Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Reader with a yellow book, Henri Manguin

Reader with a yellow book, Henri Manguin

There’s still no word on the crazy judge in Texas who could block access to the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide. Reuters has a good article summarizing the yesterday’s hearing.

Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson at Reuters: Judge mulls banning abortion pill in US, questions regulatory approval.

AMARILLO, Texas, March 15 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday questioned lawyers for President Joe Biden’s administration on whether the federal regulatory approval given to the abortion pill mifepristone 22 years ago was proper as he considered a request by anti-abortion groups to ban sales of the drug nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk during a hearing in Amarillo also pressed the groups, led by the Texas-based Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, to explain how he could reverse approval of a long-established drug.

The judge raised the possibility of a more limited ruling, keeping the drug on the market but re-imposing some restrictions lifted by Biden’s administration, including requiring it to be dispensed in person rather than by mail. Kacsmaryk, appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, said he would rule “as soon as possible.”

It is shaping up as the most consequential abortion case since the U.S. Supreme Court, powered by its conservative majority, last year overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had recognized a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The anti-abortion groups sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November, contending the agency used an improper process when it approved mifepristone in 2000 and did not adequately consider the drug’s safety when used by girls under age 18.

The plaintiffs are asking Kacsmaryk for a preliminary order halting sales of mifepristone nationwide – even in states where abortion is legal – while their lawsuit proceeds.

On yesterday’s arguments:

Erik Baptist, a lawyer with the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom representing the plaintiffs, said the scope of the judge’s ruling should be “universal and nationwide.”

Woman Reading, by Albert Reuss

Woman Reading, Albert Reuss, 1889-1975

The judge questioned lawyers for Biden’s administration on how the FDA accelerated its approval for mifepristone under a process typically used for drugs to treat HIV infection and other life-threatening illnesses. The administration has said that the drug’s approval was well supported by science, and that the challenge comes much too late.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department and an attorney for mifepristone’s manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, argued that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case, and said mifepristone has an impressive safety and efficacy record.

“An injunction here would upend the status quo. An injunction would cause significant public harm,” Justice Department attorney Julie Straus Harris told the judge.

Harris also argued that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would undercut trust in the FDA, the agency charged with signing off on the safety of food products and drugs in the United States. Harris said such a ruling would also increase the burden on surgical abortion clinics, already overcrowded as they admit patients from states where clinics have closed in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision.

Read the rest at Reuters

Some breaking news on that U.S. drone that collided with a Russian fighter plane:

NPR: The U.S. military releases footage of Black Sea drone crash with Russian jet.

The U.S. European Command has declassified footage showing the moments when two Russian fighter jets flew very close to a U.S. drone over the Black Sea, dumping fuel on it — and, the Pentagon says, eventually flying into the drone. The video footage appears to show the U.S. craft was damaged by a collision.

The release of the video comes two days after the Pentagon said a Russian Su-27 fighter clipped the propeller of an uncrewed MQ-9 Reaper drone that was operating in international airspace, forcing it down into the water. The Kremlin says its jets did not make contact with the drone.

The footage gives brief glimpses of the encounter, which U.S. officials say lasted for at least a half hour. The Pentagon says the video depicts events in the order they happened, although it was edited to condense the action.

In the 42-second video, a Russian Su-27 aircraft is seen approaching from the drone’s rear quarter, releasing a plume of fuel as it pulls upward and over the drone, causing the footage to partially pixelate. The camera recovers as the fighter jet pulls away, showing the drone’s rear-mounted propeller in normal working condition.

The footage then shows what the Pentagon says is an “even closer” pass from a Russian jet.

Approaching from what looks to be a lower angle, the Su-27 releases more fuel and its fuselage is seen coming extremely close to the drone before the video cuts out entirely. The Pentagon says the camera feed was lost for around 60 seconds.

When the feed returns, the camera, which is mounted beneath the MQ-9, pivots to show the drone’s propeller has been partially mangled.

Shortly afterward, the aircraft crashed into the Black Sea off the southern coast of Ukraine — a country that the U.S. and dozens of other countries are supporting in its war against Russia. The U.S. has been monitoring movements by Russian troops and warships in the area.

The U.S. European Command described the encounter as “an unsafe and unprofessional intercept.”

There’s more at the link.

More from Courtney Cube and Carol Lee at NBC News: Russian leadership approved aggressive actions of jets that damaged U.S. drone, U.S. officials say.

Three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence said the highest levels of the Kremlin approved the aggressive actions of Russian military fighter jets against a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday.

The Russian jets dropped jet fuel on the MQ-9 Reaper, an unprecedented action, and two of the officials said the intelligence suggests the intent seemed to be to throw the drone off course or disable its surveillance capabilities.

Lucie Belin Smiling (1915). by Jean-Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940).

Lucie Belin Smiling (1915). by Jean-Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868-1940).

It was “Russian leadership’s intention to be aggressive in the intercept,” said one of the officials.

One official said he had not gotten indications that the signoff went all the way up to Putin. Other officials declined to provide specifics beyond “highest levels.”

The Russian jet actually clipping the propeller of the drone — which the U.S. says occurred and Russia denies — was likely not intentional, said the officials, who believe it was pilot error, based on U.S. video of the incident.

Three defense officials and one Biden administration official also said the Russians have already reached the area where the MQ-9 Reaper crashed. The Russians are actively looking for the debris with ships and aircraft, but the U.S. hasn’t seen any indication that they’ve been able to recover any of it, officials said. One official said much of the debris sank into the Black Sea.

The U.S. is unlikely to try to recover the remnants of the crashed drone, according to the three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference on Wednesday that there’s probably not a lot of debris to recover and noted the part of the Black Sea where the drone landed is as much as 5,000-feet deep.

News on the Georgia election interference case:

If you watched TV last night, you probably heard about this story by Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but it’s well worth reading the whole article; I can only excerpt a small part of it. The article is a detailed description of what happened in the grand jury, based on interviews with several jurors: EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes of Trump grand jury; jurors hear 3rd leaked Trump call.

A number of the jurors criticized Emily Khors, the jury foreperson, who previously spoke to media outlets.

Several jurors said they decided to speak out for the first time in responseto criticism leveled at the probe after Kohrs spoke to multiple media outlets last month. Some detractors, including Trump’s Georgia-based legal team, said that Kohrs’ remarks showcased an unprofessional, politically tainted criminal investigation.

The jurors, who stressed their aim was not to drag down Kohrs, underscored that they understood the gravity of their assignment and took care to be active participants and attend as many sessions as possible. They said the investigation was somber and thorough.

“I just felt like we, as a group, were portrayed as not serious,” one of the jurors said. “That really bothered me because that’s not how I felt. I took it very seriously. I showed up, did what I was supposed to do, did not do what I was asked not to do, you know?” [….]

They also divulged details from the investigation that had yet to become public.

Piero di Cosimo, 1462-1522; Magdalen Reading

Piero di Cosimo, 1462-1522, Magdalen Reading

One was that they had heard a recording of a phone call Trump placed to late Georgia House Speaker David Ralstonin which the president asked the fellow Republican to convene a special session of the Legislature to overturn Democrat JoeBiden’s narrow victory in Georgia.

One juror said Ralston proved to be “an amazing politician.”

The speaker “basically cut the president off. He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ … He just basically took the wind out of the sails,” the juror said. “‘Well, thank you,’ you know, is all the president could say.”

Ralston and other legislative leaders did not call a special session. A former Ralston aide declined to comment for this story, and a Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

There was a tidbit about Lindsey Graham’s testimony:

One grand juror recalled U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s testimony about Trump’s state of mind in the months after the 2020 election.

“He said that during that time, if somebody had told Trump that aliens came down and stole Trump ballots, that Trump would’ve believed it,” the juror said.

Just one more excerpt:

The group said they had no idea what Willis planned to do in response to their recommendations. But many described an increased regard for the elections system and the people who run it.

“I can honestly give a damn of whoever goes to jail, you know, like personally,” one juror said. “I care more about there being more respect in the system for the work that people do to make sure elections are free and fair.”

Said another juror: “I tell my wife if every person in America knew every single word of information we knew, this country would not be divided as it is right now.”

The grand jurors said they understand why the public release of their full final report needs to wait until Willis makes indictment decisions.

“A lot’s gonna come out sooner or later,” one of the jurors said. “And it’s gonna be massive. It’s gonna be massive.”

Read much more at the link if you’re interested.

January 6 investigation news:

Zoe Tillman at Bloomberg News: DOJ Told Court to Expect a Deluge of New Jan. 6 Prosecutions.

More than 1,000 additional people could still face charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, according to a letter to the DC federal court from the US attorney in Washington.

The one-page letter, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, was sent late last year to the chief judge and hasn’t been previously reported. It offers details on what Attorney General Merrick Garland has called “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.”


berthe Morisot, Reading, 1873

The Oct. 28 letter from US Attorney Matthew Graves to Chief Judge Beryl Howell, which came as the department neared its 900th arrest, estimated an additional 700 to 1,200 defendants. That could roughly double the number of cases filed so far – with this month marking the 1,000th arrest, according to statistics from the US attorney’s office.

The more than 1,000 people already charged have clogged the court’s docket over the past two years. And prosecutors continue to bring new cases as Special Counsel Jack Smith pursues a separate probe into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to undermine the 2020 election results.

Graves warned Howell in the letter that it was “incredibly difficult” to predict future cases given the “nature and the complexity of the investigation.” He wrote that he didn’t know how many of the new cases would involve misdemeanor versus felony charges, but he expected a higher percentage of felonies.

“We expect the pace of bringing new cases will increase, in an orderly fashion, over the course of the next few months,” Graves wrote.

Judge Beryl Howell is stepping down as the top judge in DC. At CNN, Katelyn Polantz and Courtney Sneed report on her replacement: There’s a new chief judge in DC who could help determine the fate of Donald Trump.

A new chief judge in the federal courthouse in Washington, DC, is poised to take over as that position has become one of the most influential in the nation’s capital, playing a key role in deciding issues that could factor into whether former President Donald Trump is indicted.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has served in that role since 2016, has repeatedly green-lit Justice Department requests to pursue information about Trump’s actions, from his top advisers and lawyers and even inside the White House. She’ll be succeeded by James “Jeb” Boasberg, a fellow Barack Obama appointee and one-time Brett Kavanaugh law school roommate who’s well-known in Washington.

While presiding over the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2020 and 2021, Boasberg encouraged the declassification of information so that the public could read proceedings related to the FBI’s probe into possible collusion between Trump and Russia.

If the Justice Department were to indict Trump, the case would be randomly assigned to one of the district court’s judges, meaning the chief could handle the case but may not. Still, the chief judge has unusual sway over the pace and scope of investigations as the Justice Department attempts to enforce its grand jury subpoenas, obtain warrants and access evidence it has collected by arguing to the chief judge in sealed proceedings.

“This court would be ready,” Howell said in a recent interview with CNN, when asked about the historic possibility of a Trump indictment. She added any judge on that court “would do it justice.”

Howell, who steps down from the position on Friday, may conclude her tenure by issuing decisions in sealed cases related to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigations into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified material at Mar-a-Lago. Already, she granted Kash Patel – a former administration official – immunity for testimony he provided the grand jury investigation. She also held off a Justice Department request to place Trump in contempt for his alleged failure to turn over subpoenaed classified documents.

Read more at CNN.

Ron DeSantis is getting plenty of media attention as he builds up to a presidential run.

Axios fired a reporter after attacks from the DeSantis administration. The Washington Post: Fla. reporter fired after calling news release on DeSantis event ‘propaganda’

An Axios reporter in Tampasaid he was fired this week after he responded to a Florida Department of Education email about an event featuring Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), calling the news release “propaganda.”

Ben Montgomery said he received a call on Monday evening from Jamie Stockwell, executive editor of Axios Local, who asked Montgomery to confirm he sent the email before saying the reporter’s “reputation in the Tampa Bay area” had been “irreparably tarnished.”

Leer para vivir, by Lucy McGowan Diecks (1907-1998)

Leer para vivir, by Lucy McGowan Diecks (1907-1998)

The news release sent Monday afternoon said DeSantis, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, had hosted a roundtable “exposing the diversity equity and inclusion scam in higher education.” It also called for prohibiting state funds from being used to support DEI efforts.

“We will expose the scams they are trying to push onto students across the country,” DeSantis said in the statement.

Montgomery, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, replied to the email three minutes after getting it. “This is propaganda, not a press release,” he wrote to the Department of Education press office.

About an hour after that, the Education Department’s communication officer, Alex Lanfranconi, shared Montgomery’s reply on Twitter, where it has since been viewed more than 1 million times.

Montgomery said the news release had “no substance,” adding that he “read the whole thing and it was just a series of quotes about how bad DEI was.”

Axios editor in chief Sara Kehaulani Goo confirmed Montgomery is no longer employed by Axios, but declined to comment further.

Just one more reason to dislike Axios beside their ridiculous bullet-point story style.

Sarah Mervosh at The New York Times: Florida Scoured Math Textbooks for ‘Prohibited Topics.’ Next Up: Social Studies.

…[I]n Florida, textbooks have become hot politics, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign against what he describes as “woke indoctrination” in public schools, particularly when it comes to race and gender. Last year, his administration made a splash when it rejected dozens of math textbooks, citing “prohibited topics.”

Now, the state is reviewing curriculum in what is perhaps the most contentious subject in education: social studies.

In the last few months, as part of the review process, a small army of state experts, teachers, parents and political activists have combed thousands of pages of text — not only evaluating academic content, but also flagging anything that could hint, for instance, at critical race theory.

A prominent conservative education group, whose members volunteered to review textbooks, objected to a slew of them, accusing publishers of “promoting their bias.” At least two publishers declined to participate altogether.

And in a sign of how fraught the political landscape has become, one publisher created multiple versions of its social studies material, softening or eliminating references to race — even in the story of Rosa Parks — as it sought to gain approval in Florida….

It is unclear which social studies textbooks will be approved in Florida, or how the chosen materials might address issues of race in history. The state is expected to announce its textbook decisions in the coming weeks.

Emphasis added.

Lex Veen (Netherlands)One more from The Daily Beast: The GOP Campaign Trail Is Already Getting DeSantis-Proofed.

At any given fundraiser or VIP room where he’s present, Ron DeSantis is usually easy to find—in the corner, keeping to himself.

Despite having a job that entails exchanging small talk and pleasantries on a daily basis, the Florida governor tends to brush off those obligations and struggles with basic social skills, according to a source close to DeSantis, several of his former staffers, and other GOP operatives who have worked with him and his team.

As DeSantis gears up for a potential White House run in 2024, his aloof public persona is being thought of by his rivals—namely, former President Donald Trump—as his Achilles heel in the retail politics-heavy early primary states.

And even though he hasn’t announced a bid yet, DeSantis’ apparent desire to test the waters of a presidential campaign—while barely dipping a toe into the aspects he recoils from—is already being put to the test.

During his donor retreat in Palm Beach in late February, an attendee stood up and called him “DeSatan,” according to Republicans familiar with the outburst.

At his recent book tour stop in Davenport, Iowa, a volunteer English teacher and seasoned caucus enthusiast posed for a photo alongside the governor with the term “fascist” carved out within her design of a paper snowflake.

The governor’s aversion to pressing the flesh, and his concern over the risk of unexpected interactions with the public, is already so well-known that early primary state players are working to DeSantis-proof their events in order to attract the flinty would-be candidate and his tight-knit team.

The problem is, hosts often have no idea what the DeSantis team wants.

“Easily the least responsive campaign I’ve ever dealt with,” one veteran event host in an early primary state told The Daily Beast, requesting anonymity to avoid alienating the Florida governor.

There has been a lot of reporting on DeSantis’ nasty personality and lack of charisma. I hope it will keep him from the nomination.

That’s it for me today. I’m really late because I had quite a struggle with WordPress. I ended up having to completely redo the formatting–had to hunt down all the article links and redo the indentations. I hope I did it right.

10 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice Thursday, everyone!!

    • quixote says:

      wp can be a nightmare.

      Great post!

    • Enheduanna says:

      Excellent post BB!

      I can attest to the fact that a stint on a grand jury will open your eyes. My experience was basically rubber-stamping indictments the Cobb County DA wanted to bring, but aside from that, they gave us a first-hand civics course, complete with field trips to the jailhouse and more. Not surprised Fulton County educated their jurors at all.

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. djmm says:

    Great post and excellent artwork!

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