorities raised the official death toll from Hurricane Otis along Mexico’s Pacific Coast to 45.

Forty-seven people remained missing, Guerrero state Gov. Evelyn Salgado told reporters, and about 274,000 homes in the region were damaged or destroyed when the fast-forming Category 5 storm surprised this famed resort city last week with 165-mph winds and lethal flood surges.

Rescue and recovery workers searched the debris with cadaver dogs Monday as authorities continued to assess the destruction.
Residents clean up Saturday after the storm. (David Guzmán/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Otis stunned forecasters last week when it strengthened from a tropical storm to category 5 in 12 hours, the fastest such leap recorded in the region. It made landfall early Wednesday as the strongest cyclone to hit the country’s Pacific Coast since record-keeping began.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to retire after nearly three decades in Congress, Maegan Vazquez, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has spent nearly three decades in Congress, announced Monday night that he does not plan to seek reelection next year.

“I have dedicated my career to creating livable communities where people are safe, healthy, and economically secure,” Blumenauer, 75, said in a Facebook post announcing his upcoming retirement. “This mission has guided my involvement on a wide range of issues that have been very rewarding for me and productive for our community. Now, it is time to refocus on a narrower set of priorities.”
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In a half a century of public service — roughly two-thirds of his life — Blumenauer has also served as a state legislator, county commissioner and city council member in Oregon. He was first elected to Congress in a special election in 1996 to succeed then-Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had been elected to the Senate.

Known for his signature bow ties and bike lapel pins, Blumenauer has been a policy advocate for public transportation, housing, sustainability and marijuana reforms. He currently serves as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and is the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Trade. He also founded the Congressional Bike Caucus, which advocates for safer streets and other pro-bicyclist policies.

Blumenauer’s congressional district, which includes Portland and Mount Hood, has been a Democratic stronghold and he is expected to be succeed by another Democrat.

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More On 2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump maintains lead in Iowa poll while Haley ties for second with DeSantis, Maegan Vazquez, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump maintains a commanding lead among Republicans running for president in 2024 in the first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses, while former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley has pulled into a tie for second place with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a new poll finds.

With less than three months until the caucuses, the latest NBC News-Des Moines Register-Mediacom Iowa poll shows Trump’s lead among the crowded pack of primary candidates remains strong. Forty-three percent of likely caucus-goers pick Trump as their first-choice GOP presidential candidate. Haley and DeSantis both draw 16 percent support.

Despite Trump’s legal challenges and GOP candidates’ efforts over the last several months to set themselves as a viable alternative for the party, his support is nearly identical to his percentage in an August Iowa poll. DeSantis’s support has slipped three percentage points, and Haley’s support has grown by 10 percentage points, the poll finds.

Spurned by moderates and MAGA: How DeSantis’s coalition has deflated

In the new poll, Haley and DeSantis are followed by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) with 7 percent. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie are both at 4 percent, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is at 3 percent, and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson is at 1 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Joe Biden Knows What It Actually Means to Be President, David French, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). There’s a gathering sense that President Biden’s response to the war in Gaza may cost him the 2024 election. A recent Gallup poll showed that his support among Democrats has slipped 11 points in the past month to 75 percent, the lowest of his presidency. On Friday my colleagues in the newsroom reported on a growing backlash against Biden coming from young and left-leaning voters.

Does this mean that standing with Israel could be politically fatal for Biden? I don’t think so, and to understand why, it’s important to understand the core responsibilities of an American president.

In 2012, when I was a partisan supporter of Mitt Romney, there was one message from President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign that I thought made the most succinct and persuasive case for his second term. It was delivered most memorably by then-Vice President Biden, of all people, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He said that Obama had “courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and a spine of steel,” and then Biden delivered the key line: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”

While I believed that Romney would do a better job as president than Obama, that sentence affected me so much — not just because it happened to be true but also because it resonated with two of a president’s most vital tasks: preserving prosperity at home and security abroad. A war-weary nation longed for a clear win, and a people still recovering from the Great Recession needed economic stability. The killing of bin Laden was the greatest victory of the war on terrorism, and the preservation of General Motors, an iconic American company, resonated as a national symbol as important as or more important than the number of jobs saved.

Now fast-forward to August 2024, when Biden will speak on his own behalf in Chicago at the next Democratic convention. Will he be able to tell the American people that he did his job? Will he be able to make that claim in the face of international crises more consequential than anything either Obama or Donald Trump faced during their presidencies?

Consider what he confronts: a brutal Russian assault on a liberal democracy in Europe, the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and an aggressive China that is gaining military strength and threatens Taiwan. That’s two hot wars and a new cold war, each against a nation or entity that forsakes any meaningful moral norms, violates international law and commits crimes against humanity.

In each conflict abroad — hot or cold — America is indispensable to the defense of democracy and basic humanity. Ukraine cannot withstand a yearslong Russian onslaught unless the United States acts as the arsenal of democracy, keeping the Ukrainian military supplied with the weapons and munitions it needs. America is Israel’s indispensable ally and close military partner. It depends on our aid and — just as important — our good will for much of its strength and security. And Taiwan is a target of opportunity for China absent the might of the United States Pacific Fleet.

And keep in mind, Biden is managing these conflicts all while trying to make sure that the nation emerges from a pandemic with inflation in retreat and its economy intact. In spite of economic growth and low unemployment numbers that make the American economy the envy of the world, Americans are still dealing with the consequences of inflation and certainly don’t feel optimistic about our economic future.

Biden is now under fire from two sides, making these challenges even more difficult. The populist, Trumpist right threatens his ability to fund Ukraine, hoping to engineer a cutoff in aid that could well lead to the greatest victory for European autocrats since Hitler and then Stalin swallowed European democracies whole in their quest for power and control.

At the same time, progressives calling for a cease-fire in Gaza threaten to hand Hamas the greatest victory of its existence. If Hamas can wound Israel so deeply and yet live to fight again, it will have accomplished what ISIS could not — commit acts of the most brutal terror and then survive as an intact organization against a military that possesses the power to crush it outright. I agree with Dennis Ross, a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East: Any outcome that leaves Hamas in control in Gaza “will doom not just Gaza but also much of the rest of the Middle East.”

And hovering, just outside the frame, is China, watching carefully and measuring our will.

I understand both the good-faith right-wing objections to Ukraine aid and the good-faith progressive calls for a cease-fire in Israel. Ukraine needs an extraordinary amount of American support for a war that has no end in sight. It’s much easier to rally the West when Ukraine is on the advance. It’s much harder to sustain American support in the face of grinding trench warfare, the kind of warfare that consumes men and material at a terrifying pace.

I also understand that it is hard to watch a large-scale bombing campaign in Gaza that kills civilians, no matter the precision of each individual strike. Much like ISIS in Mosul, Hamas has embedded itself in the civilian population. It is impossible to defeat Hamas without harming civilians, and each new civilian death is a profound tragedy, one that unfolds in front of a watching world. It’s a testament to our shared humanity that one of our first instincts when we see such violence is to say, “Please, just stop.”

This instinct is magnified when the combination of the fog of war and Hamas disinformation can cause exaggerated or even outright false claims of Israeli atrocities to race across the nation and the world before the full truth is known. The sheer scale of the Israeli response is difficult to grasp, and there is no way for decent people to see the death and destruction and not feel anguish for the plight of the innocent.

The combination of tragedy, confusion and cost is what makes leadership so difficult. A good leader can’t overreact to any given news cycle. He or she can’t overreact to any specific report from the battlefield. And a good leader certainly can’t overreact to a negative poll.

I’ve long thought that politicians’ moment-by-moment reaction to activists, to members of the media and to polls is partly responsible for the decline in trust in American politicians. What can feel responsive in the moment is evidence of instability in the aggregate. The desperate desire to win each and every news cycle leads to short-term thinking. Politicians put out fires they see on social media, or they change course in response to anger coming from activists. Activists and critics in the media see an outrage and demand an immediate response, but what the body politic really needs is a thoughtful, deliberate strategy and the resolve to see it through.

No administration is perfect. Americans should object, for example, to the slow pace of approving each new weapons system for Ukraine. But in each key theater, Biden’s policies are fundamentally sound. We should support Ukraine as long as it’s necessary to preserve Ukrainian independence from Russian assault. We should stand by Israel as it responds to mass murder, including by supporting a lawful offensive into the heart of Gaza. And we should continue to strengthen alliances in the Pacific to enhance our allies’ military capabilities and share the burden of collective defense.

And we should do these things while articulating a moral vision that sustains our actions. On Thursday, John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communication, did just that. First, in an interview on “Morning Joe,” he described the efforts to aid Gazan civilians — a humanitarian and legal imperative. He made it clear that the United States is working to preserve civilian life, as it should.

Later on Thursday, he also provided a wider moral context. Asked at a news conference about Biden’s observation that innocents will continue to die as Israel presses its attacks, Kirby responded with facts we cannot forget: “What’s harsh is the way Hamas is using people as human shields. What’s harsh is taking a couple of hundred hostages and leaving families anxious, waiting and worrying to figure out where their loved ones are. What’s harsh is dropping in on a music festival and slaughtering a bunch of young people just trying to enjoy an afternoon.”

By word and deed, the Biden administration is getting the moral equation correct. There should be greater pressure on Hamas to release hostages and relinquish control of Gaza than there should be pressure on Israel to stop its offensive. Hamas had no legal or moral right to launch its deliberate attack on Israeli civilians. It has no legal or moral right to embed itself in the civilian population to hide from Israeli attacks. Israel, by contrast, has every right to destroy Hamas in a manner consistent with the laws of war.

If Biden can persevere in the face of the chaos and confusion of war abroad and polarization at home, all while preserving a level of economic growth that is astonishing in contrast with the rest of the world, he’ll have his own story to tell in Chicago, one that should trump the adversity of any given moment or the concern generated by any given poll. If Biden can do his job, then he can take the stage in Chicago with his own simple pitch for re-election: In the face of disease, war, inflation and division, the economy thrives — and democracy is alive.

 

djt ron desantis cnn collage

washington post logoWashington Post, Spurned by moderates and MAGA: How DeSantis’s coalition has deflated, Hannah Knowles, Oct. 30, 2023. Centrists have recoiled at DeSantis’s entreaties to the Trump base. At the same time, he has lost ground with Trump supporters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: DeSantis’s free flights highlight failure of campaign-finance laws, Ruth Marcus, right, Oct. 30, 2023. In theory, the United States has ruth marcuslaws regulating fundraising by candidates for federal office. In theory, candidates — including candidates for president — can’t take checks from individual donors larger than $3,300 per election. Super PACs that back candidates can accept unlimited sums but, again in theory, those entities are supposed to operate independently and are barred from coordinating with candidates.

​But when it comes to the modern world of campaign-finance regulation, theory is meaningless. The rules count for nothing, or close to it. Evasion is rampant — and enforcement effectively nonexistent.

​The latest evidence arrives in the case of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who apparently disdains flying commercial but whose struggling campaign claims it has found an ingenious way to have his Never Back Down super PAC foot the bill for private flights.

 

djt mike pence

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Devil’s Bargain Mike Pence Could Not Escape, Adam Nagourney, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The former vice president tied himself to Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign, and it may have cost him a political future.

The decision by Mike Pence to end his presidential campaign on Saturday was a bow to what had finally become inevitable. He was struggling to raise money, win support from the party’s base and manage the torments from the man who had made him nationally famous, Donald J. Trump.

But the root of his campaign’s collapse — and, very possibly, his political career — goes back to 2016, when Mr. Pence accepted Mr. Trump’s offer to be his running mate.

“He got it completely wrong,” said the Rev. Rob Schenck, an evangelical clergyman and a one-time leader of the anti-abortion movement who gave ministerial counsel to Mr. Pence 20 years ago but later turned against him because of his affiliation with Mr. Trump. “This ended up being disastrous for his political career.”

The two men were not close before Mr. Trump’s decision to put Mr. Pence on the ticket. In many ways, beyond sharing a party affiliation, they could not have been more different.

Mr. Pence was the governor of Indiana, an evangelical Christian — he titled his memoir “So Help Me God” — who grew up in the rolling farmland of Indiana. He had endorsed one of Mr. Trump’s primary opponents, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. And he was, friends said, discomfited by the freewheeling ways of Mr. Trump, a Queens-born playboy entrepreneur and casino owner who had thrived in the Democratic world of New York.

But Mr. Pence was facing a challenging re-election campaign against a Democrat he had only narrowly defeated in 2012. He was, his advisers said, also drawn into the presidential race by the prospect of a spot on the national stage, positioning himself to be either vice president or a strong candidate for president in 2020 should Mr. Trump lose to Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, which polling suggested was likely.

After a few days of consideration — and speaking to his wife, Karen, consulting political advisers and friends, and spending time in prayer, by his account — Mr. Pence accepted Mr. Trump’s offer.

It was a deal that, by Saturday morning in Las Vegas, as a former vice president was forced to exit the race for president without even making it to the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Pence had almost surely come to regret.

washington post logoWashington Post, Spurned by moderates and MAGA: How DeSantis’s coalition has deflated, Hannah Knowles, Oct. 30, 2023. Centrists have recoiled at DeSantis’s entreaties to the Trump base. At the same time, he has lost ground with Trump supporters.

 

mike pence speech CustomPolitico, Pence suspends presidential campaign, Alex Isenstadt and Myah Ward, Oct. 28, 2023. The former vice president (shown in a file photo) announced his decision to audible gasps at a Jewish forum in Las Vegas.

politico CustomFormer Vice President Mike Pence announced on Saturday that he was suspending his presidential campaign in a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition conference.

“The Bible tells us that there’s a time for every purpose under heaven. Traveling across the country over the past six months, I came here to say it’s become clear to me that this is not my time. So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today,” Pence said, to audible gasps from the audience gathered at the Venetian resort on the Las Vegas strip.

Attendees gave Pence a standing ovation. One person yelled, “Thank you Mike!” At the conclusion of the speech, Pence invited his wife, Karen, onstage.

“We thank God for his amazing grace. He gave us the courage to step forward so many years ago. And the wisdom to step aside,” Pence said. “My fellow Republicans, thank you for your kindness, your support and your prayers over the many years. As we go home to Indiana, let me assure you that we leave here with optimism and faith. We don’t know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future, and with faith in him and boundless confidence in all of you, we know the best days for America and our most cherished ally, Israel, are yet to come.”

djt mike penceThere was no hint of Pence dropping out in the prepared remarks his aides distributed yesterday to reporters. And RJC officials said they had no indication Pence was about to make the announcement. It was, according to Fred Zeidman, a major GOP donor in attendance, a “total shock.” The crowd, Zeidman noted, “treated him with all the respect he deserves. What a mensch.”

Pence has struggled to raise money and gain traction in the polls as he built a campaign on religious conservative values and a continued break with Donald Trump over the events on Jan. 6. He had only $1.2 million in cash on hand as of the end of last month, roughly equal to what he’d been spending on a monthly basis over the previous quarter, according to a recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

And while he’d met the Republican National Committee’s polling criteria for an invitation to the Nov. 8 primary debate in Miami, he’d not yet met the 70,000-individual-donor threshold and only had another nine days to do so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Young, diverse voters are breaking with President Biden over Israel, raising questions about his strength for 2024, Reid J. Epstein and Anjali Huynh, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). As a raw divide over the war ripples through liberal America, a coalition of young voters and people of color is breaking with the president, raising new questions about his strength entering 2024.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe Democratic Party’s yearslong unity behind President Biden is beginning to erode over his steadfast support of Israel in its escalating war with the Palestinians, with a left-leaning coalition of young voters and people of color showing more discontent toward him than at any point since he was elected.

From Capitol Hill to Hollywood, in labor unions and liberal activist groups, and on college campuses and in high school cafeterias, a raw emotional divide over the conflict is convulsing liberal America.

While moderate Democrats and critics on the right have applauded Mr. Biden’s backing of Israel, he faces new resistance from an energized faction of his party that views the Palestinian cause as an extension of the racial and social justice movements that dominated American politics in the summer of 2020.

In protests, open letters, staff revolts and walkouts, liberal Democrats are demanding that Mr. Biden break with decades-long American policy and call for a cease-fire.

The political power of the Israel skeptics within the party is untested, with more than a year remaining until the 2024 presidential election. Their efforts have been fractious and disorganized, and they have little agreement on how much blame to lay at Mr. Biden’s feet or whether to punish him next November if he ignores their pleas.

And yet Mr. Biden is already struggling with low Democratic enthusiasm, and it would not take much of a slip in support from voters who backed him in 2020 to throw his re-election bid into question. His margin of victory in key battleground states was just a few thousand votes — hardly enough to spare a significant drop-off from young voters alienated by his loyalty to a right-wing Israeli government they see as hostile to their values.

At its heart, the turbulence over Israel is a fundamental disagreement over policy, setting it apart from challenges like voters’ dissatisfaction with the economy, which Mr. Biden’s allies believe can be solved with better messaging. The president, who has for decades positioned himself in the middle of his party and has navigated Democrats’ ideological and generational divide for the first half of his term, now confronts an issue that has no easy middle ground.

Perhaps most concerning for Mr. Biden is that in the halls of Congress, the most critical Democratic voices are Black and Hispanic Democrats who helped fuel his 2020 victory. As of Thursday, all 18 House members who had signed onto a resolution calling for an “immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine” were people of color.

“We process pain, deprivation and cruelty personally, having either encountered it in our current lives or having had historical connections to it with our ancestors,” said Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, one of the cease-fire resolution’s co-sponsors. “So we understand that cruelty and war and violence do not have positive outcomes.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cornel West’s Improvisational Run for President: ‘It’s Jazz All the Way Down,’ Charles Homans, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Is the celebrity professor’s candidacy a wild variable in the 2024 presidential campaign or performance art? Yes, he says.

Cornel West, the left-wing public intellectual and independent presidential candidate, stood on a rainy stretch of suburban highway in New York’s Rockland County. “Watch that truck!” he called out, holding up a United Auto Workers sign.

A dump truck blew past, the spray from its wheels momentarily knocking Mr. West back on his feet and further soaking his already damp suit.

It was not supposed to be like this. The week before, on Sept. 20, Mr. West had announced he was going to Michigan, the epicenter of a strike against the three unionized American auto manufacturers over wage increases. But then President Biden announced that he, too, would be going to Michigan, a crucial swing state, on the same day. Soon, Mr. West said, union officials urged him to delay his Michigan trip and in the meantime join workers picketing a local auto parts distribution center in Tappan, N.Y., instead.

(A U.A.W. spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.)

Still, Mr. West seemed determined to make the best of this Siberia of solidarity. “That’s it!” he shouted, fist raised, after the dump truck driver let out a low blast on his horn. “Now you know!”

Even by the standards of outsider politics, Mr. West’s presidential campaign has been uncommonly chaotic. He has embraced and discarded political parties the way other people try on outfits before going to work. He has predictably infuriated Democrats, who fear that his campaign could draw a decisive number of voters away from Mr. Biden in 2024. But he has also irked activists from the Green Party, whose nomination he sought before announcing this month that he would run as an independent instead.

That latest move is perhaps the most perplexing. Independent candidacies face far more hurdles than third-party runs. Mr. West’s decision threatens to transform his candidacy from a wild variable in the 2024 contest into a minor curiosity.

That has fueled suspicions that his bid is an improvisational performance as much as it is a political campaign. Asked about these suspicions, Mr. West emphatically agreed.

“It’s jazz all the way down, brother,” he said.

Mr. West, who trained at Princeton as a philosopher and has taught at several Ivy League universities, was an influential figure in the still-young field of African American studies in the 1980s. A prolific writer and public speaker, Mr. West in his early work ranged fluently across theology, philosophy, history, and music and literary criticism.

His best-selling 1993 book Race Matters brought him a celebrity uncommon for academics. He visited the Clinton White House, shared a stage with Jay-Z and became a fixture of talk shows like “Real Time With Bill Maher.” Former President Barack Obama once called him an “oracle.” He played a small part in two “Matrix” sequels.

He also drew criticism. Mr. West left Harvard for Princeton in 2002 after clashing with its president then, Lawrence H. Summers, who reportedly urged him to produce more scholarly work after he recorded a spoken word album. In a scathing 2015 essay, Michael Eric Dyson, a longtime friend of Mr. West, wrote that he “has squandered his intellectual gift in exchange for celebrity.”

 

dean phillips campaign

washington post logoWashington Post, Dean Phillips’s primary challenge of Biden will face many obstacles, Meryl Kornfield, Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips, above, is expected to announce his presidential intentions in New Hampshire on Friday. Democratic strategists say it’s unlikely to undermine Biden’s path to the nomination.

Political scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr. running as a Democrat could have spelled trouble for President Biden, but his decision to run as an independent made his candidacy at least as much of a problem for Republicans in the short term. Progressive scholar Cornel West left the Green Party to similarly run as an independent, mucking up his ability to get his name on the ballot. And Democratic groups have moved to squash a third-party presidential ticket supported by centrist organization No Labels.

Enter Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.).

In a last-ditch effort to provide a Democratic or third-party alternative to Biden, Phillips will be launching a primary challenge on Friday, seizing on Biden’s anemic approval ratings among key Democratic constituencies and wariness over his age. He is expected to officially announce his bid at the New Hampshire State House, where candidates file to make it onto the state’s primary ballot, and then begin a bus tour.

But Phillips throwing his hat into the Democratic primary ring is unlikely to undermine Biden’s chance of securing the nomination, according to Democratic strategists, highlighting the clear path Biden has faced to the general election despite dissatisfaction from within his party and questions about his electability.

Phillips’s last-minute entry follows months of successful efforts by Biden’s team to remove obstacles to the president’s renomination. White House aides oversaw a reshuffling of the first nominating states last year, demoting both Iowa and New Hampshire, where Biden placed fourth and fifth in 2020. They signed up many of his highest-profile rivals, including Democratic governors and senators, to a surrogate operation that has made them public champions of Biden’s reelection.

dnc square logoThe Democratic National Committee also marginalized the early announced rivals for the nomination, author Marianne Williamson and Kennedy, refusing to entertain primary debates or to give them a platform on which to run. Kennedy announced in October that he would run as an independent, a relief for Biden aides, a move that will now force him to spend much of the next few months trying to arrange state ballot access.

All of this has been accomplished despite Biden’s historically alarming polling within the Democratic Party. A CNN poll in September found that 67 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they wanted a different candidate as the party’s nominee. Sixty percent of the same group said they were seriously concerned about his ability to win the 2024 election if chosen as the nominee.

Phillips, 54, said such numbers show how Democratic voters are seeking an alternative to the incumbent. He had hinted about this run, first suggesting in August that he wasn’t planning on running at that time but thought Biden should step aside for some Democratic star, naming moderate Democratic governors as alternatives.

“I’m representing what I believe to be the majority of the country that wants to turn the page,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Tired of the meanness and the fearmongering of Donald Trump. I would like to see Joe Biden, a wonderful and remarkable man, pass the torch, cement this extraordinary legacy.”

In a recent signal of the pending campaign, Phillips stepped down from his leadership role as the co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, citing how his “convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of [his] caucus.”

But Phillips has already missed the Nevada filing deadline and will have to follow his New Hampshire performance with a contest against Biden in South Carolina, a state the president credits with setting him on the path to the nomination. Phillips’s national name identification, unlike Kennedy’s, is negligible. And he has a long history of supporting Biden.

“I’m so grateful America elected Joe Biden to be our president,” Phillips posted on Twitter, now called X, after Biden gave his first joint address to Congress. Phillips has voted consistently with Biden, and it remains unclear what his message would be to voters about how he distinguishes himself from his party’s leader.

Phillips’s entry into the race will come only days after the Biden campaign officially informed the New Hampshire Democratic Party the president will not submit his name to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democratic Group Steps Up Warnings Over a No Labels Third Party Bid, Maggie Astor, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). A Third Way memo cited polling from a centrist organization, No Labels, which showed a hypothetical ticket scrambling the race.

The Democratic group Third Way has released a new broadside against the No Labels effort to field a third-party presidential ticket in 2024, citing a recent polling presentation that shows a hypothetical ticket scrambling a race between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

In a memo published Tuesday, Third Way — a center-left group — outlined what it described as a “radical new plan” by No Labels, a centrist organization, to force a contingent election by running a third-party candidate, which could cause no candidate in the race to receive 270 electoral votes. In that scenario, No Labels could theoretically bargain its electoral votes to one of the major-party candidates, or the House of Representatives would decide the presidency.

The Third Way memo comes as allies of President Biden have aggressively moved to squash third party bids while warning Democrats that encouraging outsider candidacies might throw the election to Mr. Trump in what appears likely to be a rematch between the two men. The No Labels plan has been public for months, with the group’s chief strategist, Ryan Clancy, discussing preparations for a contingent election and the idea of using electoral votes “as a bargaining chip” in an interview with CNN in May. Third Way has largely taken the lead in pushing back against the idea of a so-called unity ticket, in which No Labels would secure ballot access for a centrist candidate.

The key slide in No Labels’ presentation shows data from eight swing states from the polling firm HarrisX. In a two-man race, it says, Mr. Trump would lead in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin; Mr. Biden would lead in Pennsylvania; and Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina would be tossups, with Biden leads within the margin of error. If Mr. Biden won the tossups — or even the tossups minus Nevada — he would win the election, assuming every other state voted as it did in 2020.

A No Labels ticket led by a Democrat would throw seven of the states to Mr. Trump, ensuring his election, according to the group’s data. But a No Labels ticket led by a Republican would lead in Nevada; be competitive in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin; and make Florida and Georgia tossups between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThese numbers are something of a Rorschach test, and are open to interpretation. In its presentation, No Labels suggests that the data indicates a third-party ticket with a Republican at the top offers the best chance at besting both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, even though the five states where the group’s numbers show it being competitive are worth fewer than 60 electoral votes. No third-party candidate has ever come close to winning a modern American election.

Third Way, whose memo was first reported by Politico, says that the slide reflects a plan that would ensure Mr. Trump’s victory and undermine democracy and voter confidence by deliberately employing faithless electors.

No Labels could “cut a deal by promising their electors’ support to whichever major-party candidate they deem more worthy,” the memo says — or the election would be decided in the House, where each state delegation would have a single vote, meaning Wyoming would have the same weight as California. “This is a new path for their third-party effort, but the destination would be the same: the election of Donald Trump,” the memo says.

Republicans control more state delegations now, but the delegations that would vote would be the ones elected in 2024.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats plan to subpoena wealthy benefactors of Supreme Court justices, Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Senate Democrats announced plans Monday to vote to subpoena a pair of wealthy conservatives and a judicial activist who have underwritten or organized lavish travel for some Supreme Court justices, a move that adds to the pressure on the high court to strengthen its ethics policies.

senate democrats logoSenate Judiciary Committee leaders said they would vote as soon as Nov. 9 to authorize subpoenas for information from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, a close friend and benefactor of Justice Clarence Thomas, and from Leonard Leo, the conservative judicial activist. Senate Democrats do not need the vote of any Republican on the committee to authorize the subpoenas. No separate vote by the full Senate is necessary.

Democratic lawmakers are seeking detailed information about the full extent of Crow’s gifts to Thomas. News reports about the justice’s failure over many years to report private jet travel, real estate deals and other gifts from Crow have prompted calls for the court to strengthen its ethics rules and for greater transparency about the justices’ potential conflicts and recusal decisions.

“By accepting these lavish, undisclosed gifts, the justices have enabled their wealthy benefactors and other individuals with business before the Court to gain private access to the justices while preventing public scrutiny of this conduct,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in the joint announcement. “It is imperative that we understand the full extent of how people with interests before the Court are able to use undisclosed gifts to gain private access to the justices.”

washington post logoWashington Post, This conservative appeals court’s rulings are testing the Supreme Court, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court this term will review eight 5th Circuit decisions. It has sided with the Biden administration over the lower court twice in the past week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit covers just three states: Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. But it is having an outsize influence on the cases and controversies that reach the U.S. Supreme Court and testing the boundaries of the conservative legal movement’s ascendancy.
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With a dozen judges nominated by Republican presidents, and only four by Democrats, the court is the favored launchpad for right-leaning politicians and organizations seeking groundbreaking judicial decisions restricting abortion, limiting guns laws, thwarting the ambitions of the Biden administration and curtailing the power of “administrative state” federal regulatory agencies.

“A meth lab of conservative grievance,” said New York University law professor Melissa Murray, a liberal who helps anchor a podcast about the Supreme Court called “Strict Scrutiny.” A recent episode described the 5th Circuit as an “American Idol” for conservative judges hoping to be noticed for a spot someday on the high court.

That would be fine with many on the right. On Wednesday night, the conservative Heritage Foundation honored one of the 5th Circuit’s most provocative members, Judge James C. Ho, with its Defender of the Constitution award. Ho was introduced as a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas who might someday become his colleague — a suggestion that drew applause from the auditorium filled with lawyers, law students and fellow judges.

 

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shown in a file photo speaking at the McConnell Center, named for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the longtime U.S. senator from Kentucky.Clarence Thomas McConnell Center flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shown in a file photo speaking at the McConnell Center, named for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the longtime U.S. senator from Kentucky.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The case of Clarence Thomas’s motor home gets curiouser and curiouser, Ruth Marcus, right, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). On ethics, the ruth marcusSupreme Court justice has lost the benefit of the doubt. by  Is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a tax cheat? His lawyer insists not. The available evidence suggests this is a fair question.

​ “The loan was never forgiven,” attorney Elliot Berke said in a statement about a $267,000 loan from Thomas’s friend Anthony Welters that enabled the justice and his wife to buy a luxury motor home. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false. The Thomases made all payments to Mr. Welters on a regular basis until the terms of the agreement were satisfied in full.”

​This is hard to square with the information laid out in a Senate Finance Committee report on the transaction — and difficult to credit in the absence of supporting information beyond Berke’s conclusory assertion.

Thomas — with his multiple failures to disclose his wife’s employment, his receipt of free private plane travel and tuition payments made on behalf of his grandnephew — has forfeited the benefit of the doubt. If Thomas, as Berke asserts, indeed “satisfied in full” the terms of his loan agreement, then let’s see “the agreement.” Let’s see the canceled checks.

​Three cheers here for congressional oversight and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The work by the majority staff of that panel builds on an August New York Times article that outlined how the Thomases were able to purchase the motor coach with underwriting from Welters, a longtime friend from their days together as congressional aides. Welters’s help was critical because traditional lenders are reluctant to provide financing for high-end recreational vehicles.

Welters confirmed making the loan in 1999 but wouldn’t provide details about its terms (including the total dollar value or the interest rate charged) beyond asserting that “the loan was satisfied,” a fuzzy phrase that raised more questions than it answered.

The finance committee investigation filled in important blanks — and underscored the reasons for skepticism about the transaction and Thomas’s compliance with both tax law and financial disclosure rules.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Thomas’s R.V. Loan Was Forgiven, Senate Inquiry Finds, Jo Becker, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The justice failed to repay much, perhaps all, of the $267,230 loan. His benefactor wiped the slate clean, with ethical and potential tax consequences.

The terms of the private loan were as generous as they were clear: With no money down, Justice Clarence Thomas could borrow more than a quarter of a million dollars from a wealthy friend to buy a 40-foot luxury motor coach, making annual interest-only payments for five years. Only then would the principal come due.

But despite the favorable nature of the 1999 loan and a lengthy extension to make good on his obligations, Justice Thomas failed to repay a “significant portion” — or perhaps any — of the $267,230 principal, according to a new report by Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee. Nearly nine years later, after Justice Thomas had made an unclear number of the interest payments, the outstanding debt was forgiven, an outcome with ethical and potential tax consequences for the justice.

“This was, in short, a sweetheart deal” that made no logical sense from a business perspective, Michael Hamersley, a tax lawyer who has served as a congressional expert witness, told The New York Times.

The Senate inquiry was prompted by a Times investigation published in August that revealed that Justice Thomas bought his Prevost Marathon Le Mirage XL, a brand favored by touring rock bands and the super-wealthy, with financing from Anthony Welters, a longtime friend who made his fortune in the health care industry.

In a statement to The Times this summer, Mr. Welters said the loan had been “satisfied” in 2008. He declined to answer whether that meant Justice Thomas had paid off the loan in full; nor did he respond to other basic questions about the terms. But while a number of questions remain, he gave a much fuller account to the committee, which has the authority to issue subpoenas and compel testimony.

The documents he volunteered indicate that, at the very least, Justice Thomas appears to have flouted an ethics rule requiring that he include any “discharge of indebtedness” as income on required annual financial disclosure reports. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service treats debt forgiveness as income to the borrower.

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who leads the Senate Finance Committee, called on Justice Thomas to “inform the committee exactly how much loan was forgiven and whether he properly reported the loan forgiveness on his tax return and paid all taxes owed.”

Justice Thomas did not respond immediately to questions sent to him through the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman.

In recent months, amid a series of reports of ethical lapses, the Supreme Court has faced intense public pressure to adopt stricter ethics rules, with several justices publicly endorsing such a move. Much of the controversy has centered on how wealthy benefactors have bestowed an array of undisclosed gifts on Justice Thomas and his wife, Virginia Thomas: buying and renovating the home where his mother lives, helping to pay for his great-nephew’s tuition and hosting the couple on lavish vacations that included travel aboard private jets and superyachts.

Ethical Issues Inside the Supreme Court

  • Ethics Code: Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that she favored an ethics code for the Supreme Court, joining the growing chorus of justices who have publicly backed adopting such rules.
  • Koch Network Events: Justice Clarence Thomas twice attended an annual donor summit organized by the conservative political network established by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
  • Calls for an Ethics Code: In an interview at Notre Dame, Justice Elena Kagan said that the Supreme Court should adopt a code of ethics, saying that “it would be a good thing for the court to do that.”
  • Financial Disclosures: In his annual financial disclosure form, Justice Thomas responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett Calls for Supreme Court to Adopt an Ethics Code, Abbie VanSickle, Oct. 18, 2023 (print ed.). In a wide-ranging interview at the University of Minnesota, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that ethics rules would help with public transparency.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said on Monday that she favored an ethics code for the Supreme Court, joining the growing chorus of justices who have publicly backed adopting such rules.

“It would be a good idea for us to do it, particularly so that we can communicate to the public exactly what it is that we are doing in a clearer way,” she said during a wide-ranging conversation at the University of Minnesota Law School with Robert Stein, a longtime law professor and the former chief operating officer of the American Bar Association.

Addressing a full auditorium that seats more than 2,600 people, Justice Barrett added that “all nine justices are very committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct.” But she said she could not speak for the court on a timeline, or precisely what such a code might look like.

The justices have faced intense pressure over their ethics practices in recent months after revelations that some had failed to report gifts and luxury travel. That includes Justice Clarence Thomas, who repeatedly took lavish trips with Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and conservative donor, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who flew on the private jet of Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire who frequently has had business before the court.

There was a heavy security presence at the event on Monday, held on the leafy campus in Minneapolis, including sweeps with police dogs and rows of metal barricades.

Demonstrators interrupted shortly after the conversation began. As Justice Barrett spoke, a handful of people in a balcony stood up and unfurled banners, nodding to her vote to overturn the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade and end a constitutional right to an abortion after nearly 50 years. One sign read, “Abort the court” in black letters.

Ethical Issues Inside the Supreme Court

  • Koch Network Events: Justice Clarence Thomas twice attended an annual donor summit organized by the conservative political network established by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
  • Calls for an Ethics Code: In an interview at Notre Dame, Justice Elena Kagan said that the Supreme Court should adopt a code of ethics, saying that “it would be a good thing for the court to do that.”
  • Financial Disclosures: In his annual financial disclosure form, Justice Thomas responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.
  • Thomas’s R.V.: Justice Thomas’s recreational vehicle is a key part of his everyman persona. It’s also a $267,230 luxury motor coach that was funded by someone else’s money.

Relevant Recent Headlines

supreme court 2022 o

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, $23,500 in Coins to Pay a Settlement? Judge Says Keep the Change and Try Again, Amanda Holpuch, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A Colorado judge ordered a welding company to use a check or other conventional method to pay a settlement after it tried to deliver 6,500 pounds in coins.

Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters might be legal tender but more than 6,500 pounds of loose change is not a proper form of payment, a Colorado judge ruled last week after a defendant attempted to deliver $23,500 in coins to settle a legal dispute.

The judge, Joseph Findley, of Larimer County, said that the delivery of more than three tons was done “maliciously and in bad faith,” and that the defendant, a welding company, must now pay more for its act.

The welding company, JMF Enterprises LLC, and its owner John Frank, were sued by a custom fabrication company, Fired Up Fabrication LLC, which said it worked as a subcontractor for JMF Enterprises but did not get paid in full.

The companies agreed to the settlement in mediation on July 25 but the agreement did not specify the form of payment, according to Judge Findley’s order.

A month later, one day after the payment deadline, on a Friday night, JMF Enterprises attempted to make a “nighttime delivery” to Fired Up Fabrications but company officials rejected it because they at first thought it was a forklift being delivered, according to the judge’s order.

On Aug. 28, the following Monday, “an attempt was made to deliver a heavy metal container of coins that required a forklift to move” to lawyers for Fired Up Fabrications, the order said, but it was “physically impossible” to deliver.

A lawyer for JMF Enterprises did not respond to requests for comment. JMF Enterprises’ Facebook page posted a video with news coverage of the payment and included a GIF of an animated Donald J. Trump doing the Running Man dance.

Clifford Beem, a partner at Beem & Isley, which represented Fired Up Fabrications, said he was at the law firm’s downtown Denver office when a truck driver called to ask about the location of the freight elevator so he could deliver the coins.

“I’ve been a trial lawyer for 55 years and I’ve seen a lot of strange things but this is a new one for me,” Mr. Beem said.
Mr. Beem said that the office is in a 100-year-old building and could only hold a maximum of 3,000 pounds on its freight elevator. The driver said the delivery was “well over” 6,500 pounds, he said.

“That would have crashed our freight elevator right down to the basement,” Mr. Beem said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The mass shooting in Maine is the 8th in the U.S. in 2023, Adeel Hassan, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Before a gunman in Maine, who has yet to be captured, killed 18 people and wounded 13 more in Lewiston, there had been seven mass shootings in the United States this year, with the most recent one occurring in mid-July.

By The New York Times’s reckoning, a mass shooting has occurred when four or more people — not including the shooter — have been killed by gunfire in a public place, and no other crime is involved. Our count of mass shootings is based on data from both the Gun Violence Archive and the Violence Project. We use data from both sources in order to make sure our database is as current and comprehensive as possible.

washington post logoWashington Post, What we know about Robert Card, suspect sought in the Maine mass killings, Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein, Mark Berman and Alex Ho, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Law enforcement officials scrambled on Thursday to locate Robert R. Card, who police say is wanted in connection with the shooting rampages in Lewiston, Maine, that killed at least 18 people and injured 13 more. Here is what we know about him so far.

robert cardAuthorities have identified Card, 40, of Bowdoin, Maine, right, as the suspect they are seeking after the mass killings in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday night.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Card for eight counts of murder, according to Col. William G. Ross, who leads the Maine State Police.

Ross said that although 18 people were killed, as of Thursday morning officials had identified only eight of the victims, so eight counts of murder were cited in the arrest warrant. The arrest warrant is still sealed, according to the Maine State Police.

Card has been serving in the Army Reserve as a petroleum supply specialist, according to his service record, which was released by the Army after the shooting. He has not served in any combat deployments since enlisting in December 2002. The University of Maine said Thursday that Card was an engineering technology student there from 2001 until 2004 but did not graduate.

Law enforcement officials have found evidence indicating that the suspect’s life began spiraling out of control over the summer, when his military reserve commanders became alarmed over statements he made targeting his own unit, according to a person familiar with investigators’ findings so far. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

Card’s commanders were so concerned about his comments that he was sent to a hospital, where he received roughly two weeks of inpatient psychiatric treatment, this person said. It is unclear whether any other consequences for Card resulted from that episode.
Maine State Police Col. William Ross at a news conference Thursday about the mass shootings Wednesday night in Lewiston, Maine. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Investigators suspect that the shooter used a .308 rifle to commit the attacks, two people familiar with the matter said, again speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not been made public. Investigators have not yet found any indication that the purchase of the weapon was illegal, one of the people said. Both people familiar with the matter noted that the investigation is still in its early stages and that their understanding of events could change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maine’s loose gun laws come under scrutiny, Maxine Joselow and Silvia Foster-Frau, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The state does not require permits to carry concealed guns or background checks for private gun sales.

maine mapThe deadly shootings in Maine have brought fresh scrutiny to the relatively loose gun laws in the state, where Democratic lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to pass tougher requirements in the past year despite controlling both chambers of the legislature.

The attacks Wednesday night, which left at least 18 dead and 13 injured at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston, have also renewed attention on Maine Gov. Janet Mills’s opposition to aggressive gun-control measures during her time in office. During a news conference Thursday morning, the Democratic governor did not mention gun policy, focusing instead on the immediate need to help the city of about 38,000 people recover from the tragedy.

The nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety ranks Maine as 25th in the country for gun-law strength. The Giffords Law Center, another group that promotes gun control, gives it an F rating, making it one of only two states with such a low rating in New England. Maine does not require permits to carry concealed guns, nor does it mandate background checks for private gun sales.

 

Fred Guttenberg, left, father of Parkland high school mass murder shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, approaches then-Supreme Court Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as part of the father's gun-control advocacy (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik on Sept. 4, 2018).

Fred Guttenberg, left, father of Parkland high school mass murder shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, approaches then-Supreme Court Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as part of the father’s gun-control advocacy (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik on Sept. 4, 2018).

washington post logoWashington Post, Man sentenced for cyberstalking Parkland victim’s dad over gun-control stance, Praveena Somasundaram, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). In April 2022, ahead of sentencing for the convicted shooter at his daughter’s school in Florida, Fred Guttenberg received a message from a stranger who said they planned to have “a party every night of this fantastic Parkland trial.”

“So glad to celebrate blood and death,” the message continued.

Between December 2021 and July 2022, Guttenberg — the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was one of 17 people killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — received more than 200 messages from IP addresses associated with the same person, according to a federal complaint. The messages contained graphic descriptions of his daughter’s death and belittling remarks about Fred Guttenberg’s gun-control activism, federal prosecutors said.

On Friday, a judge sentenced James Catalano, a 62-year-old Fresno, Calif., man, to one year in prison for sending the “harrowing messages,” the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida announced Monday. Catalano pleaded guilty to cyberstalking in March.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Guttenberg wrote Monday that he had experienced an “extended period” of harassment and threats. He added that the case helped establish precedent to “prosecute online harassment.”

Guttenberg was outspoken about gun violence after his daughter died Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The gunman, a former student at the school, pleaded guilty in October 2021 and was later sentenced to life in prison.

After the mass killing, Guttenberg began sharing his daughter’s story while speaking publicly across the country. In August 2022, during the shooter’s sentencing, Guttenberg testified about the last time he spoke to his daughter, evoking emotional reactions from defense attorneys.

But for at least eight months leading up to that hearing, Guttenberg had been receiving abusive messages through the contact form on his website, a July 2022 complaint filed by federal prosecutors said.

The hundreds of messages included vulgar remarks about Guttenberg’s daughter and graphic descriptions of her death in the Parkland shooting, according to the complaint.

The messages came from several IP addresses, all of which officials believed were associated with Catalano — including one that connected to his home and another to his workplace, prosecutors said.

On July 20, 2022, law enforcement officers interviewed Catalano. He was shown some of the messages and told the officials that he had sent them.

Catalano also told them he believed Guttenberg was “using his dead daughter to push his political agenda,” which he “did not like,” according to the complaint. He was trying to put Guttenberg “in check” by sending the messages, the document adds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect in slaying of Maryland judge is found dead, Justin Jouvenal, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Pedro Argote’s body was found near the scene of where his car was located over the weekend, authorities say.

Searchers found the body of the man who allegedly shot and killed a Maryland judge in a targeted attack, following a week-long search that spanned multiple states, authorities announced on Thursday.

Pedro Argote, 49, was found dead in Williamsport, Md., around 11 a.m. Thursday, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said. Argote’s body was discovered in a heavily wooded area about a mile northwest from where his Mercedes-Benz SUV was found over the weekend.
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The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately say how Argote died. They are planning a news conference for 3 p.m. The Sheriff’s Office said Thursday morning it was searching the area for evidence in the case.

Authorities allege Argote opened fire on Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson in the driveway of his home near Hagerstown, Md., home Oct. 19, hours after Wilkinson awarded custody of Argote’s four children to his ex-wife as part of their divorce. Hagerstown is about 75 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.

The slaying drew national attention and an outpouring of remembrances for the judge from friends, colleagues, Maryland politicians and the state’s governor. It also stirred concern because it is the latest in a string of high-profile attacks targeting judges and other public officials in recent years.

Law enforcement increased security for judges in Washington County and around Maryland as a precautionary measure.

Police say Md. judge killed in ‘targeted attack’ following hearing

A member of the public found Argote’s Mercedes the weekend after the shooting in a wooded area in Williamsport, Md., which is roughly 10 miles from the judge’s home. A sweep of the area did not turn up the suspect and authorities said at the time he might have left the area.

washington post logoWashington Post, Murder suspect who escaped GWU hospital last month is captured, Peter Hermann, Tom Jackman and Emily Davies, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Christopher Patrick Haynes was found in Prince George’s County more than seven weeks after his escape.’

A murder suspect who escaped from D.C. police custody at George Washington University Hospital last month was captured Thursday in Prince George’s County, ending a seven-week search across portions of the metropolitan area, police and U.S. Marshals Service officials, said. No one was injured in the apprehension.

Police said Christopher Patrick Haynes, 30, was found about 10:30 a.m. on Iverson Street in the Oxon Hill area of the Maryland county. U.S. Deputy Marshal Robert Dixon said in a news conference that Haynes was taken into custody “without incident.” He declined to describe how Haynes was located.

Haynes ran away from the hospital emergency room in the Foggy Bottom area while police were attempting to change his handcuffs and failed to secure one of his arms to a gurney, acting D.C. police chief Pamela A. Smith said last month. Haynes, who lives in Gainesville, Va., assaulted one of the officers and ran out of the hospital in the 900 block of 23rd Street NW, authorities said. At the time, the handcuffs were dangling from his wrist, and he was wearing one red shoe.

Police did not fully secure the murder suspect who fled the hospital

After Haynes outran a pursuit, he then eluded police and federal authorities, who in the hours after the escape closed roads in the Foggy Bottom and Georgetown areas, sent a helicopter and ordered George Washington University students to shelter in place. Police dressed in fatigues and armed with long guns scoured the campus and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Haynes is charged in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting of Brent Hayward, 33, outside a convenience store on Kenilworth Avenue in Northeast Washington. Deputies with the U.S. Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force took him into custody Sept. 6 in Manassas, Va., on a warrant out of D.C. Superior Court, authorities have said.

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More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Desperate for Air Defense, Ukraine Pushes U.S. for ‘Franken’ Weapons, Lara Jakes, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.).  The FrankenSAM program, which is now being pursued by the Pentagon, marries advanced Western weaponry with Soviet-era items in Kyiv’s stockpiles.

With winter approaching, Ukrainian officials are desperate for more air defenses to protect their power grids from Russian strikes that could plunge the country into freezing darkness.

So desperate, in fact, that they are willing to experiment with a monster of a weapons system that was the brainchild of Ukraine and is now being pursued by the Pentagon.

American officials call it the FrankenSAM program, combining advanced, Western-caliber, surface-to-air missiles with refitted Soviet-era launchers or radars that Ukrainian forces already have on hand. Two variants of these improvised air defenses — one pairing Soviet Buk launchers and American Sea Sparrow missiles, the other marrying Soviet-era radars and American Sidewinder missiles — have been tested over the past several months on military bases in the United States and are set to be delivered to Ukraine this fall, officials said.

A third, the Cold War-era Hawk missile system, was displayed on Ukraine’s battlefield this week for the first time, in an example of what Laura K. Cooper, a senior U.S. defense official, had described this month as a FrankenSAM “in terms of resurrection” — an air defense relic brought back to life.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kremlin’s Onetime Pick to Be Ukraine’s Puppet Leader Is Shot in Crimea, Marc Santora, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Moscow had planned to set up Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian businessman and former lawmaker, as head of government in Kyiv if its invasion had succeeded.

ukraine flagA Ukrainian former lawmaker whom the Kremlin had handpicked to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv, Ukraine, was shot and wounded in occupied Crimea in an apparent assassination attempt, Ukrainian and Russian officials said on Saturday.

The former lawmaker, Oleg Tsaryov, 53, a pro-Russian business executive, who participated in Moscow’s invasion, was shot as part of a “special operation” carried out this week by Ukraine’s domestic security agency, according to a senior Ukrainian intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

According to Western intelligence agencies, had the Russian invasion succeeded, the Kremlin would have installed Mr. Tsaryov as Ukraine’s leader.

The targeting of prominent Russian and pro-Russian figures has long been part of the broader Ukrainian war effort and has continued apace even as fierce battles rage across a vast front line that has moved little in the past year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia prison population plummets as convicts are sent to war, Mary Ilyushina, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russia has freed up to 100,000 prison inmates and sent them to fight in Ukraine, according to government statistics and rights advocates — a far greater number than was previously known.

The sharp drop in the number of inmates is evidence that the Defense Ministry continued to aggressively recruit convicted criminals even after blocking access to prisoners by the Wagner mercenary group, which pioneered the campaign to trade clemency for military service.

Russian FlagThe Russian prison population, estimated at roughly 420,000 before the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, plummeted to a historic low of about 266,000, according to Deputy Justice Minister Vsevolod Vukolov, who disclosed the figure during a panel discussion earlier this month.

Russian forces are now heavily reliant on prisoners plucked from colonies with the promise of pardons, a practice initiated by the late Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who began recruiting convicts to fight in Ukraine a year ago and amassed a 50,000-strong force.

The convicts proved crucial to Wagner’s long, bloody and ultimately successful campaign to seize the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. In August, three months after claiming control of the city, Prigozhin died in a suspicious airplane explosion.

At the peak of Prigozhin’s recruitment campaign last year, he helicoptered from one Russian penal colony to another urging prisoners to atone for their crimes “with blood” and offering to make them free men. Around that time, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, stopped publishing its typically detailed statistics, shortly after data showed that the male prison population in Russia had declined by 23,000 people in just two months.

“If 10 years ago our contingent in prisons reached almost 700,000 people, now we have about 266,000 people in correctional colonies,” Vukolov said early this month, making a rare revelation at a panel on “social reintegration of prisoners in present-day conditions.”

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 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

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

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Autoworkers Strike a Blow for Equality, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). It’s not officially over yet, but the United Auto paul krugmanWorkers appear to have won a significant victory. The union, which began rolling strikes on Sept. 15, now has tentative agreements with Ford, Stellantis (which I still think of as Chrysler) and, finally, General Motors.

All three agreements involve a roughly 25 percent wage increase over the next four and a half years, plus other significant concessions. Autoworkers are a much smaller share of the work force than they were in Detroit’s heyday, but they’re still a significant part of the economy.

Furthermore, this apparent union victory follows on significant organized-labor wins in other industries in recent months, notably a big settlement with United Parcel Service, where the Teamsters represent more than 300,000 employees.

And maybe, just maybe, union victories in 2023 will prove to be a milestone on the way back to a less unequal nation.

Some history you should know: Baby boomers like me grew up in a nation that was far less polarized economically than the one we live in today. We weren’t as much of a middle-class society as we liked to imagine, but in the 1960s we were a country in which many blue-collar workers had incomes they considered middle class, while extremes of wealth were far less than they have since become. For example, chief executives of major corporations were paid “only” 15 times as much as their average workers, compared with more than 200 times as much as their average workers now.

Most people, I suspect, believed — if they thought about it at all — that a relatively middle-class society had evolved gradually from the excesses of the Gilded Age, and that it was the natural end state of a mature market economy.

However, a revelatory 1991 paper by Claudia Goldin (who just won a richly deserved Nobel) and Robert Margo showed that a relatively equal America emerged not gradually but suddenly, with an abrupt narrowing of income differentials in the 1940s — what the authors called the Great Compression. The initial compression no doubt had a lot to do with wartime economic controls. But income gaps remained narrow for decades after these controls were lifted; overall income inequality didn’t really take off again until around 1980.

Why did a fairly flat income distribution persist? No doubt there were multiple reasons, but surely one important factor was that the combination of war and a favorable political environment led to a huge surge in unionization. Unions are a force for greater wage equality; they also help enforce the “outrage constraint” that used to limit executive compensation.

Conversely, the decline of unions, which now represent less than 7 percent of private-sector workers, must have played a role in the coming of the Second Gilded Age we live in now.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.M. and U.A.W. Said to Reach Tentative Deal; Sets Stage for Strike’s End, Neal E. Boudette, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). General Motors became the last of the three large U.S. automakers to reach a tentative agreement on a new contract with the United Automobile Workers union.

general motors logoGeneral Motors and the United Automobile Workers union reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract on Monday, according to two people familiar with the matter, setting the stage for an end to the union’s six-week wave of strikes against the three large U.S. automakers.

The agreement comes days after the union announced tentative agreements with Ford Motor and Stellantis on new contracts. The three deals contain many of the same or similar terms, including a 25 percent general wage increase for U.A.W. members as well as the possibility for cost-of-living wage adjustments if inflation flares.

The tentative agreement with G.M., the largest U.S. car company by sales, requires approval by a union council that oversees negotiations with the company, and then ratification by a majority of its 46,000 U.A.W. workers.

The union’s contracts with the three automakers expired on Sept. 15. Since then, the union has called on more than 14,000 G.M. workers to walk off the job at factories in Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas, and at 18 spare-parts warehouses across the country. The most recent escalation of the strike came on Saturday, shortly after the union reached a deal with Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. On that day, the U.A.W. told workers to go on strike at G.M.’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., that makes several sport utility vehicle models.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. Reaches Tentative Deal With Stellantis, Following Ford, Neal E. Boudette, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The United Automobile Workers union announced the deal with Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. It also expanded its strike against G.M.

stellantis logoThe United Automobile Workers union announced on Saturday that it had reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract with Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram.

The agreement came three days after the union and Ford Motor announced a tentative agreement on a new contract. The two deals contain many of the same or similar terms, including a 25 percent general wage increase for U.A.W. members as well as the possibility for cost-of-living wage adjustments if inflation flares.

“We have won a record-breaking contract,” the U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, said in a video posted on Facebook. “We truly believe we got every penny possible out of the company.”

Shortly after announcing the tentative agreement with Stellantis, the union expanded its strike against General Motors, calling on workers to walk off the job at the company’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. The plant makes sport utility vehicles for G.M.’s Cadillac and GMC divisions.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. and Ford Reach Tentative Contract Agreement, Neal E. Boudette and Noam Scheiber, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The deal, subject to approval by union members, could ease the way for agreements with General Motors and Stellantis to end a growing wave of walkouts.

The United Automobile Workers and Ford Motor have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract, the union announced Wednesday, ford logonearly six weeks after the union began a growing wave of walkouts against the three Detroit automakers.

The union said the deal included a roughly 25 percent pay increase over four years, cost-of-living wage adjustments, major gains on pensions and job security, and the right to strike over plant closures. It called on striking Ford workers to go back to work while the tentative agreement awaits ratification.

Politico, General Motors and Stellantis close in on deal with UAW, Holly Otterbein and Olivia Olander, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Joe Biden spoke with UAW President Shawn Fain over the phone on Wednesday, said two people familiar with the conversation.

stellantis logoGeneral Motors and Stellantis are closing in on deals with the United Auto Workers after late-night, marathon discussions, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.

How quickly a deal might come together is uncertain, however, and the people said there was still more movement needed. And in high-stakes contract negotiations, things can quickly devolve.

But the people close to the talks — who were granted anonymity to speak about ongoing negotiations — expressed optimism. GM CEO Mary Barra in particular talked with union officials until late Thursday, said one of the people.

The development comes days after the union reached a tentative labor agreement with Ford, a major breakthrough that signaled the six-week strike could be nearing a close. That long-awaited progress came as a relief to President Joe Biden and other Democratic elected officials, some of whom have been concerned that an extended strike could do major damage to the economy as well as their 2024 election prospects.

General Motors, in response to a request for comment, said it is “working constructively with the UAW to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Stellantis said talks continue.

Biden publicly applauded the agreement with Ford, and he expressed a similar sentiment behind the scenes: He spoke with UAW President Shawn Fain over the phone on Wednesday, said two people familiar with the conversation. One of the sources said that Biden congratulated Fain.

The UAW did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration has been closely monitoring the talks, though they’ve stressed they are not intervening. White House senior adviser Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su traveled to Detroit multiple times to meet with the parties in recent weeks to aid in the bargaining process and move negotiations forward, a Labor Department spokesperson confirmed.

UAW’s national Ford council will vote on the union’s agreement with Ford on Sunday, Fain said Wednesday. If the council approves the deal, it will be made public and presented to members Sunday on Facebook Live, as well as explained to union locals, Fain said.

After that, members would vote on whether to ratify it.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Watch for as the Federal Reserve Meets This Week, Jeanna Smialek, Oct. 31, 2023. Central bankers are expected to leave interest rates steady at a 22-year high of 5.25 to 5.5 percent. Investors are looking for hints at what’s next.

federal reserve system CustomFederal Reserve officials are widely expected to leave interest rates steady at the conclusion of their two-day meeting on Wednesday. But investors and economists will watch for any hint about whether rates are likely to stay that way — or whether central bankers still think they might need to increase them again in the coming months.

Officials will release a statement announcing their policy decision at 2 p.m., followed by a news conference with Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, at 2:30 p.m. Both will offer policymakers a chance to signal what they think might come next for interest rates and the economy.

Central bankers have already raised interest rates to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent in a push to tame inflation. That rate setting is up from near-zero as recently as early 2022, and is the highest level in 22 years.

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Faced with abortion bans, doctors beg hospitals for help with key decisions, Caroline Kitchener and Dan Diamond, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Vaguely worded medical exceptions in abortion bans, and a lack of guidance on interpreting them, have led to some patients being denied care until they are critically ill.

Amelia Huntsberger pulled up a list of the top administrators at her northern Idaho hospital, anxious last fall to confirm she could treat a patient with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication.

But it was a Friday afternoon — and no one was picking up.

Huntsberger said she called six administrators before she finally got ahold of someone, her patient awaiting help a few rooms away. When she asked whether she could terminate a pregnancy under Idaho’s new abortion ban — which allows doctors to perform an abortion only if they deem it “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” — the OB/GYN said the decision was punted back to her.

“You know the laws, Amelia,” Huntsberger recalled the administrator saying. “You know what to do.”

If she made the wrong decision, the doctor knew she could face up to five years in prison.

While the more than two dozen abortion bans enacted since the fall of Roe v. Wade all include some kind of exception for the mother’s life, the laws use ambiguous language, with many permitting abortions in a “medical emergency” without offering a concrete definition of that term. Prompted by numerous prominent cases in which women became critically ill after being turned away from hospitals, the issue has spawned debate in state legislatures, several high-profile lawsuits and a standoff with Biden administration officials who say the procedure should be covered by emergency care laws.

But behind that public controversy is a little-known struggle between doctors making life-or-death decisions at great personal risk and hospital administrators navigating untested legal terrain, political pressure from antiabortion lawmakers, and fears of lost funding, a Washington Post investigation found. In staff meetings, phone calls and tense, months-long email exchanges, many doctors have repeatedly sought guidance on how to interpret the medical exceptions in their states’ abortion bans, only to be given directives from hospital officials that are as vague as the laws themselves.

“I just worry that without more guidance, our patients are in danger and providers are in a dangerous place as well,” Lindsey Finch, then an OB/GYN resident at Jackson Health System in Miami, wrote in a July 2022 email obtained by The Post. “It just does not feel safe and I am concerned.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Abortion Access Shrinks, Hospitals Fill in the Gaps, Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Despite Bans, U.S. Legal Abortions Didn’t Fall in Year After ‘Dobbs.’

The first full-year census of abortion providers across the country shows significant increases in abortion in states where it’s legal.

In the year after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion, something unexpected happened: The total number of legal abortions in the United States did not fall. Instead, it appeared to increase slightly, by about 0.2 percent, according to the first full-year count of abortions provided nationwide.

This finding came despite the fact that 14 states banned all abortions, and seven imposed new limits on them. Even as those restrictions reduced the legal abortion rate to near zero in some states, there were large increases in places where abortions remained legal. Researchers said they were driven by the expansion of telemedicine for mail-order abortion pills, increased options and assistance for women who traveled, and a surge of publicity about ways to get abortions.

The response by abortion providers and activists to the end of Roe v. Wade, it seems, has resulted in more access to abortion in states where it’s still legal — not just for women traveling from states with bans but also for women living there.

Still, new bans and restrictions have had far-reaching effects. Many women, especially in the South, have turned to methods outside the U.S. medical system or carried their pregnancies to term, researchers said. These women are likely to be poor, teenagers or immigrants, and to have young children or jobs that don’t give them time off.

“I always think that should be the focal point to the story: The loss of access is profound and enormous,” said Dr. Alison Norris, a professor at Ohio State and a chair of WeCount, which gathered the data. “But it’s also a story of what happens when health systems increase access. Underlying unmet need for abortion may be being met now because of changes post-Dobbs.”

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, FDA issues warning for 26 eyedrops due to risk of infection, blindness, Julian Mark, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Retailers like CVS, Target and Walgreens pulled the eyedrops after federal inspectors discovered “insanitary conditions” at the manufacturing plant.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings for 26 over-the-counter eye care products because of the potential for infection that could lead to vision loss or even blindness.

The products carry the CVS Health, Rite Aid, Leader (Cardinal Health), Rugby (Cardinal Health) and Target Up&Up labels — as well as Velocity Pharma, which retailers have identified as the eye drops’ supplier. The FDA provided a list of the products on its website, and encouraged health-care professionals and consumers to report negative effects or quality problems. The agency has not received any reports about eye infections.
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The FDA has advised the manufacturer to recall the eyedrops after its inspectors discovered “insanitary conditions in the manufacturing facility,” according to a news release Friday. There were also “positive bacterial test results from environmental sampling of critical drug production areas in the facility,” the FDA added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Few Americans Have Gotten the New Covid Shots, C.D.C. Finds, Apoorva Mandavilli, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Just over 7 percent of adults and 2 percent of children had received the shot as of Oct. 14, according to a survey presented on Thursday to scientific advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The uptake is weak even among those most at risk of severe illness. Only one in five people age 75 or older has been vaccinated, along with about 15 percent of those ages 65 to 74, according to the survey of nearly 15,000 people.

More than 1,200 people are dying of Covid each week, according to C.D.C. data. “That’s a travesty,” said Dr. David Kimberlin, a pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who represented the American Academy of Pediatrics at the meeting.

“It’s like an entire neighborhood being wiped out every single week,” Dr. Kimberlin added.

About 16,000 people were hospitalized with Covid in the week ending Oct. 14, compared with nearly 23,000 at the same time last year and more than 44,000 in 2021.

Covid hospitalizations among adults aged 75 and older are two to three times as high as among those aged 65 to 74. Rates of hospitalization are highest among Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Black Americans.

Less than 1 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and 7.6 percent of Black Americans, had received the vaccine as of Oct. 14.

“I’m really disappointed in the low rates of vaccination, because I think it’s a major missed opportunity to improve our overall level of health,” said Dr. Camille Kotton, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an adviser to the C.D.C.

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U.S. Media, Art, Education, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Condé Nast, Publisher of Vogue, Will Cut 5% of Its Work Force, Katie Robertson and Benjamin Mullin, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Roger Lynch, the chief executive, said the company was grappling with digital advertising pressures, a decline in social media traffic and shifting audience behaviors.

The magazine giant Condé Nast will cut about 5 percent of its work force, backtracking on a much-ballyhooed plan to build up an in-house video studio to tap into Hollywood’s demand for film and TV ideas.

The layoffs will affect about 270 employees. Roger Lynch, the chief executive of Condé Nast, told workers in a note on Wednesday morning that the cuts were a response to digital advertising pressures, a decline in social media traffic and shifting audience behaviors, including a move to short-form video. He said the video business would be folded in with the editorial brands.

“While we can’t control platform algorithms or how A.I. may change search traffic,” Mr. Lynch wrote, “we believe our long-term success will be determined by growing the many areas that we can control, including subscriptions and e-commerce, where we directly own the relationship with our audience.”

In an interview, Mr. Lynch said most of the growth in Condé Nast’s video business was happening on platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts, which are less lucrative for publishers. He said the company would continue to create videos, with producers teaming up with employees at magazines like The New Yorker and Vogue.

“The longer-form videos on YouTube are actually in decline year over year,” Mr. Lynch said. “That is an audience shift, but it was also YouTube chasing what they were seeing happening on TikTok.”

A decade ago, many digital publishers saw Hollywood as a potential wellspring of cash, where producers and directors would transform their dishy magazine stories into scripts for the silver screen. Some invested heavily in building in-house studios or bought them, as Vox Media did when it acquired the film and TV producer Epic in 2019.

Perhaps the most ambitious of these studios was Condé Nast Entertainment, a prominent division within Condé Nast in charge of developing articles from publications such as The New Yorker, Wired and Vanity Fair — intellectual property, in Hollywood parlance — into major motion pictures and TV shows. A series of high-profile media executives were hired to lead the division, which was started in 2011, including the former CW and Spotify executive Dawn Ostroff and, most recently, Agnes Chu, who joined from Disney in 2020.

The division had some success. “Cat Person,” a film based on a viral New Yorker short story that explores uncomfortable relationship dynamics, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. “The Old Man and the Gun,” a 2018 movie about an aging bank robber based on a New Yorker article by David Grann, earned a Golden Globe nomination for Robert Redford in the title role.

But the gusher of cash coming from Hollywood has ebbed of late, with investors expecting streaming services to abandon their grow-at-any-cost approach in favor of profitability. And online viewership is increasingly shifting to platforms like TikTok and YouTube, where shorter content is king and monetization elusive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bob Knight, brilliant and profane basketball coaching legend, dies at 83, Matt Schudel, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). At Indiana University, he led his team to three national championships, including the last undefeated season in men’s college basketball, in 1976

washington post logoWashington Post, Prize of Texas: Rangers capture franchise’s first World Series title, Chelsea Janes, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Corey Seager earned his second World Series MVP honor, breaking up Zac Gallen’s no-hitter to spark a 5-0 win in Game 5.

ny times logoNew York Times, Britney Spears’s Memoir Sells 1.1 Million Copies in U.S. in First Week, Julia Jacobs, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Britney Spears’s much-anticipated memoir, The Woman in Me, sold 1.1 million copies in all formats in the United States in its first week on sale, the book’s publisher, Gallery Books, announced on Wednesday.

britney spears woman coverThe early sales number puts Spears’s book in the ballpark of some of the best-selling celebrity memoirs in recent years. In the same time frame, Prince Harry’s memoir sold 1.6 million copies in the United States, while that of Mary Trump, former president Donald J. Trump’s niece, sold 1.4 million when it debuted in 2020.

Spears and her team took an atypical approach toward promoting the book, in which Spears recalls her rise to fame as a teenage pop sensation, followed by her years spent in a strictly controlled conservatorship. Unlike Prince Harry, who participated in a series of high-profile interviews to promote his book’s release — including appearances on “60 Minutes” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” — Spears did not do any face-to-face interviews. She instead provided People magazine with sneak-peek excerpts and emailed quotes and promoted the book online to her millions of social media followers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Local journalists arrested in small Alabama town for grand jury story, Paul Farhi, Nov. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Press-freedom advocates are raising the alarm that the arrests of the Atmore News’s publisher and reporter are unconstitutional.

A newspaper publisher and a reporter have been arrested for publishing an article that officials said was based on confidential grand-jury evidence — a move that press-freedom advocates are characterizing as an unconstitutional attack on the news media.

Publisher Sherry Digmon and reporter Don Fletcher of the Atmore News in southwestern Alabama were arrested last week after a story by Fletcher disclosed details of an investigation into the local school board’s payments to seven former school-system employees.

Digmon and Fletcher were charged by the Escambia County district attorney with revealing grand-jury proceedings, a felony under Alabama law. They face up to five years in jail.

While it’s illegal for a grand juror, witness or court officer to disclose grand-jury proceedings, it’s not a crime for a media outlet to publish such leaked material, provided the material was obtained by legal means, legal experts said.

Theodore J. Boutrous, an attorney who has represented media organizations, called the Alabama case “extraordinary, outrageous and flatly unconstitutional.”

He said the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment forbids punishing journalists for publishing information of public importance, even if the information came from a source who broke the law in leaking it. “And that applies to grand-jury information,” he said.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said the Atmore arrests follow a number of other recent cases in which local prosecutors have used warrants, threats and criminal proceedings to harass or pressure journalists.

Such prosecutions can be costly, especially for small news organizations, she said. They also serve as “a dead crow on a fence,” a warning to would-be leakers and other journalists that they will face legal jeopardy if they disclose secret or sensitive information or pursue aggressive investigations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jake Sherman and the bottomless appetite for news and drama on the Hill, Jesús Rodríguez, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). He’s feeding Official Washington’s bottomless appetite for fresh intel, hot drama and chewy news nuggets from Congress. What does it all amount to?

washington post logoWashington Post, The Creator Economy: Young people are turning to creators over traditional media for news, Taylor Lorenz, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A recent report found that while the audience for traditional news outlets is shrinking, the online audience for independent news sources is growing.

News consumption hit a tipping point around the globe during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people turning to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram than to websites maintained by traditional news outlets, according to the latest Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. One in 5 adults under 24 use TikTok as a source for news, the report said, up five percentage points from last year. According to Britain’s Office of Communications, young adults in the United Kingdom now spend more time watching TikTok than broadcast television.

ny times logoNew York Times, Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous Parentage Is Questioned, Christopher Kuo, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). An investigation by the CBC disputed a key part of Sainte-Marie’s story, saying that a birth certificate shows she was born to a white family in Massachusetts.

The parentage of Buffy Sainte-Marie, a folk singer known for her activism on behalf of Indigenous people, was questioned after CBC News reported that it had found a birth certificate indicating that she was born to white parents in Massachusetts, and not on a Piapot Cree reservation in Canada.

Sainte-Marie, considered the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar, has said for decades that she was born to an Indigenous mother before being adopted first by a white couple near Boston and then, as an adult, by the Piapot First Nation. The CBC investigation, which was published on Friday, pointed to documentation, including Sainte-Marie’s birth certificate and marriage certificate, to show she was born in Stoneham, Mass., as Beverly Jean Santamaria.

Sainte-Marie did not speak to the CBC, but in video and written statements, she said the woman she called her “growing-up Mom” had told her that she was adopted and was Native. In both a 2018 biography and the statements, Sainte-Marie also says she was told she may have been born “on the wrong side of the blanket,” referring to an affair.

“I don’t know where I’m from or who my birth parents were, and I will never know,” Sainte-Marie, 82, said in the written statement. “Which is why to be questioned in this way today is painful, both for me, and for my two families I love so dearly.”

Sainte-Marie, whose songs include “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone,” “Universal Soldier” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” won an Oscar in 1983 for “Up Where We Belong,” a song from the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.” “I wanted to write songs that would last for generations,” she told The New York Times last year.

News of the investigation was particularly surprising to Canadians because Sainte-Marie is such a well-known figure, said Kimberly Tallbear-Dauphine, a professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta who was quoted in the CBC article.

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A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The militant Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land, and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

 

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A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The militant Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land, and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A ball of fire and smoke rise from an explosion on a Palestinian apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The militant Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated the heavily fortified border in several locations by air, land, and sea and catching the country off-guard on a major holiday. (AP Photo by Adel Hana.)

ny times logo New York Times, Hundreds of Dual Nationals and Injured Gazans Cross Into Egypt, Vivian Yee, Hiba Yazbek, Iyad Abuheweila and Victoria Kim, Nov. 1, 2023. After weeks of waiting, hundreds of people were allowed to leave the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the first of thousands of foreigners, aid workers and critically wounded patients who were expected to exit in the coming days.

Israel FlagBy Wednesday night, buses had ferried 361 foreign nationals over the border to Egypt, and ambulances had carried 45 severely injured Palestinians, along with some of their family members, to Egyptian hospitals, according to Al Qahera, an Egyptian state-owned television channel. They left behind the destruction and the most immediate suffering wrought by the war between Israel and Hamas, the group that controls Gaza.

Videos verified by The Times show there was another Israeli airstrike in the Jabaliya neighborhood of Gaza on Wednesday, about half a mile from the site of Tuesday’s strike. The destruction is of similar magnitude with several large buildings completely flattened. Footage from the scene shows rescue workers and residents digging through the rubble and carrying what appear to be injured and dead people.
Video

Ambulances shuttled 76 critically injured people and their family members into Egypt, and the gravely wounded were being taken to hospitals.

 

benjamin netanyahu frown

New York Times, Netanyahu Finds Himself at War in Gaza and at Home, Isabel Kershner, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apologized for accusing military and security officials of lapses that led to the Hamas massacre but declined to accept responsibility himself.

Politico, Netanyahu may not last, Biden and aides increasingly believeJonathan Lemire, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward, Nov. 1, 2023. The Israeli prime minister’s political obituary has been written before. But U.S. officials are already gauging potential successors.

politico CustomJoe Biden and top aides have discussed the likelihood that Benjamin Netanyahu’s political days are numbered — and the president has conveyed that sentiment to the Israeli prime minister in a recent conversation.

The topic of Netanyahu’s short political shelf life has come up in recent White House meetings involving Biden, according to two senior administration officials. That has included discussions that have taken place since Biden’s trip to Israel, where he met with Netanyahu.

Biden has gone so far as to suggest to Netanyahu that he should think about lessons he would share with his eventual successor, the two administration officials added.

Israel FlagA current U.S. official and a former U.S. official both confirmed that the administration believes Netanyahu has limited time left in office. The current official said the expectation internally was that the Israeli PM would likely last a matter of months, or at least until the early fighting phase of Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip was over, though all four officials noted the sheer unpredictability of Israeli politics.

“There’s going to have to be a reckoning within Israeli society about what happened,” said the official who, like others, was granted anonymity to detail private conversations. “Ultimately, the buck stops on the prime minister’s desk.”

The administration’s dimming view of Netanyahu’s political future comes as the president and his foreign policy team try to work with, and diplomatically steer, the Israeli leader as his country pursues a complicated and bloody confrontation with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza and attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Biden’s trip to Tel Aviv last month was one largely of support, but privately he also urged Netanyahu to proceed cautiously and not widen the war, according to the two senior administration officials. The president pushed the prime minister to prioritize a two-state solution and be mindful of the steps beyond an effort to decapitate Hamas, including the challenges of any sort of future occupation of Gaza.

At one point during the trip, Biden advised Netanyahu to consider the scenario he was leaving for his successor — an implicit suggestion that Netanyahu might not be in power for the duration of what will likely be a lengthy conflict.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:The Putin-Xi-GOP plot to present the U.S. and its allies with a two-front war, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 1, 2023. In Russian Flagthe world of Vladimir Putin’s wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallspycraft, Xi Jinping’s superpower tradecraft, Iran’s regional troublemaking, and the U.S. Republican Party’s willingness to sell out America’s national security and democracy — as well as the security of Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan — a grand conspiracy is just what the forces of fascism appear to have ordered.

wayne madesen report logoThere is a growing belief in Western capitals that repeated visits of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Moscow in 2022 and earlier this year were part of a plan to have Hamas engineer a major international diversion away from Ukraine. Moscow’s thinking is that the West would prioritize military assistance for Israel over that for Ukraine. And Haniyeh djt maga hatcould not have given Putin a better present when it launched its surprise attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, the Russian leader’s birthday.

It is clear that the goal of Russia, Hamas, and Hamas ally Iran are attempting to present the West with an untenable two-front war, one in which they believe will result in the West sacrificing Ukraine for Israel. Working to bring such an outcome to fruition is the new and un-vetted U.S. Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Johnson from Louisiana.

washington post logoWashington Post, Strikes on refugee camp leave hundreds dead and injured, Gaza Health Ministry says, Susannah George, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). 400 Americans stuck in Gaza, Blinken says; Gaza is now a ‘graveyard’ for children, UNICEF says.

Strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza killed and injured hundreds of people Tuesday, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and the director of Gaza’s Indonesian hospital. Exact figures for the dead and injured have yet to be determined amid ongoing rescue efforts. Footage from the scene streamed by Al Jazeera showed dozens of people digging through rubble to reach trapped people.

Amid an air campaign, Israel is pressing deeper into Gaza with tanks and soldiers as its ground offensive expands in the densely populated Palestinian enclave. The Israeli military said Tuesday it was “striking in all parts of the Gaza Strip,” particularly on the north, despite warning residents to move south for shelter.

The Middle East will not see stability until the world embraces a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said Tuesday.

“Egypt has shouldered the burden of the Palestinian issue for years,” he said, and “will never allow the killing of the Palestinian cause.”

Key updates

  • Egyptian PM centers security concerns in Gaza border visit
  • Hundreds killed and injured in strikes on Jabalya refugee camp, Gaza Health Ministry says
  • 400 Americans stuck in Gaza, Blinken says

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Dual Nationals and Injured Palestinians Cross to Egypt, Vivian Yee, Hiba Yazbek and Victoria Kim, Nov. 1, 2023.  The crossings, shown on Egyptian state TV, were the first since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel; Hundreds of foreign passport holders were also moving through checkpoints at the border as part of a negotiated deal.

Israel FlagSome people with dual nationalities and seriously injured Palestinians arrived in Egypt on Wednesday, Egyptian state-owned TV said, as the Gaza border opened for the first such crossings since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel.

Three critically injured people from Gaza arrived at an Egyptian hospital near the border, a hospital official said. And Egyptian state TV showed what it said was a group of foreign or dual nationals carrying luggage on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, where they were to have documents checked.

The crossings came after a deal negotiated late Tuesday among Israel, Egypt, Hamas, the United States and Qatar. Egypt was set to receive hundreds of people on Wednesday, according to Western diplomats in Cairo and Jerusalem and the Gaza authorities.

palestinian flagThe Rafah crossing has been the focus of heated international negotiations as the only possible escape route, as well as the only entry point for relief supplies, as Israel retaliated for an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas by starting a three-week bombing campaign and sending troops deep into Gaza. The toll of Israeli strikes in Gaza deepened on Tuesday when Hamas and hospital officials said that many people had been killed or injured in an Israeli airstrike on the Jabaliya neighborhood. On Wednesday, the Gazan interior ministry said that another airstrike in the same area had killed and injured more people.

Early Wednesday, Gaza’s two million residents appeared to have been once again plunged into a communication blackout. The strip’s main telecommunications provider said around 4 a.m. that its services had been disrupted. Over the weekend, as Israel began its ground invasion, residents endured a panic-inducing 34-hour blackout, cut off from the outside world and each other and unable to contact emergency services.

  • Here’s what else to know:
  • Israel said its strike on Tuesday in the Jabaliya area, home to Gaza’s largest refugee camp, had successfully targeted Hamas militants, including a commander who was central to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed 1,400 people. A Hamas spokesman denied that a commander had been in the area. Nearly 8,800 people have been killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.
  • American citizens are not expected to be among Wednesday’s evacuees, other than those working for certain aid groups, but they are slated to follow in batches later in the week, three of the diplomats said. A U.S. State Department email sent to U.S. citizens in Gaza said “limited departures from Gaza may begin this week.”
  • Israeli forces continued to press deeper into Gaza on Tuesday, reaching the Al Karama neighborhood north of Gaza City and advancing toward a major highway that runs through the enclave, the Gazan interior ministry said. The Hamas-run ministry said Israel’s military appeared to be seeking “to separate the northern Gaza Strip from its south.”
  • The Pentagon said that American commandos were on the ground in Israel to help locate the more than 200 hostages seized during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.
  • The U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, plans to travel to Israel on Friday to meet with Israeli government officials before going to other countries in the region, the State Department said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why is the Rafah border crossing so important for Gaza? Emma Bubola, Lauren Leatherby and Vivian Yee, Updated Nov. 1, 2023. The access point, where aid trucks have entered from Egypt and people are waiting to leave, is the only land crossing into Gaza that Israel does not control.

After Israel imposed a complete siege of the Gaza Strip in response to the deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the strip’s border crossing with Egypt became even more critical, as the only point not controlled by Israel where aid has come in and some people have been allowed out.

In typical times, the access point is alive with commercial traffic and people traveling to and from Gaza. But for two weeks after the war began, nothing passed through the crossing, which is near the southern Gazan city of Rafah, as diplomatic talks to allow people and supplies to pass were hammered out. Amid deteriorating conditions in Gaza and Israel’s persistent bombardment of the enclave, Israeli strikes have hit the crossing at least four times.

Since the border opened on Oct. 21 after negotiations between Egypt, Israel, the United States and the United Nations, aid trucks have started trickling in, though aid officials say that supplies have met only a small fraction of Gaza’s need for food, water and medicine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Risk of a Wider Middle East War Threatens a ‘Fragile’ World Economy, Patricia Cohen, Nov. 1, 2023. After shocks from the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there’s little cushion if the fighting between Hamas and Israel becomes a regional conflict.

Fears that Israel’s expanding military operations in Gaza could escalate into a regional conflict are clouding the global economy’s outlook, threatening to dampen growth and reignite a rise in energy and food prices.

Rich and poor nations were just beginning to catch their breath after a three-year string of economic shocks that included the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Stinging inflation has been dropping, oil prices have stabilized and predicted recessions have been avoided.

Now, some leading international financial institutions and private investors warn that the fragile recovery could turn bad.

“This is the first time that we’ve had two energy shocks at the same time,” said Indermit Gill, chief economist at the World Bank, referring to the impact of the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East on oil and gas prices.

Those price increases not only chip away at the buying power of families and companies but also push up the cost of food production, adding to high levels of food insecurity, particularly in developing countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

As it is, nations are already struggling with unusually high levels of debt, limp private investment and the slowest recovery in trade in five decades, making it tougher for them to grow their way out of the crisis. Higher interest rates, the result of central bank efforts to tame inflation, have made it more difficult for governments and private companies to get access to credit and stave off default.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Years of Vowing to Destroy Israel, Iran Faces a Dilemma, Farnaz Fassihi, Nov. 1, 2023. With Israel bent on crushing Iran’s ally Hamas, Tehran must decide whether it and the proxy militias it arms and trains will live up to its fiery rhetoric.

For more than four decades, Iran’s rulers have pledged to destroy Israel. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rarely appears in public without wearing a black-and-white checkered Palestinian kaffiyeh.

Iranian military commanders gloat over training and arming groups across the region that are enemies of Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas. And when Hamas conducted the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people, Iranian officials praised it as a momentous achievement, shattering the Jewish state’s sense of security.

Now Iran faces a dilemma, weighing how it and its proxy militias — known as the axis of resistance — should respond to Israel’s invasion of Gaza and the killing of thousands of Palestinians, and whether to bolster its revolutionary credentials at the risk of igniting a broader regional war.

“There is no need for Iran to directly get involved in the war and attack Israel itself because it has the resistance axis militia who follow Iran’s policies and strategies and act on its behalf,” said Nasser Imani, an analyst close to the government, in a telephone interview from Tehran. “Right now Iran is in control mode — it is telling all of them, including Hezbollah, to keep things boiling but have restraint.”

For the time being, Iranian officials are publicly signaling they do not want a full-scale war.

“I want to reiterate that we are not pursuing the spreading of this war,” Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said in a recent interview at Iran’s mission to the United Nations. He was in New York to attend U.N. meetings related to the war. But, he added, “The region is at a boiling point and any moment it may explode and this may be unavoidable. If this happens, all sides will lose control.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A transformed Trump family will take center stage in a New York courtroom, Jonathan O’Connell, Josh Dawsey, Shayna Jacobs and Isaac President Donald Trump officialArnsdorf, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The relationships between Donald Trump and his three eldest children are likely to be on display as they are all scheduled to take the witness stand in the civil fraud trial in New York over the Trump Organization’s business practices.

Donald Trump had been a pariah on Wall Street for years when a banker in Deutsche Bank’s private wealth department started speaking with his daughter Ivanka. After a number of meetings, the banker emailed a supervisor in 2011 with an important update about the future of the Trump business.

“Ivanka Trump will become a client for sure. She is the heir apparent of this Empire,” wrote the banker, Rosemary Vrablic, according to an email that is part of a filing in a civil case against Trump now underway in New York.

Grounded in its real estate empire, the family’s future seemed clear then.

But Trump’s four-year presidency — and the tumultuous period of investigations and criminal and civil litigation since he left office — have reshaped much of the Trump family’s wealth, business and dynamics with one another, according to court filings, financial records, emails and interviews with people close to the family.

Ivanka Trump, once considered by Trump’s business partners to be the most likely of his children to take over the Trump Organization, has largely stepped away from the limelight of both business and politics, at times telling others she was stung by the scrutiny she received in Washington, according to people who know her. She and husband Jared Kushner, who both served as senior White House aides when her father was in office, now spend most of their time in Miami, after purchasing a mansion on a private island while Kushner lures Middle Eastern business for his investment fund.

These days, it is Trump’s second son, Eric, who as executive vice president of the Trump Organization is most involved in the family real estate business, while his eldest, Donald Trump Jr., is said by campaign advisers to be more interested in politics. Of the three, Eric Trump now speaks most regularly to his father, Trump advisers say, as the two have grown closer as a result of the second Trump son’s leadership of the family business. One adviser estimated the two now speak multiple times a day.

The relationships between Trump and his three eldest children are likely to be on display over the next two weeks, as Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka are all scheduled to take the witness stand in the civil fraud trial in New York over the Trump Organization’s business practices. Donald Jr., 45, is up first, scheduled to appear on Wednesday; Eric Trump, 39, is scheduled to appear the following day, and Ivanka Trump, 42, on Nov. 8. Trump himself is scheduled to testify on Monday.

The four criminal trials Trump separately faces potentially threaten his freedom and could affect next year’s elections, as Trump is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. They involve allegations that he tried to overturn a presidential election, mishandled classified documents, obstructed justice and directed a hush money payment to an adult-film actress.

But the New York civil trial potentially has more immediate ramifications for Trump’s family.

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

Donald Trump Jr., center, said he had little involvement with the documents at the heart of the case, having left them to accountants (New York Times photo by Anna Watts on Nov. 1, 2023).

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Trump Jr. Denies Responsibility for Company Business Statements, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Nov. 1, 2023. The former president’s son began the Trump family’s parade to the witness stand in the civil fraud case.

Donald Trump Jr. testified on Wednesday that he had no involvement in annual financial statements that his family’s business gave banks and insurers despite language in the statements themselves suggesting that he was partially responsible for them.

His contention, which came during the trial of a civil fraud lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, capped an afternoon of otherwise unremarkable testimony from Mr. Trump, who is the first of his family members to testify about the case.

Asked whether he worked on one such statement, from 2017, Mr. Trump was clear: “I did not. The accountants worked on it. That’s what we pay them for.”

He soon clarified that his conversations with others at the company may have informed the financial statement. The attorney general, Letitia James, has said such papers were filled with fraud that helped the company, the Trump Organization, gain favorable treatment from lenders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fed Holds Rates Steady and Pledges to Proceed Carefully, Jeanna Smialek, Nov. 1, 2023. The Federal Reserve left interest rates at 5.25 to 5.5 percent, but its chair, Jerome Powell, said policymakers could still raise rates again.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday while keeping alive the possibility of a future increase, striking a cautious stance as rapid inflation retreats but is not yet vanquished.

federal reserve system CustomRates have been on hold in a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent since July, up from near-zero as recently as March 2022. Policymakers think that borrowing costs are high enough to achieve their goal of curbing economic growth if they are kept at this level over time.

By cooling demand, the Fed is hoping to prod companies to raise prices less quickly. While the economy has held up so far — growth was unusually strong over the summer — inflation has come down since 2022. Overall price increases decelerated to 3.4 percent as of September, from more than 7 percent at their peak.

Fed policymakers are now trying to wrestle inflation the rest of the way back to 2 percent. The combination of economic resilience and moderating inflation has given officials hope that they might be able to slow growth gradually and relatively painlessly in a rare “soft landing.” At the same time, the economy’s surprising endurance is forcing the Fed to question whether it has done enough to tamp down demand and price increases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cornell student charged with making death threats to Jewish community, Praveena Somasundaram, Nov. 1, 2023. A Cornell University student was arrested Tuesday and accused of making death threats toward the school’s Jewish community in online messages, including one post that talked about shooting up a building frequented by Jewish students, federal officials announced.

Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old from Pittsford, N.Y., was charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications, federal prosecutors said. In one post, he threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York said in a news release. He also allegedly made graphic, violent death threats to Jewish men and babies and spoke of sexually assaulting Jewish women.

It is unclear whether Dai has an attorney to represent him. Attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful Tuesday evening. His first court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, prosecutors said. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Posted over the weekend, the online messages raised concerns on Cornell University’s campus about the safety of Jewish students. Cornell’s police department plans to continue its increased presence on campus, which began after the online incident, Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, said in a statement Tuesday.

“We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Malina said. “We know that our campus community will continue to support one another in the days ahead.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) applauded the efforts by law enforcement in handling the case.

“Threatening a mass shooting or horrific antisemitic violence is outrageous and unacceptable,” she tweeted late Tuesday. “Grateful to our law enforcement partners who have worked to keep @Cornell students and all New Yorkers safe from the forces of hate.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Colleges braced for antisemitism and violence. It’s happening, Jack Stripling, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). ‘I have Jewish blood on my hands,’ a Tulane student said after aiding a classmate who was assaulted at a pro-Palestinian rally.

Recent days have witnessed what Jewish students and watchdog groups describe as a raft of antisemitic incidents on college campuses. Jewish students at Cooper Union in New York City sheltered in a library as pro-Palestinian demonstrators banged on the glass walls of the building. At a pro-Palestinian protest near Tulane University, at least two students were assaulted in a melee that began when someone tried to burn an Israeli flag. And anonymous posters flooded a Cornell message board with threats, prompting the school’s president to alert the FBI. “If you see a Jewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throats,” one message said. Another threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews.”

College administrators braced at the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict for an outbreak of antisemitism, Islamophobia, harassment and even violence. Free speech advocates predicted infringements on constitutional rights. Now, as the raid by Hamas against Israeli civilians gives way to wider combat in the region, those fears appear to be coming to fruition. The solemn and peaceable candlelight vigils from earlier this month preceded uglier confrontations, leaving Jewish college students feeling anxious, afraid and unsafe.

Amid what the Biden administration on Monday described as an “alarming rise” of antisemitism on college campuses, some Jewish students say they feel more vulnerable than ever before.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Under Shroud of Secrecy, Israel’s Invasion of Gaza Has Begun, Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). After an air campaign that killed thousands of Palestinians, Israel has begun a ground assault. It has deliberately made it hard to tell what is happening.

Israel FlagWhen Israeli ground forces advanced en masse into the Gaza Strip on Friday evening, just after the Jewish Sabbath began, they did it so secretly that it was hours before the outside world understood what had happened.

In the three days since the long-anticipated invasion began, Israel’s military has operated with a similar ambiguity, defying expectations by carrying out a more incremental ground operation than was initially anticipated. While it has continued to decimate Gaza and its people with aerial bombardments, much of the ground force appears to have hung back from Gaza City, Hamas’s stronghold in northern Gaza, and stayed instead in the countryside on the city’s fringes.

Under U.S. pressure to temper their response to the Hamas killing of more than 1,400 people on Israeli soil, Israel has even avoided describing the operation as an invasion. The loss of life, though, in Gaza continues to rise, with the Palestinian death toll so far over 8,000, according to Hamas officials.

“Everything is happening in darkness,” said Andreas Krieg, a war expert at King’s College, London, adding that “there’s a very small group of people who actually know what’s going on, even inside Israel.”

The goal of such strategic ambiguity is threefold, analysts say.

First, it keeps Hamas uncertain about Israel’s next steps. And, at least for now, it allows Israeli soldiers to maintain a siege of Gaza City, where Hamas has dug a network of underground tunnels and fortifications. By doing so, Israel avoids — or at least puts off — bloody urban combat inside the city.

The fog may also buy Israel some time.

Not only may it help put off scrutiny from both internal and external critics, it gives Israel a chance to assess the plans of Hamas allies like Hezbollah, a militia in Lebanon that has exchanged fire with Israel in recent days. Israeli officials fear the militia may be weighing a more forceful attack of its own.

“Modern war is conducted not only with tanks and airplanes,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said in a phone interview. “It’s a cyberwar, a psychological war, and an informational war.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Conditions Worsen in Gaza as Israeli Troops Advance, Hiba Yazbek and Victoria Kim, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Israeli ground troops are edging closer to densely populated Gaza City in an apparent attempt to cut off the northern part of the enclave, Gazan officials said.

Israeli ground troops and tanks pushed deeper into the Gaza Strip and were edging closer to the territory’s main city, local authorities said on Tuesday, as humanitarian officials warned that two million Palestinian civilians there faced a growing catastrophe.

Israel FlagThe Gazan Interior Ministry said Israeli forces were in al Karama, a neighborhood north of densely populated Gaza City, and Salah al-Din Street, the strip’s main north-south highway. It added that the forces were trying to reach Al-Rasheed Street, a coastal highway, “as they seek to separate the northern Gaza Strip from its south.”

palestinian flagThe Israeli military continued to offer few details about its ground invasion, now in a fifth day, saying only that its forces were “conducting fierce battles” against the armed group Hamas inside the strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday categorically dismissed any possibility of a cease-fire, even as United Nations humanitarian officials told the Security Council that an immediate halt to the fighting was vital to save civilian lives.

“The scale of the horror people are experiencing in Gaza is really hard to convey,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s chief official for humanitarian and relief affairs, said in a statement on Monday. “People are becoming increasingly desperate, as they search for food, water and shelter amid the relentless bombing campaign that is wiping out whole families and entire neighborhoods.”

Here’s what else to know:

  • Despite growing international criticism of Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza, Mr. Netanyahu said that pleas for a cease-fire amounted to “calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism.”
  • Photos, satellite images and videos verified by The New York Times showed formations of troops and armored vehicles approaching Gaza City and nearby population centers from the north, east and south.
  • The World Health Organization said that services had been “severely reduced” at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, Gaza’s only cancer center, after “extremely concerning reports of airstrikes” in its vicinity over the last two days.
  • Israel said its forces had rescued a soldier abducted on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants, Ori Megidish. The foreign ministry also confirmed the death of Shani Louk, a 23-year-old German-Israeli citizen believed to have been kidnapped at a music festival.
  • Hamas’s armed wing released a video on Monday of three women who were being held hostage. One of them sharply criticized Mr. Netanyahu, saying they were being held in “unbearable conditions” and demanding that he free Hamas prisoners. In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu’s office called the footage “cruel psychological propaganda” and said Israel was doing everything it could to bring the hostages home.

state dept map logo SmallPolitico, Senate confirms Jack Lew as ambassador to Israel, over Republican pushback, Joe Gould and Connor O’Brien, Oct. 31, 2023. Lew will have to take up Washington’s call to protect civilians in Gaza amid the widening human suffering there.

politico CustomThe Senate confirmed Jack Lew as the U.S. ambassador to Israel in a largely party line vote Tuesday, installing a permanent envoy to the country as its war against Hamas rages on in Gaza.

Lew was approved 53-43 — a tight tally reminiscent of the Senate’s narrow vote in 2017 to confirm then-President Donald Trump’s pick, David Friedman. U.S. ambassadors to Israel, a country that has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress, have traditionally been approved by voice vote or through unanimous consent.

Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were the only Republicans to break ranks and support Lew.

senate democrats logoLew will have to take up Washington’s call to protect civilians in Gaza amid the widening human suffering there. The administration has been pushing for an immediate increase in humanitarian aid, and it’s also trying to keep the war from expanding — partially by sending Israel enough weapons that it can deter Iran and other rivals from launching other attacks on the country.

Tuesday’s vote capped Democratic efforts to fast-track Lew’s confirmation to the important post, despite Republican objections. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and others cited the urgency of the relationship, the need for the U.S. to support Israel in its war with Hamas and the importance of protecting America’s citizens and diplomatic corps in Israel.

“Jacob Lew is eminently qualified to serve in this post. He has extensive experience. He has the political acumen that we need for our ambassador at this time. He has the respect of the Israeli officials,” Cardin said in a floor speech ahead of the vote.

Cardin accused Lew’s Republican opponents of using his nomination to double down on their opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Lew had a role in.

Lew, a Treasury secretary under former President Barack Obama, advanced 12-9 out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a mostly partisan vote this month. The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), said this month he would vote against Lew; he and Republicans took aim at Lew as a top player in lifting sanctions on Tehran as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Risch and others accusing him of being less than transparent.

“This is the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. We should vote ‘no’ and support Israel” Risch said in a Senate floor speech ahead of the vote.

During his confirmation hearing, Lew denied accusations by Republicans that he secretly gave Iran access to U.S. financial markets, saying, “my actions are what kept them from getting full access to the world financial system.” He also made clear that in Tehran, he believes the U.S. is dealing with “an evil, malign government that funds its evil and malign activities first.”

Israel has been without a Senate-confirmed ambassador since July when the last top diplomat, Thomas Nides, stepped down. The post has since been filled on an interim basis by career diplomat Stephanie Hallett. Biden nominated Lew in September.

Lew, who is Jewish, received endorsements from the Jerusalem Post, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch.

Politico, RFK Jr.’s 2024 bid is a threat to Republicans — and donor data shows it, Brittany Gibson and Jessica Piper, Nov. 1, 2023. A Politico analysis of his donor base reveals a lot about who is powering this unconventional candidate.

politico CustomRobert F. Kennedy Jr. is collecting checks from past Donald Trump donors at a much higher rate than former Joe Biden contributors, a sign the independent presidential hopeful may pull more from the Republican electorate than Democratic voters.

A Politico analysis of campaign finance records also shows that Kennedy’s bid has drawn millions of dollars from donors who kept their wallets shut in the last two presidential elections, suggesting he is activating people who have been turned off by what major parties have been offering.

Though both parties insist Kennedy will be a non-factor in the campaign, there’s clear anxiety about his potential impact, especially among Republicans. The analysis of Kennedy’s campaign donations as of the most recent filing deadline shows why: His large-dollar donor base has a clear Republican lean. That also fits with limited polling that suggests Kennedy might draw more support from Republican-leaning voters.

Most of the $10 million Kennedy raised from large-dollar donors through Sept. 30 came from voters who did not make any federal donations during either the 2016 or 2020 election cycles.

Of those who did, 2,100 donors — giving nearly $2 million — previously made contributions on the Republican donation service WinRed since 2020. Far fewer donors previously gave through the Democratic tool ActBlue: roughly 1,700 contributors who gave $1.4 million.

Kennedy is running as a self-described “spoiler,” and the draw that the former Democrat has with both the GOP and those who don’t have an obvious political home makes him an unpredictable threat to the establishment of both parties. Some Republicans are already trying to redefine Kennedy as a “typical Democrat,” revealing they’re worried about his appeal to GOP voters.
RFK Jr. announces independent run for president

Both Kennedy and Trump present a fundamental question to voters, said Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio): “Do you think the country has been well-governed by the bipartisan establishment for the past generation?”

“When Kennedy goes out there and runs against that establishment, he has to appreciate it probably ends up splitting votes off from President Trump,” said Vance, who has endorsed Trump’s 2024 campaign.

Federal law requires campaigns to disclose donations only from donors who give at least $200. The POLITICO examination relies on Federal Election Commission data of those large-dollar donors, who make up about two-thirds of Kennedy’s money raised through Sept. 30, the latest campaign finance reporting deadline.

That data shows more than 500 of Kennedy’s biggest donors gave to Trump’s 2020 campaign, more than three times the number of donors who gave to Biden in that race. And in this cycle, more than 160 donors have given to both Trump and Kennedy, while only a handful have given to both Biden and Kennedy.

It’s not just Trump. More than 160 of Kennedy’s donors have also given to biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who also brands himself as an anti-establishment candidate. Another 100 also contributed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has leaned into his anti-vaccine stance on the campaign trail.

“Some members of our party like his positions on vaccines, but other than that he’s a liberal,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). “That’s not going to work.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Home-School Nation: Home schooling’s rise from fringe to fastest-growing form of education, Peter Jamison, Laura Meckler, Prayag Gordy, Clara Ence Morse and Chris Alcantara, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A district-by-district look at home schooling’s explosive growth, which a Post analysis finds has far outpaced the rate at private and public schools.

In March 2020, an involuntary form of home schooling — remote learning — was thrust upon American families everywhere. Millions could not wait to get their kids back to school, but for hundreds of thousands of others, the idea of teaching their kids at home was appealing. A surge in home schooling became one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic.

Yet there has been scant reliable data on the magnitude of the growth or the nature of the new home-schoolers. As part of a year-long series, The Washington Post set out to understand who the new home-schoolers are, where they live, how many there are and why they made these choices.

This research has included more than 100 interviews and two groundbreaking data projects: the collection and analysis of six years of enrollment and home-schooling registration figures in nearly 7,000 school districts, and a national poll of home-school parents.

The results paint a picture of home schooling as the fastest growing part of the U.S. education system, embraced by families more diverse than ever before, who are engaged in new and different ways of home education from the home-schoolers who preceded them.

 

More On Israel’s War With Hamas

Politico, House GOP announces standalone $14.3B Israel aid package, setting up Senate clash, Sarah Ferris, Jennifer Scholtes, Anthony Adragna and Connor O’Brien, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). mike johnson oHouse Speaker Mike Johnson receives a standing ovation from House Republicans as he gives a speech shortly after being elected Speaker in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on October 25, 2023.

politico CustomSpeaker Mike Johnson, right,  on Monday unveiled the House GOP’s $14.3 billion aid package for Israel’s military drive against Hamas, which he has vowed to pass on the floor this week.

Unlike other recent supplemental assistance packages, the House GOP plans to offset the cost of the Israel funding — largely by cutting funds to the Internal Revenue Service, likely in an attempt to win over conservative hardliners. Despite that leadership effort, the legislation already faces significant scrutiny from conservatives, who want to make sure the spending is fully offset.

U.S. House logo“I will be a NO vote,” wrote Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). “We simply can’t afford it.”

The 13-page bill represents Johnson’s first major piece of legislation to head to the House floor, besides a resolution of support for Israel djt maga hatlast week. Yet it will run into significant trouble across the Capitol, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are eying a far larger global aid package, which would include funding for Israel, but also Ukraine.

Schumer bristled at the House GOP’s bill shortly after its release, criticizing its narrow scope as well as its targeting of IRS funds.

“We believe, our Democratic Caucus, we should be doing all of it together: Israel, Ukraine, South Pacific, etc. And obviously a pay-for like that makes it much harder to pass,” Schumer said.

Earlier Monday, Johnson told reporters he intends to speak with Schumer about the Israel-only funding bill this week.

Johnson has indicated he wants to keep aid to Israel separate from that for Ukraine, assuming such an option could pass the GOP-led House. That approach stands in stark contrast to the Senate, where both Schumer and McConnell are pushing to bundle the two issues together.

“There are lots of things going on around the world that we have to address, and we will,” Johnson said in a Sunday interview on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “But right now, what’s happening in Israel takes the immediate attention, and I think we’ve got to separate that and get it through.”

To cover the cost of the measure, it would claw back $14.3 billion from IRS funding Democrats provided in their signature climate and tax package last year to beef up tax enforcement.

The House Republican bill comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s request for $106 billion in emergency aid, and it matches the president’s request for $14.3 billion for Israel. The administration has also asked for more than $61 billion for Ukraine and about $10 billion in humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Gaza.

The House measure includes $4 billion in Pentagon funding to transfer to Israel for Iron Dome and David’s Sling, two missile defense systems to defend against rocket attacks. The package also includes $4.4 billion for the Pentagon to replace inventories of weapons and equipment sent to Israel as well as to reimburse the military for training and other services. Another $3.5 billion would go to the State Department in foreign military financing to help arm Israel.

The bill includes:

$4.4 billion for the Pentagon to use broadly on “attacks in Israel,” through next September. The military can also tap into that money to backfill weapons and reimburse itself for training.
$801.4 million for the Army to use on ammunition.
$10 million for the Navy to use on weapons.
$38.6 million for the Air Force to buy missiles.
$4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, two missile defense systems to defend against rocket attacks.
$1.2 billion would go toward research and development efforts for Iron Beam, Israel’s air defense laser project.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel’s Air and Ground Forces Put More Pressure on Gaza, Isabel Kershner and Vivek Shankar, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). President Biden called on Israel to protect civilians as it expanded its invasion and struck hundreds of targets from the air over the weekend.

Israel FlagIsraeli forces were attacking Gaza by land and air, military officials said on Monday, as infantry and armored units fought inside the enclave and warplanes struck hundreds of targets over the weekend.

Entering a fourth day of what a military spokesman described as an “extended ground operation” against Hamas, Israel continued to warn palestinian flaghospitals in northern Gaza to evacuate, the World Health Organization said overnight. But as Israeli troops sought to move deeper inside the territory, the agency again urged Israel to rescind the warning, saying it was impossible to clear hospitals without risking the lives of patients. Health facilities are already damaged or overflowing and facing severe shortages of medicines.

Palestinian health officials say more than 8,000 people have been killed in Gaza, many of them children, since Israel began launching retaliatory airstrikes in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed some 1,400 people in Israel. President Biden on Sunday reiterated support for Israel’s right to protect itself, according to the White House, while underscoring “the need to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of civilians.”

  • Here’s what else to know:
  • The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israeli strikes had damaged sections of the Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City, while Palestinian media reported that the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital in Gaza had also been damaged.
  • Forty-seven trucks carrying food, water, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Sunday, according to a Palestinian official at the crossing. That was the largest one-day total in the nine days since the shipments began, but remained a fraction of what the United Nations says civilians need in Gaza.
  • The Israeli military carried out a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin overnight and at least four Palestinians were killed, the Palestinian health ministry said. The Israeli Army said its soldiers engaged in a gunfight with armed Palestinians in a refugee camp and that an Israeli drone struck from the air. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since Oct. 7, according to U.N. figures.
  • The Israeli military said overnight that it had responded to fire from Syrian and Lebanese territory.

 

 Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023 (APA Images photo by Naaman Omar via Wikimedia Commons).

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023 (APA Images photo by Naaman Omar via Wikimedia Commons).

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Biden’s Support for Israel Now Comes With Words of Caution, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). The administration has become more critical of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks, a shift that U.S. officials attribute to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel FlagThree days after Hamas terrorists slaughtered more than 1,400 Israelis, President Biden assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that he supported his vow to “avenge this black day” and to turn Gaza “into a ruin” from the air and on the ground.

“I told him if the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing, our response would be swift, decisive and overwhelming,” Mr. Biden recalled saying during a call between the two leaders on Oct. 10.

joe biden black background resized serious fileBut the president’s message, in which he emphatically joined the mourning that was sweeping through Israel, has shifted dramatically over the past three weeks. While he continues to declare unambiguous support for Israel, Mr. Biden and his top military and diplomatic officials have become more critical of Israel’s response to the terrorist attacks and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The president and his senior aides still cling to the hope that the new war between Israel and Hamas might eventually give way to a resumption of talks about normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could even offer some leverage for a return to the two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine exist side by side.

But in the short run, American officials have grown more strident in reminding the Israelis that even if Hamas terrorists are deliberately intermingling with civilians, operations must be tailored to avoid nonmilitary casualties. Last week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at the United Nations that “humanitarian pauses must be considered,” a move that Israel has rejected.

“While Israel has the right — indeed, the obligation — to defend itself, the way it does so matters,” Mr. Blinken said, adding that “it means food, water, medicine and other essential humanitarian assistance must be able to flow into Gaza and to the people who need them.”

On Sunday, just a day after Israeli military leaders said Hamas terrorists were using a hospital in Gaza as a command center, Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, was more blunt. Mr. Sullivan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields “creates an added burden for the Israeli Defense Forces.”

He added, “This is something that we talk about with the Israelis on a daily basis.” He then noted that hospitals were not legitimate military targets just as Israel was warning that another major hospital in Gaza had to be emptied out before the next round of bombing.

Administration officials said the shift in tone and substance was the result of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where the health ministry says more than 8,000 people have been killed, provoking outrage in the United States and around the world.

 

benjamin netanyahu frown

ny times logoNew York Times, Netanyahu Finds Himself at War in Gaza and at Home, Isabel Kershner, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, apologized for accusing military and security officials of lapses that led to the Hamas massacre but declined to accept responsibility himself.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a message: His military and security chiefs, he said, had failed to provide him with any warning of the surprise Hamas assault on Oct. 7. He appeared to be placing all the blame on them for the colossal lapses — even as Israeli forces were broadening a risky ground war in Gaza.

The country awoke to a furious response, including from within Mr. Netanyahu’s own war cabinet. The post on X, formerly Twitter, was deleted, and the Israeli leader apologized in a new one. “I was wrong,” he said.

But the damage was done.

For many Israelis, the episode confirmed suspicions of rifts and disarray at the top during one of the worst crises in the country’s 75-year history and reinforced qualms about Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership.

“He’s in survival mode,” said Gadi Wolfsfeld, an expert in political communications at Reichman University in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

“He’s been in difficult circumstances before, and he still believes he can come out of this and continue to be prime minister when this is all done,” Professor Wolfsfeld said, adding, “The only thing driving him is staying in power.”

Among the first to call out Mr. Netanyahu’s middle-of-the night comments was Benny Gantz, the centrist former defense minister and military chief who, for the sake of national unity, left the ranks of the parliamentary opposition to join Mr. Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet in the days after the massacre by Hamas. At least 1,400 people were killed in those attacks — it was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust — and at least 239 were taken as hostages to Gaza.

washington post logo Washington Post, Israeli tanks penetrate deep into Gaza as Hamas hostage video emerges, Miriam Berger, Hajar Harb and William Booth, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Israeli forces reported moving deeper into the Gaza Strip and directly engaging Hamas militants as the ground incursions gather pace.

Moving quickly overnight, Israeli tanks and soldiers entered the outskirts of Gaza City on Monday, reaching the main highway that goes north and south through the 25-mile-long enclave. The forces were so close to the city that those ground troops called in airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Israel FlagA string of incidents Monday shows evidence of the deepest penetration of Gaza by Israeli ground forces since they began incursions three days ago, as a relentless bombing campaign continues, with the military confirming that combined infantry, armor and engineering forces are all inside Gaza’s borders.

Hamas, the militant group that controls the besieged enclave, also released a chilling video of three of its hostages delivering a harsh statement addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with one woman almost screaming at the Israeli leader, “Free, free us now. Free their civilians, free their prisoners, free us, free us all, let us return to our families now. Now! Now! Now!”

ny times logoNew York Times, Posters of kidnapped Israelis along U.S. sidewalks have ignited a firestorm, Katherine Rosman, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). In the weeks since Hamas attacked Israel, fliers depicting the hostages have become ubiquitous. But in cities and college campuses across the globe, anti-Israel protesters have removed them.

“KIDNAPPED,” the posters say, in bright red block letters above pictures of people taken hostage by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, urgent reminders of the men, women and children still being held hostage in Gaza.

But on college campuses and in cities around the world in recent weeks, people have been caught tearing them down.

palestinian flag“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” a man says in a video posted on social media as he watches two young people at the University of Southern California shove wadded-up posters into the trash.

“They’re making the conflict worse,” one of the young people replies, adding, “I’m not a fan of Hamas.”

In the weeks since the war in the Middle East started, the “kidnapped” posters, created by Israeli street artists, have grown ubiquitous, papering public spaces across the United States, Western Europe and beyond. Available to anyone with an internet connection, they can be printed out and pasted onto lampposts, boarded-up storefronts and subway entrances.

Displaying the posters has become a form of activism, keeping the more than 200 hostages seized by Hamas in full view of the public. But removing the posters has quickly emerged as its own form of protest — a release valve and also a provocation by those anguished by the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians in the years before Oct. 7 and since the bombing of Gaza began. Some of those caught destroying the posters have been condemned on social media. A dentist in Boston and a person in South Florida, among others, have lost their jobs.

The battle has inflamed already tense emotions. And it captures one of the most fervently debated questions of the war: Whose suffering should command public attention and sympathy?

washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken, Austin press for Israel, Ukraine aid in Senate testimony, Michael Birnbaum, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). The Biden administration is seeking billions of dollars in emergency funds to help both countries.

President Biden’s two top foreign policy lieutenants testified in the Senate on Tuesday on behalf of a $105 billion request to support Israel, Ukraine and other security priorities, amid uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans are willing to keep the funding taps open for Kyiv.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced questioning from the Senate Appropriations Committee over the White House’s strategy as it seeks to bolster the defenses of both Ukraine and Israel, the closest U.S. ally in the Mideast. The hearing was one of the first public indicators of whether Biden will be able to win congressional support for his political strategy on Ukraine — which is to request $61 billion, a major sum, in the hope that he won’t have to ask again before the 2024 elections.

Funding for defense aid for Ukraine and Israel enjoys relatively wide bipartisan backing, but a growing number of Republicans have become skeptical on help for Kyiv, leaving its approval in doubt.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The closer you look, the more Netanyahu resembles Trump, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 31, 2023. Roughly 80 percent of Israelis blame jennifer rubin new headshotPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition government for the Hamas catastrophe, according to a poll by the Hebrew newspaper Maariv.

During the unfolding pogrom, and in the days and in the weeks after, the utter lack of effective, empathetic action by the government has left Israelis fuming. (Government inaction left a void that volunteers, including thousands who participated in pro-democracy protests, are now filling.)

After an announcement of a new phase in the Gaza military action (about which many Israelis have mixed emotions), Netanyahu declared at roughly 1 a.m. on Sunday, “Contrary to the false claims: Under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of Hamas’s war intentions.” He added, “On the contrary, all the security officials, including the head of military intelligence and the head of the Shin Bet, assessed that Hamas had been deterred and was looking for a settlement. This assessment was submitted again and again to the prime minister and the cabinet by all the security forces and intelligence community, up until the outbreak of the war.”

In saying so, Netanyahu is both crediting Hamas with the element of surprise and daring supporters to remain mum in the face of his self-serving comment. This was very much akin to four-times indicted former president Donald Trump’s declaration that Hezbollah was “very smart.”

The reaction was fierce and immediate. Benny Gantz, the leader of a major opposition party who agreed to be part of a special war cabinet, denounced the tweet. “On this morning in particular, I want to support and strengthen all the security forces and [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers, including the IDF chief of staff, the head of military intelligence, the head of the Shin Bet,” Gantz added early Sunday. “When we are at war, leadership must display responsibility, make the correct decisions and strengthen the forces in a way that they will understand what we demand from them …. [T]he prime minister must retract his statement.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Representative Jamaal Bowman’s calls for Israel to stand down are fueling a perilous primary challenge, Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Representative Jamaal Bowman was already facing blowback from Jewish leaders in his district and a growing primary threat for bucking his party’s stance on Israel.

But on Friday, he did not show any hesitation as he grabbed the megaphone at a cease-fire rally back home in the New York City suburbs to demand what only a dozen other members of Congress have: that both Israel and Hamas lay down their arms.

He condemned Hamas’s brutal murder of 1,400 Israelis. He condemned the governments of the United States and Israel for facilitating what he called the “erasure” of Palestinian lives. And with Palestinian flags waving, Mr. Bowman said, “I am ashamed, quite ashamed to be a member of Congress at times when Congress doesn’t value every single life.”

Forget about retreating to safer political ground. In the weeks since Hamas’s assault, Mr. Bowman, an iconoclastic former middle-school principal with scant foreign policy experience, has repeatedly inserted himself into the center of a major fight fracturing his party’s left between uncompromising pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian factions.

Mr. Bowman frames his actions as a moral imperative, but they are already courting political peril. Local Jewish leaders have denounced his approach as blaming both sides for the gravest attack against their people since the Holocaust. A potentially formidable primary challenger, George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, has begun taking steps toward entering the race.

Even some Jewish supporters publicly defending Mr. Bowman have grown wary. When a group of constituents who call themselves “Jews for Jamaal” held a private call with the congressman last week, they warned him he should be prepared to pay a political price if he does not support a multibillion-dollar military aid package for Israel now pending before Congress, according to three people on the call.

Similar coalitions are lining up primary fights across the country against other members of Democrats’ left-wing “Squad” over their views on Israel, including Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Cori Bush of Missouri and Summer Lee of Pennsylvania.

 

israeli tanks gaza cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Is ‘Expanding’ Ground Operations in the Gaza Strip, Isabel Kershner, Vivian Nereim and Vivek Shankar, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Two days after sending soldiers into Gaza, Israel’s military warned residents to head south with increasing “urgency.” Phone and internet connections were returning to parts of the strip after a near-total blackout.

Israel FlagThe Israeli military on Sunday signaled a heavier assault on Gaza, saying it had expanded its ground incursion overnight, and warned with increasing “urgency” that Palestinian civilians should move to the southern part of the coastal strip.

The precise number of soldiers who have been sent into Gaza since Friday remained unclear, but the military’s chief spokesman said that Israeli forces were “gradually expanding the ground activity and the scope of our forces,” and that they were “progressing through the stages of the war according to plan.”

For more than two weeks — as Israel set the stage for its ground incursion with an intense aerial bombing campaign that Palestinians say has killed thousands of people, many of them children — the Israeli military has been calling on Gazans to move south, toward the border with Egypt. The demand has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, worsening Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, even as Israel continued to bombard areas in the south.

palestinian flagLate last week, Palestinians said that airstrikes had damaged telecommunications networks, leaving Gazans without phone or internet service as Israel began an intensified ground operation late Friday.

Phone and internet connectivity in Gaza partially returned on Sunday, according to the U.N. relief agency that aids Palestinians and Netblocks, which tracks internet outages. And the Israeli military said, without giving details, that humanitarian efforts to send more aid to Gaza — led by Egypt and the United States — would be expanded on Monday.

 

Smoke rising from bombed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 29, 2023 (EPA photo by Hannibal Hanschke via Shutterstock and The New York Times).

Smoke rising from bombed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 29, 2023 (EPA photo by Hannibal Hanschke via Shutterstock and The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Please, Israel, Don’t Get Lost in Hamas’s Tunnels, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). I am watching the Israel-Hamas tom friedman twitterwar in Gaza today and thinking about one of the world leaders I’ve most admired: Manmohan Singh. He was India’s prime minister in late November 2008 when 10 Pakistani jihadist militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, widely believed to be linked to Pakistan’s military intelligence, infiltrated India and killed more than 160 people in Mumbai, including 61 at two luxury hotels. What was Singh’s military response to India’s Sept. 11?

He did nothing.

Singh never retaliated militarily against the nation of Pakistan or Lashkar camps in Pakistan. It was a remarkable act of restraint. What was the logic? In his book Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, India’s foreign minister at the time, Shivshankar Menon, explained, making these key points:

Chief among the reasons, Menon said, was that any military response would have quickly obscured just how outrageous and terrible the raid on Indian civilians and tourists was; “the fact of a terrorist attack from Pakistan on India with official involvement on the Pakistan side” would have been lost. Once India retaliated, the world would immediately have had what Menon called a “ho-hum reaction.” Just another Pakistani-Indian dust-up — nothing unusual here.

Moreover, Menon wrote, “an Indian attack on Pakistan would have united Pakistan behind the Pakistan Army, which was in increasing domestic disrepute,” and “an attack on Pakistan would also have weakened the civilian government in Pakistan, which had just been elected to power and which sought a much better relationship with India than the Pakistan Army was willing to consider.” He continued, “A war scare, and maybe even a war itself, was exactly what the Pakistan Army wanted to buttress its internal position.”

In conclusion, said Menon, “by not attacking Pakistan, India was free to pursue all legal and covert means to achieve its goals of bringing the perpetrators to justice, uniting the international community to force consequences on Pakistan for its behavior and to strengthen the likelihood that such an attack would not take place again.”

I understand that Israel is not India — a country of 1.4 billion people, covering a massive territory. The loss of more than 160 people in Mumbai, some of them tourists, was not felt in every home and hamlet, as were Hamas’s killing of roughly 1,400 Israelis, the maiming of countless others and the kidnapping of more than 200 people. Pakistan also has nuclear weapons to deter retaliation.

Nevertheless, it is instructive to reflect on the contrast between India’s response to the Mumbai terrorist attack and Israel’s response to the Hamas slaughter.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government immediately raced into a plan to, as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant put it, “wipe out” Hamas “from the face of the earth.” And in three weeks Israel has inflicted easily more than triple the number of civilian casualties and caused far more destruction in Gaza than Israel suffered, while committing itself to taking military control of Gaza — an operation, on a relative population basis, that is roughly equivalent to the United States deciding almost overnight to occupy half of Mexico. The Israeli plan, according to Netanyahu, will be a “long and difficult” battle to “destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and bring the hostages home.”

As I said, Israel is not India, and there is no way that it could be expected to turn the other cheek — not in that neighborhood. But what is Netanyahu’s plan?

The Israeli officials I speak with tell me they know two things for sure: Hamas will never again govern Gaza, and Israel will not govern a post-Hamas Gaza. They suggest that they will set up an arrangement similarly seen in parts of the West Bank today, with Palestinians in Gaza administering day-to-day life and Israeli military and Shin Bet security teams providing the muscle behind the scenes.

This is a half-baked plan. Who are these Palestinians who will be enlisted to govern Gaza on Israel’s behalf? What happens the morning after a Palestinian working for Israel in Gaza is found murdered in an alley with a note pinned to his chest: “Traitor,’’ signed “the Hamas underground.”

In sum, dear reader, I understand why Israel believes it needs to destroy Hamas and thereby deter others in the neighborhood from ever contemplating such a thing. But the view from Washington is that Israel’s leadership does not have a viable plan to win or a leader who can navigate the stresses and complexity of this crisis. Israel needs to know that the tolerance of its American ally for massive civilian casualties in Gaza in an open-ended military operation is not unlimited. In fact, we may soon be approaching the limit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Israel can defeat Hamas, it would be a major blow against Iran’s proxy strategy, Max Boot, Oct. 30, 2023. Ever since the horrific Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, there has been a Jesuitical — or is it Talmudic? — debate over Iran’s degree of responsibility.

U.S. and Israeli officials have said they have no evidence that Iran planned or authorized the attack, but there is no doubt that Iran was, at the very least, morally culpable for the massacre of 1,400 Israeli civilians — which Iranian leaders praised.

According to the State Department, Iran provides $100 million a year in funding for Palestinian terrorist groups, along with training in military tactics. Many are now calling for Iran to be held to account for its support of terrorism. But while it’s easy to demand that we stop “appeasing” Iran, it’s much harder to say what we should be doing. As veteran U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller told me, “We have a strategic problem with Iran, and we have no strategic solution.”

This is not, of course, a new dilemma. It’s been going on for nearly half a century, ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution resulted in the seizure of more than 50 hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. We recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Oct. 23, 1983, suicide bomber attacks mounted by Hezbollah against the U.S. Marine and French military barracks in Beirut. Those bombings killed 241 U.S. military personnel and 58 French troops. Iran has only recently admitted its responsibility, but the U.S. intelligence community had proof at the time of Iran’s involvement. Yet the United States never effectively retaliated. Instead, the Reagan administration traded arms for hostages with Tehran.

washington post logoWashington Post, The lesson all Gazans learn: When you hear a rocket, you know it won’t hit you, Atef Abu Saif, Oct. 30, 2023. Atef Abu Saif is the author of six novels and since 2019 has been minister of culture for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Abu Saif was visiting family in Gaza, where he grew up, when bombs began to fall Oct. 7 — in retaliation for Hamas’s surprise attack earlier that day that killed 1,400 Israelis. He began sending voice notes to friends abroad, describing the fraying texture of everyday life, creating a diary of life under siege.

The following excerpts, which have been edited for length, clarity and style, track roughly three weeks, from Oct. 7 to 26.

washington post logoWashington Post, New danger for Ukraine: Taking Israel’s side in war against Hamas and Gaza, Isobel Koshiw, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s immediate and forceful support for Israel in its fight against Hamas has imperiled almost a year of concerted efforts by Kyiv to win the support of Arab and Muslim nations in its war against Russia.

ukraine flagZelensky’s early statements backing Israel after the surprise attack by Hamas, in which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed, helped Ukraine stay in the international spotlight, and placed it firmly on the side of the United States.

Israel FlagZelensky’s position also drew attention to the increasingly close relationship between Russia and Iran, which is a main sponsor of Hamas, a sworn enemy of Israel, and also an important supplier of drones and other weapons for Moscow.

Hamas and Russia are the “same evil, and the only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a speech to NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly on Oct. 9.

But with Israel’s military operation set to enter its fourth week, and Palestinian civilian casualties mounting, the war in Gaza is posing one of the most difficult diplomatic tests for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

Countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which at times have provided crucial support to Ukraine, have accused the West of double standards in Gaza, alluding to the broad condemnation of civilian deaths in Ukraine compared with the muted criticism of Israel.

Tension with Muslim and Arab nations, however, is just one risk facing Kyiv, which must now also contend with the world’s attention shifting largely to new war in the Middle East, as well as competing demands for U.S. military support at a time when House Republicans just elected a new speaker, Mike Johnson (La.), who has opposed sending additional aid to Ukraine.

Russia prison population plummets as convicts are sent to war

Some experts noted that Israel had already made clear it was not going to reciprocate with greater support for Ukraine.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Biden’s speech was notable for a number of reasons, one of which is how rarely he addresses the American people in such a prominent setting about why Ukraine (and now Israel) matters to them. Biden’s most extensive speeches on Ukraine during the year and a half of the war have typically been delivered while overseas. While at home, Biden mostly talks with the public about economic issues and other matters he believes are more central to Americans and their daily lives. Critics and allies alike have long called on him to do more to explain to the American public why the rest of the world is important to them, and here he has tried to do just that (Pool photo by Jonathan Ernst on Oct. 19, 2023).

 

More On U.S. National Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, George Santos to Keep Seat After House Votes Not to Expel Him, Michael Gold, Luke Broadwater and Grace Ashford, Nov. 1, 2023. A group of New York Republicans, eager to distance themselves from their embattled colleague, failed in their push to remove him from office.

A Republican-led effort to expel Representative George Santos of New York failed decisively on Wednesday night, after a group of lawmakers from Mr. Santos’s home state could not persuade nearly U.S. House logoenough of their colleagues that his admitted lies and federal indictment were sufficient grounds to oust him.

Even as House members condemned Mr. Santos for lying to voters and donors about his biography and résumé and apparently falsifying ties to the Holocaust and Sept. 11, many said that expelling him now — nearly a year before his trial is even set to begin — would set a dangerous precedent.

republican elephant logoWith Republicans holding a razor-thin majority that they are loath to imperil, many of them, including Speaker Mike Johnson, chose to defer judgment on Mr. Santos’s fate to the conclusion of the criminal case or a continuing House Ethics investigation. But dozens of Democrats also opposed the motion to expel Mr. Santos, even as their party has been unified in calling for his resignation.
Lies, Charges and Questions Remaining in the George Santos Scandal

George Santos has told so many stories they can be hard to keep straight. We cataloged them, including major questions about his personal finances and his campaign fund-raising and spending.

The vote — 213 opposed to 179 in favor, with 19 representatives voting “present” — is the second time in nearly six months that Mr. Santos, 35, has evaded a push to expel him. And it has cleared the way for him to remain in office as he fights the 23-count federal indictment accusing him of involvement in a range of fraudulent schemes.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Blocks Censure of Tlaib on Charge of Antisemitism, Robert Jimison, Nov. 1, 2023. Some Republicans joined Democrats in refusing to back a move to rebuke Representative Rashida Tlaib, a far-left Democrat, for her criticism of Israel.

The House on Wednesday turned aside a Republican effort to formally reprimand Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, for her participation in a recent pro-Palestinian protest in which she accused Israel of genocide, as a solid bloc of Republicans joined Democrats to reject the move.

democratic donkey logoThe vote was 222 to 186 to table, or kill, a censure resolution against Ms. Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of Congress, offered by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia. The measure accused Ms. Tlaib of “antisemitic activity” and referred to the Oct. 8 protest as an “insurrection.”

Twenty-three Republicans broke with their party in voting to kill it.

U.S. House logoIt was the first in a series of back-to-back disciplinary actions scheduled for action on Wednesday by the House, which is resuming legislative business this week after nearly a month of paralysis and Republican infighting. The measures amounted to a round of partisan blame-laying and institutional strife and featured dueling accusations of antisemitism.

Following the vote on censuring Ms. Tlaib, the House had planned to turn to an effort to formally rebuke Ms. Greene for “racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories,” citing her past antisemitic statements, anti-L.G.B.T.Q.+ remarks and her praise and support for those charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. But that measure was dropped abruptly after the censure of Ms. Tlaib failed.

Though some Democrats have both publicly and privately expressed discomfort with some of Ms. Tlaib’s comments, all of them supported the effort to kill the censure. Some cited the language in Ms. Greene’s resolution that referred to the Oct. 8 protest as an “insurrection” — a term that also alienated some Republicans.

Many Democrats argued the measure amounted to a racist broadside against Ms. Tlaib.

“They want to censure her because she’s brown,” Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Democrat of Florida, said on his way to the vote.

And some Republicans said they did not want to waste time on partisan measures when there was legislative work to be done.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump 14th Amendment Disqualification Trial Can Continue, Judge Rules, Maggie Astor, Nov. 1, 2023. Donald Trump’s team asked for the Colorado case to be thrown out, arguing that his words before the Capitol attack were protected by the First Amendment.

A Colorado judge on Wednesday refused a request from lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump to throw out a case challenging his eligibility to hold office again, saying she was not yet prepared to decide on what she called “significant legal issues, many of which have never been decided by any court.”

The decision by the judge, Sarah B. Wallace, means the trial will continue through Friday before a final ruling.

It came after a lawyer for Mr. Trump asked for a “directed verdict” — essentially a conclusion, even before the defense had called any witnesses, that no legally sufficient basis existed for the plaintiffs to prevail. The Trump team argued that his words and actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol were protected by the First Amendment. Judge Wallace, who is presiding over the case in a state district court in Denver, declined to grant the request.

The case — one of several similar ones around the country — was filed by six Colorado voters who argue that Mr. Trump is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from office anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after having taken an oath to support it.

ny times logoNew York Times, A judge suggested that she might delay former President Trump’s classified documents trial, Alan Feuer, Nov. 1, 2023. Responding to a request from the former president’s lawyers, Judge Aileen Cannon said she could make “reasonable adjustments” to the timetable for the trial, which is scheduled to start in May.

The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of mishandling classified documents signaled on Wednesday that she was inclined to make some “reasonable adjustments” to the timing of the case, expressing concern that it could “collide” with Mr. Trump’s other federal trial.

Justice Department log circularSpeaking during a hearing in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, did not specify how she planned to change the schedule of the documents case and said she would soon issue a written order with the details.

But she seemed skeptical that the trial date in the documents case — now set for May 20 — could comfortably coexist with Mr. Trump’s Washington-based trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, which is set to start in early March.

“I’m having a hard time seeing, realistically, how this work can be accomplished in this compressed time period,” Judge Cannon said.

Politico, Why George Santos is sticking around (for now), Olivia Beavers, Nicholas Wu and Daniella Diaz, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Santos’ New York GOP critics may be getting help from new Republican allies on this week’s expulsion vote. It’s highly unlikely to be enough.

politico CustomAs soon as Wednesday, the House will battle over proposed punishments for three of its most polarizing members. One of this week’s votes will mark a test for new Speaker Mike Johnson, who will have to corral Republicans to oppose a resolution that would further slim down his four-seat majority by expelling Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

A group of New York Republicans, led by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, is pushing this week’s privileged resolution to expel the indicted Santos, whose politically toxic fabrications have bogged down his delegation-mates in their efforts to hold onto swing districts.

Santos’ GOP critics — including fellow New York Republicans Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Nick Langworthy and Brandon Williams — are now trying to put their political distance from him on the record. This time, as they’d hoped, they may be getting help from new Republican allies.

One GOP lawmaker told Olivia of a likely vote to join New York colleagues in voting to remove Santos. This Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity, signaled a desire to help shield battleground-seat members whose reelections are threatened by the scandal-plagued Santos.

But the New York Republicans will need to get dozens of colleagues to join them in order to reach the two-thirds support needed to expel Santos from the House. And that’s a pretty steep climb – particularly since Johnson has indicated that he doesn’t support booting Santos before the New Yorker stands trial on the dozens of charges that he has pleaded not guilty to.

Santos’ trial on his latest set of federal charges isn’t set to start until September, meaning that a verdict might not come until close to the 2024 election. Given that Santos has multiple GOP opponents in a primary race that will end earlier next year, he may also face little incentive to leave Congress after that verdict comes down.

But Santos isn’t the only target in this week’s dueling House votes.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib faces censure over her stance on Israel’s drive to defeat Hamas, particularly her outspoken advocacy for ending Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. That push is being led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and must come to a vote within two days of introduction, which likely sets up a Wednesday vote. Only a simple majority of the House is needed to pass it.

Greene’s resolution argues that Tlaib’s support for a pro-ceasefire protest in a House office building, which was organized by Jewish-led groups, amounted to an “insurrection.” Although some in the party were outraged at Tlaib for her outspoken criticism of the Israeli government, the harsh language in Greene’s measure makes it unlikely that many, if any, Democrats will vote yes. Democrats will likely move to table it as soon as it comes up.

And Greene herself faces a censure vote that Democrats unleashed after she moved against Tlaib — citing the Georgia conservative’s past flirtations with antisemitic tropes and comparison of vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. The Democratic-controlled House had voted to strip Greene of her committees during the last Congress over controversial remarks and actions.

That’s not all: Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) has introduced a resolution to censure Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for pulling a fire alarm during a vote for a funding bill last month. A person familiar with the censure told POLITICO that McClain’s measure is taking the normal course through committee, but Republicans hope there is action on it soon.

Bowman has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for triggering the false alarm and agreed to pay a fine.

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Illegal Border Crossings Are at Sustained Highs, Ashley Wu, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). For the second year in a row, the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border surpassed two million, according to government data released this month.

The 2022 fiscal year set a record of 2.2 million illegal border crossings. These numbers do not include crossings at official checkpoints. Including those, migrant crossings in the 2023 fiscal year hit a record high.

Immigration is a major issue for President Biden. Republicans say his immigration policies are too weak to reduce numbers at the border. Members of his own party — like the mayors of Chicago and New York — have said their cities do not have enough resources to provide shelter and other assistance to the growing number of migrants.

Shifting U.S. policies, global migration patterns and changing migrant demographics all factor into the high levels of illegal border crossings of the past few years.

ny times logoNew York Times, From Smugglers and TikTok, Migrants Get a Message: Go to New York, Jay Root, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Many migrants entering the U.S. have been steered to the city by relatives, politicians and smugglers, in part because of its right-to-shelter policy.

Since the spring of 2022, New York City officials say more than 130,000 migrants have come through the city’s shelter system, with about half still there. The influx of migrants, which still accounts for about 600 arrivals each day, has overwhelmed the city’s capacity to care for them and, in turn, made New York and its Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, unlikely players in a national crisis.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has bused more than 20,000 migrants to New York City from his state, saying last year in an interview on Fox News that as a so-called sanctuary city, New York deserved to be “getting a taste of what we have to deal with.”

Mr. Abbott, a Republican, recently told Bloomberg News that the migrants “are given an option about anywhere they want to go,” although in practice, the state only sends migrants to six Democrat-led cities.

washington post logoWashington Post, After setback, antiabortion forces struggle before key Ohio vote, Annie Gowen, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). A constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights is on the Nov. 7 ballot in Ohio, the latest Republican state to take up the issue.

Students hoping to get others to vote “no” on an upcoming Ohio amendment to ensure abortion rights took the soft approach at a recent event at the University of Cincinnati.

ohio mapThe signs in their booth were alarmist — “Late-Term Abortion is on the Ballot” — but the young “Students for Life” advocates opted for a moderate appeal as they stopped students hurrying back and forth to class.

“We’re not voting necessarily today on whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice,” Kristin Drummond, 19, a medical science major from Kentucky, told one freshman who said she favored abortion rights. “This is about whether or not this amendment is something we should have, because it’s very extreme.”

Three months after a failed attempt by abortion opponents to make it harder to amend the state constitution, Ohioans will head to the polls again Nov. 7 to decide whether to enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution. Early voting is already underway, television ads are proliferating and millions in political money is flowing into Ohio. The amendment’s backers have outraised the antiabortion side, but together they have spent more than $40 million on television advertising and other expenses so far, campaign records show.

Abortion is currently legal in Ohio up until 22 weeks. A six-week ban was briefly in place last year before being put on hold by a judge, but not before the number of abortions dropped and patients fled to other states for care — including a 10-year-old rape victim whose case caused a national uproar.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Louisiana hometown guided by faith and family, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). While many Shreveport, La., residents hoped his new role would benefit the area, others were less confident, a reflection of the country’s ideological and racial divides.

mike johnson oIn this small town masquerading as a city, a mention of newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson during the lunchtime rush at Strawn’s Eat Shop Too (“home of the ice box pie”) drew an interruption.

“Are you talking about Mike Johnson?” said a woman in a flowered blouse, gold-cross necklace and gray ponytail. “I’m his mom.”

U.S. House logoJeanne “Jee Jee” Johnson, 69, had been sharing a “celebration lunch” Thursday with her cousin here in the central Broadmoor neighborhood, pausing to greet fellow diners as her cellphone exploded with well wishes.

Johnson saw her son’s selection in spiritual terms. “God did this,” she said. “ … It’s so good for America.”

In northwest Louisiana, people navigate their lives by family and faith. The politician raised here shares a heavy reliance on both.

Mike Johnson, 51, is a staunch conservative who championed religious causes before he was elected to the state legislature in 2015 and to Congress the following year. Although more low-profile than other Donald Trump supporters in Congress, he played a pivotal role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election and opposes abortion rights, gun control and same-sex marriage, views shared by many supporters at home.

In accepting the speakership last week, Johnson prayed on the House floor and said, “God is the one that raises up those in authority.” His wife, Kelly Lary Johnson, a pastoral counselor whose brother is a local Baptist minister, prayed for her husband for days leading up to his selection as speaker, both the new speaker and Jeanne Johnson said.

“It’s a cultural conservatism, a view not only of politics but of religion and faith,” said Royal Alexander, 56, a conservative lawyer, referring to what guides much of the community and Johnson, who he got to know after college. “People here are rugged individualists who want to make their own decisions.”

The Ark-La-Tex region in northwest Louisiana that includes Johnson’s hometown is full of historic Black and White churches, more like neighboring Arkansas, Texas and the rest of the Bible Belt than the rest of the state. It’s often overshadowed by flashier cities to the south: New Orleans and the state capital, Baton Rouge. The idea that one of its sons is now second in line to the presidency has been met with joyous surprise in many quarters. But views are mixed about whether his ascension will benefit all residents, who remain divided, like much of the country, along ideological and racial lines.

Residents call the metro area of about 760,000 Shreveport-Bossier, encompassing Shreveport — population 180,000, where Johnson was raised on the west bank of the Red River — and growing suburbs to the east in Bossier Parish, where the speaker now lives.

But there are vast distinctions between the two sides, the residue of disinvestment and white flight by families like Johnson’s.

The city proper is about 57% Black, 37% White and 3% Latino, according to the most recent census. Bossier Parish, home to about 130,000 people, is about 70% White, 24% Black, 7% Latino. Overall, Shreveport-Bossier’s median household income is about $48,600, below the national median of nearly $75,000. About 22% of Johnson’s district lives below the poverty level.

 

mike johnson 2016

ny times logoNew York Times, For Mike Johnson, Religion Is at the Forefront of Politics and Policy, Annie Karni, Ruth Graham and Steve Eder, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The new House speaker has put his faith at the center of his political career, and aligned himself with a cohort that some describe as Christian nationalism.

In the moments before he was to face a vote on becoming speaker of the House this week, Representative Mike Johnson posted a photograph on social media of the inscription carved into marble atop the chamber’s rostrum: “In God We Trust.”

His colleagues celebrated his candidacy by circulating an image of him on bended knee praying for divine guidance with other lawmakers on the House floor.

And in his first speech from the chamber as speaker, Mr. Johnson cast his ascendance to the position second in line to the presidency in religious terms, saying, “I believe God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment.”

Mr. Johnson, a mild-mannered conservative Republican from Louisiana whose elevation to the speakership on Wednesday followed weeks of chaos, is known for placing his evangelical Christianity at the center of his political life and policy positions. Now, as the most powerful Republican in Washington, he is in a position to inject it squarely into the national political discourse, where he has argued for years that it belongs.

mike johnson 2016 New York Times, The House G.O.P has its leader. But his fund-raising abilities are stirring a deep sense of uncertainty, Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The former speaker, Kevin McCarthy, was a prolific fund-raiser for his House colleagues. The new speaker, Mike Johnson, doesn’t yet have the same juice.

kevin mccarthyThe decision to oust Kevin McCarthy, right, as speaker and replace him with a little-known congressman, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has left a glaring financial gap for House Republicans headed into 2024 when the party has to defend its narrow and fragile majority.

Mr. McCarthy’s political operation brought in more than 100 times the amount of money that Mr. Johnson has collected so far in 2023 — $78 million to roughly $608,000, according to federal records and public disclosures. And in Mr. Johnson’s entire congressional career, dating to his first run in 2016, the Louisiana Republican has raised a total of $6.1 million — less than Mr. McCarthy’s average monthly take this year.

The willingness of House Republicans to trade a party rainmaker for a member who has raised less than some more junior colleagues has caused a deep sense of uncertainty at the highest levels of the conference, even as relieved lawmakers united behind Mr. Johnson to end weeks of political paralysis.

“Mike Johnson is not known to be a prolific fund-raiser. He’s raised money to meet his needs in a noncompetitive seat in Louisiana,” said Tom Reynolds, a former New York congressman and past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It remains to be seen: Can he raise money to help the members when it comes time next year?”

The decision to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker and replace him with a little-known congressman, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has left a glaring financial gap for House Republicans headed into 2024 when the party has to defend its narrow and fragile majority.

Mr. McCarthy’s political operation brought in more than 100 times the amount of money that Mr. Johnson has collected so far in 2023 — $78 million to roughly $608,000, according to federal records and public disclosures. And in Mr. Johnson’s entire congressional career, dating to his first run in 2016, the Louisiana Republican has raised a total of $6.1 million — less than Mr. McCarthy’s average monthly take this year.

The willingness of House Republicans to trade a party rainmaker for a member who has raised less than some more junior colleagues has caused a deep sense of uncertainty at the highest levels of the conference, even as relieved lawmakers united behind Mr. Johnson to end weeks of political paralysis.

“Mike Johnson is not known to be a prolific fund-raiser. He’s raised money to meet his needs in a noncompetitive seat in Louisiana,” said Tom Reynolds, a former New York congressman and past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “It remains to be seen: Can he raise money to help the members when it comes time next year?”

  • New York Times, Mike Johnson has said that his views on race were shaped by raising a Black child, Oct. 28, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Primary Battles Brew Over Progressive Democrats’ Stances on Israel, Jonathan Weisman, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Representative Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, who joined calls for a cease-fire, has become one of several progressive lawmakers facing new pressure.

As Congregation Beth Shalom in Pittsburgh observed a special evening of prayer on Oct. 22 for the Israeli captives in Gaza, Representative Summer Lee, the progressive Democrat whose district includes the synagogue, paid her respects. She was late to arrive and could not stay long, but the rabbi, Seth Adelson, called her chief of staff the next day to offer his thanks.

Then on Wednesday, to the rabbi’s dismay, Ms. Lee was one of only 10 members of the House — nine of them Democrats from the party’s left flank — to vote against a bipartisan resolution “standing with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists.”

Two days later, the Jewish community of Pittsburgh solemnly marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of 11 of its members by a white supremacist.

“I am a little disappointed that she has not been more proactive in finding the right language and forum in which to speak to and support her Jewish constituents on Israel,” Rabbi Adelson said in an interview, speaking slowly to choose his words carefully. His own son has been called to active duty in the Israel Defense Forces, and he added that the division in Ms. Lee’s district — racial, religious, ethnic — over Israel and Palestine “is not helpful.”

Perhaps nowhere in the United States is there a Jewish community more shaken by the wanton slaughter of Israelis by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 than in Pittsburgh, where the deadliest antisemitic attack in the nation’s history was perpetrated by a shooter who told police, “I just want to kill Jews.”

Those still-raw wounds could reopen as political leaders inside and outside the community exploit divisions over Israeli and Palestinian suffering — and amplify a brewing fight over Pittsburgh’s freshman representative in Congress, Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee, 35, won a heated Democratic primary in 2022 against a Jewish lawyer, Steve Irwin, who was backed by much of the Democratic establishment, and by pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Democratic Majority for Israel. Her victory was hailed as a breakthrough: She was the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.

But the newfound unity for Democrats that came with that triumph has been frayed since Hamas’s attack and with Israel’s punishing response. On Friday, in an interview as she headed to a remembrance of the attack five years before, she railed against Israeli actions that “look increasingly like a genocide of innocent Gazans, half of them children.” And she conceded: “I don’t think there’s a way to make everyone happy in politics. My job is to make everyone safe.”

“Israel is one issue; it’s an important issue to a subsection of our community,” she said. “But to pretend it’s the only issue is insulting and damaging.”

Such talk has already drawn Ms. Lee a challenger ahead of the April 23 primary: Bhavini Patel, a 29-year-old member of the borough council in suburban Edgewood, who suggested as the setting for an interview a cafe in Squirrel Hill, the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Pittsburgh where the Tree of Life shooting took place.

Ms. Patel’s biography could be her calling card: The daughter of Indian immigrants, she worked in her mother’s Gujarati food truck before becoming the first of her family to go to college. But since Hamas’s slaughter of 1,400 Israelis, Ms. Patel said she had been spending her time with the voters of Squirrel Hill, talking about a conflict half a world away.

“Something that keeps coming up in my conversations is that Congresswoman Lee continues to equivocate,” she said. “We’re responding to something that is evil — the murder, rape, kidnapping of children, men, women and grandparents. There shouldn’t be any equivocation on this.”

Ms. Patel’s could be one of many Democratic primary challenges buoyed by the confrontations between staunch defenders of Israel and lawmakers promoting Palestinian rights. In Minneapolis, Sarah Gad, a defense and civil rights lawyer, has challenged Representative Ilhan Omar, the former Somali refugee known for her clashes with Jewish colleagues.

In the northern suburbs of New York, George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, is contemplating a challenge to Representative Jamaal Bowman, who defeated the staunchly pro-Israel chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, in 2020.

And progressive organizations are girding for possible challenges to Representatives Cori Bush of Missouri, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and others, funded from the deep pockets of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.

“They spent a historic amount of money to intervene, and try and buy primaries in 2022,” said Usamah Andrabi, spokesman for Justice Democrats, the liberal insurgent group that helped elect many of the progressives now on the primary target list. “I think we will see a doubling and tripling down, because no one in the Democratic leadership is trying to stop them.”

Officially, AIPAC is neutral for now.

“There will be a time for political action, but right now our priority is building and sustaining congressional support for Israel’s fight to permanently dismantle Hamas,” said the group’s spokesman, Marshall Wittmann.

But AIPAC’s jabs have already begun. Responding to a post by Mr. Bowman extolling his “Ceasefire Now” resolution, the lobbying group called it “a transparent ploy to paint Israel as the aggressor and allow Hamas to control Gaza.” Hitting Ms. Lee, AIPAC wrote on X, “Emboldening a group that massacres Israelis and uses Palestinians as human shields will never achieve peace.”

MSNBC, Commentary: ‘Chickens coming home to roost’: Former Marine on Senator Tuberville’s military blockade, Nicolle Wallace, Nov. 1, 2023. Paul Rieckhoff, Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and NBC News Correspondent Ali Vitali join Nicolle Wallace on Deadline White House to discuss the continuing fallout on America’s military readiness as a result of Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of military appointments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Obama’s Presidential Center Is Rising, Finally, in Chicago, Mitch Smith, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The city beat out others to host Barack Obama’s presidential center. But as construction continues on the South Side, some residents fear being priced out.

More than eight years have passed since Barack Obama proclaimed that his presidential center would be built on Chicago’s South Side, where he got his start as a community organizer and politician.

The announcement brought a swell of pride to the city, which beat out Honolulu, Mr. Obama’s birthplace, and New York City, where he attended college, to land the museum honoring America’s first Black president.

Two presidents and multiple lawsuits later, the center is finally taking shape, its half-finished concrete skeleton rising along Stony Island Avenue near Lake Michigan. The planned opening? Late 2025.

Many South Siders are proud of Mr. Obama and excited about the museum, which is expected to bring investment to long-neglected blocks, employ people from the neighborhood and draw tourists to a part of Chicago that many visitors overlook. But there is also widespread angst, built up over years, that the center will drive up rents and change the essence of the city’s southern lakefront, home to many Black residents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Native American population exploded, the Census shows. Here’s why, Andrew Van Dam, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). This week, we explore one of America’s great demographic mysteries: Why did the 2020 Census show the American Indian and Alaska Native population soaring by 85 percent?

Forget about Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”: We’re pretty sure the most anticipated debut related to Native Americans this year is a much-delayed and much-less-snappily named release from the U.S. Census Bureau known as Detailed Demographic and Housing Characteristics File A.
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The report provides the most detailed data we’ve ever had on America’s racial and ethnic origins, including stunningly exhaustive data on nearly 1,200 tribes, native villages and other entities. We hoped it would shed light on one of the biggest mysteries in the 2020 Census: Why did the Native American population skyrocket by 85 percent over the past decade?

washington post logoWashington Post, The horrific crash that led California to yank Cruise’s driverless cars off the roads, Trisha Thadani, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). The whiplash from approval to ban in just two months highlights the fragmented oversight governing the fledgling industry.

Two months before Cruise’s driverless cars were yanked off the streets here for rolling over a pedestrian and dragging her about 20 feet, California regulators said they were confident in self-driving technology and gave the company permission to operate its robotaxi service around the city.
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That approval was a pivotal moment for the self-driving car industry, as it expanded one of the biggest test cases in the world for the technology. But now, following a horrendous Oct. 2 crash that critically injured a jaywalking pedestrian — and Cruise’s initial misrepresentation over what actually happened that night — officials here are rethinking whether self-driving cars are ready for the road, and experts are encouraging other states to do the same.

This Thursday, just two days after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s driverless permits, the company said it would suspend all driverless operations around the country to examine its process and earn back public trust.

“It was just a matter of time before an incident like this occurred,” San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said of the Oct. 2 crash. “And it was incredibly unfortunate that it happened, but it is not a complete surprise.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Mass Shootings, Other U.S. Gun Attacks

washington post logoWashington Post, Deadly Weapon, Divided Nation: Co-workers at a Louisville bank knew he was struggling. They didn’t expect he’d buy an AR-15, Robert Klemko, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Six months after a bank employee killed five co-workers and wounded eight others, survivors, victims’ families and his parents wonder why it was so easy for a troubled young man to get a rifle.

About a year before Connor Sturgeon gunned down his co-workers at Old National Bank in April, some close to the 25-year-old knew he was having problems.

While few details have emerged publicly about what motivated Sturgeon to kill, interviews with survivors, victims’ families and Sturgeon’s parents reveal frustration, sorrow and anger over how easy it had been for someone with apparent mental health problems to obtain a semiautomatic rifle built for mass violence. The interviews found that, six months after Sturgeon’s assault, those involved are struggling to understand why Sturgeon took aim at his co-workers and whether it could have been prevented.

Sturgeon’s personal and workplace difficulties, the extent of which have not been previously reported, point to a larger debate over whether the AR-15 and other similarly destructive weapons are too easy to get — particularly for troubled young men who gun industry critics say are often the targets of marketing campaigns built around masculinity, military imagery or sex appeal. The intersection of mental health and gun violence emerged as a flash point again after last week’s mass shootings in Maine, where the man suspected of killing 18 people had previously been hospitalized and received mental health treatment, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

 

 

robert card collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Maine Sheriff Says He Sent Statewide Alert About Gunman Last Month, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Chelsia Rose Marcius, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The sheriff said the gunman had threatened the Army base where he was assigned, prompting an alert to all law enforcement agencies in the state weeks ago.

A sheriff in Maine says he sent an alert to all law enforcement agencies in the state last month after learning that an Army reservist had made threats against his base, a notification that came weeks before the reservist fatally shot 18 people in America’s deadliest mass shooting this year.

Sheriff Joel Merry of Sagadahoc County said he sent the alert sometime in September in an effort to find the reservist, Robert R. Card II, 40, who was said to have made threats regarding the Army Reserve center in Saco, Maine. He said he sent a deputy to Mr. Card’s home but that the deputy did not find him there, prompting the sheriff to send out the notice.

The revelation is the strongest sign yet that law enforcement was aware that Mr. Card was a potential danger before he carried out a rampage at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston on Wednesday night.

“The guys, from what I know, paid due diligence to this and did attempt to locate Mr. Card and they couldn’t,” Sheriff Merry said in an interview on Saturday night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maine shooting live updates Suspect found dead of self-inflicted gunshot, Staff Report, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The body of Robert Card, the 40-year-old suspect in the country’s deadliest mass killing of the year, was found by authorities, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced at a news conference late Friday night. Card was found with an apparent self-inflicted wound, a law enforcement official told The Washington Post. In a separate statement, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect wanted for the shootings “has been located and is deceased.”

Authorities earlier on Friday evening identified and released family photos of the 18 people shot to death at a bowling alley and a bar on Wednesday night in Lewiston, a town of about 38,000. Thirteen more people were injured in the shootings. Divers and aerial crews had been searching the Androscoggin River near where Card’s vehicle was found, authorities said Friday morning, and officers had recovered his cellphone. Shelter-in-place orders were lifted for all but four communities in the state earlier on Friday, signaling a break in the case might have been close.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maine congressman reverses his opposition to assault weapons ban, Maegan Vazquez and Tom Bell, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who had enjoyed an A+ rating from gun rights advocates, said he regretted his past opposition to an assault weapons ban and said he would now support a ban.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who had enjoyed an A+ rating from gun rights advocates, said Thursday that he regretted his past opposition to an assault weapons ban and would now support one.

“The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine,” Golden said.

“To the victims and their families,” he said, “I ask for your forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.” Golden said he didn’t think a mass killing like the one in his hometown could happen in Maine, which has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation.

“I had the false confidence that our community was above this,” he added.

Last year, House Democrats narrowly passed an assault weapons ban for the first time in roughly 30 years. Golden, who represents a competitive swing district and is a member of the moderate group of Blue Dog Democrats, was one of five House Democrats who voted against the ban. The legislation was never brought to a vote in the Senate.

It’s unlikely the Republican-led House would move forward with a similar ban in this Congress.

At Thursday’s news conference alongside other officeholders, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was pressed on whether she, too, would support an assault weapons ban. She said she thinks it’s “more important” and more effective to ban “very high-capacity magazines.”

Wayne Madsen Report,  Investigative Commentary: The sinister network of fascist libertarian non-profits spreading neo-Nazism and autocratic rule around the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallglobe, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books, prolific public affairs commentator and former Navy intelligence officer, Oct. 27-29, 2023. The advancement of a congressional backbencher and Christian Dominionist to the U.S. Speaker of the House — third in the presidential line of succession; a second-round Argentine presidential candidate who is an unabashed fascist; and the alarming electoral strength in Germany of a neo-Nazi party can all be traced to a shadowy global network of non-profits groups and think tanks having one goal — the transformation of the world into a corporate-dominated fascist federation of authoritarian dictatorships.

wayne madesen report logoNot since the days of the Nationalist International (Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Nationalisten — IAdN), which from 1934 to 1941 coordinated global far-right activities from Berlin, has the world witnessed a coordinated group dedicated to the worldwide advancement of fascism.

Operating from Suite 305 at 4075 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia — amid a cluster of high-rises in the Washington, DC exurb of Ballston — the sinister Atlas Network commands a massive tranche of funds from corporate donors to ensure the election of far-right candidates and parties to positions of power.

These include individuals like Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) newly-minted as the House Speaker, firebrand fascist Javier Milei who is in a run-off with a center-leftist for president of Argentina, and the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany (AfD), which had a strong showing for seats in the legislatures of Bavaria and Hesse, Germany’s two populous and politically-powerful states. In a single month, the Atlas Network has helped move the United States, Argentina, and Germany closer to nationalist authoritarian governance.

The Atlas Network is, perhaps, the greatest threat to democracy the world has never heard of. Advocates for democracy should organize to expose this many-tentacled corporate creature.

 

A woman leaves a candle in front of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges).

 A woman leaves a candle in front of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges).

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Years After Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack, Recovery Mixes With Fresh Grief, Ruth Graham, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Tree of Life community was “universally embraced” after an antisemitic shooting. But with Israel engaged in war, some now feel alone.

It has been five years since a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 worshipers and wounding six others in the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history.

A lot can happen in a half a decade. One of the three congregations that met at Tree of Life hired its first rabbi. New nonprofit organizations sprung up to serve survivors and others affected by antisemitism and violence. Plans to reconfigure and expand the building took shape, with a celebrity architect at the helm. And in August, the gunman was convicted on an array of federal charges and sentenced to death.

For some in the Tree of Life community, however, this year’s anniversary is not arriving with the sense of healing they hoped for. Weeks after more than 1,400 people were killed in a Hamas terror attack in southern Israel, many American Jews have felt their sense of safety shattered.

Now, Israeli airstrikes are pummeling Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis in the territory is worsening, with food and water in short supply and civilian deaths mounting.

But as many Jews in the United States are grieving the civilian deaths in Israel, and worried for families and friends there, some also feel abandoned by former political allies — including many of the same people and organizations that embraced Tree of Life five years ago.

Muslim organizations raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims in the weeks after the attack; Catholic parishes organized special collections. Thousands of people attended vigils, and statements of support poured in from across the world.

“Following the shooting and the trial, we were universally held by our community,” said Michael Bernstein, the chairman of the Tree of Life center, a new nonprofit that will be housed at the site of the attack. “There was this true sense, especially as American Jews, that we belong.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

Fred Guttenberg, left, father of Parkland high school mass murder shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, approaches then-Supreme Court Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as part of the father's gun-control advocacy (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik on Sept. 4, 2018).

Fred Guttenberg, left, father of Parkland high school mass murder shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, approaches then-Supreme Court Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as part of the father’s gun-control advocacy (Associated Press photo by Andrew Harnik on Sept. 4, 2018).

 

More On Trump Court Battles, Crimes, Claims, Allies

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: Judge Cannon Makes FATAL MISTAKE, Jack Smith WILL MAKE HER PAY, Ben Meiselas, Nov. 1, 2023. MeidasTouch host Ben Meiselas reports on a new order by Judge Aileen Cannon where she completely butchers the meaning of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) and how this is something Special Counsel Jack Smith could appeal. Meiselas compares the order by Judge Cannon with Judge Tanya Chutkan’s order issued at the same time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police officers recall Jan. 6 during Colorado hearing aimed at kicking Trump off ballot, Patrick Marley, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). At a historic hearing Monday, attorneys for a group of voters argued that former president Donald Trump should not appear on Colorado ballots next year because, they contend, he fomented an insurrection and is barred by the U.S. Constitution from running again. Trump’s attorneys disputed those claims and said voters — not judges — should decide whether he deserves another term.

The first day of the hearing, which is expected to last a week, featured an exhaustive retelling of what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by a Democratic lawmaker who had to evacuate and two police officers who tried to stop the rioters. Both officers said they feared for their lives, and one described the assault on the Capitol as a “terrorist attack.”

The case is part of an interlocking set of legal challenges across the country seeking to remove Trump from the ballot under a section of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that was meant to ensure supporters of the Confederacy did not gain office after the Civil War. The efforts have divided legal scholars on whether the provision can be invoked against Trump, but most acknowledge that these challenges are unlikely to succeed.

“This was an insurrection that Trump led,” attorney Eric Olson said in his opening statement. “As we’ve seen, he summoned and organized the mob. He gave the mob a common purpose — to disrupt [Vice President] Mike Pence’s certification of the election.”

Olson, a former state solicitor general, noted Trump used the word “fight” 20 times in a speech to supporters ahead of the riot. When his backers got to the Capitol grounds, Trump deployed his Twitter account to further rile them up, Olson said. Trump assisted them by holding off on sending help to put down the riot, he argued.

Trump attorney Scott Gessler in his opening statement rejected the idea that Trump engaged in an insurrection, noting that in the same speech, Trump told his supporters to behave peacefully.

“Frankly, President Trump didn’t engage,” Gessler said. “He didn’t carry a pitchfork to the Capitol grounds. He didn’t lead a charge. He didn’t get into a fistfight with legislators. He didn’t goad President Biden into going out back and having a fight. He gave a speech in which he asked people to peacefully and patriotically go to the Capitol to protest.”

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Reinstates Gag Order on Trump in Election Case, Alan Feuer, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that her order should stay in effect while the former president’s lawyers pursue an appeal.

A federal judge reinstated a gag order on former President Donald J. Trump on Sunday that had been temporarily placed on hold nine days earlier, reimposing restrictions on what Mr. Trump can say about witnesses and prosecutors in the case in which he stands accused of seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

tanya chutkan newerIn making her decision, the judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, right, also denied a request by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to freeze the gag order for what could have been a considerably longer period, saying it can remain in effect as a federal appeals court in Washington reviews it.

Judge Chutkan’s ruling about the order was posted publicly on PACER, the federal court database, late on Sunday, but her detailed order explaining her reasoning was not immediately available because of what appeared to be a glitch in the computer system.

Justice Department log circularThe dispute about the gag order, which was initially put in place on Oct. 16 after several rounds of court filings and a hard-fought hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, has for weeks pitted two significant legal arguments against each other.

From the start, Mr. Trump’s lawyers, largely led by John F. Lauro, have argued that the order was not merely a violation of the former president’s First Amendment rights. Rather, the order “silenced” him at a critical moment: just as he has been shoring up his position as the Republican Party’s leading candidate for president in the 2024 election.

Federal prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, have countered that even though Mr. Trump is running for the country’s highest office, he does not have permission to issue public statements threatening or intimidating people involved in the election interference case, especially if those remarks might incite violence in those who read or hear them.

When she first imposed the gag order, Judge Chutkan sided with the government, acknowledging Mr. Trump’s First Amendment rights but saying that she intended to treat him like any other criminal defendant — even if he was running for president.

Mr. Trump’s constitutional rights could not permit him “to launch a pretrial smear campaign” against people involved in the case, she said, adding, “No other defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case.”

Soon after Judge Chutkan issued the gag order, Mr. Lauro began the process of appealing it. A few days later, he asked the judge to freeze the order until the appeals court made its own decision, saying that the ruling she had put in place was “breathtakingly overbroad” and “unconstitutionally vague.”

djt indicted proof

washington post logoWashington Post, Hearings begin as Trump critics attempt to kick him off ballots, Patrick Marley, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). Lawsuits in Colorado and Minnesota center on the 14th Amendment, which bars those who engage in an insurrection from running for office.

In two courtrooms 900 miles apart, judges next week will begin to weigh an unprecedented and historic question: Is former president Donald Trump eligible to run for office again given his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol?
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Starting on Monday in Denver, a week-long hearing featuring witnesses and legal scholars will explore whether Jan. 6 qualified as an insurrection, which could bar Trump from the ballot in Colorado. On Thursday, the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether an obscure part of the Constitution might keep Trump off the ballot there. In coming weeks, courts around the country might hold similar proceedings.

The legal strategy, pursued by an unusual mix of conservatives and liberals, is unlike any tried before against a candidate for president. Legal experts are deeply divided on the merit of the theory, but even its backers acknowledge they face stiff challenges.

 

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

Documents being stored at indicted former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago complex in Florida according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed on June 9, 2023 (Photo via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, The Trump Trials: Cannon Fodder, Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). What’s ahead. Judge Aileen M. Cannon, below right, is set to hold a hearing in Florida on Wednesday to discuss scheduling in Donald Trump’s classified-documents case. We will be there, looking for any signs of whether she thinks the current May 20 trial date is going to hold or be pushed back.

aileen cannonOne key issue is how much time Trump and his legal team get to review the piles of secret evidence in the case. Trump’s lawyers have accused the government of being too slow to provide access to the full catalogue of classified papers, and insist they need more time to prepare.

Under the current schedule, both sides have until Friday to file their pretrial motions — arguments for what should be allowed or not allowed at trial.

And in New York, three of Trump’s adult children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — are expected to be called as witnesses in the civil fraud trial against their father, Donald Jr. and Eric, and the family business. More on that trial below.

Now, a recap of what you may have missed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jenna Ellis Could Become a Star Witness Against Trump, Norman Eisen and Amy Lee Copeland, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). (Mr. Eisen is a co-author of a Brookings report on the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney’s Trump investigation. Ms. Copeland is a criminal defense and appellate lawyer in Savannah, Ga.),

When Jenna Ellis last week became the most recent lawyer to join in an accelerating series of guilty pleas in the Fulton County, Ga., prosecution of Donald Trump and his co-conspirators, she offered a powerful repudiation of the “Big Lie” that could potentially cut the legs out from under Donald Trump’s defense, make her a star witness for prosecutors and a potent weapon against the former president’s political ambitions.

Ms. Ellis admitted that the allegations of election fraud she peddled as an advocate for the effort to overturn the 2020 election were false. Two other plea deals, from Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, have been important, but Ms. Ellis is in a unique position to aid prosecutors in the Georgia case and possibly even the parallel federal one — as well as Mr. Trump’s opponents in the court of public opinion.

Ms. Ellis pleaded guilty to a felony count of aiding and abetting the false statements made by co-defendants (including Rudy Giuliani) to the Georgia Senate about supposed voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election. These included that “10,315 or more dead people voted” in Georgia, “at least 96,000 mail-in ballots were counted” erroneously and “2,506 felons voted illegally.”

These lies were at the cutting edge of Mr. Trump’s assault on the election. Both the state and federal criminal prosecutions allege that Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators knowingly deployed falsehoods like these in their schemes to overturn the election.

Ms. Ellis emerged from her plea hearing as a likely star witness for prosecutors, starting with the one who secured her cooperation, the Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis. Unlike Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell, in pleading guilty Ms. Ellis spoke in detail about her “responsibilities as a lawyer.” Tearing up, she talked about the due diligence that “I did not do but should have done” and her “deep remorse for those failures of mine.” The judge, a tough former prosecutor, thanked her for sharing that and noted how unusual it was for a defendant to do so.

Trials are about the evidence and the law. But they are also theater, and the jury is the audience. In this case, the jury is not the only audience — the Georgia trials will be televised, so many Americans will also be tuned in. Ms. Ellis is poised to be a potent weapon against Mr. Trump in the courtroom and on TVs.

That is bad news for her former co-defendants — above all, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump. Ms. Ellis was most closely associated with Mr. Giuliani, appearing by his side in Georgia and across the country. If her court appearance last week is any indication, she will be a compelling guide to his alleged misconduct. She will also add to what is known about it; she and Mr. Giuliani undoubtedly had many conversations that are not yet public and that will inform the jury. And because Mr. Giuliani was the senior lawyer on the case, her pointed statement that she was misled by attorneys “with many more years of experience” hits him directly.

Ms. Ellis’s likely trial testimony will also hit Mr. Trump hard. She has now effectively repudiated his claims that he won the election — an argument that is expected to be a centerpiece of his trial defense. Coming from a formerly outspoken MAGA champion, her disagreement has the potential to resonate with jurors.

It also builds on substantial other evidence against the former president, which includes voluminous witness testimony collected by the House Jan. 6 committee indicating that many advisers told him the election was not stolen — and that in private he repeatedly admitted as much.

Meidas Touch Network, Judge HITS Trump with 9 PAGES of DOOM to MUZZLE his THREATS, Michael Popok, Oct. 30, 2023. We now have the actual 9 page written order from Judge Chutkan reimposing her gag order against Donald Trump and it’s worse than we thought for Trump. Michael Popok of Legal AF explains how Judge Chutkan has not only increase the likelihood that Donald Trump will lose in his efforts to appeal her gag order, but she also used an explosive racist recent social media post example of Donald Trump to prove a point that her gag order is appropriate and easily understood by all the parties.

 

Former President Donald Trump, with defense counsel Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil fraud charges for lying about his finances on Oct. 25, 2023 (New York Times photo by Dave Sanders).

Former President Donald Trump on Oct. 25, 2023, with defense counsel Alina Habba, in New York court facing civil fraud charges for lying about his finances  (New York Times photo by Dave Sanders).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Ordered to Pay $10,000 in New Punishment for Breaking Gag Order, Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Outside Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial, the former president made comments to reporters that the judge found were an attack on a court employee.

A Manhattan judge briefly ordered Donald J. Trump to the witness stand on Wednesday after accusing him of breaking a gag order with critical comments that seemed aimed at a law clerk, and then fined him $10,000.

The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, who is presiding over Mr. Trump’s civil fraud trial, issued the punishment after finding that Mr. Trump earlier in the day had violated an order that prevents him from discussing court staff. Mr. Trump said that his comments had referred not to the clerk, whom he had previously attacked, but to his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, a witness.

From the stand, Mr. Trump, wearing a navy suit and limiting the duration of his usual monologues, said that while he had not been speaking about the clerk, Allison Greenfield, he thought she was “maybe unfair, and I think she’s very biased against me.”

Mr. Trump left the stand after about three minutes. Justice Engoron said that he had not found the former president credible and levied the fine.

The episode was remarkable and wholly unexpected: While Mr. Trump has been voluble in his own defense outside the courtroom, he had not testified in open court in more than a decade, and as soon as he did, the judge found against him. For the former president, who is expected to testify later in the civil fraud trial and has been criminally indicted four other times, it was a harsh preview of what may await.

During a break in the proceedings on Wednesday, Mr. Trump had called Justice Engoron partisan — which is allowable under the order. But he continued, saying, “with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside him. Perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

After the break, the judge said he was concerned that the overheated environment in the courtroom could result in real danger.

“I am very protective of my staff,” Justice Engoron said, adding, “I don’t want anyone to get killed.”

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, protested that the former president had been referring to Mr. Cohen, his former fixer, who was testifying for a second day. Mr. Trump did clearly refer to Mr. Cohen immediately after the initial comment, calling him a “discredited witness.”

The judge responded that the target of the comments had seemed clear to him and, after lunch, called the hearing.

Mr. Trump trotted to the witness stand and faced the courtroom for his brief questioning by the judge. Justice Engoron asked whether he had in the past referred to Ms. Greenfield as “partisan” and whether he always refers to Mr. Cohen as “Michael Cohen.” His lawyers, from the defense table, assured the judge that Mr. Trump has far more derogatory ways of referring to Mr. Cohen.

After Justice Engoron issued the fine, the trial resumed, with Mr. Trump’s lawyers prompting Mr. Cohen to admit that he had lied on past occasions. Soon, another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Clifford S. Robert, called for an immediate verdict, given Mr. Cohen’s contradictions. Justice Engoron denied the request, and Mr. Trump slid his chair back and stormed out of the courtroom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors are pushing to reinstate a gag order on former President Trump in the federal election case, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). In court filings, the special counsel’s office said the gag order was needed to keep the former president from making “harmful and prejudicial attacks” on people in the federal election case.

President Donald Trump officialFor much of this week, after a federal judge temporarily froze the gag order she imposed on him, former President Donald J. Trump has acted like a mischievous latchkey kid, making the most of his unsupervised stint.

Justice Department log circularAt least three times in the past three days, he has attacked Jack Smith, the special counsel leading his federal prosecutions, as “deranged.” Twice, he has weighed in about testimony attributed to his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who could be a witness in the federal case accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election.

Each of Mr. Trump’s comments appeared to violate the gag order put in place less than two weeks ago to limit his ability to intimidate witnesses in the case, assail prosecutors or otherwise disrupt the proceeding. And after the former president was fined $10,000 on Wednesday for flouting a similar directive imposed on him by the judge presiding over a civil trial he is facing in New York, federal prosecutors asked that he face consequences for his remarks about the election interference case as well.

On Friday, the judge who imposed the federal order, Tanya S. Chutkan, put it on hold for a week to allow the special counsel’s office and lawyers for Mr. Trump to file more papers about whether she should set it aside for an even longer period as an appeals court considers its merits.

 

Former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell in 2020 (Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell in 2020 (Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Should Have Known Better, Jesse Wegman, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). In Fulton County, Ga., three of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers — Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis — have now pleaded guilty to crimes in service of Mr. Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election and stay in the White House.

All three have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the sprawling state RICO case against Mr. Trump. Two other Trump lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and John sidney powell mugEastman, still face criminal charges in the Georgia case. They, along with Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Powell, right, have also been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the related federal prosecution of Mr. Trump, which will probably benefit from the guilty pleas in Georgia.

The charges in the plea agreements vary, but the underlying story is the same: Fifty years after Watergate, the nation is once again confronted with a president who grossly abused the powers of his office, leading to criminal prosecutions. And once again, that abuse relied heavily on the involvement of lawyers. If Mr. Trump’s 2020 racket was “a coup in search of a legal theory,” as one federal judge put it, these lawyers provided the theory, and the phony facts to back it up. In doing so, they severely tarnished their profession.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary:Trump Gets OUTMANEUVERED by Federal Judge in BRILLIANT New Order, Michael Popok, Oct. 28, 2023. Judge Chutkan presiding over the DC election criminal case against Donald Trump has called his bluff.

Trump doesn’t want an unfiltered television feed of the actual trial to go to the American people, or does he?

Michael Popok of Legal AF reports on the judge’s decision today to have Donald Trump state his position on the record as to whether he wants his trial televised for the American people to make their decision before election day, or whether he wants to continue to hide in the shadows and cowardly attack prosecutors witnesses an judges on social media and in hallway statements to right wing media. Which is it?

 

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.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jenna Ellis, Former Trump Lawyer, Pleads Guilty in Georgia Election Case, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Ms. Ellis agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progressed against the former president and 15 remaining defendants.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotJenna Ellis, right, a Trump lawyer who pleaded guilty, was closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Jenna Ellis, a pro-Trump lawyer who amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors in Georgia.

Addressing a judge in an Atlanta courtroom, she tearfully expressed regret for taking part in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

Ms. Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony. She is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case, which charged Mr. Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

georgia mapMs. Ellis agreed to be sentenced to five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. She has already written an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and she agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progresses.

Prosecutors struck plea deals last week with Kenneth Chesebro, an architect of the effort to deploy fake Trump electors in Georgia and other swing states, and Sidney Powell, an outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who spun wild conspiracy claims in the aftermath of the election.

The charges fall into several baskets. Several of the individual counts stem from false claims of election fraud that Giuliani and two other Trump lawyers made at legislative hearings in December 2020. Another batch of charges concerns a plan to vote for a false slate of pro-Trump electors. A third raft of charges accuses several Trump allies of conspiring to steal voter data and tamper with voting equipment in Coffee County, Ga.

Late last month, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman charged along with Ms. Powell with taking part in a breach of voting equipment and data at a rural Georgia county’s elections office, pleaded guilty in the case.

fulton county jail

republican elephant logoFani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., obtained an indictment of the 19 defendants in August (shown above) on racketeering and other charges, alleging that they took part in a criminal enterprise that conspired to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Ms. Ellis, unlike the other defendants who have pleaded guilty, asked the court to let her give a statement. She cried as she rose from the defense table and said, “As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously.”

djt maga hatShe said that after Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020, she believed that challenging the election results on his behalf should have been pursued in a “just and legal way.” But she said that she had relied on information provided by other lawyers, including some “with many more years of experience than I,” and failed to do her “due diligence” in checking the veracity of their claims.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, right (Photo via Superior Court of Fulton County).“If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges,” Ms. Ellis told Judge Scott McAfee, right, of Fulton County Superior Court. “I look back on this experience with deep remorse. For those failures of mine, your honor, I’ve taken responsibility already before the Colorado bar, who censured me, and I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia.”

In March, Ms. Ellis admitted in a sworn statement in Colorado, her home state, that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread voting fraud had occurred and had led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement Ms. Ellis made to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado.

Though she is still able to practice law in Colorado, the group that brought the original complaint against her, leading to the censure, said on Tuesday that new action would be coming.

“We do plan to file a new complaint in Colorado based on the guilty plea, so that the bar can assess the matter in light of her criminal conduct,” said Michael Teter, managing director of the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group.

Ms. Ellis’s new misgivings about Mr. Trump and his refusal to accept his election loss were evident before her plea on Tuesday.

Last month, on her Christian broadcasting radio show, she called Mr. Trump “a friend” and added, “I have great love and respect for him personally.” But she said on the show that she could not support him politically again, because he displayed a “malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.”

ny times logodavid french croppedNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Lawyers Are Going Down. Is He? David French, right, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Ellis, Powell and Chesebro guilty pleas represent an advance for both the state election prosecution in Georgia and the federal election prosecution in Washington. While their guilty pleas came in the Georgia case (they’re not charged in the federal prosecution, though Powell and Chesebro have been identified as unindicted co-conspirators in that case), the information they disclose could be highly relevant to Jack Smith, the special counsel investigating Trump.

Perhaps as important or even more important, the three attorneys’ admissions may prove culturally and politically helpful to those of us who are attempting to break the fever of conspiracy theories that surround the 2020 election and continue to empower Trump. At the same time, however, it’s far too soon to tell whether the prosecution has made real progress on Trump himself. The ultimate importance of the plea deals depends on the nature of the testimony from the lawyers, and we don’t yet know what they have said — or will say.

djt maga hatTo understand the potential significance of these plea agreements, it’s necessary to understand the importance of Trump’s legal team to his criminal defense. As I’ve explained in various pieces and as the former federal prosecutor Ken White explained to me when I guest-hosted Ezra Klein’s podcast, proof of criminal intent is indispensable to the criminal cases against Trump, both in Georgia and in the federal election case. While the specific intent varies depending on the charge, each key claim requires proof of conscious wrongdoing, such as an intent to lie or the intent to have false votes cast.

One potential element of Trump’s intent defense in the federal case is that he was merely following the advice of lawyers. In other words, how could he possess criminal intent when he simply did what his lawyers told him to do? He’s not the one who is expected to know election laws. They are.

According to court precedent that governs the federal case, a defendant can use advice of counsel as a defense against claims of criminal intent if he can show that he “made full disclosure of all material facts to his attorney” before he received the advice and that “he relied in good faith on the counsel’s advice that his course of conduct was legal.”

There is a price, though, for presenting an advice-of-counsel defense. The defendant waives attorney-client privilege, opening up his oral and written communications with his lawyers to scrutiny by a judge and a jury. There is no question that a swarm of MAGA lawyers surrounded Trump at each step of the process, much as a cloud of dirt surrounds the character Pigpen in the “Peanuts” cartoons, but if the lawyers have admitted to engaging in criminal conduct, then that weakens his legal defense. This was no normal legal team, and their conduct was far outside the bounds of normal legal representation.

Apart from the implications of the advice-of-counsel defense, their criminal pleas, combined with their agreements to cooperate, may grant us greater visibility into Trump’s state of mind during the effort to overturn the election. The crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege prevents a criminal defendant from shielding his communications with his lawyers when those communications were in furtherance of a criminal scheme. If Ellis, Powell or Chesebro can testify that the lawyers were operating at Trump’s direction — as opposed to Trump following their advice — then that testimony could help rebut his intent defense.

If you think it’s crystal clear that the guilty pleas are terrible news for Trump — or represent that elusive “we have him now” moment that many Trump opponents have looked for since his moral corruption became clear — then it’s important to know that there’s a contrary view. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, a respected former federal prosecutor, argued that Powell’s guilty plea, for example, was evidence that Willis’s case was “faltering” and that her RICO indictment “is a dud.”

“When prosecutors cut plea deals with cooperators early in the proceedings,” McCarthy writes, “they generally want the pleading defendants to admit guilt to the major charges in the indictment.” Powell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Ellis and Chesebro each pleaded to a single felony charge, but they received punishment similar to Powell’s. McCarthy argues that Willis allowed Powell to plead guilty to a minor infraction “because minor infractions are all she’s got.” And in a piece published Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy argued that the Ellis guilty plea is more of a sign of the “absurdity” of Willis’s RICO charge than a sign that Willis is closing in on Trump, a notion he called “wishful thinking.”

There’s another theory regarding the light sentences for the three lawyers. When Powell and Chesebro sought speedy trials, they put the prosecution under pressure. As Andrew Fleischman, a Georgia defense attorney, wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter), it was “extremely smart” to seek a quick trial. “They got the best deal,” Fleischman said, “because their lawyers picked the best strategy.”

As a general rule, when you’re evaluating complex litigation, it is best not to think in terms of legal breakthroughs (though breakthroughs can certainly occur) but in terms of legal trench warfare. Think of seizing ground from your opponent yard by yard rather than mile by mile, and the question at each stage isn’t so much who won and who lost but rather who advanced and who retreated. Willis has advanced, but it’s too soon to tell how far.

djt michael cohenPolitico, As Trump glowers, Michael Cohen takes the stand against him, Erica Orden, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Cohen,shown above left in a file photo, testified that Donald Trump directed him to “reverse engineer” the value of Trump’s assets to inflate Trump’s net worth.

politico CustomMichael Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime loyal aide turned vocal antagonist, took the witness stand Tuesday to testify against Trump in a $250 million civil fraud trial, telling the judge that the former president ordered Cohen to falsify financial documents.

In measured tones, Cohen testified that when he worked for Trump as his lawyer and fixer, Trump directed him to modify documents that represented Trump’s net worth so that they reflected the number Trump desired.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen said, “and my responsibility, along with [former Trump Organization CFO] Allen Weisselberg, predominantly, was to reverse engineer the various different asset classes, increase those assets in order to achieve the number that Mr. Trump had tasked us.”

President Donald Trump officialAs Cohen delivered that testimony, Trump, who was seated at the defense table, grew red in the face and shook his head. Trump didn’t look at Cohen as he entered the courtroom, but as Cohen spoke on the witness stand, Trump trained his eyes on him and either crossed his arms or leaned forward over the defense table.
Trump calls Michael Cohen ‘a proven liar’ ahead of testimony

Cohen didn’t look at his former boss as he testified, instead directing his attention entirely to the lawyer from the New York attorney general’s office who was questioning him.

Cohen is one of the central witnesses in Attorney General Tish James’ case against Trump, which accuses him, his adult sons and his business associates of inflating his net worth in order to obtain favorable terms from banks and insurers.

Cohen’s testimony Tuesday marks a fresh front in his efforts to take down Trump after years of defending him. That defense ended five years ago, when Cohen pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance crimes that he and federal prosecutors said Trump directed him to commit, and Cohen began speaking publicly.

djt threat graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Files More Motions to Derail Federal Jan. 6 Case, Alan Feuer, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). The former president’s lawyers made a series of arguments seeking dismissal of the federal charges that he conspired to overturn the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump officialLawyers for former President Donald J. Trump fired off a barrage of new attacks on Monday night against the federal charges accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, filing nearly 100 pages of court papers seeking to have the case thrown out before it reaches a jury.

In four separate motions to dismiss — or limit the scope of — the case, Mr. Trump’s legal team made an array of arguments on legal and constitutional grounds, some of which strained the boundaries of credulity.

The lawyers claimed, largely citing news articles, that President Biden had pressured the Justice Department to pursue a “nakedly political” selective prosecution of Mr. Trump. They asserted that prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, had failed to prove any of the three conspiracy counts brought against the former president.

Justice Department log circularAnd they argued that under the principle of double jeopardy, Mr. Trump could not be tried on the election interference charges since he had already been acquitted by the Senate on many of the same accusations during his second impeachment.

The lawyers also tried to persuade Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the case, that the allegations against Mr. Trump, accusing him of wielding lies about election fraud in a vast campaign to pressure others to help him stay in power, were based on examples of “core political speech” and were therefore protected by the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment fully protects opinions and claims on widely disputed political and historical issues,” one of the lawyers, John F. Lauro, wrote, adding, “It confers the same protection on the same statements made in advocating for government officials to act on one’s views.”

Mr. Lauro’s free speech claims, developed in a 31-page brief filed to Judge Chutkan in Federal District Court in Washington, were some of the most substantial arguments he made on Monday night, and they essentially sought to rewrite the underlying narrative of Mr. Smith’s indictment.

Takeaways From Trump’s Indictment in the 2020 Election Inquiry

  • Four charges for the former president. Former President Donald Trump was charged with four counts in connection with his widespread efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment was filed by the special counsel Jack Smith in Federal District Court in Washington. Here are some key takeaways:
  • The indictment portrayed an attack on American democracy. Smith framed his case against Trump as one that cuts to a key function of democracy: the peaceful transfer of power. By underscoring this theme, Smith cast his effort as an effort not just to hold Trump accountable but also to defend the very core of democracy.
  • Trump was placed at the center of the conspiracy charges. Smith put Trump at the heart of three conspiracies that culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to obstruct Congress’s role in ratifying the Electoral College outcome. The special counsel argued that Trump knew that his claims about a stolen election were false, a point that, if proved, could be important to convincing a jury to convict him.
  • Trump didn’t do it alone. The indictment lists six co-conspirators without naming or indicting them. Based on the descriptions provided, they match the profiles of Trump lawyers and advisers who were willing to argue increasingly outlandish conspiracy and legal theories to keep him in power. It’s unclear whether these co-conspirators will be indicted.
  • Trump’s political power remains strong. Trump may be on trial in 2024 in three or four separate criminal cases, but so far the indictments appear not to have affected his standing with Republican voters. By a large margin, he remains his party’s front-runner in the presidential primaries.

 

fulton county jailWashington Post, Here’s who else was charged in the Georgia case, Holly Bailey, Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley and Jon Swaine, Aug. 16, 2023 (print ed.). Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, John Eastman and Sidney Powell are among the 18 others, above, besides Trump who were indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jenna Ellis’s tearful guilty plea should worry Rudy Giuliani, Aaron Blake, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). For the third time in less than week, a lawyer who worked for Donald Trump has pleaded guilty in the Fulton County, Ga., election interference case. Jenna Ellis on Tuesday joined Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro in cutting a deal that will require her to testify truthfully about the other defendants, including presumably Trump himself.

djt maga hatHer centrality to the case, relative to the others, is debatable. Ellis often served more as a spokesperson than an actual practicing lawyer, though certain actions clearly involved legal strategizing and proximity to Trump. But her plea came with something the others did not: a tearful statement to the court that suggested she is prepared to cast blame up the chain. Whether and how much that includes Trump is a big question. But it would seem to be bad news for Rudy Giuliani and potentially, by extension, for Trump himself.

Ellis pleaded guilty to illegally conspiring to overturn the 2020 election loss of Trump in Georgia. Specifically, she admitted to aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony that will result in three to five years probation and other penalties. The deal cited false claims from Giuliani, her frequent traveling companion as they worked to overturn the election results, and a Trump campaign lawyer in Georgia, Ray Smith. Both were indicted alongside Trump, Ellis and the others.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Plea Deals in Georgia Trump Case, Fani Willis Is Building Momentum, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The Fulton County district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump and his allies often uses her state’s racketeering law to pressure lower-rung defendants to cooperate.

Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., had no shortage of doubters when she brought an ambitious racketeering case in August against former president Donald J. Trump and 18 of his allies. It was too broad, they said, and too complicated, with so many defendants and multiple, crisscrossing plot lines for jurors to follow.

But the power of Georgia’s racketeering statute in Ms. Willis’s hands has become apparent over the last six days. Her office is riding a wave of momentum that started with a guilty plea last Thursday from Sidney K. Powell, the pro-Trump lawyer who had promised in November 2020 to “release the kraken” by exposing election fraud, but never did.

Then, in rapid succession, came two more guilty pleas — and promises to cooperate with the prosecution and testify — from other Trump-aligned lawyers, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis. While Ms. Powell pleaded guilty only to misdemeanor charges, both Mr. Chesebro and Ms. Ellis accepted a felony charge as part of their plea agreements.

A fourth defendant, a Georgia bail bondsman named Scott Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanor charges.

With Mr. Trump and 14 of his co-defendants still facing trial in the case, the question of the moment is who else will flip, and how soon. But the victories notched thus far by Ms. Willis and her team demonstrate the extraordinary legal danger that the Georgia case poses for the former president.

And the plea deals illustrate Ms. Willis’s methodology, wielding her state’s racketeering law to pressure smaller-fry defendants to roll over, take plea deals, and apply pressure to defendants higher up the pyramids of power.

The strategy is by no means unique to Ms. Willis. “This is how it works,” said Kay L. Levine, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta, referring to large-scale racketeering and conspiracy prosecutions. “People at the lower rungs are typically offered a good deal in order to help get the big fish at the top.”

Relevant Recent Headlines

 Former President Donald Trump is shown in a police booking mug shot released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday (Photo via Fulton County Sheriff's Office).

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Retaliates Against Iran in Syria, Trying to Ward Off Attacks on Troops, Eric Schmitt and Victoria Kim, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). The Pentagon has increased resources amid fears of a widening war. The U.N. General Assembly is set to vote on a call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The United States carried out airstrikes on facilities used by Iranian forces in eastern Syria early Friday, U.S. officials said, trying to ward off more attacks on American forces in a region bracing for further escalation in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Biden administration has sent more U.S. military resources to the Middle East in an effort to deter Iran — and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — from engaging in a regional war after Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise attack into southern Israel. The U.S. strikes were in retaliation for nearly daily attacks against American forces over the past 10 days and were an escalation from targeting the militias in Iraq and Syria that Tehran helps arm, train and equip.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said that the airstrikes had been “narrowly tailored strikes in self-defense,” and “do not constitute a shift in our approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict.” Nineteen U.S. troops based in Iraq and Syria suffered traumatic brain injuries after rocket and drone attacks from Iran-backed militants last week, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

 From left, Jodie Haydon, her husband, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Biden and Jill Biden (New York Times photo by Erin Schaff on Oct. 25, 2023).

From left, Jodie Haydon, her husband, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Biden and Jill Biden (New York Times photo by Erin Schaff on Oct. 25, 2023).

 

Global Disputes, Disasters, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, China and Russia cast U.S. as agent of global instability at military forum, Meaghan Tobin, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Chinese and Russian military officials on Monday criticized the United States as an agent of global instability at a Beijing military forum, where Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, also threatened grave consequences over Western involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Russian Flag“The Western policy of steady escalation of the conflict with Russia carries the threat of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” he said, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency.

sergei shoigu.uniformedShoigu, above, made the remarks at the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, China’s annual international military summit, where the country’s second-highest-ranked military official, Zhang Youxia, also issued oblique criticisms of the United States — while leaving the way open to improve military ties with Washington.

Chinese defense minister removed after just seven months in latest purge

China Flag“Some countries deliberately create turbulence and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” said Zhang, the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, in his keynote address, referring to the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Extremist attacks escalate in Niger after coup topples American ally, Rachel Chason, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Islamist militants in Niger have significantly stepped up their attacks in the months since generals here ousted the elected president, jettisoning the counterterrorism support of French forces and throwing into doubt cooperation with the American military.

niger flagUntil the coup in late July, this West African nation had been a reliable ally of the United States and Europe — a democratic success story in a region plagued by coups, a key ally in battling Islamic extremism and a counterweight to Russia’s growing regional influence.

But the coup leaders, buoyed by a wave of anti-French sentiment sweeping France’s former West African colonies, are increasingly isolated from their onetime allies. Directing much of its vitriol at France, the new government has pressured the French ambassador to leave and asked all of France’s 1,500 troops to depart in the coming months.

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Climate, Disasters, Environment, Transportation

 

climate change photo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Offshore Wind Firm Cancels N.J. Projects, as Industry’s Prospects Dim, Stanley Reed and Tracey Tully, Nov. 1, 2023.  Denmark’s Orsted said it would be forced to write off as much as $5.5 billion as wind developers in the U.S. face wrenching financing costs.

Plans to build two wind farms off the coast of New Jersey were scrapped, the company behind them said on Wednesday, a blow to the state’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the latest shakeout in the U.S. wind industry.

The move, which will force Orsted, a Danish company, to write off as much as $5.6 billion, will crimp the Biden administration’s plans to make the wind industry a critical component of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. High inflation and soaring interest rates are making planned projects that looked like winners several years ago no longer profitable.

“The world has in many ways, from a macroeconomic and industry point of view, turned upside down,” Mads Nipper, Orsted’s chief executive, said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.

The two projects, known as Ocean Wind 1 and 2, were destined to provide green energy to New Jersey. They were strongly backed by the state’s governor, Phil Murphy, a Democrat with national ambitions who stresses his environmental credentials but who has lately drawn scorn for falling short in combating climate change. On Wednesday he suggested that Orsted was a dishonest broker and insisted that the “future of offshore wind” along the state’s 130-mile coastline remained strong.

ny times logoNew York Times, The new speaker, from Louisiana oil country, has said he does not believe burning fossil fuels is changing the climate, Lisa Friedman, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). New House Speaker Champions Fossil Fuels and Dismisses Climate Concerns. Representative Mike Johnson comes from Louisiana oil country and has said he does not believe burning fossil fuels is changing the climate.

mike johnson oRepresentative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, right, the newly elected House speaker, has questioned climate science, opposed clean energy and received more campaign contributions from oil and gas companies than from any other industry last year.

Even as other Republican lawmakers increasingly accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is dangerously heating the planet, the unanimous election of Mr. Johnson on Wednesday suggests that his views may not be out of step with the rest of his party.

Indeed, surveys show that climate science has been politicized in the United States to an extent not experienced in most other countries. A Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday found that a vast majority of Democrats polled — 85 percent — said that climate change is an extremely or very serious problem, while 47 percent of Republicans viewed climate change as not too serious or not a problem at all.

“It should concern us all that someone with such extreme views and so beholden to the fossil fuel industry has such power and influence during a time when bold action is more critical than ever,” said Ben Jealous, the executive director of the Sierra Club, an environment group.

Mr. Johnson, whose district includes Shreveport, a former oil town that has diversified over the past decade, was first elected to Congress in 2016. A former constitutional lawyer, he does not sit on committees that decide the fate of major energy issues.

But he has consistently voted against dozens of climate bills and amendments, opposing legislation that would require companies to disclose their risks from climate change and bills that would reduce leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. He has voted for measures that would cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency.

At a town hall in 2017, Mr. Johnson said: “The climate is changing, but the question is, is it being caused by natural cycles over the span of the Earth’s history? Or is it changing because we drive S.U.V.s? I don’t believe in the latter. I don’t think that’s the primary driver.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, An apocalyptic dust plume killed off the dinosaurs, study says, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Dust from the Chicxulub impact would have lingered in the atmosphere for 15 years, cooling Earth by 60 degrees and shutting down photosynthesis for two years. The mighty dinosaurs may have been done in by dust, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience.

For decades, scientists have known that a giant asteroid smashed into what is now the Yucatán Peninsula roughly 66 million years ago. Most experts agree the event triggered a mass extinction that wiped out three-quarters of all species, including almost all the dinosaurs.
Sign up for the Climate Coach newsletter and get advice for life on our changing planet, in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.

But precisely how the impact led to an apocalypse has remained unsettled, with much attention focused on the “impact winter” that occurred afterward — a period of cold, global darkness.

In 1980, scientists posited that the asteroid kicked up a big cloud of pulverized rock dust that starved plants of sunlight. But more recent investigations focused on sun-blocking soot from the initial impact and subsequent global wildfires, or on long-lived sulfur aerosols released by the cataclysm.

The question of how the sun was blocked, and for how long, has been critical to tease out because it shaped the evolution of life on the planet in fundamental ways. A prolonged period of darkness that shut down plants’ ability to turn sunlight into energy could have led to the collapse of the entire food chain. Understanding how life responded and, in some cases, outlasted such an extreme climatic event may provide insight into future extinctions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hurricane Otis death toll rises to 45; dozens still missing, Lorena Rios, Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.).  Increasingly desperate families continued to search for missing loved ones Monday as authorities raised the official death toll from Hurricane Otis along Mexico’s Pacific Coast to 45.

Forty-seven people remained missing, Guerrero state Gov. Evelyn Salgado told reporters, and about 274,000 homes in the region were damaged or destroyed when the fast-forming Category 5 storm surprised this famed resort city last week with 165-mph winds and lethal flood surges.

Rescue and recovery workers searched the debris with cadaver dogs Monday as authorities continued to assess the destruction.
Residents clean up Saturday after the storm. (David Guzmán/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Otis stunned forecasters last week when it strengthened from a tropical storm to category 5 in 12 hours, the fastest such leap recorded in the region. It made landfall early Wednesday as the strongest cyclone to hit the country’s Pacific Coast since record-keeping began.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to retire after nearly three decades in Congress, Maegan Vazquez, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has spent nearly three decades in Congress, announced Monday night that he does not plan to seek reelection next year.

“I have dedicated my career to creating livable communities where people are safe, healthy, and economically secure,” Blumenauer, 75, said in a Facebook post announcing his upcoming retirement. “This mission has guided my involvement on a wide range of issues that have been very rewarding for me and productive for our community. Now, it is time to refocus on a narrower set of priorities.”
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In a half a century of public service — roughly two-thirds of his life — Blumenauer has also served as a state legislator, county commissioner and city council member in Oregon. He was first elected to Congress in a special election in 1996 to succeed then-Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had been elected to the Senate.

Known for his signature bow ties and bike lapel pins, Blumenauer has been a policy advocate for public transportation, housing, sustainability and marijuana reforms. He currently serves as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and is the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Trade. He also founded the Congressional Bike Caucus, which advocates for safer streets and other pro-bicyclist policies.

Blumenauer’s congressional district, which includes Portland and Mount Hood, has been a Democratic stronghold and he is expected to be succeed by another Democrat.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On 2024 Presidential Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump maintains lead in Iowa poll while Haley ties for second with DeSantis, Maegan Vazquez, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump maintains a commanding lead among Republicans running for president in 2024 in the first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses, while former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley has pulled into a tie for second place with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a new poll finds.

With less than three months until the caucuses, the latest NBC News-Des Moines Register-Mediacom Iowa poll shows Trump’s lead among the crowded pack of primary candidates remains strong. Forty-three percent of likely caucus-goers pick Trump as their first-choice GOP presidential candidate. Haley and DeSantis both draw 16 percent support.

Despite Trump’s legal challenges and GOP candidates’ efforts over the last several months to set themselves as a viable alternative for the party, his support is nearly identical to his percentage in an August Iowa poll. DeSantis’s support has slipped three percentage points, and Haley’s support has grown by 10 percentage points, the poll finds.

Spurned by moderates and MAGA: How DeSantis’s coalition has deflated

In the new poll, Haley and DeSantis are followed by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) with 7 percent. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie are both at 4 percent, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is at 3 percent, and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson is at 1 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Joe Biden Knows What It Actually Means to Be President, David French, Oct. 30, 2023 (print ed.). There’s a gathering sense that President Biden’s response to the war in Gaza may cost him the 2024 election. A recent Gallup poll showed that his support among Democrats has slipped 11 points in the past month to 75 percent, the lowest of his presidency. On Friday my colleagues in the newsroom reported on a growing backlash against Biden coming from young and left-leaning voters.

Does this mean that standing with Israel could be politically fatal for Biden? I don’t think so, and to understand why, it’s important to understand the core responsibilities of an American president.

In 2012, when I was a partisan supporter of Mitt Romney, there was one message from President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign that I thought made the most succinct and persuasive case for his second term. It was delivered most memorably by then-Vice President Biden, of all people, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He said that Obama had “courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and a spine of steel,” and then Biden delivered the key line: “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”

While I believed that Romney would do a better job as president than Obama, that sentence affected me so much — not just because it happened to be true but also because it resonated with two of a president’s most vital tasks: preserving prosperity at home and security abroad. A war-weary nation longed for a clear win, and a people still recovering from the Great Recession needed economic stability. The killing of bin Laden was the greatest victory of the war on terrorism, and the preservation of General Motors, an iconic American company, resonated as a national symbol as important as or more important than the number of jobs saved.

Now fast-forward to August 2024, when Biden will speak on his own behalf in Chicago at the next Democratic convention. Will he be able to tell the American people that he did his job? Will he be able to make that claim in the face of international crises more consequential than anything either Obama or Donald Trump faced during their presidencies?

Consider what he confronts: a brutal Russian assault on a liberal democracy in Europe, the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust and an aggressive China that is gaining military strength and threatens Taiwan. That’s two hot wars and a new cold war, each against a nation or entity that forsakes any meaningful moral norms, violates international law and commits crimes against humanity.

In each conflict abroad — hot or cold — America is indispensable to the defense of democracy and basic humanity. Ukraine cannot withstand a yearslong Russian onslaught unless the United States acts as the arsenal of democracy, keeping the Ukrainian military supplied with the weapons and munitions it needs. America is Israel’s indispensable ally and close military partner. It depends on our aid and — just as important — our good will for much of its strength and security. And Taiwan is a target of opportunity for China absent the might of the United States Pacific Fleet.

And keep in mind, Biden is managing these conflicts all while trying to make sure that the nation emerges from a pandemic with inflation in retreat and its economy intact. In spite of economic growth and low unemployment numbers that make the American economy the envy of the world, Americans are still dealing with the consequences of inflation and certainly don’t feel optimistic about our economic future.

Biden is now under fire from two sides, making these challenges even more difficult. The populist, Trumpist right threatens his ability to fund Ukraine, hoping to engineer a cutoff in aid that could well lead to the greatest victory for European autocrats since Hitler and then Stalin swallowed European democracies whole in their quest for power and control.

At the same time, progressives calling for a cease-fire in Gaza threaten to hand Hamas the greatest victory of its existence. If Hamas can wound Israel so deeply and yet live to fight again, it will have accomplished what ISIS could not — commit acts of the most brutal terror and then survive as an intact organization against a military that possesses the power to crush it outright. I agree with Dennis Ross, a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East: Any outcome that leaves Hamas in control in Gaza “will doom not just Gaza but also much of the rest of the Middle East.”

And hovering, just outside the frame, is China, watching carefully and measuring our will.

I understand both the good-faith right-wing objections to Ukraine aid and the good-faith progressive calls for a cease-fire in Israel. Ukraine needs an extraordinary amount of American support for a war that has no end in sight. It’s much easier to rally the West when Ukraine is on the advance. It’s much harder to sustain American support in the face of grinding trench warfare, the kind of warfare that consumes men and material at a terrifying pace.

I also understand that it is hard to watch a large-scale bombing campaign in Gaza that kills civilians, no matter the precision of each individual strike. Much like ISIS in Mosul, Hamas has embedded itself in the civilian population. It is impossible to defeat Hamas without harming civilians, and each new civilian death is a profound tragedy, one that unfolds in front of a watching world. It’s a testament to our shared humanity that one of our first instincts when we see such violence is to say, “Please, just stop.”

This instinct is magnified when the combination of the fog of war and Hamas disinformation can cause exaggerated or even outright false claims of Israeli atrocities to race across the nation and the world before the full truth is known. The sheer scale of the Israeli response is difficult to grasp, and there is no way for decent people to see the death and destruction and not feel anguish for the plight of the innocent.

The combination of tragedy, confusion and cost is what makes leadership so difficult. A good leader can’t overreact to any given news cycle. He or she can’t overreact to any specific report from the battlefield. And a good leader certainly can’t overreact to a negative poll.

I’ve long thought that politicians’ moment-by-moment reaction to activists, to members of the media and to polls is partly responsible for the decline in trust in American politicians. What can feel responsive in the moment is evidence of instability in the aggregate. The desperate desire to win each and every news cycle leads to short-term thinking. Politicians put out fires they see on social media, or they change course in response to anger coming from activists. Activists and critics in the media see an outrage and demand an immediate response, but what the body politic really needs is a thoughtful, deliberate strategy and the resolve to see it through.

No administration is perfect. Americans should object, for example, to the slow pace of approving each new weapons system for Ukraine. But in each key theater, Biden’s policies are fundamentally sound. We should support Ukraine as long as it’s necessary to preserve Ukrainian independence from Russian assault. We should stand by Israel as it responds to mass murder, including by supporting a lawful offensive into the heart of Gaza. And we should continue to strengthen alliances in the Pacific to enhance our allies’ military capabilities and share the burden of collective defense.

And we should do these things while articulating a moral vision that sustains our actions. On Thursday, John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communication, did just that. First, in an interview on “Morning Joe,” he described the efforts to aid Gazan civilians — a humanitarian and legal imperative. He made it clear that the United States is working to preserve civilian life, as it should.

Later on Thursday, he also provided a wider moral context. Asked at a news conference about Biden’s observation that innocents will continue to die as Israel presses its attacks, Kirby responded with facts we cannot forget: “What’s harsh is the way Hamas is using people as human shields. What’s harsh is taking a couple of hundred hostages and leaving families anxious, waiting and worrying to figure out where their loved ones are. What’s harsh is dropping in on a music festival and slaughtering a bunch of young people just trying to enjoy an afternoon.”

By word and deed, the Biden administration is getting the moral equation correct. There should be greater pressure on Hamas to release hostages and relinquish control of Gaza than there should be pressure on Israel to stop its offensive. Hamas had no legal or moral right to launch its deliberate attack on Israeli civilians. It has no legal or moral right to embed itself in the civilian population to hide from Israeli attacks. Israel, by contrast, has every right to destroy Hamas in a manner consistent with the laws of war.

If Biden can persevere in the face of the chaos and confusion of war abroad and polarization at home, all while preserving a level of economic growth that is astonishing in contrast with the rest of the world, he’ll have his own story to tell in Chicago, one that should trump the adversity of any given moment or the concern generated by any given poll. If Biden can do his job, then he can take the stage in Chicago with his own simple pitch for re-election: In the face of disease, war, inflation and division, the economy thrives — and democracy is alive.

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U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats plan to subpoena wealthy benefactors of Supreme Court justices, Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Senate Democrats announced plans Monday to vote to subpoena a pair of wealthy conservatives and a judicial activist who have underwritten or organized lavish travel for some Supreme Court justices, a move that adds to the pressure on the high court to strengthen its ethics policies.

senate democrats logoSenate Judiciary Committee leaders said they would vote as soon as Nov. 9 to authorize subpoenas for information from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, a close friend and benefactor of Justice Clarence Thomas, and from Leonard Leo, the conservative judicial activist. Senate Democrats do not need the vote of any Republican on the committee to authorize the subpoenas. No separate vote by the full Senate is necessary.

Democratic lawmakers are seeking detailed information about the full extent of Crow’s gifts to Thomas. News reports about the justice’s failure over many years to report private jet travel, real estate deals and other gifts from Crow have prompted calls for the court to strengthen its ethics rules and for greater transparency about the justices’ potential conflicts and recusal decisions.

“By accepting these lavish, undisclosed gifts, the justices have enabled their wealthy benefactors and other individuals with business before the Court to gain private access to the justices while preventing public scrutiny of this conduct,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in the joint announcement. “It is imperative that we understand the full extent of how people with interests before the Court are able to use undisclosed gifts to gain private access to the justices.”

washington post logoWashington Post, This conservative appeals court’s rulings are testing the Supreme Court, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). The Supreme Court this term will review eight 5th Circuit decisions. It has sided with the Biden administration over the lower court twice in the past week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit covers just three states: Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. But it is having an outsize influence on the cases and controversies that reach the U.S. Supreme Court and testing the boundaries of the conservative legal movement’s ascendancy.
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With a dozen judges nominated by Republican presidents, and only four by Democrats, the court is the favored launchpad for right-leaning politicians and organizations seeking groundbreaking judicial decisions restricting abortion, limiting guns laws, thwarting the ambitions of the Biden administration and curtailing the power of “administrative state” federal regulatory agencies.

“A meth lab of conservative grievance,” said New York University law professor Melissa Murray, a liberal who helps anchor a podcast about the Supreme Court called “Strict Scrutiny.” A recent episode described the 5th Circuit as an “American Idol” for conservative judges hoping to be noticed for a spot someday on the high court.

That would be fine with many on the right. On Wednesday night, the conservative Heritage Foundation honored one of the 5th Circuit’s most provocative members, Judge James C. Ho, with its Defender of the Constitution award. Ho was introduced as a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas who might someday become his colleague — a suggestion that drew applause from the auditorium filled with lawyers, law students and fellow judges.

 

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shown in a file photo speaking at the McConnell Center, named for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the longtime U.S. senator from Kentucky.Clarence Thomas McConnell Center flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shown in a file photo speaking at the McConnell Center, named for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the longtime U.S. senator from Kentucky.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The case of Clarence Thomas’s motor home gets curiouser and curiouser, Ruth Marcus, right, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). On ethics, the ruth marcusSupreme Court justice has lost the benefit of the doubt. by  Is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a tax cheat? His lawyer insists not. The available evidence suggests this is a fair question.

​ “The loan was never forgiven,” attorney Elliot Berke said in a statement about a $267,000 loan from Thomas’s friend Anthony Welters that enabled the justice and his wife to buy a luxury motor home. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false. The Thomases made all payments to Mr. Welters on a regular basis until the terms of the agreement were satisfied in full.”

​This is hard to square with the information laid out in a Senate Finance Committee report on the transaction — and difficult to credit in the absence of supporting information beyond Berke’s conclusory assertion.

Thomas — with his multiple failures to disclose his wife’s employment, his receipt of free private plane travel and tuition payments made on behalf of his grandnephew — has forfeited the benefit of the doubt. If Thomas, as Berke asserts, indeed “satisfied in full” the terms of his loan agreement, then let’s see “the agreement.” Let’s see the canceled checks.

​Three cheers here for congressional oversight and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The work by the majority staff of that panel builds on an August New York Times article that outlined how the Thomases were able to purchase the motor coach with underwriting from Welters, a longtime friend from their days together as congressional aides. Welters’s help was critical because traditional lenders are reluctant to provide financing for high-end recreational vehicles.

Welters confirmed making the loan in 1999 but wouldn’t provide details about its terms (including the total dollar value or the interest rate charged) beyond asserting that “the loan was satisfied,” a fuzzy phrase that raised more questions than it answered.

The finance committee investigation filled in important blanks — and underscored the reasons for skepticism about the transaction and Thomas’s compliance with both tax law and financial disclosure rules.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Thomas’s R.V. Loan Was Forgiven, Senate Inquiry Finds, Jo Becker, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The justice failed to repay much, perhaps all, of the $267,230 loan. His benefactor wiped the slate clean, with ethical and potential tax consequences.

The terms of the private loan were as generous as they were clear: With no money down, Justice Clarence Thomas could borrow more than a quarter of a million dollars from a wealthy friend to buy a 40-foot luxury motor coach, making annual interest-only payments for five years. Only then would the principal come due.

But despite the favorable nature of the 1999 loan and a lengthy extension to make good on his obligations, Justice Thomas failed to repay a “significant portion” — or perhaps any — of the $267,230 principal, according to a new report by Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee. Nearly nine years later, after Justice Thomas had made an unclear number of the interest payments, the outstanding debt was forgiven, an outcome with ethical and potential tax consequences for the justice.

“This was, in short, a sweetheart deal” that made no logical sense from a business perspective, Michael Hamersley, a tax lawyer who has served as a congressional expert witness, told The New York Times.

The Senate inquiry was prompted by a Times investigation published in August that revealed that Justice Thomas bought his Prevost Marathon Le Mirage XL, a brand favored by touring rock bands and the super-wealthy, with financing from Anthony Welters, a longtime friend who made his fortune in the health care industry.

In a statement to The Times this summer, Mr. Welters said the loan had been “satisfied” in 2008. He declined to answer whether that meant Justice Thomas had paid off the loan in full; nor did he respond to other basic questions about the terms. But while a number of questions remain, he gave a much fuller account to the committee, which has the authority to issue subpoenas and compel testimony.

The documents he volunteered indicate that, at the very least, Justice Thomas appears to have flouted an ethics rule requiring that he include any “discharge of indebtedness” as income on required annual financial disclosure reports. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service treats debt forgiveness as income to the borrower.

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who leads the Senate Finance Committee, called on Justice Thomas to “inform the committee exactly how much loan was forgiven and whether he properly reported the loan forgiveness on his tax return and paid all taxes owed.”

Justice Thomas did not respond immediately to questions sent to him through the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman.

In recent months, amid a series of reports of ethical lapses, the Supreme Court has faced intense public pressure to adopt stricter ethics rules, with several justices publicly endorsing such a move. Much of the controversy has centered on how wealthy benefactors have bestowed an array of undisclosed gifts on Justice Thomas and his wife, Virginia Thomas: buying and renovating the home where his mother lives, helping to pay for his great-nephew’s tuition and hosting the couple on lavish vacations that included travel aboard private jets and superyachts.

Ethical Issues Inside the Supreme Court

  • Ethics Code: Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that she favored an ethics code for the Supreme Court, joining the growing chorus of justices who have publicly backed adopting such rules.
  • Koch Network Events: Justice Clarence Thomas twice attended an annual donor summit organized by the conservative political network established by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
  • Calls for an Ethics Code: In an interview at Notre Dame, Justice Elena Kagan said that the Supreme Court should adopt a code of ethics, saying that “it would be a good thing for the court to do that.”
  • Financial Disclosures: In his annual financial disclosure form, Justice Thomas responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett Calls for Supreme Court to Adopt an Ethics Code, Abbie VanSickle, Oct. 18, 2023 (print ed.). In a wide-ranging interview at the University of Minnesota, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said that ethics rules would help with public transparency.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said on Monday that she favored an ethics code for the Supreme Court, joining the growing chorus of justices who have publicly backed adopting such rules.

“It would be a good idea for us to do it, particularly so that we can communicate to the public exactly what it is that we are doing in a clearer way,” she said during a wide-ranging conversation at the University of Minnesota Law School with Robert Stein, a longtime law professor and the former chief operating officer of the American Bar Association.

Addressing a full auditorium that seats more than 2,600 people, Justice Barrett added that “all nine justices are very committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct.” But she said she could not speak for the court on a timeline, or precisely what such a code might look like.

The justices have faced intense pressure over their ethics practices in recent months after revelations that some had failed to report gifts and luxury travel. That includes Justice Clarence Thomas, who repeatedly took lavish trips with Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and conservative donor, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who flew on the private jet of Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire who frequently has had business before the court.

There was a heavy security presence at the event on Monday, held on the leafy campus in Minneapolis, including sweeps with police dogs and rows of metal barricades.

Demonstrators interrupted shortly after the conversation began. As Justice Barrett spoke, a handful of people in a balcony stood up and unfurled banners, nodding to her vote to overturn the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade and end a constitutional right to an abortion after nearly 50 years. One sign read, “Abort the court” in black letters.

Ethical Issues Inside the Supreme Court

  • Koch Network Events: Justice Clarence Thomas twice attended an annual donor summit organized by the conservative political network established by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
  • Calls for an Ethics Code: In an interview at Notre Dame, Justice Elena Kagan said that the Supreme Court should adopt a code of ethics, saying that “it would be a good thing for the court to do that.”
  • Financial Disclosures: In his annual financial disclosure form, Justice Thomas responded in detail to reports that he had failed to disclose luxury trips and a real estate transaction with a Texas billionaire.
  • Thomas’s R.V.: Justice Thomas’s recreational vehicle is a key part of his everyman persona. It’s also a $267,230 luxury motor coach that was funded by someone else’s money.

Relevant Recent Headlines

supreme court 2022 o

 

 

 

 U.S. 2024 Presidential Race

 

U.S. Supreme Court

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

ny times logoNew York Times, $23,500 in Coins to Pay a Settlement? Judge Says Keep the Change and Try Again, Amanda Holpuch, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). A Colorado judge ordered a welding company to use a check or other conventional method to pay a settlement after it tried to deliver 6,500 pounds in coins.

Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters might be legal tender but more than 6,500 pounds of loose change is not a proper form of payment, a Colorado judge ruled last week after a defendant attempted to deliver $23,500 in coins to settle a legal dispute.

The judge, Joseph Findley, of Larimer County, said that the delivery of more than three tons was done “maliciously and in bad faith,” and that the defendant, a welding company, must now pay more for its act.

The welding company, JMF Enterprises LLC, and its owner John Frank, were sued by a custom fabrication company, Fired Up Fabrication LLC, which said it worked as a subcontractor for JMF Enterprises but did not get paid in full.

The companies agreed to the settlement in mediation on July 25 but the agreement did not specify the form of payment, according to Judge Findley’s order.

Relevant Recent Headlines

 

More On Ukraine-Russian War, Russian Leadership

ny times logoNew York Times, Desperate for Air Defense, Ukraine Pushes U.S. for ‘Franken’ Weapons, Lara Jakes, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.).  The FrankenSAM program, which is now being pursued by the Pentagon, marries advanced Western weaponry with Soviet-era items in Kyiv’s stockpiles.

With winter approaching, Ukrainian officials are desperate for more air defenses to protect their power grids from Russian strikes that could plunge the country into freezing darkness.

So desperate, in fact, that they are willing to experiment with a monster of a weapons system that was the brainchild of Ukraine and is now being pursued by the Pentagon.

American officials call it the FrankenSAM program, combining advanced, Western-caliber, surface-to-air missiles with refitted Soviet-era launchers or radars that Ukrainian forces already have on hand. Two variants of these improvised air defenses — one pairing Soviet Buk launchers and American Sea Sparrow missiles, the other marrying Soviet-era radars and American Sidewinder missiles — have been tested over the past several months on military bases in the United States and are set to be delivered to Ukraine this fall, officials said.

A third, the Cold War-era Hawk missile system, was displayed on Ukraine’s battlefield this week for the first time, in an example of what Laura K. Cooper, a senior U.S. defense official, had described this month as a FrankenSAM “in terms of resurrection” — an air defense relic brought back to life.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kremlin’s Onetime Pick to Be Ukraine’s Puppet Leader Is Shot in Crimea, Marc Santora, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Moscow had planned to set up Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian businessman and former lawmaker, as head of government in Kyiv if its invasion had succeeded.

ukraine flagA Ukrainian former lawmaker whom the Kremlin had handpicked to lead a puppet administration in Kyiv, Ukraine, was shot and wounded in occupied Crimea in an apparent assassination attempt, Ukrainian and Russian officials said on Saturday.

The former lawmaker, Oleg Tsaryov, 53, a pro-Russian business executive, who participated in Moscow’s invasion, was shot as part of a “special operation” carried out this week by Ukraine’s domestic security agency, according to a senior Ukrainian intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

According to Western intelligence agencies, had the Russian invasion succeeded, the Kremlin would have installed Mr. Tsaryov as Ukraine’s leader.

The targeting of prominent Russian and pro-Russian figures has long been part of the broader Ukrainian war effort and has continued apace even as fierce battles rage across a vast front line that has moved little in the past year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia prison population plummets as convicts are sent to war, Mary Ilyushina, Oct. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Russia has freed up to 100,000 prison inmates and sent them to fight in Ukraine, according to government statistics and rights advocates — a far greater number than was previously known.

The sharp drop in the number of inmates is evidence that the Defense Ministry continued to aggressively recruit convicted criminals even after blocking access to prisoners by the Wagner mercenary group, which pioneered the campaign to trade clemency for military service.

Russian FlagThe Russian prison population, estimated at roughly 420,000 before the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, plummeted to a historic low of about 266,000, according to Deputy Justice Minister Vsevolod Vukolov, who disclosed the figure during a panel discussion earlier this month.

Russian forces are now heavily reliant on prisoners plucked from colonies with the promise of pardons, a practice initiated by the late Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who began recruiting convicts to fight in Ukraine a year ago and amassed a 50,000-strong force.

The convicts proved crucial to Wagner’s long, bloody and ultimately successful campaign to seize the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. In August, three months after claiming control of the city, Prigozhin died in a suspicious airplane explosion.

At the peak of Prigozhin’s recruitment campaign last year, he helicoptered from one Russian penal colony to another urging prisoners to atone for their crimes “with blood” and offering to make them free men. Around that time, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, stopped publishing its typically detailed statistics, shortly after data showed that the male prison population in Russia had declined by 23,000 people in just two months.

“If 10 years ago our contingent in prisons reached almost 700,000 people, now we have about 266,000 people in correctional colonies,” Vukolov said early this month, making a rare revelation at a panel on “social reintegration of prisoners in present-day conditions.”

 Relevant Recent Headlines

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and said Russia had weaponized essentials like food and energy (Reuters photo).

 

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

 

uaw logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Autoworkers Strike a Blow for Equality, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). It’s not officially over yet, but the United Auto paul krugmanWorkers appear to have won a significant victory. The union, which began rolling strikes on Sept. 15, now has tentative agreements with Ford, Stellantis (which I still think of as Chrysler) and, finally, General Motors.

All three agreements involve a roughly 25 percent wage increase over the next four and a half years, plus other significant concessions. Autoworkers are a much smaller share of the work force than they were in Detroit’s heyday, but they’re still a significant part of the economy.

Furthermore, this apparent union victory follows on significant organized-labor wins in other industries in recent months, notably a big settlement with United Parcel Service, where the Teamsters represent more than 300,000 employees.

And maybe, just maybe, union victories in 2023 will prove to be a milestone on the way back to a less unequal nation.

Some history you should know: Baby boomers like me grew up in a nation that was far less polarized economically than the one we live in today. We weren’t as much of a middle-class society as we liked to imagine, but in the 1960s we were a country in which many blue-collar workers had incomes they considered middle class, while extremes of wealth were far less than they have since become. For example, chief executives of major corporations were paid “only” 15 times as much as their average workers, compared with more than 200 times as much as their average workers now.

Most people, I suspect, believed — if they thought about it at all — that a relatively middle-class society had evolved gradually from the excesses of the Gilded Age, and that it was the natural end state of a mature market economy.

However, a revelatory 1991 paper by Claudia Goldin (who just won a richly deserved Nobel) and Robert Margo showed that a relatively equal America emerged not gradually but suddenly, with an abrupt narrowing of income differentials in the 1940s — what the authors called the Great Compression. The initial compression no doubt had a lot to do with wartime economic controls. But income gaps remained narrow for decades after these controls were lifted; overall income inequality didn’t really take off again until around 1980.

Why did a fairly flat income distribution persist? No doubt there were multiple reasons, but surely one important factor was that the combination of war and a favorable political environment led to a huge surge in unionization. Unions are a force for greater wage equality; they also help enforce the “outrage constraint” that used to limit executive compensation.

Conversely, the decline of unions, which now represent less than 7 percent of private-sector workers, must have played a role in the coming of the Second Gilded Age we live in now.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.M. and U.A.W. Said to Reach Tentative Deal; Sets Stage for Strike’s End, Neal E. Boudette, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). General Motors became the last of the three large U.S. automakers to reach a tentative agreement on a new contract with the United Automobile Workers union.

general motors logoGeneral Motors and the United Automobile Workers union reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract on Monday, according to two people familiar with the matter, setting the stage for an end to the union’s six-week wave of strikes against the three large U.S. automakers.

The agreement comes days after the union announced tentative agreements with Ford Motor and Stellantis on new contracts. The three deals contain many of the same or similar terms, including a 25 percent general wage increase for U.A.W. members as well as the possibility for cost-of-living wage adjustments if inflation flares.

The tentative agreement with G.M., the largest U.S. car company by sales, requires approval by a union council that oversees negotiations with the company, and then ratification by a majority of its 46,000 U.A.W. workers.

The union’s contracts with the three automakers expired on Sept. 15. Since then, the union has called on more than 14,000 G.M. workers to walk off the job at factories in Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas, and at 18 spare-parts warehouses across the country. The most recent escalation of the strike came on Saturday, shortly after the union reached a deal with Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. On that day, the U.A.W. told workers to go on strike at G.M.’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., that makes several sport utility vehicle models.

 

uaw logo

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. Reaches Tentative Deal With Stellantis, Following Ford, Neal E. Boudette, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). The United Automobile Workers union announced the deal with Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. It also expanded its strike against G.M.

stellantis logoThe United Automobile Workers union announced on Saturday that it had reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract with Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram.

The agreement came three days after the union and Ford Motor announced a tentative agreement on a new contract. The two deals contain many of the same or similar terms, including a 25 percent general wage increase for U.A.W. members as well as the possibility for cost-of-living wage adjustments if inflation flares.

“We have won a record-breaking contract,” the U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, said in a video posted on Facebook. “We truly believe we got every penny possible out of the company.”

Shortly after announcing the tentative agreement with Stellantis, the union expanded its strike against General Motors, calling on workers to walk off the job at the company’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. The plant makes sport utility vehicles for G.M.’s Cadillac and GMC divisions.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.A.W. and Ford Reach Tentative Contract Agreement, Neal E. Boudette and Noam Scheiber, Oct. 26, 2023 (print ed.). The deal, subject to approval by union members, could ease the way for agreements with General Motors and Stellantis to end a growing wave of walkouts.

The United Automobile Workers and Ford Motor have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract, the union announced Wednesday, ford logonearly six weeks after the union began a growing wave of walkouts against the three Detroit automakers.

The union said the deal included a roughly 25 percent pay increase over four years, cost-of-living wage adjustments, major gains on pensions and job security, and the right to strike over plant closures. It called on striking Ford workers to go back to work while the tentative agreement awaits ratification.

Politico, General Motors and Stellantis close in on deal with UAW, Holly Otterbein and Olivia Olander, Oct. 28, 2023 (print ed.). President Joe Biden spoke with UAW President Shawn Fain over the phone on Wednesday, said two people familiar with the conversation.

stellantis logoGeneral Motors and Stellantis are closing in on deals with the United Auto Workers after late-night, marathon discussions, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.

How quickly a deal might come together is uncertain, however, and the people said there was still more movement needed. And in high-stakes contract negotiations, things can quickly devolve.

But the people close to the talks — who were granted anonymity to speak about ongoing negotiations — expressed optimism. GM CEO Mary Barra in particular talked with union officials until late Thursday, said one of the people.

The development comes days after the union reached a tentative labor agreement with Ford, a major breakthrough that signaled the six-week strike could be nearing a close. That long-awaited progress came as a relief to President Joe Biden and other Democratic elected officials, some of whom have been concerned that an extended strike could do major damage to the economy as well as their 2024 election prospects.

General Motors, in response to a request for comment, said it is “working constructively with the UAW to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Stellantis said talks continue.

Biden publicly applauded the agreement with Ford, and he expressed a similar sentiment behind the scenes: He spoke with UAW President Shawn Fain over the phone on Wednesday, said two people familiar with the conversation. One of the sources said that Biden congratulated Fain.

The UAW did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration has been closely monitoring the talks, though they’ve stressed they are not intervening. White House senior adviser Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su traveled to Detroit multiple times to meet with the parties in recent weeks to aid in the bargaining process and move negotiations forward, a Labor Department spokesperson confirmed.

UAW’s national Ford council will vote on the union’s agreement with Ford on Sunday, Fain said Wednesday. If the council approves the deal, it will be made public and presented to members Sunday on Facebook Live, as well as explained to union locals, Fain said.

After that, members would vote on whether to ratify it.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Watch for as the Federal Reserve Meets This Week, Jeanna Smialek, Oct. 31, 2023. Central bankers are expected to leave interest rates steady at a 22-year high of 5.25 to 5.5 percent. Investors are looking for hints at what’s next.

federal reserve system CustomFederal Reserve officials are widely expected to leave interest rates steady at the conclusion of their two-day meeting on Wednesday. But investors and economists will watch for any hint about whether rates are likely to stay that way — or whether central bankers still think they might need to increase them again in the coming months.

Officials will release a statement announcing their policy decision at 2 p.m., followed by a news conference with Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, at 2:30 p.m. Both will offer policymakers a chance to signal what they think might come next for interest rates and the economy.

Central bankers have already raised interest rates to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent in a push to tame inflation. That rate setting is up from near-zero as recently as early 2022, and is the highest level in 22 years.

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Faced with abortion bans, doctors beg hospitals for help with key decisions, Caroline Kitchener and Dan Diamond, Oct. 29, 2023 (print ed.). Vaguely worded medical exceptions in abortion bans, and a lack of guidance on interpreting them, have led to some patients being denied care until they are critically ill.

Amelia Huntsberger pulled up a list of the top administrators at her northern Idaho hospital, anxious last fall to confirm she could treat a patient with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication.

But it was a Friday afternoon — and no one was picking up.

Huntsberger said she called six administrators before she finally got ahold of someone, her patient awaiting help a few rooms away. When she asked whether she could terminate a pregnancy under Idaho’s new abortion ban — which allows doctors to perform an abortion only if they deem it “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” — the OB/GYN said the decision was punted back to her.

“You know the laws, Amelia,” Huntsberger recalled the administrator saying. “You know what to do.”

If she made the wrong decision, the doctor knew she could face up to five years in prison.

While the more than two dozen abortion bans enacted since the fall of Roe v. Wade all include some kind of exception for the mother’s life, the laws use ambiguous language, with many permitting abortions in a “medical emergency” without offering a concrete definition of that term. Prompted by numerous prominent cases in which women became critically ill after being turned away from hospitals, the issue has spawned debate in state legislatures, several high-profile lawsuits and a standoff with Biden administration officials who say the procedure should be covered by emergency care laws.

But behind that public controversy is a little-known struggle between doctors making life-or-death decisions at great personal risk and hospital administrators navigating untested legal terrain, political pressure from antiabortion lawmakers, and fears of lost funding, a Washington Post investigation found. In staff meetings, phone calls and tense, months-long email exchanges, many doctors have repeatedly sought guidance on how to interpret the medical exceptions in their states’ abortion bans, only to be given directives from hospital officials that are as vague as the laws themselves.

“I just worry that without more guidance, our patients are in danger and providers are in a dangerous place as well,” Lindsey Finch, then an OB/GYN resident at Jackson Health System in Miami, wrote in a July 2022 email obtained by The Post. “It just does not feel safe and I am concerned.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Abortion Access Shrinks, Hospitals Fill in the Gaps, Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz, Oct. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Despite Bans, U.S. Legal Abortions Didn’t Fall in Year After ‘Dobbs.’

The first full-year census of abortion providers across the country shows significant increases in abortion in states where it’s legal.

In the year after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion, something unexpected happened: The total number of legal abortions in the United States did not fall. Instead, it appeared to increase slightly, by about 0.2 percent, according to the first full-year count of abortions provided nationwide.

This finding came despite the fact that 14 states banned all abortions, and seven imposed new limits on them. Even as those restrictions reduced the legal abortion rate to near zero in some states, there were large increases in places where abortions remained legal. Researchers said they were driven by the expansion of telemedicine for mail-order abortion pills, increased options and assistance for women who traveled, and a surge of publicity about ways to get abortions.

The response by abortion providers and activists to the end of Roe v. Wade, it seems, has resulted in more access to abortion in states where it’s still legal — not just for women traveling from states with bans but also for women living there.

Still, new bans and restrictions have had far-reaching effects. Many women, especially in the South, have turned to methods outside the U.S. medical system or carried their pregnancies to term, researchers said. These women are likely to be poor, teenagers or immigrants, and to have young children or jobs that don’t give them time off.

“I always think that should be the focal point to the story: The loss of access is profound and enormous,” said Dr. Alison Norris, a professor at Ohio State and a chair of WeCount, which gathered the data. “But it’s also a story of what happens when health systems increase access. Underlying unmet need for abortion may be being met now because of changes post-Dobbs.”

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Public Health, Pandemics, Privacy

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, FDA issues warning for 26 eyedrops due to risk of infection, blindness, Julian Mark, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). Retailers like CVS, Target and Walgreens pulled the eyedrops after federal inspectors discovered “insanitary conditions” at the manufacturing plant.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings for 26 over-the-counter eye care products because of the potential for infection that could lead to vision loss or even blindness.

The products carry the CVS Health, Rite Aid, Leader (Cardinal Health), Rugby (Cardinal Health) and Target Up&Up labels — as well as Velocity Pharma, which retailers have identified as the eye drops’ supplier. The FDA provided a list of the products on its website, and encouraged health-care professionals and consumers to report negative effects or quality problems. The agency has not received any reports about eye infections.
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The FDA has advised the manufacturer to recall the eyedrops after its inspectors discovered “insanitary conditions in the manufacturing facility,” according to a news release Friday. There were also “positive bacterial test results from environmental sampling of critical drug production areas in the facility,” the FDA added.

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U.S. Media, Art, Education, Sports

ny times logoNew York Times, Britney Spears’s Memoir Sells 1.1 Million Copies in U.S. in First Week, Julia Jacobs, Nov. 1, 2023. Britney Spears’s much-anticipated memoir, The Woman in Me, sold 1.1 million copies in all formats in the United States in its first week on sale, the book’s publisher, Gallery Books, announced on Wednesday.

britney spears woman coverThe early sales number puts Spears’s book in the ballpark of some of the best-selling celebrity memoirs in recent years. In the same time frame, Prince Harry’s memoir sold 1.6 million copies in the United States, while that of Mary Trump, former president Donald J. Trump’s niece, sold 1.4 million when it debuted in 2020.

Spears and her team took an atypical approach toward promoting the book, in which Spears recalls her rise to fame as a teenage pop sensation, followed by her years spent in a strictly controlled conservatorship. Unlike Prince Harry, who participated in a series of high-profile interviews to promote his book’s release — including appearances on “60 Minutes” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” — Spears did not do any face-to-face interviews. She instead provided People magazine with sneak-peek excerpts and emailed quotes and promoted the book online to her millions of social media followers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Local journalists arrested in small Alabama town for grand jury story, Paul Farhi, Nov. 1, 2023. Press-freedom advocates are raising the alarm that the arrests of the Atmore News’s publisher and reporter are unconstitutional.

A newspaper publisher and a reporter have been arrested for publishing an article that officials said was based on confidential grand-jury evidence — a move that press-freedom advocates are characterizing as an unconstitutional attack on the news media.

Publisher Sherry Digmon and reporter Don Fletcher of the Atmore News in southwestern Alabama were arrested last week after a story by Fletcher disclosed details of an investigation into the local school board’s payments to seven former school-system employees.

Digmon and Fletcher were charged by the Escambia County district attorney with revealing grand-jury proceedings, a felony under Alabama law. They face up to five years in jail.

While it’s illegal for a grand juror, witness or court officer to disclose grand-jury proceedings, it’s not a crime for a media outlet to publish such leaked material, provided the material was obtained by legal means, legal experts said.

Theodore J. Boutrous, an attorney who has represented media organizations, called the Alabama case “extraordinary, outrageous and flatly unconstitutional.”

He said the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment forbids punishing journalists for publishing information of public importance, even if the information came from a source who broke the law in leaking it. “And that applies to grand-jury information,” he said.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said the Atmore arrests follow a number of other recent cases in which local prosecutors have used warrants, threats and criminal proceedings to harass or pressure journalists.

Such prosecutions can be costly, especially for small news organizations, she said. They also serve as “a dead crow on a fence,” a warning to would-be leakers and other journalists that they will face legal jeopardy if they disclose secret or sensitive information or pursue aggressive investigations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jake Sherman and the bottomless appetite for news and drama on the Hill, Jesús Rodríguez, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). He’s feeding Official Washington’s bottomless appetite for fresh intel, hot drama and chewy news nuggets from Congress. What does it all amount to?

washington post logoWashington Post, The Creator Economy: Young people are turning to creators over traditional media for news, Taylor Lorenz, Nov. 1, 2023 (print ed.). A recent report found that while the audience for traditional news outlets is shrinking, the online audience for independent news sources is growing.

News consumption hit a tipping point around the globe during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people turning to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram than to websites maintained by traditional news outlets, according to the latest Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. One in 5 adults under 24 use TikTok as a source for news, the report said, up five percentage points from last year. According to Britain’s Office of Communications, young adults in the United Kingdom now spend more time watching TikTok than broadcast television.

ny times logoNew York Times, Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous Parentage Is Questioned, Christopher Kuo, Oct. 31, 2023 (print ed.). An investigation by the CBC disputed a key part of Sainte-Marie’s story, saying that a birth certificate shows she was born to a white family in Massachusetts.

The parentage of Buffy Sainte-Marie, a folk singer known for her activism on behalf of Indigenous people, was questioned after CBC News reported that it had found a birth certificate indicating that she was born to white parents in Massachusetts, and not on a Piapot Cree reservation in Canada.

Sainte-Marie, considered the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar, has said for decades that she was born to an Indigenous mother before being adopted first by a white couple near Boston and then, as an adult, by the Piapot First Nation. The CBC investigation, which was published on Friday, pointed to documentation, including Sainte-Marie’s birth certificate and marriage certificate, to show she was born in Stoneham, Mass., as Beverly Jean Santamaria.

Sainte-Marie did not speak to the CBC, but in video and written statements, she said the woman she called her “growing-up Mom” had told her that she was adopted and was Native. In both a 2018 biography and the statements, Sainte-Marie also says she was told she may have been born “on the wrong side of the blanket,” referring to an affair.

“I don’t know where I’m from or who my birth parents were, and I will never know,” Sainte-Marie, 82, said in the written statement. “Which is why to be questioned in this way today is painful, both for me, and for my two families I love so dearly.”

Sainte-Marie, whose songs include “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone,” “Universal Soldier” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” won an Oscar in 1983 for “Up Where We Belong,” a song from the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.” “I wanted to write songs that would last for generations,” she told The New York Times last year.

News of the investigation was particularly surprising to Canadians because Sainte-Marie is such a well-known figure, said Kimberly Tallbear-Dauphine, a professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta who was quoted in the CBC article.

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1 thought on “Nov. 2023 News”

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