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Newsclips - August 20, 2018

Lead Stories

New York Times - August 19, 2018

Trump lawyers’ sudden realization: They don’t know what Don McGahn told Mueller’s team

President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake. The president’s lawyers said on Sunday that they were confident that Mr. McGahn had said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews. But Mr. McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what Mr. McGahn told the investigators, according to two people close to the president. That has prompted concern among Mr. Trump’s advisers that Mr. McGahn’s statements could help serve as a key component for a damning report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which the Justice Department could send to Congress, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Trump’s lawyers realized on Saturday that they had not been provided a full accounting after The New York Times published an article describing Mr. McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s office. After Mr. McGahn was initially interviewed by the special counsel’s office in November, Mr. Trump’s lawyers never asked for a complete description of what Mr. McGahn had said, according to a person close to the president. Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, gave the president’s lawyers a short overview of the interview but few details, and he did not inform them of what Mr. McGahn said in subsequent interactions with the investigators, according to a person close to Mr. Trump. Mr. McGahn and Mr. Burck feared that Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible wrongdoing, so they embraced the opening to cooperate fully with Mr. Mueller in an effort to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn had done nothing wrong.

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Associated Press - August 20, 2018

Bull market in stocks poised to set record for longest ever

The bull market in stocks is poised this week to break the record as the longest in the history of U.S. trading. If the market doesn’t drop significantly in the three days through Wednesday, the bull market that began in March 2009 will have lasted nine years, five months and 13 days. It’s a record that few would have predicted when stocks struggled to find their footing after a 50 percent plunge during the financial crisis. The long rally has added trillions of dollars to the wealth of households that have invested, helping the economy. Since the rally officially began on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 index has risen 321 percent. In the 1990s bull market, the current record holder for the longest, stocks rose 417 percent.

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Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2018

In Trump's Washington, Rick Perry lays low

For a member of the Trump administration, Rick Perry generates a paltry amount of media coverage. While other cabinet members are constantly in the spotlight, publicly feuding with the president – Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn – or spending taxpayer funds lavishly on travel and office decor – Scott Pruitt, Tom Price and Ben Carson – Perry’s worst stumble arguably came when a leaked photo showed him hugging coal baron Robert Murray not long after he proposed a federal bailout for that sector. The story was in and out of the media cycle within days. Perry, more than 18 months into his tenure as energy secretary, has maintained that rarest of things in Washington these days:tr a low-key, under the radar persona, happy to play the role of likeable sidekick to President Donald Trump. As he promotes Trump’s policies on controversial issues such as reviving the coal and nuclear sectors and trade tariffs, he has managed to do so in a manner that avoids the uproar that regularly engulfs the president and his advisers. Even Perry’s would-be critics have a hard time finding bad things to say about him. “I’ve heard compliments [of Perry] from a number of people inside and outside the administration,” said Frank Rose, an assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “I will give credit where credit is due, even though I’m a critic of this administration on many issues.”

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Victoria Advocate - August 19, 2018

Farenthold tried to steer federal contract to Calhoun port chairman

Blake Farenthold, while serving in Congress, tried to steer a federal contract to a business owned by the chairman of the Calhoun Port Authority, which later hired the former congressman after he resigned in disgrace. Legal experts and a political watchdog group described Farenthold’s business favor as ethically questionable. In March 2015, Farenthold’s office arranged a meeting between the port’s board chairman, Randy Boyd, with two top Army Corps of Engineer Galveston District officials. In that meeting, Boyd told the Corps that his dredging business, RLB Contracting Inc., should work for them on the Houston Ship Channel. The federal officials declined his offer, citing ethical and environmental rules that they had to abide by. After receiving a follow-up message from Farenthold’s office, they repeated this to the former congressman. “The problem is, one, did he (Farenthold) intervene appropriately?” said Meredith McGehee, of Issue One, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that seeks to reduce pay-for-play politics. “Two, did he do so because this entity or the people involved were contributors? And three, did he get this job as a reward for what he had done for him as a public official? And the fourth question is, obviously, what the heck is the owner of a dredging company doing as chair of the port authority?” The Victoria Advocate became aware of the meeting through a Freedom of Information request the newspaper filed with the Corps.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 19, 2018

Former San Antonio Mayor Castro energizes Latinos, draws interest from others in Iowa

Cheers erupted when Julián Castro entered El Fogon restaurant Saturday afternoon, a sign of what his candidacy for president could mean to Latinos — and what this state’s burgeoning Hispanic population might do for Castro. More clapping sounded when the owner, Blanca Plascencia, raised the issue on everyone’s mind. “Are you running for president?” she asked. “Why do you ask?” Castro said, feigning surprise, before answering as he always does that he will decide by year’s end whether to seek the Democratic nomination. “I may well be in that race,” he added, “and if I am, I’ll come back and have more fajitas.” Castro, 43, is spending the weekend in Iowa, his first trip to the state that opens the presidential election season with precinct caucuses and sets the field for a cascade of primaries. He’s meeting with Democratic leaders and party activists in a half-dozen Iowa cities and towns and helping Iowans on the November ballot raise money. Latinos and just about everybody else he met said he’ll need to return to Iowa many times if he is to become a contender — and Castro said he’s prepared to accept that advice. “Everybody has a million questions and you probably see candidates 15 times before you go to the caucuses,” he remarked to patrons at El Fogon. “I look forward to it,” Castro said in an interview later, about camping out in Iowa over the next year. “I think anybody thinking about running knows that’s part of the program.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 18, 2018

Chasnoff: Medina, Ramon muck with Dems

There are mercenaries in our midst. One is JoAnn Ramon, a veteran political consultant serving as a precinct chair for the Bexar County Democratic Party even as she collects thousands of dollars to work on the re-election campaign of a local Republican judge: a conflict in violation of party rules. Another is Manuel Medina, the failed mayoral candidate and ousted chair of the BCDP who still commands an army of hardcore loyalists. According to party officials, Medina this week staged an ambush at a meeting of precinct chairs, summoning a majority of so-called “Manuelistas” to pass a resolution in support of the fire union’s harmful charter amendments on the November ballot. Late Friday, Medina denied that he had orchestrated the resolution, which originally was raised last month by Rudy Morales, a precinct chair and former spokesman for the fire union. “I was there on Tuesday in support of our party to show that there was party unity,” Medina told me, adding in a text, “I support all three propositions because they empower the voters of San Antonio. Having said that, the resolution conversation was led by pro-union, pro-people power Democrats at CEC.” In theory, removing Ramon is much simpler than defanging Medina. Take it from Glenn Maxey, legislative affairs director of the Texas Democratic Party. “If a person supports or endorses a person of the opposite party, they can lose their precinct chairmanship,” Maxey said. “That would be done by a person within that voting precinct filing a complaint with the county party chair, and the CEC (County Executive Committee) would vote to remove that precinct chair.” No one from Ramon’s South Side voting precinct has filed a complaint yet. Proving her transgression would be easy, though; she has flaunted it from the beginning.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 18, 2018

Garcia: Bexar and San Antonio clash over CPS Energy revenues

As Kevin Wolff sees it, residents of the unincorporated parts of Bexar County pay 86 cents per dollar of their CPS Energy bills to the utility and 14 cents to a San Antonio city government that doesn’t serve them. Wolff wants a piece of that money for the county. The city doesn’t want to give it up. It’s not a new disagreement. Wolff, the three-term county commissioner, has made his case to city leaders for the past six years, to no avail. This year, he’s angling to take the issue to the Texas Legislature. That’s what prompted Jeff Coyle, the city’s director of Government & Public Affairs, to sound the alarm bells during his August 7 briefing to the City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee. “While this issue has been talked about a little bit before, it’s never been proposed at the Legislature,” Coyle told council members. Coyle called Wolff’s proposal a “major concern” and said, “We strongly oppose that.” Here’s the backstory: The city purchased CPS Energy in 1942 for $33.9 million. CPS Energy pays the city about 14 percent of its revenues every year and has provided the city with $7 billion in revenues over the past 76 years. The city’s proposed 2019 budget includes an estimated $363 million in CPS Energy revenue, with approximately $40 million of that revenue expected to come from unincorporated areas. From Wolff’s perspective, the city has access to multiple revenue streams — including sales and property taxes — while the county is limited to property tax revenues. The county commissioner argues that if the city shared even $5 million of that unincorporated-area revenue with the county, it would boost the county’s efforts to provide crucial services to people living in those areas. “I’m looking at it from a fairness standpoint,” Wolff said. “From the mothership of the San Antonio company, they feel that CPS is theirs and this is like a return on dividends,” he added. “That logic is sound. However, if you really want to say, ‘How much should that return be?’ and ‘How much of that return is made off others that you don’t service?’ that’s when you start to run into squishy problems.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2018

Texas now at 25 straight months of job growth

Texas employers in July marked 25 months of consecutive growth, with seasonally adjusted and benchmarked numbers released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on Friday showing 13,100 added jobs . The statewide unemployment rate held steady at 4.0 percent. The national unemployment rate fell slightly, to 3.9 percent from 4 percent in June. Keith Phillips, the Dallas Fed’s assistance vice president and senior economist, said July’s data supported economists’ predictions that what so far has been a year of “blistering” and nation-leading job growth would cool in the second half of the 2018. Bank economists revised their yearly growth forecast to 2.7 percent, down from June’s estimate of 3.0 percent. He said slowing was particularly evident likely in the manufacturing sector, which has seen renegotiation for the North American Free Trade Agreement stretch past the one year mark and the election of a new Mexican president. He said sector employers were also nervous about by tit-for-tat tariffs on and from U.S. trade partners. “Manufacturing employment in the state has been growing like gangbusters really, so it’s not surprising that we see some slowing in this really rapid rate of growth, especially with the tariff situation,” he said. LOCAL BUSINESS Cattle scatters into the pins at the Independent Cattleman of Southeast Texas auction on Thursday, March 09, 2018. Forty-five percent of Texas is in a drought stage categorized as severe, extreme or exceptional, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and ranchers and others describe land bare of grass, bales of hay either too expensive or hard to come by, and stock tanks that have long run dry. As drought lingers, Texas ranchers opt to reduce their herds July marked 25 straight months of Texas job growth. Texas now at 25 straight months of job growth A copper refinery in Norilsk, Russia, Nov. 8, 2017. Among the worlds investment nerds, copper is known as Dr. Copper for its ability for its ability to predict the direction of the global economy about as as well as your average Ph.D economist. And in 2018, it is raising a red flag. As stock markets brush off trade tensions, a warning of trouble In this NOAA handout image, the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite captures this infrared image of Hurricane Harvey just prior to making landfall at 18:55 UTC on August 25, 2017 along the Texas coast. NOAA's National Hurricane Center has clocked Harvey's maximum sustained winds at 110 miles per hour with higher gusts. Infrared images like this one can help meteorologists identify the areas of the greatest intensity within large storm systems, such as the areas with the most intense convection, known as overshooting cloud tops (dark orange), surrounding the eye and along the outer bands. Hurricane season requires planning by energy companies The dwindling pool of unemployed workers could also crimp job growth, he said, as employers find it increasingly difficult to fill open slots. The good news for workers is that after years of stagnant wages, employers are having to offer higher pay to attract and retain workers. “I think this year has been good for people looking for a job and it’s good for people negotiating wages and I think it will continue to be,” Phillips said.

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Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2018

Long-shot Texas Democratic candidates happy to serve as warmup acts at Beto O’Rourke rallies

Lightly funded, long-shot Democrats in hot pursuit of statewide office could adopt this motto: Have Beto O'Rourke rally, will travel. O'Rourke has staked his U.S. Senate bid on retail politics — 259 town halls, while visiting all 254 Texas counties. And counting. As the El Paso congressman generates buzz, the crowds grow. Democrats seeking state constitutional offices have noticed. "With a guy like Beto at the top, we can draft on him," said Miguel Suazo, the party's land commissioner hopeful, outside a music venue in Laredo Friday night. Suazo, an energy and water lawyer from San Antonio, said he's glommed on to more than 10 O'Rourke town halls. But there could be an upside for O'Rourke, he said. "He did not" do well in South Texas in the primary, Suazo noted. "Maybe I can create some reverse coattails for Beto down here." O'Rourke, asked late Saturday if he finds his freeloading ticket-mates a little irritating, said he doesn't. "I'm glad that they were here," he said, referring to his event at the Tex-Mex Café in Brownsville. "And I'm glad that everybody got to hear them." At all three of his weekend town halls in the Rio Grande Valley, O'Rourke's campaign allowed statewide candidates to speak — as sort of a warmup act, before comedian Cristela Alonzo introduced him with a lengthy monologue.

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Dallas Morning News - August 20, 2018

How desperate can Texas get for construction labor? Look at Houston after Hurricane Harvey

Drive through Meyerland, the established Houston neighborhood of well-kept ranch homes on inviting lots, and you’d be forgiven for thinking business has been good for Dan Bawden since Hurricane Harvey swept through town a year ago. Construction vans like his line the calm residential streets not far from the Brays Bayou. Workers painted one house while chain link fenced off a home not far away that was still just wood frame. But Bawden, a longtime Houstonian and owner of a general contracting firm specializing in remodel jobs that keep older residents in their homes, said the storm has been the opposite of the financial boon people seemed to expect. “It’s surprisingly brought up more problems than it brought advantages and profit,” he said recently on a short tour of the community he also calls home. “We helped a lot of people — as many as we could of our existing clients — but we looked at that later and realized we really didn’t make much money on those jobs.” The main reason, experts say, isn’t new: A punishing construction labor shortage that has plagued builders in fast-growing Texas for years and has sent industry leaders scrambling for fixes, including pleading for immigration reform to quickly replenish an aging workforce. Thanks to Harvey, observers said, builders across the state are feeling an even tighter squeeze. And post-storm Houston has become a kind of case study on the effects of a construction labor shortage in its most extreme form. “After Hurricane Harvey hit, a lot of our builders and remodelers were contacted by customers and had to turn away work,” said Casey Morgan, CEO of the Greater Houston Builders Association. “The storm just exacerbated the problem we were already experiencing.”

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Austin Chronicle - August 17, 2018

Beto O'Rourke and Ethan Hawke in conversation

I met Beto O'Rourke after hearing him speak at a fundraising event for Texans in Man­hat­tan. The room was hypnotized. Everyone had been instantly impressed. It felt a little like meeting a 2018 Jimmy Stewart. Tall, humble, sincere, and funny, he seems like a person who can do something significant. I asked him for an interview with the Chronicle. He said yes. It turned out to be a hard interview to nail down, as he is a seriously busy congressman currently campaigning for a seat in the U.S. Senate. I finally caught up with him on August 4. It was blazing hot in Brooklyn, but I'm sure it was hotter in Del Rio, Texas. He spoke to me by phone as his kids played in the Holiday Inn pool. Ethan Hawke: I heard you played with Willie Nelson at his Fourth of July picnic. Beto O'Rourke: "Played" is an exaggeration. I got onstage with him for a couple songs. Fumbled my way through "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die." "My first concert was Willie's Fourth of July picnic in 1976. My dad and I drove from Fort Worth to Austin in a Plymouth Barra­cuda. I was 6 years old," said Hawke. "That's how you spent the bicentennial!" O'Rourke said, to which Hawke replied, "I've been following Willie ever since. I went to a Willie Nelson concert here in New York right during the bombing of Baghdad. Bush was president and the newly past president, Bill Clinton, introduced Willie. It was one of the stranger political experiences of my life because half the audience was cheering wildly, ecstatic to see Clinton, and the other half wanted to take this opportunity to let him know how much they hated him. Seriously, the place practically exploded. Two guys in front of me, grown men, had a full-blown fistfight. But Clinton calmed it down," Hawke said. "Clinton said, 'Look, I know some of you support me and I know some of you hate me, but don't we all love Willie Nelson?' And in that instant, the roof came off the place. And then Clinton said this smart thing, 'See, we're all not as different as we think.' We can all love 'Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.' We are not as different as we are made to feel. I wonder what it would take for an individual in politics to bring us together." "People like Willie definitely can. People in politics – which by its nature, is somewhat contentious, and during elections to some degree it's zero-sum. This one person is going to win, and the other person is going to lose. But I do think there's a way to be in public service and not push people out and instead welcome everyone in," O'Rourke said.

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Star-Telegram - August 17, 2018

ST: Here’s how Texas schools can give extra food to their kids, instead of throwing it out

One of the best things about North Texas students returning to school this week will be the food. We have a lot of hungry, low-income children living among us. In the Fort Worth school district alone, 77 percent of students come from low-income homes and qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. According to the Texas Education Agency, that’s more than 66,000 children. The healthy, filling breakfasts and lunches they’ll be served as this semester begins are for some the only real nutrition they receive all day. So, imagine the horror that gripped state Rep. Diego Bernal when he began touring the schools in his San Antonio district, and watched as the lunch hour ended and packaged, untouched food was gathered up and tossed in the trash. Fresh fruits and vegetables; unopened cartons of cereal; bottles of water or juice; packaged granola bars, and other food was gathered up, and thrown out. Or, in some cases, collected and sent to outside nonprofits. “It was the most shocking and immoral inefficiency I’d ever heard of,” Bernal told this Editorial Board. “So you can give food away to someone else, but not to your own hungry kids.” The reason we’re telling you this story is that Bernal turned his shock into action and last year spearheaded legislation that allows Texas schools to redistribute the untouched food to its students during the school day or to take home at night. We don’t know if our North Texas districts are aware of this law and taking advantage of it, but we think this is an easy-to-implement, low-cost way to further help our kids. Allowing nutritious food to be dumped while children go hungry is just plain wrong. Bernal learned the problem was with a U.S. Department of Agriculture regulation that required schools only serve food during defined meal times. Non-perishable leftovers could be donated to nonprofits like food banks, but quite often they were just thrown out. So Bernal reasoned — why not create nonprofits within schools and allow the food to stay with the children. The law that passed in 2017 allows that.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times - August 19, 2018

Here's what Blake Farenthold's deposition reveals about why he resigned and who he blames

Disgraced former Congressman Blake Farenthold insisted in a court deposition this month it would be illegal for him to repay the government for his sexual harassment settlement. The transcript of the deposition, given in connection with a lawsuit filed by the Victoria Advocate over whether Farenthold's hiring by the Calhoun Port Authority after he left office violated the state's Open Meetings Act, was made public Sunday. The authority, which is a governmental entity, has denied wrongdoing. The transcript, first reported by the Advocate, shows the newspaper's attorney John Griffin walking Farenthold through the steps that led to his resignation from Congress in April. He had previously withdrew his candidacy for re-election in 2018. In the transcript, Farenthold said it would have been illegal for him to repay taxpayers the $84,000 settlement reached in 2014 with a former aide who had filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the congressman.

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County Stories

Waco Tribune-Herald - August 16, 2018

"You don’t mess with country folk" — Limestone County formally opposes Waco landfill plan

Limestone County leaders took a stand this week against the city of Waco’s proposal to place the majority of a 502-acre landfill on their side of the boundary with McLennan County. The Limestone County Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution formally opposing the plans for the landfill, most of which would sit in Limestone County near the intersection of State Highway 31 and TK Parkway. “You don’t mess with country folk,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Bobby Forrest said after the vote. “We obviously voted to support the folks from Axtell and so forth, and we really don’t feel like the city of Waco needs to bring their trash to Limestone County,” he told the Tribune-Herald. Residents in the Axtell area immediately spoke out against the plan last month at a lively meeting two days after the plans were made public, and again at the July 31 meeting when the Waco City Council approved the $1.8 million purchase of the tract. Limestone County Judge Richard Duncan this week said he is most concerned about the possibility of water pollution, street damage, traffic danger and plummeting property values. “We’re just not in favor of a large commercial venture like that coming over to Limestone County,” Duncan said. He said he is working with the county’s state and federal lawmakers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in discussing courses of action. He also said he is meeting with Waco leaders to discuss the issue on Friday. Lacy Hollingsworth, the Axtell Independent School District director for special programs, said the resolution’s approval was a “huge victory.” “It shows that our elected officials in Limestone County really back our citizens and their constituents and that they’re really listening to the interest of the community, which was, unfortunately, not what we got from the Waco City Council,” Hollingsworth said.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2018

State panel suspends Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis over threat

The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct has suspended Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis from judicial duties with pay, said county spokeswoman Connie Odom. The suspension was in connection to an official oppression charge filed against Gattis, she said. It will not keep him from doing his job because he performs administrative duties in the county and has never performed judicial duties, she said. Gattis declined to comment Friday, Odom said. The official oppression charge claims Gattis threatened Williamson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tim Ryle at a county commissioners meeting July 17. Ryle told the American-Statesman the judge said he would “zero” out the sheriff’s office budget if Sheriff Robert Chody didn’t stop making comments about the management of county government on social media posts. A hearing on the Class A misdemeanor charge is set for Sept. 14.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2018

Many surprised at sentence for ex-Baylor doctor who raped a Houston hospital patient

When a former Houston doctor was sentenced to probation Friday for raping an incapacitated patient at a county hospital, the punishment surprised defense attorneys, disappointed law enforcement, elicited concern from a rape victims advocacy group and sparked outrage on social media. The doctor, who has been stripped of his license, admitted during the trial that he had sexual contact with the woman during the night shift at Ben Taub Hospital in 2013, but told jurors it was consensual. Although he was not assigned to her case, he slipped into her room anyway after he noticed her breast implants. Veteran defense lawyers with no connection to the case called the outcome “unusual” and “a big victory” for the defense, explaining there was a very high likelihood a person who did not turn himself in to law enforcement and misrepresented the assault would face prison time. “When you’re a doctor, I’d expect you’d get prison time,” said attorney Casey Kiernan, who has defended sexual assault cases for nearly four decades. “We hold doctors to a higher standard.” The jury five women and seven men sentenced Dr. Shafeeq Sheikh, a former Baylor College of Medicine resident, to 10 years on probation for raping the patient while she was tethered to machines and receiving treatment for an acute asthma attack. The jurors found Sheikh guilty Thursday after deliberating for 14 hours over two days. The conviction means Sheikh, 46, must be a registered for the rest of his life as a sex offender. Jurors recommended the 10-year probated sentence for the doctor and suspension of a $10,000 fine after deliberations on Friday, recommendations that visiting Senior District Judge Terry L. Flenniken was required by law to follow.

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Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2018

HISD’s longest-failing school fell short again. Will 2018-19 be different for Kashmere?

Amid the smiles and joy last week in Houston ISD, which avoided state sanctions and posted strong state academic accountability results, a long-lingering cloud hung over the festivities. For the ninth straight year, Kashmere High School failed to meet state academic standards, extending the longest such streak in Texas. Despite receiving nearly $2 million worth of additional resources and oversight from a state-appointed monitor, Kashmere received one of the lowest ratings — 49, the equivalent of an “F” grade — in Texas, according to accountability results released last week. While several other chronically low-performing HISD schools saw marked improvement this year, including several campuses that feed into Kashmere, district officials acknowledged this week that Kashmere remains in need of better support in 2018-19. The district’s efforts this year will be closely watched by state legislators and education leaders, who have grown increasingly impatient with Kashmere’s poor academic outcomes. “We know we can move students in that school, just like we’ve moved them in other schools,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “But it is about the leadership. It is about the teaching staff. They’re the key, and we’re not going to take anything away from them.” For the past decade, Kashmere often has been cited by state leaders as the poster child of ineffective educational practices in Texas’ largest school district. In response to Kashmere’s repeated failure to meet state academic standards, legislators passed a law three years ago that mandates sanctions — either forced campus closures or replacement of the locally elected school board — in any district where a school receives a fifth straight “improvement required” rating as of 2018. “How many kids have gone through four years of that high school and it wasn’t up to standard?” said state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

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Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2018

Trustees say it's OK if Grand Prairie ISD chief doesn't live in district, pricey home it bought, renovated

The superintendent of Grand Prairie ISD doesn't want to live in the district anymore, and district trustees now say that's OK with them. The board on Thursday voted to let Susan Simpson Hull vacate the house she rents from the district, KTVT-TV (Channel 11) reported — despite thousands of dollars having been spent for unapproved renovations. The district purchased the house for nearly $700,000 in 2016, and Hull's administration, without board approval, spent another $160,000 renovating the Carrier Parkway property. But Hull apparently still wasn't happy, and on Thursday, board president Burke Hall proposed removing two clauses from her contract — one requiring the person in charge of the district to live within district boundaries, and Hull's $2,000-a-month rental agreement itself. The proposal was listed on the board's consent agenda, the news station reported, normally reserved for routine items. Trustee Steve Pryor also questioned the timing of the discussion, noting the superintendent's contract typically updated in January. "Why are we doing this now?" asked Pryor, who as board's former president had promised a full investigation into how and why taxpayer money was spent on the renovations. Hull deferred to legal counsel, and the board went into closed session, returning not much later to pass the motion with Pryor as the lone dissenting vote. Hall, the board president, said that as long as the superintendent can focus on the job stress-free, it doesn't matter where she lives, to which trustee Gloria Carrillo added: "I think that we should allow her to be in a place where she's more comfortable."

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2018

Grigsby: ‘Don’t Uptown Our Plano’ is one of The Angry Crowd’s scare tactics distorting the city's real story

You can’t say I don’t try to listen to what the other guy has to say. For six weeks, I’ve been looking for someone associated with Plano Future to talk about why this group, juiced by the bullhorn of social media, is so angry with its hometown government. Phone calls and emails to group founder Jim Dillavou got me nowhere. Only after I wrote about the suburb’s nasty political struggle -- which Plano Future is at the heart of -- did I get a callback. Spokesman Allan Samara told me Dillavou doesn’t like dealing with the press, so Samara was calling in his stead to set me straight on Plano Future. He followed up with a two-page email detailing the group’s grievances and agreed to an interview. Finally, a source that was willing to talk. But 15 minutes into our Plano Future interview, Samara threw this curve: “Jim [Dillavou] doesn’t want me specifically speaking for Plano Future and I’m going to respect that. I actually speak for Smart Plano Future.” Wait, what? This was the first I had heard of a splinter within the group. From there, the conversation only got even weirder and more convoluted. Not long after I cut off the interview with Samara, I received a text from Dillavou, who apparently had a sudden change of heart about that dealing-with-the-press thing. So why is this suburban “Who’s on first?” routine worth my time, much less yours? It matters because this loosely organized group with nebulous membership is playing havoc with almost every issue Plano faces. Plano Future’s decibel level far exceeds its actual size and significance. But with a mailing list of thousands of residents who may not be paying close attention to their municipal government, Plano Future is driving -- and often distorting -- this suburb’s development story.

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2018

On top of food deserts, Dallas' Hispanic and black populations also flooded with food swamps

Even when school's out, Maria Amaya and her 6-year-old daughter, Sophia, work this community garden three to four days a week, tending to the herbs, Texas wildflowers and vegetables the school grows. When it’s time to harvest, Amaya takes home a small share to prepare healthy meals for her husband and three kids, something that helps her stretch the family’s single-income budget. Amaya said she knows that she’s one of the lucky parents with the time to do this at the predominantly Hispanic school in Far East Dallas, an area that, on top of being identified as a food desert, is littered with what researchers have recently coined food swamps — areas where fast-food options and convenience stores outnumber healthy food options. Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut released a study in November 2017 that proposed the idea that the prevalence of food swamps may have a stronger impact on a community’s health than the oft-discussed phenomenon of food deserts. “Our results suggest that the presence of a food swamp is a stronger predictor of obesity rates than the absence of full-service grocery stores,” the study reads. “We found, even after controlling for food desert effects, food swamps have a positive, statistically significant effect on adult obesity rates.” The study, conducted in an urban setting, also found that minorities and low-income people are more likely than whites to live near unhealthy food retailers. “These associations raise questions about causality and suggest that the race and ethnicity of a community shapes the actions of the food industry and community design decision makers, which in turn, influence the food environment,” the study reads. For Dallas’ Hispanic and black populations, that could mean food environments in beloved neighborhoods like Pleasant Grove, Oak Cliff and East Dallas are shaping their long-term health outlooks.

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National Stories

New York Times - August 19, 2018

Asia Argento, a #MeToo leader, made a deal with her own accuser

The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight. But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18. That claim and the subsequent arrangement for payments are laid out in documents between lawyers for Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennett, a former child actor who once played her son in a movie. The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. Three people familiar with the case said the documents were authentic. The Times has tried repeatedly since Thursday to get a response to the matter from Ms. Argento and her representatives. She did not reply to messages left on her phone, sent by email and sent to two of her agents, who agreed to forward it to her. Carrie Goldberg, her lawyer who handled the matter, read email messages from The Times, according to two people familiar with the case, but she has not responded. A woman who answered the phone at Ms. Goldberg’s office on Friday said the lawyer would not be available to discuss this article.

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New York Times - August 19, 2018

Giuliani says ‘truth isn’t truth’ in defense of Trump’s legal strategy

First, the facts were alternative, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, suggested last year. And now, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said “Truth isn’t truth,” adding his own phrase to memorable — and sometimes head-scratching — comments made by those close to the president. During an interview on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the show’s host, Chuck Todd, asked Mr. Giuliani about Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who The New York Times reported was cooperating extensively in the special counsel investigation. Mr. Todd asked how Mr. Giuliani had responded to requests by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to interview Mr. Trump and whether Mr. Giuliani had delayed the investigation. Mr. Giuliani replied he would not be rushed into having Mr. Trump testify “so that he gets trapped into perjury.” “And when you tell me that, ‘You know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry,’ well, that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Truth is truth,” Mr. Todd insisted. “No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth,” Mr. Giuliani said as Mr. Todd leaned his head onto his hand. “Truth isn’t truth?” Mr. Todd asked, appearing stunned and at one point looking up. “This is going to become a bad meme.” “Don’t do this to me,” Mr. Giuliani replied, his hand to his head, mimicking Mr. Todd. “Donald Trump says, ‘I didn’t talk about Flynn with Comey.’ Comey says, ‘You did talk about it.’ So tell me what the truth is.” Mr. Giuliani was alluding to a statement he made on CNN this month that the president never spoke with James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, about ending an investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the fired national security adviser, thus contradicting Mr. Comey.

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New York Times - August 20, 2018

Wasserman: Why even a blue wave would have limited gains

The proper way to view the 2018 midterms might not be as one event, but as two very different elections playing out at once. It’s almost Mars vs. Venus: The Senate hinges on red, rural states where Democrats are on defense. But the House will be decided by swing, suburban seats where Republicans are highly vulnerable. These radically different maps could produce dramatically divergent results — and make Congress even more toxic and adversarial in 2019. It's hard to believe, but true: If every state’s and district’s election results on Nov. 6 were a uniform eight-point swing in the Democrats’ direction from the 2016 presidential result, Democrats would gain 44 House seats — almost twice the 23 they need to control the chamber. But with that same eight-point swing, the party would lose four Senate seats, leaving them six seats short of a majority. A bifurcation that extreme is highly unlikely, because a handful of incumbents are personally popular enough to defy their constituents’ normal partisan preferences. For example, Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, and Representative John Katko, Republican of New York’s 24th District, an upstate area around Syracuse, have cultivated strong, independent brands: In Mr. Tester’s case, as a farmer who butchers his own meat; in Mr. Katko’s case, as a tough-on-gangs prosecutor. The Cook Political Report rates both of them as favorites for re-election. But in an era characterized by declining rates of split-ticket voting and an enormous, growing urban vs. rural divide (by my math, in 2016, Donald Trump carried 76 percent of counties with a Cracker Barrel but 22 percent of counties with a Whole Foods Market), holdouts like Mr. Tester and Mr. Katko could be more the exception than the rule.

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Associated Press - August 19, 2018

Women win primaries in record numbers, look to November

Women are not just running for office in record numbers this year — they are winning. More women than ever before have won major party primaries for governor, U.S. Senate and House this year — setting a U.S. record and paving the way for November battles that could significantly increase the number of women in elected office and change the public debate on issues such as health care, immigration, abortion rights, education and gun control. Some of these candidates could also play a pivotal role in whether Democrats are able to take control of the U.S. House. Most of these female hopefuls are Democrats, some of whom are first-time candidates who say their motivation to run sprang from President Donald Trump's election and Republican control of Congress. But other developments factor in, too. The #MeToo movement. Women's marches. Trump's nomination of conservative appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. "Part of the reason I thought this race was possible, even despite great odds, was because of all the women who are so engaged in my community in a new way," said Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor who looks to capture a GOP congressional seat in New Jersey. Sherrill is one of some 200 women who have won their primaries for U.S. House, with 94 of these candidates surviving crowded fields with three or more candidates, according to an analysis of election results. Previously, the most women who had advanced were 167 in 2016, according to records kept by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In the Senate, a record 19 women have won their primaries. And for the first time, 13 women have been nominated for gubernatorial races in a single election year.

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Associated Press - August 19, 2018

U.S. says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the U.S., the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs. The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration's proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare. Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which "in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy," the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked U.S. shale oil reserves, giving "the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern." With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation -- even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions. President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of "energy dominance" as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan. Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to "use energy wisely," the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement. Reaction was quick. "It's like saying, 'I'm a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped -- it's time to start eating again,'" said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.

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Tribune News Service - August 18, 2018

Trump backed space force after months of lobbying by aerospace industry

When President Donald Trump spoke to Marines at the Miramar Air Station in San Diego March 13, he threw out an idea that he suggested had just come to him. “You know, I was saying it the other day, because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the ‘space force,’” he said. “And I was not really serious. And then I said what a great idea — maybe we’ll have to do that.” The origin of the space force wasn’t that simple. The concept had been pushed unsuccessfully since 2016 by a small group of current and former government officials — some with deep financial ties to the aerospace industry — who see creation of the sixth military service as a surefire way to increase Pentagon spending on satellite and other space systems. The idea of a space force “is not a new thing,” said Stuart O. Witt, an aerospace executive and a member of White House’s National Space Council Users Advisory Group. “The president just acted upon it.” But Rep. Jim Cooper, (D-Tenn., one of the early supporters of a separate service, complained that Trump’s impromptu endorsement had “hijacked” the issue and could vastly inflate the budget process. “There are many vendors of all types who are excited at the prospect of an explosion of new spending, which was not our goal,” he said. Still, when Trump embraced the idea at Miramar — and began promoting it at other rallies — a moribund notion opposed by much of the Pentagon hierarchy and senior members of the Senate became a real possibility. A few days after the San Diego speech, Trump took a phone call at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida from Rep. Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., who is chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces. He had been promoting the space force to Trump and his advisers for months. “This is something we have to do,” Rogers said he told Trump. “It’s a national security imperative.” “I’m all in,” Trump replied, Rogers said. “We are going to have a space force.” The story of how that happened is a window into the chaotic way Trump sometimes makes decisions, often by bypassing traditional bureaucracy to tout ideas that work well as applause lines but aren’t fully thought out.

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ProPublica - August 17, 2018

When Sarah Sanders and the ACLU teamed up for voting rights

As the midterm elections approach, Republican state officials and lawmakers have stepped up efforts to block students from voting in their college towns. Republicans in Texas pushed through a law last year requiring voters to carry one of seven forms of photo identification, including handgun licenses but excluding student IDs. In June, the GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina approved early voting guidelines that have already resulted in closing of polling locations at several colleges. And last month, New Hampshire’s Republican governor signed a law that requires students who vote in the state to also register their cars and obtain driver’s licenses there. One nationally prominent Republican, however, once took the opposite stance on student voting. As an undergraduate at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee—now White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—sued to allow students to vote after being one of more than 900 purged from the county’s rolls. “It’s almost like taxation without representation,” she said at the time. “They thought that because we were young that they could walk all over us, but obviously that’s not the case.” Illustrating the adage that politics makes strange bedfellows, the 2002 lawsuit paired a then-20-year-old Sanders with the American Civil Liberties Union. It began, as disputes over student voting often do, with a town-and-gown conflict. Reversing the usual pattern, a Democrat rather than a Republican instigated the student disenfranchisement. For Sanders, the daughter of Arkansas’ then-governor Mike Huckabee, the little-known episode helped her carve out a niche as a political activist in her own right. It remains relevant today both because of her influential post in the Trump administration and because it suggests that Republican efforts to restrict student voting are largely pragmatic—intended to maximize the party’s electoral chances—and could change as circumstances warrant. It also indicates that Democratic support for on-campus voting may similarly hinge on the expectation that most students lean to the left.

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Weekly Standard - August 17, 2018

Gonzalez: Don't end end Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans, Haitians and Hondurans

During the last year, the Trump administration announced that it would terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for around 300,000 foreign nationals from Central America and the Caribbean. TPS gives migrants already in America legal permission to remain in the United States if their countries are suffering from natural disaster or social unrest. The Department of Homeland Security can designate countries for 6 to 18 months and extend the period as many times as it sees fit, but recipients must periodically reregister to maintain their status. DHS decided that conditions in El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti—the three most high-use countries of the 10 currently designated for the program—have improved enough to send TPS recipients back to their countries of origin. By 2020, nearly 200,000 Salvadorans and around 100,000 combined Hondurans and Haitians expected to reregister for TPS will have been stripped of their status, and will thus face deportation. Immigration hardliners favor this decision. They worry, first, that TPS beneficiaries will be allowed to live and work in America forever, because no presidential administration will ever have the wherewithal to revoke their TPS and deport them. Second, they point out that TPS recipients are not especially in need of U.S. largesse. The conditions of Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador may be dire, but so are those of Venezuela, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea—three countries not designated by the government for TPS. Should their nationals also be eligible? Where are we to draw the limit? Finally, they worry that the TPS debate puts at stake the credibility of the U.S. immigration regime. Ending TPS, they argue, would move us closer to the ideal of seriously protecting American sovereignty. While these concerns raise some legitimate questions, they are ultimately misplaced. To the first point, for example: Although there is something incoherent about allowing “Temporary” Protected Status to be renewed for all eternity, this incoherence is not an argument for ending TPS; it merely suggests that the law should be updated to reflect new realities.

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National Review - August 17, 2018

Farris: ADF "hate" labels deserve vigorous response

Last week, we were honored to have U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speak at the Alliance Defending Freedom Summit on Religious Liberty, where he reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to upholding the first freedoms of every American. In his remarks, Sessions, who many in the media lambasted for speaking at the same event a year ago, also confronted the troubling smear of ADF as a “hate group” by the once-venerable Southern Poverty Law Center. That slander, Sessions said, is no way to describe a respected legal-advocacy organization that has won nine cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in the past seven years, including three victories after the SPLC tagged ADF with its erroneously vicious “hate group” label in early 2017. The SPLC has “used this designation as a weapon, and they have wielded it against conservative organizations that refuse to accept their orthodoxy and choose instead to speak their conscience,” he said. “They use it to bully and intimidate groups like yours, which fight for the religious freedom, the civil rights, and the constitutional rights of the American people.” Sessions went on to say that, at his direction, the Department of Justice is reviewing partner organizations to make sure they no longer work with groups that, like the SPLC, “unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith.” Anticipating those strong words from Sessions, the SPLC released a statement from its president, Richard Cohen, defending its purposeful vilification of ADF and others with whom it disagrees. The SPLC’s name-calling has a clear goal. They wish to silence anyone who disagrees with them on a variety of subjects, including, in our case, same-sex marriage and related LGBT issues. Our nation has a choice. Will we stand up for free speech for all, or will we give in to the growing impulse to harass, vilify, and coerce every person who disagrees with our views? Will we stand for freedom of the press, even when we don’t like its viewpoint? These rights travel together and must both be defended. Defending the right of those with other viewpoints to speak and publish is an absolute prerequisite for a society that embraces a truly civil discourse. Forced homogeneity of thinking never results in civility.

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The Guardian - August 19, 2018

McElvoy: US Democrats are struggling to make sense of a socialist surge

On the well-kept shores of Martha’s Vineyard, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Obamas arrived this month, still drawing their respective following of acolytes for book signings, cocktail parties and informal think-ins about what Democrats need to do to turn back the tide of Trumpism. The local joke is that when they leave the tiny airport “the left turns right” to their down-island destination of identical clapperboard summer retreats. Beyond this cloistered world of J Crew and clam bakes, the destination of travel looks very different. As America prepares for electoral combat season in the midterm elections this November, the centre-left is being lured to turn harder to the left. The hot movement for opponents of Donald Trump’s aggressive populism is the Democratic Socialists of America, fiercely competing for political oxygen with Democratic party candidates. For a democracy once said by a Soviet visitor to offer a choice that was “the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola”, this is a whole new brew. The rise of the Democratic Socialists is the afterlife of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, but with roots in a movement reaching back a century and that last peaked in a post-Depression quest for a New Deal. Candidates endorsed by the movement (it is, like Momentum, structured to avoid calling itself a conventional party) have recently won nomination battles in New York and Pennsylvania and a slew of others in urban centers are either associating themselves formally with it or identifying with its rhetoric. Some factors behind its rise are specific to the ordeal of living under a political poltergeist noisily overturning the arrangement of bipartisan politics and challenging America’s place in the global order. Determination to get rid of a reactionary president alternates with an underlying anxiety that Democrats as usual may not have the breadth or star appeal to combat the force of his message.

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CNBC - August 20, 2018

Tesla falls below $300, down another 6% in premarket trading after last week's slide

Tesla's stock price fell below $300 per share during premarket trading Monday as investors in the electric automaker continued to doubt the validity of a privatization proposal by its founder Elon Musk. Shares of the Palo Alto, California-based company fell as much as 6 percent before the opening bell, set to add to last week's 14 percent slide. J.P. Morgan slashed its projections for the carmaker Monday morning, telling clients that while it originally took chief executive Elon Musk's proposal to take the company private seriously, the funding to do so "appears to not have been secured." The firm pared its December 2018 price target for Tesla shares back to $195 from $308, representing 36 percent downside to Friday's close. But while the bearish J.P. Morgan note may have weighed on the stock Monday, investors have had plenty of reason to question the CEO over the past few weeks. The Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly served Tesla with a subpoena early last week after Musk's now-famous privatization tweet. Earlier reports said the SEC had intensified scrutiny of the automaker after the controversial tweet. A subpoena would be one of the first steps in a formal inquiry. The SEC declined CNBC's request for comment on the subpoena.

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Fox News - August 19, 2018

China's Xi to make first official visit to Pyongyang for North Korea's 70th anniversary

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit North Korea next month, accepting Kim Jong Un's invitation to attend the country's 70th anniversary of its founding, a report said Friday. Xi's visit to Pyongyang would be his first to the North Korean capital since 2012 when he took power, Reuters reported, citing Singapore's Straits Times. The trip would also be 13 years after the last visit by a Chinese president, the report said. Hu Jintao, Xi's predecessor, visited in 2005. North Korea's celebrations are scheduled for Sept. 9, the paper reported. But Xi's visit could still be subject to last-minute changes, the report said. The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond for comment. Kim has visited China three times so far this year -- twice before the Singapore summit with President Trump and the third time a week after. Their discussions primarily involved economic reform and cooperation between the two nations, according to Reuters.

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Washington Post - August 20, 2018

Brennan says he’s willing to take Trump to court over security clearances

Former CIA director John O. Brennan said Sunday that he is willing to take President Trump to court to prevent other current and former officials from having their security clearances revoked, escalating a battle over whether the president is misusing the power of his office to retaliate against opponents. “I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that,” Brennan said in an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” Brennan voiced his eagerness to challenge Trump on the same day that national security adviser John Bolton floated the idea of a sweeping review of all security clearances held by those both inside and outside the government. Such a review could affect more than 4 million Americans. Brennan, who is among Trump’s most outspoken critics, was abruptly stripped of his clearance by the White House last week. Brennan said Sunday that since then, a number of lawyers have contacted him to offer advice on pursuing an injunction to prevent Trump from taking similar actions in the future. “If my clearances — and my reputation, as I’m being pulled through the mud now — if that’s the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me, it’s a small price to pay,” Brennan said. He did not elaborate on what such a legal move would entail. Asked during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” about a possible lawsuit by Brennan, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, described it as a welcome opportunity. “I would volunteer to do that case for the president. I would love to have Brennan under oath,” Giuliani said. “We will find out about Brennan, and we will find out what a terrible job he did.”

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Real Clear Politics - August 20, 2018

Scher: The case for Nancy Pelosi

More than 40 Democratic nominees for House seats, and another 11 Democratic incumbents, have publicly said they don’t want Rep. Nancy Pelosi to regain the speaker’s gavel if their party wins control of the chamber. But they can’t give a good reason why. Both the New York Times and NBC News recently cataloged the comments of Pelosi’s intra-party critics. Almost no one has a complaint about a policy position, strategic decision or style of management. “It’s time for new leadership” is the most common refrain, sometimes linked to a lament that “Washington is broken.” Still, no one can articulate what Pelosi did to break it. Pelosi is generally regarded by both supporters and critics as an effective legislator and a steely negotiator, not a source of Beltway dysfunction. Whatever the failings of the current 115th Congress, none of them rest on Pelosi’s shoulders. All she has done is keep her own caucus unified, putting pressure on the Republican majority to deliver on its own promises. Yet she is not an inflexible partisan. When Republican divides made Democratic votes necessary to keep the government open and avert a debt default this year and last, Pelosi delivered them. In her first run as speaker, she engineered the last increase in the federal minimum wage America has had, part of a bipartisan deal that also secured additional funding for the Iraq War. And in 2015, when a handful of right-wing members were making noise about ousting Speaker John Boehner in a House floor vote, Boehner asked Pelosi if she would, if necessary, have her members vote “present” and deny the coup plotters a majority. She agreed, in the interest of the institution. As she explained later, “You can’t have 30 people in your caucus decide they’re going to vacate the chair.”

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Wall Street Journal - August 19, 2018

For McCaskill, re-election may rest with vote on Supreme Court nominee

In an RV emblazoned with her name, Sen. Claire McCaskill pulled into a manufacturing plant in this deep-Republican part of the state to blast the administration for how it implemented tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Then she was asked where she stood on the president’s Supreme Court nominee. The two-term Missouri Democrat said she had three topics of discussion for her meeting with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, set for Tuesday: money in politics, consumer protections in health care, and business consolidation. “I want to make sure Judge Kavanaugh has a feel for the little guy who is taking on Goliath.” As a senator in a state President Trump won by 19 percentage points, Ms. McCaskill summed up her vote on his nomination as “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Ms. McCaskill is one of 10 senators set to vote on the nomination who are seeking re-election in states won by Mr. Trump in 2016. A vote for Judge Kavanaugh could show Republican voters that they are willing to work with the president. But the activated Democratic base is pushing senators to reject him, worried it will solidify the court’s conservative majority. Outside groups are ready to spend millions to lean on senators as the November midterm elections approach. The Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity has digital ads supporting Judge Kavanaugh, targeting seven states Trump won that have Democratic senators. The National Republican Senatorial Committee just bought $2.8 million in ads opposing Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ms. McCaskill. While the ads don’t focus on Judge Kavanaugh, they critique the senators for being liberal and against the president.

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Newsclips - August 19, 2018

Lead Stories

NPR - August 17, 2018

NPR: To win Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke is running to the left

If you arrived at Beto O'Rourke's recent town hall meeting in San Antonio even 40 minutes ahead of time, you were out of luck. All 650 seats were already taken. It was one sign that the El Paso Democratic congressman has set Texas Democrats on fire this year, as he takes on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's re-election bid. Texas Democrats have been wandering in the electoral wilderness for two decades — 1994 was the last time they won a statewide race — but at O'Rourke's events, they have been showing up in droves. Often, it's standing room only. "Let's make a lot of noise so the folks in the overflow room know we're here, that we care about them," O'Rourke tells the crowd at the town hall, before counting to three and leading them in a cheer of "San Antonio!" While he was sorry that all of those supporters couldn't see him, Beto O'Rourke is an unapologetic, unabashed liberal who has shown no interest in moving toward the political middle after his victory in the Texas Democratic primary. On issues like universal health care, an assault weapons ban, abortion rights and a higher minimum wage, O'Rourke has staked out progressive positions. The Democrat even raised the specter of impeachment after President Trump's Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin — although O'Rourke has since walked back that position some. Nevertheless, recent polls have him just 2 and 6 points behind Cruz. Compare that with the 20-point walloping state Sen. Wendy Davis endured in 2014 when she lost in a landslide to Republican Greg Abbott in the race for governor. But that recent history begs the question of whether someone running as far to the left as O'Rourke can actually win in a state like Texas.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times - August 18, 2018

Ted Cruz blasts Beto O'Rourke for supporting the NFL 'take a knee' movement

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in a campaign stop Saturday in Corpus Christi, slammed Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke for siding with the NFL players who’ve chosen to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd of about 500 jammed inside downtown music venue The House of Rock, Cruz rejected O’Rourke’s likening the “take a knee” gesture to the actions of civil rights protesters of the 1960s. “When Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American (than players taking a knee), well I got to tell you, I can,” Cruz said to loud applause. As an example, Cruz noted that service members on military posts around the nation routinely salute the flag and stand at attention whenever the anthem is played. In what polls suggest could be an unusually close race for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, Cruz used the NFL controversy to further highlight the contrast between him and O'Rourke, who is giving up a safe El Paso-based congressional seat to challenge the incumbent Republican. O'Rourke, who is campaigning in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley this weekend, is seeking to be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in 30 years and the first in his party to win any statewide election since 1994. The Democrat provided the opening at a town hall meeting in Houston last week when he was asked if the players who decline to stand for the anthem are disrespectful. O'Rouke said it wasn't and offered several examples of how gestures of protest brought about social change.

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2018

DMN: If we can't trust Lupe Valdez with a gun, can we trust her with the governorship?

Where is former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez's service pistol? We ask because no one seems to know. The Sheriff's Department is at a loss. And Valdez, the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, is nonresponsive to questions about a certain missing Beretta 9mm that she had on loan from the department. And we ask because it is a big deal when a police officer loses track of a weapon. So the story we have developing now around a candidate seeking to lead our second-largest state is either carelessness on her part for not returning the weapon upon retirement, or carelessness on the part of the department for not keeping track of a weapon that was properly returned. To be clear, no one knows who is at fault or even whether the weapon is in the wrong hands. What we do know is that the Sheriff's Department doesn't know where the weapon is. We also know Valdez's campaign did not respond to inquiries we made as to whether she turned in the weapon when she stepped down Dec. 31, 2017. And we know that the department says it knew at the end of the year that her gun was missing. It then asked her where it was, launched an investigation this spring, and then filed paperwork in July reporting the pistol missing. We also know that the Sheriff's Department has 557 officers performing various duties who have the authority to carry firearms. Not all of them carry a pistol owned by the department, but an audit shows there is only one missing gun: the one issued to Valdez.

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New York Times - August 18, 2018

White House Counsel, Don McGahn, has cooperated extensively in Mueller inquiry

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter. In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president’s most intimate moments with his lawyer. Among them were Mr. Trump’s comments and actions during the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and Mr. Trump’s obsession with putting a loyalist in charge of the inquiry, including his repeated urging of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to claim oversight of it. Mr. McGahn was also centrally involved in Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which investigators might not have discovered without him. For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual. Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege.

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The Hill - August 18, 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: I 'fully admit' our bias is 'more left-leaning'

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said on Saturday that he "fully admit[s]" Twitter employees share a largely left-leaning bias after facing accusations that conservatives are discriminated against on the social media platform. In an interview that aired Saturday on CNN, Dorsey said his company has a responsibility to be open about its political viewpoints, but to operate without bias when applying content policies to users. "We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is...is more left-leaning," Dorsey says. "But the real question behind the question is, are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? And we are not. Period," he added. Dorsey went on to insist that his company only polices behavior on the platform, not content. Dorsey's remarks follow criticism from the right over supposed "shadow-banning" of conservatives users. The platform and Dorsey have also faced questions over the decision not to remove far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from the platform, despite other social media platforms choosing to do so.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2018

Unpaid: After Hurricane Harvey, Texas failed to defend workers against wage exploitation

Just days after Hurricane Harvey released its grip on Texas a year ago, Guillermo Martinez Ayme was hard at work in the rebuilding effort. He was one of more than 100 workers laboring from sunrise to sunset seven days a week, gutting a MainStay Suites hotel in Ingleside, 20 minutes north of Corpus Christi, that had been totaled by the storm. They worked 10- and 12-hour shifts in stifling summer heat, tearing down mold-infested walls, discarding storm debris and moving rotting furniture out of the four-story building. But when payday came a few weeks later, several workers found their paychecks were short. Others had no checks at all. “It wasn’t just me,” said Martinez Ayme, who said he is still owed about $900. “There were many of my fellow workers who were also ripped off.” More than a dozen workers eventually complained they had not received payment for their work, while the construction companies in charge of the project blamed one another for the lack of payments. Nearly a year later, many of those workers say they still have not been paid. Experts have known since at least Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that wage theft — as these unpaid wages are often known — increases dramatically after natural disasters. Employers looking to profit off rebuilding take on transient and vulnerable workers they can easily exploit. And yet, Texas officials were unprepared. An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Dallas Morning News found the state failed to implement the most basic defenses against wage theft after Hurricane Harvey, leaving some workers in the rebuilding effort to fend for themselves against employers. The hurricane made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, killing 68 and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and causing more than $125 billion in damage. Lisa Givens, spokeswoman for the Texas Workforce Commission, defended the state’s work, saying the agency saw no spike in claims for unpaid wages after the hurricane.

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Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2018

Is Texas' economy losing steam? Here's why some economists think it may be

Texas posted job gains for the 25th month in a row in July, data released Friday showed. And unemployment held firm at a low, low 4 percent. But even with a 23,500-job boost, economists said that some of the numbers hinted at shifts in the Lone Star State that they’ve been predicting for months. Manufacturing, for instance, lost jobs for the first time in a year and a half. “We’re seeing some of the slower employment data that we were expecting,” said Pia Orrenius, a senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The Texas economy came out of the 2018 gate strong, adding tens of thousands of jobs every month this year. So far this year, employment in Texas has grown by 3.2 percent, according to the Dallas Fed. But on Friday, economists there said they had dialed back their full year growth forecast based on how they think the rest of the year will go. Now, they said, they expect Texas’ job number to grow by 2.7 percent instead of 3 percent. The state managed to add 10,500 construction jobs last month — a feat, experts say, that speaks to demand despite a painful construction labor shortage. One recent estimate found that Dallas-Fort Worth alone needed at least 38,500 more construction workers. Kramp said that new tariffs on things like lumber and steel have made construction that much more expensive. And then there is the rising labor costs. So he said that he’s heard from clients that they’re tapping the brakes on spending. Orrenius emphasized that minimal unemployment in Texas’ fastest growing metro areas — Dallas-Fort Worth’s not seasonally adjusted rate in July was 3.6 percent — is long past being a good thing. Now it’s becoming a little worrisome. “The unemployment rate is below the natural rate — it can’t be sustained,” she said. “We’re looking for the turning point.”

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Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2018

Richardson, Dallas and more: Why Texas school districts are asking voters to raise taxes

More and more, public school officials are done waiting on help from Austin. The state's complicated and dated public school finance system has stymied districts as education costs and demands pile up, some school officials say. Now, dozens of districts across the state are expected to ask voters this fall to approve tax-ratification elections. Dallas ISD became one of them last week. And joining North Texas' largest district will likely be Frisco and Richardson ISDs, which have board votes scheduled Monday to call their own elections in November. Justin Bono, Richardson ISD's board president, said the district doesn't have enough money to offer competitive pay for teachers. He said the school board "put off this decision as long as we could" while hoping for a statewide solution. The state's current system partially negates years of population growth and rising property values because it decreases education funding to districts as local property tax revenue increases. But state legislators, whose constituents have seen property values and tax bills soar in recent years, have struggled to find a solution. During that time, some school districts have been hesitant to ask voters to pony up more money. And one district that tried it — booming Frisco ISD — failed to persuade voters to raise taxes two years ago. The district will probably ask again in a different way this year.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2018

Protesters from right, left converge at Capitol

A steady loop of bells and sirens sounded in front of the Texas Capitol on Saturday afternoon as leftist groups tried to drown out the speeches of their conservative counterparts, who came to protest political violence and defend their First Amendment right to free speech. During the 3½-hour rally, the opposing groups hurled insults and threats at each other, and at times became confrontational, causing several people to be detained by police. The event, called the March Against Far-Left Violence, was organized in Austin by Texans United for America, a group that has held several rallies in the city in support of President Donald Trump. It was held in conjunction with sister rallies across the country Saturday, including in Boston, Los Angeles and Charleston, W.Va., in response to recent violence that occurred in Portland, Ore., on June 30 at a right-wing group’s rally, in which several people were injured by projectiles when the event turned into a riot between clashing groups. Marvina Case, who organized the Austin rally, said conservatives should have the right to voice their opinions without being persecuted. “This is not just a Portland, Ore., issue; this is not just an Austin issue. It is happening all over the country,” Case said. “We have to have marches and rallies and record ourselves so the message gets out there. The goal of the rally is to bring awareness and let them see who they are actually hurting.” Around 2 p.m., the conservative groups marched up Congress Avenue, many carrying American flags and semi-automatic rifles, and entered the Capitol grounds between a line of Austin police and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers as opposition groups chanted “cowards.” As they began speeches on the south steps of the Capitol, they were interrupted by counterprotesters, including those from ATX Resistance Action and Antifa.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2018

How George P. Bush’s agency stumbled in helping Harvey victims

Less than a month after Hurricane Harvey struck, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped Land Commissioner George P. Bush to help put storm victims back in their homes. “I am confident Land Commissioner Bush is up to the challenge,” Abbott said in September. “His charge is clear — to be a champion for Texans whose residences have been damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and help them to feel once again at home.” The task appeared a big challenge — and an excellent opportunity — for an ambitious politician. Bush, the scion of Texas’ most famous political family, is widely thought to aspire to higher office. “We’re up to the task,” Bush said at the time. “This effort will show once again that when Texans come together, nothing, not even the worst natural disaster in our state’s history, can stop us.” But six months later, with thousands still out of their homes, the governor installed a Mr. Fixit — Phil Wilson, general manager of the Austin-based Lower Colorado River Authority — to work with Bush’s General Land Office to resolve a housing crisis. As the anniversary of Harvey approaches, Wilson’s hurricane relief work is done and the crisis has subsided. But the episode shines a light on how Bush’s drive to downsize his office — as part of an effort to prove his conservative bona fides — left the agency scrambling to meet the vast demands of hurricane recovery. And the fact that Abbott turned to Wilson suggests how politically tricky Harvey relief had become — for both Abbott and Bush. With billions of dollars set to flow from Washington into the small, devastated communities that dot the Texas coast, the process of recovery is ripe with political upside and fraught with pitfalls for two Republican state leaders running for re-election.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2018

How did low-income Texas schools fare under state’s A-F rating system?

Although they tended to perform better under the state’s new school rating system than under the previous one, Texas schools with the highest rates of low-income children still performed worse than schools with wealthier student bodies. Among Texas schools with the highest percentages of low-income students, 6 percent of them failed to meet state standards, compared with 12 percent that failed last year and 22 percent that failed in 2013, according to an American-Statesman analysis. School districts with the highest percentage of low-income students also failed at the lowest rate in five years — 4 percent. Despite improved performance under the new system compared with the old one, schools and districts with high rates of low-income students still trailed their peers that have wealthier students under the new rating system, according to analysis by multiple education organizations. “We all want a good accountability system, but what we’ve seen is that despite (state officials’) best efforts, we still have a huge population of kids that just aren’t being graded fairly,” said Dax Gonzalez with the Texas Association of School Boards. Last week’s ratings — school districts were assigned grades of A through F, and campuses were given labels of “met standard” or “improvement required” as well as a numeric score — were determined under a new state system that public school officials have criticized. They say that reducing districts to a letter grade oversimplifies the varied programs and accomplishments of public schools, and they argue the rating system relies too much on student performance on state standardized tests. Research has shown that poorer students — 59 percent of Texas public school students are low-income — tend to perform worse on such tests than their peers. Advocates of the new rating system, including Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, have touted it as the fairest school rating system the state has seen yet. They point out that there’s a provision in the system, for example, that allows schools and districts to be compared to other schools and districts with similar student poverty levels. “There is a modest correlation between level of poverty and a school’s performance, but this system has moved the needle pretty dramatically to lessen that correlation,” said Molly Weiner with Austin-based Texas Aspires.

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Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2018

Inmate suicide note from Harris County jail points to systemic gaps in mental health care

Sue and Eldon were childhood sweethearts. Growing up, they held hands at the roller rink and ditched school dances together. They almost got married at 17, but instead drifted apart after high school. Then, 34 years later, he found her again on Facebook - and they thought they would start their happily-ever-after. But then there was the meth addiction. The hurricane. The fight. The fire. The arrest. And by April, Eldon Jackson wound up in the Harris County jail facing a 30-year sentence for arson. He’d lit their house on fire, then slit his own throat. He came into jail with burns on his body and bloody lacerations on his neck, a visible reminder of his internal crisis. But, apparently, he didn't get the help he needed. “I don’t want to die, but being in jail is too much for me," the 61-year-old wrote in a letter to the Chronicle. His mental state vacillated over the three months he penned the jailhouse missive, sometimes professing his love for Sue, sometimes lashing out at her. But then early one morning in July - a day after jailers put him in solitary confinement to prevent repeated calls to his wife - he killed himself, fashioning a hand-made noose from the gauze used to treat his burns. His death was the first of two jail suicides in barely three weeks, at a facility that’s struggled to treat the influx of mentally ill patients coming through its doors. A Navy veteran who'd long battled addiction, Jackson's case highlights cracks in the system - cracks advocates hoped to fill with the 2017 passage of the Sandra Bland Act. Named for the Illinois woman who died by suicide in the Waller County jail three years ago, the legislation did much to draw attention to the needs of mentally ill populations in the days immediately after their arrest, and to diverting them from jail in the first place. But it did less to highlight the ongoing suicide risk weeks or months into a jail stay and failed to spark discussion about the problems of putting inmates having a mental health crisis in solitary confinement.

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Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2018

HC: Texas’ bill comes due for illegal special ed cap

Imagine being a teacher and told not to bother trying to help a child who is having difficulty learning. That was happening routinely in Texas public schools before the legislature was shamed into eliminating an 8.5 percent cap the state had placed on special education enrollment. The federal Department of Education in January told the Texas Education Agency that the “target” it first imposed in 2004 violated federal laws requiring schools to serve all students. The cap wasn’t just illegal, it was morally reprehensible and shortsighted. The cap limited the aspirations of students with learning disabilities who didn’t get the help they needed, and shortchanged the state’s future by inadequately educating thousands of its children. The cap’s impact was reported last year in the Chronicle’s investigative series “Denied,” which pointed out that Houston had imposed an even more draconian 8 percent target for special education enrollment. “It became a nightmare,” said Attucks Middle School teacher Thomas Iocca. It’s a nightmare that won’t end any time soon for students who lost precious years of federally mandated assistance and interventions that could have helped them learn. Meanwhile, lawmakers are left with a fiscal headache as they try to find an additional $3.2 billion to spend on special education over the next three years to serve students previously denied assistance. Removing the cap is expected to add 189,000 special education students to public school rolls statewide. Maybe the state should tap the nearly $11 billion Rainy Day Fund it’s been sitting on. Other issues need more cash too, including unpaid bills from Hurricane Harvey, Medicaid and an underfunded employee pension fund. But special education must be a top priority.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2018

GI kicked out of Fort Sam to become citizen

Former Army Spc. Yea Ji Sea, whose abrupt discharge two weeks ago at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston after 4½ years of service left her vulnerable to deportation, learned Friday that she’ll become a U.S. citizen. Under pressure from a judge to speed a decision on a 2-year-old citizenship application, the Justice Department informed her attorneys that it had been approved and that her swearing-in ceremony will take place Friday in downtown Los Angeles. “Right now, I’m kind of numb,” Sea told the San Antonio Express-News. “I’ve been fighting this for like a hot minute. I still can’t believe this is happening.” Sea, 29, came to the U.S. from South Korea with her parents when she was 9 and in 2013 joined the Army under a program that promised immigrants the chance at a fast track to citizenship. The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program — dubbed MAVNI — began in 2009 and allowed recruitment of noncitizens with skills critical to the needs of the military, including physicians, nurses and experts in certain foreign languages. Security concerns prompted its suspension during the Obama administration. President Donald Trump shut it down last year. The Army has said a review found that “some” MAVNI soldiers may have engaged in criminal activity that included making or possessing fraudulent student visas prior to being recruited and posed “a significant counterintelligence security threat.” But a RAND Corp. study could not estimate a security risk posed by troops in the program, finding “no publicly available reports of MAVNI recruits engaging in terror-, sabotage- or espionage-related activities.” The program, which brought in more than 10,000 recruits, most of them in the Army, was a good fit for Sea, who is fluent in Korean and English and who qualified as a health care specialist and became a combat medic. But even though she had re-enlisted six months earlier after serving four years, Sea was discharged Aug. 3.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2018

At funeral, Frost’s friends recall his imprint on S.A.

As leaders of San Antonio commerce, government and education filed out of Christ Episcopal Church on Friday afternoon after the funeral for banker and philanthropist Tom C. Frost Jr., the man who succeeded him as CEO of Frost Bank, Dick Evans, pondered the elite gathering. “Well, yes, those kinds of people are all here,” said Evans, who worked “for and with” Frost for 45 years. “But then, so is the man who ran the parking garage at the bank. Tom Frost knew everyone and spoke to everyone. That’s why they’re here.” In attendance were Mayor Ron Nirenberg, former Mayor Henry Cisneros, Catholic Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller and about 30 Frost bankers. Some 300 people in all filled the sanctuary of Christ Episcopal north of downtown, Frost’s home church from cradle to grave. An additional 600 watched nearby on closed-circuit TV. “Most people collect objects,” said one of Frost’s sons, Don Frost. “Dad collected relationships.” Frost died Aug. 10 at age 90 beside his wife of 67 years, Patricia “Pat” Holden Frost. His friend and pastor, the Rev. Patrick Gahan, told the crowd that “outside a Franciscan nun, Tom was the least materialistic person I knew.” Rows of admirers smiled at the memory of their frugal but generous boss, golf buddy and mentor. When not in a suit, Frost “wore shoes that looked like they came from a thrift store and a beige windbreaker that was probably bought during the Eisenhower administration,” Gahan said with an affectionate chuckle. Frost Bank execs urged him to get a corporate jet, the pastor recalled, but Frost was content to be a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines. A deeply religious man, Frost started a Bible study group that met every Friday for 32 years at 7:30 a.m. at the bank. “I was with him for 325 of those Fridays,” Gahan said. “And when I would look over at him, I would see that he was always taking notes. He wanted to be more like Jesus.”

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - August 19, 2018

LAJ: Texas Tech deserves an explanation

It is a mystery. And it is time the mystery was solved with an explanation by those responsible. In a shocking move, Robert Duncan, Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, announced his retirement this past Monday. Duncan’s decision was reportedly the result of a 5-4 “no confidence” vote in the chancellor by the Board of Regents. The mystery is why did five regents feel it necessary to remove Duncan - via a no confidence vote? Only the five regents know for sure, because there has been no public explanation. And in this case, silence is not acceptable. There are theories and rumors as to why five regents voted against Duncan - the politics behind a veterinary school in Amarillo being the most prevalent explanation. (As far as Amarillo is concerned, it is important to note that Tech has announced that it is moving forward with plans for the vet school.) Sorry, but if regents are going to make a monumental decision to remove a chancellor, especially a chancellor as revered and respected as Duncan, then the public - not to mention the Texas Tech community - deserves to know why. And now. There is no debate about it - Duncan was more than getting the job done as chancellor. He was named Tech’s fourth chancellor on July 7, 2014. Duncan helped Tech raise more than $581 million in philanthropic funds - more than any Tech chancellor in the same time period. His vision was to expand the Texas Tech footprint - from El Paso (with a School of Dental Medicine) to Amarillo (with the vet school.) Both of these schools are needed, and benefit not only Texas but the state, as they will be the first such schools in Texas in more than 100 years and 50 years, respectively. And with these upcoming and vital projects that would help Tech grow into the future, and projects that will require state funding, the chancellor suddenly retires? Why?

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - August 17, 2018

Ethics chair says the current facts don’t warrant investigation

The surprise retirement of Texas Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan is still being analyzed with curiosity and skepticism. Unnamed sources said members of the Texas Tech Board of Regents had an informal vote of no confidence in the chancellor during a closed session shortly before Duncan announced his retirement. A 5-4 majority wanted new leadership. Regents have not spoken about what led to this decision, which has led to a lot of speculation. Some state officials have hinted for an investigation, which would likely be done by the House General Investigating & Ethics Committee. The committee is chaired by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, who sent a statement to A-J Media after being asked about that possibility. Davis said she does not believe a hearing is warranted at this time. She said she will continue to monitor developments and welcomes any additional information. Here’s her full statement: “I understand the Texas Tech Board of Regents, appointed by the Governor, held a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Chancellor Robert Duncan, and he subsequently resigned. I am not aware of the details as to why the regents lost confidence in the Chancellor, as the vote was taken in an executive session, but I do feel that the Texas Tech System will suffer a great loss with Duncan’s absence. Without any additional information, I do not believe a hearing by the General Investigating and Ethics Committee is warranted at this time. I will continue to monitor developments in the situation, and welcome additional information.” Many speculate Duncan’s resignation is related to the proposed veterinary school in Amarillo that the chancellor has been adamantly pushing. Leaders at Texas A&M, current home of the state’s only veterinary school, have opposed it throughout the entire process. The speculation is if and how the five members of the Texas Tech Board of Regents were persuaded, somehow, to side with A&M. State officials have themselves wondered why the chancellor retired. Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, said to the Texas Tribune: “There’s some explanation for all this. These things don’t just happen without reason.”

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Port Arthur News - August 19, 2018

The school year begins:Port Arthur ISD sees dip in enrollment due to Harvey

The early projection for student enrollment is approximately 8,500. According to superintendent Mark Porterie, that number is less when compared to last year’s. “We had around 9,000 last year going in,” he said. “After the hurricane, we lost about 500.” He stressed the fact that more concrete numbers would not be known until after the school year has started. “Most kids come after Labor Day, but we are expecting more students to return to the area,” he said. “We’re expecting more families to have secured a place to live by then or to have completed the renovations of their homes.” Porterie expressed hope that more children and families would be returning to the area. “At our One Stop Registration, we visited with lots of new students in the area,” Porterie said. “There are still people moving in. It’s wonderful to have so many kids coming back.” As for teachers and staff, Porterie alluded to progress being made in that regard as well, if not as robust. “We’ve been hiring since March full throttle. We’ve been looking at (Lamar) University for assistance, but there’s not a large number of individuals graduating with degrees in education,” Porterie said. “We really have to look at ways to encourage our young people to look into the (teaching) profession.” The district is still looking to fill in some teacher positions as a result; although, Porterie said the shortage would not negatively affect the quality of education students would receive — substitutes would be used to fill the gaps temporarily. He could not give exact numbers before the school year has started as to how many teacher positions were left unfilled, though.

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Waco Tribune-Herald - August 18, 2018

Patrick of InsideSources: Bail reform debate complicated by matters of justice, equity and algorithms

Civil rights groups signed a statement last month calling for states to ditch pretrial risk-assessment tools as a means of evaluating whether an individual accused of a crime should be detained pretrial, contending such data-driven tools do little to remedy racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Conservatives, meanwhile, have expressed deep concern over releasing individuals based on screenings that often don’t account for likelihood of risk to family members or the individual’s possession of a firearm. This month Texas Gov. Greg Abbott proposed that risk to law enforcement officers be specifically added to any list of concerns in such matters. Yet others contend these tools have significantly reduced the number of individuals detained pretrial in states where they’re used, potentially saving states billions of dollars, though that has often not been the case in practice. Pretrial risk-assessment tools have been implemented in some states as a replacement for money bail methods of detaining or releasing individuals pretrial. The algorithmic tools use predictive analytics and various data points — like past criminal or re-arrest history, whether the individual failed to appear in court previously and socioeconomic factors like income and employment stability — to determine whether an individual is likely to show up for his or her court date and whether he or she is a threat to public safety. Depending on the tools’ conclusions, judges may decide an individual should be released instead of held in jail pretrial.

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Center for Public Integrity - August 17, 2018

Texas tightens rules following Medicaid investigation

A Medicaid committee in Texas is requiring those who comment at its meetings to disclose more details about their ties to pharmaceutical companies following a Center for Public Integrity and NPR investigation into the drug industry’s influence on such boards. The Lone Star state is one of the latest to respond to the findings of the Medicaid, Under the Influence project. Already, officials in Arizona, Colorado and New York have taken action. The Texas committee, which helps decide which medicines are best for patients and should therefore be preferred by Medicaid, will now ask speakers to disclose verbally and in writing if they have “directly or indirectly received payments or gifts” from any pharmaceutical companies and to identify those firms, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Kelli Weldon said in an email. The board made the changes in response to the July investigation that detailed, among other things, how doctors who came before the Texas committee praised drugs without acknowledging their financial ties to the drugmakers that market them. One physician did not disclose more than $181,000 he had been paid to speak about certain drugs that he then recommended to the committee. The Texas board also revised its bylaws to require its members to abstain from votes that present possible conflicts of interest, complete training on state transparency laws and regularly sign an acknowledgment of the agency’s ethics policy. The agency was already working on those additional measures when the investigation was published, Weldon said.

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Austin Business Journal - August 17, 2018

Eyes turn to Legislature as another major Texas city passes sick leave ordinance

Despite the San Antonio City Council adopting a paid sick leave ordinance on Thursday, many believe it is unlikely to effect next August as scheduled. While concerns were raised in council chambers about the impact on businesses and taxpayers of mandating such employee benefits, one council member who voted in favor of the ordinance doesn’t give it much chance of surviving the Texas Legislature. “I believe this is dead on arrival,” Councilman Manny Pelaez-Prada said. The City Council approved, by a 9-2 vote, an ordinance similar to the one the Austin City Council passed by the same vote count in February. It mandates that employers in San Antonio grant employs one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, though there are caps depending on the size of the business. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he believes municipalities have the authority to pass ordinances affecting public health. But he expects the issue will be addressed at the state level now that San Antonio and Austin have approved ordinances. “I expect the Legislature will weigh all interests in the upcoming session and arrive at a statewide solution that I hope is beneficial for businesses and working families,” he said. “Because this ordinance would not require compliance for one year, there is ample time for the Legislature to act on it.”

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KERA - August 17, 2018

Domingo Garcia wants LULAC to return to roots, become 'new voice for Latinos'

One of the nation's most prominent Latino organizations has a new leader, and he's a familiar face to North Texans. Domingo Garcia is a former Dallas City Council member, a former state legislator and an almost-congressman. Now, he's taking the helm of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), after his predecessor Roger Rocha quit under pressure after writing a letter that supported President Trump's immigration approach. He sat down with KERA's Rick Holter for this week's Friday Conversation to talk about leading LULAC at a crucial time. On how he plans to turn LULAC around, "I think it's through leadership. I've already developed and put together a team that is younger, more media-savvy. We're already seeing our numbers increase. We're going after issues and taking them head on... We plan to put pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to finally pass comprehensive education reform, to have additional funding for education. We can spend billions on wars and billions on walls, we can spend billions on our young people to get them into college... Those are some of the things we're looking at in the short term: immigration reform, education reform, and then health care." And On being called one of the worst state legislators by Texas Monthly, he's "very proud of that Texas Monthly award. That was because I ran Latino candidates against incumbents here in Dallas County."

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Abilene Reporter-News - August 17, 2018

Sens. Cornyn, Cruz write Air Force in support of basing B-21 bomber at Dyess

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson Friday, urging the Air Force to select Dyess Air Force Base as the principal base for the new B-21 Raider long-range strike bomber. “For 76 years, Dyess AFB has effectively served as a premier bomber base for B-47s and B-52s, and has been the principal base for the B-1 since the aircraft’s introduction,” they wrote. “We sincerely hope that the B-21 Raider will be the next member of the bomber family to join our community.” The Air Force announced in May it wanted to replace B-1 Lancers at Dyess and Ellsworth AFBs and B-2 Spirit aircraft at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, with the B-21 Raider. A final decision on housing the bombers will be made in 2019. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Monday, authorized $2.3 billion to develop the new long-range bomber. Using the current bomber bases will minimize operational impact, reduce overhead, maximize re-use of facilities and minimize cost, Air Force officials said in a news release in May. "Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21," Wilson was quoted as saying in the release. "We expect the first B-21 Raider aircraft to be delivered in the mid-2020s."

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Texas Tribune - August 16, 2018

Francis and Hansch: To address mental health, reduce Texas’ uninsured rate

In recent years, Texas leaders on both sides of the aisle have increasingly recognized the need for the state to improve policies to support Texans – both adults and children – with mental health challenges. On the eve of last year’s state legislative session, for example, the Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health issued a report emphasizing the importance of addressing mental health in Texas, concluding: “Because mental health affects so many segments of our daily lives (i.e. education, medical care, health insurance, criminal justice, homelessness, etc.), it is absolutely one of the most critical areas of concern facing Texas today.” One of the key challenges to addressing mental health in Texas is that the state has the highest uninsured rate and highest number of uninsured people in the nation. Data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2016 demonstrates how important health insurance is for getting mental health treatment in Texas. It shows that Texans with health insurance were nearly 50 percent more likely to receive treatment for mental illness or a substance use disorder compared to Texans who lack insurance. The report also confirmed that a huge number of the one million Texans without health insurance had experienced mental illness or a substance use disorder during the previous year. Mental health is only one of the policy challenges that are hard for state leaders to address so long as Texas has a sky-high uninsured rate. Maternal and infant health, families struggling to make ends meet, rural hospital closures and pressure on local property taxes are among the other challenges that are exacerbated by the state’s high uninsured rate. Recent polling makes clear that Texans want the Legislature to work on health coverage: 87 percent of Texans say that it’s a “top priority” or “important” for the Legislature to work on expanding access to health insurance. A big reason that the state has such a high uninsured rate is that there is currently no affordable insurance option for those working in child care, the service industry, construction and many other professions with incomes that keep Texans below the federal poverty line and whose workers don’t receive insurance from their employers.

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County Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2018

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sues to thwart Republicans' hopes to unseat him

Local Republicans have hit a roadblock in their bid to unseat Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins in November. Jenkins, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit Thursday to bar the Dallas County Republican Party from replacing its nominee for county judge on the November ballot after the original nominee dropped out in July. Listed as defendants are local GOP chairwoman Missy Shorey, Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole and Brian Hutcheson, a local justice of the peace who was selected by Republicans to replace former Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel as their candidate for county judge. Gottel cited family and business as the reasons for his withdrawal in July. He was appointed precinct chair in order to give the party a valid reason to remove him as a candidate for county judge. According to the state’s elections code, a party may fill a vacancy after a withdrawal only under certain circumstances: if the nominee suffers from a catastrophic illness, no one else from another party is running for that seat, or if the nominee has been elected or appointed for another “elective office” or nominated for another office. Jenkins argued in his lawsuit that making Gottel a precinct chair doesn’t meet the legal requirements that would allow Republicans to replace him for the general election.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2018

City of Austin sued in Texas Supreme Court over CodeNext ballot

CodeNext might be dead, but litigation regarding the controversial land-use rewrite is alive and well. On Friday, a petitioner sued the city of Austin in the Texas Supreme Court concerning ballot language tied to the now-abandoned comprehensive rewrite of the city’s land-use rules. The suit marked the second time this week that a petitioner represented by former Travis County judge Bill Aleshire sued seeking to alter ballot language that the Austin City Council approved Aug. 10. This time, it was the CodeNext petition ordinance initiative that drew Aleshire’s ire. He is representing Allan McMurtry, one of the more than 30,000 people who signed a petition that called for subjecting CodeNext and all future large-scale rewrites of the land-use code to a vote and a waiting period. The suit contends that the council violated the City Charter by approving ballot language that was not the petition ordinance’s “caption” verbatim. The wording the council adopted struck any mention of CodeNext from the ballot proposition and noted that a waiting period for adopting a comprehensive update to the code could take as many as three years.

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National Stories

New York Times - August 18, 2018

Trump accuses social media firms of bias against conservatives

President Trump said on Saturday that conservative voices were being unfairly censored on social media, hinting that he might intervene if his allies’ accounts continued to be shut down. “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, saying that “censorship is a very dangerous thing.” “Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen,” he added. Social media companies, facing pressure from lawmakers and users over their role in the rise of misinformation and partisan division, have promised to step up their enforcement practices. They have banned a number of pages and accounts in recent weeks for being involved in activity intended to disrupt the midterm elections, and almost all of the major platforms removed content from Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist, this month over what they called hateful and violent speech. After the content from Mr. Jones and his website, Infowars, was removed, he issued a plea to Mr. Trump to block the companies’ actions and “come out before the midterms and make the censorship the big issue.” In the same video appeal, Mr. Jones urged Mr. Trump to “point out that the communist Chinese have penetrated and infiltrated” the American election system and are “way, way worse than the Russians.” Minutes after his tweets on Saturday morning about social media, the president — who has long had an affinity for conspiracy theories — appeared to do just that.

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New York Times - August 18, 2018

Trump tax cut unlocks millions for a GOP election blitz

Republicans are struggling to make the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cuts a winning issue with voters in the midterm congressional elections, but the cuts are helping the party in another crucial way: unlocking tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations from the wealthy conservatives and corporate interests that benefited handsomely from it. Billionaires and corporations that reaped millions of dollars in tax cuts are pumping some of that windfall into the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” closely aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan that is flooding the airwaves and front porches of swing congressional districts with increasingly sharp attacks on the Democratic candidates vying to wrest control of the House. The fund’s donors include the casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, who has given $30 million, and whose company, Las Vegas Sands, reported a nearly $700 million windfall from the tax law earlier this year; Timothy Mellon, chairman and majority owner of Pan Am Systems, a privately held collection of companies that includes rail, aviation and marketing services, who has contributed $24 million; Valero Services, a Texas oil refining company that reported a $1.9 billion benefit from tax cuts in the first quarter, and which has given $1.5 million; and a collection of other corporations, executives and financial fund managers. Well over a quarter of the group’s donations have come through the American Action Network, a separate legal entity that focuses on issues and does not reveal donors, but that spent heavily to promote the tax cuts before and after President Trump signed them into law late last year.

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New York Times - August 19, 2018

Trump won Pennsylvania. Democrats want the state (and his voters) back.

The rules are workable enough in the right hands, in the right corner of a right-leaning region of a state like this one. Avoid the jacket-and-tie look, so voters — wary enough of Democrats — do not think they are looking at a Jehovah’s Witness. “That happened,” recalled Representative Conor Lamb, now in a polo shirt. Pivot to safe subjects. After a local here loudly mocked the idea of “Russian collusion” with President Trump to a peer, Mr. Lamb, 34, moved in to introduce himself, telling the man (who said he was Russian) about falling in love with Russian cuisine when he was in the Marines. And if all else fails — and it will, often — there is always prayer. “I was reading a little Isaiah this morning,” Mr. Lamb said at a town festival recently, approaching Paul Strano, 69, whose hat read, “F.B.I.: Firm Believer In Jesus.” The two bowed their heads. “A man of faith, backing the party of abortion, homosexual promotion,” Mr. Strano, a Trump supporter, said afterward. “But the man sold himself.” Mr. Lamb had his vote. In his 2016 victory, Mr. Trump swiped several states that Democrats had assumed were theirs: Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida. But perhaps no outcome matched the psychic toll of losing Pennsylvania, where the past Democratic coalition of city-dwelling liberals, racial minorities and white working-class voters in union towns had long defined the party’s identity as a big-tent enterprise.

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Washington Post - August 17, 2018

Commerce secretary faces scrutiny for investments, not selling certain holdings

As commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross has met with auto executives who are customers of the company he founded and still had a financial interest in. He has met with the chief executive of a rail car manufacturer whose board he once sat on and whose shares he still owned. And according to a Forbes magazine article, even though he owned a $10 million to $50 million stake in the financial firm Invesco, where he had worked, he met with a board member of the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund that had given Ross’s former firm money to manage. The meetings — first reported by Forbes and confirmed via regulatory disclosures, Commerce Department officials and one of the firms involved — and financial holdings have put Ross under increasing scrutiny from government ethics watchdogs and lawmakers. Ross has denied any wrongdoing — saying he only made “inadvertent errors” — and his lawyer says a commerce secretary must be able to meet with industry officials to do his job.

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Washington Post - August 18, 2018

Georgia voting rights activists move to block a plan to close two-thirds of polling places in a majority black county

Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election. The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor. The two-member county election board – a third member stepped down recently – has scheduled a vote for Friday on the proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine polling places, citing problems including facilities in disrepair or inaccessible to people with disabilities. But some activists are suspicious of the board’s motives, noting that Randolph County is more than 55 percent black and many residents have low incomes. The county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system.

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Washington Post - August 16, 2018

Michel: Thanks, Paul Manafort — for showing that the U.S. needs to crack down on dirty money

Over the past two weeks, Americans have been treated to one of the most astonishing tales of grand corruption in our republic’s history. The trial of Paul Manafort – former Trump campaign chairman and lobbyist for some of the sleaziest regimes of the past quarter-century – has given us a remarkable look at the tools, the tactics and the trade craft of kleptocratic overseas regimes, and how their Western enablers have abetted America’s transformation into a thriving offshore haven. The trial, of course, is about much more than Manafort. As the Atlantic’s Franklin Foer has written, the proceedings against the ex-lobbyist, who made tens of millions from his consulting work for then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, have offered “an occasion for the United States to awaken from its collective slumber about the creeping dangers of kleptocracy.” Are we getting the message? There are actually some reasons to think so. Over the past few months, activists and officials across the country have been experimenting with reform of the institutions that have allowed corrupt overseas politicians and businesspeople to stash their ill-gotten gains in the United States. The trend isn’t getting much press, but the United States’ days as a global offshore haven could be drawing to a close — and we may have the president, and his vile campaign manager, to thank for it (at least in part). Consider, for instance, one of the primary tools authoritarians and arms dealers have been using in the United States: anonymous shell companies. For years, American states such as Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada have created rules favoring the creation of opaque corporations, and the resulting opportunities have been exploited by everyone from Russian gun runners to Iranian theocrats and the dictatorship of Equatorial Guinea. And why not? Companies like these were the perfect vehicle for anyone who wanted to hide the origins of their dirty money.

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The Hill - August 18, 2018

Pioneer of modern redistricting dies at 75

For more than four decades, when Republicans needed strategic advice drawing political boundaries, the party turned to a small cadre of expert cartographers, trained in the rare art of redistricting. At the heart of that group was Tom Hofeller. A mild-mannered California native who rarely allowed himself to be quoted in the media, Hofeller may be more responsible for the Republican majority in Congress than any other single person in modern politics. He is one of only a handful of people who helped create the modern redistricting process, first by crafting district lines meant to overcome decades of Democratic advantages and then by tilting the field in favor of Republicans in later years. As both parties became more aware of the importance of drawing district lines, and more litigious when the lines were not drawn in their favor, Hofeller began consulting Republicans in charge of drawing maps in their states, urging caution and pragmatism in preparation for an inevitable court challenge. If former Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry gave gerrymandering its name, Hofeller is the architect who brought the process into the modern era. "Tom was the father of Republican map-drawing, and also its grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather," said Ben Ginsberg, the veteran Republican lawyer who worked with Hofeller at the Republican National Committee (RNC). "He understood both the art and science of redistributing like no one else."

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USA Today - August 16, 2018

Black: Don't divert taxpayer money to vouchers. It does much more good at public schools.

Political leaders are asking the nation to double down on the bet that expanding school vouchers will improve educational outcomes. Arizona — ground zero in the Koch network's efforts to reshape education — is set to decide a voucher referendum this fall. A dozen other state legislatures have passed or are considering their own voucher expansions. And the Trump administration is cheering them on. It created a private school loophole in last year’s tax reform and is now asking Congress for new money to expand school choice further. These pushes rest on a false premise — that there is a private school advantage. Private schools’ higher average test scores drive this myth. The problem is that average test scores alone do not tell us anything worth knowing. Comparing the average scores of private and public schools is comparing apples to oranges. Public and private schools enroll students from very different backgrounds. Most important, more than half of public school students are low-income. Only about one in four private school students is low-income. These numbers are all but destiny for a school’s overall achievement. Low-income students face a number of personal obstacles that depress their performance — from housing instability and hunger to a lack of academic support outside school. These challenges follow low-income children no matter what school they attend. An overall school’s achievement, then, is largely dictated by the percentage of low- and middle-income students it enrolls, not whether it is public or private. But simply enrolling a larger percentage of middle-income students doesn’t mean that one school is better than another. The question to ask is whether the average poor student performs better in private school than in public school. That is what we call “value-added” and something worthy of public investment. But the data say there is not any value-added in private school.

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Associated Press - August 18, 2018

Church group’s opposition stuns advocates of ‘tort reform’

So-called tort reform has been an easy sell in states controlled by Republicans, and backers of a lawsuit-limiting proposal on the ballot in Arkansas this fall expected little trouble winning passage until they ran into a surprising obstacle from a reliable conservative ally. A Christian group has begun rallying churches and abortion opponents against the measure, saying that limiting damage awards in lawsuits sets an arbitrary value on human life, contrary to anti-abortion beliefs, and conflicts with biblical principles of justice and helping the poor. Proponents of the measure are stunned by the opposition and worried that it could stir dissension among conservatives who must work together on numerous issues. “The biggest problem is not the damage” to the tort reform proposal, said Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger, a sponsor of that measure. “The biggest hurdle is the damage to the pro-life cause.” The religious argument also could offer tort reform opponents in other states a new weapon for fighting limits. The legal restrictions have been making headway in recent years as the GOP has won control of roughly two-thirds of state legislatures. Arkansas’ measure is an effort by an array of pro-business groups, including the state Chamber of Commerce, to reinstate legal caps that have been chipped away over the years by court rulings. The amendment would cap damages for noneconomic losses, such as pain and psychological distress, to $500,000 and punitive damages to $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded, whichever is higher. It also would cap attorneys’ contingency fees at one third of the net amount recovered. The proposal doesn’t cap economic damages, which go toward verifiable losses such as medical expenses as well as past and future wages. But the conservative Family Council Action Committee argues that putting a cap on other damages devalues the lives of those with no income, such as the elderly and stay-at-home parents, who would receive little compensation for pain and suffering. The Family Council, which championed Arkansas’ ban on gay marriages, is organizing meetings with church leaders to call for the measure’s rejection.

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National Review - August 18, 2018

McCarthy: Revoking Brennan’s security clearance: was the right thing, even if for the wrong reason

I do not share my friend David French’s theoretical constitutional concerns about the president’s revocation of security clearances — at least when it comes to former government officials who become media commentators and have no demonstrable need for a security clearance. Like David and many other analysts, though, I think it’s a big mistake to politicize the revocation of security clearances. Still, I am even less of a fan of the politicization of intelligence itself. And that justifies the revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance. As is often the case with President Trump, the right thing has been done here for the wrong reason, namely, for vengeance against a political critic who is always zealous and often unhinged. That a decision amounts to political payback does not necessarily make it wrong on the merits, but its in-your-face pettiness is counterproductive, undermining its justification. Brennan’s tweets about Trump are objectively outrageous. To compare, I think some of former CIA director Mike Hayden’s tweets are ill-advised — particularly this one, comparing Trump’s border-enforcement policy to Nazi concentration camps. But General Hayden is making anti-Trump political arguments, not intimating that he has knowledge of Trump corruption based on his (Hayden’s) privileged access to intelligence information (which he may or may not still have — I haven’t asked him). Hayden is absolutely entitled to speak out in that vein. Generally, he is a voice of reason even when one disagrees with him, and — let’s be real here — even his edgier tweets are pretty tame compared to the president’s. Brennan, by contrast, speaks out in a nod-and-a-wink manner, the undercurrent of which is that if he could only tell you the secrets he knows, you’d demand Trump’s impeachment forthwith. (See, e.g., tweets here, here, and here.) Indeed, “undercurrent” is probably the wrong word: Brennan, after all, has expressly asserted that our “treasonous” president is “wholly in the pocket of Putin” and has “exceed[ed] the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’”

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Newsclips - August 17, 2018

Lead Stories

New York Times - August 16, 2018

Revoking clearance, Trump aims presidential power at Russia inquiry

For more than a year, law enforcement officials have repeatedly rebuffed President Trump’s efforts to use the power of his office to derail the Russia investigation. Stymied, Mr. Trump is lashing out in other ways against an investigation that he clearly hates or fears. The president said Thursday that he revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. director, because Mr. Brennan had been part of what Mr. Trump has called the “sham” Russia investigation. That move, and the threats of more revocations, were the latest signs that the president seems determined to punish anyone connected to the Russia inquiry. Law enforcement officials, lawmakers and members of the intelligence community expressed worry that the president’s act of retaliation will have a potentially chilling effect on the United States’ law enforcement and intelligence officers. Anxiety about Mr. Trump’s next move could give investigators pause as they pursue cases, and it might hamper recruitment of a new generation of agents, they said. The president’s decision to follow through on his threats to revoke Mr. Brennan’s security clearance, they said, sent a shudder through the spies and intelligence officials he used to lead. “This is the politicization of security clearances,” said David Priess, a former C.I.A. officer who has written a book on presidential intelligence briefings. “It makes national security agencies vulnerable to the selective granting and removal of security clearances, which is something that happens more in a banana republic than the United States of America.”

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Associated Press - August 16, 2018

Dems say they’ll sue if they don’t get Kavanaugh documents

Senate Democrats said Thursday they will file a federal lawsuit next month if government agencies deny their requests for documents from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s days as an aide to President George W. Bush. The threat represents Democrats’ latest attempt to focus the public — and perhaps more importantly, senators — on potential game-changers they hope are hidden in millions of unreleased pages from Kavanaugh’s White House days. So far, Republican leaders have said they expect Senate approval of Kavanaugh by the Oct. 1 start of the court’s new term. Democrats’ effort to head that off has so far seemed uphill. The GOP has a slender 50-49 Senate majority, due to ailing GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain’s absence. The votes of two Republican and at least six Democratic senators remain unclear, with a simple majority required for Kavanaugh’s approval. “We don’t know if there’s some sort of revelatory bombshell,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Kavanaugh served under Bush from 2001 to 2006. Democrats hope to find documents that would reveal his views on high-profile issues including the torture of terrorism suspects and abortion rights. Blumenthal said Democratic senators who would file the suit, all of them members of the Judiciary Committee, would pay its costs from “our own pockets” and not use taxpayers’ money. He said they are also allowed to use campaign funds for this expense. Republicans have allowed the release of well over 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s papers, including papers from his time as a White House counsel to Bush, his later work as an appellate judge and his earlier time as aide to special counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton. More are on track to be released. Democrats want the release of all Kavanaugh documents, including his three years as White House staff secretary, which Republicans have refused to request from the National Archives. The Archives says those alone could total several million pages. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GOP’s refusal to seek those papers is “one of the worst moments” in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s time as Senate leader, “and history will show it.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2018

San Antonio City Council adopts mandatory paid sick leave ordinance for San Antonio workers

In a major victory for a coalition of labor and community organizations, the City Council on Thursday adopted a mandatory paid sick leave ordinance that would ensure nearly all workers in San Antonio earn the benefit. In a 9-2 vote, the council adopted the ordinance that will become effective next year. It would apply to both for- and not-for-profit businesses. Officials expect that the Texas Legislature will move to preempt the ordinance and similar laws in Austin and Dallas, if voters there approve it in November. If it isn’t addressed by state lawmakers, Mayor Ron Nirenberg suggested that the city would work with those who presented the petition for the ordinance and business owners who have voiced concerns with mandating that businesses offer paid sick time. Councilmen Greg Brockhouse and Clayton Perry voted against the measure. Moments after the vote, supporters of the measure broke out with cheers, culminating with “Si se puede!” chants in Main Plaza. Earlier in the day, the council voted unanimously to do its “ministerial” duties of calling a Nov. 6 charter-amendment election for three propositions put forth by the local fire union. Unless a judge intervenes, three propositions will appear on the ballot that could make sweeping changes to municipal government. Those amendments would: cap the salary of future city managers and place term limits on them; lower the threshold for signatures on referendum petitions, increase the amount of time allowed for gathering them and remove prohibitions against overturning utility rates, tax levies and appropriations; and give the union sole discretion to declare an impasse on contract negotiations and force the city into binding arbitration, removing its right to seek relief in the court system.

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Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2018

Why did Nancy Pelosi avoid the two hottest Texas congressional races during Houston visit?

The battle for Houston’s 7th Congressional District is unquestionably one of the hottest races in the nation. But when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent more than six hours in Houston yesterday, she had zero public appearances with Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, the Houston attorney who Democrats are counting on to defeat Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Instead, Pelosi spent almost all of her time with two Democrats who are overwhelming favorites to win in November. Pelosi attended a Moms Summit with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, then later appeared with Democrat Sylvia Garcia, who is seeking to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Gene Green in Congress. Jackson Lee faces Republican Ava Pate for re-election, while Garcia faces Republican Phillip Aronoff. Both districts were drawn to favor Democrats. While Pelosi had no public events with Fletcher or Democrat Todd Litton, who is running in the 2nd Congressional District in northern and northeastern Harris County, she cited them as two of the best chances Democrats have of picking up Republican-held seats around Houston in the November elections. Republican Congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw, who is running against Litton, said he has no worries about Pelosi coming in to help his opponent, to whom she contributed $7,000 earlier this year.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2018

Hurricane Harvey-caused water and air pollution likely far higher than residents realize

As the rainfall inched higher during Hurricane Harvey last year, so, too, did the amount of toxic fumes that industrial facilities across the state reported releasing — until it breached 8.3 million pounds of unpermitted air pollution. But companies later reduced those estimates by 1.7 million pounds, a steep drop that environmental experts say could have been prompted by Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to suspend Texas' environmental reporting rules for months after Harvey. It calls into question if the waiver "encouraged companies to downgrade or eliminate their pollution reporting after the fact," according to a report released Thursday by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. "Such activity undermines public trust in our regulatory systems and may mask real health risks posed by air pollution releases during storms." The changing estimates underscore questions about just how much air and water pollution was truly released in the aftermath of Harvey — and how much of it could or should have been avoided by better planning, maintenance and procedures. The report chronicles the amount of air and water pollution caused by Harvey and how state, local and industry officials can better prepare for the next big storm. For example, the organization found that industries in the Houston area waited more than three days after Abbott declared a "state of disaster" on Aug. 23 to shut down their plants, leading to more significant air pollution releases, on average, here than in Corpus Christi — another major center for refineries that was hit by the storm before Houston. The report also found that Harvey-related water pollution was vastly underestimated. In all, industrial and municipal plants reported that more than 150 million gallons of sewage and industrial discharge spilled across the Texas coastline due to Harvey — but at least 24 percent of facilities that reported spills provided no estimates of the overflows, listing them only as "zero."

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2018

Lupe Valdez says her gun 'misplaced during transition,' accepts blame

Lupe Valdez said Thursday the 9mm pistol she used as Dallas County sheriff was "misplaced" during her transition from sheriff to candidate for Texas governor, telling Texans that she's the blame. "During my transition from Sheriff to candidate in 2017, I followed protocol to return Sheriff-issued property. Once I was notified that my weapon was not accounted for, I did my due diligence to locate the weapon. To my knowledge, my weapon was misplaced during the transition," Valdez said in a written statement. "As a leader, I take responsibility for any error that happened during my transition regarding my weapon," she added. "I take gun ownership seriously and I have cooperated with the department." The Dallas County Sheriff's Department is investigating what happened to Valdez's Beretta 9mm pistol that she was given as sheriff, when her previous gun began to malfunction. A report about the missing weapon was issued in July, in part because of concerns that the gun could turn up in the hands of criminals and be used in a crime. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Department said investigations have been working with Valdez to find the gun since December 31, when it was discovered missing. The episode is embarrassing for Valdez, who in 2004 became the first woman, Hispanic and gay Texan to be elected sheriff. Her rivals have been poking her about the lost gun since The Dallas Morning News broke the story of the investigation. On Twitter, incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign account said "Texans deserve better."

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2018

New York and D-FW will have the most new apartments in 2018

If you are looking for a new apartment, Dallas-Fort Worth is the right place. More than 17,000 new apartments are set to open their doors in the D-FW area this year. That's second only to New York City among the cities with the most new apartments on the way, according to a new report by Yardi Systems. "Hundreds of thousands of new apartments are opening their doors to renters across the country," Yardi's Ioana Popovici said. "The other two Texas metros that make the Top 20 are Austin, with over 8,800 new apartments, and Houston, with over 7,600." Nationwide, 283,000 apartments are scheduled to open this year. That's a decline of 11 percent from new apartments added in the U.S. in 2017, according to Yardi's RentCafe. "In spite of the year-over-year slowdown, the past three years' total deliveries are projected to pass the 900,000 mark by the end of this year — the highest since the mid-'80s," Yardi analysts say in a new report. "Continuing the trend seen in recent years, Texas is leading the nation with more than 37,000 units slated for delivery in 2018 in Houston, D-FW, Austin and San Antonio combined." At midyear, more than 37,000 apartments were being built in the D-FW area. Apartment construction in North Texas has continued at near record levels despite predictions of a slowdown in building. Yardi Systems is also predicting a slowdown in U.S. apartment starts. "As the market is approaching a saturation point, 2018 may mark the start of a construction cool-down for the next few years."

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2018

UT Southwestern, no. 1 in D-FW in research and hospitals, aims for national acclaim

This week, for the second year in a row, UT Southwestern Medical Center was named the top hospital in Dallas by U.S. News & World Report. That’s something to crow about, especially in a region with so many health care players. Still, there’s room to improve. UT Southwestern wants to join the list of the top 20 hospitals in the nation, an honor roll that includes the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Massachusetts General in Boston. “Give us three years,” said Daniel Podolsky, who spent decades at Mass Gen and Harvard Medical School before becoming president of UT Southwestern in 2008. “There’s a very clear path if we stay focused on quality. And we think that would be a fantastic boon for this city and region.” He’s set a similar goal for UT Southwestern Medical School. It ranks 26th among 177 medical schools, according to U.S. News, and he wants it to become the first from Texas to crack the top 10. “I want to make it clear: It’s not a vanity project,” Podolsky said about moving up in the rankings. “It’s about access to the very best care. It’s about attracting the best students, faculty, employees and talent to this area. It’s about being an economic engine. “Overall, in the long term, it’s about elevating the quality of life through the health of the community,” he said in a meeting with The Dallas Morning News editorial board.

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El Paso Times - August 16, 2018

Ex-Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo discusses NAFTA, 'failed' war on drugs in El Paso

Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo spoke in El Paso about the crime problem in Mexico, the uncertain future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and what he said was the failed war on drugs. Zedillo was the distinguished speaker Wednesday at the 2018 U.S.-Mexico Border Summit at the El Paso civic center. "I think it is unavoidable to recognize that we are going through a very complex and uncertain moment about the relationship between Mexico and the United States," Zedillo said. Zedillo was president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000. During his term in office, Mexico faced an economic crisis, NAFTA began and electoral reforms were enacted. "Mexico is missing three things to be a fully developed country," Zedillo told a luncheon audience of Borderland business, academic and political leaders. "The first is rule of law. The second is rule of law. And the third is rule of law." Zedillo's comments came after former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico James R. Jones said during an on-stage discussion with the ex-president that developed nations require three things. Jones said that those requirements are: open market systems, a transparent and honest political system and rule of law. "We have a long-standing problem of weak institutions" in Mexico, said Zedillo, adding. “We have another problem: the pollution organized crime has created in my country.”

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El Paso Times - August 16, 2018

Border mayors frustrated with rhetoric from Washington, say wall not needed in region

Mayors of cities along the U.S.-Mexico border say negative rhetoric from Washington that labels the area a war zone remains a challenge and agree a wall isn't needed in the region. “Unfortunately, they don’t know the beauty of our communities in the border,” said Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. The mayors of El Paso, Las Cruces, Sunland Park, N.M., and the mayor pro tem of Juárez met for a roundtable discussion during the 2018 U.S.-Mexico Border Summit on Wednesday at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center. The discussion comes at a time when the U.S.-Mexico border is under a political microscope over immigration and border security. President Donald Trump has been pushing for a border wall. However, the mayors said the region doesn’t need a wall. “We have a fence here. The fence is fine. It does what it’s supposed to do,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said. “I hear the term wall, I think of the Berlin Wall. I think it’s pretty detrimental to the relationships that have lasted more than 400 years.” Roberto Rentería Manqueros, mayor pro tem of Juárez, said regardless of the wall, the communities work together. “I hope someday people find out that at least in this part (of the border) it’s not necessary,” Manqueros said. “We don’t need a wall.”

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KFDX 3 - August 15, 2018

State senators want mental health training for all staff

As students and staff head back to class, Texas lawmakers suggested a renewed focus on mental health and school safety. The Senate Select Committee on School Violence and School Security met over the summer to hear testimony from experts and the public, culminating in a report full of recommendations for the Legislature to address next session. Included in that report is a recommendation to expand Mental Health First Aid training to any district employee who interacts with students. The training is designed to serve as short-term, day-to-day support until counselors get involved. At Manor ISD, Nanette Deaton is preparing her team of counselors for students to arrive. Deaton, who serves as director of guidance and career readiness, said in addition to counselors and social workers on campuses, the district has six mental health therapists through a partnership with Integral Care, and six of the Manor ISD campuses are served by Communities in Schools. "We are all here to help and we are all here to help while your student is at school and also not at school," Deaton said. Mental Health First Aid training is about relationships, Deaton said. "It’s a lot about relationships, and teachers, administrators, all district staff, bus drivers, cafeteria, all taking the time to get to know our students and build those relationships, and then being able to recognize when you see a change in that child," she explained. State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the senate committee wholeheartedly agreed the state needs to make changes, like adding more mental health intervention counselors. He said lawmakers should provide school staff with the tools to identify signs that a student needs a closer look. "We don’t expect our teachers to take on mental health counseling obviously, but the first aid per se is to recognize who has a need," Taylor said.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2018

Appeals court halts portion of Harris County bail fix

An appeals court has reeled in a Houston federal judge’s order requiring that certain people charged with low-level offenses be released from custody whether or not they have the cash to pay bail. The ruling this week by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came after 14 Harris County court-at-law judges objected to a recent order in the landmark 2016 civil rights lawsuit that upended the way bail works for thousands of people arrested on misdemeanor charges. The 14 judges, who have opposed the lawsuit from the start, objected to portions of an updated order this summer that they said unduly inhibited the court’s discretion. The majority opinion by Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith halted part of the Houston trial judge’s instructions calling for certain defendants to be released immediately on no-cost bail in cases where another person with the money who is arrested on the same charge would be released immediately. The appeals court left in place U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal’s requirement that the courts make individualized bail determinations within 48 hours for people jailed on misdemeanors. However, the circuit panel opinion said that despite Rosenthal’s “well-intentioned effort to comply” with the 5th Circuit’s instructions, the immediate release of qualified poor defendants “easily violates the mandate, which explicitly found that individualized hearings would remedy the identified procedural violations.” In a dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge James E. Graves Jr. wrote that Rosenthal’s order corrects an inequity that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. “However thorough and fair it may be, an individualized hearing 48 hours after arrest cannot ‘fix’ the deprivation of liberty and equal protection suffered by an indigent misdemeanor arrestee who is automatically detained prior to that hearing ‘solely because [she is] too poor to pay’ a preset amount of secured money bail,” Graves wrote. Graves was the only African-American assigned to the three-man panel. Similarly, two African-American court at law judges have parted with their colleagues, opting not to oppose the indigent defendants’ lawsuit.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2018

Dallas DA probes potential election crimes in a racially charged Irving contest

In her debut as a volunteer poll watcher for an Irving City Council runoff, Mona Elshenawy says she got a crash course in how easily election rules can be broken. Her job: keep her eyes peeled for antics that could interfere with voting, such as candidates trying to recruit voters within 100 feet of the polling place. Or campaign volunteers talking to voters or using their cellphones inside the voting room. But soon after Elshenawy arrived at her assigned polling place on June 16, she witnessed the eventual winner, Al Zapanta, and two of his campaign workers violate those rules, she said in a complaint to the Dallas County Elections Department. She also discovered that her own appointment as a poll watcher — by Zapanta’s opponent Shayan Elahi — broke the rules because she lives in Dallas, not Irving. The Dallas district attorney’s office has launched an investigation into Elshenawy’s allegations. The office declined to provide details, saying that could interfere with the prosecution of election crimes. Plenty of arcane rules surround polling practices, but taken together they are intended to preserve the integrity of the voting process. So election administrators and prosecutors take them seriously.

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Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2018

Who funded the successful legal challenge over a Plano councilman's recall election? It's still a mystery.

Plano city council member Tom Harrison had plenty of support in his successful court fight to stop a recall referendum on him. But the identities of nearly all his benefactors remain shrouded in mystery. The Tom Harrison Legal Expense Trust collected more than $12,000 with 104 donations that ranged between $15 and $1,000. And all but three of the donations on the GoFundMe website are listed as anonymous. That financial support has raised the question of whether Harrison's donors should be disclosed — either as gifts or campaign donations — under the state law that governs elected officials and is meant to shed light on political influence. The state's top lawyer faced a similar quandary, but has disclosed the donors to his legal defense. Harrison hasn't. His most recent campaign finance report, which covers Jan. 1 through July 15, listed no political contributions or expenditures. Sandy Dixon, one of Harrison's supporters tapped to explain the reasoning on his behalf, said the trust received legal advice that the donations don't need to be reported on any campaign-finance filing. "These were fees that were raised for a private, personal matter of Tom Harrison," said Dixon, who noted that the money was kept separate from Harrison's officeholder account. "These funds that were raised were to assist him with legal fees not related to his position in office." But the funds were meant to help save Harrison from being booted out of office before his term expired next May. A petition, which started after Harrison shared an anti-Islam Facebook post, had set the stage for Plano's first recall election on Nov. 6. Now, the election will be canceled after a district judge found this week that the city used a flawed version of its charter to determine the number of signatures needed to trigger the recall.

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2018

Third time's the charm: Dallas ISD board sends 13-cent tax ratification to voters

Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa flashed a little smile beneath his salt-and-pepper mustache before the vote went down. After three years of trying, DISD will finally present a 13-cent tax increase to voters on the November ballot. “At least I didn’t strike out,” Hinojosa said. “I’ve played a lot of baseball, and at least I didn’t strike out. I had two strikes.” DISD has been pushing to ask voters for more funding for the past few years, but has come up short of reaching a six-vote supermajority needed for tax measures. This time around, the board approved the 13-cent tax increase on a 7-1 vote, with Joyce Foreman as the only member voting against it. Another expected ‘nay’ vote, Lew Blackburn, was traveling and unable to call in to the meeting from Washington D.C. The 13-cent increase to DISD’s maintenance and operations budget would provide an additional $126 million in funding for DISD in future years, roughly $668 per student. It will push DISD’s maintenance and operations tax rate to $1.17 per $100,000 in valuation, the maximum allowed by the state. Faced with stagnant school funding formulas, school districts across Texas and the Dallas/Fort Worth area have raised their rates to $1.17. Richardson, Lancaster, Cedar Hill and Duncanville ISDs are also asking voters for increases this fall.

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Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2018

DPD sergeant collected millions for fallen officers. A fraction went to the families.

After five police officers were gunned down in Dallas on July 7, 2016, tens of thousands from around the world reached out to help the widows and children of the slain men. Money flooded into City Hall. Officials struggled to organize and distribute it, so they turned to the Assist the Officer Foundation, a long established charity run by the Dallas Police Association, to handle the cash and checks. But in the years since the killings, millions ended up at two other charities -- the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation and the Texas Fallen Officer Foundation -- run by a charismatic but largely unknown police sergeant named Demetrick Pennie. Most of that money never made it to fallen officers’ families, a Dallas Morning News investigation has found. Instead the bulk of it went to three telemarketing companies, one of which is owned by Pennie’s friend. Tens of thousands of dollars went straight into Pennie’s pocket. Officers’ families received only 22 percent of the total $3.2 million donated to Pennie’s two charities in 2016 and 2017, according to the groups’ most recent IRS filings. Pennie’s expenditures run counter to best practices established by the Better Business Bureau that recommend charities spend no more than $35 of every $100 from donors on fundraising costs such as telemarketers.

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Star-Telegram - August 16, 2018

Fort Worth pension: ‘You can’t fix it at one point and assume it will always be good’

The city’s consultants warned there are no easy fixes for the Fort Worth Employees’ Retirement Fund $1.6 billion unfunded liability. If no action is taken to stabilize it, the city’s $2.3 billion fund could run out of money by 2048. Regardless of what the city does to shore up the fund, there’s no guarantee it will fix the fund permanently, said actuary Paul Schrader during a budget workshop on Thursday. “You can’t fix it at one point and assume it will always be good,” Schrader said. That was one of the assessments laid out to the Fort Worth City Council during a budget workshop Thursday about how to fix the city’s $1.6 billion unfunded liability. The pension fund covers more than 6,000 active city employees and 4,400 retirees. The Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association Local 440 urged the City Council to leave the retirement’s fund cost of living adjustments, also known as a COLA, alone. “We can’t touch COLA’s for actual retirees,” said Michael Glynn, president of the firefighters association. To keep the COLA, the firefighters association suggested increasing both the city and employee contributions. Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association., offered two alternatives that also increased the city and employee contributions that would meet the funding requirements to fix the shortfall. He echoed the concern about messing with the COLA. “You can’t walk away from the benefit that’s already been earned,’ Ramirez said. Both Glynn and Ramirez stressed that it was important for the city to come up with a plan that their membership can support. Any change in employee contributions must get 50.1 percent of all employees to support — not just those who show up to vote. “It’s got to be a plan that’s fair,” Ramirez said “It’s got to be a plan that doesn’t break promises.”

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Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2018

At St. Luke's, Friday's federal termination could affect more than heart transplants

The heart transplant program at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center is set to lose federal funding Friday, a serious blow to a Houston hospital long regarded as one of the nation's best for cardiac surgery. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in June that it would cut off funding for heart transplants this month after concluding that the hospital had not done enough to correct issues that led to a high rate of patient deaths in recent years. The federal action came weeks after an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica detailed the depth of the problems and revealed that several physicians had left the program in recent years after raising concerns. Barring a last-minute delay by the agency, which would be highly unusual, the hospital will no longer be allowed to bill Medicare and Medicaid for heart transplants, and experts say the termination could affect the hospital in more far-reaching ways. With the federal sanction looming, some patients awaiting heart transplants at St. Luke's have transferred their care to neighboring Houston Methodist and Memorial Hermann hospitals, officials at both said; at least two patients have already received new hearts since switching to Methodist. Meanwhile, St. Luke's spokeswoman Marilyn Gerry said in an email that the hospital "is continuing to communicate with CMS about possible options" to maintain federal approval. "We have taken steps to make sure all of the critically ill patients in our heart transplant program continue to receive the care they need," Gerry wrote. "We have advised all of our Medicare and Medicaid patients on the heart transplant wait list of their options. Many of them have chosen to continue their care at Baylor St. Luke's with the physicians and staff they have come to know." Gerry downplayed the impact of federal termination, saying that it "only affects how Medicare pays for heart transplant costs" and that it won't affect patients in need of lung, liver or kidney transplants. But experts say once Medicare refuses to cover heart transplants at a hospital, private insurance companies often follow suit. If that happens, most of the 87 patients on the program's heart waiting list would have to either pay out of pocket for their surgeries, transfer to another hospital or hope that St. Luke's is willing to perform the procedure at no cost.

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National Stories

New York Times - August 16, 2018

Omarosa Manigault Newman releases tape of Lara Trump’s $15,000-a-month job offer

Omarosa Manigault Newman released a secret recording on Thursday that she said backed her claim that President Trump’s daughter-in-law had offered her a $15,000-a-month contract in exchange for her silence about her time as a White House adviser. The audio, released during an interview on MSNBC, is the latest in the trickle of recordings that Ms. Manigault Newman has made public to bolster the credibility — and sales — of her tell-some book, “Unhinged,” about her tenure at the White House. In the book, she claimed that the Trump 2020 campaign, which is partly overseen by Lara Trump, who is married to Mr. Trump’s son Eric, offered her a salary equal to what she had earned before being fired from the White House in December. Ms. Trump noted on the tape, which Ms. Manigault Newman said was recorded days after she was fired, that the money would come from campaign donors. “All the money that we raise and that pays salaries is directly from donors, small-dollar donors for the most part,” Ms. Trump said. “So I know you, you were making 179 at the White House, and I think we can work something out where we keep you right along those lines.” In a statement, Ms. Trump said that she had shared a bond with Ms. Manigault Newman during the 2016 campaign “as a friend and a campaign sister, and I am absolutely shocked and saddened by her betrayal and violation on a deeply personal level.” “I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on,” she continued.

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New York Times - August 16, 2018

Elon Musk, amid Tesla furor, tells of ‘most difficult’ year

Elon Musk was at home in Los Angeles, struggling to maintain his composure. “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” he said. “It was excruciating.” The year has only gotten more intense for Mr. Musk, the chairman and chief executive of the electric-car maker Tesla, since he abruptly declared on Twitter last week that he hoped to convert the publicly traded company into a private one. The episode kicked off a furor in the markets and within Tesla itself, and he acknowledged on Thursday that he was fraying. At multiple points in an hourlong telephone interview with The New York Times, he choked up, noting that he nearly missed his brother’s wedding this summer and spent his birthday holed up in Tesla’s offices as the company raced to meet elusive production targets on a crucial new model. Asked if the exhaustion was taking a toll on his physical health, Mr. Musk answered: “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.” The events set in motion by Mr. Musk’s tweet have ignited a federal investigation and have angered some board members, according to people familiar with the matter. Efforts are underway to find a No. 2 executive to help take some of the pressure off Mr. Musk, people briefed on the search said. And some board members have expressed concern not only about Mr. Musk’s workload but also about his use of Ambien, two people familiar with the board said. For two decades, Mr. Musk has been one of Silicon Valley’s most brash and ambitious entrepreneurs, helping to found several influential technology companies. He has often carried himself with bravado, dismissing critics and relishing the spotlight that has come with his success and fortune. But in the interview, he demonstrated an extraordinary level of self-reflection and vulnerability, acknowledging that his myriad executive responsibilities are taking a steep personal toll.

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Washington Post - August 16, 2018

Trump has now fired or threatened most senior officials related to the Russia investigation

President Trump says that although he has never obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, he does “fight back.” And, as of Wednesday, he had “fought back” against a majority of top officials involved in leading, overseeing or making administration decisions about that probe. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, of the more than a dozen officials with what could be construed as leadership roles in the investigation, more than half have been fired and/or threatened with official recourse. The most recent examples were the White House’s revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance Wednesday and the threats to do the same for nine other current and former officials who have run afoul of Trump. In one fell swoop, the White House effectively more than doubled its enemies list — and served notice that ex-officials who were involved in the probe will not be permitted to criticize Trump willy-nilly. Not all the firings have come directly from Trump or relate directly to the probe; FBI officials Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok, for instance, were terminated by the bureau after highly critical inspector-general reports, and former acting attorney general Sally Yates refused to defend Trump’s travel ban in court. But Trump has targeted all of them, and all three also saw their security clearances threatened Wednesday (even as McCabe and Strzok don’t appear to have them anymore).

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Washington Post - August 16, 2018

Despite year-of-the-woman buzz, female candidates lag behind men in drawing in campaign cash

Lauren Baer, a former Obama administration foreign policy adviser, has been buoyed by a string of endorsements from Democratic Party officials and national House leaders in her first-time bid for Congress. But for all the attention on her race in South Florida — one of the most competitive in the country — Baer has one significant disadvantage in her campaign to unseat Republican Brian Mast: money. “I know that we have a message that resonates in our community,” said Baer, who had raised less than half as much as Mast by the end of June. “But I also know that my viability, at the end of the day, depends on the amount of money that exists in my campaign coffers.” Even as a record number of women run for office this year, female congressional candidates overall are lagging behind their male counterparts when it comes to pulling in campaign cash, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance reports. Men running for the House had collected almost 17 percent more on average than their female counterparts by the end of June, The Post found in its examination of candidates who showed viability by raising at least $50,000.

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The Hill - August 14, 2018

Group files lawsuit to force Georgia to adopt paper ballots

A coalition in Georgia is filing a lawsuit to force the state to adopt paper ballots in the upcoming midterm elections, a move it claims will improve election security. The Coalition for Good Governance is alleging in a federal lawsuit that Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, Georgia's current secretary of state, failed to adequately safeguard the state's voting system from a breach that allegedly left 6 million Georgia voters' records exposed, CNN reported. The group is claiming Georgia is one of the only states left that does not use a paper ballot, which makes it harder to verify election results. "All we are asking for is a fair election that is verifiable," Marilyn Marks from the Coalition for Good Governance told local NBC affiliate WSAV. "We are asking that if something goes wrong that the ballots can be recounted, they can be audited." The lawsuit describes how easily a private researcher discovered the voting records of more than 6 million registered Georgia residents, CNN reported. The researcher Logan Lamb reportedly discovered the information on a Kennesaw State University website, which had been commissioned by Kemp's office to run Georgia's voting system. "The data was open to anyone in the world who had an internet connection," Marks told CNN. "Even when confronted with a security disaster, [Kemp's] response was to blame managers under his supervision for their incompetence and leave the security disaster without so much as a forensic review of the impacts of the security failures." Kemp has denied the state has issues with securing its election systems. He said the lawsuit's demands are unreasonable a few months before the November election. "The chaos of switching to a completely different voting system this close to an election would cause inconvenience, voter confusion, and potentially suppressed turn-out," Kemp said, according to WSAV.

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The Hill - August 15, 2018

CDC: Drug overdoses hit new record

More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new record. The CDC recorded a 6.6 percent increase in fatal drug overdoses from 2016, but noted that the preliminary numbers likely underestimate the final death toll. More than 40,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year, and nearly 30,000 people died from overdoses of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. The overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose sharply from 2016, while deaths from heroin, prescription opioid pills and methadone fell, the CDC said. Controls on prescription opioids have succeeded in flattening the once-exponential growth of legal opioids, but an influx of illicit opioids has moved into the market to meet demand. While the Department of Health and Human Services has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, skeptics have said few solutions have actually come out of the White House or Congress. States are using grant money made available through the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in 2016, to fight the epidemic. But President Trump has not allocated additional resources in the battle.

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Religion News Service - August 16, 2018

Questions remain for faith-based agencies as border crisis passes

To the World Relief volunteers in a mobile welcome center parked outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., it was clear that the woman released from the center moments before had been separated from her children while seeking asylum at the United States border with Mexico. The woman, called “Karla” to protect her identity, was smiling as she got into a car with Robin Jacobson, a board member with Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest, which runs the welcome center. But as soon as the car door closed, Karla burst into tears. In the short drive to Jacobson’s home, it all spilled out, with help from the Google Translate app: how Karla and her family had fled gang violence in El Salvador, how she’d been separated from her two daughters, how the 6-year-old hadn’t wanted to let go, how Karla hadn’t known where her 13-year-old was for 25 days, how the time spent in detention was marked by “unexpected suffering.” Now Karla had a plane ticket to reunite with her family the next day in California, where she would stay while her case is pending. Jacobson volunteers with a team from her church, hosting people coming out of detention through World Relief. After Karla had a night’s sleep, Jacobson drove her to the airport, something Jacobson said “was probably more transformative and meaningful for us and our family than it was for her.” “For us to be able to share in … a joyous part of her journey allowed a moment of relief for us in what can seem like unrelenting bad news,” she said. Providing support to families like Karla’s is one way faith-based agencies that normally perform the more orderly task of welcoming refugees got involved in the chaotic crisis at the border.

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Governing - August 16, 2018

Why school spending is so unequal

The Hopatcong School District, serving a solidly middle-class borough of Sussex County, N.J., has a lot of money to work with. It spent approximately $40,000 per student in fiscal 2016 -- more than any other school district in the country with at least 1,000 students. A few other New Jersey districts of similar size were spending less than a third of that. Such vast differences in education spending are common across districts, and come as debates over teacher pay and demands for more overall state support have garnered a lot of attention this year. Looking at how spending varies across individual districts, Governing calculated per pupil current spending for all school districts in the nation with 100 students or more, using data from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of School System Finances. In most states, as in New Jersey, the top elementary-secondary school districts reported spending from two to six times more than those near the bottom. One measure frequently used to assess education spending disparities is the coefficient of variation, calculated using districts’ financial numbers. When weighted for enrollment, per pupil spending discrepancies were largest in Alaska, Illinois and Vermont -- more than three times as much as in states with more uniformity across their districts. Many factors explain such wide variations. One of the biggest is property taxes, which typically provide much of a school district’s budget. Wealthy enclaves with million-dollar homes tend to contribute tax revenues not available in poorer parts of a state. All states make an effort to offset local disparities by kicking in a portion of school funding, but just how far they go in equalizing the budgets varies considerably. The states that do it really well, says Lawrence Picus, a professor at the University of Southern California, also provide additional money for children with extra needs.

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Seattle Times - August 16, 2018

How Washington state made its abortion laws Trump-proof

With Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh likely waiting in the wings, the high-court majority appears to be headed toward conservatism. Some Washington state reproductive-health advocates are concerned that could mean a challenge for the landmark abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade. “I certainly think that is the intent … to appoint a judge who would move our country towards overturning Roe v. Wade and ending the constitutional right to access abortion in this country,” says Jennifer Allen, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, the policy and advocacy arm of the national organization’s local affiliate. If a challenge to abortion rights does advance, advocates say it’s more likely to take the form of a case making its way through the court system than a dramatic reversal of law, leaving abortion rights to be determined by individual states. In some states, that means abortion bans, or so-called “trigger laws,” would criminalize the procedure. But in Washington, something else would come into play: a 27-year-old state law intended to defend abortion rights from challenges at the national level. Initiative 120 declared that a woman has a right to choose physician-performed abortion before fetal viability. The law emerged from a political climate not unlike today’s, and was passed narrowly in 1991 by a vote of the people. Abortion-rights activist Marcy Bloom was there to see it. In 1991, she was the director of Aradia Women’s Health Center and board president of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. As part of the coalition that advocated for Initiative 120, Bloom knocked on doors and handed out literature. “Everyone did a little bit of everything,” she said, including making sure voters understood the language of the initiative, and knew to fill in a “yes” response (wording in initiatives can sometimes make this ambiguous). Activists like Bloom were concerned about challenges to abortion at the national level, with reproductive rights taking “center stage in U.S. politics” and an increasingly organized backlash fomenting against legal abortion.

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Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2018

Cox: The Supreme Court deemed a law that cut violent crime unconstitutional. Guess what happened next?

From 1964 to 1980, the violent crime rate tripled in this country. So did robbery. The murder rate doubled. Aggravated assault nearly tripled. This was an alarming time for communities across the United States. To fight back, Congress gave federal prosecutors a powerful new tool in 1984, passing the Armed Career Criminal Act. This law helped us charge and convict the most violent criminals by requiring a minimum 15-year sentence for felons caught with firearms. Notably, the threshold was a criminal history that involved three or more violent felonies. We put this new tool to use. We went after violent offenders and took them out of the communities that they were terrorizing. By 1992, violent crime had begun a historic decline. From 1991 to 2014, violent crime fell by half; murder fell by half; aggravated assault fell by 47 percent; and robbery by nearly two thirds. I have no doubt that a significant factor in this decline was keeping the most violent criminals off the streets for a longer time. But when the Supreme Court struck down a critically important part of the Armed Career Criminal Act in 2015, hundreds of these criminals — each convicted of three or more felonies — were released from jail early. More than 40 percent have since been rearrested. Lawyers, judges and scholars can disagree about whether the Court got it right in Johnson vs. United States, which ruled the clause defining "violent" offenses unconstitutionally vague, effectively nullifying many violent offenders' sentences. What's not up for reasonable debate is the dire fallout.

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Fortune - August 15, 2018

St. Louis University is installing Amazon Alexa-enabled Echo Dots campus-wide

The first college or university in the nation is installing Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo Dots in every single dorm room across campus. St. Louis University, a private four-year university in Missouri’s most populous city, unveiled a plan to install 2,300 intelligent assistant-enabled Echo Dots in residence halls and student apartments before classes begin later this month. The Alexa-enabled Echo Dots will be programmed to answer over 100 specific questions about the campus and student activities, such as the hours for the library or a list of upcoming public lectures. The program, the first of its kind in the nation because it will include every residence on the school’s campus, is managed by Amazon’s Alexa for Business and supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which means students don’t have to know how to set up Alexa or the Echo Dot. Instead the devices will be operated by a central system not tied to any student’s individual account and won’t retain personal information. Additionally, the university says the Echo Dots are operated at no cost to students. Last spring, the school conducted a pilot program, putting the devices in residence hall rooms. School administrators say students responded to the test-run with positive feedback. Arizona State University also tried something similar last year, installing 1,600 Echo Dots in engineering students’ live-work spaces during the 2017-2018 school year.

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Real Clear Politics - August 15, 2018

McCaughey: Democrats are out to sabotage the middle class on health care

Democrats are trying to ban low-cost health insurance that will cover less than Obamacare. They claim they're protecting the public from what Senator Chuck Schumer calls "junk insurance." Don't believe it. In truth, they're sabotaging middle-class consumers who've been priced out of Obamacare and dread being uninsured. Somebody needs to remind the Democratic Party that poor lives matter but so do middle-class lives. The Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to cover a whopping 10 categories of medical care that Washington politicians deem "essential." Everything from maternity care (even if you're in your 50s) to substance abuse treatment. It's like passing a law that the only car you can buy is a fully loaded four-door sedan. Some people need wheels and can only afford a Mitsubishi hatchback or a motorcycle. Likewise, if you need health insurance, basic coverage without the costly extras sure beats being uninsured. Trouble is, Obamacare is a budget buster. Premiums for 2019 will be about triple what they were six years ago. Not a problem for buyers who get subsidized by Uncle Sam. But it's a big problem if you earn more than $48,560 individually or $65,840 as a couple and can't get a subsidy. One out of every 5 of these unsubsidized Obamacare customers dropped their insurance last year and went uncovered, a trend predicted to worsen this year. Not that Schumer and the rest of Congress feel the pain. They get their own sweetheart deal.

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The Atlantic - August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin’s civil rights revolution

If the Great Migration could be condensed into a single personal narrative, it might be Aretha Franklin’s. Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, to a traveling, womanizing preacher and a gospel-singing mother, Franklin was whisked north by the same currents that brought millions of black souls to the great industrial and financial centers of the country. Settling with her father in Detroit, she received just about as formal a training in gospel music as was possible back then, singing in her father’s church and on revival tours, and learning from Mahalia Jackson, who stopped in to check on the Franklin household at times. At 18, Franklin cast off the gospel and embarked on a pop career that would span nearly six decades, spawn a legion of hits, garner countless awards, and see her enshrined as the Queen of an art she helped build. Fifty years ago, she received an award for excellence from Martin Luther King Jr. Four years later, she sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” his favorite song, at Mahalia Jackson’s funeral. Almost four decades after that, Franklin serenaded President Barack Obama and the rest of the country with “My Country 'Tis of Thee” at his inauguration. There were generations in her church hat. MORE STORIES The Perfect Aretha Franklin Song HANNAH GIORGIS Aretha Franklin Before and After Aretha MATT THOMPSON Remembering the Incomparable Aretha Franklin SPENCER KORNHABER Mitski press photo The Dangerous Desires in Mitski’s Songs SPENCER KORNHABER Franklin’s 76 years on Earth bookended a grand arc of tumult, letdowns, progress, setbacks, terror, and hope in American history. That in itself might not be a remarkable feat so much as a reminder that all black people older than 53 have seen and lived through hell. But Aretha—and that first name is sufficient, as it was in black churches and parlors for half a century—was an architect of a movement as much as a witness to it. She toured with the actors Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier to raise money for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967, when the organization was in dire financial straits and was attempting to embark on a Poor People’s Campaign. She was an activist who strained to keep a movement going even after King’s assassination, and who worked to support the Black Panthers and attempted to post bail to free the activist Angela Davis from jail. She loved black people. In this country, that simple fact was radical enough. And now Aretha is dead. It seems we are burying more and more of the old royalty these days. That’s the way of the world, and in the liberative and redemptive tradition of the Black Gospel, the passings of the elders are ultimate moments of freedom and joy as much as times for sadness. But still, Aretha’s death is a loss, and it should prompt reflection. What does it mean to bury the Queen of Soul?

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Louisville Courier-Journal - August 14, 2018

Harassment by lawmakers would become ethics violation under recommendation in Kentucky

The Legislative Ethics Commission on Tuesday asked it be given clear authority to investigate complaints of sexual harassment against state legislators. Although the commission found Rep. Jeff Hoover and former Rep. John Arnold in violation of the ethics code in high profile cases stemming from harassment complaints in recent years, state law does not expressly include sexual harassment as a violation of the ethics code. "We were just flying by the seat of our pants on it because we didn’t have any established definition," said Pat Freibert, a commission member who is a former state representative from Lexington. "...It’s safer and it’s better to clarify it." Clarifying that the commission has jurisdiction to investigate staff complaints of harassment by lawmakers is one of six recommendations the commission approved for ways to strengthen the code of ethics for legislators. Another recommendation would require lawmakers to annually disclose all of the out-of-state trips they take that are related to their jobs - trips most often paid for by taxpayers but sometimes paid by outside groups so long as the group does not lobby the General Assembly. The commission confronted a legal issue in two big cases in recent years when it received sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers. In 2013, three women filed complaints against then-Rep. Arnold, D-Sturgis. Last fall, a complaint was filed against then-House Speaker Hoover, R-Jamestown. Anthony Wilhoit, chairman of the commission, said in each case the commission pressed the cases as violations of a more general part of the ethics code that prohibits a lawmaker from misusing their office for personal gain.

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Fox News - August 16, 2018

Trump's revocation of Brennan's security clearance leaves lawyers asking if former CIA chief can appeal

President Trump’s revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance has set off a debate among lawyers: does Brennan have the right to appeal the decision? Trump said he has a “unique, constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information,” in announcing that he yanked the clearance of Brennan, who led the CIA for nearly four years under the Obama administration and has not shied away from criticizing the president. But Brennan derided the move as the president working “to suppress freedom of speech [and] punish critics.” “It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out,” he said in a tweet. “My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.” It’s not uncommon for former officials to maintain their security clearances after leaving the job. In some cases, former federal employees, including in the CIA and FBI, can be called back to consult or offer advice on an issue. But there’s a difference between maintaining a security clearance and actually have access to classified material, Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in security clearances, told Fox News. Individuals who have one of three levels of security clearances – top secret, secret or confidential – don’t necessarily get access to any classified information that’s out there; normally, one will just be able to access what the agency has deemed appropriate for what that person needs to know. And it’s much the same with former officials, Moss said. They’re “only allowed to see things the existing agency officials decide they want to consult with them on matters.”

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Politico - August 16, 2018

12 former top intelligence officials criticize Trump for pulling security clearance

A dozen former top intelligence officials, representing previous Republican and Democratic administrations, issued a letter late Thursday supporting former CIA Director John Brennan and lambasting President Donald Trump’s move to revoke his security clearance. The rare statement from the former officials — including former CIA directors who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — comes one day after Trump pulled Brennan’s clearance and said he would evaluate clearances for other former intelligence officials, including two who signed on to the pro-Brennan statement. That move from the White House “has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” the dozen ex-intelligence officials wrote in their joint letter. “You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information.” Those signing the letter were former CIA Directors William Webster, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus; former CIA Deputy Directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Michael Morel, Avril Haines and David Cohen; and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

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CNN - August 16, 2018

After report on sexual abuse by priests, Pennsylvania lawmakers may lift statute of limitations

After a grand jury report detailed allegations of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers are poised to vote on whether to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations -- as well as lengthen windows for lawsuits. But what that would mean for victims who've already missed their windows -- including many of the victims mentioned in the report -- depends on several factors. Pennsylvania law currently allows child victims of sexual crimes to pursue criminal charges against their abusers until age 50, and they can file civil lawsuits until age 30. A bill before the state House would eliminate the time limit for prosecutions and move the lawsuit ceiling to age 50. A state lawmaker who survived abuse also wants to give temporary leeway to victims whose window to sue already has shut. Similar bills have languished in the legislature in recent years, but House Majority Leader Dave Reed, a Republican, said Tuesday that he expects to schedule this one for a vote this fall. "The actions revealed through the grand jury report are heinous and shameful," Reed said in a statement on his website. "With the timeliness of this report and its findings, the statute of limitations bill ... is primed for discussion in the House." The bill, SB 261, has rested in the House since last year, when the Senate passed it unanimously.

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CNBC - August 16, 2018

Trump's military parade is now estimated to cost $92 million – $80 million more than earlier estimate

President Donald Trump's military parade — postponed after this article was originally published — is shaping up to cost $80 million more than initially estimated. The Department of Defense and its interagency partners have updated their prospective cost estimates for the parade, according to a U.S. defense official with firsthand knowledge of the assessment. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity. The parade, originally slated for Nov. 10 but now potentially set for 2019, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said. The figure consists of $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. An initial estimate last month pegged the prospective cost for the parade at $12 million. A Pentagon spokesman said in an email to CNBC that the Defense Department expects to make an announcement soon, but he would not comment further. The White House referred questions to the Defense Department. The $92 million cost estimate includes security, transportation of parade assets, aircraft, as well as temporary duty for troops. The official also noted that while the size and scope of the military parade can still shift, the plans currently include approximately eight tanks, as well as other armored vehicles, including Bradleys, Strykers and M113s. The official also said that experts put to rest concerns about whether the Abrams tank, which weighs just shy of 70 tons, would ruin infrastructure in Washington. Their analysis found that, because of the vehicle's distributed weight and track pads, the streets of the nation's capital would not be compromised.

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Wall Street Journal - August 16, 2018

Christopher Wray tries to steer FBI in calm path through political storm

FBI Director Christopher Wray has spent the past year focusing his agents on the nitty-gritty of their jobs and avoiding the distractions from controversies buffeting the agency. A key part of that effort, Mr. Wray said, has been to lead by example—keeping his head down and his opinions to himself. “My big point of emphasis has been that even though we live in tumultuous, turbulent times, I’m trying to bring calm, stability—dare I say it—normalcy, in an environment where I think there’s an appetite for that,” Mr. Wray said in an interview this week that coincided with the completion of his first year as director. Mr. Wray’s leadership style is a sharp departure from how his predecessor, James Comey, ran the 37,000-employee Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some agents have described Mr. Wray’s style as so low-key that employees aren’t always sure of his expectations. Others said it has served the bureau well as it faces intense political pressure from its handling of high-profile investigations, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which began as an FBI investigation and still uses FBI agents and resources. Still recovering from President Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey in May 2017, the bureau faced more fallout this week after a top counterintelligence agent was fired for sending a stream of anti-Trump text messages that the Justice Department inspector general said “cast a cloud” over the bureau. The dismissal came after the firing of the deputy director in March for misleading investigators about his role in a news story. Mr. Trump frequently weighs in on investigations, has called the Mueller probe “a witch hunt” and has chastised FBI and Justice Department officials. Of his relationship with the president, Mr. Wray said simply, “It’s professional,” and declined to address Mr. Trump’s tweets savaging Mr. Mueller’s probe and the Justice Department.

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Newsclips - August 16, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2018

GOP's concern for Pete Sessions' congressional seat has VP Mike Pence headed to Texas

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions' district ahead of the November election as part of a determination that the longtime incumbent's campaign against Democrat Colin Allred is the top mid-term priority in Texas. That's the word from Corey Lewandowski, senior strategist to Pence's political action committee. "Pete's district is probably the most critical for us," he said Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "When you look at the race, you look at his opponent, and you look at where things are." Lewandowski, who served as President Donald Trump's first campaign manager, didn't have details on the visit's timing. But he made clear that "you are going to see the vice president in that district." "Pete Sessions ... understands how difficult it is in this environment," he said, noting the 11-term congressman's past role as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "He's out campaigning hard." Sessions spokeswoman Caroline Boothe said she didn't have details available on a Pence visit to the district. But she said she agreed with Lewandowski's assessment. "Dallas, Texas, is home of the free enterprise system, and we want to protect that," she said, touting Sessions' record on jobs and economic growth. "A vote in the other direction completely derails that and would turn Texas into California." Allred spokesman Hector Nieto countered that Sessions has "consistently failed to put the interests of North Texas first and has chosen to toe the party line," pointing to the ongoing effects of Trump's trade war and the GOP's efforts to repeal Obamacare. "Knowing that, it's not a surprise Washington is swooping in to try and bail out their floundering candidate," he said. The vice presidential attention would only further Pence's engagement in the Lone Star State. His Great America Committee PAC has already donated to the campaigns of Sessions, Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, and Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio. The vice president will also headline a fundraiser for Culberson in Houston later this month.

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Texas Tribune - August 15, 2018

Dispute over resignation letter holds up special election to replace state Sen. Sylvia Garcia

It has been about three weeks since state Sen. Sylvia Garcia submitted a letter declaring her "intent to resign," but whether it qualifies as an actual resignation has fallen into dispute — and has threatened to upend the timeline for Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special election for the Houston Democrat's seat. The state senator is widely expected to be headed to Congress next year. She won the March primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, and while there's also a Republican on the ballot in November, she is expected to cruise to victory in the bright-blue district. In a letter Garcia shared July 23 on Twitter, she told Abbott she intended to resign effective Jan. 2, 2019, and asked him to schedule the special election to coincide with the Nov. 6 general election. The race to fill Garcia's seat in Senate District 6 has already taken shape, with state Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, both Houston Democrats, having launched campaigns months ago. Still, Abbott has held off on calling a special election as his office and Garcia's remain at odds over the validity of her letter. Abbott's office does not believe Garcia's use of the phrase "intent to resign" is good enough to trigger the process by which the governor can call a special election, while Garcia's staff believes there is nothing wrong with the letter. The clock is ticking on when Abbott can call the special election so that it coincides with the November general election. If he does not do it before Aug. 24, the next uniform election date on which he could call it is in May of next year. Still, he retains the option of calling an emergency special election that could occur take place on some other date.

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Fox News - August 15, 2018

Jury deliberations to begin in Manafort trial, as defense team suggests prosecution is improper, 'desperate'

Attorneys for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort suggested during closing arguments Wednesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team had improperly ensnared their client in the ongoing Russia probe, prompting a last-minute recess in the case after prosecutors cried foul. The drama unfolded as closing arguments wrapped up after nearly four hours. Jury deliberations are now set to begin at 9:30 a.m. EST on Thursday. A unanimous verdict from the 12 jurors is required to convict Manafort on each of the 18 counts against him. Manafort attorney Richard Westling on Wednesday told jurors that banks had not reported any problems with Manafort to regulators "until the special counsel came and asked questions," and accused prosecutors of "stacking" charges against Manafort. And another defense attorney, Kevin Downing, said several times the prosecution should have been handled by an IRS audit, rather than a high-profile federal prosecution by the special counsel's office. Prosecutors said both arguments violated a pretrial agreement not to discuss the larger political context of the case. Later in the day, during jury instructions that lasted well over an hour, Judge T.S. Ellis told jurors to ignore the defense team's suggestion that the Mueller prosecution was politically motivated. He also emphasized that prosecutors bear the burden of proof, beyond any reasonable doubt, in the case. "It's not my function to deliberate facts, it’s yours," Ellis told jurors on the eve of their deliberations. Leaving the courtoom on Wednesday, Downing told reporters that Manafort was optimistic ahead of the deliberations.

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CNN - August 15, 2018

Pressure mounting on Pope Francis to respond to the Pennsylvania grand jury report

A new grand jury report says that internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more than 300 "predator priests" have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims. "We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands," the grand jury report says. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted." The grand jury described the church's methods as "a playbook for concealing the truth" after FBI agents identified a series of practices they found in diocese files. The lengthy report, released Tuesday afternoon, investigates clergy sexual abuse dating to 1947 in six dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Pennsylvania's two other dioceses, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown, have been the subjects of earlier grand jury reports, which found similarly damaging information about clergy and bishops in those dioceses. The grand jury's searing report comes as the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, is struggling to contain a sexual abuse scandal rapidly consuming the church on several continents.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2018

NAFTA, Trump on minds at U.S.-Mexico border conference

Calling himself "a man of the border," former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo on Wednesday painted a dour portrait of U.S.-Mexico relations, saying today's tense times are "not business as usual" and urging Texas residents to raise their voices during contentious times between both countries. "I happen to be at the right place at the wrong time," quipped Zedillo, whose 1994-2000 presidency helped reshape Mexico politically and economically. He said he wished to be more optimistic and cheerful but added, "I think it is unavoidable to recognize we are going through a very complex and uncertain moment about the relationship between Mexico and the United States." A native of Mexicali, Baja California, Zedillo was the keynote speaker at the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit, an annual conference sponsored by The Borderplex Alliance, and this year, in collaboration with the Southern Methodist University Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center. Zedillo's comments come as the North American Free Trade Agreement is being re-negotiated, with some reports suggesting Mexico and the U.S. are close to reaching a pact in the weeks to come. Canada is also part of the pact. With U.S. mid-term elections in November and Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador set to take office in Mexico on Dec. 1, many are hopeful that President Donald Trump and his current Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, can sign the pact and lessen the political uncertainty that will face the new Mexican administration.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2018

Pelosi and Pence visits national focus on Houston and Harris County as midterms approach

Former (and possibly future) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spent nearly six hours in Houston campaigning for Democrats on Wednesday, yet another sign of the city’s significance on the national political landscape with November midterm elections just three months away. Pelosi’s visit comes a week before Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit and raise money for endangered Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson, who holds a west Houston district both parties acknowledge is a jump ball. President Donald Trump has donated to Culberson’s campaign. Earlier this week, former Vice President Joe Biden threw his support behind Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, Culberson’s opponent. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said just last week that he’s talked to Trump about campaigning in Texas to help Cruz and other Republicans. “It’s definitely competitive here,” Pelosi said. “We’re going to get a big turnout in all of these races.” Harris County has only grown as a target for Democrats since the 2016 elections, when Hillary Clinton won over 100,000 more votes in the county than former President Barack Obama did four years earlier. “All of the national attention speaks highly of the political dynamic in Harris County,” said Vlad Davidiuk, communications director for the Harris County Republican Party. He said Harris is the largest swing county in the nation and can be a deciding factor in statewide races in Texas.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2018

Crossley: Texas has a traffic problem, but congestion isn’t it

Crashes are a much bigger problem for the people of Texas than congestion. About 10 people die every day in the Texas transportation system — more than in any other state. Unlike congestion, which imposes a small, annoying daily cost on a lot of people, crashes tragically alter the lives of about 60 Texas families every day. Last year 3,721 people died, and 17,546 suffered life-changing incapacitating injuries. We could do a lot more on safety. Our state and local leaders could clearly prioritize ending traffic deaths, as many cities and states are doing. Sadly, our focus seems stuck on congestion, and crashes receive neither the attention nor the funding required. We pour billions of dollars and concrete every year attempting, and failing, to reduce congestion. Certainly, we must maintain the nation’s largest road system, and our funding decisions should consider new or expanded roads. But our dogged obsession with congestion is keeping us from spending and planning more wisely. A recent paper co-authored by Wesley E. Marshall and Eric Dumbaugh, a former Texas A&M Transportation Institute research scientist, found no negative regional economic impact of increased congestion, and there may be economic benefits to metro areas with more congestion. For individuals, congestion incurs an estimated annual economic cost of $14 billion in unproductive time, extra fuel burned and other annoyances, which amounted to $527 per Texan in 2014. That statistic has stayed level since 1982, when Texans experienced a $546 cost of congestion per Texan each year, according to our analysis of data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard. On the other hand, using National Safety Council standards for estimating economic costs, crashes cost us $38 billion in 2014 and $38.4 billion last year.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2018

GOP lawmaker questions Abbott’s bid to review new state regulations

A Republican leader in the Texas House is questioning the wisdom of a new policy, revealed in late June, that requires two dozen state regulatory agencies to send all proposed rules and regulations to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to be reviewed before they’re disclosed to the public. In a letter sent Monday to Abbott, state Rep. Byron Cook — chairman of the House committee that oversees the governor’s office — asked Abbott for more details about the directive, saying some lawmakers have questioned whether the governor has the authority to formally insert his office into the state’s rule-making process. Cook also said the review process could introduce a bureaucratic logjam for hundreds of proposed rules, adding that he was told only one person in Abbott’s office is responsible for reviewing the proposed regulations. “It is important to underscore that nothing in our state’s constitution or statutes gives the Office of the Governor the power to veto or delay the proposal of a rule, whether by act or omission,” wrote Cook, a Republican from Corsicana who did not seek re-election and is in the final five months of a 16-year career in the House. An Abbott spokeswoman said the policy “is well within” the governor’s authority as established by the Texas Constitution. “As the chief executive of the state, Gov. Abbott has a constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law and ensure that all state agencies under his direction approach the regulatory process in adherence with these laws as written and passed by the Legislature,” spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said. “Additionally, a preliminary review of proposed rules and regulations allows for a thorough assessment of the effectiveness, cost, benefit or potential harm these ideas might have on the state as required by law,” Matthews said in a written statement. Proposed rules, published weekly, are frequently the result of new state laws and can range from the controversial to the mundane. Regulations published June 1, for example, included heightened sanctions against low-performing schools and a rule clarifying when property “for sale” signs are considered an advertisement.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2018

AAS: Journalists are watchdog neighbors, not enemy of the people

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have long decried unfavorable press coverage as erroneous or incomplete, seeking to blunt the impact of reporting that holds those in power accountable. President Donald Trump, however, has taken that tactic to the extreme, labeling stories he doesn’t like as “fake news” and branding journalists as “the enemy of the people” — both dangerous distortions designed to untether the administration from inconvenient facts. While his attacks on the press date back to the campaign, Trump has ramped up his rhetoric in recent months as the special counsel’s investigation has revealed more evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president is growing desperate as the inquiry moves toward his son, his former attorney and other members of his inner circle. We know his endgame: CBS reporter Lesley Stahl says Trump told her after the election that he attacks the press “to discredit you all and demean you all, so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” Journalists play an essential role in informing voters and holding leaders accountable, a function enshrined in the Constitution as part of the checks and balances that keep our democracy healthy. We stand in solidarity today with the editorial boards of more than 100 U.S. newspapers defending the rigorous, truth-driven work by journalists and opposing Trump’s cynical efforts to dismiss that reporting as “fake news.” We’re a country that’s accustomed to spin from our politicians, but Trump tries to operate by facts of his own making: He issued a whopping 4,229 false or misleading statements in his first 558 days in office, the Washington Post Fact Checker found, spewing untruths with increased frequency over the past six months.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2018

Rankings show H-E-B not just biggest Texas retailer, but a national contender

The National Retail Federation has released its annual list of the Top 100 Retailers, and a Texas favorite is charging into the top 20. Step aside “Here Everything’s Better” … now it’s “Here Everything’s Bigger.” San Antonio-based H-E-B is No. 20 on the list with 2017 retail sales of $21.94 billion — and they did it with 330 stores. Only Apple managed higher sales with fewer stores. H-E-B is a far piece from competing with the retailers atop the list (No. 1 WalMart, $374.80 billion; 2. Kroger, $115.89 billion; 3. Amazon, $102.96 billion), but they are within striking distance of national brands Aldi, Macy’s and Dollar General. H-E-B spent the last couple years at No. 21 on the list. The list appears in the NRF magazine Stores. The “annual compendium” ranks “the industry’s largest companies according to sales.” H-E-B is the sixth-ranked grocer and the top-ranked retailer in Texas, substantially ahead of Dallas-based 7-Eleven at No. 32. Other Texas-based companies in the Top 100 are AT&T Wireless (No. 35), J.C. Penney Co. (38), Army & Air Force Exchange (61), Gamestop (69), Academy (78), Michaels (88), Exxon Mobil Corp. (92), Neiman Marcus (93) and Shell Oil Co. (95).

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Texas Observer - August 15, 2018

‘Stalwart Battler for Justice’: Remembering Babe Schwartz (1926-2018)

Babe Schwartz, a former state senator from Galveston, died last week at 92. He was described by Houston Chronicle columnist Patti Kilday Hart as “one of the most liberal ‘yellow dog’ Democrats ever to serve in the Texas Legislature.” For those of us who had the good fortune to know him and to watch him perform on the floor of the Senate, he was also a constant delight, swift as a bolt of lightning, who could rhetorically eviscerate an opponent with his rapier wit. Babe was born in Galveston in 1926, the son of a Polish immigrant father. He attended Texas A&M University and volunteered for the Navy in World War II, serving on a carrier in the Pacific. After the war, he graduated from the University of Texas Law School. When Babe got to the Senate in 1960, he was pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness. Federal court redistricting orders in 1966 began to dramatically alter the game, as Senate seats were required for the first time to be population-based. The result was an influx of urban progressives. My law partner Oscar Mauzy was elected to the Senate in 1967 and became a staunch ally for Babe. Others soon followed, such as Joe Christie, Carlos Truan, Carl Parker and Ron Clower. Similar changes occurred in the Texas House as a result of federal rulings requiring single-member legislative districts in the urban counties.With the remaking of the Texas Legislature in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Babe was in his element and a major force. As Lloyd Doggett told the Chronicle, it was “possible to make some genuine state legislative progress in Texas.” Lloyd characterized Babe as “a sharp-witted, sharp-tongued advocate for economic and social justice.”

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Texas Observer - August 14, 2018

In rush to appear pro-Israel, lawmakers may have stepped on free speech

To make extra money while attending the University of Texas at Austin, Obi Dennar often worked as a judge for high school debate tournaments. In October, after working a two-day tournament at Klein High School near Houston, Dennar noticed a clause in his contract that he’d never seen before. “Contractor hereby certifies and verifies that neither Contractor, nor any affiliate … boycotts Israel, and contractor agrees that Contractor … will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement,” it read. Dennar was shocked. As a college student, he had been involved with the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a long-standing pro-Palestine group at UT that’s active in the broader “boycott, divest, sanction” (BDS) movement that seeks to economically pressure Israel through public campaigns. Dennar recalled that a school official told him and the other judges that any discrepancies in the contract could result in legal consequences. “I thought ‘wow,’ I can’t sign this because even if they were just to Google my name they will be able to find that I’ve been a part of groups that advocate for Palestinian rights,” Dennar said. Rather than put himself at legal risk or violate his conscience he decided not to sign the contract, forfeiting the $150 he was owed. “It’s pretty frustrating given that I’m in college and every dollar matters. I find that it’s very suspicious, but also very wrong.” The contract clause is the result of a new state law. Passed in 2017 by the Texas Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support and little debate, House Bill 89 prohibits governmental entities from contracting with companies and individuals that have or will “boycott Israel.” As a result, government agencies, including public schools and universities, are now requiring contractors to pledge that they don’t participate in economic protests of Israel. A growing number of people, including Dennar, have reported that they’ve been forced to choose between their political beliefs and payment for their labor.

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Hays Free Press and News-Dispatch - August 15, 2018

Editorial: We are the people

A dangerous drift began with a few catchy words tossed out, catchy, but thoughtless, and dangerous. Talk of “fake news” and calling journalists “enemies of the people” were terms once used only by dictators. A free and independent press has guarded democracy since its beginning, sometimes at a high cost, It’s not perfect, but it’s far superior to controlled or censored news. That’s the cry coming from newspapers around the country this week. The push was started by The Boston Globe in response to President Donald Trump calling media organizations the “enemy of the people” and using terms like “fake news” for newspapers and TV networks. Nothing could be further from the truth, and that is something that our President doesn’t seem to understand. What would happen if all news outlets just stopped suddenly? What would happen is newspapers ONLY printed one side of the story – the side being promoted by the government? E.B. White probably described it best in his volume published in 1944. “The United States, almost alone today, offers the liberties and the privileges and the tools of freedom. In this land the citizens are still invited to write their plays and books, to paint their pictures, to meet for discussion, to dissent as well as to agree, to mount soapboxes in the public square, to enjoy education in all subjects without censorship, to hold court and judge one another, to compose music, to talk politics with their neighbors without wondering whether the secret police are listening, to exchange ideas as well as goods, to kid the government when it needs kidding, and to read real news of real events instead of phony news manufactured by a paid agent of the state. This is a fact and should give every person pause.” Government spokespersons from all entities try to give their side of the story; that’s what they are paid to do. But that is only one side of the story, and giving them free rein without questioning is not good for our country – or our freedom.

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Washington Post - August 17, 2018

McRaven: Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President: Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him. Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency. Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs. A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself. Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation. If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

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Politico - August 14, 2018

Oral arguments in Texas Obamacare suit set for Sept. 10

Oral arguments have been scheduled for Sept. 10 in a Texas lawsuit seeking to strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional. The case was filed in February by 20 Republican state attorneys general. They’re seeking a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the federal health care law. The Trump administration has partly sided with the plaintiffs in seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s insurance protections, including the prohibition on denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. The lawsuit is certain to factor in the mid-term elections. Democrats have already pilloried Republicans for trying to eliminate one of the most popular provisions of Obamacare. Polling shows widespread support for pre-existing condition protections across party lines. The arguments are scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Reed O’Connor.

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CityLab - August 15, 2018

U.S. government won’t release $1.4 billion transit funds, stalling Dallas and El Paso projects

Remember the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill? Heavily touted by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail and in his first year of office as a plan to “build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land,” the idea is all but dead in Congress 18 months into his administration. Like a nasty pothole, Trump’s unkept promises on road-and-rail dollars have given transportation fans a mild case of whiplash. But there may be worse harm in another infrastructure lapse on the part of this administration, this one more basic: $1.4 billion promised to transit projects across the U.S., still unallocated by the Federal Transit Administration for no clear reason. From New York to Los Angeles, El Paso to Minneapolis, 17 rail and rapid bus projects are awaiting grants promised by the federal appropriations bill signed into law by Trump in March 2018. But the funds have still not been delivered nearly five months later. Make that 144 days, 20 hours, and 15 minutes later, as of this writing, according to a splashy countdown clock built by Transportation For America, a progressive transportation policy organization. Here’s the full list of projects counting down the minutes, from TFA, include Dallas’ DART Red and Blue Line platform extensions and the El Paso BRT extension. Authorities in these cities have been counting on federal dollars to move ahead with planning and construction, and many have already committed hundreds of millions in local resources toward their completion. The FTA’s procedural slowdown is worrying transit agencies, consternating commuters and advocates, and embarrassing the political leaders who championed the projects.

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County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2018

Bexar school leaders not happy with state’s report card

None of Bexar County’s 16 traditional school districts failed — but only its three military districts received A grades — in state accountability rankings released Wednesday. The Alamo Heights, North East, Northside and Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City independent school districts got Bs. The South San Antonio and Edgewood ISDs each got a D. The rest received Cs. It was the first time that Texas handed out letter grades to its school districts and most local superintendents have not welcomed the change. Even leaders of districts with relatively high ratings said the new system oversimplifies the complexity of educational effort and outcomes. It still leans too heavily on test scores and disproportionately punishes low-income schools, the Texas Association of School Administrators said. “The grade itself will serve to do two things,” said Northside Superintendent Brian Woods. “It will mask things that are going really well in a school … and it will mask things that need improvement because they simply aren’t measured. In our zeal for simplicity, I think we’ve missed some things.” Randolph Field ISD’s score of 94 percent was the highest among local traditional school districts. It has three campuses and about 1,450 students, military dependents who live both on and off Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. About 8 percent of them are “economically disadvantaged” based on federal income criteria, compared to a statewide average of 59 percent. “Although we are pleased that the hard work of our staff, students, parents, and community reflect well on the Texas Education Agency’s latest attempt to find a methodology that will serve the (Legislature’s) attempt to simplify the realities of public education into a single grade, it is not that grade that defines who we are as a district,” Superintendent Lance Johnson said in an email.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2018

Judge sides with San Antonio firefighters union in case brought by anti-referendum activists

A state district judge Wednesday afternoon denied a request from the political action committee opposing three proposed charter amendments to block the City Council from calling the Nov. 6 election on Thursday. The two sides presented their arguments Wednesday morning before Judge Cathleen Stryker in the 224th District Court. She ruled a few hours later against the Secure San Antonio’s Future political action committee on a request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the City Council from performing its duties to call the election on the amendments proposed by the firefighters union. PAC attorney Mikal Watts argued that the San Antonio Professional Fire Fighters Association had illegally spent union dues and failed to disclose that spending, poisoning the signatures its consultant had obtained. Houston attorney Cris Feldman, representing the firefighters union, said after the judge’s ruling that his clients expect to see the council call the election Thursday. “We’re very pleased that the judge found that Local 624 did not violate the Texas Election Code,” Feldman said. Stryker’s order, however, does not grant the union’s request to deny permanent injunctive relief. Parties in lawsuit draft orders for the judge to sign, including language of what they’re seeking in court.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2018

Mayor Nirenberg and other officials express concern about soaring home prices

San Antonio’s housing market grew even hotter amid July’s sweltering temperatures, demonstrating the strength of the local economy but posing a threat to aspiring middle-class homeowners. Local population and job growth continued to drive up sales last month: 3,275 homes were sold in the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area, an increase of 11 percent over July 2017, according to data from the San Antonio Board of Realtors. Yet home prices also soared, a trend that is of increasing concern to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other local officials. The median price of a home rose 5 percent, to $229,800, a rate of increase typical for the local market since it emerged from the housing crisis in 2012. Over longer spans of time, those single-digit price increases add up: In July 2012, the median local price was $164,700, nearly 40 percent lower than last month. The supply of homes on the market remains tight as construction firms struggle to build homes in the moderate price range that local residents can afford — a problem that plagues major cities across the U.S. The National Association of Realtors reported last week that a “staggeringly low” inventory of homes had pushed the national median price up to $269,000 in the second quarter of this year, 5.3 percent above the same time in 2017. The rising costs of land, labor and regulatory fees are causing local prices to swell, said Jack Inselmann, an economist with Metrostudy who analyzes the local market. Tariffs on lumber from Canada put in place by the Trump administration have also contributed to price growth, he said.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2018

San Antonio launches review of city’s growing airport needs

The San Antonio Airport System has launched a major review to assess the region’s growing air travel needs over the next five decades as the city’s population and traffic to its airfields grows, the agency announced Wednesday. “Our airport is a driving force in our region’s prosperity and economic development, and this planning effort will allow us to take the lead in securing a prosperous future for San Antonio,” Aviation Director Russ Handy said in a news release. The airport system’s Strategic Development Plan will examine how land and facilities at San Antonio International Airport can be used to keep up with population and passenger growth during the next 50 years. San Antonio International surpassed 9 million passengers in 2017, a record high for the airfield. About 4.8 million travelers passed through the airport through June, up 9.4 percent from the previous year, according to the most recent passenger statistics. And the airport has added dozens of nonstop flights within the past year. The system — partnering with WSP USA, an engineering firm that plans transportation infrastructure — is expected to consult with neighborhood groups, local businesses, government agencies and tourism and economic development leaders in the coming months to identify the region’s air travel needs.

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2018

City attorney who helped keep Dallas from going broke announces resignation, hints at mayoral run

City Attorney Larry Casto, who helped save Dallas from billions of dollars in liabilities -- and a potential bankruptcy -- announced his resignation Wednesday after less than two years in the job. Casto said in a letter he will "focus on the next chapter of my career" -- and strongly hinted that he intends to run for mayor next year. The news shocked council members who hired Casto to be Dallas' city attorney in September 2016. One said he was "physically ill" at the news. Casto, who previously served as the city's longtime chief lobbyist, wrote that his career with the city taught him "Dallas is capable of greatness and that it is also capable of weathering any storm and coming out stronger on the other side." The 53-year-old Casto declined additional comment Wednesday, preferring to let his letter speak for itself. And the two-page letter said quite a bit about the next mayoral election. "Already people are about who should be selected to fix all the what's -- the affordable housing crisis, the transportation stalemate, homelessness, health care, public education, job creation and poverty," he said. Casto said the mayoral race "must be about who we are as a community and what we are willing to do [to] get the Dallas we want." He also referred to his intention to create a "top-to-bottom blueprint that will challenge our entire community."

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2018

Familiar names and fresh faces scramble to fill Dwaine Caraway's seat on Dallas City Council

Dwaine Caraway's seat on the Dallas City Council is barely cold, and already there's a crowded field of contenders who want to fill it for the remainder of the term. Former Dallas City Council member Carolyn King Arnold had already planned to run against Caraway -- again -- to represent their Oak Cliff district. But when Caraway pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges last week, "things kind of sped up a bit," said the former school teacher who served one term before Caraway reclaimed the District 4 seat in May 2017. Arnold was one of a handful of contenders to show up Wednesday morning to Dallas City Hall, when the filing period began for candidates who want to finish the disgraced former mayor pro tem's term. Another face in the crowd was 48-year-old Kebran Alexander, a Skyline High School and University of North Texas graduate, IT salesman and the Dallas NAACP's health-care chair. Brandon Vance, who tried to unseat Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson two years ago, said Wednesday he also intends to run. The KIPP Schools college adviser said he believes "it's a calling" to serve in public office. As many as eight to 10 names, some of them young and respected neighborhood-association leaders, have been floated as would-be candidates. City Secretary Bilierae Johnson said four candidate packets had been picked up by noon, and only two people -- Alexander and Asa Woodberry -- had turned in the names of their campaign treasurers. But candidates can also file online. "Everything could change by the end of the day," Johnson said. Interested parties, who must gather 25 signatures to get on the ballot, don't have long to decide: The window closes at 6 p.m. Aug. 23.

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Austin Business Journal - August 15, 2018

Council votes to strike a deal with Precourt for MLS stadium in North Austin

A deal for Austin's first pro sports team is ready to be made. Austin City Council voted 7-4 Wednesday afternoon to authorize the negotiation and execution of agreements with Precourt Sports Ventures to build and lease a $200 million Major League Soccer stadium at a North Austin site. City officials' go-ahead to "execute" an agreement means the professional soccer stadium at McKalla Place, a 24-acre city-owned site south of The Domain, won't have to come back to Council. Wednesday's vote was the most concrete step Austin has taken to land its first professional sports team in the 10 months since Precourt Sports Ventures first announced it was considering relocating the Columbus Crew SC from Ohio to the Texas capital. Proponents said the stadium would support a team that would bring residents together in a unique and substantive way. "I think it delivers. This is the best deal of its kind in the country," Mayor Steve Adler said. "The city is excited about Major League Soccer and I am too. I can’t wait until we are all wearing the same jersey." "We've come to a good thing for our city and I'm excited about this opportunity to unite the city in a way that we don't have," Council Member Delia Garza added. A final lease and development agreement will still need approval from the city and PSV. Anthony Precourt, CEO and chairman of Precourt Sports Ventures, in a statement thanked Council "for their decision today to move forward with bringing Major League Soccer to Austin." He called it "a long, emotional process. We’re thrilled to move forward. The work starts now. And we’re bringing Major League Soccer to Austin.”

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Star-Telegram - August 15, 2018

Restraining order issued to remove Arlington’s term limits proposal. What happens next?

A judge has issued a temporary restraining order removing the city’s term limits proposition from the ballot less than 24 hours after the City Council placed it on the Nov. 6 ballot. Arlington is being sued by the residents for not voting on Proposition E twice as required by city charter. The council added it Tuesday to offer an alternative to the other term limits proposition sponsored by a group of residents. Proposition E would expand council terms from two years to three years and allow them to serve three consecutive terms. The proposition would not have counted past service, and would have allowed all council members and the mayor to serve another nine years. Proposition F, brought on by a citizen-led petition, will still be on the ballot. It limits council members and the mayor to three two-year terms and would be retroactive, possibly forcing five council members out in the next two years. The council and Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce strongly oppose Proposition F because it’s retroactive and could affect the stability of the council. Supporters say Proposition F is needed to give newcomers a chance to run for council without having to face an entrenched incumbent.

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National Stories

New York Times - August 14, 2018

Twitter suspends Alex Jones for a week after tweet

Twitter on Tuesday suspended the account of the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for a week after he tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against media and others, in a violation of the company’s rules against inciting violence. The action effectively prevents Mr. Jones from tweeting or retweeting from his personal account for seven days, though he will be able to browse Twitter. The Twitter account for Infowars, the media website founded by Mr. Jones, was not affected. The move was Twitter’s harshest against Mr. Jones after other tech companies took steps last week to ban him from their platforms. The removals began when Apple announced it would purge videos and other content by Mr. Jones and Infowars because of hate speech, followed by Facebook, YouTube and then Spotify. Twitter was the sole holdout among the major tech companies in not taking down content from Mr. Jones, who has called the Sandy Hook shooting a hoax conducted by crisis actors. Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been resolute in the company’s decision to keep Mr. Jones’s account online. He has said Twitter did not think that Infowars and Mr. Jones violated its rules, which prohibit direct threats of violence and some forms of hate speech but allow deception or misinformation.

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New York Times - August 14, 2018

Elon Musk’s effort to take Tesla private to get board oversight

Tesla announced Tuesday that its board had created a special committee to review a potential proposal by Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, to take the company private. The board, caught by surprise last week after Mr. Musk posted a cryptic tweet about having “funding secured” for a possible buyout of the electric carmaker, said that it had yet to receive a formal proposal or reach “any conclusion as to the advisability or feasibility of such a transaction.” The three independent directors who make up the special committee, Brad Buss, Robyn Denholm and Linda Johnson Rice, “have the full power and authority” of the board to evaluate and negotiate any potential transaction to take Tesla private, the company said. The company stressed Tuesday that “no assurances can be given” that any proposal from Mr. Musk would be accepted. Tesla said that Latham & Watkins was serving as legal counsel to the special committee, which plans to bring on an independent financial adviser once it receives a formal proposal. The company said it separately hired the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati “as legal counsel in this matter.” On Monday night, Mr. Musk posted on Twitter that he was working with Silver Lake and Goldman Sachs as financial advisers on a proposal to take Tesla private. He also wrote that he had hired two law firms — Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Munger, Tolles & Olson — as legal advisers.

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New York Times - August 15, 2018

S.E.C. is said to subpoena Tesla after Elon Musk’s take-private tweet

Federal securities regulators have served Tesla with a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the investigation, increasing pressure on the electric car company as it deals with the fallout from several recent actions by its chief executive, Elon Musk. The subpoena, from the Securities and Exchange Commission, comes days after regulators began inquiring about an Aug. 7 Twitter post by Mr. Musk, in which he said he was considering converting Tesla to a private company. In the post, he said that the financing for such a transaction, which would probably run into the tens of billions of dollars, had been “secured.” Tesla shares, a popular target for so-called short sellers who bet on certain stocks losing value, soared about 11 percent on the day Mr. Musk posted the message. It has become clear since then that neither Mr. Musk nor Tesla had actually lined up the necessary financing aside from having preliminary conversations with some investors. The Twitter post by Mr. Musk, who has considered taking Tesla private in the past, was something of a flip remark, said several people familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly about the episode. The serving of a subpoena, which typically requires the approval of top S.E.C. officials, indicates that an inquiry has advanced to a more formal, serious stage. It can take years for an investigation to yield any action, and some investigations do not result in any action.

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New York Times - August 15, 2018

Democrats discard Washington platform in bid for House control

House Democrats, looking to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans in November, are discarding the lessons of successful midterms past and pressing only a bare-bones national agenda, leaving it to candidates to tailor their own messages to their districts. It is a risky strategy, essentially putting off answering one of the most immediate questions facing the Democratic Party after its losses in 2016: What does it stand for? The approach could also raise questions among voters about how Democrats would govern. Democrats say they have answered that question with a recently adopted slogan, “For the People,” a skeletal, three-point platform and a longer version, called “A Better Deal.” But with anti-Washington sentiment simmering; a deep divide between the party’s moderates and its left flank; and the brand of the party’s longtime leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, toxic in large sections of the country, they have concluded that a unified campaign framework emanating from Capitol Hill would do more harm than good. And as Tuesday night’s election results made clear, the primary season drawing to a close has made the search for a unifying message that much more difficult, elevating self-described democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan to argue policy with a Trump-voting populist like Richard Ojeda in West Virginia and a centrist like Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania. The Democratic split was especially evident on Tuesday in Minnesota, where Ilhan Omar, a 36-year-old Somali refugee who was embraced by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, defeated four other Democratic candidates to run for an open seat. Ms. Omar stands in stark contrast to another Minnesota Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson, a veteran centrist who voted against the Affordable Care Act.

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New York Times - August 16, 2018

Brennan: President Trump’s claims of no collusion are hogwash

When Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s internal security service, told me during an early August 2016 phone call that Russia wasn’t interfering in our presidential election, I knew he was lying. Over the previous several years I had grown weary of Mr. Bortnikov’s denials of Russia’s perfidy — about its mistreatment of American diplomats and citizens in Moscow, its repeated failure to adhere to cease-fire agreements in Syria and its paramilitary intervention in eastern Ukraine, to name just a few issues. When I warned Mr. Bortnikov that Russian interference in our election was intolerable and would roil United States-Russia relations for many years, he denied Russian involvement in any election, in America or elsewhere, with a feigned sincerity that I had heard many times before. President Vladimir Putin of Russia reiterated those denials numerous times over the past two years, often to Donald Trump’s seeming approval. Russian denials are, in a word, hogwash. Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft. Electoral politics in Western democracies presents an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives. The very freedoms and liberties that liberal Western democracies cherish and that autocracies fear have been exploited by Russian intelligence services not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation, increasingly via the growing number of social media platforms. Having worked closely with the F.B.I. over many years on counterintelligence investigations, I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power.

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Washington Post - August 15, 2018

Trump revokes security clearance of former CIA director Brennan, a critic of the president

President Trump has revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John O. Brennan, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday, citing “the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.” Brennan is a leading critic of Trump who as recently as Tuesday sharply denounced the president for calling his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman “that dog.” Trump is also reviewing security clearances of other former officials including former FBI director James B. Comey, Sanders said during a regular White House news briefing. “First, at this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior,” Trump said in a statement read by Sanders at Wednesday’s briefing. “Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him,” Trump said in the statement. “Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.” In an interview on MSNBC after the announcement, Brennan compared Trump’s actions to authoritarian leaders around the world. “I never, ever thought I’d see it here in the United States,” Brennan said. “I believe all Americans need to take stock of what is happening right now in our government -- how abnormal and how irresponsible and how dangerous these actions are. If Mr. Trump believes this going to lead me to just go away and be quiet, he is very badly mistaken.”

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Washington Post - August 15, 2018

Clearinghouse for Kavanaugh documents is a Bush White House lawyer, angering Senate Democrats

Brett M. Kavanaugh writes in an email that he’s a fan of the Spanish tapas hot spot Jaleo. He was pressed on whether official memos should be single- or double-spaced. And in June 2001, he wrongly predicted then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist would retire. The tens of thousands of pages that have emerged from the Supreme Court nominee’s tenure in the George W. Bush White House reveal little about his judicial philosophy and qualifications, much less any damning detail that could sink his bid to replace retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Yet those papers are being disclosed to the public in an unusual fashion: A lawyer working for Bush and his legal team are scouring the reams of documents, determining what can be released and sending them to the Senate. The National Archives is doing its own nonpartisan review, but that won’t be finished for weeks — long after Kavanaugh is likely to be confirmed and has taken his seat on the nation’s most powerful court. “It’s not just breaking norms. It, frankly, is bordering on absurdity,” said Kristine Lucius, a former Democratic staff director for the Senate Judiciary Committee who worked on a half-dozen Supreme Court nominations. “I don’t know how a senator can do their job if they can’t review their entire record as a political appointee.” How the Republican majority is handling Kavanaugh’s extensive records has infuriated Democrats, who are powerless to change a process likely to set a precedent for the scrutiny of future Supreme Court nominees. The sheer volume of Kavanaugh’s paper trail is staggering. From his two-year tenure as associate White House counsel, there are an estimated 910,000 pages. A separate 20,000 pages stem from Kavanaugh’s time working under independent counsel Kenneth Starr in the 1990s.

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Washington Post - August 15, 2018

Trump’s lawyers prepare to fight subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court

Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lead lawyer for the ongoing Russia probe, said Wednesday that he is still awaiting a response from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to the Trump team’s latest terms for a presidential interview, which were made last week in a letter that argued against Trump’s having to answer questions about his possible obstruction of justice. In the meantime, Trump’s lawyers are preparing to oppose a potential subpoena from Mueller for a Trump sit-down by drafting a rebuttal that could set off a dramatic fight in federal courts. “We would move to quash the subpoena,” Giuliani said in an interview. “And we’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena.” Giuliani added that Trump’s attorneys are ready to “argue it before the Supreme Court, if it ever got there.” In recent weeks, Giuliani said members of Trump’s team have “had conversations” with Emmet T. Flood, a White House lawyer working on issues related to the federal investigation. He said Flood “would have a big role to play here and would assert presidential privilege” but declined to say more about those discussions. White House officials have privately said Flood has cautioned Trump and others about the unpredictability of a subpoena fight that could be decided by the Supreme Court. Such a case would be unprecedented. Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr served President Bill Clinton with a subpoena to compel him to appear before a grand jury, but it was withdrawn after Clinton agreed to testify.

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Washington Post - August 15, 2018

She works for Trump. He can’t stand him. This is life with Kellyanne and George Conway.

Kellyanne Conway is in her living room, showing me an enormous painting of Audrey Hepburn wearing a peacock on her head, but her husband, George, really wants us to come into his office and look at a photograph of the moment everything changed. It’s a picture he took on election night 2016: Donald Trump is reaching for the first draft of his acceptance speech, just as victory seemed imminent. Back then, George was such an ardent supporter of the president, and so proud of his wife for her historic role as campaign manager, that he wept for joy. “That photo was from before you cried,” Kellyanne says. “Now I cry for other reasons,” George mutters. Kellyanne pretends to ignore that comment, something she’s been doing a lot of lately. “You gotta see this picture,” George, 54, says. “You should like this, it’s your boss.” “He’s not just my boss,” Kellyanne, 51, says. “He’s our president.” “Yeah,” George says, walking out of the room. “We’ll see how long that lasts.” Here at the Conways’, it’s a house divided. She is Trump’s loyal adviser, the woman who carried him over the finish line to the White House. He is one of the president’s most notable conservative critics and wishes he had never introduced his wife to Trump in the first place. Kellyanne invited me here because she thought it would be a good symbol for her commitment to, and the enduring strength of, the Trump presidency. The White House may be shedding staff at record speed, but this new home is a sign that Kellyanne isn’t going anywhere; that she is, in fact, flourishing. And that may be true. But as I spent time with Kellyanne and George, I saw an alternative symbol: The Conways, like the rest of the country, have been jolted by the Trump presidency. They love each other, are exasperated by each other, talk about each other behind each other’s backs. They share a roof and live in different bunkers.

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Fox News - August 15, 2018

Trump admin looking at revoking security clearances from Obama era

The White House is revoking former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, press secretary Sarah Sanders said on August 15. The announcement comes just a few weeks after Sanders said President Trump was considering rescinding security clearances from several former top intelligence officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, who “politicize, and in some cases actually monetize, their public service and their security clearances in making baseless accusations about improper contact with Russia.” Brennan led the CIA for nearly four years under the Obama administration. Earlier this year, he joined MSNBC and NBC News as a contributor and senior national security and intelligence analyst. He has been critical of the Trump administration and has called the president “paranoid” and a “charlatan.” He said Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.” Last month, the White House said it was looking into the clearances for other former officials and Trump critics, including former FBI director James Comey; former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe; former director of national intelligence James Clapper; former national security adviser Susan Rice and former CIA director Michael Hayden (who also worked under President George W. Bush). On Wednesday, Sanders added to the list Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, former FBI agent Peter Strzok (who was fired from the bureau last week) and former FBI general counsel Lisa Page.

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Fox News - August 15, 2018

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says tariffs 'like weight loss'

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Fox News on Wednesday that President Trump's tariffs on imports from China, the European Union and other nations are "a little bit like weight loss ... it's kind of painful to start with, but you're healthier in the end." However, Perdue also acknowledged "legitimate anxiety over the tariffs and the pain they've caused." The secretary spoke to Fox News as a set of 10-percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods is due to take effect Aug. 23. The proposed tariffs affect more than 6,000 product lines, including seafood, tobacco and components used in products such as car rear-view mirrors and burglar alarms. Beijing has responded by threatening new tariffs of 5 to 25 percent on roughly 5,000 U.S. products. Last month, the Trump administration slapped 25-percent taxes on $34 billion in Chinese imports, most of them industrial goods that U.S. officials said received subsidies or other unfair support from Beijing. China quickly responded by imposing tariffs on $34 billion in U.S. products. "China has not been playing by the rules for years and we’ve allowed for them year after year to get away with that," Perdue told Fox News. "And frankly, we’ve got barriers across the world, not just in China, but in the European Union. If we turned our farmers loose in America they would own the market internationally."

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Politico - August 15, 2018

Bannon mounts last-ditch effort to save the House for Trump

Steve Bannon is attempting a political resurrection, launching a 25-person pro-Trump rapid-response and polling operation that is framing the midterms as an up-or-down vote on the president’s impeachment. The former White House chief strategist has started Citizens for the American Republic, an outside political group that intends to advise surrogates, generate talking points, and flood the TV and radio airwaves ahead of a perilous midterm election. As part of the campaign, Bannon — a former Hollywood producer who’s made several conservative films — will soon release a new documentary, “Trump@War,” which he plans to release in September on the two-year anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s now-infamous speech in which she referred to Trump supporters as “deplorables.” The slickly produced movie depicts the president in deeply flattering terms, casting him as a populist hero who’s followed through on his campaign promises and defied a long line of liberal critics. It notably does not focus on the culture wars that Trump advisers have said will be the key to his re-election strategy, but tells a positive story about the president’s 2016 campaign and time in office, while portraying liberal Trump haters as the ones who have targeted his supporters with physical violence in the streets. During a 30-minute interview at his Capitol Hill townhouse on Wednesday, Bannon described the looming midterm election as a referendum on Trump — and one that could have disastrous consequences for his presidency. He said his new group was designed to combat a mobilized Democratic machine bent on punishing Trump. “It’s very simple to me. This is a referendum on Trump, up-or-down vote on impeachment,” he said. “This other side, they’re very motivated — and they’re motivated for one thing: They want to impeach Donald Trump.” “It’s all on the table Nov. 6,” said Bannon, who flatly asserted that Democrats would impeach Trump if they seized control of the House.

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Axios - August 16, 2018

Exclusive trailer for Steve Bannon's new film, "Trump @ War"

The film is part of a drive by Bannon to galvanize Republicans to embrace the midterms as Trump's "first re-elect." The film is designed to portray Trump supporters as being under siege — complete with clips of CNN’s Don Lemon, and footage of a "Make America Great Again" hat being burned. Bannon shared the trailer as he announced a new political group aimed at turning out Republicans this fall, Citizens of the American Republic (COAR). Bannon, describing the film, told me: "How jacked do we think Trump will be when he sees this?" Bannon added: "If you’re a deplorable, you’ll literally standing on your chair with your pitchfork saying: 'I’ve got to get people out to vote.'" Bannon said the film — from his longtime production company, Victory Films — will last about 75 minutes, and will include interviews with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; Dr. Seb Gorka, an alumnus of Trump’s White House; and about 18 others. The release date, Sept. 9, is the second anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s statement, seized on by the Trump campaign, that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables." Bannon — President Trump’s former campaign chief executive, and White House chief strategist — said the premiere will be the culmination of an all-day "Deplorables Conference" in New York featuring pro-Trump speeches. Everything is a war to Steve. Bannon’s caricatured framing of the election — as one pitting hooded Antifa members and Dems screaming about impeachment and burning MAGA hats, against the hero Donald Trump — will almost certainly appeal to Donald Trump.

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The Guardian - August 15, 2018

Almost 350 news outlets to publish editorials denouncing Trump's 'dirty war' on press

Nearly 350 news organizations are set to publish editorials on Thursday pushing back against Donald Trump’s attacks on the media and defending freedom of the press. The publications are participating in a push organized by the Boston Globe to run coordinated editorials denouncing what the paper called a “dirty war against the free press”. As of Wednesday morning, 343 publications had pledged to participate, said Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s deputy managing editor overseeing the opinion page. The Guardian has also joined the effort and has published an editorial alongside outlets around the United States. “Donald Trump is not the first US president to attack the press or to feel unfairly treated by it. But he is the first who appears to have a calculated and consistent policy of undermining, delegitimising and even endangering the press’s work,” the Guardian’s editorial says. Trump has routinely attacked the press as a whole as well as individual reporters, labeling factually accurate reports “fake news” and calling the news media “the enemy of the people”. The Globe’s opinion page put out the call for a mass response last week. “We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” the pitch to editors said. The hundreds of newspapers and sites participating include the New York Times, Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Miami Herald. A host of smaller papers from cities and towns around the country are also joining in. Trump has stepped up his attacks on the media in recent weeks. At a rally in Pennsylvania, he pointed out the journalists covering the event and derided them as “fake, fake, disgusting news”. The White House barred a CNN reporter from covering a public event after she asked Trump a question.

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Detroit News - August 16, 2018

Finley: Media must look to itself to restore trust

Our feelings are hurt in the news media. The president of the United States is calling us the Enemy of the People and we don’t like it. So across the nation today, newspapers are publishing editorials telling Donald Trump, “We are not, you are!” and reminding readers of our own importance. Let me join them: The free press is not the people’s enemy. It is a vital pillar of our democracy and was assigned by the Founders the role of watch-dogging the nation’s institutions. It’s a mission we usually carry out quite well, even in this era of technological disruptions, changing consumer tastes and eroding resources. But who really cares if Donald Trump is using us as a whipping boy to mask his many deficiencies? Presidents have done that before, and often. Trump may be both more relentless and obnoxious than his predecessors, but cries of “Fake News!” from the Oval Office are old hat. Presidents always blame the messenger. Even Barack Obama, the object of so much media fawning, groused about distorted coverage. This time, though, we are taking it personally. Striking at the bait Trump dangles. Joining the war he’s declared. Allowing him to goad us into abandoning the fundamental principles of our profession. Donald Trump is not responsible for the eroding trust in the media. He lacks the credibility to pull that off. The damage to our standing is self-inflicted. The independent press was built on a foundation of objectivity. Through a tradition of conscientious commitment to telling all sides of a story we convinced our readers, listeners, viewers that we were the source of fair and balanced coverage. We were equal opportunity scourges of scoundrels on both sides of the political aisle.

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The Hill - August 16, 2018

The Hill Interview: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explains what got Alex Jones suspended

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey isn’t sure if the timeout given to Alex Jones will convince the right-wing conspiracy theorist to “reconsider” his social media behavior. But Dorsey, in an interview with The Hill the morning after his company handed down a seven-day suspension to Jones, says its enforcement actions are intended to promote better behavior from its users. “We're always trying to cultivate more of a learning mindset and help guide people back towards healthier behaviors and healthier public conversation,” the 41-year-old co-founder of Twitter said. “We also think it's important to clarify what our principles are, which we haven't done a great job of in the past and we need to take a step back and make sure that we are clearly articulating what those mean and what our objectives are.” Dorsey, wearing a black t-shirt that showed off a forearm tattoo unusual for a Washington, D.C., setting, spoke to The Hill during a furious media tour that included interviews with NBC’s Lester Holt and The Washington Post. He’s doing outreach amid stark criticism that Twitter has been too soft on Jones, the InfoWars owner who has suggested the Sandy Hook shooting of school children was staged — and that Twitter’s content and behavior rules are unclear. Apple, Facebook and Spotify are among the tech companies that have banned Jones and Infowars in the last 10 days, but Twitter argued Jones had not actually violated its content policies until a Tuesday tweet linking to a Periscope video in which he urged his followers to take up “battle rifles” in the crusade against censorship. Dorsey said he wasn’t involved in the decision to restrict the accounts, and that he found out about it after the fact through a text from Twitter lead counsel Vijaya Gadde, who also attended the interview. “We were getting a number of reports around the tweet and the Periscope that the content was inciting violence, which is against our terms of service and we took action,” Dorsey said.

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NPR - August 16, 2018

Colorado baker sues state again, after refusing to make cake for transgender woman

The Colorado baker who won a Supreme Court case over his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple is suing state officials, alleging religious discrimination over his refusal to make a cake celebrating a gender transition. Attorneys for Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., said Wednesday that the state is "continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs." The case involves an incident from June 2017, when lawyer Autumn Scardina said she asked for a cake with a pink interior and blue exterior to celebrate the anniversary of transitioning from male to female. "The woman on the phone told me they do not make cakes celebrating gender changes," Scardina wrote in a complaint to Colorado's Division of Civil Rights. "That's a cake I can't create for anybody," Phillips told Colorado Public Radio. On June 28 of this year, Colorado regulators said there was "sufficient evidence" to support Scardina's claim of discrimination based on her transgender status and ordered the two sides to "compulsory mediation." "I know the Bible says that God created male and female and that we don't get to choose that, and we don't get to change that," Phillips told CPR. "And I don't feel like the government has a right to compel me to participate in creating a cake that promotes that message." Phillips is asking the court for permanent injunctions against the state from enforcing Colorado anti-discrimination laws against him as well as $100,000 in punitive damages.

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Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2018

Trump says his tariffs will rescue U.S. steel industry

President Trump said that his steel tariffs on China and other countries are rescuing an iconic U.S. industry that was in danger of closing and predicted that the competition U.S. companies will face in the future will mostly be domestic due to his actions. In an impromptu, 20-minute Oval Office interview Wednesday, Mr. Trump said some people may complain that in the short term steel prices may be “a little more expensive,” but that they ultimately will drop and his moves will have preserved an industry important to national security. Competition will be “internal, like it used to be in the old days when we actually had steel, and U.S. Steel was our greatest company,” he said. Mr. Trump’s remarks came on the same day the White House announced he was revoking the security clearance of one of his most vocal critics, former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan. The White House is also trying to contain any damage from publicity surrounding the release of a tell-all book by Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former senior White House official who was fired in December. In upbeat tones, the Republican president talked about the strong domestic economy and his own political power as he said was demonstrated in GOP primaries throughout the country. He reiterated that he would like to see the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race end, but said he is considering giving an interview to the investigator, special counsel Robert Mueller. “We’re looking at it,” he said. Mr. Trump pledged in March to impose global tariffs of 25% on imported steel, and 10% on aluminum, moves he said were based on national security concerns. The announcement sparked worries of a looming global trade war and prompted retaliation or threats of it across Asia, Europe and elsewhere in North America, elevating tensions between the U.S. and many if its longtime allies.

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Religion News Service - August 14, 2018

Labor Department bolsters religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws

The government has a duty to allow contractors to be excused from federal anti-discrimination laws if they cite a religious reason for doing so, according to a new directive from the U.S. Department of Labor. The order, issued Friday (Aug. 10), is another sign of the Trump administration’s determination to accommodate religious conservatives, who have made freedom to act on one’s beliefs a signal issue at home and abroad. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a special religious liberty task force intended to remind Justice Department employees that it is their duty to accommodate people of faith. Also in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled an action plan, dubbed the Potomac Declaration, that lays out “concrete ways” to protect religious groups around the world. The latest move, which came in a letter from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, will make it more difficult to sue the government if one of its contractors denies a job to an LGBT person on the basis of the employer’s beliefs. It reminds Department of Labor employees of recent Supreme Court cases that ruled in favor of religious groups. Those include the 2014 Hobby Lobby case in which justices allowed a craft store chain to deny workers emergency contraceptive drugs in the Affordable Care Act because the chain opposes them on religious grounds, as well as the 2017 Masterpiece Cakeshop case in which justices allowed a Colorado baker to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings on religious grounds.

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Associated Press - August 15, 2018

A rising concern? After straws, balloons get more scrutiny

Now that plastic straws may be headed for extinction, could Americans' love of balloons be deflated? The joyous celebration of releasing balloons into the air has long bothered environmentalists, who say the pieces that fall back to earth can be deadly to seabirds and turtles that eat them. So as companies vow to banish plastic straws, there are signs balloons will be among the products to get more scrutiny, even though they're a very small part of environmental pollution. This year, college football powerhouse Clemson University is ending its tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before games, a move that's part of its sustainability efforts. In Virginia, a campaign that urges alternatives to balloon releases at weddings is expanding. And a town in Rhode Island outright banned the sale of all balloons earlier this year, citing the harm to marine life. "There are all kinds of alternatives to balloons, a lot of ways to express yourself," says Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, who cites posters, piñatas and decorated paper. Following efforts to limit plastic bags, the push by environmentalists against straws has gained traction in recent months, partly because they're seen as unnecessary for most. Companies including Starbucks and Disney are promising to phase out plastic straws, which can be difficult to recycle because of their size and often end up as trash in the ocean. A handful of U.S. cities recently passed or are considering bans. And the push may bring attention to other items people may not have considered — like festive balloons. "The issue of straws has really broadened the marine debris issue," says Emma Tonge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People might not realize balloons are a danger, she says, because of their "light and whimsical" image. Balloons are not among the top 10 kinds of debris found in coastal cleanups, but Tongue says they're common and especially hazardous to marine animals, which can also get entangled in balloon strings.

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Newsclips - August 15, 2018

Lead Stories

CBS News - August 15, 2018

Primary night takeaways: Diverse Democrats and Trump wins

It was a night of firsts: The first openly transgender gubernatorial nominee. The first Somali-American major party nominee. The potential of the first black woman representing Connecticut in Congress. It was also a night of victories for President Donald Trump. A week after a vote approaching a dead heat, a close ally ousted a sitting GOP governor in Kansas. In Tuesday's Wisconsin and Minnesota primaries, Republican candidates battled to be the strongest supporter of the president, proving — yet again — Trump's dominance in the Republican Party. Christine Hallquist became the first openly transgender major party nominee for governor in American history when she captured the Democratic Party nomination in Vermont. As CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, Hallquist made history in 2015 as the first chief executive to transition on the job. If elected, she'd be the first openly transgender person elected governor. Her candidacy highlights the surge of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates running for office this year. The majority are Democrats and, like Hallquist, and running on far broader, anti-Trump platforms than gay and civil rights. She faces a tough general election race: Republican incumbent Phil Scott is more popular with Democrats than members of his own party in the solidly liberal state. Diverse Democratic candidates also notched wins across the country. In Connecticut, Democratic teacher Jahana Hayes' primary win paved the way for her to be the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress if she wins the general election in November. And in Minnesota, state Rep. Ilhan Omar won outgoing Rep. Keith Ellison's seat, putting her on track to become the first Somali-American and one of the first Muslim women in Congress.

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - August 14, 2018

Sources: Tech BOR pushed for Chancellor Duncan's retirement

Texas Tech Board of Regents had an informal vote of no confidence in Chancellor Robert Duncan late last week in a closed meeting, sources close to the situation have told A-J Media. The nine members of the Board of Regents supposedly took turns expressing their views on the chancellor's future at Tech, and a 5-4 majority wanted new leadership. The closed meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9, lasted five hours. Duncan on Monday, a few days following that vote in executive session, announced his retirement after four years as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. In his retirement announcement, Duncan said serving the system has been the highlight of his career in public service. When A-J Media interviewed the chancellor last month, he said he had no plans to retire. News of Duncan's retirement surfaced late Monday evening, and he's not been available for comment due to a previously scheduled vacation, according to his office. Duncan's announcement came at an unusual time — several weeks before the school year starts, and just two weeks before the actual retirement date. The five members of the board to push for Duncan's leave, according to sources, were Regents Rick Francis, Ronnie Hammonds, Christopher Huckabee, Mickey Long and John Steinmetz. A-J Media has confirmed the board's actions with more than five people with knowledge of the situation. Members of the board did not return A-J Media's request for comment and confirmation.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2018

Garcia: Council faces its week of reckoning on paid sick leave

The San Antonio business community is united in its opposition to a paid sick leave ordinance. Business leaders are divided, however, on how best to oppose it. That’s because the issue is playing out like a movie in which the ending has been predetermined, but no one knows the exact plot points that’ll get us there. This much seems clear: One way or another, mandatory paid sick leave will become the law in San Antonio and, shortly thereafter, it will face a legal challenge. If the courts don’t invalidate it, the state Legislature will. The City Council could place it on the November ballot, in acknowledgment of the successful petition drive earlier this year by a grassroots coalition called Working Texans for Paid Sick Time. If that happens, voters almost certainly will pass it. On the other hand, council members could speed up the inevitable and vote Thursday to approve a paid sick leave ordinance. The result will be the same, but the political consequences will differ. And that’s what business leaders are contemplating. Councilman Manny Pelaez, a veteran labor-employment lawyer, put it this way: “The algebra that they are using in their head is, do you put it on the ballot in November and then wait for the Legislature to kill it early next year? Or is it better for the City Council to enact an ordinance giving the business community a chance to immediately challenge it in court and get a temporary restraining order?” In February, the Austin City Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance. Two months later, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), an Austin conservative think tank, filed suit against Austin’s ordinance, on behalf of a coalition of business groups. One of their primary arguments against the Austin ordinance — which will surely be used against the San Antonio measure — is that municipal paid sick leave laws violate the Texas Minimum Wage Act.

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Washington Post - August 15, 2018

Republicans try to make 'liberal' attack line stick in new ad campaign

Republicans unveiled an ad campaign this week that seemed to turn back the clock a few decades — by trying to turn the word “liberal” into the kind of insult it was 25 years ago. It’s the sort of campaign that would warm the heart of the late Arthur Finkelstein, the famous political media consultant whose clients from the late 1970s into the 2000s would relentlessly pound the Democratic candidate with the phrase “liberal” usually mixed in with some nickname. In 1992, for Republican Al D’Amato’s Senate reelection, his opponent faced 10-second ads calling him “hopelessly liberal.” And then in 1994, Mario Cuomo (D) was pummeled with ads that regularly ended with the sign off calling the three-term governor “too liberal, too long.” The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the House, is echoing that theme in a set of ads released this week in its bid to retain the eight-year GOP majority. The ads hammer home, again and again, the idea that the Democratic nominee is a liberal. “How liberal is Katie Porter?” the narrator asks at the outset of a 30-second spot against the Democratic nominee in California’s 45th Congressional District, challenging GOP Rep. Mimi Walters. “Liberal Katie Hill doesn’t think you pay enough taxes,” the narrator says from the outset of spot against the nominee challenging Rep. Steve Knight (R) in California’s 25th District. “Liberal politician Anthony Brindisi is a tax-and-spend rubber-stamp,” he says in an ad running against the Democratic state assemblyman challenging Rep. Claudia Tenney in New York’s 22nd Congressional District. A similar set of ads were unveiled last week, including one that blasts “failed liberal politician Paul Davis” — in all caps on the screen — in his bid to win a GOP-held seat in eastern Kansas.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2018

Faulty data system at juvenile justice agency languished for years, will take $1.6M to fix

Texas has been running its juvenile prisons for years while relying on inaccurate data about treatment costs, staffing ratios and reincarceration rates — and the fix is estimated to cost $1.6 million. The Texas Department of Juvenile Justice's fragile and outmoded case management system has been spitting out unreliable data reports since January 2016, forcing staff to use faulty information to measure performance and make important decisions about kids behind bars, according to a new state audit obtained by The Dallas Morning News. But the department was unable to secure funds for a replacement system until earlier this year, when Gov. Greg Abbott shook up the agency's leadership in the wake of a sex scandal between kids and guards. On Jan. 26, just weeks after she took over the agency, Executive Director Camille Cain asked for additional cash to purchase a new data system. "She came to learn that we were having very serious issues with this that were leading to errors," Communications Director Brian Sweany said in an interview with The News. "Not only is this outdated, but it's causing problems — problems that we can't accept as an agency." It will take several years to choose a vendor and implement the new system. In the meantime, Sweany said the department will continue to operate its halfway houses and five secure state-run juvenile prisons by "doing the very best that we can do to validate that information on the front end." We're "figuring out where we do have disparities in the data," he said, and "moving forward with the best speed."

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2018

Veep stakes: Joe Biden counters Mike Pence, backs Democratic entry in crucial Texas congressional race

Joe Biden is the latest vice president to weigh in on the highly competitive race for the 7th Congressional District in Houston, endorsing Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in her bid to unseat Republican Rep. John Culberson, who has been supported by Vice President Mike Pence. "Lizzie Fletcher has spent her life improving the lives of people across her community. In Congress, she will put partisan politics aside and be the advocate for working families that her district needs in Washington," Biden said in a press release on the endorsement. Meanwhile, Pence will be coming to the Houston area later in August to raise money for Culberson, a Houston Republican. The Culberson-Fletcher race has been rated by nonpartisan election handicappers as one of Texas' closest races in the midterm elections. Democrats hope to pick up 23 seats to flip the House of Representatives. Former President Barack Obama has also ventured into the midterms in Texas. On Aug. 1, he endorsed Democrat Colin Allred, who is challenging Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, in another hotly contested race. Biden is widely considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate, but he has not confirmed intentions to run. Fletcher has been an attorney in the Houston area for most of her career. Her campaign has picked up momentum in recent months, and she raised over $1 million in the second quarter of 2018. Culberson raised significantly less during the same period with $484,000, but he still holds the overall advantage in cash on hand.

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2018

Jeffers: Ted Cruz, Beto O'Rourke use retail politics, town halls to woo voters in battleground of N. Texas

Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke brought their Senate campaigns to North Texas on Tuesday, looking for support in a key battleground area that could determine the outcome of the race in November. Cruz, the incumbent Republican, was at The Pantry in McKinney and Babe's Chicken House in Arlington, holding classic retail meet and greets, urging conservatives to support his re-election bid and stem the predicted blue wave that could propel Democrats and his rival. O'Rourke was hosting big town hall meetings in Richardson and DeSoto, areas that offer him opportunities to woo persuadable voters, while mining the traditional Democratic base. His morning town hall in Richardson drew an estimated crowd of 2,500, with attendees spilling into overflow rooms. Tuesday was the first time Cruz and O'Rourke campaigned at the same time in the same area. Historically, general election campaigns kick into gear after Labor Day, but Cruz and O'Rourke have been traversing the state at a torrid pace for much of the year. Cruz has been somewhat hamstrung in August because of his duties in Washington, while O'Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, is on recess and in the middle of a statewide campaign tour. The contrast between the candidates is clear, with O'Rourke pushing progressive ideas and Cruz touting conservatism. O'Rourke discussed the importance of the Dallas area Monday night, when he kicked off his North Texas swing at the opening of his campaign office in Dallas. "It's not a sophisticated strategy. We're just showing up everywhere, every day," O'Rourke told The Dallas Morning News. "Polls have us down two points. The people are behind us. What I feel everywhere I go is, 'This is happening.'

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2018

Dallas County Republicans renew effort to remove at least 82 Democrats from November ballot

Dallas County Republicans will appeal a ruling that blocked efforts to remove scores of Democrats from the November election ballot. A formal intent to appeal was filed Monday on behalf of Missy Shorey, the chairwoman of the Dallas County Republican Party, with the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas. Shorey argues that Dallas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Donovan did not properly certify candidate petitions and forward them to the Texas Secretary of State's office. The lawsuit, originally filed in January, showed that Donovan did not sign 127 candidate petitions. "The case was inappropriately dismissed," local GOP lawyer Elizabeth Alvarez Bingham said in an email Tuesday night. But Donovan said nothing had changed with the Dallas County Republican Party's lawsuit. "The trial court found the Republican Party's lawsuit to be frivolous, and their appeal is frivolous as well," Donovan said in a text message. In April, state District Judge Eric Moyé dismissed the case. Lawyers for the Dallas County Democratic Party argued that Shorey did not have standing to bring the suit. They also said Donovan isn't required by law to sign candidate petitions, and that the matter is moot because the election is already under way. In his order, Moyé didn't elaborate on the reasons he dismissed the controversial lawsuit. By the time Moyé ruled on the case, the candidates that would be affected had dropped to 82 because of the March 6 primary.

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2018

Houston-area students head back to fortified campuses after school shootings

When students begin to return to schools across the Houston area Wednesday, many will notice substantial changes to their campuses. Dozens of campuses were outfitted with security vestibules over the summer. Clear Creek, Texas City, Dickinson and Magnolia ISDs will nearly double the number of school liaison officers patrolling their schools. Huffman ISD will roll out a guardian program to arm some teachers, and all middle and high school students in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD will be required to use clear backpacks. The security upgrades come on the heels of a spate of school shootings during the 2017-2018 school year, most recently at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, where a 17-year-old gunman killed 10 and injured 13 others in May. The proximity of that shooting shocked many Houston-area school districts into action over the summer, leading them to approve hundreds of thousands of dollars for new security officers, building upgrades and active-shooter training sessions. “All of a sudden, it became really real,” said Rob Stewart, director of student services in Magnolia ISD. “A lot of us here in Magnolia, we have friends or connections down in the Santa Fe area. Our hearts broke for those people, but they also got a little harder. We said ‘not in Magnolia,’ and want to do whatever we can to prevent something like that from happening here. We don’t know any way to fully prevent it, but we want to do our best.”

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2018

When Harvey hit, Arkema had chemicals onsite. Another company did not. Is there a fair comparison?

Arkema's Crosby facility and another chemical company 30 miles away both shuttered operations when Hurricane Harvey rolled in Aug. 25 — but documents indicate their response to the rising waters was different. In Pasadena, officials with AkzoNobel Polymer Chemistry worked diligently to remove about 122,000 pounds of chemicals from their site, including about 67,000 pounds that were sent about 1,500 miles north to safety in upstate New York. In Crosby at Arkema, repeated failures of systems led to multiple explosions and fires, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and resulting in a criminal indictment for the company, as well as two of their executives. AkzoNobel's procedure, outlined in about 50 pages of documents and emails recently filed in Harris County's criminal case against Arkema, show the stark contrast between how the two companies handled the disaster. But Rusty Hardin, Arkema's attorney, said the two aren't comparable. "The fact that one plant in another section of the city, with perhaps a different flooding situation" historically, shipped out their materials has no bearing, Hardin said. "You don't judge recklessness by what someone else did. It requires you to prove the mindset of the people you are charging." He added that Arkema didn't move the chemicals, in part, for fear of what might happen in transit in a road was flooded or there was a traffic jam. "I don't personally think most people in the industry would agree that the safe thing to do is have [the chemicals] out on the highways during a major hurricane," he said.

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2018

Nancy Pelosi to visit Houston on Wednesday

Nancy Pelosi is returning to Houston on Wednesday, just 83 days before critical midterm elections that could make her Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives once again. Pelosi, a California Democrat who has said she will run for speaker again if Democrats win the majority in the U.S. House this year, is set to attend a pair of public events Wednesday, one with U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, and another with Democrat Sylvia Garcia, who is poised to become Houston’s first-ever Latina elected to Congress. Pelosi and Jackson Lee will participate in an event organized by Jackson Lee called the Mom’s Summit. That event starts at 10 a.m. at the Houston Community College central campus at 1300 Holman Street. Later, Pelosi attends a town hall meeting with Garcia’s campaign that is focused on immigration, gun violence and health care. That event is at 2 p.m. at Talento Bilingue, 333 S. Jensen Drive, Houston. Harris County is a major target for Democrats this year. The 7th Congressional District in Houston is considered one of the pary’s top targets in all of the country. U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, has been in Congress since 2001, but his West Houston district cast more votes for Hillary Clinton for president than Donald Trump two years ago.

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2018

HC: This is our land? Not if politics kills fund to protect national parks

Among the bounties of blessings we Texans can brag about are our wide open public spaces. In West Texas, we can pitch a tent in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and sleep under a night sky so clear we can peer into the Milky Way. In South Texas, we can wander through the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge and see exotic birds as colorful as tropical fish, from Altamira orioles to green jays. In southeast Texas, we can canoe around the Big Thicket National Preserve, paddling for days through dark green curtains of water tupelos and towering magnolia trees. This land is our land. And all three of the aforementioned park spaces share something else in common. They’ve been preserved and protected for our generation and for future Texans by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF helps buy and maintain public lands throughout the nation, from national parks to wildlife refuges to sacred battlefields. And it does almost all of its job without taking any money from taxpayers. But this federal initiative that’s traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington is in danger of losing its funding authorization because of a logjam on Capitol Hill. Congress needs to quit bickering and reauthorize the nation’s most important mechanism for conserving and acquiring public lands. The money for this fund comes almost entirely from offshore drilling lease payments, the checks corporations write to the federal government for the privilege of extracting oil and gas from the Outer Continental Shelf. The idea is pretty simple: Take part of the revenue generated by the depletion of one natural resource owned by the public — offshore oil and gas — and spend it conserving and maintaining a publicly owned resource.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 14, 2018

Ex-FourWinds co-owner receives probation

Shannon Smith, a former co-owner of FourWinds Logistics, the San Antonio oil field services company that defrauded investors and cratered Carlos Uresti’s political and legal career, was sentenced to five years of probation Tuesday. Smith, 42, of Beaumont, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in 2016 and testified for federal prosecutors in the criminal trial of Uresti and FourWinds consultant Gary Cain. Smith could have received a sentence of 46 to 57 months. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra cited Smith’s “minor” role at FourWinds and his cooperation in laying out the whole scheme for investigators for earning the sentence. “It wasn’t a gift,” Ezra said. “ It was a reward for doing the right thing.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Blackwell and Smith’s lawyer, Alex Scharff, asked Ezra to sentence Smith to probation. As part of his sentence, Smith must pay the victims of the fraud $6.3 million in restitution, just like other defendants in the case. He also must perform 500 hours of community service during his probation. FourWinds bought and sold sand used in fracking for oil production. Prosecutors claimed the company was a Ponzi scheme, with some investor money going to support the lavish lifestyle of CEO Stan Bates. Smith is the fifth defendant to be sentenced in the FourWinds saga. The only defendant who has not been sentenced is Bates, who pleaded guilty to eight felonies rather than stand trial with Uresti and Cain. Bates is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11. The judge said last week Bates will spend “several years” in prison.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 14, 2018

Julian Castro’s Iowa trip is another must for a presidential campaign

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro travels this week to the Iowa State Fair — a rite of passage for White House seekers since the 1950s — as he gears up for a possible run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Castro has been running a PAC, writing a book and quietly building a grass-roots network while helping 2018 candidates around the country get elected. But with a speech Friday at the time-honored Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the fair, Castro will thrust himself into a diverse mix of lesser-known Democrats expected to vie for their party’s next nomination. Castro’s three-day trip to Iowa is his first this year. It’s expected to trigger more speculation about his future. Iowa opens the 2020 presidential season with a round of precinct caucuses. Building a network is essential to making the cut in Iowa, known as “the Big Winnower,” and Castro could make headway this weekend with a strong impression. Castro, 43, housing secretary in the Obama administration, has said he’ll decide after the November midterm elections whether to seek the presidency. Earlier this year, he visited New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary. He was scheduled to be in Iowa in June but canceled to attend a protest in Texas over the Trump administration policy of separating migrant families at the border.

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Associated Press - August 14, 2018

As drought lingers, Texas ranchers opt to reduce their herds

A growing number of Texas ranchers and farmers are trimming their livestock, or selling them altogether, as the persistent drought has eliminated water supplies and forage for the animals. Some landowners describe a boom-and-bust cycle playing out with increasing frequency as one drought follows another: a rancher builds up his livestock but then must sell much of it as drought conditions drive up costs, only to then spend years building up the herd again as the drought subsides. Forty-five percent of Texas is in a drought stage categorized as severe, extreme or exceptional, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and ranchers and others describe land bare of grass, bales of hay either too expensive or hard to come by, and stock tanks that have long run dry. "If you don't have the fire in your belly to produce food then don't even try," said Sam Snyder, a 65-year-old lifelong rancher who owns about 5,000 acres and leases another 10,000 near Abilene, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) west of Fort Worth. It's been two years since his ranch saw enough rainfall to produce any runoff, Snyder said, and he'll spend $50,000 this year — about double the price from prior years — on range cubes, which are a high-protein mix of corn, milo and other ingredients. He'll also pay thousands on hay and other supplemental feed. Snyder has spent previous years growing the size of his herd, but this summer he decided to thin the count by selling 50 cows at auction. "We're in a critical situation but it can get worse," he said.

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Midland Reporter-Telegraph - August 14, 2018

Seliger tells group "Republicans have to fix school finance"

What has been the impact of school finance in Midland? About half a billion dollars. State Sen. Kel Seliger offered this eye-popping total during his town hall Monday at the Midland County Public Library Centennial branch. Midland ISD is a chapter 41 -- or property-rich district – because of oil and gas development. That means money above the state average is kept in Austin and helps fund property-poor -- or chapter 42 -- districts. Highland Park ISD, right in the heart of Dallas County, knows Midland’s pain. Seliger said over the years HPISD has paid more than $1 billion in school finance payments. Midland ISD officials said after the town hall that they are forecasting Midland taxpayers will be on the hook for more than $140 million in school finance payments over the next two school years. “That would pay for a new high school,” one official quipped. The Amarillo Republican who represents Midland County said after the town hall that Republicans have to have the stomach to do what’s right and fix school finance this upcoming session. “I have the stomach for it all the time because it is that important,” Seliger said. “We have a system now that is antiquated and dysfunctional and it doesn’t work. I think we have the money if we are willing to prioritize … We have the money to fix it.” Seliger said a solution won’t be without “duress” and will not be cheap. He said school finance likely will require the state to increase its funding for public education from about the current 37 percent to about 50 percent. He said legislators would pick a funding level – right now it is around $5,500 to $6,000 a student. Even if the state raised that level, Midland ISD easily would have enough money to cover that funding level and be able to lower the tax rate for its residents. The state would then use state revenue to bring poorer districts to the same level as Midland ISD.

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Construction Citizen - August 14, 2018

Federal judge in Texas could take up to a month to rule on protections for young undocumented immigrants

A federal judge who heard arguments in Houston last week could take as long as about a month to issue a ruling on whether to swiftly end an Obama-era program that protects certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation. But no matter what this judge says, the battle is far from over and the potential consequences for the workforce are significant. Essentially, two questions are before US District Judge Andrew Hanen. First will be whether Texas and other states will be successful in asking Hanen to order an immediate end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The second question has to do with arguments over the constitutionally of the program enacted under President Barack Obama back in 2012 by executive order rather than a change in law by Congress. Judge Hanen, who sided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton previously on a program aimed at protecting the parents of immigrants, has been called "one of the most hard-line judges in the country" on the issue. However, attorneys on both sides said his attitude during the hearing was fair. Paxton abruptly left the courthouse and took no questions from reporters after the hearing DACA. His office said he had security concerns. Paxton has previously said his lawsuit is centered on the "rule of law" and has nothing to do with the "wisdom" of any particular immigration policy.

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Roll Call - August 14, 2018

Democratic poll shows close race for Pete Sessions’ seat in Texas

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions’ re-election race is looking increasingly competitive, with Democrat Colin Allred polling close to the longtime Republican lawmaker, according to a new internal Democratic survey. The Dallas-area 32nd District is traditionally GOP territory. But this year’s race is considered competitive, in part because the 32nd is one of three Republican-held districts in the Lone Star State that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up. Sessions led Allred 47 percent to 45 percent in the initial head-to-head matchup, according to the polling memo shared first with Roll Call. The poll, conducted by GBA Strategies, also showed both Sessions and President Donald Trump with low favorable ratings. Forty-one percent of those surveyed viewed Trump favorably while 38 percent had a favorable view of Sessions. Fifty-one percent had an unfavorable view of Trump while 42 percent had an unfavorable view of Sessions. Twenty-seven percent viewed Allred favorably, but only 13 percent viewed him unfavorably, signaling that respondents might not have strong opinions of the Democratic nominee or know much about him. Allred is a civil rights lawyer and former professional football player, who also worked for the Obama administration. Former President Barack Obama recently endorsed Allred along with several other congressional candidates. The Democratic poll signaled that the former president is fairly popular in a district he lost by 16 points in 2012. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed had a favorable view of the 44th president.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2018

Schnurman: ‘How do we protect them?’ Dallas leaders look to help immigrants and the economy

We could mess up the so-called Texas miracle. Cutting off immigration, for instance, “would make it impossible” for the state to keep growing jobs at roughly double the national rate, Dallas Fed economist Pia Orrenius said last week. Keeping out immigrants would also take us out of the competition to attract top talent, another expert said, and that would undermine the appeal of the state’s workforce. For these reasons and more — partly humanitarian, partly pragmatic, said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings — Dallas wants to become a more welcoming city for immigrants and refugees. That means recruiting newcomers and helping them integrate into the community, and navigate the legal and economic landscape. Last year, Dallas created an Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs to ramp up the outreach. At a committee meeting last week, it unveiled a long list of goals developed with a task force of 85 contributors. Their ideas include boosting the number of naturalized citizens, increasing their participation in local government and promoting growth in minority owned businesses. These newcomers need help, Rawlings said on Friday, and Dallas needs their help — and the office can make a difference. “It’s not just do-gooders trying to make us all feel good,” Rawlings told about 85 people at a session on immigration at the Dallas Regional Chamber. “There’s a lot of math and science” that justifies the effort.

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2018

The recall is off: Plano council member spared election after judge finds city operated under wrong charter

What would have been the first recall election in Plano's history will be canceled after evidence in a day-long hearing Tuesday revealed the city has used a flawed copy of its charter for nearly 50 years. District Judge Mark Rusch's ruling puts to an end a saga that began in February when City Council member Tom Harrison's anti-Islam social media post prompted a call for his resignation and a recall petition filed by more than 4,400 voters in April. Voters were expected to decide in a special November election whether Harrison should go. But Harrison filed a writ with the Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas, arguing the city used the wrong number of signatures to certify the recall petition. Rusch ruled Tuesday that Harrison was correct; the number of petition signatures fell short, based on the wording in the official city charter, and the recall election cannot be held. The City Council will call a special meeting for Saturday to formally vote to cancel the election. The case came before the judge after city officials discovered dueling copies of the 1961 charter last month in a file drawer at city hall. One had a brown cover. The other had a green cover. Both were labeled as the official city charter for that year. City officials weren't sure which version was correct and sought the district court's ruling.

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National Stories

New York Times - August 14, 2018

Groundbreaking night for women and diversity, while a Trump critic fails

On a night when voters in four states went to the polls, Democrats delivered groundbreaking primary victories for a transgender woman in Vermont, a Muslim woman in Minnesota and an African-American woman in Connecticut, while voters in Wisconsin nominated a top state education official, Tony Evers, to challenge Gov. Scott Walker, one of the most vulnerable high-profile Republicans of the midterms cycle. Also in Wisconsin, Republicans backed State Senator Leah Vukmir to run against Senator Tammy Baldwin, a first-term Democrat, propelling an establishment Republican who was careful to heap praise on Mr. Trump while harnessing the support of state party leaders. As in other Republican races this year, the Senate primary here between Ms. Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson, a former marine and a political newcomer, turned into a contest between candidates determined to defend and prove their devotion to the president. Something similar took place in neighboring Minnesota, too, but Mr. Pawlenty had a harder time proving his fealty to a polarizing president. The former governor, who became a Washington lobbyist after a failed presidential bid in 2012, emphasized that he still voted for Mr. Trump, but his earlier criticism resonated in this primary. Mr. Johnson, who only raised a quarter of the campaign funds that Mr. Pawlenty did, assailed him for his blistering attack on Mr. Trump in the aftermath of the infamous Access Hollywood video.

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New York Times - August 14, 2018

Catholic Church covered up child sex abuse in Pennsylvania for decades, grand jury says

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday. The report, which says there were more than 1,000 identifiable victims and covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, but those examined single dioceses or counties. The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse, including a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a 17-year-old girl, faking a marriage certificate and then divorcing the girl. “Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” The grand jury added that the church officials named in their report have been protected, and some have been promoted. “Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal,” the jury wrote. Victims expressed relief that the Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his agents had conducted the investigation, after the victims’ efforts to get church officials to take action went nowhere.

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New York Times - August 14, 2018

Colyer concedes in Kansas, handing governor’s nomination to Kobach

A week after voters went to the polls in Kansas, Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded in the race for the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday night, handing a razor-thin victory to Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach. Mr. Colyer had raised concerns in recent days about Mr. Kobach’s role in the vote-counting process, citing the secretary of state’s responsibility for overseeing the tallying of mail-in and provisional ballots. But speaking from the Statehouse in Topeka, Mr. Colyer said he would not challenge the results or ask for a recount. As of Tuesday night, with counties midway through tallying their provisional ballots, Mr. Kobach was leading Mr. Colyer by 345 votes out of more than 300,000 Republican ballots. “This election is probably the closest in America, but the numbers are just not there unless we were to go to extraordinary measures,” Mr. Colyer said. This primary had attracted broad interest long before election night on Aug. 7 ended with no clear winner. Though Mr. Kobach and Mr. Colyer are each staunch conservatives, the matchup gave Kansas Republicans a choice between two distinct political styles. While Mr. Colyer was viewed as a mild-mannered moderate, Mr. Kobach, endorsed by President Trump, was known widely for his strident views on illegal immigration and voter fraud. His aggressive approach prompted concerns among Republicans in Kansas and in Washington that he would be too polarizing in the general election in November, handing an opening to Democrats in a year in which they also hope to flip at least two House seats from red to blue.

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Washington Post - August 14, 2018

With little fanfare, Trump and McConnell reshape the nation’s circuit courts

As the Senate moves toward confirming Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are leading a lower-key yet deeply consequential charge to remake the entire federal judiciary. The Senate will return Wednesday from an abbreviated summer recess to confirm two more federal appeals court judges by the end of the week. That would come on top of a record-breaking string of confirmations: The Senate already has installed 24 appellate judges since Trump was sworn in, the highest number for a president’s first two years in office. While much of the focus has been on Kavanaugh and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the Senate’s rapid approval of appellate judges is likely to have its own broad impact on the nation, as the 13 circuit courts will shape decisions on immigration, voting rights, abortion and the environment for generations. For McConnell, this is the culmination of a years-long gambit that started with stymieing President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees, most notably Supreme Court choice Merrick Garland, and creating a backlog of vacancies on the nation’s highest courts. Trump’s 2016 election enabled McConnell (R-Ky.) to cement a legacy of judicial confirmations that is likely to be felt long after the two men leave office. The Republican leaders are also trying to use judicial nominations to energize conservative voters, who party leaders worry will sit out the midterm elections. There are 179 authorized judgeships for the U.S. Court of Appeals. With 24 confirmations and 13 vacancies to fill, Trump and the Republicans have the power to install more than 20 percent of the judges on the nation’s second-highest courts.

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Washington Post - August 14, 2018

Minnesota Republicans reject former governor Tim Pawlenty in election comeback

Minnesota Republicans decisively rejected the comeback bid of former governor Tim Pawlenty, a onetime kingmaker in state politics who proved unable to overcome his 2016 description of Donald Trump as “unhinged and unfit” for once boasting of grabbing women. The surprise result was just the latest evidence of the president’s rising control over the Republican Party electorate and the waning power of veteran lawmakers, coming just a week after Trump’s endorsement helped Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach topple incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer, who conceded the race Tuesday. After conceding the race at a campaign rally Tuesday and throwing his support behind Johnson, Pawlenty spoke briefly with reporters. “The Republican Party has shifted,” he said, according to a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who was in attendance. “It is the era of Trump, and I’m just not a Trump-like politician.” In both cases, however, political observers said wins for the Trump movement in the summer would make it harder for Republicans to win the general election against Democrats in the fall. A twice-elected governor, former presidential candidate and banking lobbyist, Pawlenty lost decisively to Jeff Johnson, a commissioner of Hennepin County. Pawlenty’s defeat came after he and his allies outspent Johnson by a margin of roughly 3 to 1, according to a Democratic consultant tracking the spending. When Trump recently visited Duluth for a political rally, Pawlenty decided not to attend.

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Washington Post - August 13, 2018

Trump attacks Kasich over Ohio race — and Kasich welcomes the attention

President Trump taunted Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday, asserting that his increasingly vocal Republican rival is “very unpopular” and a “failed presidential candidate,” and to blame for the narrow margin in last week’s special congressional election in the state. Kasich responded with an impish tweet: an image of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin breaking into a grin and laughing. The salvos were the latest in the feud between Trump and Kasich, who is considering challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential race and has become one of the president’s sharpest GOP critics. Trump’s attack, while demeaning, gave Kasich something his allies say he needs: a burst of national attention as he mulls whether to take on Trump and seek the party’s presidential nomination. “It elevates Kasich,” said Bill Kristol, a conservative commentator and anti-Trump organizer. “What helps Trump the most is the idea that 85 percent of Republicans support him, so how could anyone run against him? The exchange with Kasich gets at Trump’s problems with general-election voters.” Kristol added, “After the midterm elections in November, the whole party is going to ask whether it makes sense, politically, to stick with Trump. Trump knows that moment is coming, and so does Kasich.” Kasich has been busy making the case that Republicans should be wary of following Trump’s lead. He told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the Aug. 7 election in Ohio’s heavily Republican 12th Congressional District was a reaction to the “chaos” he says voters see in Trump’s Washington, from the president’s conduct to Trump’s hard-line stances on trade and immigration.

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Wall Street Journal - August 14, 2018

Turkey raises tariffs on U.S. products as dispute escalates

Turkey sharply raised tariffs Wednesday on some U.S. imports as a court kept a detained U.S. pastor under house arrest, extending a fight between the two NATO allies that has sent the country’s currency plummeting. Despite the moves, the lira got a respite, rising against the U.S. dollar for the second day in a row, up 5.5% in recent trading, with one dollar buying 6.04 lira. Traders credited the rebound to a decision by the financial regulator Wednesday, the second this week, to tighten restrictions on banks’ foreign exchange transactions. The currency, hit by investor concerns over Turkey’s financial stability, plunged last week when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey for not freeing Andrew Brunson, a pastor who faces terrorism charges and as much as 35 years in prison. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said justice must run its course and has slammed U.S. tariffs introduced earlier this week on some Turkish imports as an “act of economic war.” Turkish authorities said they raised tariffs on U.S. goods including alcoholic beverages, passenger cars, tobacco, cosmetics, rice and coal. That comes the day after Mr. Erdogan said Turkey would boycott U.S. electronic goods, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone, though he didn’t say how that would be enforced. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the tariffs had been raised as a “response to the U.S. administration’s deliberate attacks on our economy.” Although the U.S. tariffs have largely been offset by the drop in the lira, the tit-for-tat escalation has raised concerns of a full-blown trade war. “For the sake of a pastor, they have come to the point of breaking relations with Turkey,” Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara on Wednesday.

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Wall Street Journal - August 14, 2018

Uber drivers take riders the long way – at Uber’s expense

When ferrying passengers to and from Phoenix’s airport, Uber driver Michelle Blandy had a decision to make: Go the short way or take the longer route. “If they were from out of town, I would take advantage of it by going the longer route,” said Ms. Blandy, who drove for Uber for about two years before moving to Harrisburg, Pa., earlier this year. “It’s the only way I could get what I was owed.” In a modern twist on an age-old practice from the yellow cab industry, many drivers like Ms. Blandy are employing a practice known as longhauling—taking an unnecessarily longer route to a destination in order to drive up a fare. But unlike with taxis where passengers “get taken for a ride,” it’s ride-hailing companies like Uber Technologies Inc. that are responsible for covering the bigger bill. Longhauling is among the tactics used by some drivers of Uber and Lyft Inc. to maximize their take, reflecting the strained relationship between the contract workers and the companies over pay. Passengers aren’t on the hook for the higher fare because they pay a fixed upfront price based on the app’s estimate of the ideal route. And while drivers are encouraged to go the most direct route, they can choose to ignore their digital navigators for a route that tacks on extra miles. The drivers’ pay is determined by the actual trip’s mileage and time, which can vary based on traffic conditions or diversions. Uber and Lyft typically take a 25% commission from a fare, and drivers generally take the rest, not including fees and taxes. The companies are grappling with constant driver turnover, and Uber last year unleashed a series of benefits to improve relations, including extra payments for lengthy wait times and in-app tipping.

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CBS News - August 14, 2018

New coalition plans seven-figure campaign aimed at Puerto Rican voters

Critics of the Trump administration's response to the hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico last year are launching a seven-figure campaign to mobilize displaced Puerto Rican voters ahead of the midterm elections – and planning big demonstrations in New York and Florida to mark the anniversary of Hurricane Maria. In recognition of the anniversary, a major protest is to take place at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Sept. 22, two days after a memorial service and march on Trump Tower in New York, according to organizers. The events are part of a new project launched by the Latino Victory Project (LVP), a liberal group that supports Latino Democratic political candidates and works to register and mobilize Latinos to vote, and Power 4 Puerto Rico (P4P), an upstart organization that has spent the last year working to draw more attention to the stunted recovery on the island. LVP, which has spent years raising and spending millions of dollars on behalf of Latino political candidates, now plans to devote at least $1.5 million to locate, register and then turn out displaced Puerto Ricans living in Florida and other states, including Georgia and Pennsylvania. The project could be especially critical to Democratic chances in Florida, home to competitive gubernatorial, Senate and House elections this year. Both major parties and several other political groups are investing millions of dollars to woo former residents of Puerto Rico, where political activism is a big part of the island's culture. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is now running to defeat Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, is already spending millions of dollars in Spanish-language television ads especially in the Orlando area, where the majority of Florida's Puerto Rican population resides. Nelson and Scott have made multiple trips to the island in the past year to show their support – hoping that island residents will let family and friends living in the mainland U.S. about the outreach.

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CNN - August 14, 2018

It's the first day back to school in Parkland –– but hardly back to normal

If Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were like any other school, you wouldn't think much of the freshly-painted burgundy hallways or the newly-installed 20-foot tall fences around the freshman building. If this were a normal student body, the eyes of the nation wouldn't be trained on their every move, and their summer break stories wouldn't include a tally of rallies, summits, nationwide tours and TV appearances. In any other place, in any other new school year, things would be as they were. But when your school is also the site of one of the deadliest school shootings in American history, nothing is ever really normal. Those fences, covered with "MSD Strong" and "Parkland Strong" banners, surround the shuttered building where a former student opened fire almost exactly six months ago. Those hallways are the same ones students rushed through on Valentine's Day as the gunshots rang out across campus. There are other changes, too. The school's swimming coach is now the athletic director, because the former AD was among those killed that day. There are now two principals at MSD, because the basic demands of running a school are now joined by the demands of managing a community in crisis. It's the little things like this; a change in paint color or a change in command, that reverberate outward like strange ripples, hinting at something bigger under the surface. "We're going into it [the school year]," says English teacher Darren Levine, "knowing it will be a year unlike any other."

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CNN - August 14, 2018

Officials set up 'trap' to arrest immigrants at legal status interviews

A Boston-area US Citizenship and Immigration Services office appears to have been coordinating with local ICE officials to arrest undocumented immigrant spouses married to US citizens when they appeared at government offices to interview for legal status, according to newly released internal emails. The documents, included in a court filing made in an immigration case brought by the ACLU, which is working with the law firm WilmerHale in Massachusetts, show officials from the Boston-area offices of ICE and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for processing legal immigration requests, discussed scheduling interviews with immigrants at times that were convenient for ICE agents who would be waiting to arrest them -- and in some cases initiate the deportation process. The ACLU calls the moves a "trap" in their filing and highlights emails that show ICE officials asking to spread the interviews over time to avoid media scrutiny and for logistical reasons, and, in one case, requesting USCIS delay an immigrant's meeting by 15 minutes because ICE agents were "getting a late start." Matthew Segal, an ACLU attorney representing the plantiffs in the case that led to the release of the emails, said they are "shocking" evidence that USCIS coordinated these arrests with ICE in this office. The emails do not discuss the cases of the 10 named defendants in this case. "They (USCIS) have represented to the public that people can come in for these interviews and be safe from arrest unless they pose a threat to public safety or national security," Segal said. "And at the very same time that USCIS was making those claims, it was working behind people's backs to have them arrested." Five Massachusetts couples, each of whom involve a US citizen married to a non-citizen, are part of the ACLU lawsuit that led to the discovery of these documents. The ACLU says the emails that were entered as evidence on Monday do not specifically discuss any of the named couples' cases, but that they show DHS in New England uses the citizenship application process to "target individuals with final orders of deportation."

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Boston Globe - August 14, 2018

Graham: Don’t back away from the hard truth, Senator Warren

During a recent appeareance at Dillard University in New Orleans, Senator Elizabeth Warren offered what she called “the hard truth about our criminal justice system: it’s racist. . . . I mean, all the way, front to back.” She then detailed the system’s inequities, such as disproportionate arrests and sentencing for African-Americans, and laws that keep convicted felons from voting, even after they have served their time. No lies detected. Of course, Warren’s statement got Fox News and other conservatives frothing. Yarmouth Police Chief Frank G. Frederickson called her comments “disrespectful and divisive.” With his sights on reelection in November, Governor Charlie Baker told the Boston Herald that police “absolutely feel like they’ve been on the wrong end of a lot of this rhetoric that’s gone on in this country for quite a while.” As the backlash reached a boil, Warren did something I found maddening — she sought to clarify comments that needed no clarification. “I spoke about an entire system — not individuals — and I will continue to work on reforms to make the criminal justice system fairer.” Warren’s detractors know exactly what she meant. The criminal justice system is racist — this isn’t a debatable point. Why, then, is it so hard to call a thing a thing when it comes to racism? “White anxiety” is racism. “Economic anxiety” is racism. “White nationalism” is racism. Some people wrack their brains searching for euphemisms that allow them to avoid mentioning racism, because saying so would acknowledge its presence; meanwhile, racism, enabled and unchecked, is smothering this nation.

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The Week - August 14, 2018

Cooper: America for sale

Let's review some news from the first half of the week. Monday: The trial of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort revealed jaw-dropping crimes, and continues to do so. His key lieutenant in his former lobbying business, Rick Gates, testified that they committed multiple instances of bank and tax fraud together. Also on Monday, The Associated Press reported that as part of a quasi-genocidal, U.S.-supported war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is providing quiet assistance to al Qaeda, including funding, arming, and straight-up recruiting jihadis into their coalition. What's more, America was in on it: "Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes." Tuesday: Former business partners of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (who has been overtly profiting from his office) filed suit alleging he stole $123 million from the business he used to run. Later, ProPublica published an astounding report detailing how the Department of Veterans Affairs is being run by a cabal of Mar-a-Lago members, bizarrely including Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, none of whom are public officials of any kind or even veterans. Wednesday: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was arrested by the FBI for insider trading — which was allegedly so blatant reporters overheard him boasting about it in the Capitol itself. Meanwhile it turns out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is turning his regulatory powers seemingly only on local news outlets that ask him tough questions. This is modern American politics, folks: rotten to its very marrow. Corruption is eating the United States alive. As the Numidian King Jugurtha supposedly said of the Roman Republic: "Yonder lies a city put up for sale, and its days are numbered if it finds a buyer." Let's walk through a few of the major sellers.

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Politico - August 13, 2018

Trump offers White House staffers a special perk at his golf club

There’s an under-the-radar perk being offered to staffers in President Donald Trump’s administration — discounts on Trump-branded merchandise sold at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. White House staffers who have a Secret Service hard pin identifying them as administration officials can flash it at the pro shop — where Trump-branded driver headcovers retail for $40 and a Trump golf polo tee sells for $90, according to the online Trump store — and receive the same discount available to club members, who pay a reported $350,000 to join the club. Those discounts range from 15 percent off of any merchandise sold in the store, to 70 percent off clearance items, according to two staffers and a receipt reviewed by POLITICO. The practice is the latest indication that being a public servant in this administration comes with special perks to sweeten the deal. The discounts available at the Bedminster club were originally pitched by the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and the president himself as a nice gesture to aides, according to the recollection of someone familiar with the setup. (White House officials denied Ivanka Trump's involvement and said she was not even aware the discount existed.) But ethics experts say the arrangement only highlights how Trump remains more entangled in his commercial properties than any president in American history. Those blurry lines between his government work and his private business, from which he never divested, are perhaps most fuzzy when the president is spending time with government officials on the grounds of his own properties.

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AL.com - August 14, 2018

Sen. Doug Jones heckled over Brett Kavanaugh at Birmingham town hall

Sen. Doug Jones was heckled at a town hall meeting Monday night in Birmingham when a woman threw a pair of stuffed lips in the senator's direction while venting her anger that Alabama's junior senator is keeping an open mind on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. After Jones expressed disappointment that the National Archives rejected Democrats' request for documents on Kavanaugh relating to the nominee's tenure as President George W. Bush's staff secretary, the woman stood in the center aisle of A.H. Parker High School's auditorium and shouted at the senator. "You have enough information. We love you. But you will vote no. And you have enough information to vote no," the woman said before throwing the stuffed lips toward Jones. "You can kiss my ass if you vote yes. You can kiss my ass if you vote yes. You can kiss my ass." The woman was immediately escorted out of the Birmingham high school by police officers. Jones said he appreciated the woman's "passion" but said she misunderstood the issue. "There are people that don't fully understand the fact that I don't have all those documents. The Judiciary Committee does, and there are people that don't understand the role of the Constitution is being an independent voice." The senator said politics would not play a role in his vote, adding that conservatives in the state are trying to apply the same pressure on him as the woman at the Birmingham event.

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Fox News - August 14, 2018

NASA engine test could move US one step closer to future Mars mission

NASA is continuing a series of tests for its RS-25 engine, bringing it closer to a future deep-space mission to the moon and Mars. The RS-25 engines, many of which were repurposed from the Space Shuttle program, will be part of the Space Launch System vehicle. The space agency claims that the SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever made, with two million pounds of thrust from four RS-25 engines, and eight million pounds of thrust from two solid rocket boosters. Tuesday’s test included a new controller that will be used on actual flights of the spacecraft. The controller acts as a “brain” for the engine. Dan Adamski, the RS-25 program director at Aerojet Rocketdyne, said the engines have been tested thousands of times, but upgrades are needed as technology improves. “The new engine controller … controls valve positions, propellants [and] stuff like that going through the engine,” Adamski said. “Just like you’re not using the same computer that you used five years ago, we’re not using the same controller or computer that we used 20 or 30 years ago on the space shuttle main engine.” NASA tested the engine earlier this year after adding a 3D printed part. Aerojet Rocketdyne engineers have brought down the cost and fabrication time by 50 percent, according to a press release from the company. Tuesday’s demonstration was yet another stress test for the engine, which ran at more than 110 percent capacity. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and a delegation of political leaders including Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., were on site to observe the test. The engine created an extremely loud boom and vibration that was felt by observers under a hot and partly cloudy Mississippi sky.

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NPR - August 13, 2018

West Virginia House votes to impeach all four State Supreme Court Justices

West Virginia's House of Delegates voted to impeach all four justices on the state's Supreme Court of Appeals on Monday, saying they will face an impeachment trial in the Senate over the use of state funds to renovate Supreme Court offices. The four are Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Allen Loughry, Robin Davis, and Elizabeth Walker. Loughry was the first to be impeached. After two hours of debate, an article of impeachment against him was approved in a matter of seconds, by a final vote of 64-33. The tally easily exceeded the 51 votes needed to go forward with trial proceedings. Any justices who are impeached in the House are then tried in the Senate, with lawmakers from the upper chamber serving as jurors and deciding whether to remove the justices from office. The votes came one week after the state House Judiciary Committee approved 14 articles of impeachment against the four justices who currently sit on the Supreme Court of Appeals, accusing the judges of "maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty." They came under fire last year, when it was reported that they had spent more than $3 million to renovate their offices. Loughry also is facing a federal criminal case, after a grand jury indicted him in June on fraud and a number of other charges, including misuse of a state vehicle and moving an expensive desk from his Capitol office to his home.

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Modern Healthcare - August 14, 2018

Trump's immigrant healthcare rule could hurt low-income populations

Healthcare leaders warn that a pending Trump administration rule penalizing legal immigrants for using government benefits like Medicaid would hurt public health efforts and reduce their ability to serve millions of low-income children and families. According to a revised draft of the 223-page rule leaked in March, the Trump administration will allow immigration officials to consider legal immigrants' use of public health insurance, nutrition and other programs as a strongly negative factor in their applications for legal permanent residency. The change also applies to citizens' and legal residents' requests to bring family members into the U.S., as well as to young people who have legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as Dreamers. The Office of Management and Budget published a notice in July that the rule was under consideration, and an administration official said details of the rule were weeks away from being finalized, the New York Times reported last week. The OMB said it doesn't need to conduct an economic analysis of the rule because the impact would be less than $100 million, a claim that provider groups have challenged. If the draft proposal is finalized, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that up to 2 million children who are U.S. citizens with immigrant parents could drop out of Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and most would become uninsured. That's because the parents would worry that their children's use of those programs could jeopardize their legal status. Those concerns likely would spill over to children of undocumented immigrants, who are not covered by the proposed rule. In 2016, there were 10.4 million citizen children with at least one parent who isn't a citizen, and 56% had Medicaid or CHIP coverage. An estimated 27 million immigrants and their children are part of families with at least one member receiving public benefits, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

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Weekly Standard - August 14, 2018

Warren: Rick Perry is Trump’s best secretary

On November 21, 2016, Rick Perry stepped out of an elevator in Trump Tower and into the first proper job interview of his life. Perry had worked as a door-to-door Bible salesman, an officer in the United States Air Force, and a cotton farmer with his father before making his first run for the state legislature in 1984. For the next 30 years, he was hired by voters in the state of Texas to elected office again and again. But at age 66, Perry was applying for a new job—secretary of energy in the administration of President Donald J. Trump. He remembers entering Trump’s office, where Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon sat on either side of the president-elect. “It was like The Apprentice,” Perry recalls. He must have been in a reality TV state of mind: Immediately following his New York meeting with Trump, the former Texas governor would hop on a plane to Los Angeles to appear in the finale of Dancing With the Stars. (As with his 2016 presidential bid, Perry and his dance partner lost early in the season, but he returned to do a rendition of “Ice Ice Baby” with Vanilla Ice. It’s on YouTube.) Twenty months later, Perry is less a star and more a supporting actor in Trump’s Washington. For some pols, energy secretary would be a tough third act. After 15 years as the governor of one of the largest and most robust states in the country, and two national campaigns for president, heading up one of the forgotten departments of the federal government might feel like a downgrade. But Perry seems to relish the job—traveling to international conferences, visiting the department’s dozens of research labs, and promoting America’s energy industry. Perry was one of the draws at the World Gas Conference in Washington in June, where he gave the keynote address at the industry-sponsored confab. Sandwiched between performances by a marching band and the Harlem Globetrotters, Perry’s speech was standard boilerplate about American natural gas production and market innovation. But it was a hit with conference attendees. “Great speech,” said more than one person, as Perry surveyed the exhibit hall afterwards, and I think they meant it.

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Newsclips - August 14, 2018

Lead Stories

Axios - August 14, 2018

The five most competitive House races in the midterms do not include Culberson and Sessions

We've identified the five most competitive House races in the country, and they're all seats held by Republicans. The races in Iowa, Florida, Texas, California and Maine — all considered true coin flips — will help determine whether Democrats will win control of the House in November, according to conversations with more than a dozen Republican and Democratic pollsters, strategists, analysts, and operatives. Why it matters: The 2018 midterms battlefield is changing every week, and this list shows the uphill battle Republicans will face if they want to keep control. There are a lot of close races, but these ones are especially close, and some haven't gotten the attention that analysts say they deserve. Here's what binds these five races together: They're the ideal place for Democrats’ blue wave to crash in 2018. They’ve kept their GOP reps over the years, but have been slowly shifting toward Democrats — as seen either in the way their district voted in the last presidential election, in the incumbent Republican's victory margin in his last re-election bid, or in the support for the Democratic candidate in this year's primaries. They are Iowa's 3rd district held by Republican Rep. David Young, who Kyle Kondik of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball calls "an accidental incumbent." Florida's 26th district: It went for Clinton by 16 points in 2016 despite keeping Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in office for the last four years. California's 48th district: This is the seat held by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who's facing uncomfortable questions about his relationship with Russia. Maine's 2nd district: Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin represents a district that has "a strong union Democratic heritage but a proud independent streak." And Texas' 23rd district in particular is considered a perpetual swing district. Republican Rep. Will Hurd only won re-election by 1.3%, and he has distanced himself from Trump. He's facing Gina Ortiz Jones, who could be the first woman to represent this district.

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - August 13, 2018

Texas Tech System Chancellor Duncan announces retirement

Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert L. Duncan is retiring, according to a statement released from the system, effective Aug. 31. “As we approach the start of a new school year, I look back with pride on the tremendous strides we have made in recent years,” reads a message Duncan sent to the system on Monday. “But I have also reflected on my life, my decades of public service, and realize that, at 65, it’s time to retire, move on and begin to tackle new challenges.” Duncan has served as chancellor for four years. In his time as the fourth chancellor of the system, Duncan has raised over $585 million in philanthropic funds and the system endowment has grown to a total value of $1.3 billion. Degrees awarded, student enrollment and research expenditures have reached record levels, reads a news release from the system. In his retirement announcement, Duncan said serving the system has been the highlight of his career in public service. Being chancellor of the Texas Tech University System was a fulfilling job, Duncan told A-J Media in July, while reminiscing over the four years since he started. At that time, he told A-J Media he had no plans to retire. “You only have to go to graduation to be reminded of what you’re doing, when you see these students walk across the stage. They’ve been prepared to be successful because of what we’re doing here. To me, that’s what this job is all about,” the chancellor said. “This is about providing resources for the students to be successful in the rest of their lives. We do research, and we do things that impact the world, and there’s not many jobs that you have an opportunity to do that and be a part of that, rather.” During his tenure, Texas Tech has pursued a veterinary school in Amarillo, a dentistry school in El Paso and opened a campus in Costa Rica, among other achievements.

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Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2018

Beto O'Rourke buys his first TV ads with $1.27 million he raised from Ted Cruz's attack ads

Rep. Beto O'Rourke turned television attack ads Sen. Ted Cruz ran against him earlier this month into a fundraising bonanza. Now, O'Rourke's campaign said it is investing the funds into its first television advertising buy. Cruz released several campaign ads Aug. 3, including some attacking O'Rourke for his comments suggesting he is open to discussing narcotics legalization, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement and impeaching President Donald Trump. O'Rourke leveraged the ads as a fundraising appeal to supporters and raised $1.27 million, according to a campaign email to supporters first reported by the Texas Tribune. The campaign described the new ads as "positive," and said they will run in all of Texas' 20 media markets. Cruz has the advantage in name recognition in Texas, and television ads could be a way to bridge that gap. O'Rourke has previously stuck to social media advertising, releasing his first ad online. It featured clips from his campaign tour of Texas' 254 counties. His campaign spent a minimum of $26,100 and a maximum of $67,600 promoting the minute-long video on Facebook, according to Facebook data.

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Fox News - August 13, 2018

Governor battles heat up Tuesday: Dems at risk of losing another New England seat

Hotly contested gubernatorial primary races across the country could make history on Tuesday, as Republicans hope to continue to erode Democratic control of New England governorships and progressives look to nominate the nation's first-ever transgender candidate to a state's highest office. In deep-blue Connecticut, which went for Hillary Clinton by double-digits in the 2016 presidential campaign, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and wealthy businessman Ned Lamont are competing for the Democratic nomination to succeed deeply unpopular Gov. Dan Malloy. Malloy, who decided not to seek a third term, was shown by some polls to be the least popular governor in the nation, with critics citing the state's high taxes and major budget woes. That's left an opening for Republicans, who are looking to continue to encroach on governorships in the traditionally liberal New England. The GOP currently holds the governorships of four out of six states in the region, including Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. New England, long a liberal stronghold, has been home to something of a Republican insurgence in recent years, with GOP candidates attributing their success to a healthy mixture of fiscal conservatism, socially moderate views and a willingness to collaborate with political rivals. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former First Selectman Tim Herbst, businessman Steve Obsitnik, former investment banker Bob Stefanowski and former hedge fund manager David Stemerman are the candidates for the GOP nomination in Connecticut's governor race, and they've also cited an additional factor: widespread unhappiness with state Democratic leadership.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2018

Jeffers: Can Democrats win in Texas? National contests show that 2018 is their best shot yet

Texas has been a Republican bastion for a quarter century, leaving little incentive for national Democrats to invest in local candidates and help them get back in the game. Instead, Democratic and Republican candidates have used Texas as an ATM on their way to winning offices in other states. But now, Republicans nationwide and in Texas are in trouble. Democrats have performed well in solid GOP congressional districts in various special elections, including Tuesday’s contest in Ohio. The trend could continue in Texas, where Democrats are eager to turn the tables after the election of President Donald Trump. They have their first chance to win a statewide contest since 1994 — the U.S. Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. They even have a strong shot at picking up at least three congressional seats, including the one held by longtime Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions. Because of these opportunities, Democrats should urge their donors to deposit the resources needed to flip the longtime Republican stronghold. Texas is the biggest prize in politics. Once it becomes a true battleground, Republicans' ability to win the White House will be seriously diminished. It could spell the end of the Republican Party as we know it and shorten the controversial era of Trump. There's no GOP path to the White House without Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2018

Canada touts Texas trade as NAFTA negotiations hit crunch time: 'It's not like we're a small player'

Canada's top diplomat in Texas, in many ways, has an easy sell when it comes to trade. Vasken Khabayan, the nation's consul general in Dallas, knows he can count on Gov. Greg Abbott as a big booster of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ditto for Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. And the same for so many other Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. "Whether they are Democrat or Republican, I've heard all of them be supportive of NAFTA and trade," he said. But Canada is taking no chances as renegotiation talks over the massive trade deal between it, the U.S. and Mexico hit crunch time. Khabayan has in recent weeks joined an effort to tout the importance of NAFTA — highlighting, in particular, Canada's role in the agreement that launched nearly 25 years ago. That push in Texas often includes the reminder that trade in the Lone Star State covers more than just Mexico. "It's not like we're a small player," he said, noting that Canada is Texas' No. 2 export market. The intense focus on Texas' trading ties to Mexico is understandable. Mexico last year accounted for nearly 36 percent of Texas' total trade, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. That tally covers nearly $189 billion, a figure that equals the trade Texas has with its next nine biggest trading partners combined.

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Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2018

Dallas County Sheriff's office looking for gun issued to Texas governor candidate Lupe Valdez

A gun used by Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez when she was Dallas County sheriff has not been returned, Sheriff's Department records show. Valdez was supplied with the Beretta 9mm pistol in 2011 when a gun of the same model she owned "sustained a malfunction," according to a sheriff's department report obtained by The Dallas Morning News. "It is likely that this weapon could have been stolen or misplaced during Sheriff Valdez's moving transition," the report stated. A police report had to be generated because the weapon could be in the hands of a criminal or used to commit a crime. Raul Reyna, spokesman for the sheriff's department, told The News Monday in an email: "Former Sheriff Valdez has been approached about the missing weapon and is working with the Sheriff's Department to locate the missing firearm." He said an investigation into the matter was ongoing, and didn't rule out that Valdez returned the gun and then it got lost. "The firearm is still considered missing and a report was generated in case the firearm is used in any offense or is located it can be readily identified," Reyna wrote. Valdez did not clearly state whether she had turned over the gun. Her campaign spokesman, Juan Bautista Dominguez, referred to the sheriff department's report when asked for comment.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 13, 2018

Santa Fe shooting prompts jump in number of Texas school marshals, who can carry guns on campus

One week before hundreds of elementary students will flood the hallways for the first day of school, 20 Texas school employees ran screaming out of classrooms Friday as the sound of gunshots echoed through the hallways of the empty building. They were practicing an active shooter drill as part of their school marshal training, an intensive six-day course that culminates in their certification to carry a firearm on school campuses. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement is holding six courses this summer, which are partially funded by a $114,000 grant from the governor’s office. Since the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in May, the number of school employees certified as school marshals in Texas has doubled from 33 in late June to 71, with the potential for 94 additional marshals by the time the summer courses end. While some teachers and experts have questioned whether arming school staff is an effective way to stop a shooting on campus, top Texas officials called for more of them after a single gunman killed 10 people in Santa Fe. Prospective school marshals undergo 80 hours of training during the course, which includes classroom lessons as well as simulations. During these drills, trainees use a Glock 17, a semiautomatic pistol that is modified to shoot rubber bullets. “It’s intense, but it’s intended to be,” said Kim Vickers, executive director of the law enforcement commission. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Give me a gun and I can use it if I have to.’ It’s a whole different matter to ask, ‘What is my natural human response, fly or fight?’ You’ll come closer to resolving that in your mind when you’re put in a position when you’re very keyed up, when you have to learn.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 14, 2018

Refiners running at record rates, benefiting drivers

U.S. refineries, responding to discounted West Texas crude and increased profit margins, processed a record amount of crude into gasoline and other fuels in early July, a development that could bode well for American drivers. Refiners churned through an average of 18 million barrels of crude oil in the week ending July 6 to meet strong domestic and international demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, beating the record of 17.9 million barrels day set just two weeks earlier in the week ending June 22. This period represented the greatest consumption of crude oil by U.S. refineries since the week of Aug. 25, 2016, when Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the Gulf Coast and refiners cranked up production to 17.8 million barrels a day in advance of possible shutdowns. Harvey knocked out at least one-fifth of the nation’s refining capacity. The record pace of refining has helped keep gasoline prices stable this summer — a time of year when prices typically jump as Americans hit the road for vacations, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a company that tracks gas prices across the country. Since June 20, he said, average prices nationally have stayed in a narrow range between $2.83 and $2.89 a gallon. Over the past week, the national average fell a penny to $2.85 a gallon while the price of gallon of gasoline in Houston fell about 2 cents to $2.59, according to GasBuddy. Average prices in San Antonio also fell 2 cents a gallon to $2.49. Drivers are likely to see even lower prices in the weeks ahead — barring a major hurricane — as U.S. gasoline stockpiles have risen above the five-year average just as the peak summer driving season is coming to an end. DeHaan said prices could fall another 10 to 20 cents a gallon over the next few months.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2018

Doctors say hospital mass shootings need a better strategy than "run, hide, fight"

The city of Houston played a lead role in the Department of Homeland Security's "Run, hide, fight" strategy for active shooter events. Now, one Houston doctor is leading an effort to modify the strategy for health-care facilities. In an editorial in the latest New England Journal of Medicine, Texas Medical Center trauma surgeon Dr. Ken Mattox and three other experts argue that practical and ethical concerns in certain vulnerable locations in hospitals and other large medical buildings suggests a better strategy: "secure, preserve, fight." "For professionals providing essential medical care to patients who cannot run, hide, or fight owing to their medical condition or ongoing life-sustaining therapy, a different set of responses should be considered — secure the location immediately, preserve the life of the patient and oneself and fight only if necessary," says the editorial. The authors created the strategy after reviewing data on past hospital shootings between 2000 and 2011. Mattox noted a 2017 active-shooter false report at Ben Taub Hospital disrupted the ER and some operating and delivery rooms when some staff followed the strategy to run and hide. The editorial said the "run, hide, fight" strategy should be followed by doctors, staff, patients and visitors able to comply with it. But it said the strategy is not appropriate in settings involving incapacitated patients who might die if abandoned by caregivers who have a moral and ethical duty not to abandon their patients. It also said the design of most hospitals can pose a problem, with their reliance on elevators and narrow stairwells, "target-rich chokepoints for a shooter;" and large common areas containing very little furniture, intersecting walls, or equipment to hide behind.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2018

Border wall showdown looming as Trump sharpens his shutdown threat

When U.S. senators return to Washington this week after a short break, the thorny issue of border security will once again be on the agenda. But this time, with a potential government shutdown looming, an impasse might not be an option. President Donald Trump, whose signature campaign issue has eluded him so far, has ramped up his call — in tweets, rallies and fundraisers — to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t approve significant funding for a border wall. It is a gambit in a changing political landscape. Wall construction has been tied to changes in immigration laws, including resolving the status of young people brought to the country illegally by their parents — currently protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — and Republicans and Democrats have not found a deal both can accept. The Senate will resume work Wednesday, and the U.S. House will return Sept. 4. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, giving Congress a short time frame to find a fix. “I know the president is frustrated by this,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “There’s been a number of negotiations over DACA, one in which (U.S.) Sen. (Chuck) Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered $25 billion in (wall) funding for border security.” But Democrats have backed off any more wall funding overtures because three federal judges have kept DACA alive despite Trump’s attempts to terminate it. Texas is leading several states in a lawsuit seeking to end DACA. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who held a hearing on the challenge Wednesday in Houston, is expected to rule soon. The issue could end up at the Supreme Court. Republican leaders want to avoid a shutdown fight ahead of the November midterm elections. Cornyn thinks that ultimately Democrats will “cave.”

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Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2018

Herman: Where you don’t have the right to say whatever you want to say

Hello. Today, on a platform provided to me by a private employer with rules for what’s published on said platform, I’d like to share with you something that several people have been sharing in recent days. These are rules established for publishing on the website of another private, non-governmental entity here in Austin. Here it is, copied and pasted directly from the website where it lives: “You will not post anything libelous, defamatory, harmful, threatening, harassing, abusive, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, or otherwise illegal. You will not make threats to other users or people not associated with the site. If you violate these rules, your posts and/or user name will be deleted.” And there’s more: “Remember: you are a guest here. It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted. All civilizations have rules and if you violate them you can expect to be ostracized from the tribe.” Pretty reasonable, I’d say, and not far from what your elders should have taught you while you were maturing toward responsible adulthood. The above is not a violation of the First Amendment (which seems oddly misunderstood by some) and it’s not some evil form of censorship. And perhaps the oddest thing about those rules is where they’re found: infowars.com. Yes, that infowars.com, the website of Alex Jones, our local conspiracy theorist par excellence who long ago went worldwide with his fringe and bellicose nonsense. Jones seems to be what we used to call (and maybe still do) an excitable boy. He labors under and is belabored by a something in his head that tells him every day is a life-and-death struggle against evil forces amassed to take over the world and do bad things to him and his similarly afflicted followers.

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Star-Telegram - August 13, 2018

Sick of red light cameras? So is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Those who favor getting rid of all red light cameras in Texas may have found a powerful ally. Gov. Greg Abbott over the weekend posted on his Twitter account “More & more I think it’s time to do away with Red-Light cameras in Texas.” The governor’s social media take on the issue came a couple of days after the Star-Telegram’s Anna Tinsley reported that red light cameras actually cause an increase in accidents at some intersections. The story was based on a study at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. (Abbott’s tweet provided a link to a story on the same study by the Denton Record Chronicle.) Arlington has already unplugged the cameras in its city, and there is an effort to do away with the devices in Fort Worth as well. Opponents of red light cameras say they will push for a statewide ban during the legislative session that begins in January. The main arguments are that the cameras are unconstitutional because they accuse a motorist of a violation without a human witness, and that they are little more than money-making machines for cities. But many people support the cameras. Among them is Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke, who argues that the cameras “serve a purpose in making intersections safer.”

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Inside Higher Ed - August 13, 2018

UT-Austin English professor’s removal prompts questions after misconduct finding

Facing questions about why an associate professor of English banned from advising graduate students and taken off the graduate teaching schedule was slated to teach undergraduates this fall instead, the University of Texas at Austin said over the weekend that Coleman Hutchison won’t be teaching at all in the coming semester. According to university documents obtained via open-records requests, in October Texas received two anonymous reports of misconduct on its compliance hotlines. Both reports alleged that a university professor sexually harassed a graduate student, and one report identified Hutchison by name. Hutchison was alleged to have harassed at least four more graduate students from 2011 to 2017. The university investigated the complaints, interviewing 26 witnesses and reviewing reams of documents. Texas ultimately determined that Hutchison had violated the consensual relationship and sexual misconduct policies in place at the time by failing to report a consensual relationship. (University policy has since been updated to not just discourage but ban relationships between professors and undergraduates and those graduate students whom they supervise, manage or evaluate in any way.) Hutchison also was found to have violated the university's sexual misconduct policy by making “inappropriate remarks” and asking personal questions of graduate students. Yet the investigation found that his conduct did not rise to the level of violating the sexual harassment provisions of university policy. Maurie McInnis, provost, accepted the findings and sanctioned Hutchison this summer. In a June letter of reprimand, she told him that for the next two years, he is ineligible for supervising graduate students on his own (co-supervising is permitted), for promotion to full professor and for any leadership or administrative role on campus. He’s been on a preplanned leave for a year, but that last sanction effectively ended his run as a graduate adviser.

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KUT - August 13, 2018

After decades apart, Mexican parents reunited with undocumented children in Round Rock

“My daughter, my sister!” Rosa Barriga Barriga yelled through tears in Spanish. Barriga, who had flown to Texas from Michoacán state in Mexico, hadn't seen her sister and two of her children in roughly 24 years. They hugged in the middle of a pavilion at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock on Friday. “I don’t recognize you anymore,” Barriga said as she turned to her son, who was holding a child of his own. The family and dozens of others were reunited as part of the "Palomas Mensajeras" (homing pigeon) program. This event – the first of its kind in the Austin area – was put together through the efforts of the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin and the government of the State of Michoacán. “They chose Round Rock because there is a significant community from Tzintzuntzan here, and this was a very important concentration of people from Michoacán,” said Carlos González Gutiérrez, the consul general of Mexico in Austin. To qualify for the program, he said, parents in Mexico must be older than 60 and have a clean record. They also need to prove they have children living in the U.S. At the end of the screening process, the parents receive a tourist visa that lasts 10 years, allowing them to travel to the U.S. for six months at a time. “Through this system they allow for a more natural, more normal, more constant, more fluid way of meeting each other in the U.S.,” Gutiérrez said.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2018

South Texas town, people recovering nearly year after Harvey

Armonie Brown pauses for a second when asked about Hurricane Harvey. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports Brown saw friends and teammates lose their homes and all their belongings, while the school he went to was heavily damaged in the storm that hit last Aug. 25. But he is positive about the town and his future, and also how he has reconnected and is living with his mother. The recovery is ongoing in Refugio, a town of more than 2,800, and the surrounding county, but the spirit that has helped the town come back is what Brown likes to talk about. "It was pretty hard going. . It hurt a lot of us and hurt a lot of the community," Brown said. "But we still have pride. We just keep on digging deep and we got through it." A year ago, Brown's mother, LaVena Williams, was cleaning out a closest in her modest two-bedroom home in Refugio to hunker down for the storm a few months after moving back to the city. Brown, one of three siblings, was living with his grandmother at the time. Williams decided to stay in town because of an unreliable car; plus, she was unsure that she could afford to evacuate. On the advice of his grandmother — who lived in a trailer — Brown went to take shelter at the home of teammate Kaleb Wright. There were nearly 20 people staying at the home as the storm approached. Brown's younger brother was with Williams, and his sister was with friends out of town. Brown said he endured a sleepless night at the house, which suffered major damage when the roof collapsed. When he walked outside the next morning, Brown got ready to go to Raymondville. But he had not been able to reach his mother.

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Governing - August 13, 2018

Is child care a campaign expense? Texas says yes, but other states are divided.

Many state and local candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for child care, says Richard Briffault, a government ethics expert and professor at Columbia Law School. But with an unprecedented number of women running for office, some are rethinking that rule. In May, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that congressional candidates can use campaign funds for child care. Since then, Clarkson Pereira and other state and local candidates across the country, many of them running their first campaign, have been petitioning to get their child care covered. They have received mixed responses. Child care expenses in campaign ethics had not received much national attention prior to the FEC decision, says Briffault. To him, the reasoning behind campaign expenses and personal expenses "is pretty straightforward." Catie Robinson, who is running for commissioner in Wichita County, Texas, also received positive news. The Texas Ethics Commission in June said it will allow candidates to use political contributions for campaign-related child care. The first-time candidate says she initially took up a part-time job as a Starbucks barista to help with the child care costs incurred due to her campaign. The ruling was a big relief. “There are so many more women running for office now. … It’s matter of the law catching up hopefully,” Robinson says. Not all candidates have received such happy news. Last month, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board ruled against Reyma McCoy McDeid, who lost her bid for state House but incurred child care costs during her campaign.

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County Stories

Longview News-Journal - August 13, 2018

Kilgore College offers President Brenda Kays unprecedented five-year contract

Trustees were unanimous Monday in offering Kilgore College President Brenda Kays a five-year contract. “This is setting a precedent,” Board President Larry Woodfin said. The college typically has maintained two-year contracts with presidents in the past. “Because we’re very happy with the job Dr. Kays is doing, we want to show our support with an extension of her contract to 2023,” trustee Karol Pruett said in making her motion on the extension. Kays took charge of the college in January 2016, becoming the first woman to serve in the president’s role there. She has guided the college through successive lean budget years, including some painful cuts such as the loss of a popular college-run day care center and implementation of tuition and student fee increases. “We are pleased, happy to offer you this five-year contract,” Woodfin said during the meeting. Kays’ $210,000 salary was not changed with the contract extension. Trustees on Monday also approved Kays’ third budget since arriving. The plan spends $36.1 million, which is more than $1.6 million greater than the budget that wraps up on Aug. 30. It is fueled locally by a 17.5-cent tax rate that trustees adopted Monday. The tax to the college’s seven member school districts is identical to this year’s rate and is expected to bring in almost $6.5 million from property owners. The budget includes $17.66 million in salaries plus nearly $6 million in employee benefits including health insurance.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2018

City of Austin sued in Texas high court over ballot language

Former Travis County judge Bill Aleshire has sued the city of Austin in the Texas Supreme Court, challenging the ballot language of a proposition up for a local vote in November. The lawsuit filed Monday challenges ballot language related to Proposition K, which calls for an outside audit of government efficiency at City Hall. The Austin City Council approved the ballot wording last week. At that council meeting, some supporters of the proposition bristled at the language, which includes a cost estimate for the audit of between $1 million and $5 million. Proposition backers complain the inclusion of the cost estimate will bias voters against the measure because the wording does not mention any possible savings that could result from an audit. Proposition K came about after a former aide to Council Member Ellen Troxclair gathered more than 30,000 signatures on a petition calling for the audit. The council could have approved conducting an audit outright, but members never held a vote on the proposed ordinance. Instead, the council put the question to voters. No hearings have been set at the Supreme Court, but Aleshire, who is representing an Austin resident who signed the petition, said last week that he is hoping for the challenge to be resolved before the Sept. 7 deadline for finalizing ballot language with the Travis County clerk’s office.

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2018

DMN: Dallas' latest self-exam shows some familiar, troubling weaknesses

More than a decade ago, The Dallas Morning News commissioned consultant Booz Allen Hamilton to measure how effectively Dallas delivered services. The stunning conclusion, in a report titled "Dallas At the Tipping Point," was that City Hall did not have key metrics to measure the effectiveness of services or a way to determine how Dallas stacked up with peer cities. The report also found that Dallas didn't see itself as a city in crisis despite ample data to the contrary. Times have changed, but many of Dallas' economic, social and political challenges haven't, according to the city's recent self-examination of how it deals with persistent urban challenges such as poverty, inadequate housing and crumbling neighborhood infrastructure. The grades still aren't pretty. Normally, the mere mention of words like disparity and resilience in a city report would remind of us a bad sociology class. But put that aside for a moment. Measured on a 100-point index scale, with a lower score indicating entrenched problems, the city scored 44 overall. Its lowest score was a depressing 28 in economic development. Scores for justice, government, housing and education were all mired in the mid-40s. Public health was a dismal 38. The sole bright spot — and we use that word loosely — was the 59 the city scored in transportation and infrastructure. As anyone who has ever been graded knows, these scores wouldn't be considered passing, which should signal a sense of urgency to address these looming threats to the city's long-term health. The irony is that this report, titled Resilient Dallas, spotlights some of the weaknesses disclosed in The News' 2004 report and through subsequent editorial projects exploring the city's North-South Gap and plight of the working poor. The bottom line is basically the same: Whether it is poverty or education or economic development, disparities across our community exist at unacceptable levels.

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National Stories

Washington Post - August 13, 2018

‘Everyone signed one’: Trump is aggressive in his use of nondisclosure agreements, even in government

President Trump’s bitter fight with a former top White House aide has highlighted his aggressive and unconventional use of nondisclosure agreements to prevent current and former government employees from revealing secrets or disparaging him or his family. The latest uproar centers on claims in a book by former senior adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman that the Trump campaign offered her a $15,000-a-month job in exchange for signing a broadly worded NDA that would have barred her from disclosing details of her time at the White House. Trump shot back in a tweet on Monday that “Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed Non-Disclosure Agreement” — the first apparent acknowledgment by Trump that he has used such documents as president. Dozens of White House aides have signed NDAs in exchange for working for Trump, who has long relied on such agreements in his business career, according to current and former administration employees. But NDAs have not been widely used by past administrations outside the transition time between presidents, in part because most legal experts believe such agreements are not legally enforceable for public employees. Copies of Trump NDAs obtained by The Washington Post or described by current and former aides lay out breathtakingly broad prohibitions on behavior and appear to be drawn heavily from similar contracts used in the past by the Trump Organization, the president’s family firm. Under one agreement from the 2016 campaign, signers promised not to “demean or disparage publicly” Trump, his company or any member of his family — and also not to assist any other politician exploring a federal or state office.

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Washington Post - August 13, 2018

FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election until officials discovered that he had been sending anti-Trump texts. Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing Friday, even though the director of the FBI office that usually handles employee discipline had decided that Strzok, 48, should face only a demotion and a 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process. “This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.” Strzok wrote on Twitter, “Deeply saddened by this decision. It has been an honor to serve my country and work with the fine men and women of the FBI.” The FBI declined to comment. The termination is a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year member of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations: the Russia case and the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. But when a Justice Department inspector-general investigation uncovered politically charged messages that Strzok had exchanged with another FBI official, he was relegated to a position in human resources. Conservatives soon made Strzok the face of their attacks against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the president’s campaign, and the FBI took steps to remove Strzok from its ranks.

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Washington Post - August 13, 2018

Trump praises Harley-Davidson boycott, escalating feud with company in the crosshairs of his trade war

President Trump on Sunday leveraged the office of the president of the United States against a private American company for seeking to insulate itself from his trade war. “Great!” he wrote of purported plans by customers of Harley-Davidson to boycott the venerable motorcycle company over its plan to move production of motorcycles sold in Europe to factories outside the United States. The firm, founded in Milwaukee in 1903, estimated that it would lose $100 million annually from steel tariffs imposed by the president in March. His early-morning tweet followed a meeting Saturday with “Bikers for Trump” at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J. About 180 members of the group chanted “Four more years!” and “USA!” as they entered the ornate ballroom, according to the Associated Press. The president thanked them and praised their rides, calling them “the most beautiful bikes anyone’s ever seen.” As recently as last year, Trump extolled the company, saying in a meeting with executives in the Roosevelt Room that he considered Harley-Davidson a “true American icon, one of the greats.” His view changed when the firm’s leaders announced this summer that they would use overseas facilities for production of bikes headed for sale in Europe. The company said it would not change its long-standing policy of not selling motorcycles in the United States that are made overseas.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2018

Immigration cases tossed in fallout from high court ruling

Immigration courts from Boston to Los Angeles have been experiencing fallout from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that has caused some deportation orders to be tossed and cases thrown out, bringing more chaos to a system that was already besieged by ballooning dockets and lengthy backlogs. The little-known ruling addressed what might seem like a narrow procedural issue over how to properly provide notices to immigrants to appear in court for deportation proceedings. But it is having broader implications in immigration courts that are in charge of deciding whether hundreds of thousands of people should be allowed to stay in the United States. Since the decision was issued in June, immigration attorneys have been asking judges to throw out their clients' cases. Some immigration judges have refused to issue deportation orders for immigrants. And in a recent case in Washington state, a Mexican farmworker had an indictment for illegally re-entering the country tossed out. It isn't clear how many people's immigration cases could be affected. Some immigration judges have denied attorneys' requests, but others in states including Tennessee, New Jersey and California have granted them. "The potential consequences of the decision are massive," said Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Supreme Court's 8-1 decision focused on the case of a Brazilian handyman seeking to apply for a special green card given to immigrants who have been in the country at least 10 years, have good moral character and whose American relatives would suffer if they were deported.

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Associated Press - August 14, 2018

Favorites for Franken's Minnesota seat reflect #MeToo's rise

The sudden downfall of Sen. Al Franken amid the rise of the #MeToo movement set the course for what could be a two-woman race to finish his term, part of an unusual primary Tuesday featuring both of Minnesota's Senate seats on the same ballot. Franken's successor, Democrat Tina Smith, and the endorsed Republican candidate, state Sen. Karin Housley, were heavy favorites in their respective races. In Minnesota's other Senate race, popular incumbent Amy Klobuchar was looking at an easy win over four Democrats, while state Rep. Jim Newberger carried the GOP endorsement against three rivals. Franken, a Democrat and former "Saturday Night Live" comedian, resigned at the beginning of the year after a firestorm erupted last November amid a string of sexual misconduct allegations. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith , his lieutenant governor and a top aide, to the seat until this November's special election to fill out the final two years of Franken's term. A Smith-Housley matchup would come at a time when the #MeToo movement has changed the American landscape, sweeping many high-profile men out of power in politics , media and entertainment . A record number of women are now running for governor and Congress across the country. Democrats resoundingly endorsed Smith at their state convention in June. Her most prominent primary challenger was Richard Painter, a former ethics attorney in President George W. Bush's administration whose profile rose as a strident critic of President Donald Trump.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2018

Marco Rubio looks for his place in Trump’s Republican Party

After flaming out in the GOP presidential primary — and enduring rival Donald Trump’s taunts along the way — Sen. Marco Rubio is entering his next act in politics. The once-rising star used to be criticized for being in too much of a hurry, but now he’s hunkered down in the Senate with nothing, it seems, but time. Rubio passes his days buried in the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is a leading advocate of bolstering election security and slapping sanctions on Russians if they interfere again in 2018. In the hallways of the Capitol, he brushes past reporters looking for reaction to the news of the day, focusing instead on legislative proposals or policy speeches on the Senate floor. And back in Florida, he’s involved in long-running disputes over the Everglades and toxic algae blooms. But one thing Rubio isn’t doing, he says, is gearing up for a White House run in 2020. “I’m not primarying the president, and no one else should either unless we want to lose the White House,” Rubio told The Associated Press. “I’m kind of approaching every day as if the U.S. Senate is the last place I’ll ever serve in public office and trying to make that meaningful.” Like the other Capitol Hill also-rans against Trump — Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz — Rubio is finding his way in the Trump-era Republican Party, testing whether there is room for his own brand of conservatism. He says he keeps in contact with Trump, talking to him on the phone two to three times a month, including last week. But he is continuing to reshape his own political identity, separate from the president, and isn’t ruling out another White House run somewhere down the line. “I still peek around the corner every now and then, but by and large I try to be more and more focused on what’s in front of us,” Rubio said.

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Pacific Standard - August 10, 2018

How anti-immigration policy spurs domestic violence

Tatyana was finishing college in her native Ukraine when she unexpectedly became pregnant. When the man opted not to stick around, Tatyana's mother suggested she try to meet someone from the United States to marry and "straighten out my personal life," Tatyana recalls. She followed the recommendation, putting up her "ad" online, but soon one of her girlfriends who had lived in the U.S. introduced her, then 20 years old, to an older man from California. They talked online, and he came to visit her in Ukraine in 2000. "We kind of liked each other, and a relationship began," Tatyana says. He proposed to her, she accepted, and they filed the necessary paperwork for a K-1 visa, which the Department of State refers to as the "Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiancé(e)," but Tatyana calls the "mail-order bride" visa. By the end of the year, she and her three-year-old son were in California, living with her new fiancé. She would stay with him for only 16 days, before his sexual and physical abuse drove her to running away in the middle of night, with only her child, their passports, and the clothes on their backs, to the home of a neighbor she had met just that afternoon. Tatyana (her full name withheld to protect her identity) was one of the 33,000 people who enter the U.S. with K-1 visas on average each year, according to statistics from the Department of State. While not all of them are caught in abusive relationships, the parameters of the K-1 visa and the hostility of U.S. policy toward immigrants can condemn those unfortunate enough to be victims of domestic violence to years or even decades of suffering. Tatyana's story illustrates how such abuse functions, and how pervasive it can be.

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Pacific Standard - August 13, 2018

Democrats’ call for dropping Pelosi may come with a cost

There's been quite a bit of recent media coverage suggesting the House of Representatives is the Democrats' for the taking—if only they can cut loose their minority leader, Nancy Pelosi. The sense of negativity surrounding the Democratic stalwart has, to the surprise of no one, been leveraged by the GOP in various attack ads: The Washington Post reported on Friday that Republicans are running numerous ads in swing contests trying to tie their Democratic opponents to Pelosi. Ken Spain, a longtime GOP pollster, told the Post that Democrats are "going to leave seats on the table" as long as Pelosi is seen as the party's leader: In a race that was decided by 1,000 or 1,500 votes, that was probably a difference-maker. It could be the difference between having a razor-thin majority and a governing majority. It's a lot easier to move legislation when you have a cushion of votes to work with. The Post piece notes some Democratic candidates are unwilling to publicly support Pelosi as speaker of the house, a role for which she would be extremely qualified (she held the role from 2007 to 2011). A few points on all this. First, yes, let's stipulate that Pelosi is unpopular. She has an approval rating of 29 percent. The last time she left the speaker's office, she had a net favorability of -28—a 30-point drop from when she started as speaker. But let's give these figures some context. Pelosi's approval rating is five points above that of Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's. Her net approval as speaker, and the sharp drop in that figure during her speakership, was very similar to the figures for John Boehner and Paul Ryan. (Boehner dropped 35 points during his speakership, leaving with a net favorability of -32; Ryan has dropped 32 points, departing with a net favorability of -23.) And yes, as Paul Krugman notes, the GOP (and some allies in the media) has been attempting to demonize her for years. But the simple fact is that whoever holds a leadership job in Congress is going to be unpopular.

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NPR - August 13, 2018

Bob Goodlatte's son raises money for Democrat, slams dad's 'grandstanding'

Bobby Goodlatte took to Twitter on Sunday to promote the congressional campaign of Jennifer Lewis, a Democrat running for Congress in Virginia's 6th Congressional District. Lewis is running on a platform that includes a $15 minimum wage, stricter gun control measures and tuition-free college. And she is running to fill the seat held by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. — Bobby's father. "I just gave the maximum allowed donation to Jennifer Lewis, a democrat running for my father's congressional seat," the younger Goodlatte tweeted. "I've also gotten 5 other folks to commit to donate the max. 2018 is the year to flip districts — let's do this!" While the younger Goodlatte has celebrated the response to his initial tweet, he hasn't stopped at soliciting donations for Lewis. Shortly after news broke Monday that the FBI had fired former special agent Peter Strzok, Bobby Goodlatte slammed his father for "political grandstanding" and accused him of ruining Strzok's career while praising the embattled former agent as a "patriot." While the younger Goodlatte has celebrated the response to his initial tweet, he hasn't stopped at soliciting donations for Lewis. Shortly after news broke Monday that the FBI had fired former special agent Peter Strzok, Bobby Goodlatte slammed his father for "political grandstanding" and accused him of ruining Strzok's career while praising the embattled former agent as a "patriot."

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Los Angeles Times - August 13, 2018

Elon Musk says money to take Tesla private would come from Saudi Arabia, but he hasn't struck a deal

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said Monday that his tweet about having “secured” funding to take the electric-car maker private was based on meetings with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund that left him “with no question” that they could strike a deal. But others remained unconvinced that the billionaire has yet secured the tens of billions of dollars likely needed to buy Tesla and turn it into a private company, or that he has eased the concerns of the market regulators scrutinizing his comments. In a blog post Monday, Musk said he met July 31 with a fund representative who “expressed regret” that Musk had not taken steps to take the company private. Little more than a week later, Musk tweeted that he was considering taking the company private at a price of $420 a share and that he had “funding secured.” “I left the July 31st meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving,” Musk said in Monday’s post. “This is why I referred to ‘funding secured’ in the August 7th announcement.” But Wall Street signaled that there’s still pervasive doubt among investors as to whether the funding is indeed secure and whether the going-private transaction at that price will materialize. Despite Musk’s assurances, Tesla’s stock closed little changed Monday at $356.41 a share, up 0.3% and well below $400 a share. Musk said the Saudi fund first expressed interest in a go-private transaction with Tesla early last year and that the fund has more than enough assets to put up the tens of billions of dollars such a transaction could require. The Saudi fund — the Public Investment Fund, or PIF — has assets of about $230 billion, according to Bloomberg. Fund representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

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New York Times - August 13, 2018

Fighting conspiracy theories, Sandy Hook parent Is thwarted by online policies

Leonard Pozner says he spends hours every day trying to erase online conspiracy theories that the death of his 6-year-old son Noah at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax. He has taken Alex Jones of Infowars, by far the most visible Sandy Hook denier, to court. He has put pressure on major tech companies to take action against the conspiracy theorists who flourish on their platforms. But the bulk of his work is more methodical. Sandy Hook conspiracies are strewn around the internet on various platforms, each with its own opaque rules and reporting mechanisms. So Mr. Pozner has studiously flagged countless videos and posts for a wide variety of offenses — invasions of privacy, threats and harassment, and copyright infringement — prompting Facebook, Amazon and Google to remove false material about his son. Twitter has been less receptive to his claims and some smaller sites have simply not responded at all. But one company, Mr. Pozner says, has actively pushed back against his attempts. WordPress.com, one the internet’s biggest blogging platforms, is operated by a company called Automattic, which also runs a wide array of smaller sites and internet services. Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists have been able to remain on WordPress.com thanks, in part, to policies put in place to resist previous campaigns to get content removed from its service, particularly through the strategic use of copyright claims. “Posting conspiracy theories or untrue content is not banned from WordPress.com, and unfortunately this is one of those situations,” Automattic said in a statement. “It is a truly awful situation, and we are sympathetic to the Pozner family."

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New Republic - August 13, 2018

Democrats are taking Latino voters for granted

During the month that the World Cup was broadcast on Florida’s three Telemundo TV stations this summer, one advertisement stood out. It begins with Colombian, Mexican, and Brazilian fans celebrating their national teams. Over a soaring score and a snare drum, a voice cuts in: “We in Florida celebrate because we come from all over the world, and this great state is now our home.” Then Republican Governor Rick Scott appears on camera, the sleeves of his light blue dress shirt rolled up. “I’m Rick Scott,” he says in rapid Spanish. “The time has come to enjoy the games. May the best team win!” Scott’s $700,000 investment in the ad, which aired at least once a day throughout the World Cup, reaching hundreds of thousands of Latinos across Florida, suggests that he sees their votes as a key element in his strategy to unseat Senator Bill Nelson this fall. The 75-year-old Democratic incumbent hasn’t shown the same interest. While Nelson has taken strong stances on Latino issues, he didn’t invest in any World Cup ads of his own and, as of August, still didn’t have a Spanish-language page on his web site. (Scott does.) Such decisions reveal a cavalier attitude toward Latino voters that isn’t just a problem for Nelson, whose race is unexpectedly tight, but for the party as a whole. Donald Trump’s decision to strike down protections for young, undocumented immigrants; the botched response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico; the ramped-up deportations and separated families at the border—all these should help Democrats win over Latino voters. Matt Barreto of the polling firm Latino Decisions said he has never seen them so frustrated. A recent poll of 1,000 Latino voters found that more than 70 percent were “very angry” about the separation of families at the border and about Trump calling immigrants “animals.” And yet Democratic candidates are underperforming in key Hispanic districts: In California’s 39th, which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, Democrat Gil Cisneros is now trailing the Republican incumbent by 2 points, according to a recent poll; and in Texas’s Senate race, Democrat Beto O’Rourke struggled during the primary to drum up support in the predominantly Latino border towns.

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In These Times - August 9, 2018

Bennis: New progressive lawmakers need bold foreign policy platforms

The stunning victory of democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic congressional primary in New York is perhaps the most well-known, but she is far from alone. Most of these candidates are young, more than usual are people of color, many are women, several are Muslims, at least one is a refugee, at least one is transgender—and all are unabashedly left. Most come to electoral politics after years of activism around issues like immigration, climate and racism. They come out of a wide range of social movements and support policy demands that reflect the principles of those movements: labor rights, immigrant and refugee rights, women’s and gender rights, equal access to housing and education, environmental justice, and opposition to police violence and racial profiling. Many highlight their movement experience in their campaigns; they are champions of immigrant rights, healthcare, student debt organizing and the fight for $15. Intersectionality has grown stronger, as the extremism of Trump’s right-wing racist assault creates significant new gains in linking separate movements focused on racism, women’s rights, immigrant rights, climate, poverty, labor rights and more. But mostly, we’re not seeing progressive and socialist candidates clearly link domestic issues with efforts to challenge war, militarism and the war economy. There are a few exceptions: Congressional candidate and Hawaii State Rep. Kaniela Ing speaks powerfully about U.S. colonialism in Hawaii, and Virginia State Rep. Lee J. Carter has spoken strongly against U.S. bombing of Syria, linking current attacks with the legacy of U.S. military interventions. There may be more. But those are exceptions; most of the new left candidates focus on crucial issues of justice at home.

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Huffington Post - August 10, 2018

Democratic National Committee backtracks on its Ban of fossil fuel donations

The Democratic National Committee passed a resolution Friday afternoon that activists say effectively reverses a ban on fossil fuel company donations. The resolution introduced by DNC Chair Tom Perez states that the party “support[s] fossil fuel workers” and will accept donations from “employers’ political action committees.” It was approved by a 30-2 vote just two months after the committee adopted another resolution prohibiting donations from fossil fuel companies by a unanimous vote. The new resolution nods to “forward-looking employers” that are “powering America’s all-of-the-above energy economy and moving us towards a future fueled by clean and low-emissions energy technology, from renewables to carbon capture and storage to advanced nuclear technology.” “I am furious that the DNC would effectively undo a resolution passed just two months ago just as the movement to ban fossil fuel corporate PAC money is growing (and Democrats are winning),” said R.L. Miller, president of the super PAC Climate Hawks Vote, who co-sponsored the original resolution. DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in an email that the new resolution was “not a reversal,” noting in a statement after the vote that “any review of our current donations reflects” the Democrats’ “commitment” to turn away the fossil fuel industry. The DNC has not accepted any fossil fuel donations since adopting the ban. The key difference could be if the new resolution applies only to campaigns ? in which case, it may not annul the original resolution but would “repudiate the spirit” of the earlier one, according to Jerald Lentini, deputy director of the Democratic fundraising group It Starts Today. “Smart Democrats are very good at splitting hairs and nitpicking,” Miller said. “It’s trying to manufacture distinctions out of whole cloth.” Party activists ? including Christine Pelosi, the main author of the first resolution and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter ? hoped the DNC would consider a second proposal this month to stop accepting contributions over $200 from individuals who work for the fossil fuel industry.

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USA Today - August 13, 2018

Amazon is no longer a Seattle company. Here's what that will mean for future workers and its second headquarters

Amazon isn't just a Seattle company anymore, and a visit to its offices in Boston explains why. Here, in an old Necco wafer candy factory in the formerly industrial neighborhood of Fort Point, Rohit Prasad oversees 1,200 workers developing Alexa, the company’s digital assistant. Walls made out of shipping containers, a playful nod to Amazon's main business, and exposed brick echo the urban tech vibe of its Seattle headquarters. Teams of scientists and engineers work on the speech recognition and artificial intelligence that allows customers to interact with Alexa. Amazon's Boston hub is growing — executives predict its tech and managerial workers will increase to at least 3,200 in the next five years. Most of those tech jobs pay more than $100,000, according to Glassdoor.com. And Boston is far from the only city where Amazon's footprint has quietly expanded. More than a quarter of Amazon's U.S. tech and managerial workers are not based in Seattle. The company has 17 North American tech hubs with a total staff count of at least 17,500, a reflection of the tech expertise that’s grown up in specific areas and the reality that not everyone wants or can live in Seattle. Amazon's New York offices focus on fashion and publishing, for instance, while its Los Angeles hub concentrates on video and gaming. There’s one reason for all this decentralization – Amazon is engaged in a knock-down, drag-out fight for tech talent. “In this day and age, you can’t be stuck in one city,” said Prasad, Amazon’s head scientist for the Alexa team, which extends to Seattle, Pittsburgh, Gdansk, Poland, and the San Francisco Bay Area. “I can’t hire enough engineers in my area to do the heavy lifting. We have to go where the talent is.”

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Politico - August 13, 2018

Glosser: Stephen Miller is an immigration hypocrite. I know because I’m his uncle.

Let me tell you a story about Stephen Miller and chain migration. It begins at the turn of the 20th century in a dirt-floor shack in the village of Antopol, a shtetl of subsistence farmers in what is now Belarus. Beset by violent anti-Jewish pogroms and forced childhood conscription in the Czar’s army, the patriarch of the shack, Wolf-Leib Glosser, fled a village where his forebears had lived for centuries and took his chances in America. He set foot on Ellis Island on January 7, 1903, with $8 to his name. Though fluent in Polish, Russian, and Yiddish he understood no English. An elder son, Nathan, soon followed. By street corner peddling and sweat-shop toil Wolf-Leib and Nathan sent enough money home to pay off debts and buy the immediate family’s passage to America in 1906. That group included young Sam Glosser, who with his family settled in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown, a booming coal and steel town that was a magnet for other hard-working immigrants. The Glosser family quickly progressed from selling goods from a horse and wagon to owning a haberdashery in Johnstown run by Nathan and Wolf-Leib to a chain of supermarkets and discount department stores run by my grandfather, Sam, and the next generation of Glossers, including my dad, Izzy. It was big enough to be listed on the AMEX stock exchange and employed thousands of people over time. In the span of some 80 years and five decades, this family emerged from poverty in a hostile country to become a prosperous, educated clan of merchants, scholars, professionals, and, most important, American citizens. What does this classically American tale have to do with Stephen Miller? Well, Izzy Glosser is his maternal grandfather, and Stephen’s mother, Miriam, is my sister. I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

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FOX Denver - August 10, 2018

Colorado parents fighting to stop legally adopted 4-year-old daughter from being deported

An Aurora family is scrambling to figure out how to keep their 4-year-old daughter in the United States. Angela Becerra starts pre-kindergarten on Monday. Three weeks into her new school year, though, she will be legally at risk of being deported. Her parents, Amy and Marco Becerra, are U.S. citizens. Marco Becerra also has citizenship in Peru, where he is originally from. Amy Becerra works for the State of Colorado and Marco Becerra works for the federal government. The couple also own a home in Peru and decided to move there for a few years before selling it. While they were in Peru, their daughter Angela was born on May 23, 2014. "She was 11 days old when she was brought to the orphanage," Amy Becerra said. Angela was abandoned at birth. Her mother was developmentally disabled and unable to care for her. "[Her mother] was treated like a dog. She was chained to the table and sex-trafficked. That's the reality. No running water. No electricity. Very little food," Amy Becerra said. A woman from the orphanage suggested the Becerras foster the newborn.

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Vox - August 13, 2018

An 11-year-old hacked a replica of Florida’s voting system in 10 minutes

The 2018 midterm elections have been racked with concerns that state voting systems could be vulnerable to attacks by highly skilled Russian intelligence agencies looking to alter poll results. But over the weekend, participants in a hacking conference proved that those interested in shaping the history of American democracy don’t need the backing of an authoritarian government to wreak havoc. They don’t even need to have hit puberty. An 11-year-old boy changed fake voting results by hacking into an exact replica of Florida’s state election website in just 10 minutes, according to the organizers of DEF CON 26, an annual hacker convention. The competition pitted 39 kids, age 6 to 17, against one another to see who could hack into replica election systems of six swing states across the US. Thirty-five of the 39 kids completed the “exploit” and “tampered with vote tallies, party names, [and] candidate names” within 30 minutes, according to DEF CON. DEF CON participants discovered that voting systems running on expired SSL certificates, encryption keys that are intended to create secure connections, were the most vulnerable and easily hackable. DEF CON said this proved the “malleability of these systems.” The participants also discovered more vulnerabilities in the system where citizens directly cast their votes. The kids were able to wipe the memory cards from a recreation of state voting machine interfaces (within five seconds) and either replace a voter’s ballot altogether or overload the system with fake voters to render a real voter’s ballot useless. The Obama administration in 2016 assured voters that the integrity of the election was not compromised, though there were clear signs that the Russian government took various measures to influence the election. “We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” the administration said in a statement to the New York Times in November 2016. The Senate Intelligence Committee has warned that Russia directly targeted state voting systems. “It is possible that additional activity occurred and has not yet been uncovered,” the committee said in a report on the 2016 election attacks, according to Bloomberg. The point of the hackathon, then, goes beyond highlighting the talents of mastermind children who wanted to change candidate names to “Bob Da Builder” and “Richard Nixon’s Head.”

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Newsclips - August 13, 2018

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2018

Gov. Abbott pays executive staff top dollar — more than N.Y., Fla., Calif.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott gives his top staffers six-figure wages that exceed those paid in California, Florida and other big states, an analysis by the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle has found. Five of Abbott’s top administrators each make $265,000 a year. The men rank among the 50 highest paid Texas state employees, out-earning Attorney General Ken Paxton and Abbott himself, state pay data show. It’s not unusual for top-earning gubernatorial staff members to rake in more than their bosses. But none of the governors of the largest five states pays as well as Abbott. The others also don’t place as many of their aides at the peak salary rung as Abbott. The top-paid executive staffers in Florida, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, for example, all earn less than $200,000 salaries, the data show. In California — a favorite punching bag of Abbott’s that is home to millions more residents — Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown pays his top aide $210,000, state records show. Two other Brown staffers earn salaries just over $200,000. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had just two administrative staffers making more than $200,000 during his final year in office. Abbott is spending roughly $19 million on staff salaries, compared to $16.6 million Perry used at the start of 2014, according to state pay records. Abbott spokeswoman Ciara Matthews didn’t answer questions about how the office set salaries or why pay in the upper levels of the governor’s office has risen, saying only that Abbott is “a smart steward of the money appropriated to his office.” “The legislature appropriates a set amount for staff salaries within the governor’s office, and we are currently operating well under budget,” she said in a written statement. “The governor achieved that savings while also attracting premiere talent to help lead Texas. The governor recruits and retains individuals who care deeply about making Texas a better state and are willing to work around the clock to achieve that goal.” Three of Abbott’s staffers who earn $265,000 are recent hires, brought on last October after a top-level staff shake-up. They are chief of staff Luis Saenz, senior advisor for fiscal affairs Tommy Williams and policy director John Colyandro. Saenz, who returned to Abbott’s office after working as a lobbyist, is making more than Abbott’s former chief of staff, who earned $207,000 in 2017.

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NBC5 - August 10, 2018

Could Caraway scandal probe widen? “Absolutely yes,” ex-FBI agent says

Dwaine Caraway started the week as one of Dallas’ most powerful elected officials. He ended it as an admitted conspirator who will help the government further unravel a criminal enterprise that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and shuttered a state agency – Dallas County Schools. “I would expect that his plea agreement was that he would cooperate fully on anything the government desires to know,” former FBI agent Don Southerland said in an interview with NBC 5 Investigates. It was revealed this week that Caraway pleaded guilty to federal criminal conspiracy charges, acknowledging he took more than $450,000 in bribes from a Louisiana man who needed his help in selling surveillance cameras to Dallas County Schools, or DCS. Now facing time in federal prison, Caraway resigned this week from the Dallas City Council, surrendering his role as mayor pro tem. Asked if Caraway may now help prosecutors learn about crimes that went beyond DCS, Southerland said: “Absolutely yes.” And that, the former agent said, could make things uneasy for anyone else who may have been involved in the corruption, referenced simply as “others” in the court documents that detail Caraway’s plea agreement. Caraway is one of four to plead guilty so far, including former DCS superintendent Rick Sorrells, camera company owner Bob Leonard, and Leonard’s close associate, Slater Swartwood Sr. The roundup has been done in FBI-textbook style, Southerland said. “So you have the people receiving bribes (and) the people paying bribes, all telling the same story,” he said, adding, “It’s going to be hard for anyone else who paid or received bribes to claim a different avenue on it.”

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Axios - August 12, 2018

Inside Omarosa's reign of terror

Want to know the secret behind Omarosa's wild, largely unchallenged, run in the White House, during which she would swan in and out of the Oval Office, secretly recording the president and his chief of staff? It’s simple: Some of the most powerful men in government were terrified of her. "I'm scared shitless of her... She's a physically intimidating presence," a male former colleague of Omarosa's told me. (He wouldn't let me use a more precise description of his former White House role because he admitted he's still scared of retribution from Omarosa. Other senior officials have admitted the same to me.) "I never said no to her," the source added. "Anything she wanted, 'Yes, brilliant.' I'm afraid of her. I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked." Three other former officials shared that sentiment: “One hundred percent, everyone was scared of her,” said another former official. Trump has nobody to blame but himself for Omarosa's raucous book tour, in which she calls him a racist and a misogynist, and says he's in mental decline. Trump brought her into the White House at the senior-most level with the top salary.In many ways, two former senior administration officials pointed out, what Omarosa is doing now is pure Trump. "She may be the purest of all the Trump characters," one told me. "She may be the most Trumpian. She knows media, she knows about physical presence, like Trump does...that's why I think he's rattled." "The only reason Trump works is because he gives less of a crap than anybody in the world," the other source told me. "That's where she's at. She's totally undeterred by things that would freak out most people. "She's out-Trumping Trump right now," the source added, before losing his train of thought in a fit of laughter.

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Mediaite - August 12, 2018

Nancy Pelosi accuses NBC of trying to ‘undermine’ her chances of getting back Speaker’s gavel

During an interview on MSNBC’s AM Joy on Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed fingers at NBC for “undermining” her chance of getting back the Speaker’s gavel if Democrats take the House in November. Earlier this week, NBC published an article citing 51 Democrats who would not support Pelosi for House Speaker. According to NBC: As Democrats battle to retake control of Congress in November, their leader — Nancy Pelosi — could also be facing a coming fight of her own. Fifty Democrats running for the House say they won’t support the California lawmaker for speaker, according to an NBC News survey of candidates and their public statements. At least 42 of the party’s nominees for House seats have declared they will not back Pelosi and nine incumbent Democratic lawmakers are on the record opposing her, bringing the total to 51. Speaking with guest host Jonathan Capehart, Pelosi started off by claiming she didn’t take much stock in the list, as reported by NBC. “First of all, I know NBC has been on a jag as one of their priorities to undermine my prospects as speaker,” Pelosi said. She then said that she knows better than anyone how important the upcoming election is because “I see up close and personal what the Republicans and this president are doing.”

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2018

Texas needs to find up to $3.3 billion to bring special education services up to national standards

Texas needs to find up to $3.2 billion in the next three years to provide special education services to students who were previously denied them. A 2016 Houston Chronicle investigation and a subsequent federal audit found that the Texas Education Agency illegally set up an 8.5 percent benchmark, or de-facto cap, on the number of students receiving special education services. The cap was in place for more than a decade, and was well below the national average of 13 percent. In eliminating that cap, state officials estimate that it will cost the state billions of dollars to provide special education services to an additional 189,000 students who need them. The state legislature eliminated caps on special education services last year, and the federal government is requiring school districts to evaluate special needs students and offer compensatory services. As more students are identified, the state will have to pay for those resources. TEA officials told a group of lawmakers Thursday that it estimates the state will need an additional $682 million for special education services in fiscal year 2019, an additional $1 billion in 2020 and $1.55 billion in 2021. That's more than $3.2 billion in the next three years. "The truth is that children with disabilities have borne the brunt of spending cuts in special education, early childhood intervention and Medicaid for many years," said Cheryl Fries, a co-founder of the Texans for Special Education Reform and a parent of a child with disabilities. "Though the price of providing those services sounds high, the cost of not providing them over the long run is much higher to society, both fiscally and morally."

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2018

'We can handle this locally': Fort Worth wants to avoid Dallas' painful path on pension fix

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price would rather not spend any of her spring in Austin talking about city employees' pensions. She watched Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings trek to the Capitol last year as he dealt with a crisis that threatened the city's finances and embroiled him in a messy political brouhaha. Price wants no part of that. But she does have the pension problem, and Fort Worth has had credit downgrades because of it. The Fort Worth Employees Retirement Fund is the latest public pension system to face an uncertain future. Without changes, the $2.3 billion fund is on track to run out of money in the next 25 years. Price and other city officials hope — as Dallas once did — to deal with the issue locally. But the proposed solutions are painful. And they'll have to win the approval of employees who are not keen to cut their own benefits. "People just need to understand that it's a very difficult, very emotional issue for everyone," Price said. Fort Worth's pension system covers more than 4,400 retirees and more than 6,000 active city employees. Last year, the city's taxpayers contributed nearly $90 million to the fund and employees pitched in $32 million. The fund paid out almost $195 million in benefits, nearly a 20 percent increase from 2015. A pension system's ability to pay benefits depends on markets and asset allocations. The Fort Worth system's calculations are based on a 7.75 percent average annual return.

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Houston Chronicle - August 11, 2018

Pilots report more oxygen system woes, but Air Force says T-6A is safe to fly

Pilots flying one of the Air Force’s principal training planes, the troubled T-6A Texan II, have reported 39 unexplained physiological episodes caused by a lack of oxygen since the fleet resumed operations early this year. The number of incidents, averaging nearly 8 a month from the end of February through June, is higher than the average last year, when the most reported in a single month was five. The planes were briefly grounded after an exceptionally high number of incidents — 22 — were reported in January alone. The Air Force training command in San Antonio said the T-6A, a single engine, two-seat turboprop craft, is safe to fly. The command said it has done more inspections, bought new testing equipment and increased the frequency of maintenance. Pilots are getting extra training, learning more about physiological episodes and are being armed with new procedures to help them respond to possible oxygen system malfunctions, the command said. A chief complaint by T-6A instructor pilots is that even after months of investigation, the military still hasn’t found the root cause of problems with the Onboard Oxygen Generation System, called OBOGS. They say many pilots wonder if the plane is safe. “When I explained it to my wife, it was all the wrong reasons,” said an instructor pilot who asked not to be identified, fearing retribution from commanders. “I’m fearful for second lieutenants that are flying a bad piece of machinery, I’m fearful for how this could be detrimental to my career with the airlines, and my wife is like, ‘You should be afraid for your life. You should be afraid that you’re going to crash an airplane and you’re going to die.’” The oxygen delivery system also is used in a number of fighter jets and in a Navy training plane called the T-45 Goshawk. A raft of changes to bolster confidence in the Goshawk reduced physiological episodes to nine last year.

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Houston Chronicle - August 12, 2018

Analysts: Only a matter of time before Venezuela loses Citgo

Financially crippled Venezuela likely will lose control of its Houston refining arm Citgo Petroleum once a slew of lawsuits eventually are resolved, and it's just a matter of when and to whom, finance and energy analysts said Friday. A federal judge ruled late Thursday that a defunct Canadian mining firm can go after Citgo's assets to collect $1.4 billion it allegedly lost from Venezuela when the government seized mining and energy assets more than a decade ago under the late socialist leader Hugo Chávez. While the Canadian firm, Crystallex International, is unlikely to take control of Citgo's refining and retail gasoline assets throughout the U.S., the ruling is expected to kick off an array of new legal claims against Venezuela and its state oil company - from Houston-based ConocoPhillips to other oil and gas firms - with the goal of winning Citgo as the prize, legal and finance experts said. After all, Venezuela owes a lot of money to a lot of different companies. Whichever company eventually wins out could sell to refiners that might be interested, including San Antonio's Valero Energy, Houston's Phillips 66, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum and New Jersey's PBF Energy, said Jennifer Rowland, and energy analyst with Edward Jones in St. Louis. "It's not every day that a suite of refineries becomes available, especially along the Gulf Coast," Rowland said. "Those assets would definitely fit in some companies' portfolios." Citgo, which declined comment Friday, owns oil refineries in Corpus Christi, Lake Charles, La., and Illinois. The company employs about 4,000 people in the U.S., including 800 in Houston. Citgo has roughly 160 branded gas stations in the Houston area, and about 5,500 nationwide. The company is valued at nearly $8 billion.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 11, 2018

During San Antonio visit, San Juan mayor decries inaccurate Hurricane Maria death toll

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, took the territory’s government to task during a visit to San Antonio on Saturday night for being “complicit” in inaccurately counting the number of people who died after Hurricane Maria. “The Puerto Rican government decided to play alongside the good-news story that President Trump and his administration put forward,” said Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto during a news conference at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio. “And in doing so, in being quiet, they became complicit to the botched effort and the neglect that gave way to what happened and continues to happen in Puerto Rico.” The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital city traveled to San Antonio to accept an award from the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists. The organization recognized her at its annual gala Saturday night for her advocacy on behalf of Puerto Rico after Maria caused widespread destruction to the U.S. territory last September. Cruz rose to international prominence in the storm’s aftermath when she fiercely criticized the emergency response efforts of President Donald Trump’s administration as insufficient and argued that Puerto Ricans were largely left on their own after structures were damaged and power was knocked out across the island. Her visit comes just days after the Puerto Rican government’s admission in a report that the death toll from Maria was likely more than 1,400, a staggering difference from the official count, which still remains at 64. That low number, she said, flew in the face of evidence on the ground and from the anecdotes of Puerto Ricans, in addition to independent studies like one by Harvard researchers in May that estimated the death toll at more than 4,600. Cruz said the federal government’s efforts to aid the people of Puerto Rico should have been imperative, regardless of the precise number of casualties.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 10, 2018

Hay shortage leaves Texas ranchers scrambling for cattle feed

In a good year, the Lazy Two Cattle Company already would have harvested about 1,200 bales of hay by now, the beginning of a stockpile to get its cows, bulls and yearlings through the winter when forage is scarce. This isn’t a good year. “We could have a wreck on our hands,” said Larry Mellenbruch, co-owner of the ranch, which is about midway between Austin and Bastrop. “We’ll be trying to buy hay — if there is any out there to buy.” The Lazy Two, which normally grows its own hay, has been able to harvest only about half as much as normal this summer from its fields near the Colorado River. That’s a trend that has been unfolding across the state as high temperatures and drought conditions in many areas have dried up crops and left ranchers scrambling. Prices for hay — the primary cattle feed in the winter — have been climbing as a result, with large round bales averaging $55 in Central Texas as of early August, up about 22 percent from $45 a year ago, according to the most recent figures available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prices are expected to keep rising because the growing season ends in a few weeks, and Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension Service already has received reports of bales selling for up to $125 west of Austin. “There is a fair amount of worry about where this is going, and the prices are reflecting the tight supplies,” said David Anderson, a Texas A&M agricultural economist. Ranchers don’t have many good winter feed options for their cattle other than hay. They can default to lower-quality roughage, such as baled corn stalks, and then augment the diet with additional commercial supplements — but in most cases it’s more cost-effective simply to cull herds.

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County Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2018

Jim Bowles, who served as Dallas County sheriff for two decades, dies at 89

James Carl “Jim” Bowles, who spent three decades in the Dallas Police Department before serving a 20-year stint as Dallas County sheriff, died Saturday night, his family says. He died in Mexia on a farm where he had spent his final years, relatives said. He was 89. "As patriarch of our very close family, his loss will never be replaced," Bowles' family wrote in a statement announcing his death. Bowles served five terms as Dallas County sheriff, from 1985 to 2005, the second-longest tenure of any sheriff in county history. Lupe Valdez succeeded him after he lost his re-election bid in the Republican primary in 2004. He was credited for providing steady leadership and turning the county's jails system into one of the best in the state. Supporters praised him for being a good administrator who ran the sheriff's department in a businesslike manner. He helped the jails maintain certification while guiding them through periods of dangerous overcrowding and tight budgets. "We had some backwards ways when I first went to work there," said Bowles' friend Buck Fortner, who served in the sheriff's department for 27 years until he retired. But Bowles brought the department "into the 21st century," Fortner said. A former spokesman for the sheriff, Ed Spencer, remembered Bowles as a "man of priniciple." Bowles was responsible with taxpayer dollars and cared deeply about his family and his Christian faith, Spencer said. "He hit it off with people quickly," Spencer said. "He had a real warm personality and made a lot of friends in this world." Bowles was commended for making sure the jails had an active program to deal with inmates' drug and alcohol dependency and encouraged literacy programs through local library services. He also made technological improvements within the department, including wireless computers in patrol cars and better radio communications.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 11, 2018

Fast-growing charter school network making Houston inroads

Houston’s newest charter school emerges like an oasis on East Orem Drive, a freshly constructed four-columned Georgian-style building on a sparse stretch of the city’s southeast side. An estimated 1,200 students on Thursday will fill the campus, home to International Leadership of Texas’ newest outpost. Each day, students will speak Spanish, learn Mandarin Chinese and get 45 minutes of physical education from “fitness coaches” resembling personal trainers. They will learn from educators driving home messages about character, civic duty and servant leadership, echoing a military-style ethos pushed by charter founder and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Eddie Conger. It is a curriculum unlike any other in Texas, one that serves as the center of Texas’ fastest growing charter school network. “It sounds corny, but in combat, Marines will do just about anything to save a fellow Marine on the battlefield. And the battlefield of education is littered with kids’ lives,” said Conger, 59, who previously was a teacher and principal in Dallas-area traditional public schools for about a decade. “We make every excuse under the sun of why it’s the kid’s fault or the family’s fault for why they’re not successful.” Six years after opening its first campus, IL Texas, as it commonly is known, quietly has joined the ranks of the state’s largest charter operators, ballooning from about 2,500 students in the Dallas area to nearly 20,000 in four regions. Now, after growing rapidly in the Dallas-Fort Worth and the outskirts of Houston, IL Texas is venturing into Houston ISD’s territory for the first time with its Orem campus.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 11, 2018

Sick leave, firefighter proposals could shake up Bexar County’s November vote

On Thursday, San Antonio City Council could place two hot-button items on the November ballot: mandatory paid sick leave, and three charter amendments that include a proposal making it easier to repeal city ordinances. Mayor Ron Nirenberg has framed the latter issue, which he opposes, as “the most important thing that faces this city at this point in time.” Also at stake is the collateral impact those proposals would have on the rest of San Antonio’s and Bexar County’s November ballot, possibly swaying narrow elections by turning out thousands of new voters. This comes in a county key to Democrats’ hopes of making statewide gains, and builds on several factors already pointing to a chaotic November in San Antonio. Paid sick leave and the charter amendments are issues rife with potential to stir up money and enthusiasm. Those in charge of Secure San Antonio’s Future, an anti-charter amendment political action committee, plan to raise more than $1 million to fight the proposals, while paid sick leave organizers gathered 145,000 petition signatures, more than twice the required amount, though some were ruled invalid.

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Austin Chronicle - August 10, 2018

King: "Independent efficiency audit" petitioners bring together strange bedfellows with stranger politics

Last week the city clerk validated the petition circulated by the Citizens for an Accountable Austin PAC, endorsing an "independent efficiency audit" for the city, and a proposition approving such an audit on the Novem­ber ballot (pending City Coun­cil action). It's unsurprising that 30,000 residents were willing to sign a seemingly innocuous petition in favor of careful accounting – petitioners hardly emphasized the potential cost of such an audit (estimates run north of $1 million), nor the fact that the city's line-item budget is publicly available online, nor that the city has its own official auditors who regularly review all departments and publicly report their findings (good and bad). What's one more set of bean-counters? Yet judging from the campaign's origins and backers, there's reason to suspect less than noble motives. The PAC's treasurer and spokesman, Michael Searle, was formerly chief of staff to Council Member Ellen Troxclair, the sole Repub­lican on the dais and one singularly devoted to cutting taxes and spending (except in her District 8), and to undermining adopted city policy at the state Legis­lat­ure. According to the July 16 campaign finance report of Citizens for an Accountable Austin (echoing the libertarian Texans for Accountable Government), the PAC collected $137,000 (in money or in-kind contributions), all of it from something called the "Austin Civic Fund Action." Searle simultaneously dissolved the PAC in the same filing.

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National Stories

Washington Post - August 12, 2018

Anti-hate protesters far outnumber white supremacists as groups rally near White House

White supremacists held a rally in Washington on Sunday, but if they were hoping for a convention-size crowd, they ended up with a club meeting. Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of last year’s violent and deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, wanted to hold an anniversary rally there, but the city wouldn’t let him. So he brought his show to Washington where he hoped 400 supporters would join him for a rally at Lafayette Square, across from the White House. Fewer than 40 turned out. The group was met by thousands of protesters who filled their half of the leafy, seven-acre park chanting “Go Home Nazis!” “No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!” and “Black Lives Matter!” Their chants drowned out whatever message Kessler and his small band of followers had hoped to deliver — and that was their goal. For opponents, the day felt like a victory, albeit an often tense and angry one. Samaj Calhoun, a Southwest Washington resident, came to protest the rally with friends to show they wouldn’t be intimidated by the white supremacists. Calhoun said she hopes the rest of the country watching the District would see “that we’re not afraid. And we can defend our city.” City leaders and law enforcement officials were determined that the event would not be a repeat of the mayhem in ­Charlottesville last year, when city police and Virginia state troopers allowed white supremacists and neo-Nazis to clash in the streets with anti-hate protesters. Counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed when a man police say identified himself as a Nazi drove a car into a crowd. Two state troopers died when their helicopter crashed following a day of monitoring the civil disturbance.

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Washington Post - August 13, 2018

North, South Koreans agree to hold Pyongyang summit in September

The leaders of North and South Korea will hold a summit in September, their governments announced Monday, as their peace process moves steadily forward despite signs of a growing impasse between Washington and Pyongyang. The summit will take place in Pyongyang. It will be the third between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this year and only the third time that a South Korean leader has traveled to the North Korean capital for such a meeting. The Trump administration appears to have run into rougher waters in its attempts to persuade North Korea to denuclearize in recent weeks, but the two Koreas appear to be making more progress in their gradual rapprochement — even if the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization remains far from clear. The announcement came after North and South Korean government officials held talks on the northern side of the border village of Panmunjom. In remarks before the talks got underway, Ri Son Gwon, the leader of the North Korean delegation and chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, said he hoped the planned summit would help give “concrete answers” to the problems people are facing. Afterward, he said a date has been fixed but not announced, “to keep reporters wondering.” “It is a different story than U.S.-North Korea, which seems to have become bogged down,” said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. “The two Koreas are more in stride, and the process has ‘taken’ better.” That is not to say that the peace process across the divided Korean Peninsula is smooth sailing. On Sunday, a North Korean propaganda website blamed Seoul’s “blind obedience” to U.S.-led sanctions for what it called the failure to make progress since Moon and Kim met on the border in a blaze of publicity in April.

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Washington Post - August 12, 2018

‘A natural’: Donald Trump Jr. emerges as a campaign star, despite Russia baggage

President Trump was watching Fox News Channel with aides in his private dining room off the Oval Office recently when Donald Trump Jr. flashed across the giant flat screen. “Don’s gotten really good,” Trump said, according to someone who was present. “My people love him.” The remark suggested a swell of unexpected pride from Trump about his namesake son, whose relationship with his father has been difficult at times but who has emerged as the president’s political alter ego and an in- demand campaign celebrity ahead of November’s midterm elections. Trump Jr.’s increasing prominence also comes at a time of heightened scrutiny by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, who is examining his role in a Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-aligned lawyer. Trump has fretted to confidants about the fate of his eldest son, concerned he may be in legal jeopardy regardless of whether he knowingly conspired with Russian agents to obtain dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But if Trump Jr. is rattled, he is not showing it. He boarded a propeller plane this past week for his annual vacation in the wilderness of the Canadian Yukon, where he is out of cellular range. Through an aide, he declined an interview request for this article. In a statement to The Washington Post, the president defended his son’s meeting with Russians. “Don has received notoriety for a brief meeting, that many politicians would have taken, but most importantly, and to the best of my knowledge, nothing happened after the meeting concluded,” Trump said.

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New York Times - August 12, 2018

Wisconsin faces a political crossroads Tuesday. Which way will it go?

The most memorable part of Scott Walker’s run for president in 2016 was how he ended it: By dissing Donald J. Trump, his chief rival in a crowded race. Mr. Walker, Wisconsin’s two-term governor, said he was bowing out to help “clear the field” so a “positive, conservative alternative” could emerge to Mr. Trump. The remark was self-serving — the Walker campaign was broke — but he had a point: Republicans never coalesced around an opponent to Mr. Trump, who went on to become the first Republican presidential nominee to carry Wisconsin since 1984. Mr. Walker is still Wisconsin’s governor, still harboring national ambitions, and Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans have only grown more divided over Mr. Trump and the state’s place in national politics. Those dynamics are now on display as Wisconsin prepares for a major primary election on Tuesday: Mr. Walker’s bid for a third term is at stake; Wisconsin Democrats’ desire to deal blows to Trump Republicanism is intense; Republicans are deeply concerned about their future hold on state government; and the very identity of the state, which swings between progressivism and conservatism, feels up for grabs. “This just wasn’t what Wisconsin was, not what it used to be,” said Sally Mather, 69, a retired social worker, who sat in the back room of a cafe in Mazomanie, a village of 1,700, last week. Ms. Mather is part of the “Monday Morning Muddlers,” an informal group of women who became engaged with politics after Mr. Trump’s inauguration and now write postcards — 40 a week — to Wisconsin politicians about issues like keeping Great Lakes water clean and the risks of building a massive campus by Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company with which state and local officials have agreed to a total of more than $4 billion in tax credits and other inducements. “We keep ourselves sane with this,” Ms. Mather said of all the postcards. “But if Wisconsin is going to go back to the way it used to be, it’s going to be up to the grass-roots. We’ve got to get back to being decent.”

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New York Times - August 12, 2018

For voters sick of money in politics, a new Pitch: No PAC money accepted

Like many political candidates, Dean Phillips spends hours each day fund-raising and thanking his donors. But because he refuses to accept PAC money from corporations, unions or other politicians, he has adopted a unique approach. “Norbert?” he asked on the doorstep of a man who’d donated $25 to his campaign. “I’m here with goodies!” Mr. Phillips, who is running for Congress in the suburbs of Minneapolis, handed over a gift bag containing a T-shirt and bumper sticker. The exchange was recorded in a video that was shared later with his supporters to encourage them to contribute as well. Norbert Gernes, an 80-year-old retiree, was impressed. “We desperately need to get the money out of the political system,” he said in an interview afterward. “Because I don’t think we have a Congress that’s representing the people any more.” Campaign finance was once famously dismissed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, as being of no greater concern to American voters than “static cling.” But since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates for unrestricted political spending, polls have shown that voters are growing increasingly bitter about the role of money in politics. The issue is now emerging in midterm races around the country, with dozens of Democrats rejecting donations from political action committees, or PACs, that are sponsored by corporations or industry groups. A handful of candidates, including Mr. Phillips, are going a step further and refusing to take any PAC money at all, even if it comes from labor unions or fellow Democrats. Rather than dooming the campaigns, these pledges to reject PAC money have become central selling points for voters. And for some of the candidates, the small-donor donations are adding up.

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New York Times - August 12, 2018

Voting rights advocates used to have an ally in the government. That’s changing.

A new voter ID law could shut out many Native Americans from the polls in North Dakota. A strict rule on the collection of absentee ballots in Arizona is being challenged as a form of voter suppression. And officials in Georgia are scrubbing voters from registration rolls if their details do not exactly match other records, a practice that voting rights groups say unfairly targets minority voters. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department would often go to court to stop states from taking steps like those. But 18 months into President Trump’s term, there are signs of change: The department has launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department has filed legal briefs in support of states that are resisting court orders to rein in voter ID requirements, stop aggressive purges of voter rolls and redraw political boundaries that have unfairly diluted minority voting power — all practices that were opposed under President Obama’s attorneys general. The Sessions department’s most prominent voting-rights lawsuit so far forced Kentucky state officials last month to step up the culling from registration rolls of voters who have moved. In the national battle over voting rights, the fighting is done in court, state by state, over rules that can seem arcane but have the potential to sway the outcome of elections. The Justice Department’s recent actions point to a decided shift in policy at the federal level: toward an agenda embraced by conservatives who say they want to prevent voter fraud.

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Reuters - August 12, 2018

Tesla's slow disclosure raises governance, social media concerns

Tesla Inc’s handling of Chief Executive Elon Musk’s proposal to take the carmaker private and its failure to promptly file a formal disclosure has raised governance concerns and sparked questions about how companies use social media. Musk stunned investors last Tuesday by announcing on Twitter that he was considering taking Tesla private in a potential $72 billion transaction and that “funding” had been “secured.” Tesla’s shares closed up 11 percent before retrenching after the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had asked Tesla why Musk announced his plans on Twitter and whether his statement was truthful. Musk provided no details of his funding and as of Thursday Tesla’s board had not received a financing plan from Musk, Reuters reported, leaving investors and the broader market clamoring for more information. Putting aside whether Musk misled anyone, the unorthodox manner in which he announced the news and Tesla’s failure to promptly clarify the situation with a regulatory filing is a corporate governance lapse that raises questions about how companies use social media to release market-moving news, securities lawyers said. “Management buyouts or other take-private transactions already suffer from serious information asymmetry between management and public shareholders,” said Gabriel Rauterberg, a University of Michigan law professor.

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CNN - August 13, 2018

Turkey's Erdogan defiant in the face of US tariffs, sanction threats

Turkey's president lashed out at the US during a defiant speech Sunday, as the lira crumbled further following President Donald Trump's approval of higher tariffs and the threat of sanctions over an imprisoned pastor. In the speech to supporters in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country would not acquiesce to US pressure, and that the Trump administration's actions were threatening the two countries' longstanding alliance. "I want them to know that we will not surrender. We will keep producing and we will keep increasing exports," he said. "We will not give in... if you come at us with your dollars then we will find other ways to do business... The US is sacrificing its 81-million-strong ally Turkey for a pastor with links with terrorists." Erdogan was referring to Andrew Brunson, a American evangelical pastor who Turkey accuses of helping to plot a 2016 coup attempt against the Turkish president. US officials maintain there is no credible evidence against Brunson, and the Trump administration has negotiated for weeks to secure his release. On Friday, Trump approved a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey and warned that US relations with the country "are not good at this time." It was not immediately clear when the tariffs are due to take effect. In his remarks Sunday, Erdogan said the US gave Turkey a deadline of last Wednesday to release Brunson or face further sanctions. In revealing details of negotiations held between the two NATO allies, Erdogan said: "They are going to make us slaves to the dollar. Foreign exchange, interests... so what? They (US) said, 'if you don't release the pastor by 6 p.m. on Wednesday we will start sanctions.' They are going to sanction our interior and justice minister." The United States slapped sanctions against Turkey's interior and justice ministers earlier this month, in response to Brunson's detention. Turkey responded by ordering the freezing of assets related to the US "justice and interior" secretaries.

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Star Tribune - August 13, 2018

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison accused of domestic violence; he denies it

A former girlfriend of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has accused him of domestic violence, which Ellison — a DFL candidate for Minnesota attorney general — denied on Sunday. The alleged incident between Ellison and Karen Monahan came to light Saturday night after her son posted about it on Facebook. She then confirmed it on Twitter. Ellison responded Sunday in a statement released by his campaign: “Karen and I were in a relationship which ended in 2016, and I still care deeply for her well-being.” He also denied dragging her off a bed, and said a video allegedly showing that does not exist because it never happened. The allegation roils the race for attorney general, where Ellison has been viewed as the front-runner in Tuesday’s DFL primary. A fellow DFL candidate called for a criminal investigation and a national women’s group said Ellison should withdraw and resign from Congress. Two Ellison supporters questioned the timing of the allegations days before the primary. A Star Tribune reporter went to Monahan’s apartment on Sunday and spoke through a call-box to a woman who said she was Karen Monahan. She said she was not ready to talk and was focused on her children and family. “This is a really difficult time,” she said. Monahan’s son, Austin Aslim Monahan, posted that he watched a video on his mother’s computer in which Ellison could be seen dragging Monahan off a bed as he screamed profanities at her. “This video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false,” Ellison’s statement read. On her Twitter account Saturday night, Karen Monahan defended her son’s post: “That was my son who posted it and its true. He wouldn’t lie about his own mom.” She reiterated that statement Sunday afternoon, tweeting: “Every statement he made was true. @keithellison, you know you did that to me. I have given every opportunity to get help and heal. Even now, u r willing to say my son is lying and have me continue to leak more text and info just so others will believe him.” Austin Monahan said in an interview Saturday night that he did not have the video that he said he saw in 2017. He stood by the veracity of his Facebook post. “I only know what I saw and I know what’s true,” he said. “It was my job to stand up for my mother.” Of Ellison, he said: “I have no reason to tear down this man.”

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Vox - August 9, 2018

Democrats still want to make infrastructure week happen

The energy within the Democratic base lies with issues including Medicare-for-all, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and holding the Trump administration accountable. But if you ask House Democrats what they want to make their first big agenda item if they win in 2018, they’re hoping it will finally be infrastructure week. Vox recently talked to several Democratic lawmakers who mentioned one of their first major policy proposals will likely be a large infrastructure package focused on rebuilding roads and bridges, updating aging water pipes, and installing rural broadband. They want to focus on a bipartisan policy item that President Donald Trump has signaled he also wants to get done. “Skills training and infrastructure need to be our initial focus,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, adding he’s recommended that move to the Democratic caucus and ranking members of committees. “I expect them to move bills on that, and my hope, my belief is, and my recommendation is that we move on these economic issues at the very beginning of the next Congress.” And it’s not just moderates — an “Invest in America” proposal topped the recently released Congressional Progressive Caucus’s People’s Budget — a draft of the progressive flank’s wish list for 2019 and beyond. “Infrastructure, I think would be fair to say, has a pretty broad consensus in our party,” Hoyer said in a recent interview with Vox. Hoyer added there’s a “sense that we need to bring that to the fore early on when we’re in charge ... focus on growing the economy.” Plus — it’s something that House Republicans also want to get done. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released a draft infrastructure bill a few weeks ago, calling for trillions of dollars to be invested in “projects of national significance” — relating to the nation’s highways and other transit.

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NBC News - August 12, 2018

Omarosa claims she heard Trump N-word tape after book's publication

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said Sunday that she has personally heard a tape of President Donald Trump using the N-word during filming for NBC's "The Apprentice," a revelation she says "confirmed that he is truly a racist." Newman made the charge during an exclusive interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," days before the release on Tuesday of her new book, "Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House." In the book, Newman describes hearing about the tape but not hearing it herself. She said Sunday that she personally listened to it after her book had gone to press. She said she had "heard for two years that it existed, and once I heard it for myself, it was confirmed, what I feared the most: That Donald Trump is a con and has been masquerading as someone who is actually open to engaging with diverse communities." She added: "But when he talks that way, the way he did on this tape, it confirmed that he is truly a racist." Newman didn't specify when exactly the tape was from, but said that it was from Trump's time hosting the show and spinoffs through early 2015. Newman described herself as being "complicit" in the White House's deception of the American people and about its interest in advocating for the black community.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2018

Google tracks your movements, like it or not

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request. For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements. Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you “pause” a setting called Location History. Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account. The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search. Storing location data in violation of a user’s preferences is wrong, said Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau. A researcher from Mayer’s lab confirmed the AP’s findings on multiple Android devices; the AP conducted its own tests on several iPhones that found the same behavior.

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New York Post - August 12, 2018

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio lets security escort reporter away for asking a question

Mayor de Blasio is a such a big believer in the free press that he let two bodyguards physically remove a credentialed Post reporter who had the temerity to ask him a question in public on Sunday. The unusual muzzling unfolded at the start of the annual Dominican Day Parade in Manhattan, where the reporter sought de Blasio’s reaction to The Post’s front page story about his administration’s many meetings with lobbyists. It also came after Hizzoner appeared on national TV Sunday to proclaim, “I believe in a free, strong media with diverse views — I’ll defend it with all I’ve got.” Just two hours later, after de Blasio cut a ribbon to kick off the parade and was posing for photos near West 37th Street and Sixth Avenue, the reporter asked him to comment on the “CITY FOR SALE” Page One story. Instead of answering or even declining to answer the question, the mayor watched as two members of his NYPD security detail approached the reporter — who was wearing a police-issued press pass around his neck — with one grabbing his shoulder and leading him away from the mayor. “Kevin, you have to leave. You can’t be here,” the plainclothes cop said. Both bodyguards then escorted the reporter about a half-block away, where a member of the NYPD’s public-information office, Officer Brian Magoolaghan, told him, “Come on, Kevin. No stunts today.” City Hall had previously declined to discuss records that showed officials held 136 meetings with lobbyists during just three months earlier this year.

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Wall Street Journal - August 12, 2018

Sexton: The phony numbers behind California's solar mandate

California’s energy regulators effectively cooked the books to justify their recent command that all homes built in the Golden State after 2020 be equipped with solar panels. Far from a boon to homeowners, the costs to builders and home buyers will likely far exceed the benefits to the state. The California Energy Commission, which approved the rule as part of new energy-efficiency regulations, didn’t conduct an objective, independent investigation of the policy’s effects. Instead it relied on economic analysis from the consultancy that proposed the policy, Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. Its study concluded that home buyers get a 100% investment return—paying $40 more in monthly mortgage costs but saving $80 a month on electricity. If it’s such a good deal, why aren’t home buyers clamoring for more panels already? Most new homes aren’t built with solar panels today, even though the state is saturated by solar marketing. The Energy Commission is too optimistic about the cost of panels. It assumes the cost was $2.93 a watt in 2016 and will decline 17% by 2020. Yet comprehensive analysis of panel costs by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated the average cost of installed panels to be $4.50 a watt for the 2- to 4-kilowatt systems the policy mandates. That is $4,000 more than regulators claim for a 2.6-kilowatt model system in the central part of the state, where 20% of new homes are expected to be built. Berkeley Lab further estimates that costs fell a mere 1% between 2015 and 2016, far short of the 4% average annual decline the regulators predict. Now consider the alleged savings on energy bills. The commission’s analysis assumes California will maintain its net energy-metering policy, which effectively subsidizes electricity produced by a rooftop solar panel. Residential solar generators are paid as much as eight times what wholesale generators receive, according to a grid operator’s analysis of publicly available data. Dozens of states are rethinking these generous subsidies, paid by ratepayers, because they shift the costs of maintaining the electric grid to relatively poor nonsolar households. The California Public Utilities Commission is set to revisit this regressive policy in 2019—before the solar mandate takes effect. If the subsidies are removed, solar adopters would be in the red. This is why the electricity generated by the solar mandate should be valued at the cost of its replacement from the grid—not at the subsidized rate households receive.

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