The movement inspired by the murder of George Floyd has inspired more than the Black Lives Matter protests. People are toppling statues now, and not just the ones of confederate traitors.
Someone beheaded the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End yesterday. (The North End used to be Boston’s “little Italy.”) WBZ (CBS) Boston: Beheaded Christopher Columbus Statue In Boston Will Be Removed From North End Park.
The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End will be removed after it was beheaded early Wednesday morning. Mayor Marty Walsh said it will be put in storage and there will now be conversations about the “historic meaning” of the incident and whether it will ever go back up.
The statue in Christopher Columbus Park on Atlantic Avenue was surrounded by crime scene tape as the head lay on the ground next to the base.
Now, as police investigate how it happened, local indigenous groups are calling on the mayor to remove the statue for good.
“It’s a park dedicated to white supremacy,” said Mahtowin Munro of the United American Indians of New England. “It’s a park dedicated to indigenous genocide.” [….]
The head was also cut off back in 2006. The statue was doused with red paint in June 2015 with the words “Black Lives Matter” spray-painted on the base.
Another statue of Columbus was taken down at Minnesota’s state capitol in St. Paul. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Protesters topple Columbus statue on Minnesota Capitol grounds.
Protesters lassoed a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon and pulled it to the ground, saying their action was a step toward healing for Indian communities.
Dozens of people gathered by the statue on the grounds outside the Capitol before pulling it down. American Indian Movement activist Mike Forcia talked to a State Patrol captain sent to the scene to encourage protesters to follow a legal process for removing the statue, which has stood on the Capitol grounds since 1931. Forcia said they had tried that route many times and it had not worked.
The protesters then looped a rope around the statue and quickly pulled it off the stone pedestal and to the ground. The patrol officer watched from a distance as protesters sang and took photos with the statue for about half an hour.
State officials said they had been warned about the action via social media. It was mentioned at a news conference an hour and a half earlier with Gov. Tim Walz. Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said then that the patrol would meet the protesters and seek an alternative resolution.
Two other stories of note on the topic of racism and Black Lives Matter protests:
Associated Press: Pope sends strong message to US Catholics after Floyd death.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis called George Floyd by name, twice, and offered support to an American bishop who knelt in prayer during a Black Lives Matter protest.
Cardinals black and white have spoken out about Floyd’s death, and the Vatican’s communications juggernaut has shifted into overdrive to draw attention to the cause he now represents.
Under normal circumstances, Floyd’s killing at the hands of a white police officer and the global protests denouncing racism and police brutality might have drawn a muted diplomatic response from the Holy See. But in a U.S. election year, the intensity and consistency of the Vatican’s reaction suggests that, from the pope on down, it is seeking to encourage anti-racism protesters while making a clear statement about where American Catholics should stand ahead of President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in November….
Last week, Francis denounced the “sin of racism” and twice identified Floyd as the victim of a “tragic” killing. In a message read in Italian and English during his general audience, Francis expressed concerns about violence during the protests, saying it was self-destructive.
Read more at the link.
Kennedy Mitchum wasn’t expecting much when she emailed Merriam-Webster last month, but she wanted to let the dictionary publisher know that she thought its definition of the word racism was inadequate.
So she was surprised when an editor responded and even more surprised that the company agreed to update the entry.
Mitchum has gotten into a lot conversations about racism and injustice where people have pointed to the dictionary to prove that they’re not racist. It’s happened a lot more lately as the world reacts to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers….
“I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.”
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” [….]
Mitchum said she sent her email on a Thursday night and got a reply from editor Alex Chambers the next morning.
After a few emails, Chambers agreed that the entry should be updated and said a new definition is being drafted.
“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem,” Chambers said in the email, which was provided to CNN. “We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner.”
Meanwhile, a backlash against Trump and his pet AG Bill Barr is building over the violent clearing of Lafayette Square to facilitation Trump’s ludicrous Bible photo op last week.
Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: ‘An abuse of power’: alarm grows over top Trump lieutenant’s military masquerade.
…[T]he top law enforcement official in the country, the attorney general, William Barr, is facing an internal crisis of confidence and growing calls for his own resignation.
Barr stands accused of directing violence against peaceful demonstrators outside the White House earlier this month, and with peddling a conspiracy theory advanced by Donald Trump in an attempt to smear protesters, who enjoy wide public support.
In the first 16 months of his tenure, Barr caught criticism for compromising justice department independence with his seemingly lockstep defense of Trump, whether he was protecting the president from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller or intervening in criminal cases against the former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
But Barr’s critics now fear that he has taken a new step, of trying on a military hat as the president’s top lieutenant in the antagonistic posture the White House has taken against street protests that have sprung up after the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis by white police officers.
A bit more:
The attorney general’s denial at the weekend that systemic racism was a problem in US law enforcement prompted new calls for his resignation.
“I think there’s racism in the United States still, but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr told CBS News’ Face the Nation. “And I would say, you know, the president, before any of this happened, was out in front on this issue.”
On no planet has Trump been “out in front” in the campaign against racist policing, said Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions, a Twin Cities-based activist organization.
“William Barr is a white man who is serving a racist administration, so of course he’s going to deny the fact that the current law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Montgomery said.
More than 1,250 former Justice Department workers on Wednesday called on the agency’s internal watchdog to investigate Attorney General William P. Barr’s involvement in law enforcement’s move last week to push a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators back from Lafayette Square using horses and gas.
In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the group said it was “deeply concerned about the Department’s actions, and those of Attorney General William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history.”
“In particular, we are disturbed by Attorney General Barr’s possible role in ordering law enforcement personnel to suppress a peaceful domestic protest in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, for the purpose of enabling President Trump to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John’s Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated,” the group wrote.
The group asked Horowitz to “immediately open and conduct an investigation of the full scope of the Attorney General’s and the DOJ’s role” in that and other events.
“The rule of law, the maintenance of the Department’s integrity, and the very safety of our citizens demand nothing less,” the group wrote.
Barr was also publicly excoriated by former Judge John Gleeson for his attempt to drop charges against Michael Flynn. Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: A retired judge’s sharp rebuke of William Barr confirms the worst.
Back in May, long after Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in their investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — which got him fired as national security adviser after 24 days on the job — Barr took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the case against him before he could be sentenced. In response, the judge in the case asked a respected retired judge to make a recommendation about how this highly unusual situation should be handled.
That retired judge, John Gleeson, not only recommended that Flynn be sentenced as planned but issued a scathing report condemning the Justice Department’s actions in the case:
In his argument, Gleeson said the government’s “ostensible grounds” for seeking dismissal were “conclusively disproven” by its own earlier briefs; contradict the court’s prior orders and Justice Department positions taken in other cases; and “are riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact.”
A former federal prosecutor and judge for 22 years in Brooklyn — best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti behind bars and presiding over the trial of “Wolf of Wall Street” stockbroker Jordan Belfort — Gleeson wrote that judges are empowered to protect their court’s integrity “from prosecutors who undertake corrupt, politically motivated dismissals. That is what has happened here. The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President.”
Not only that, Gleeson stated that “Flynn has indeed committed perjury in these proceedings, for which he deserves punishment,” but recommended that instead of a separate prosecution, Flynn’s misdeeds should be taken into account when he is sentenced for the crime he pleaded guilty to.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Of course there is much more news out there. I’ll add some links in the comment thread and I hope you will too.
I spent yesterday in my cozy apartment with uninterrupted electricity, TV, and internet; but outside my refuge, the Boston area was hit by a massive storm. Some parts of Massachusetts had 90 mph wind gusts, and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph will continue through the day today. Today’s noon high tide is still likely to be dangerous.
The Boston Globe has a collection of photos from the storm if you’re interested. One example:
Here’s a video from downtown Boston that I found on Twitter that will give you an idea of what the winds were like.
I hope all you Sky Dancers along the East Coast are safe and warm today!
In other news, Trump has decamped to Florida, and I hope he’ll be busy enough with golf to leave the rest of us alone for awhile. This golfing trip represents a “milestone” for him though.
President Donald Trump reached a presidential milestone at his Palm Beach County, Florida, golf club on Saturday: One hundred days in office at a golf club that bears his name.
Trump, once a critic of presidential golfing, has ignored his own advice and made a habit of visiting some of the many golf courses emblazoned in his moniker. The habit is part of the broader trend of the President and first lady making frequent trips to properties owned and operated by the Trump Organization.
According to CNN’s count, Trump has exclusively visited four golf clubs he owns during his presidency: Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida; Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida; Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia; and Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump has spent 36 days at his Florida club and 40 days at his New Jersey course and made the short trip from the White House to his Virginia club 23 times. He golfed once at his Jupiter course with professional golfers Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Brad Faxon.
In total, Trump has spent nearly 25% of his days in office at one of his golf clubs. It is impossible to know whether Trump golfs every time he visits one of his golf clubs because White House aides rarely confirm that he is golfing, and Trump has, at times, visited his golf clubs to eat a meal or meet with people.
Melania went to Florida with Trump, and here’s how he treated her while he rushed to get out of the wind and onto Air Force One.
Imagine if Obama had done that to Michelle? But it’s nothing new for our asshole in chief.
One reason Trump may have been so “unglued” lately (besides the Russia investigation) is that he’s apparently on a diet. Bloomberg: Trump Swaps His Beloved Burgers for Salads and Soups in New Diet.
The president whose trademark campaign-trail dinner consisted of two McDonald’s Big Macs, two Filet-o-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake is cutting back on doctor’s orders to drop a few pounds, according to three people familiar with the matter. Less red meat, more fish.
One person said it’s been two weeks since he saw the president eat a hamburger.
Trump so far has embraced the new regimen, giving aides the impression he feels he is thriving on his new diet, they said.
Still, he is allowing himself indulgences. He ate bacon at breakfast one day this week.
Something very newsworthy has been happening in West Virginia, but national news outlets are only just beginning to cover it.
The New York Times: ‘All-In or Nothing’: How West Virginia’s Teacher Strike Was Months in the Making.
GILBERT, W. Va — Home from a long day teaching English last month at Mingo Central High School, Robin Ellis told her husband the latest talk among the teachers. They were tired of low pay and costly health benefits — and they were mulling a “rolling strike,” in which teachers in a few counties would walk out each day.
“You don’t want to do that,” Donnie Ellis, her husband, said. As a veteran of strip mines and the intense labor conflicts that often came with them, he knew what made some strikes succeed and others crumble.
“It’s got to be all-in or nothing,” he said.
It has definitely been all-in in West Virginia. For seven days now, teachers have refused to work in all 55 counties, shutting down every school in the state.
Every school day since last Thursday, thousands of red- and black-clad teachers, bus drivers and cooks have descended on Charleston to fill the halls of the State Capitol, chanting and singing defiantly in one of the few statewide teachers’ strikes in American history.
On Friday, as thousands crowded into the Capitol, all of the energy was directed at the State Senate, which has yet to take up a bill that would grant teachers a 5 percent pay raise — despite support for the measure by the governor, the Republican-controlled House and the state’s superintendents.
Click on the NYT link to read the rest.
More from the AP via The Chicago Tribune: Statewide West Virginia teacher strike enters day 7 without classes; state Senate nixes vote.
The West Virginia teachers’ strike rolled into its second weekend with the state Senate planning to meet Saturday after declining to take a vote on whether the teachers will get the 5 percent pay raise negotiated by Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders.
Senate Republicans have repeatedly emphasized spending restraint while saying the teachers and West Virginia’s other public workers are all underpaid.
Teachers are protesting pay that’s among the lowest in the nation, rising health care costs and a previously approved 2 percent raise for next year after four years without any increase.
“We’re still not close to resolving this critical issue,” said Sen. Roman Prezioso, the Democratic minority leader, requesting the vote Friday. “Let’s send the teachers and superintendents that I’ve seen here from all the different counties, send them home this weekend for a cooling off period. Let’s start school Monday and say this Senate does support education in West Virginia.”
Read the rest at the link.
Here’s another local story that is getting more attention–this is for you, JJ. The Louisville Courier-Journal: Kentucky’s ‘child bride’ bill stalls as groups fight to let 13-year-olds wed.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill to make 18 the legal age for marriage in Kentucky has stalled in a Senate committee amid concerns about the rights of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age, according to several lawmakers.
Known as the “child bride” bill, Senate Bill 48 was pulled off the agenda just hours before a scheduled vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the second time in two weeks.
“SO disappointed! My SB 48 (outlaw child marriage) won’t be called for a vote,” sponsor Julie Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican, said in a Tweet early Thursday. “It is disgusting that lobbying organizations would embrace kids marrying adults. We see evidence of parents who are addicted, abusive, neglectful pushing their children into predatory arms. Appalling.”
Eileen Recktenwald, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, was more outspoken.
“This is legalized rape of children,” she said. “We cannot allow that to continue in Kentucky, and I cannot believe we are even debating this is the year 2018 in the United States.”
The bill’s supporters have said underage marriages most often involve a teenage girl marrying an older man and may have involved sexual exploitation of the girl.
Guess who’s getting credit for killing the bill? If you guessed right wing “Christians,” you’re right. Patheos:
According to reports, a bill to outlaw child marriage in Kentucky has been indefinitely delayed after opposition from the conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky, a powerful lobbying group backed by conservative Christians in the state.
The Courier-Journal reports Senate Bill 48, Known as the “child bride” bill, has been stalled in committee after the conservative Christian group expressed “concerns about the rights of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age.”
Raw Story explains the legislation:
The modest bill would not totally ban child marriages, but would require a judge to review records to make sure that the child was not the victim of abuse, that there are not domestic violence incident involving either party and that the adult is not a registered sex-offender. The bill would require that the judge deny the right to marry if there was a pregnancy that resulted from the adult spouse molesting the child.
However, this “modest bill” protecting children from being forced into marriage by their parents, is perceived as a threat by conservative Christian lawmakers in Kentucky.
These “Christians” claim the bill would interfere with “parental rights.” The rights of young girls are of course irrelevant.
I have more stories to share; I’ll give them to you links only.
The Week: Hope Hicks apparently kept a White House diary. (I imagine Bob Mueller is already working on the subpoena!)
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “She’s in Immense Personal Jeopardy”: Even for Hope Hicks the White House Got Too Hot.
Jessica Valenti at The Guardian: With Hope Hicks’ exit, we can’t let Trump’s female allies off the hook.
The Washington Post: Trump pushes Republicans to oppose crucial New York-New Jersey tunnel project.
Associated Press: Roy Moore pleads for money, saying resources ‘depleted.’
So . . . What’s on your mind? What stories are you following today?
Before I get to today’s news, I want to call attention to this investigative article in The New Yorker on legal elderly abuse. The author, Rachel Aviv, deeply researched the guardianship system in Nevada, but this apparently happens in other states as well. It’s a long read, but well worth it, especially for those of us who have elderly parents–and who are getting older ourselves.
For years, Rudy North woke up at 9 a.m. and read the Las Vegas Review-Journal while eating a piece of toast. Then he read a novel—he liked James Patterson and Clive Cussler—or, if he was feeling more ambitious, Freud. On scraps of paper and legal notepads, he jotted down thoughts sparked by his reading. “Deep below the rational part of our brain is an underground ocean where strange things swim,” he wrote on one notepad. On another, “Life: the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.”
Rennie, his wife of fifty-seven years, was slower to rise. She was recovering from lymphoma and suffered from neuropathy so severe that her legs felt like sausages. Each morning, she spent nearly an hour in the bathroom applying makeup and lotions, the same brands she’d used for forty years. She always emerged wearing pale-pink lipstick. Rudy, who was prone to grandiosity, liked to refer to her as “my amour.”
On the Friday before Labor Day, 2013, the Norths had just finished their toast when a nurse, who visited five times a week to help Rennie bathe and dress, came to their house, in Sun City Aliante, an “active adult” community in Las Vegas. They had moved there in 2005, when Rudy, a retired consultant for broadcasters, was sixty-eight and Rennie was sixty-six. They took pride in their view of the golf course, though neither of them played golf.
Rudy chatted with the nurse in the kitchen for twenty minutes, joking about marriage and laundry, until there was a knock at the door. A stocky woman with shiny black hair introduced herself as April Parks, the owner of the company A Private Professional Guardian. She was accompanied by three colleagues, who didn’t give their names. Parks told the Norths that she had an order from the Clark County Family Court to “remove” them from their home. She would be taking them to an assisted-living facility. “Go and gather your things,” she said.
Rennie began crying. “This is my home,” she said.
One of Parks’s colleagues said that if the Norths didn’t comply he would call the police. Rudy remembers thinking, You’re going to put my wife and me in jail for this? But he felt too confused to argue.
Parks drove a Pontiac G-6 convertible with a license plate that read “crtgrdn,” for “court guardian.” In the past twelve years, she had been a guardian for some four hundred wards of the court. Owing to age or disability, they had been deemed incompetent, a legal term that describes those who are unable to make reasoned choices about their lives or their property. As their guardian, Parks had the authority to manage their assets, and to choose where they lived, whom they associated with, and what medical treatment they received. They lost nearly all their civil rights.
That’s just the introduction. I hope you’ll go read the rest.
The Las Vegas gun massacre continues to dominate the news. I’d like to recommend a couple of positive articles coming out of the horror. You may have read this one by Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post already, but just in case: Two strangers bond over country music and beer. Then the gunshots started.
Up-and-coming country star Luke Combs had just started his set on the smaller of the two festival stages when Kody Robertson, an auto parts salesman from Columbus, Ohio, squeezed in at the end of the bar next to Michelle Vo, an insurance agent from Los Angeles.
The 32-year-olds connected immediately. They joked about their mutual love of golf. He recommended new beers for her to try as she showed him the large floral tattoo covering much of her back. They realized that they were both staying at the Luxor.
A longtime country music fan, Robertson was in Vegas with a group of friends and told Vo about the fun they’d had at last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival. Vo replied that she’d only recently fallen for the genre; this was her first festival. She was here alone. By the time the night’s final act took the main stage, the fast friends had settled into a spot about 20 yards from the right side of the stage, nestled between a few cuddly married couples and a rambunctious bachelorette party.
It was 10:08 p.m. Robertson and Vo searched the air for the fireworks they assumed they were hearing. Then came a second burst: indiscriminate gunfire hailing from a 32nd-floor window at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Screams punctuated the pop-pop-pop. Jason Aldean, the headline act, ran from the stage. A bullet pierced the left side of Vo’s chest.
“She got hit and I turned and saw her immediately fall to the ground,” Robertson recalls. “She was literally right beside me, maybe two feet away.”
Robertson threw his body on top of hers as a shield from the bullets and, when the firing finally seemed to stop, worked with another man to carry Vo out of the venue — pausing for cover each time the gunfire resumed.
Robertson could have just left it there, but instead he recovered Vo’s purse and cell phone and embarked on a long search to find Michelle as well as communicating with her family. If you haven’t read it already, please do. Lowery’s writing is just brilliant.
The Daily Beast: Unarmed Security Guard Took On Las Vegas Killer Stephen Paddock.
LAS VEGAS—Jesus Campos had no firearm when he found Stephen Paddockand approached his room on the 32rd floor of Mandalay Bay on Sunday night.
Paddock, who had rigged cameras in the hallway and on the peephole of the door, saw Campos coming and fired through the door, hitting him in the leg, said Dave Hickey, president of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America. The union represents Campos and hundreds of security guards at Mandalay Bay.
When Campos was hit, he radioed casino dispatch and told them his location—and Paddock’s.
“We received information via their dispatch center…that helped us locate where this individual was sequestered,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Tuesday.
When Campos first arrived on the 32nd floor, he did so by elevator because Paddock had somehow blocked stairwell doors leading to the hallway outside of his room, Hickey said. The door to the room itself was also barricaded, Campos found when he tried to open it, just before the bullets came through the door.
Police officers subsequently approached the room and were met with 200 rounds from Paddock, Lombardo said on Wednesday night. Police fell back until SWAT arrived.
Campos, wounded, stayed on the floor and even went door-to-door, clearing rooms with police, Lombardo said, until he was ordered to leave because he was wounded.
Click on the link to read the rest. Here are a few more stories you might want to check out.
The New York Times: Las Vegas Shooting: Investigators Grapple With Gunman’s ‘Secret Life’
Las Vegas Journal-Review: Las Vegas Strip shooter targeted aviation fuel tanks, source says.
The massacre in Las Vegas has completely overshadowed the Puerto Rico crisis in the headlines, but the situation there is still dire. NPR reports: 112 Degrees With No Water: Puerto Rican Hospitals Battle Life And Death Daily.
Every day across Puerto Rico, with its shattered power grid, hospitals are waging a life-and-death battle to keep their patients from getting sicker in the tropical heat. Now two weeks after the storm, about three-quarters of Puerto Rico’s hospitals remain on emergency power. This creates dangerous conditions for critically ill patients.
At the Pavia Arecibo Hospital, about an hour west of San Juan, administrator Jose Luis Rodriguez wipes sweat from his worried brow. “We don’t have any air conditioning,” he says. “We can handle maybe a week, but it’s already been two weeks almost.”
The government calls them “indirect deaths” – those who died after the violent storm: heart attack victims, people on kidney dialysis machines that failed, people who fell off roofs inspecting storm damage, and people killed in auto accidents on highways made more treacherous from Maria’s destruction.
“So far after the storm we have had 49 dead bodies,” says Rodriguez. Earlier this week, the governor of Puerto Rico raised the official fatality figure for Hurricane Maria from 16 people to 34. But with unofficial reports like the one from Arecibo, that number is expected to rise.
More at the link.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Two weeks after Hurricane Maria toppled Puerto Rico’s communications towers, wrecked its electrical grid and knocked out power to water systems, medical officials said the island’s health system is “on life support.”
Among the multiple impacts that have left the island’s medical system deeply damaged:
-Patients are dying because of complications related to the primitive conditions and difficult transportation issues so many island residents now endure.
-A lack of transportation in small towns makes it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals.
-An administrator in a small-town hospital has to drive her car to an ambulance company a mile away to ask for a patient to be transferred to a larger hospital.
– Severe lack of communications on the island has resulted in less triage and coordination between hospitals, and more patients arriving at large medical centers than usual, which has stretched capacity.
-Doctors are afraid to discharge patients after surgery to places with unsanitary conditions and where care and transportation may not exist, adding strain to an already strained system.
Other stories of possible interest:
This is turning out to be a link dump, because there is so much news. I haven’t even gotten to the latest stories on the Russia investigation, and I’m running out of space. Some links to explore:
Talking Points Memo: Russia Appeared To Target Wisconsin’s Elections Body Via A Banner Or Popup Ad.
Politico: Trump pushes for Senate intel panel probe of ‘Fake News Networks’ in U.S. (What a moron!)
What else is happening? What stories are you following?
Hurricane Irma is still headed for Florida and then will move up the coast. The Weather Channel: States of Emergency Issued, Evacuations Ordered as Florida, Georgia, Carolinas Prepare for Irma.
As the dangerous Category 5 Hurricane Irma barrels toward southeast of Florida, officials in the Sunshine State, Georgia and the Carolinas have declared disasters and ordered evacuations.
The storm, which has undergone rapid intensification in the past several days is now the strongest Atlantic hurricane in the last 10 years, a dangerous Category 5, which made landfall overnight packing winds of 185 mph on the Caribbean island of Barbuda.
“The storm is massive and the storm surge is predicted to go for miles. In some instances, it could cover homes and go very far inland,” Scott said.
He urged urgent preparation:
- “Every family needs to have a plan. …Do not sit and wait. Prepare right now.”
- “Do not ignore evacuation orders.”
- “Take what you need to evacuate. Don’t take extra.”
Read more about Florida’s preparations at the link.
The Miami Herald: South Florida comes under hurricane watch with weekend strike likely.
South Florida came under hurricane and storm surge watches Thursday morning as powerful Hurricane Irma steamed toward the peninsula on track for a weekend strike.
Tropical storm force winds could begin battering the Keys and South Florida Saturday afternoon, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their latest advisory. The fierce center of the Cat 5 storm is also increasingly likely to plow across the state’s crowded east coast, and it’s more than 6 million residents, in three to four days.
The hurricane and storm surge watches cover much of the South Florida coast, from Jupiter Inlet south and up the west coast to Bonita Beach, including the Keys. Water levels could reach from between five and 10 feet above ground level in the storm surge watch area, forecasters said.
Because Irma is such a large hurricane, the storm surge could be widespread and life-threatening, said senior hurricane specialist Mike Brennan, with waters moving further inland along the Gulf.
Presumably, the storm will keep moving on up the coast. It’s not clear yet how it will impact us up here in New England, but environmental experts are trying to prepare Boston for future storms as the sea level rises from climate change. The Boston Globe: What a future sea barrier in Boston would look like.
According a city-sponsored report published last December, sea levels are forecasted to rise eight inches from 2000 to 2030 due to climate change. By 2050, they are expected to increase up to 1.5 feet — and by 2070, up to three feet.
The chances of a Harvey-esque 50 inches of rain are minuscule in Boston. But with the expected sea level rise, a one-in-100- or one-in-10-year storm (Harvey was a one-in-1,000-year storm) would put many Boston neighborhoods underwater, according to the report, Climate Ready Boston. Even monthly high tides would flood 5 percent of the city’s real estate market value toward the end of the century, officials said.
With the sea level rise expected within roughly 30 to 50 years, major storms could make neighborhoods including East Boston, the South End, and the Seaport “unviable.” This interactive map shows what exact places could be threatened (and it doesn’t look great for Faneuil Hall).
“You’re not going to escape it,” Curt Spalding, New England’s regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, told Boston.com last year regarding sea level rise, after Boston’s waterfront was inundated by simple king tides.
According to a 2013 report by the World Bank, Boston ranked eighth out of 136 coastal cities for risk of flood damage.
Local officials are thus faced with a dilemma: how to manage the characteristic that historically made Boston a thriving commercial hub — its favorable port location — when that same asset now contributes to a potentially existential threat?
Head to the Globe to read the rest. I imagine many coastal cities are looking at possible protections from future flooding.
Donald Trump Jr. is being interviewed by investigators from the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. MSNBC reports that he has changed his story again–now claiming he took a June 2016 meeting with Russians to get information that would help him assess Hillary Clinton’s “fitness for office.” From The New York Times:
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is set to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators behind closed doors on Thursday to answer questions about his June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, committee officials said.
Committee aides said the interview, Mr. Trump’s first with congressional investigators, will be transcribed and could last for much of the day. It will largely focus on the meeting in Trump Tower, which appears to have been set up to deliver harmful information about Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign, according to emails disclosed in June.
Democrats, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, said on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had also agreed to testify at a public hearing before the committee and that he would probably be subpoenaed if he did not follow through on that agreement. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s chairman, declined to discuss the committee’s dealings with Mr. Trump. Lawyers for Mr. Trump could not be reached for comment.
The closed-door interview is the clearest indication yet that the Senate Judiciary Committee — after months of being eclipsed by the Senate and House intelligence committees — is emerging into a higher-profile role in investigating the president, his family and his associates in the coming months.
The committee is trying to get answers about the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director this spring and has staked out a broad investigation that aims to look at everything from the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia to the Obama Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton email case last year.
More Russia news broke last night in The Washington Post: Russian firm tied to pro-Kremlin propaganda advertised on Facebook during election.
Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that the social network has discovered that it sold ads during the U.S. presidential campaign to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings.
Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said.
A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the people said, although they declined to say which candidate the ads favored.
Most of the ads, according to a blog post published late Wednesday by Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
The acknowledgment by Facebook comes as congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III are probing Russian interference in the U.S. election, including allegations that the Kremlin may have coordinated with the Trump campaign.
Read more at the WaPo.
The other big story from last night is that Trump suddenly aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on raising the debt ceiling and threw Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell under the bus. Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker: How Democrats Rolled Trump on the Debt Ceiling.
For weeks, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, had been plotting a strategy to use the debt-ceiling vote to extract concessions from Donald Trump and his fellow-Republicans. Over the weekend, the White House and Senate Republicans indicated that they wanted a debt-ceiling increase attached to a bill to provide immediate aid for areas of Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey. The plan was perfect for the G.O.P. The House would pass a “clean” debt ceiling that most Republicans would probably support. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, would add the Harvey money and pass the two bills together with the help of Democrats. The plan was to raise the debt ceiling for eighteen months, which would kick the next difficult vote past the 2018 midterm elections. In the House, such a bill likely would have lost some votes from both parties, but, given the urgency of the hurricane aid, it was a decent bet to pass. Best of all, for G.O.P. leaders, the bill would have taken away the Democrats’ debt-ceiling leverage from the coming debates on immigration, government spending, and health care.
But, when conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items.
At his morning press conference, Ryan had been withering about this idea. “Let’s just think about this,” he said. “We’ve got all this devastation in Texas. We’ve got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida. And they want to play politics with the debt ceiling? That will strand the aid that we need to bring to these victims of these storms that have occurred or are about to occur. And then they also want to threaten default on our debt? I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment.”
He added that the idea was “unworkable,” and, speaking for Trump, noted, “What the President doesn’t want to do is to give more leverage where it shouldn’t occur on the debt ceiling.”
But Ryan spoke too soon.
An hour later, in the Oval Office, Ryan, McConnell, Schumer, and Pelosi sat down with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to negotiate. The Republican leaders—at first—stuck to their demand for an eighteen-month debt-ceiling increase. But the Democrats held fast as the Republicans dropped their request to twelve months and then to six months. Mnuchin argued that the financial markets needed a long-term deal. Trump cut him off and abruptly sided with Schumer and Pelosi on their three-month request.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
Lots of media people are outraged that Hillary Clinton dared to write a book detailing the challenges she faced during the 2016 election. Never mind that Clinton won the popular vote and her book has been number 1 on Amazon for months. Those of us who voted for her are still invisible to the media. Politico: Democrats dread Hillary’s book tour.
President Donald Trump may be the only person in politics truly excited about Hillary Clinton’s book tour.
Democratic operatives can’t stand the thought of her picking the scabs of 2016, again — the Bernie Sanders divide, the Jim Comey complaints, the casting blame on Barack Obama for not speaking out more on Russia. Alums of her Brooklyn headquarters who were miserable even when they thought she was winning tend to greet the topic with, “Oh, God,” “I can’t handle it,” and “the final torture.”
Political reporters gripe privately (and on Twitter) about yet another return to the campaign that will never end. Campaign operatives don’t want the distraction, just as they head into another election season. And members of Congress from both parties want the focus on an agenda that’s getting more complicated by the week.
But with a new NBC News poll showing her approval rating at 30 percent, the lowest recorded for her, Clinton kicks it off on Tuesday with a signing at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York. She’ll keep it going all the way through December, all across the country.
Do the Democrats really think they can win elections without Hillary’s hard core supporters? They seem to be going all in with Bernie, who lost to Hillary in the primaries by 4 million votes. Do these people know anything about math?
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
This morning I have reached the point where I can’t think of anything else but dealing with snow. I hope you’ll forgive me for being too self-involved to focus on much more than surviving the terrible onslaught we’re going through here in Greater Boston. I’m going to share some photos and news about the mess we’re in here before I get to anything else.
The photo above was taken by my sister-in-law. Here are a couple more of her lovely photos of Cambridge.
Some Snowy News:
The Christian Science Monitor, The Big Dig: New England struggles with record snow – and more coming.
BOSTON — Snow-choked New England braced for more winter grief later in the week as people dug out from another 2 feet of snow Tuesday. Thousands of angry Boston commuters stranded by a transit shutdown scrambled to find other ways to get to work.
As people struggled to find places to put the latest snow, and officials considered dumping it by the truckload into the ocean, forecasters warned that yet more snow was possible Thursday and again over the weekend.
That’s right, folks. Even after we’ve set multiple records for snowfall over the past couple of weeks, we are expecting more storms. Some of the effects on the region so far:
Boston-area subways, trolleys and commuter rail trains ground to a halt at 7 p.m. Monday and remained idle Tuesday, with only limited bus service continuing. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said it needed the break to clear snow and ice from tracks and to assess equipment damaged by the spate of storms….
Boston hospitals set up sleeping areas for workers and police were offering rides to work for doctors and nurses.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at New England airports. Officials at Boston’s Logan International Airport said they hoped normal passenger service would resume by midday Tuesday.
Massachusetts environmental officials gave cities and towns with no place else to put accumulating snow the green light to dump some into the ocean or other bodies of water if necessary.
The Department of Environmental Protection on Monday cited the challenges involved in getting rid of the historic snowfalls. Local communities may seek permission to take emergency steps that allow disposal of snow into open water, which is normally prohibited. Officials also were using giant melters to liquefy snow.
Here’s why the T had to shut down. From The Boston Globe: Passengers stuck on Red Line train for more than two hours.
More than 40 passengers were safely evacuated from a southbound Red Line train that became stranded for more than two hours between stations in Quincy due to a power failure, MBTA officials said.
Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the train lost power around 7 a.m. Monday, and the final passengers were escorted out of the cars around 9 a.m….
“The tracks are completely exposed to the storm conditions,” said Pesaturo. “The third rail was completely covered by heavy snow. The train could not move because of a lack of power.”
Pesaturo said the 48 passengers were safely taken off the train and transferred to a bus.
The next storm is due soon. From The Globe: Up to 6 more inches of snow on the way.
The National Weather Service is predicting the snowfall for a 24-hour period from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday.
A map generated by the National Weather Service at 4:46 a.m. Tuesday shows higher accumulation in Eastern Mass., and predicts 2 to 3 inches for most of the area outside of I-495.
For some strange reason, there is a small area of Greater Boston that is taking the brunt of these storms. That’s the area I live in.
Thursday’s expected snowfall comes amid a record period for the Boston area, in which about 6 feet has fallen over a 30-day period, beating the previous record of 58.5 inches, which was set in 1978.
The National Weather Service said 76.5 inches have fallen in Boston this winter season through 7 p.m. Monday.
But that won’t be the end of it, according to The Weather Channel. There’s another storm expected on Valentine’s Day weekend.
It is still too soon (4+ days out) to determine whether the offshore low will track close enough to bring heavy snow to parts of New England and the Northeast. If a closer low track (heavier snow) would take place, peak impacts would occur Saturday night into Sunday with the heaviest snow in coastal New England.
Regardless where the low tracks, behind the arctic front and intensifying offshore low — you guessed it — bitterly cold air will settle in, driven by strong winds, leading to dangerous wind chills and areas of blowing/drifting snow. Temperatures may remain stuck in the single digits or, at best, teens much of Sunday in New England, with morning lows in the single digits above or below zero.
Honestly, I was doing pretty well until yesterday, when I discovered that I couldn’t open my front door. It was frozen shut. I went out through the garage and, with the help of a neighbor, got the door to open. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t close all the way and I couldn’t lock it anymore. Stupidly, I locked the storm door.
This morning, the front door is again frozen shut and I won’t be able to open it from the outside because of my stupid decision to lock the storm door. I’ll have to try to get the door open with a hairdryer or go in and out through the garage. Don’t even ask about the back door. That would require digging a long pathway through at least four feet of snow.
I guess I need to call a waaaambulance. If I sound discouraged, I’m not alone. From the Globe: Unrelenting snowfall darkening our moods.
From commuting odysseys to back-wrenching shoveling and days without a drop of sunshine, this winter’s unrelenting snow is wrecking the region’s collective psyche.
Precious free time for trips to the gym, often a psychological balm, has largely vanished. Ditto for meeting friends or gathering with family.
For many, a single-minded focus on navigating the avalanche of storms can weigh heavily, therapists said Monday.
“It is assaulting people,” said Barbara Green, a psychologist at the Center for Integrative Counseling and Wellness in Hingham. “Even strong, resilient, upbeat people are starting to feel a bit frayed emotionally.”
Green said she is hearing from patients that normal daily stresses — commuting, working, taking care of a family — seem magnified many times over, especially for people with low-paying jobs who do not have the luxury of missing a day at work.
“People’s normal coping skills and strategies erode,” Green said. “Instead of eating a healthy diet, they eat cookies, maybe even drinking more.”
Well, I don’t have those problems anyway, because I don’t drink and I don’t have any cookies or other sweets lying around. I’m also luckier than most people, because I don’t have to get out to work. I’m just having to give myself pep talks and call friends and family for support and to feel less isolated.
CBS 6 Charlottesville, VA, Sources: Jesse Matthew charged with first-degree murder of Hannah Graham
Matthew, 32, is currently charged with the abduction with intent to defile, in Graham’s disappearance. She was in her second-year at the University of Virginia.
Graham was last seen leaving a Charlottesville bar with Matthew, on Sept. 13. Her remains were found on an abandoned property in Albemarle County on Oct. 18.
Graham’s body was discovered roughly five miles from where Morgan Harrington’s body was found in Albemarle County in January 2010. In November 2014, police forensically linked Harrington to Matthew when his DNA was found on the black “Pantera” shirt she wore the night of her disappearance.
The 20-year-old Harrington, who was a Virginia Tech student, disappeared outside of the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville while attending a Metallica concert on Oct. 17, 2009.
Matthew is currently incarcerated in Fairfax County, where he is facing attempted capital murder, rape, and sexual assault charges relating to the attack and rape of a Fairfax woman in 2005. DNA has also linked him to this case. He will remain behind bars in Fairfax until his trial on March 9.
Remember Dominique Strauss Kahn?
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn denied allegations Tuesday that he knowingly helped organize orgies with sex workers.
Strauss-Kahn, 65, was testifying at a court in northern France for his alleged connection with a prostitution ring at a hotel in Lille.
“I committed no crime,” Strauss-Kahn, once thought to be a contender for the French presidency, said in a letter read to the court as he took the stand.
Strauss-Kahn said he was not aware the women in question, whom he admits participated in orgies at luxury hotels in Paris and Washington, were prostitutes. He said he ignored their “prostitutional character” and that he himself had only taken part occasionally and that there had been no “wild activity.”
Strauss-Kahn and 13 others are accused of aggravated pimping based on hundreds of pages of testimony provided to investigators by prostitutes describing the orgies.
The US Department of Justice is considering bringing criminal charges against HSBC and its executives as part of its investigation into whether the bank’s Swiss subsidiary helped US clients evade taxes.
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren called on prosecutors to “come down hard” on HSBC if the bank is found to have colluded with tax evaders on Tuesday.
Her intervention came as US government officials with knowledge of the DoJ’s investigation provided the Guardian with new details about the inquiry.
Renewed focus has been placed on the long-running investigation into HSBC Switzerland by the department, after a huge leak of secret bank data – passed to the DOJ’s tax division almost five years ago – was obtained by the Guardian and other media.
It shows that HSBC Switzerland helped some clients conceal millions of undeclared assets, and has immediately raised questions on Capitol Hill about the response from prosecutors and tax authorities.
NY Daily News, Baby born carrying twin fetuses (Please don’t tell the anti-abortion crowd about this one, or that poor little baby could be in big trouble).
The stories I found are somewhat lurid today. I don’t know if that’s because of my mood or a real reflection of what’s happening. Please post your recommended reads in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!