September 23, 2018

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2018

Paxton’s office warns AISD in flap over church’s gay-marriage beliefs

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office on Friday warned Austin school district officials against blocking a Christian church that opposes gay marriage from using district facilities, saying such action would violate state law and the First Amendment.

Celebration Church of Georgetown has been holding services most Sundays since Aug. 26 at the Austin district’s Performing Arts Center under a short-term rental agreement, prompting protests from gay rights and civil rights advocates.
District officials recently announced that they were considering limiting the ability of outside organizations to use district facilities, including the Performing Arts Center in the Mueller neighborhood, to reduce wear and tear and to ensure that district resources are available to students without interruption.
Changes to facility-use policies were not directed at Celebration Church and will be revealed once they are finalized, district Chief of Staff Jacob Reach said.
But a letter sent Friday from Jeff Mateer, Paxton’s first assistant attorney general, cautioned against adopting policies that are hostile to religion.
“The district should welcome churches who want to rent its facilities after school and on weekends, not discriminate against some of them based on their beliefs,” Mateer said in the letter to Austin Superintendent Paul Cruz. “The Constitution and state law require the district to provide churches with equal access to facilities it opens to community organizations.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 22, 2018

For some sex offenders, their deal with the state wasn’t really a deal

Many old sex offenders made plea deals with prosecutors whose terms they fulfilled decades ago. But Texas legislators later passed laws that retroactively applied new conditions to them. New lawsuits now say the state broke its word. If successful, move could apply to thousands of sex offenders.

When the Beaumont police detective called him in 2014, Curtis wondered what the officer might want. His only run-in with the law had been half a lifetime ago.
In 1985, he had been charged with indecency with a child, his stepdaughter. Curtis, then 34, struck a deal with prosecutors. He would plead guilty, but if after 10 years he kept out of trouble, the conviction would go away. He paid his fees, performed his community service and attended sex offender counseling. The charge was dismissed in 1996.
Curtis said his crime stayed with him: “It never leaves me; it’s always in front of me.”
(The paper is not using his last name, because he is fighting to keep it private and it does not appear in court documents.) He kept a low, steady profile. Over the next three decades, he raised his three boys in the house in which he’s always lived. He worked at a nearby chemical plant until his retirement in 2009.
So the news from the detective was alarming. Despite the deal he’d cut with the state of Texas 30 years ago, Curtis was dismayed to learn that he now would have to register as a sex offender. His name, photo and details of his crime would appear on the state’s public website. He would need to check in with police regularly. The new rules, the detective informed Curtis, applied for the rest of his life.
Over the past 20 years, state and federal lawmakers have passed ever-stricter sex offense laws, requiring more people to be listed on public sex offender registries, typically for life. In some cases, the new laws have reached back to include those whose crimes occurred years before the statutes were enacted and contrary to the deals they struck with prosecutors.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits new laws that pile additional punishments onto old crimes. In the past, government lawyers have successfully sidestepped that by arguing that retroactively requiring sex offenders to register for decades-old crimes is not really a punishment. Instead, they contended, it is merely a regulation that promotes public safety.
Now, however, at least four older sex offenders in Texas have floated a new argument that has earned early legal victories. They say the deals they agreed to in the past were essentially contracts between them and the state.

National Stories

Washington Post - September 22, 2018

Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford say she has accepted Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify against Kavanaugh

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, is ready to testify next week in a Senate hearing, her attorneys said Saturday, but a final agreement about the terms of her appearance remained elusive.

Ford’s lawyers informed aides to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) that she was prepared to testify next week, but they stopped short of accepting Grassley’s offer for the California professor to speak before his panel Wednesday.
“Dr. Ford accepts the Committee’s request to provide her firsthand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” said attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks in an email to Grassley’s staff. They called much of Grassley’s offer “inconsistent with the Committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations” and requested a follow-up conversation later in the day to continue negotiating.
The email marked the latest turn in the tense showdown between Republican senators and Ford that has hovered over Kavanaugh’s nomination for days. Ford first told her story publicly in an interview with The Washington Post published last Sunday. Kavanaugh has firmly denied her allegations.
Ford’s legal team planned to continue to press for a Thursday hearing, according to a person familiar with the lawyers’ thinking. During a Saturday call, the parties discussed the option of holding the hearing on Thursday and agreed to continue their negotiations on Sunday, according to people familiar with the conversation.
Several Republicans were skeptical of Ford’s offer. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) tweeted the hashtag “#Rope-a-dope,” referencing to a boxing strategy of trying to tire out an opponent by making them consistently go on offense.

Washington Post - September 22, 2018

Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford moved 3,000 miles to reinvent her life. It wasn’t far enough.

To many, Brett M. Kavanaugh was a respected jurist. To Christine Blasey Ford, he was the teenager who had attacked her when they were in high school.

When Donald Trump won his upset presidential victory in 2016, Christine Blasey Ford’s thoughts quickly turned to a name most Americans had never heard of but one that had unsettled her for years: Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh — a judge on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — was among those mentioned as a possible replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. When Trump nominated Neil M. Gorsuch, Ford was relieved but still uneasy.
Then, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement, and Ford, 51, began fretting again.
“Her mind-set was, ‘I’ve got this terrible secret. .?.?. What am I going to do with this secret?’ ” her husband, Russell Ford, 56, recalled.
Ford had already moved 3,000 miles away from the affluent Maryland suburbs where she says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party — a charge he would emphatically deny. Suddenly, living in California didn’t seem far enough. Maybe another hemisphere would be. She went online to research other democracies where her family might settle, including New Zealand.
“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this. If he becomes the nominee, then I’m moving to another country. I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court,’ ” her husband said. “She wanted out.”
These were the lengths that Ford, a professor and mother of two, once considered to avoid revisiting one of her most troubling memories — one she’d discussed only in therapy and with her husband. Instead, her deeply held secret would come to dominate the headlines, putting her and her family at the center of an explosive debate about the future of the Supreme Court.
On Saturday, after days of tense negotiations, Ford accepted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify against Kavanaugh as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.
Her appearance will come amid continued attacks on her truthfulness across social media and by the president himself. Death threats have poured in. Her email was hacked.
On the day that Ford publicly identified herself as Kavanaugh’s accuser in an interview with The Washington Post, her husband was driving their 15-year-old son and his friends from a soccer tournament in Lake Tahoe. He couldn’t answer the calls that were blowing up his phone; by the time they reached home, a crowd of reporters was waiting.
Russell struggled to explain it to his children. “I said that Mommy had a story about a Supreme Court nominee, and now it’s broken into the news, and we can’t stay in the house anymore,” he recalled. The family was separated for days, with the boys staying with friends and their parents living at a hotel. They’ve looked into a security service to escort their children to school.
While Ford met the FBI on Friday to discuss her safety, critics continued questioning her motives and memory. Why, they ask, did she wait decades to come forward? Trump joined the chorus on Twitter, declaring, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

Washington Post - September 22, 2018

Six siblings of a GOP congressman endorsed his opponent in a video ad. Here’s how he responded.

Families are complicated, their private tensions and political disagreements often kept under wraps. That’s not the case with Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose opponent in the midterm election just got a boost from Gosar’s siblings. Six of them.

The brothers and sisters — Tim, Jennifer, Gaston, Joan, Grace and David — appeared in campaign advertisements for David Brill, the Democrat hoping to unseat Gosar in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District in the midterm election.
The Gosar siblings framed their endorsement of Brill as a matter of values, saying their brother, who has long drawn headlines for his far-right views, and his politics were simply too much for them to stomach.
“We gotta stand up for our good name,” David Gosar said in the advertisement. “This is not who we are.”
“I couldn’t be quiet any longer, nor should any of us be,” Grace Gosar said.
“I think my brother has traded a lot of the values we had at our kitchen table,” said another sister, Joan.
In an interview with The Washington Post, David Gosar, 57, a lawyer in Jackson, Wyo., said he felt obligated to speak out against his brother because of his views, though he wished it weren’t the case.
“There isn’t a kooky, crazy, nutty thing that he isn’t a part of,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”
David Gosar said he doesn’t talk to his brother much anymore. The split came around the time of his congressional run, when he said his brother told him he believed the “birther” theory that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake. (A 2010 clip from Politico quotes Paul Gosar as declining to say whether he believed Obama was born in the United States, saying it was “for the courts and for other people to decide.”)
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, you have to be kidding me,’ and then he went and got elected,” David Gosar said. “I’m not going to break bread with a racist.”
Paul Gosar did not respond to a request for comment sent to his spokeswoman, but on Saturday, he tweeted that the six family members are “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump.” He added that they do not live in Arizona and claimed Brill’s policies are “out of sync with what Arizona wants and the country needs.”
“These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag #MAGA2018 for the Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Paul Gosar, who became a congressman in 2011, has drawn coverage for his extreme rhetoric in recent years.
In January, he drew bipartisan rebukes after he said he asked the Capitol Police and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to check IDs at the State of the Union to arrest and deport any undocumented immigrants in attendance.

NBC News - September 22, 2018

Spokesman for GOP on Kavanaugh nomination resigns; has been accused of harassment in the past

A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.

Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party's messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past "allegations of misconduct."
After NBC News raised questions about Ventry's employment history and the sexual harassment allegation against him, Judiciary Committee Spokesman Taylor Foy replied in a statement: "While (Ventry) strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee."
Ventry also resigned Saturday from the public relations company where he had been on a temporary leave of absence to work for the Judiciary Committee, a company spokesman told NBC News.
Republicans familiar with the situation had been concerned that Ventry, because of his history, could not lead an effective communications response.
Ventry worked as a social media adviser in 2017 in the office of North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell, who fired Ventry after several months.
“Mr. Ventry did work in my office and he’s no longer there, he moved on,” Bell told NBC News. He refused to discuss the precise nature of the firing.
Sources familiar with the situation said Ventry was let go from Bell’s office after parts of his résumé were found to have been embellished, and because he faced an accusation of sexual harassment from a female employee of the North Carolina General Assembly's Republican staff.
Ventry’s termination was described to NBC News as unusually swift for an office with little overall turnover.
“It caused a lot of staff drama. It was the chatter of the staff," the source told NBC News. "The whole thing got turned into a he said, she said, and then Garrett was fired.”

Politico - September 22, 2018

FEMA chief to reimburse government for personal use of federal vehicles

FEMA Administrator Brock Long has been forced to reimburse the government for improper personal use of federal government vehicles and acknowledged “mistakes” that he and FEMA made in using those vehicles.

A DHS Inspector General investigation found there was “inappropriate use” of the vehicles, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement released Friday night.
Nielsen said she reviewed the IG report that found Long, tasked with helping the government manage the response to hurricanes and other emergencies, used government vehicles for “non-official reasons.”
“[U]se of Government vehicles to provide home to work transportation for the FEMA Administrator was never authorized in accordance with applicable law,” she said.
Long said that he took “full responsibility for any mistakes that were made by me or the agency.”
“The Secretary and I are taking corrective action to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future,” he added.
Long did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from POLITICO.
POLITICO first reported last week that an IG investigation had been opened into Long’s use of government Chevrolet Suburbans for routine weekend travel to his home in North Carolina under a government continuity program, which is designed to ensure senior officials can be reached in case of a national emergency.
Nielsen, who had a “productive conversation” with Long about the issue after she reviewed the report, ordered him to reimburse taxpayers for the unauthorized use of government vehicles.
“I take seriously the unauthorized or inappropriate use of Government resources by any DHS employee and I appreciate the work of the OIG in thoroughly completing their investigation,” she said.
Nielsen ordered DHS to prevent this from happening in the future by conducting a review of DHS policies on “home-to-work transportation programs,” assess DHS continuity programs and the communications needs associated with it, analyze FEMA’s National Continuity Program and put in place a DHS review of and training about how to use government vehicles properly.
She said that this past April FEMA “eliminated unauthorized home-to-work transportation.”

September 21, 2018

Lead Stories

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - September 21, 2018

What to watch in tonight's first debate between Cruz and O'Rourke

Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke meet Friday in Dallas for the first of three scheduled debates in one of the most hotly contested and closely watched match-ups for the U.S. Senate in the nation.

Polling suggests the race, which in a normal year would be considered a cakewalk for the Republicans, to be a nail-biter. So with control of the U.S. Senate as a backdrop in the 2018 midterms, here's are a few things to watch as the two candidates square off on the campus of Southern Methodist University for one hour beginning at 6 p.m. central. On the stump in recent weeks, first-termer Cruz seldom passes up an opportunity to mock O’Rourke’s support for the “take a knee” movement in the NFL where some players kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Look for Cruz to try to put the Democrat on the defensive, accusing him of being less than patriotic and hostile to law enforcement. Look for O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman from El Paso, to counter with examples of what he calls “peaceful protests” that brought about positive social change. See whether he offers support for law enforcement officers without alienating minorities and progressives who see reining in police abuse as a top issue in the campaign. But Cruz will likely counterpunch. This week, his camp put out a hard-hitting 30-second spot it calls “Deported” that shows examples of undocumented immigrants who illegally returned the United States and committed violent crimes.

Washington Post - September 20, 2018

Kavanaugh accuser won’t testify Monday but open to doing so later next week

An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Thursday that her appearing at a hearing on Monday to detail her claims is “not possible” but she could testify later in the week. Debra Katz, Ford’s lawyer, relayed the response to top staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, requesting to set up a call with them to “discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week.” “As you are aware, she's been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI and she and her family have been forced out of their home,” Katz wrote to the committee. “She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee's insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.” Katz reiterated that Ford would like the FBI to investigate before her testimony. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who had asked Ford’s lawyers to respond by Friday morning whether she planned to appear Monday, had no immediate response. Democratic senators, pointing to the highly-charged Anita Hill hearings in October 1991, have defended Ford’s request to have the FBI do its own probe before she testifies. Back then, the FBI report into Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against now-Justice Clarence Thomas was finished on Sept. 26, 1991 — three days after its inquiry began, according to a Washington Post report at the time. “Someone who is lying does not ask the FBI to investigate their claims,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Thursday at an event on Capitol Hill. “Who is not asking the FBI to investigate these claims? The White House. Judge Kavanaugh has not asked to have the FBI investigate these claims. Is that the reaction of an innocent person? It is not.” Gillibrand said Senate Republicans’ ultimatum of a Monday hearing was “bullying.” Republicans have rejected the comparisons to the Hill proceedings. Grassley wrote in a Wednesday letter to Democrats on the Judiciary Committee that the FBI investigated Hill’s accusations against Thomas when they were still not public. Because Ford’s accusation is already public, Grassley argued that it was appropriate for the Senate to step in with their own investigation as lawmakers did when the Hill allegation first became public.

USA Today - September 21, 2018

Poll: Brett Kavanaugh faces unprecedented opposition to Supreme Court confirmation

More Americans oppose than support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Public Affairs Poll finds, an unprecedented level of disapproval for a nominee to the nation's high court. Amid allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, those surveyed say by 40 percent-31 percent that the Senate shouldn't vote to approve his nomination, the first time a plurality of Americans have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since polling on the issue began. Nonetheless, they also are inclined to believe he will, in the end, be confirmed: Just 11 percent predict he won't; 45 percent said he will. The findings underscore the serious political stakes — and the potential for blow-back in the midterm elections now little more than six weeks away. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape when they were high school students in suburban Maryland, said Thursday she would be willing to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee, although not on Monday, when the panel has proposed a hearing. Kavanaugh has accepted the committee's invitation for Monday, saying he "categorically and unequivocally" denies the assault. Beyond a fierce partisan divide, the survey found a definite gender gap: Women by double digits believe Ford's accusations, 35 percent-21 percent. Men by nine percentage points believe Kavanaugh's denials, 37 percent-28 percent. Those views are reflected in the question over whether he should be confirmed. Women oppose him by 20 points, 43 percent-23 percent; men support him by four points, 40 percent-36 percent. The online poll of about 1,008 adults, which has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 points, was taken Wednesday and Thursday. "With the battle over the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court being charged by sexual assault accusations and at the almost one-year anniversary of the start of #MeToo, you’d think that America would be split by gender on this,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos. “And we are, but our new poll shows that more than gender, party is the main driver of people’s point of view about this fight, another sign of our highly tribal times." Just 9 percent of Democrats support Kavanaugh's confirmation, compared with 70 percent of Republicans. Feelings are intense on both sides: 50 percent of Democrats "strongly" oppose him; 49 percent of Republicans "strongly" support him. But he has lost the support of independents, who now oppose him by close to 2-1, 43 percent-24 percent. The findings are consistent with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken earlier in the week, Sunday through Wednesday, which showed 38 percent opposing Kavanaugh's confirmation, 34 percent supporting it. That was a reversal of the modest level of net support he held in that survey in July and August.

Amid allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, those surveyed say by 40 percent-31 percent that the Senate shouldn't vote to approve his nomination, the first time a plurality of Americans have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since polling on the issue began. Nonetheless, they also are inclined to believe he will, in the end, be confirmed: Just 11 percent predict he won't; 45 percent said he will.

San Antonio Express-News - September 20, 2018

Mexico's President-elect Obrador moves ahead on refinery overhaul, threatening U.S. gasoline exports

Mexican President-elect Manuel Lopez Obrador’s campaign promises to overhaul the country’s declining refining sector and reduce reliance on U.S. energy exports were widely dismissed within U.S. energy and political circles as mere political rhetoric. But two months after his election victory, his advisers are signaling they fully intend to go ahead with that plan, threatening a refining industry along the Texas Gulf Coast that has become increasingly reliant on Mexican gasoline demand. During a recent visit to Mexico City to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he was struck by how forcefully Obrador’s advisers discussed building the first new refinery in Mexico in decades and rehabbing the country’s existing facilities. “They’re serious about it,” Cuellar said. “They do want to gradually stop the importation of gasoline.” That, of course, would have big implications for Texas Gulf Coast refiners, which account for nearly one-third of the nation’s refining capacity, but increasingly look to foreign markets for growth as U.S. gasoline demand in the United States has flattened with the spread of fuel-efficient vehicles. Over the past decade, the flow of American gasoline to Mexico has almost quadrupled to more than 420,000 barrels a day and accounts for more than half of all U.S. gasoline exports, according to the U.S. Energy Department. So far, the U.S. refining sector is not expressing any public concern, skeptical not only that Obrador can pull off his promise, but also that he could do it in a timely manner. “On a global basis, refineries are almost never finished on time,” Lenny Rodriguez, director of global oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, wrote in a recent note to investors. “Overhauling six refineries that have been neglected for a long time in addition to building 2 new refineries is a tremendous financial (not to mention logistical and administrative) burden that seems too heavy for the Mexican government/PEMEX to bear.” But not everyone is so sure. Earlier this month, Obrador announced during a meeting with business leaders in Monterrey that work would begin shortly after he takes office in December on a $8 billion refinery in southeastern Mexico, capable of producing 400,000 barrels of fuel a day, more than any existing Mexican refinery.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2018

Dallas sheriff’s association endorses Gov. Greg Abbott over their former boss, Lupe Valdez

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Association, spurning their former boss, has endorsed Gov. Greg Abbott for re-election this November over his opponent, Lupe Valdez, who resigned as sheriff in December after more than 12 years on the job. “We are extremely thankful for the support he’s shown over the years for law enforcement both as attorney general and as governor,” Sgt. Chris Dyer, president of the DCSA, said at an afternoon news conference in Dallas. Abbott, who grew up in Duncanville, said he has been a strong supporter of law enforcement since receiving a college scholarship from the Duncanville Police Department. “Little did they know they were investing in a person who would go on to become a judge, attorney general and now governor,” Abbott said. “My connection to law enforcement has been strong ever since then.” Dyer, a 31-year veteran of the department, said the association believed Abbott had “the track record of outstanding leadership and was the person most qualified for the job.” Valdez, who turns 71 in October, won four terms as sheriff, beginning in 2004. She resigned at the end of 2017 to run for governor. "I could not be more proud of my law enforcement background and service to the public," Valdez said in an emailed statement to The News. "We helped build a smarter, fairer and more accessible justice system, and Texans should have no doubt that I plan to achieve the same as governor of Texas." Abbott cited his efforts to protect law enforcement officers during the legislative session. “One of the driving forces,” Abbott said, “was the horrific shooting that took place in downtown Dallas” on July 7, 2016. “That was a catalyst to make sure we showed respect and support to officers who put their lives on the line.” Among those measures, Abbott said, was to provide rifle-resistant vests to officers, including 300 that went to the sheriff’s office. “We will continue to do everything we can to protect those who protect us,” Abbott said. Abbott was asked if he felt law-enforcement authorities were being transparent regarding the Botham Jean shooting, the case in which the 26-year-old Jean was shot and killed in his apartment Sept. 6 by off-duty, uniformed Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, who said she confused his apartment with hers. The case is being investigated by the Texas Rangers, a division within the state Department of Public Safety. “First, it is a tragedy, the loss of an innocent life is horrific,” Abbott said. He called for justice “as swiftly as possible and as transparent as possible.” He said he also would like to see local authorities strive to “de-escalate tension — and one way to de-escalate tension is by being more transparent.”

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2018

National Rifle Association endorses Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions

The National Rifle Association announced its endorsement of Dallas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions on Thursday. NRA chairman Chris Cox called Sessions a "proven champion of our Second Amendment freedoms" in a statement. Sessions is a lifetime member of the NRA and has an "A+" career voting score from the group. He is also one of the NRA's top campaign donation recipients this cycle with $9,900 in contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. "Unlike my opponent, I fully support all of our constitutional rights," Sessions said in a statement. "Earning this endorsement shows that I remain a staunch defender of the right for people to protect themselves and their families." Democratic civil rights attorney Colin Allred, Sessions' challenger, has an "F" rating on gun issues from the NRA. Allred supports universal background checks, a ban on "weapons of war," preventing violent criminals and domestic abusers from buying guns, and allowing law enforcement to limit access to guns for people deemed a danger to themselves or others. Sessions' campaign on Wednesday published a short audio clip from an April 7 campaign event in which Allred says that it is important to "accurately apply" the Second Amendment, but that it would "be better had [the Second Amendment] not been written." In the full context of his answer to a question about whether he would support repealing the Second Amendment, Allred said, "There's no chance that we are going to repeal any of the Bill of Rights amendments." "I also don't think that we need to. I think that, within the confines of the accurately applied Second Amendment, that we can do everything we want to do in terms of regulating weapons and all that," Allred said. In a debate with Sessions on Wednesday at the Dallas Rotary Club, Allred said, "I respect the Second Amendment and think we need to be defending it." "Colin believes in the right to keep and bear arms and will stand up for the rights of responsible gun owners. He also believes that we have to do more keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill," Allred campaign manager Paige Hutchinson said in a statement. "That's a stark contrast to Congressman Sessions who opposes all common sense measures to stop gun violence -- even criminal background checks on all gun sales and preventing domestic abusers from getting guns." Sessions' NRA credentials have served him well in the past. The NRA endorsed him when he ran a competitive race to keep his House seat in 2004. He beat out longtime Democratic incumbent Martin Frost, who got consistent "F" grades from the NRA.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2018

Beto O’Rourke, Joaquin Castro ask for investigation of Border Patrol agent accused of serial murders

Reps. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio are among several Texas Democrats calling for a deeper Customs and Border Protection investigation into Juan David Ortiz, a longtime Border Patrol agent accused of killing four women this month in and around Laredo. Ortiz, 35, had worked for CBP for 10 years, most recently as an intelligence supervisor. In a letter to CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, the congressmen asked CBP to determine if Ortiz was acting in his official capacity during the slayings, if he used government equipment or databases to carry out the crimes, and if the department missed potential warning signs. “Like you, our priority is to provide for the well-being and safety of the populations we serve. To do so, we must learn from any mistakes made in this case,” the letter says. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Al Green and Gene Green, both of Houston, were also among the 18 lawmakers who signed the letter. A spokesman for O’Rourke declined to comment further on the letter. A spokeswoman with CBP said the agency would respond to the lawmakers directly. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents the Laredo area where the murders occurred, did not sign the letter. Cuellar did, however, express concern to a CNN affiliate station that Ortiz might have used his supervisory role to keep track of developments in murder investigations. He talked to McAleenan about improving vetting for Border Patrol agents. Ortiz confessed to killing four women and kidnapping a fifth after he was arrested Sept. 15. He has been charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping. Authorities said Ortiz was on suicide watch as of Wednesday. He has been placed on unpaid, indefinite suspension from CBP, a Border Patrol official told reporters.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2018

Federal court orders Dallas County to change its bail system to account for suspects' ability to pay

In a major victory for civil rights groups, a federal judge has banned Dallas County from using a predetermined schedule to set bail without considering other amounts or alternatives that would allow the suspects' release from jail. Though U.S. District Judge David Godbey's order is temporary, his ruling Thursday indicated that the groups that sued the county earlier this year "are substantially likely to prevail on the merits" of their arguments. Godbey wrote that the policy of setting bail without regard for a defendant's ability to pay violated the constitutional rights of arrestees to equal protection under the law. "Wealthy arrestees — regardless of the crime they are accused of — who are offered secured bail can pay the requested amount and leave. Indigent arrestees in the same position cannot," the judge wrote in his opinion. Godbey ordered Dallas County to provide suspects booked at its jail with an individual hearing within 48 hours if a magistrate judge doesn't release them after they've indicated they cannot afford bail. "Because the court recognizes that the County might need additional time to comply with this requirement, the County may propose a reasonable timeline for doing so," he wrote. Per the judge's order, an impartial decision-maker — most likely a magistrate judge — must make an individual assessment of whether an amount of bail or an alternative condition provides sufficient guarantee that the suspect will appear in court. The suspect must have a chance at the hearing to provide evidence in his or her favor, and to dispute evidence provided by law enforcement. If the decision-maker declines to lower the bail from the prescheduled amount, then he or she must provide "factual findings" explaining the reasoning on the record. Godbey ordered the county to allow suspects to fight the decision in a formal adversarial hearing before a misdemeanor or felony judge. In January, four nonprofits filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging the Dallas County jail's cash bail system unfairly harmed poor people and violated the Texas and U.S. constitutions.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2018

Political boot camp for women? One Texas university is working on it

With women looking to claim a greater share of Texas’ political influence in this year’s election, one Texas university is trying to build a pipeline of women who will follow their lead. Texas Woman’s University in Denton this fall launched a Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy aimed at increasing the number of women who will seek out leadership positions in public policy through advocacy or government leadership. Studies have established that men are substantially more likely to consider running for public office than women. The so-called ambition gap has remained at a stubborn 15 percentage points for years. In 2017, for example, 23 percent of women said they have considered running for office, compared to 38 percent of men. “You might not care about politics, but politics sure cares about you,” said Nancy Bocskor, the center’s new director and former political fundraiser and adjunct professor at George Washington University. “People control every part of your life. Why not have a seat at the table?” This is the first program at the university to zero in on politics. The goal is to inspire, persuade and teach women how to enter public service, said Bocskor. Women are not only underrepresented in elected positions and with agencies that work with government. They are also underrepresented on policy boards and other committees that shape public policy. While the program has yet to build a curriculum for students, the focus is now on research and developing activities that groom women for future office, such as launching a teenage political boot camp and programs teaching girls how to run for student body president. Texas was once a leader for women in political power, with female mayors running half the state’s largest cities and the governor’s office in 1990. The number of women in Congress and the state Legislature continued to climb until a sudden downturn in 2010, slipping steadily since.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2018

Toothless Texas inmates denied dentures in state prison

For the better part of four years, David Ford has not had much in the way of teeth. When he first came to state prison, the Houston man had just enough molars to hold in place his partial dentures. But then he lost one tooth to a prison fight and the rest to a dentist. Now, five years into his stay, Ford has no teeth at all — and no dentures. And, despite his best efforts and insistent requests, he’s been repeatedly denied them and told that teeth are not a medical necessity. In the Texas prison system, toothless and nearly toothless inmates are routinely denied dentures and instead offered blended food — often regular cafeteria meals simply pureed. Sometimes they’re told they can’t get teeth unless they become underweight, at which point dentures might be considered a “medical necessity.” In 2016, prison medical providers approved giving out 71 dentures to a population of more than 149,000 inmates, many of whom are elderly, have a history of drug use or came from impoverished backgrounds with sub-par dental care to begin with. It’s a sharp decrease from 15 years ago, when there was still a denture-making program in-house and Texas prison medical practitioners approved more than 1,000 costly dental prosthetics. California, the next-largest prison system, gives out a few thousand dentures in a typical year. “Generally speaking, someone with no teeth should be offered dentures,” said Dr. Jay Shulman, a Texas A&M adjunct dentistry professor who’s been an expert witness in multiple lawsuits over prison dental issues. “The community standard for dental care has not been applied to prisons.” More than two dozen toothless and nearly toothless prisoners unable to get dentures in contact with the Chronicle over the last year provided similar accounts: Sometimes, they had their teeth removed in prison with the false promise of dentures ahead. Other times they came in with dentures that broke. Since a policy change around 2003, once inmates find themselves toothless, there is often little the prison medical staff will do. In other corrections systems, dental care complaints have spilled over into lawsuits — but Texas prison officials in June said they had no immediate plans for change. “Ultimately, it is a medical decision,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. In Texas prisons, denture policies are set by the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee, a nine-member board including officials and physicians from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the two entities that provide health services to the agency’s inmates — the University of Texas Medical Branch and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The guidelines get revised about every two years, but for at least the past decade, prison policy has only mandated giving out dentures only when “medically necessary” — and chewing is not considered a medical necessity. The policy recommends inmates with fewer than seven teeth be reviewed, but there have to be additional health needs at play to merit serious consideration for one of the few dozen sets of dentures doled out per year. “The patients that we’re really focused on are ones that truly have other challenges,” said Dr. Owen Murray, UTMB’s vice president of offender services, “like patients with head and neck cancer that have had treatment that have changed their construction in that area and then dentures become more about preserving the structure.”

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2018

Former Southwest worker at Hobby alleges 'whites only' break room, discovery of noose

Former Southwest Airlines employee and Harris County resident Jamel Parker has alleged that Southwest Airlines had a whites-only break room at Hobby Airport, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court. The whites-only area existed for years until a recent renovation removed it a couple years ago, according to the lawsuit filed after Parker received his right to sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit lays out a host of discriminatory activities, including Parker being fired for an offense similar to those of white employees who received lesser punishments. "Southwest is quick to fire blacks while whites are given lesser discipline and chances to improve conduct," the lawsuit reads. The lawsuit also described an incident in 2017 where black employees found a noose made of bungee cords at gate 45. Southwest Airlines doesn't comment on matters related to litigation. However, the airline said it works "relentlessly to foster an environment that is diverse and inclusive," and its goal is to support employees and customers from all walks of life. "We do not tolerate or condone discrimination of any kind, and we cultivate a workplace that mirrors the Customers we serve," the airline said in a statement. "Southwest Airlines is an Equal Opportunity Employer and prides itself on an open and inclusive work environment that consistently ranks among the world's best places to work." Parker began working for AirTran Airlines as a ramp agent in September 2008 and became a Southwest Airlines employee in 2013 due to the two airlines merging. He learned about the whites-only break room in 2013. The lawsuit alleges that white employees made their own break room, called "WB" for "White Break Room," and that Southwest Airlines knew about the white break room. Parker's supervisor was aware of the break room's existence. And the only reason the room no longer exists is because a renovation turned that room into a supervisor office in 2016 or 2017.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2018

BP targets Texas for American comeback

At the beginning of this century, the British energy company BP achieved its own American dream, becoming the largest oil and gas producer in the United States after spending a combined $75 billion to buy the oil companies Amoco and ARCO in audacious back-to-back deals.
Now, nearly a decade after Deepwater Horizon, BP is ready to grow again, betting much of its comeback on Texas after completing the biggest energy deal in the world this year.

The future looked bright — but it didn’t last. A series of disasters that began with the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 and culminated in 2010 with the Deepwater Horizon disaster forced BP to sell assets and dramatically shrink its holdings as it paid tens of billions of dollars in cleanup costs, damages and penalties to settle civil and criminal cases. Its pending acquisition of the U.S. shale assets of the Australian mining company BHP Billiton for $10.5 billions puts BP in the Permian Basin in West Texas and the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, and expands its presence in the Haynesville shale in East Texas, positioning itself to compete for the spot as the biggest producer in the United States. If the acquisition pays off, it would likely mean additional growth in Houston, where BP’s U.S. subsidiary is headquartered and the company employs about 4,500 people. Bill Arnold, a professor of energy management at Rice University and former executive at the Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell, said BP appears headed on an upward trajectory again after riding a roller coaster over the past 20 years. “There was a real question of whether the company could even survive,” Arnold said. “But now BP is back and it’s ready for business.” The American comeback is led by Susan Dio, who in May became the first woman to head BP’s U.S. operations. Dio, who began at BP as a chemical engineer and rose over a 35-year career to become president of BP America, will oversee and coordinate BP’s dealings from Alaska to the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. She and her colleagues view Texas as the the clearest path for BP to resume its growth in the United States and catch up with rivals such as Exxon Mobil, which invested billions to expand in the Permian Basin, the nation’s most prolific shale play. With the BHP acquisitions, Texas is now at the center of BP’s global ambitions and Dio a key player in BP’s shift from defense to offense. The British supermajor has more oil and gas producing assets in the United States than any other country. Its Houston campus is its largest outside of London. “We just doubled down in the U.S.,” Dio said in an interview. “We’re now forward looking.”

Houston Public Media - September 19, 2018

How Asian-American Voters could decide the Olson-Kulkarni contest

Election Day is less than seven weeks away, and control of Congress is up for grabs. Texas has long offered something of a firewall for Republicans, with a majority of congressional districts drawn to favor GOP candidates. The state’s 22nd district seems a prime example. “We have a lot of professional-class areas. I think it’s ethnically diverse, but conservative. I mean, it sort of represents the state of Texas very well,” says Scott Bowen, a Republican precinct chair in Clear Lake, near the eastern tip of the 22nd. The district includes suburban neighborhoods in Harris and Brazoria counties, along with most of Fort Bend County. Bowen has lived in the district since incumbent Congressman Pete Olson first ran for office a decade ago. “I don’t think Pete Olson has really had meaningful opposition from the Democrats’ side,” Bowen says. Since beating his Democratic predecessor, Nick Lampson, Olson has won reelection by double digits every time. Before Lampson won the district in 2006, Republicans held it without interruption for 30 years. But Jay Aiyer, who teaches political science at Texas Southern University, thinks 2018 could be different. “The swing in the district has been and would largely be considered the Asian-American community,” Aiyer says. The 22nd has the highest concentration of Asian-Americans of any congressional district in Texas. They comprise a diverse group: Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, and many others. On the whole, they tend to be better educated and more affluent than the average voter. “Asian-Americans in the district, particularly because of income reasons, had voted in the past for Republicans,” Aiyer says. But the GOP’s hard-right stance on immigration and its protectionist shift on trade has alienated many of those traditionally Republican voters. That’s provided an opening for the Democratic candidate: Sri Preston Kulkarni. “The idea that you would have a candidate that can explicitly appeal to them has, I think, some value there,” Aiyer says. “He’s a unique candidate because of his background as a Foreign Service officer. He also happens to speak six languages.”

Houston Public Media - September 20, 2018

Texas school district regrets superintendent's racist comment

An East Texas school district says it regrets a critical comment about the Houston Texans quarterback made by its superintendent. After the Texans Sunday game and reflecting on how quarterback Deshaun Watson held the ball as time expired at the end of the game, Lynn Redden, superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District, wrote on the Houston Chronicle’s Facebook page “You can’t count on a black quarterback.” In a statement that was posted on social media, the school district categorized Redden’s comment as “inappropriate” and the superintendent argues he thought his comment was private. Onalaska is located about 90 miles north of Houston.

Bloomberg - September 20, 2018

Wells Fargo, one of Texas' largest banks, plans to cut up to 10 percent of its staff

Wells Fargo & Co. plans to trim its workforce by about 5 percent to 10 percent within the next three years as Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan works to pull the bank clear of a series of customer-abuse scandals and prop up a lagging stock price.

The San Francisco-based bank had 265,000 employees as of June 30, according to a regulatory filing. Headcount has been declining as Sloan works to clean up the bank and streamline its operations. In Texas, Wells Fargo is the state's fifth largest bank in assets and fourth biggest in deposits, according to the Texas Department of Banking.
Sloan made the announcement to employees at a town-hall meeting Thursday.
"It says something about the revenue environment for them," Charles Peabody, an analyst at Portales Partners, said in an interview. "If they're not in the midst of recognizing that revenues are in trouble, they're anticipating it."
Wells Fargo has been struggling to cut spending amid regulatory fines and higher legal costs stemming from a string of customer abuses that erupted in 2016. The bank has pledged $4 billion in expense reductions by the end of next year.
"We are continuing to transform Wells Fargo to deliver what customers want — including innovative, customer-friendly products and services — and evolving our business model to meet those needs in a more streamlined and efficient manner," Sloan said in a statement.
Sloan, who took the helm almost two years ago during a scandal over falsified accounts, has worked to stabilize the bank. He's shuffled executives and reworked internal controls while traveling the country to espouse a commitment to customer service.

Texas Observer - September 20, 2018

Dan Patrick’s cloistered culture war

In late July, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick made a trip to Washington, D.C., to beg White House officials to send President Trump to Texas to shore up support for Ted Cruz’s embattled re-election campaign, which has quickly become one of the most-watched races in the country. Meanwhile, Patrick has gone to great lengths to ensure that his own campaign flies under the radar. While Cruz has tried to go toe-to-toe on the trail with Beto O’Rourke, the normally bombastic lieutenant governor has largely steered clear of running a traditional campaign of his own. He’s been more than happy to go to the mat for his conservative allies in the Texas Senate — a brief flex of his political muscle in the special election to replace state Senator Carlos Uresti resulted in a massive GOP upset, and burnished Patrick’s conservative majority in the upper chamber. But his own re-election effort is just a rote red-meat operation that hinges more on stoking fear about immigrants on Fox News and boycotting Nike than, say, talking to Texas voters in public. With nearly a month until early voting begins and a 9-point lead in one recent poll, Patrick remains cloistered in the safe confines of his reactionary conservative base — unwilling to have a real conversation about the dismal state of public school finance, ballooning property taxes and gun violence, among a long list of other pressing policy matters. He’s outright refused to debate his Democratic opponent, Mike Collier, because the Houston accountant “shows no sign of grasping even the most basic rudiments of state government,” according to Patrick’s top political aide, Allen Blakemore. For the last several weeks, Collier has sent snarky press releases titled “Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Public Campaign Appearance Schedule This Week.” (There are none.) A few weeks ago, Collier’s campaign deployed a person in a chicken suit to the Capitol in an effort to smoke Patrick out of his hole. “While my opponent continues to dodge voters and hide in his bunker, I am out talking to Texans about all the issues facing our state,” Collier said in a statement. The closest Patrick has come to actual campaigning was when he spent two days earlier this month flying a private jet around the state, stopping at airports in several cities to make speeches to TV cameras in front of a stock background. Apart from local media, it doesn’t appear as though any other people were in attendance at some of the stops. An editorial in the Abilene Reporter-News lambasted him for not even leaving the airport during his stop in town. All the while, Patrick is doubling down on culture war issues. While completely ignoring his opponent’s debate challenges, Patrick successfully goaded Geraldo Rivera into a debate on Fox News after the cable news commentator said conservatives were using the murder of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts as a political prop.

The Eagle - September 20, 2018

Texas woman named first NASA flight director

NASA announced this week that a 1996 Texas A&M University graduate will be the first woman in the agency's 60-year history to serve as chief flight director. Holly Ridings, who graduated from the A&M College of Engineering with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1996, will lead the group that directs human spaceflight missions from the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Ridings grew up in Amarillo and joined NASA in 1998 as a flight controller in the thermal operations group before becoming a flight director in 2005. "Holly has proven herself a leader among a group of highly talented flight directors," Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly said in a NASA press release. "I know she will excel in this unique and critical leadership position providing direction for the safety and success of human spaceflight missions. She will lead the team during exciting times as they adapt to support future missions with commercial partners and beyond low-Earth orbit." Ridings will manage a group of 32 active flight directors and flight directors-in-training who oversee a variety of human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station, American-made commercial crew spacecraft and Orion missions, according to the release. Ridings served as the lead flight director for notable NASA missions including the International Space Station mission Expedition 16 in 2007-2008, the Space Shuttle Program mission STS-127 in 2009, and the first SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft mission to the space station in 2012. Kelly selected Ridings to replace Norm Knight, who has held the position since 2012.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2018

Here’s what Dell’s venture capital arm means for Austin

Austin cybersecurity startup Jask is reaping the benefits of Dell Technologies’ corporate capital venture arm, and other companies like it might soon have the same chance. Dell Technologies Capital, the venture arm of Round Rock-based Dell Technologies, has invested in nearly 90 early-stage startups and completed more than 37 successful exits, including “unicorn” IPOs DocuSign, MongoDB and Zscaler, each valued at more than $1 billion. “There’s so much innovation in so many places that you really have to be embedded in that innovation,” Scott Darling, president of Dell Technologies Capital, said about the decision to create the combined venture capital arm. Darling previously led EMC Corporate Development and Ventures. The combined venture arm, Dell Technologies Capital, was created when Dell acquired EMC in a $67 billion deal in 2016. Dell Technologies Capital frequently invests in areas such as storage, security, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The firm considers 500 to 700 companies each year, with that list then narrowed down to roughly 30 to 40 companies, Darling said. Dell Technologies Capital has already found success in Austin. The firm invested in Jask, an artificial intelligence-powered cybersecurity firm that announced it would open a second headquarters in Austin last year. According to Jask CEO Greg Martin, Dell led Jask’s $12 million Series A funding round with an investment of roughly $9 million. “They’re just incredibly helpful,” Martin said of Dell Technologies Capital. “There’s a lot of avenues if you’re in the enterprise software space to be able to work with Dell to either sell to them or through them as a partner with Dell.” Jask already had plans to move its second headquarters to Austin, but Dell made growth in the city possible. The company plans to hire 80 people in Austin in the next six to eight months, according to Martin. Currently, there are about 100 employees in the company and roughly 60 percent of them are in Austin. “Dell made a huge impact,” Martin said. “They essentially allowed us to get up to 100 employees.” Amber Gunst, interim CEO of the Austin Technology Council, said Jask is the only Austin company that has announced an investment made by Dell’s venture arm so far, but said she expects Dell’s firm and others like it to make an impact in Austin down the road. “Seeing more of that investment in early stage companies gives an opportunity for Austin to grow and for companies to get past that early stage and become established,” Gunst said, adding that it can give startups a longer life cycle.

National Stories

New York Times - September 20, 2018

Women are increasingly doubtful that voters are ready to elect them

Support for women in leadership is high. A majority of Americans say that there should be more female leaders in politics and business; that it would improve the quality of life for everyone; and that men and women are equally qualified to be leaders. Yet despite these beliefs, Americans are skeptical that women will get those chances. These are the findings of a new poll by Pew Research Center on gender and leadership released Thursday. It found that despite the record number of female candidates running in the midterm elections, American women are increasingly doubtful that voters are ready to elect them. They’re even less likely than they were four years ago to think voters are ready for female elected officials. Fifty-seven percent of women now say this skepticism is a major reason that women are underrepresented in high political offices, up from 41 percent in 2014. Just under a third of men say so, a share that is unchanged. Respondents were split, over all, on whether there would ever be equal numbers of men and women at the top levels of politics and business, and women were more pessimistic than men. Why the growing skepticism, even with female candidates’ success in the primaries, and the momentum from #MeToo and the women’s marches? Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid overshadows all that, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. “I think women are probably still stinging from what happened in 2016,” she said. “Whichever candidate was your candidate, the woman with all of the qualifications lost. I think it also confirms what a lot of women have experienced, when they’ve been the most qualified for something and seen it go to a man who is less qualified.” “We’re just feeling beaten down,” she said. Women were more likely than men to say there were too few women in office or leading companies, and to say it was harder for women to get these positions. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say so. The nationally representative survey was of 4,587 adults. Republican men stood out: Only about a quarter of them said there were too few women in leadership. That’s compared with almost half of Republican women, roughly three-quarters of Democratic men and more than 80 percent of Democratic women.

New York Times - September 20, 2018

Evangelical leaders Are frustrated at G.O.P. caution on Kavanaugh allegation

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart. Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days. Dr. Blasey’s lawyers told the committee Thursday that she was willing to testify next week, pending negotiations over “terms that are fair,” but not on Monday as Senate Republicans had wanted. The evangelical leaders’ pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some of them are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies. “One of the political costs of failing to confirm Brett Kavanaugh is likely the loss of the United States Senate,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition who is in frequent contact with the White House. “If Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such an obviously and eminently qualified and decent nominee,” Mr. Reed added, “then it will be very difficult to motivate and energize faith-based and conservative voters in November.” The evangelist Franklin Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most unwavering defenders, told the Christian Broadcasting Network this week, “I hope the Senate is smarter than this, and they’re not going to let this stop the process from moving forward and confirming this man.” Social conservatives are already envisioning a worst-case scenario related to Judge Kavanaugh, and they say it is not a remote one. Republican promises to shift the Supreme Court further to the right — which just a few days ago seemed like a fait accompli — have been one of the major reasons conservatives say they are willing to tolerate an otherwise dysfunctional Republican-controlled government. If Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, and recent political history is any guide, voters will most likely point the finger not at Mr. Trump but at Republican lawmakers.

New York Times - September 20, 2018

With more than 200 LGBT candidates, advocates hope for a ‘rainbow wave’ in the midterms

The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people nominated to run for Congress is four times higher than it was in 2010, a leading advocacy group said, spurred by greater social acceptance of sexual and gender minorities and a surge of liberal energy powered by opposition to the Trump administration. This year, there are 21 openly L.G.B.T. people nominated for Congress and four for governor, all Democrats, according to the L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Fund, a nonpartisan group that supports and tracks gay and transgender political candidates. Eight years ago, the first year the group started tracking candidates, there were only five openly L.G.B.T. people nominated for the U.S. House or Senate — again, all Democrats — and none for governor. Annise Parker, the group’s president and a former mayor of Houston, said the numbers represented a potential “rainbow wave” that she hoped could “transform the U.S. Congress and our governors’ mansions come November.” “It represents an evolution in American politics,” Ms. Parker said, “with voters choosing out L.G.B.T.Q. candidates as the solution to the divisiveness and dysfunction we see in Washington and in many of our state capitals.” Overall, there were more than 430 openly L.G.B.T. people running for office at all levels of government at the start of this year’s primary season. Now that the primaries are over, at least 244 of them have advanced to a ballot in November, including some independents and candidates for nonpartisan positions, the Victory Fund said. More L.G.B.T. women than men are running for Congress this year, the group said, including both of the L.G.B.T. people running for U.S. Senate — Representative Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Four L.G.B.T. candidates, all Democrats, were nominated in governors’ races. For the first time, they collectively represent what the Victory Fund called “the full L.G.B.T. acronym”: Lupe Valdez, a lesbian, in Texas; Jared Polis, a gay man, in Colorado; Kate Brown, a bisexual woman, in Oregon; and Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman, in Vermont. Many of these candidates treat their sexuality and gender identity as assets that complement their criticisms of the Trump administration or policy ideas on subjects like climate change, education or health care. EDITORS’ PICKS They Were Seeking Mental Health Care. Instead They Drowned in a Sheriff’s Van. Agents Tried to Flip Russian Oligarchs. The Fallout Spread to Trump. The Plot to Subvert an Election: Unraveling the Russia Story So Far Ms. Brown, an incumbent, is the only openly L.G.B.T. person ever elected to be the governor of a state. Six members of the House of Representatives are out, and Ms. Baldwin is currently the only lesbian senator. There are currently 576 openly L.G.B.T. elected officials at all levels of government in the United States, amounting to just 0.1 percent of elected positions in the country, the group said. The percentage of American adults identifying as L.G.B.T. rose to 4.5 percent in 2017 from 4.1 percent the year before, according to a Gallup poll released in May.

New York Times - September 20, 2018

Submerged by Florence, North Carolina’s rural towns fight for attention

As the rivers trapped them inside their blacked-out town, the dwindling families of Ivanhoe collected rain to drink in plastic pitchers and flushed the toilets with buckets of rust-colored hurricane floodwater. They salvaged thawing chicken from their broken freezers and cooked it over wood fires. They handed out headlamps at bedtime so their family members could find the bathroom in the bottomless dark. They sweated through the night and wondered how long they — and their little farming town — could bear all this. It has been a week since Hurricane Florence slugged ashore, and as much of the Carolinas picks its way back home to assess the damage, this town at the confluence of the Black and South Rivers was still filling up with water. It is a drain trap for Florence’s record rain and floods, with no power and no roads in or out. “It’s just families, farmland,” said Thomas Brown, whose home was wrecked. “Small town. Why does it matter if we get flooded?” North Carolina is freckled with Ivanhoes, little rural towns that have long struggled to hold on to families and chart their economic future far from the state’s banking and tech hubs, or even from reliable cellphone service. Many lost businesses and residents after being pummeled by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and were limping along before Florence. Now, with the country’s urgent attention slipping away, people in places like Ivanhoe worry about being washed away unnoticed. “It’s all been ripped out from under them again,” said Patrick Woodie, president of NC Rural Center in Raleigh. They worry about being too small and politically insignificant to fight for attention and limited aid. They worry that poor and disabled residents without flood insurance will flee instead of rebuilding. Simple distance is daunting: The closest Home Depot is an 80-mile round trip. “You’re at the bottom of the county and secondary roads everywhere,” said Damarius Hayes, 29, whose family is rooted in tobacco and blueberry farming. “It’s the last place to get checked out.” Ivanhoe isn’t quite a town. It is an unincorporated crossroads of a few hundred people with five churches, a post office, a volunteer fire department, and blueberry and organic vegetable farms. There are some well-off families, but more live near or below poverty. The median household income in 2010 was just $13,000.

Washington Post - September 20, 2018

Ben Carson’s HUD: Political loyalty required, no experience necessary

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded promotions and pay increases to five political operatives with no housing policy experience within their first months on the job, demonstrating what government watchdogs and career staff describe as a premium put on loyalty over expertise. The raises, documented in a Washington Post analysis of HUD political hires, resulted in annual salaries between $98,000 and $155,000 for the five appointees, all of whom had worked on Donald Trump’s or Ben Carson’s presidential campaigns. Three of them did not list bachelor’s degrees on their résumés. The political hires were among at least 24 people without evident housing policy experience who were appointed to the best-paying political positions at HUD, an agency charged with serving the poorest Americans. They account for a third of the 70 HUD appointees at the upper ranks of the federal government, with salaries above $94,000, according to the Post review of agency records. The limited experience at the upper reaches of the agency — HUD Secretary Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has no prior housing, executive or government background — injected confusion into the rollout of policy initiatives and brought delays to even routine functions, according to interviews with 16 current and former career staff members. “This administration is different, because the people coming in really don’t know housing at all,” said Ron Ashford, who retired as director of HUD’s public-housing supportive-service programs in January after 22 years at the agency. “As a result, they’re pursuing initiatives that aren’t grounded in reality.” The Post conducted its analysis of HUD appointees using government information on their salaries and positions through mid-March, obtained through a public-records request from the Office of Personnel Management. The Post also examined HUD documents — including official résumés, internal emails, appointee salaries and job titles, and documentation of promotions and other position changes — obtained as of mid-July by American Oversight, a watchdog group formed last year to investigate the Trump administration, through separate, multiple records requests as well as other publicly available information such as LinkedIn profiles. Under the Obama administration, senior political appointees to HUD were widely recognized housing experts who were tapped to stabilize the agency after the housing market crash. Of the 66 most highly paid appointees, at least seven — 11 percent — appear to have lacked housing-related experience, according to a Post review of the professional backgrounds of those named in the 2012 Plum Book, a compilation of political appointees published every four years. Of the 24 Trump administration HUD appointees without housing policy experience on their résumés or LinkedIn profiles, 16 listed work on either Carson’s or Trump’s presidential campaigns — or had personal connections to their families. They include a former event manager turned senior HUD adviser making $131,767 after a 23 percent raise and a former real estate agent whose new job is to advise a HUD administrator, a longtime Trump family aide who also lacks housing credentials.

Washington Post - September 20, 2018

Dvorak: Millions of women understand Christine Blasey Ford’s decades of silence

The confessions keep coming. My friend shared her #MeToo ordeal this week, inspired by Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were in high school. “I was a preteen when I was first assaulted. Sometimes, it takes decades for victims to come forward,” she wrote on Facebook, in response to a friend who blasted Ford for waiting over 35 years to accuse Kavanaugh of attacking her. My friend waited 40 years to speak up. She broke her silence because she’d had enough of all the doubt being hurled at Ford, the psychology professor now enduring death threats for telling her story. My friend — a fierce reporter — understands Ford’s decades of silence. She was determined to keep quiet even when her assailant died — and even as she was tasked with writing his obituary for the local paper, taking deep breaths and tapping his accomplishments out on the keyboard while burying his secrets with him. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. He was a family friend. Everyone respected him. She didn’t want to destroy his life. And she knew she’d be blamed, as women often are when they are assaulted. Why would he do that? Why were you there in the first place? Did you lead him on? Why is that skirt so short? Button up that blouse. What in God’s name is on your face? Wipe that lipstick off right now. What did my friend’s mom say when she finally told her? “Me too.” Her mother said she was 17, trapped in a D.C. hotel room with a door-to-door salesman her family trusted. We’re good at secrets. And confessions. Sometimes it just takes a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine for them to begin. This week, they’ve been triggered by a Supreme Court nomination: “Graduation party.” “The gym supply closet.” “His parent’s house.” But it’s different now, you say? Not at all. Last month I met with a young woman who said she’d been assaulted when she was a little girl by a dad everyone in the community knows. Her family’s big Christmas parties were dreadful because he was always there, jolly-jingling in her home as one of the guests while she hid in her bedroom. “There were all these other lives I’d hurt if I ever told,” she said.

Washington Post - September 20, 2018

Is this Washington’s golden age of grift? Or politics as usual?

Too many bills in Congress have boring, easily forgettable names. But when Rep. Ted Lieu introduced an anti-corruption bill last week, he chose a catchy title: The E. Scott Pruitt Accountability for Government Officials Act of 2018. The bill, “honoring” the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, makes it illegal for senior government officials to use public office for private gain. Not slap-on-the-wrist illegal. Up to five years in prison illegal. “The Executive Branch isn’t some get rich quick scheme, but many Trump cabinet officials sure act like it,” the California Democrat said in a statement when the bill was released. “The drip, drip, drip of grifting from Trump’s appointees is corroding our Democracy by undermining faith in our institutions.” Grifters is such a harsh term. Are we, as many claim, in the Golden Age of Grift, thanks to a shameless president and his cronies? Or is this all political posturing and outrage, like so many scandals that came before? Pruitt, who was forced to resign this summer, is the subject of more than a dozen investigations into sketchy spending: The $3.5 million tab for a 24/7 security detail, the $50-a-night sweetheart condo rental, the first-class travel, the staff runs for ­Ritz-Carlton moisturizer — all paid for by taxpayers. (Pruitt, in his just-released 2017 financial disclosure report, denied that he received improper contributions or personal gain.) Then there’s Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, accused — among other things — of using that relationship to squeeze millions for his lavish lifestyle. Tom Price, the former secretary of health and human services, resigned after using taxpayer-funded charter flights (no TSA lines for him!), also an issue for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson raised eyebrows by allegedly diverting business contracts to his son. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was reprimanded by the Office of Government Ethics for failing to sell off his stock holdings before taking office. And — breaking news — FEMA head William “Brock” Long is facing a possible criminal probe into misuse of government vehicles for personal trips. A Gallup poll released in May asked Americans what they thought about this administration’s ethical standards. A whopping 59 percent rated them “poor or not good”; only 37 percent deemed them “good or excellent,” the lowest ranking since the poll began more than 30 years ago. Voters, it appears, still think Washington is pretty swampy.

CNN - September 20, 2018

Woman kills 3 before fatally shooting herself at Rite Aid distribution center in Maryland, officials say

A woman killed three people and wounded three others before fatally shooting herself at a drugstore distribution center Thursday in Harford County, Maryland, officials said. A source close to the investigation said the woman was a disgruntled employee. Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler told reporters the woman was a temporary employee and showed up for work at her normal time at the facility near Aberdeen. She shot people outside the building and on the warehouse floor, he said. The woman died at a nearby hospital after shooting herself in the head, he said. She was identified by the sheriff's office as Snochia Moseley, 26, from Baltimore County. Police are still searching for a motive, he added. A law enforcement official briefed on the incident said the suspect was at some point a security guard at the Rite Aid support facility where the shooting occurred. The suspect used a 9 mm Glock pistol and brought several magazines for the gun, Gahler said at a news conference. The gun was hers and was purchased legally, he said. The sheriff wouldn't release any details about the six victims or the shooter, saying that their next of kin were still being notified. No law enforcement officers fired shots during their response, he said. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center received four patients with "priority one gunshot wounds," said spokeswoman Kristin Mears. At a news conference, Ray Fang, the hospital's trauma medical director, said two of the victims were stable and doing well, while two remain seriously injured. All the victims were out of surgery, he said. Fang declined to provide additional information until he was sure all the victims' families had been notified. Rite Aid spokeswoman Susan Henderson said roughly 1,000 employees work at the distribution center, where products are received and processed for delivery. "The shooting happened adjacent to the primary building," she said.

CNN - September 19, 2018

Jeff Sessions moves to further tighten immigration courts as Trump attacks him

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued his efforts to tighten control of the immigration courts with two quiet moves Tuesday night, even as President Donald Trump said he was "not happy" with Sessions on immigration. In one decision, Sessions further constrained the discretion of immigration judges to show leniency to undocumented immigrants. In the other, he signaled he may restrict the ability of immigrants awaiting asylum hearings to be let out of detention. The moves are the latest in a series of steps Sessions has taken to assert his authority over the immigration courts and thus the way immigration law is enforced in the US. The immigration judges' union and the national association for immigration lawyers have decried the moves as threatening the due process rights of immigrants and the independence of judges, while immigration hardliners have hailed Sessions as restoring immigration laws to their original intent. "I don't have an attorney general. It's very sad," Trump said, according to Hill.TV. "I'm not happy at the border. I'm not happy with numerous things." Sessions, however, has been at the forefront of the administration's aggressive immigration agenda, especially in using his unique authority to single-handedly overrule the immigration courts' appellate body and issue interpretations of immigration law. Those binding rulings must be followed by the nation's nearly 400 immigration judges, who are technically employees of Sessions and the Justice Department under US law. On Tuesday, Sessions used that authority to refer himself more cases so he could rule on them. In a pair of linked cases, Sessions ruled that immigration judges are not allowed to use their discretion to terminate or dismiss cases. Under the ruling, only if the Department of Homeland Security decides it no longer wants to pursue the case or the immigrant achieves or proves a legal right to stay in the US can a judge dismiss their deportation case. Judges may not simply decide the case is not worth pursuing further. The move follows a similar ruling Sessions made earlier this year that judges are not allowed to use their discretion to close cases either. Closure effectively ends proceedings but doesn't dismiss the case altogether. "The authority to dismiss or terminate proceedings is not a free-floating power an immigration judge may invoke whenever he or she believes that a case no longer merits space on the docket," Sessions wrote. The executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Benjamin Johnson, called the decision "part of a systematic effort to marginalize the role of immigration judges in their own courtrooms" in a statement.

Wall Street Journal - September 21, 2018

Drugmakers’ free services spur government scrutiny

Federal prosecutors are probing whether big drugmakers including Sanofi, Gilead Sciences and Biogen potentially violated laws by providing free services to doctors and patients, according to a Wall Street Journal review of securities filings. Drug companies say the services, such as nurses and reimbursement assistance, help doctors and patients. But the practices, which have become more prevalent as drugmakers have introduced more complex and expensive drugs, are drawing scrutiny over whether they serve an illegal commercial purpose: inducing sales. Amgen, Bayer and Eli Lilly face whistleblower lawsuits alleging the services are illegal kickbacks. Meanwhile, California’s insurance commissioner this week sued AbbVie accusing the company of providing kickbacks in the form of nursing support and insurance assistance to prompt doctors to write prescriptions for its arthritis drug Humira. AbbVie’s share price has declined about 3% since the lawsuit was filed. The North Chicago, Ill., company said the California allegations, as well as a previous whistleblower lawsuit, are without merit, and that it complies with state and federal laws. It said it provides services for patients once they are prescribed Humira. Bayer and Lilly said the whistleblower lawsuits against them have no merit, and Amgen declined to comment. The lawsuit against AbbVie could have broader implications for the industry because the practices it describes “are similar to what other biopharma companies have also used to help patients start and stay on medications that their doctor prescribes,” Credit Suisse analysts said in a research note. Drugmakers are drawing scrutiny for an ever-widening array of practices that they say help patients, from defraying copay costs to providing disease education. However, prosecutors and critics say such practices, even if helpful, are intended to encourage continued use of specific drugs over alternatives. Additionally, some critics say that such tactics can boost overall health-care costs by pushing higher-priced drugs on people. A federal anti-kickback statute prohibits payments to induce drug prescriptions or other medical care that is reimbursed by government health programs. The Justice Department has probed drug manufacturers’ donations to third-party charities that help pay drug copays for Medicare patients. That practice tends to boost overall sales because Medicare pays the bulk of the cost. Last year, United Therapeutics Corp. agreed to pay $210 million to settle Justice Department allegations related to use of a third-party foundation to pay copays. United Therapeutics didn’t admit liability.

Fox Business - September 20, 2018

Dow, S&P 500 set record highs on Thursday

The Dow and S&P 500 recorded fresh all-time highs Thursday with investors waving off the tit-for-tat exchange of newly imposed trade tariffs placed on U.S. and Chinese goods and focusing on the latest, positive economic data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 251.22 points, or 0.95 percent, to 26,656.98 -- marking the Dow's 100th record close since the election of President Donald Trump and its first since January. The broader S&P 500 jumped 22.8 points, about 0.8 percent, to 2,930.75. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 78.19 points, or 0.98 percent, to 8,028.23. Economic data released Thursday included a reading on weekly jobless claims. The number of Americans filing for first-time jobless claims fell to 201,000 in the prior week, well below the 210,000 estimate and the lowest late 1969. Manufacturing in Philadelphia rebounded in September, jumping to 22.9. Existing home sales were flat in August. The latest round of escalated tariffs has brought a reaction from Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma. Ma is backing down on his promise to create 1 million jobs in the U.S. over the next five years, amid the ongoing trade war between President Trump and China. The billionaire previously told Trump before his inauguration in January 2017 that he would commit to creating new jobs but recanted those sentiments in a Chinese news outlet on the heels of a new round of tariffs this week from both countries. On the U.S.-Canada front, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Wednesday with the two sides still disagreeing on major issues. Two meetings were held. Leaving their afternoon meeting, Freeland told reporters the talks had been constructive and said she would meet Lighthizer again on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Politico - September 20, 2018

Kavanaugh accuser leans on Democratic operative who helped Anita Hill for advice

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers, is being advised by Democratic operative Ricki Seidman. Seidman, a senior principal at TSD Communications, in the past worked as an investigator for Sen. Ted Kennedy, and was involved with Anita Hill’s decision to testify against Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas. “I believe her and I think she’s very courageous for coming this far,” Seidman said in a brief interview, confirming her role advising Ford. She also worked as Joe Biden’s communications director during the 2008 general election campaign, after he was named Barack Obama’s running mate. In 2009, according to her online biography, she helped the White House manage the confirmation of Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Before that, she worked in the Clinton White House as deputy communications director. Democratic operatives in Washington, D.C. have been cautious about linking Ford and her claims to partisan activists working on her behalf over concerns about further politicizing an already complicated case. “[Ford] didn't come at this through anyone political and needs to keep her distance from it," said one Democratic operative. Seidman was brought in to offer personal advice to Ford, a California-based psychologist who has no experience living in the spotlight of a national story, or in the crosswinds of Washington politics. It is not yet clear whether Ford plans to testify in front of Congress. A source familiar with her thinking said she is still making up her mind. Her attorney Debra Katz has said she wants to wait until the FBI completes its investigation into her claims. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has given Ford a Friday deadline to submit her testimony. For now, Ford is not actively preparing for what would be a high-stakes public testimony akin to Hill’s hearings during Thomas’ confirmation, which gripped the entire country almost 30 years ago, according to a person familiar with her activities this week. While Kavanaugh has been huddling with a team at the White House every day for the past week, a source familiar with Ford’s prep said she has not been participating in moot hearings or other mock proceedings.

ABC News - September 20, 2018

Remains of two US soldiers identified from boxes turned over by North Korea

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the remains of two U.S. Army soldiers missing in the Korean War nearly seven decades ago have been identified from the 55 boxes turned over by North Korea this summer. The president tweeted out their names, noting they were "identified as a result of my Summit with Chairman Kim," referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "These HEROES are home, they may Rest In Peace, and hopefully their families can have closure," Trump tweeted. The two soldiers were Master Sgt. Charles Hobart McDaniel and Private First Class William H. Jones who both went missing in November 1950. McDaniel was a medic with the 8th Cavalry Regiment Medical Company, supporting the regiment's 3rd Battalion when he was reported missing in action on November 2, 1950, after his unit fought with Chinese military forces near the village of Unsan in North Korea. Jones was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, who was reported missing on November 26, 1950, after his unit fought Chinese forces near Pakchon, North Korea. Shortly before the president tweeted, Kelly McKeague, the director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) told reporters two of the 55 boxes contained two partial skulls that had dental remains, along with two clavicles. DPAA researchers used dental records, chest x-rays and DNA samples to conclusively identify the remains of the two soldiers. The Army notified both families earlier this week that the remains of their loved ones had been recovered.

Axios - September 20, 2018

Exxon, Chevron join global industry climate group

Some of America’s most powerful U.S.-based oil companies — ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum — are joining a global consortium of oil and gas producers seeking to address climate change, Axios has learned. The companies are the first U.S.-based members of the group, called the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. This is one of the strongest signs yet of how America’s biggest oil companies, under pressure from investors and lawsuits, are joining most other U.S. corporations in working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite President Trump reversing America’s course on the matter. CEOs of most of the group’s 13 member companies, including Saudi Aramco, Shell, BP and Occidental, are scheduled to speak at an event Monday in New York City hosted by the group and facilitated by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, led by former Obama officials. “It will take the collective efforts of many in the energy industry and society to develop scalable, affordable solutions that will be needed to address the risks of climate change," said Exxon CEO Darren Woods, according to a draft release viewed by Axios. Spokespeople for companies involved declined to comment, as did Columbia University. CEOs of Exxon and Chevron likely can’t make Monday's event due to prior obligations, along with CEOs of one or two foreign-based companies, people familiar with the planning say. The group’s purpose is twofold: Work toward cleaner operations, particularly in the area of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s the primary component of natural gas. These efforts are continuing and growing despite Trump repealing methane regulations. Investment in new technologies, for which members contribute to a $1 billion investment fund. The primary goal is to commercialize technologies that capture carbon dioxide, but also include ones like reducing methane emissions, lowering transportation sector pollution and improving energy efficiency. The new member companies will contribute $100 million to the fund, according to a press release issued after publication of this story. The other side: Environmentalists and others skeptical of the industry say commitments by oil companies to address climate change ring largely hollow absent more aggressive action urging governments to price carbon emissions. The group’s mission is expressly not geared toward influencing any government policy.

Rolling Stone - September 20, 2018

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello on the recovery, climate change and Trump

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello is a man at the center of the storm — several of them, in fact. First there was Hurricane Maria, which slammed into the island a year ago today. At the time, Rossello had been in office less than a year. He thought his most important job was going to be convincing his fellow Americans to accept the territory as the 51st state. Instead, Rossello found himself at the center of catastrophic destruction, as well as dealing with a catastrophically inept U.S. president. Despite the fact that President Trump waited 13 days to visit the storm-ravaged island, only stayed a few hours, and tossed rolls of paper towels at suffering Puerto Ricans, Rossello understood that trashing the president wouldn’t help the relief effort. In fact, Rossello actually praised Trump effusively after the hurricane — and Trump returned the favor, calling Rossello “a great guy and leader who is working really hard.” (Trump saved his vitriol for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who had lambasted the poor federal response to the hurricane.) As one Puerto Rican who is close to the governor put it to me, “Rossello hates Trump, but he is smart enough to know that flattery is what’s going to keep the billions of dollars in federal aid flowing to the island.” The dynamic between Trump and Rossello changed, however, after a recent study by George Washington University prompted Rossello to revise the official death toll from Maria from 64 people to 2,975. Trump tweeted that “3,000 people did not die” and that the newly revised death count was “done by the Democrats to make me look as bad as possible.” Like all of Trump’s conspiracy theories, this one is insane. Rossello isn’t even a Democrat — he’s a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. And by increasing the official death toll, he is not just making Trump look bad — he is making himself look bad, too, not only for his role in the mismanagement of the hurricane response but for initially releasing such unrealistically low fatality figures. So far, Rossello’s push-back to Trump has been cool but forceful: “The victims and the people of Puerto Rico should not have their pain questioned.” As a politician, Rossello, 39, is as un-Trump-like as they come. He trained as a scientist (he has a Ph.D in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan) and speaks in a way that suggests logic and rationality are the highest virtues. He understands cellular reproduction much better than he understands the media: On TV, he is often stiff and overeager, looking like an A student called upon to recite his homework. But he is also a person who has kept his head in the face of extreme weather, both natural and political. And when it comes to science-related subjects like climate change, he’s strikingly articulate and well-informed.

Asheville Citizen Times - September 20, 2018

President Trump to North Carolina resident: 'At least you got a nice boat out of the deal'

As part of his trip to the Carolinas to survey storm damage by Florence, President Donald Trump on Wednesday toured homes along River Drive in New Bern, a low-lying neighborhood of brick and clapboard houses that was swamped by the Neuse River. “We’re giving you a lot of help,” Trump said to one resident. “Do you want to see my house? It’s over there,” another resident said, pointing to a badly damaged yellow house across the street. Trump crossed the street to a small brick house, where he stopped to greet an older man in the T-shirt. Behind the house, a large yacht had washed ashore and was shipwrecked against the wooden deck. He gazed at the yacht, saying, “Is this your boat?” The owner said no. Trump turned and replied with smile, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” Speaking to reporters, Trump said the owner told him his insurance company didn't want to pay for the damage to his home. “We’re going to find out,” he said. “We’re going to find out the name of the insurance company.” “I think it’s incredible what we’re seeing,” the president added. “This boat just came here.” During his trip, Trump pledged the full support and finances of the federal government to support states struck by Florence. Minutes after arriving in North Carolina to survey storm damage, Trump vowed “100 percent” backing to Gov. Roy Cooper. Trump twice stressed that, even though the skies above were clear and “beautiful,” the surrounding state was still at risk for flood.

September 20, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2018

Flores wants to bring everyman style of governing to Texas Senate

Pete Flores was standing before a group of Atascosa County tax assessors mid-summer, protesting the valuation of his 1.88 acres in the land of “live oaks and friendly folks,” when they failed to explain why his property was valued higher than his next-door neighbor’s. “I’ll be back,” he said, but as a legislator next time. “And we’re going to fix this.” On Tuesday, the first part of that promise was fulfilled: Flores, a retired colonel of the game warden service, scored a Republican upset in the runoff for Texas Senate District 19, which had been represented by Democrats for more than a century. Despite getting only three hours of sleep, Flores, 58, was visibly energized by his win as he fielded congratulatory phone calls Wednesday in his cactus-print shirt. He was told to expect a call from the president later in the day. On Thursday morning, Flores will appear on “Fox and Friends” and then later at a Sammy’s Restaurant with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd for a town hall. “I’m not really a special guy,” Flores said at his Pleasanton home, surrounded by restored, antique saddles and memorabilia from his 27 years with Texas Parks and Wildlife. “But I’m especially prepared for this moment right now.” The married father of two and grandfather of two said he’s not a billionaire and he doesn’t crave power. The suits in his closet are from Men’s Wearhouse, not Armani. He apologized for the unkempt grass in his yard: “I’ve been busy,” he said. When he heads to Austin, Flores said he’ll aim to bring an everyman brand to governing that is dedicated to solving the everyday problems his constituents face. Flores said he was driven into politics by what he calls vestiges of “patron” politics: Dynastic government officials who feel entitled to their positions and who ruled from San Antonio, taking for granted the 16 other counties that make up Senate District 19. “We are going to represent San Antonio and all of the other counties,” he said. That’s why his campaign gained so much traction in the traditionally Democratic district, he said. It was grassroots and three years in the making — he ran for the same seat in 2016 and lost to Carlos Uresti, who resigned this year after he was convicted of 11 felonies for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme. Flores knew it was a long-shot, but the campaign never stopped working after the 2016 defeat, he said. “If Sam Houston would have listened to the statisticians, he wouldn’t have defeated Santa Anna,” he said. His triumph Tuesday makes the political outsider the first Republican to serve Senate District 19 since the Reconstruction Era and the first Hispanic Republican state senator in Texas history. With Flores’ election, the GOP has the most seats its ever had in the chamber. lores’ six sisters are all teachers, he said, which will make education one of his top priorities in Austin. He said he wants to ensure the state’s spending on schools reaches students and teachers. His primary issue, though, will be the one he broached with Atascosa County assessors in the summer. His Pleasanton land is valued higher than his next-door neighbor’s, he said, and her property is valued higher than her next-door neighbor’s. “Does that make a damn bit of sense?” he asked. Flores said Texas ideally wouldn’t have property taxes, but for now, he’ll fight for a statewide, uniform approach. There shouldn’t be 254 ways to value property, he argued.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2018

Voter turnout in Texas is dead last in America, study finds

Only about one in three Texans line up at the polls during midterm elections, a new study on voter turnout in America finds. In a Washington Post story examining how easy it is to vote in America, Texas came in dead last for voting in midterms. The Lone Star State tied only with Washington D.C., a non-state where residents have no representation in the U.S Senate and House. It's worth repeating: During election cycles where Congressional seats are up for grabs, Texans tied in voter turnout with a federal district that has no members of Congress. To calculate findings, researchers analyzed voter turnout for the 2006, 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. In the last midterm election in 2014, only 28.3 percent of Texas voters went to the polls. According to the Texas Tribune, the low voter turnout can be explained by Texas' large young population, a demographic that votes less frequently than their older, whiter peers. That said, the competitive political climate around the nation may change some of those depressing figures in the upcoming midterm elections. For example, Texas broke early voting records earlier this year due to a surge in Democrat participation.

Star-Telegram - September 20, 2018

Texans say it’s time to move ahead and confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh, new poll shows

A majority of Texas voters say it’s time for the U.S. Senate to go ahead and confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, a new poll released Thursday shows. Fifty-four percent of likely Texas voters — which includes 60 percent of men and 48 percent of women — say senators should move forward with the confirmation, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday morning. “Texans say confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. Republicans agree, with 92 percent in support. But 77 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Independents disagree, the poll shows. And while 67 percent of white voters support Kavanaugh’s confirmation, 87 percent of black voters and 47 percent of Hispanic voters disagree, the poll shows. “His margin of support is 15 points overall, with 67 percent support from white voters,” Brown said. “But Judge Kavanaugh gets only 40 percent support from Hispanic voters and almost no support from black voters.” President Donald Trump earlier this year nominated Kavanaugh to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old appellate judge, lives in Maryland and serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A Yale Law School graduate, he served as a clerk to Kennedy decades ago and worked in the White House under then-President George W. Bush. He’s known by many for having helped with the Starr report during Bill Clinton’s presidency by investigating the death of Clinton’s deputy counsel, Vincent Foster. He also helped make the case for impeaching Clinton. Republicans support Kavanaugh, hoping to move the court further to the right for decades to come. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the D.C. appeals court in 2003, but confirmation took three years.

San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2018

Texas Farm Bureau clarifies employee Nike ban

Following a social media firestorm, the Texas Farm Bureau is on a campaign to clarify a directive telling employees not to sport the Nike logo on company time. News of the nonprofit’s email to employees last week went national after being obtained by Waco television station KWTX. The Farm Bureau is Texas’ largest farm organization, providing government lobbying, information and other services for more than 520,000 members across the the state. It also owns the Texas Farm Bureau insurance company. “There is a wide range of viewpoints on the Nike controversy,” the emailed statement said. “Texas Farm Bureau and Affiliated Companies employees are asked to not wear Nike branded apparel while representing the companies. “We are choosing to remove our companies from this controversy by discontinuing the use of Nike branded apparel for business purposes,” the statement continued. “The attire you choose on your own time is a personal matter.” Reaction on Twitter ranged from “Finally an organization that is standing up for US” and “I may have to switch insurance companies and go with the Texas Farm Bureau” to “REALLY? How are you going to tell people what to wear” and “no more Texas Farm Bureau! So SICK of the rednecks ... going to buy a couple pair of Nikes.” Nike dove into a political divide with its recently launched “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who led others in kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games to protest racial injustice. Following a national outcry and a partially related decline in NFL ratings, Kaepernick has since been effectively banned from the NFL. Farm Bureau Chief Operating Officer Si Cook in a video posted Tuesday said the decision came after members protested employees wearing shirts co-branded with both the Texas Farm Bureau and Nike logos. “We began to get reports from the field that some of our members were taking exception to employee apparel provided by the company,” he said. “We made the collective business decision that we would phase that apparel out.” He emphasized that employees of the Texas Farm Bureau and affiliated companies weren’t banned from wearing Nike branded products.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2018

How a retired game warden defied the odds in Senate District 19

Democrats tried to console themselves after the July 31 special election in Senate District 19. Yes, they conceded, it was disappointing that Pete Flores, a retired Republican game warden from Pleasanton, finished first in this solid Democratic district. But everything would be different in the runoff, they said. After all, the two Democratic heavyweights in the race — state Rep. Roland Gutierrez and former Congressman Pete Gallego — split the Dem vote in the special election and with Gallego getting a one-on-one shot against Flores in the runoff, the planets would realign and order would be restored. Raw numbers supported that theory: Flores received 9,003 votes in the special election, while Gallego and Gutierrez combined for 13,969. Simple math, right? Except for the real-world inconvenience of living, breathing human beings who don’t necessarily adhere to such simplistic assumptions. That’s why Pete Flores did the near-impossible and carried Senate District 19 in Tuesday’s runoff. Democrats should have been worried from the moment the runoff race took shape. Senate District 19, a sprawling 17-county border district that winds its way from the South Side of San Antonio past the West Texas town of Alpine, is familiar ground for Gallego. He won his first political race there in 1990 as a mustachioed 28-year-old prosecutor who knocked off Democratic incumbent Dudley Harrison in Texas House District 68. He held that seat for 22 years and then won a congressional seat in 2012 in U.S. District 23, basically an elongated version of Senate District 19. If, after all that history, all those campaigns, Gallego hadn’t yet closed the deal with the voters in this district, what chance did he have to win their enthusiastic backing in the seven weeks between the special and the runoff? Flores, on the other hand, was still in the process of introducing himself to voters. And after getting endorsements from GOP leaders such as Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the week before the July 31 election, he surged to the finish line, getting more votes than Gallego and Gutierrez combined. After running a bare-bones operation in the first round, Flores suddenly found himself flush with cash from Republican leaders excited by the real possibility of an upset victory. Since July 22, Flores has raised $327,017, nearly half of it in in-kind contributions from Patrick for advertising and polling. In the final weeks, he hit the airwaves hard, with TV ads touting his pro-life, pro-gun conservative credentials and radio spots featuring allies such as former Gov. (and current Energy Secretary) Rick Perry. Gallego offered no TV ads of his own. Flores’s push was most evident in Medina County, a community where Democratic dreams go off to die. The early vote turnout in Medina County was so strong for the runoff that it actually exceeded the entire special-election turnout. Flores took an astounding 81 percent of the Medina County vote, giving him a 3,000-vote cushion that decided the race. Gallego has been a solid public servant over the years, but he’s also an old-school centrist who doesn’t stir passion among young progressives. At the same time, he was just liberal enough for Flores to define as a stooge of U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (a favorite target of the GOP for a solid decade). Gutierrez did nothing to help his fellow Democrat in the runoff, a predictable outcome given the bitter, personal battle they waged in the first round. In addition, Gallego had to face allegations, reported by the Express-News, that he lived outside the district, with his wife and son in Austin. Finally, he faced the residual effects of the corruption scandal that forced the last Democrat in this seat, Carlos Uresti, to resign in disgrace. The conventional wisdom is that this seat won’t stay Republican for long and it’s easy to see Gutierrez coming back for another shot in 2020.

San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2018

Federal judge will allow Uresti to sell personal property, along with house, as debts mount

Convicted felon and former state Sen. Carlos Uresti has received court approval to sell his Helotes estate. Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra on Friday granted a joint request by Uresti and federal prosecutors to partially lift a restraining order so the residential property at 15530 Spur Clip can be sold. At least some proceeds from the sale are expected to go to repay defrauded investors in a startup oil field services company in which Uresti had an integral role. Uresti was convicted earlier this year of 11 felony charges, including securities fraud and money laundering. He was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $6.3 million to FourWinds Logistics’ victims. He was the company’s outside legal counsel, recruited investors and held a 1 percent ownership interest. The San Antonio Democrat’s conviction ended his political and legal careers. Uresti, 55, and his wife, Lleanna, have received an offer for the house that is “acceptable” to them and prosecutors, according to a Friday court filing. The offer was not disclosed, but the house is listed for $1.5 million, down from the original listing amount of $1.7 million. Any remaining proceeds from the sale, after property loans, taxes and sale costs are paid, will be deposited into the court’s registry. The 8,064-square-foot house, built in 2013, features six bedroom and eight bathrooms. “This property is truly captivating, unmatched by its beauty,” the listing on Zillow reads. “Sitting in the master tub watching the Spurs helps to relax after a long hard day.” Following Uresti’s conviction, the government obtained a restraining order to prevent Uresti and those close to him from disposing of assets that could be used to pay FourWinds’ victims. Prosecutors asked for the restraining order after Lleanna Uresti filed for divorce from her husband about a week after his conviction. Prosecutors have questioned the motives behind the divorce, alleging it’s an attempt to avoid having to pay restitution to the FourWinds investors. Juanita Peláez-Prada, Lleana Uresti’s divorce lawyer, has disputed assertions that the divorce is a sham.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2018

Creator of 3D-printed gun, facing sex assault charge, now in Taiwan, police say

Austin police are working with international authorities to bring Cody Wilson, an Austin man at the center of a debate about 3D-printed guns, back to the country from Taiwan to face a sexual assault charge filed in Travis County on Wednesday. Wilson’s last known location was the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, Austin police Cmdr. Troy Officer said. Wilson missed a scheduled flight back to the United States and is thought to have left the country after a friend of the 16-year-old sexual assault victim told him that police were investigating him, Officer said. Police do not know why Wilson went to Taiwan, only that he frequently travels there for business, Officer said. ?Wilson has been entered into a national law enforcement computer for sexual assault of a child, Officer said. The affidavit said a counselor called Austin police on Aug. 22 to report that a girl under the age of 17 told her she had sex with a 30-year-old man on Aug. 15 and was paid $500. In a forensic interview on Aug. 27, the girl told authorities that she created an account on, and began exchanging messages with a man who used the username “Sanjuro,” the affidavit said. The pair messaged online, then began exchanging text messages. “During this conversation, ‘Sanjuro’ identified himself as ‘Cody Wilson.’ Victim said that ‘Sanjuro’ described himself to the victim as a ‘big deal,’ ” the affidavit said. According to the document, Wilson sent the girl images of his penis, and she sent him nude photos of herself. Investigators compared the profile photos used on the account to Wilson’s driver’s license photo, and determined that they were of the same person, the affidavit said. The girl told police that she met Wilson at Bennu Coffee in the 500 block of South Congress Avenue in South Austin on Aug. 15 before they took Wilson’s black 2015 Ford Edge to the Archer Hotel in the 3100 block of Palm Way. Detectives used surveillance footage to corroborate the girl’s story, along with hotel records that showed Wilson rented a room at the hotel, the affidavit said.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2018

Herman: The Abbott/O’Rourke voters explain themselves

One of the more curious gaps in current political polling continues to be the margin between how Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke is running and how the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Lupe Valdez, is doing. The short version is O’Rourke seems to have a shot at winning. Valdez, not so much. So that means some Texans are planning to vote for O’Rourke over GOP incumbent Ted Cruz and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott over Valdez. The most recent poll, a “likely voters” poll published Tuesday by Quinnipiac University, showed Abbott with a whopping 19-point lead over Valdez, and Cruz with a 9-point lead over O’Rourke. Other recent polls had O’Rourke within striking distance. (FYI, for those of you scoring at home, the margin of error on this new poll is 4.1 percentage points.) Earlier this month I ruminated about O’Rourke doing significantly better than Valdez and how the poll numbers mean there are Texans backing the politically odd couple of Abbott and O’Rourke. Some readers told me why. “I plan to vote this way,” Michael Cavazos told me, “mainly because Lupe is not on top of the issues and Cruz is more interested in personal political ambitions than representing Texas.” Bob Dashman, who has doubts about Valdez, is planning to “cast the weird vote.” “I’m not a big fan of Abbott, but I think Valdez is in so far over her head that she doesn’t even realize it,” Dashman told me. “I don’t believe she is qualified to be governor and, if she were elected, the most powerful prism in the state would be (GOP Lt. Gov.) Dan Patrick, which scares me.” And here’s how Dashman feels about Cruz: “I understand that he is supposedly a brilliant constitutional scholar, but I don’t think he understands that every decision he makes affects people. His persona is such that, to me, he seems to be looking down his nose at anyone he speaks to.” Dashman also said he knows little about O’Rourke. But O’Rourke “does something that Cruz is still unable to do: He comes across as a Texan. He cares about people. He’s traveled everywhere in the state. He dresses like I do — he’s not wearing a $2,000 suit. He’s also willing to use a word that Ted seems to regard as a nauseating curse word: compromise.” Brent Gunn, who checked in from Huntsville, said he has “every intention” of voting for Abbott and O’Rourke. “O’Rourke will be the first vote I have ever cast for a non-Republican,” Gunn said. “I have given up on the party that has moved so far to the right, it has left me behind. I suppose I would be labeled an independent now.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2018

HUD Secretary Ben Carson marks public housing milestone in Austin

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced Wednesday that his department has preserved 100,000 public housing units throughout the country, thanks to a five-year-old rental assistance program. Carson made the announcement during a stop in Austin for a ground-breaking ceremony for the latest public housing development, Pathways at Goodrich Place, a 40-unit property serving low-income families that was razed to make way for 120 new apartments. The development is operated by the Housing Authority of the City of Austin in the Zilker neighborhood and will be the 12th Austin housing authority property to benefit from the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Local, state and federal officials, and business leaders joined Carson, who also toured another South Austin public housing property Wednesday afternoon. More than 1,800 affordable housing units in Austin have been preserved and renovated under the federal program, and the housing authority plans to use the program to improve its six other properties. The program uses public and private money to improve public housing properties and tackle a $26 billion “backlog of deferred maintenance,” according to the department. Since the program began five years ago, more than 200,000 people have been housed, nearly $6 billion have been spent on improvements to properties and more than 100,000 jobs have been created, according to the department. “Austin is the place that has taken us over that mark,” Carson said. “It’s a spectacular accomplishment, and it comes at a time in our history and in your city’s history, when affordable housing has never been more important. This has been a major, major priority for myself, and you’ve probably seen that we’ve been looking for ways that we can remove some of the restrictions nationally and some of these zoning ordinances nationally so that we can in fact build more affordable housing, because we have the capacity to do it. We just have to be able to get out of our own way.”

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2018

UTMB Zika vaccine shows promise against aggressive brain cancer

The Zika virus is showing promise fighting the most lethal type of brain cancer, according to Galveston-led research in mice that attempts to harness therapeutic benefits from what’s been called “the infection from hell.” A University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston-led team of scientists reported this week successfully using a harmless version of Zika to target and kill glioblastoma, the common and aggressive cancer that last month killed U.S. Sen. John McCain. The version is a Zika vaccine developed at UTMB. “More work needs to be done, but these findings represent major progress toward developing the Zika vaccine as a safe and effective treatment for human glioblastoma,” said Pei-Yong Shi, a UTMB professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and the study’s lead investigator. “This could be a great example of science’s ability to turn something bad into something useful.” The results of the mouse study conducted by Shi and colleagues in Beijing were published Tuesday in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal mBIO. Experts caution that therapeutic benefits in mice are considered a long way from human treatment. Research that shows great promise in the laboratory fails more often than it succeeds in people. The research combines two dreaded diseases: glioblastoma, which kills more than 15,000 Americans annually and is considered incurable because it recurs after the standard treatment of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy; and the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which became a major public health threat in recent years after it was shown to cause severe birth defects. Babies born to women infected during pregnancy often suffer from a condition known as microcephaly which is characterized by an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain. Shi’s team exploited Zika’s ability to infect developing brain cells to attack glioblastoma stem cells, considered a likely source of the cancer’s recurrence. Like fetal cells, glial stem cells are self-renewing and multiply quickly, properties that Zika targets. UTMB researchers developed the Zika vaccine in 2017 as a preventative against the disease, still a major threat in much of Latin America. The team is negotiating with the government of Brazil to conduct vaccine trials with people at highest risk of contracting Zika. The vaccine has previously been shown to be effective in animal research.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2018

Wait, what? ACA rates going down next year

Something crazy happened on the way to 2019 enrollment for Affordable Care Act insurance plans. Rates went down. After years of teeth-gnashing about unsustainable industry losses and astounding rate increases, insurers in the Houston area have changed course. They say the market has stabilized and, after years of experience, they know more about the people they will cover, which is a key factor in determining rates. One of the most striking examples is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, which filed a request for 2019 to cut rates by about 6 percent for two ACA individual plans after making national headlines by requesting increases for 2017 of nearly 60 percent. Federal officials whittled that request to less than 50 percent, but Blue Cross came back the next year with 24-percent rate increase request, which was reduced to about 20 percent. The rate reductions come, ironically, as the health care law, known as Obamacare, continues to come under attack by the Trump administration and its Republican allies. A lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and joined by 19 other states earlier this year challenges the law's constitutionality. The case is now before a federal judge in Fort Worth but could ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Since Trump took office, his administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have taken multiple steps to undermine the law, such as repealing the penalty for not having insurance and expanding the availability of so-called skimpy plans, which are cheaper but tend to offer limited coverage. Both are seen by critics as siphoning off younger, healthier people from the risk pool and forcing sicker patients to pay higher and higher premiums until they are priced out of the market, leading to an eventual collapse. Earlier this month, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it would dramatically cut grants to help boost 2019 enrollment, with funding in Texas slashed to $1.4 million from about $61 million in 2018. Blue Cross said in a statement that setting rates requires complex calculations that not only capture past experience, but also incorporate predictions of the future. The company, the state’s largest insurer, said it was pleased to request rate decreases, but acknowledged that “ health coverage still remains out of reach for thousands of people in Texas.” More than 1 million Texans signed up for health insurance through the federally run exchange last year, even though the Trump administration cut the enrollment period to 45 days from the previous 90 days. The sixth annual Obamacare enrollment also will last 45 days, running from Nov. 1 and will continue until Dec. 15.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2018

50 years later: Texas vs. Houston, the wishbone, integration and a tie that binds

On a stiflingly hot September night 50 years ago, as the socially fraught year of 1968 tumbled toward autumn, the Houston Cougars and Texas Longhorns played what may have been the most consequential tie game in the history of Texas college football. Nobody won, but everybody benefited. It was the first meeting in a generation between the state's most populous schools, matching Hall of Fame coaches – Bill Yeoman for Houston, Darrell Royal for Texas – running two of the most storied formations in college lore – Yeoman's Houston veer and, in its debut, the three-back wishbone scheme installed at Texas that summer by Royal and offensive coordinator Emory Bellard. The 20-20 tie on Sept. 21, 1968, at Memorial Stadium in Austin launched, albeit haltingly, the most successful run in Longhorns history and, belatedly, played a key role in Houston's eventual admission into the Southwest Conference. It also begat relationships forged in conflict – Texas defensive lineman Mike Perrin trying to sack his future law partner, Houston quarterback Ken Bailey, and Houston linebacker Wade Phillips yelling in frustration at his future coaching compadre, Texas quarterback Bill Bradley – that endure as the 20-something young men of 1968 enter their 70s. "None of us came away with bragging rights from that game," said Texas linebacker Corby Robertson, whose father, Corbin Robertson Sr., helped hire Yeoman as the Cougars' coach in 1962. "But we came away with friendships that continue today." Then, as now, Texas and Houston existed on separate football planes – Texas in the Southwest Conference, Houston as an independent, having fielded its first team in 1946 more than 30 years after the SWC's creation. The schools were worlds apart in other aspects as well. Yeoman was among the first Texas college coaches to recruit an African-American player, Warren McVea, who debuted in 1965. Texas would not lift that barrier until 1970, although Royal had by 1966 tried to recruit several African-American players, including Elmo Wright of Sweeny, who opted for UH. Although Royal was the state's most visible coach, with a national title in 1963 and four conference titles in 11 seasons, the Longhorns had endured three consecutive 6-4 regular seasons and ended 1967 with a 10-7 loss to Texas A&M, their first loss to the Aggies in more than a decade, as quarterback Bradley was intercepted four times. Houston, meanwhile, entered 1968 on the heels of two seasons in the Top 20, including a 37-7 win over a Michigan State team coached by one of Yeoman's mentors, Duffy Daugherty, while running Yeoman's triple-option veer that led the nation in total offense and rushing offense in 1967. "I was looking at a bunch of people who were running the triple option," Bellard said in a 1992 interview. "Houston was running it and running it extremely well, but they had some problems, some of which stemmed from the fact it was difficult to sustain some of the blocks with the alignment they were using. That is where the whole thing started, getting people lined up to run the triple option." "The wishbone was the Houston veer with three backs," Robertson said. "They couldn't sit Gilbert down or sit Worster or Koy down. They were too good. So they invented an offense where all three could play."

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2018

Pete Sessions, Colin Allred clash on tax cuts at Dallas debate as race for Congress intensifies

The candidates for the 32nd Congressional District on Wednesday clashed over the 2017 tax cuts in a Dallas Rotary Club debate that showcased their sharp differences. Incumbent Republican Pete Sessions said the tax cuts, a signature achievement for President Donald Trump, were a boon that turbo-charged the American economy. "There are 9 million more jobs available in America today. We've seen the stock market rise about 40 percent since we passed the bill and, perhaps more importantly, take-home pay increased at the highest rate since the 1970s," Sessions said. "What we're seeing is economic growth across the board." But Allred, a Dallas lawyer and former NFL player, cited the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that the tax cuts would add $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit. He added that the new law helped the rich far more than it did the middle class. "It's going to force us to either make deep cuts to Medicare or Social Security, or we're going to have to pass on that debt to our children and grandchildren," Allred said. "I don't think it represents our values when we pass a tax bill that's going to have 83 cents of every dollar going to people at the very top of our economy." The contest is one of Texas' marquee midterm election matchups. Because of demographic shifts over the past decade, the Republican-leaning district has become more favorable to a strong Democratic candidate. Allred beat six other Democrats to win the right to challenge Sessions in a district that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election. Sessions, who did not have a Democratic opponent, had 30,000 more votes than Clinton. The race has national overtones, with former President Barack Obama backing Allred, and Trump endorsing Sessions. At the debate, Sessions didn't mention Trump often, instead telling moderator and PBS television host Dennis McCuistion that he's a "Ronald Reagan Republican." "I'm interested in our country, our military, and its people living in the shining city at the top of the hill," Sessions said. But Allred said Sessions was more like Trump, pointing out that the incumbent has overwhelmingly supported the president's policies. "I respect the congressman saying he's a Ronald Reagan Republican," Allred said. "Now he's a Donald Trump Republican."

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2018

Why apartment managers really visited Botham Jean's home before he was killed by Amber Guyger

After Botham Jean was shot and killed in his Dallas home by an off-duty police officer, attorneys and law enforcement officials said there was a noise complaint targeting his apartment earlier that day. But it turns out it wasn't loud music that brought leasing office employees to Jean's apartment hours before he was shot at the South Side Flats, an attorney for Jean's family said Wednesday. Rather, it was the smell of marijuana, and they ultimately determined it wasn't coming from Jean's home, attorney Lee Merritt said. Merritt said Jean, 26, was watching football in his apartment Sept. 6 when he was shot and killed by Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger. Guyger, 30, told authorities she mistook his apartment for her own and thought he was a burglar. Jean's fourth-floor apartment was directly above hers at the complex in the Cedars neighborhood, a few blocks from Dallas police headquarters. Police who searched Jean's apartment after the shooting seized a small amount of marijuana, which was documented in a search warrant released last week. It's unclear to whom the drugs belonged or how they got there. The day of the shooting, employees from the South Side Flats leasing office knocked on Jean's door saying there had been a noise complaint, Merritt said. Jean told his girlfriend what happened and that he was offended by the women's visit because he'd just gotten home from work at PricewaterhouseCoopers and wasn't playing music, said a law enforcement official, who isn't authorized to address the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Like law enforcement, Merritt has previously said there was a noise complaint about Jean's apartment the day he was shot. But Merritt said Wednesday that he learned that was not true. Merritt said there hadn't been a noise complaint against Jean in the two months Guyger had lived in the building. Asked about noise complaints, a spokeswoman for the South Side Flats corporate ownership said she couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2018

'This isn't just about three bad actors': The key points of the Mavs sexual harassment investigation and what happens now

Results of a seven-month investigation released on Wednesday confirmed "numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct" in the Dallas Mavericks organization spanning more than 20 years. The investigation, detailed in a 43-page report by investigators Anne Milgram and Evan Krutoy, essentially corroborated and expanded upon accounts brought to light in a Feb. 20 Sports Illustrated story and further detailed through reporting by The Dallas Morning News. The investigation cited no wrongdoing by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban beyond "significant errors of judgment." But Cuban, due to what the investigation and the NBA termed "institutional and other failures," agreed to contribute $10 million to organizations committed to supporting the leadership and development of women and combating domestic violence. The Mavericks organization was not levied any basketball-related penalties. Training camp starts Saturday for a much-anticipated 2018-19 season with rookie Luka Doncic and free-agent-signee center DeAndre Jordan. During an at-times tearful interview that aired Wednesday on ESPN, Cuban apologized to the women who had been victimized during his 18-year ownership tenure. "To the women involved, and the women who were in a couple of cases assaulted," Cuban said. "Not just to them, but to their families. Because this is not just something that's an incident and then it's over. It stays with people, and it stays with families. "I'm just sorry I didn't see it. I'm sorry I didn't recognize it. I just hope that out of this we'll be better, and we can avoid it and we can help make everybody just smarter about the whole thing." The investigation reached these primary conclusions, among others: Improper workplace conduct toward 15 female employees by former Mavericks president Terdema Ussery. Incidents, the report stated, included "inappropriate comments, touching, and forcible kissing." Improper workplace conduct by former Mavericks ticket sales executive Chris Hyde. The report concluded that Hyde made "inappropriate comments to women of a sexual nature," viewed and shared pornographic images and videos, and made unwanted sexual advances and violent and threatening outbursts toward co-workers. Confirmed two acts of domestic violence by former reporter Earl Sneed, including one against a team employee.

Reuters - September 19, 2018

Some gun-toting Texans embrace Democrat's call for tougher firearm laws

Texas cattle rancher Bill Martin is a lifelong Republican who owns more than 20 firearms and has been shooting guns since the age of 6. He is now considering the once-unthinkable: voting for a Democratic Senate candidate who wants tougher gun laws. Martin, 72, has a simple explanation for his change of heart: He is sick of the gun violence plaguing America and his gun-loving state, where 26 worshippers died in a church massacre last year. “Even as conservative as I am, there has to be a middle ground on guns,” said Martin during an interview on his ranch near the city of Carrizo Springs. Martin’s nuanced view on firearms - he loves them but wants to see tougher restrictions - is one U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke hopes is gaining traction in Texas. O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso and the Democratic challenger to Ted Cruz in November’s Texas Senate race, has made reforming gun laws a central part of his platform, calling for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. In previous elections, a Democrat calling for gun reforms in Texas, which has the country’s highest rate of gun ownership, faced almost certain political suicide. But O’Rourke is presenting a serious challenge to Cruz. A Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll released on Wednesday shows O’Rourke having pulled even with Cruz among likely voters. Other recent polling has shown Cruz slightly ahead, and a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday found O’Rourke trailing by 9 percentage points.

Inside Higher Ed - September 19, 2018

Alamo Colleges' Summer Momentum Program yields gains in full-time enrollment

A program that began as a unique initiative to eliminate “summer melt” has also led to increases in the number of students returning to campus and taking on larger course loads to get to graduation quicker. The Alamo Colleges District is two years into its Summer Momentum Program, which officially started in 2017 and provides scholarships for free summer courses at its system of five Texas community colleges to students who earned at least 18 credit hours in the preceding fall and spring. Students who carry between 18- and 24-credit course loads can receive up to six free credit hours in the subsequent summer. The program was created to counter what some academics call “summer melt,” which occurs when students who were enrolled in the spring don't return for the fall semester, and to encourage more students to attend full-time. So far, more than 7,000 Alamo students, about 34 percent of the total student population, have participated in the program each year, according to the district's data. The free courses cost the system about $3 million a year. “We did see higher levels of persistence and we saw slightly higher grade point averages as they persisted compared to those who did not take advantage of the summer momentum program,” said Diane Snyder, Alamo’s vice chancellor for finance and administration and interim vice chancellor for economic and work-force development. At San Antonio College, 42.5 percent of students in the summer program were enrolled during the following fall semester in 2017 compared to 28 percent of students who did not receive the scholarship. Northwest Vista College also saw significant gains in persistence in the first year of the program, with 63.6 percent of students in the summer program enrolling the subsequent fall compared to 43.2 percent of their peers who did not participate in the summer program.

City Stories

The Eagle - September 20, 2018

Origins of Bryan-College Station's SFA campus Bucky the Bronco revealed

As alumni and guests recently toured the former Stephen F. Austin High School and SFA Middle School -- now the new Bryan school district administration building -- one of the main attractions was the return of Bucky the Bronco to the campus. A July 6 post on the Facebook group "You Know You're From Bryan/College Station When....." spurred debate over whether the statue was a gift from the class of 1965 or the class of 1967. The debate was sparked by people commenting on the original Facebook post with some claiming it as 1967's gift, while others were convinced it was from 1965. Dianna Nowak, a 1965 graduate, was not sure because she remembered seeing the bronco statue but could not identify if those memories are from when she was a student or when she worked at the school when it was a middle school. "We've always kind of wondered how we came about it," she said. When she did not see anything in her yearbooks from 1962 to 1965, she called Carolyn Lampo, who found in her 1967 yearbook a page labeled "Lettermen Organize Bronco Club." "It was the lettermen, the cheerleaders and the pep squad [who] sold stickers -- which [I] have no idea what those were, and [Lampo] didn't remember that either -- but stickers in the fall, and that's how they paid for the bronco," Nowak said. Now that the confusion has been cleared, Nowak said, she wants to work on getting a plaque or marker of some sort placed with Bucky so people will know its origins. One of the causes of the confusion, Nowak surmised, was the fact that Bucky has made an appearance at many reunions throughout the years. The class of 1965's 30th reunion in 1995 is Nowak's first picture with Bucky.

National Stories

New York Times - September 19, 2018

Trump says accusations against ‘Justice’ Kavanaugh are unfair

President Trump said on Wednesday that he found a sexual assault allegation against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, difficult to believe and described the furor surrounding it as “very unfair” to the judge. Speaking with reporters before leaving the White House to visit hurricane-ravaged North Carolina, the president again refrained from directly assailing Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, as he has in other instances of sexual misconduct charges, including those lodged against him. But he expressed sympathy for his nominee. “Really, they’re hurting somebody’s life,” he said of the senators considering Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. “Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough, and his family. I think it’s a very unfair thing what’s going on.” During his seven-minute encounter with reporters, Mr. Trump referred to his nominee as “Justice Kavanaugh” three times. Still, the president seemed to leave open the possibility that he might have to find another nominee if the accuser proved believable. “Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision,” Mr. Trump said. “But I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.” Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a university professor in Northern California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh, 53, of pinning her to a bed, groping her, trying to remove her clothing and covering her mouth to keep her from screaming during a party when the two were teenagers in Maryland in the early 1980s. Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation, and the only other person Dr. Blasey said was in the room has also said he does not remember such an assault and had never seen Judge Kavanaugh behave that way. Another high school friend, Patrick J. Smyth, who was identified as also being at the party Dr. Blasey described but not in the room at the time of the alleged assault, said on Wednesday that he does not remember anything like it. “I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh,” he said in a letter being sent on Wednesday to the Judiciary Committee, according to CNN. He added: “I have never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women.” Speaking through her lawyers, Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist, on Tuesday evening all but ruled out appearing at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Monday to hear her allegations. The lawyers said she wanted to cooperate with the committee but that it would be premature for her to testify and that the F.B.I. should investigate first.

New York Times - September 19, 2018

Trump arrives in North Carolina to see Hurricane Florence’s devastation

President Trump traveled to the storm-tossed Carolinas on Wednesday, swooping in to inspect a landscape transformed by howling winds, torrential rains and swollen rivers. Mr. Trump arrived in time to see the soggy aftermath of Hurricane Florence, whose water has proved more devastating than the wind itself. Sixteen rivers in North Carolina are in major flood stage, according to the state’s governor, Roy Cooper, with major highways impassable and the city of Wilmington still largely cut off from the outside world by floodwaters. Later in the day, the president is scheduled to visit South Carolina. “He wanted to see the areas hit the hardest, most impacted by the flooding,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said. “He also wanted to meet with the people from those areas.” Ms. Sanders said Mr. Trump would “get a full overview from state and local officials in both states.” Mr. Trump landed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, on the Neuse River, and took a briefing on the storm’s damage from state and local officials. The Neuse swamped the nearby city of New Bern and is now threatening inland cities like Fayetteville and Kinston. In New Bern, a picturesque town of gracious houses with river views, rescuers plucked more than 200 people from the rising waters. The president walked along River Drive, a low-lying neighborhood of brick and clapboard houses damaged by flooding. Behind one small brick house, a yacht had washed ashore and was shipwrecked against the wooden deck. Mr. Trump spoke to the home’s owner and then with reporters. “I think it’s incredible what we’re seeing,” the president said. “This boat just came here.” “They don’t know whose boat that is,” he added. “What’s the law? Maybe it becomes theirs.” Traveling with Mr. Trump from Washington were Republican senators: Richard Burr and Thom Tillis from North Carolina, and Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott from South Carolina. The secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen; the budget director, Mick Mulvaney; and the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, were also on Air Force One. The president clearly relishes visits to storm-ravaged places. There are urgent briefings by state and local officials, usually accompanied by charts and abundant gratitude for the strong support from Washington. There are dramatic helicopter tours over waterlogged landscapes, and photo-ready visits to battered neighborhoods, where Mr. Trump often banters with the residents as if he were still on the campaign trail. But these visits have also produced some memorably off-key moments. Last summer, the first lady, Melania Trump, raised eyebrows when she emerged from the White House in needle-thin heels for a visit to Texas after Hurricane Harvey (she later changed into sneakers). Mrs. Trump did not accompany her husband on Wednesday.

New York Times - September 19, 2018

Debunking five viral rumors about Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser

Just minutes after Christine Blasey Ford, a California-based psychologist, went public with accusations of teenage sexual assault against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, internet investigators began combing her past for clues about her possible motives, and trying to cast doubt on the veracity of her claims. Since then, Dr. Blasey, as she is know professionally, has been the subject of a torrent of misinformation online. Some viral rumors about Dr. Blasey have been quickly debunked. But false claims have continued to spread on social networks. Here are several of the most visible false and misleading claims about Dr. Blasey, along with explanations of what’s really happening. The claim Dr. Blasey’s students left negative reviews on her profile, calling her “unprofessional” and citing her “dark” personality is false. This viral rumor is based on a case of mistaken identity. The page on which these negative reviews were found is about Christine A. Ford, a professor of human services at California State University Fullerton. Christine Blasey Ford, Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, teaches at Palo Alto University. The claim Judge Kavanaugh’s mother once ruled against Dr. Blasey’s parents in a foreclosure case is false. Internet sleuths quickly zoomed in on a 22-year-old civil court case involving Judge Kavanaugh’s mother, Martha Kavanaugh, a district court judge in Maryland, in which Dr. Blasey’s parents, Ralph and Paula Blasey, were the defendants. Judge Kavanaugh, some said, had ruled against the Blaseys, costing them their house and creating a revenge motive for Dr. Blasey. There was, in fact, a 1996 foreclosure case involving Martha Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey’s parents. But according to CBS News, the Blaseys settled with their bank, and Judge Kavanaugh dismissed the case. Citing court records, Snopes noted that Judge Kavanaugh’s ruling actually allowed the Blaseys to keep their home. The claim: Dr. Blasey made similar sexual assault accusations against Justice Neil Gorsuch during his nomination process is false. There is no known letter sent by Dr. Blasey about Justice Gorsuch, or any other Supreme Court justice. Still, the tweet got more than 7,000 retweets. The claim Dr. Blasey is a major Democratic donor with a long history of left-wing activism is mostly false. It is no secret that Dr. Blasey is a registered Democrat who has given money to progressive organizations and campaigns — these facts were reported by the The Washington Post in the original story naming her as Mr. Kavanaugh’s accuser. But she appears to be far from a big-money donor. According to data from the Federal Election Commission, her donations to Democratic committees and campaigns from 2013 to 2017 total less than $100. In addition, a photo that circulated on social media that purported to be Dr. Blasey holding a “not my president” sign at an anti-Trump rally appears to be misleading. The photo appears on a stock photo website, and the woman in the photo is not identified. The claim Dr. Blasey’s brother worked at a law firm with ties to the Russia investigation is misleading. In a news release, Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group, said that Dr. Blasey was an unreliable accuser because of her family ties to the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The group’s theory, which quickly caught on among internet conspiracists, was that BakerHostetler, the law firm where Dr. Blasey’s brother worked, had once hired a consulting firm called Fusion GPS as part of a Russian money-laundering investigation. Several years later, Fusion GPS subcontracted with a British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to produce the infamous Russia dossier. It is true that BakerHostetler hired Fusion GPS as part of a Russian money-laundering investigation, and that Fusion GPS later worked with Mr. Steele on the Russia dossier. But Fusion GPS has said that there is no link between its work on the earlier case — which involved Prevezon, a Russian holding company based in Cyprus — and the 2016 presidential election.

New York Times - September 19, 2018

Douthat: The Kavanaugh accusation is dangerous for the pro-life movement

“While on the surface it is the embryo’s fate that seems to be at stake,” the sociologist Kristin Luker wrote in 1984, “the abortion debate is actually about the meaning of women’s lives.” This line, from Luker’s book “Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood,” neatly encapsulates a longstanding pro-choice charge against the pro-life movement. As much as opponents of abortion claim to care about the killing of the unborn, the argument goes, in reality abortion restriction is a means to a different end: The restraint of women’s choices, the restriction of their sexual freedom, their subordination to the rule of fathers and husbands and patriarchy writ large. The reality has always been more complicated. From the beginning of the modern anti-abortion movement — whose origins lie in the 1960s, not just the aftermath of Roe v. Wade — it has included female leaders who identify as pro-life feminists and reject the idea that female liberty depends on a right to kill your unborn child. And while the pro-life grass roots tended to be strongly traditionalist on gender roles in the 1970s, with time pro-life and pro-choice citizens converged in their views on women’s roles; by the late 2000s, the Claremont McKenna professor Jon Shields wrote in a 2012 commentary on Luker’s book, a clear majority of pro-lifers voters held views that sociologists would describe as “gender egalitarian,” not traditionalist or Gileadean. At the same time the abortion-rights movement was linked in its early days to a distinctive form of upper-class WASP paternalism — in which legal abortion was sold as a means of helping upper-class “good girls” out of trouble while keeping the undesirable fertility of other classes and races in check. And from Hugh Hefner’s early abortion-rights advocacy to a certain style of predatory male feminism today, support for legal abortion among men has often carried a strong whiff of self-interest, with feticide as a get-out-of-responsibility-free card for caddish men. But with all this said, it’s also obvious that social conservatism can lapse into a version of Luker’s portrait, and it’s easy to think of examples — the Todd Akin fiasco of 2012, for instance — where a cruelly sexist form of anti-abortion politics reared an ugly head. Which is why the allegation of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh represents a uniquely dangerous moment for a pro-life movement that has spent decades working toward the goal of a fifth Supreme Court vote to amend or overturn Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh may be innocent. The allegation against him is plausible but not nearly as dispositive as the cascade of #MeToo claims that have felled other prominent men. If it is false, the work of a faulty or disoriented memory, then he is in a legitimately terrible position, with a lifetime’s reputation for probity at stake and no clear way to clear his name. Which is why the accuser cannot shirk testifying publicly, as her lawyer suggested last night, and expect her claims to keep him from the Supreme Court. But she may testify, and her story may be true. And it has landed at a moment of great cultural peril for a type of social conservatism that regards itself as idealistic and pro-woman and capable of marrying its convictions to support for female advancement and empowerment.

New York Times - September 19, 2018

Trump has put the U.S. and China on the cusp of a new Cold War

President Trump is confident that the United States is winning its trade war with China. But on both sides of the Pacific, a bleaker recognition is taking hold: The world’s two largest economies are in the opening stages of a new economic Cold War, one that could persist well after Mr. Trump is out of office. “This thing will last long,” Jack Ma, the billionaire chairman of Alibaba Group, warned a meeting of investors on Tuesday in Hangzhou, China. “If you want a short-term solution, there is no solution.” Mr. Trump intensified his trade fight this week, imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and threatening to tax nearly all imports from China if it dared to retaliate. His position has bewildered, frustrated and provoked Beijing, which has responded with its own levies on American goods. The diplomatic stalemate has many in the business and policy communities considering the possibility that the United States may be in a protracted and economically damaging trade fight for years to come and wondering what, if anything, America will gain. Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister of Australia and an expert on China, said in an interview that 2018 signaled “the beginnings of a war of a different type: a trade war, an investment war and a technology war between the two great powers of the 21st century, with an uncertain landing point.” Signs of fallout were already apparent: Mr. Ma backed off a pledge he had made in a meeting with Mr. Trump last year to create one million jobs in the United States, telling the Chinese news site Xinhua that “the promise was made on the premise of friendly U.S.-China partnership and rational trade relations,” a premise he said no longer exists. “Trade is not a weapon,” he said. The latest tit-for-tat leaves little room for concessions, at least in the interim, as both countries dig in their heels and China tries to remain strong, despite an economic softening that Mr. Trump clearly sees as an opening to force Beijing’s hand. Chinese growth in investment, factory production and consumer spending have all slowed this year, and its economic growth has slowed alongside. The situation is expected to worsen as effects of the escalating American tariffs ramp up. While the United States made overtures toward China in recent days to talk trade in Washington this month, some officials said they now doubted Beijing would engage again at a high level until after the midterm elections in November, when President Xi Jinping may meet Mr. Trump on the sidelines of an economic summit meeting in Buenos Aires.

Washington Post - September 19, 2018

‘I don’t have an attorney general’: Trump escalates his attacks on Jeff Sessions

President Trump escalated his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, offering a scathing assessment of his performance on the job and in his confirmation hearing. “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump said in an interview with Hill.TV, in which he also said the former senator from Alabama came off as “mixed up and confused” when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2017. Trump has long been publicly critical of Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and said that he has regretted nominating him to lead the Justice Department. But in the Hill.TV interview, Trump offered broader criticism, including on Sessions’s handling of immigration issues, which has been cheered by Trump allies. “I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this,” Trump said, referring to the Russia investigation. Sessions has implemented some of the most aggressive and controversial steps to try to crack down on illegal immigration — emphasizing “zero tolerance” for those who come to the country illegally, defending the policy of separating families, and issuing a ruling that limits those who qualify for asylum, among other things. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday morning. Trump doubled down on his criticism of Sessions as he left the White House on Wednesday morning for North Carolina to survey hurricane damage. “I’m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons, and you understand that,” he told reporters. After taking another public tongue-lashing from the president, Sessions gave a speech Wednesday to law enforcement officials in Waukegan, Ill., in which he effusively praised Trump. “Under his strong leadership, we are respecting police again and enforcing our laws,” Sessions said, according to a written version of the speech. “Based on my experience meeting with officers like you across the country, I believe that morale has already improved under President Trump. I can feel the difference.”

Washington Post - September 19, 2018

The Army is trying to find criminal conduct among immigrant recruits, email shows

The lawsuits and public pressure made it clear: The Army had a problem. In August, it reversed its decision to expel dozens of immigrant recruits who were seeking expedited citizenship by serving in the U.S. military. But days before, on Aug. 13, a military intelligence unit asked Army Reserve attorneys to scrutinize its completed security screening packets for admissions of potential crimes by immigrant recruits, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post. The email is written in a who, what, when, where, why format. The “why” says: "[Immigrant recruits] are currently suing the federal government claiming they were wrongfully discharged from the Army.” Critics say the request appears to be retribution for the lawsuits that helped overturn dozens of dismissals and was intended to legitimize a process beset with legal and bureaucratic problems that have been blamed internally for draining vast resources. “Instead of a good-faith attempt to give due process, it’s done in bad faith,” Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer and immigration attorney, told The Post on Tuesday. The Pentagon acknowledged the email but said the request was not designed to discharge immigrant recruits or charge them with crimes. Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement that “the request for personnel to assist in the review was to ensure we were following federal guidelines and to ensure the packages were complete and accurate given the ongoing MAVNI litigation.” Gleason provided her statement on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she said the reviews were “determined to be unnecessary” two days after initial coordination and the packets were diverted back to Army intelligence officials “for reporting to other agencies.” The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, promises expedited citizenship for badly needed language and medical skills. More than 10,400 immigrants entered the force through the program since 2009, when it was implemented by Stock. It was shuttered last year. The August email followed a tumultuous summer where the Army responded to lawsuits by halting the discharge of recruits while the Pentagon figured out an orderly and fair screening process. Gleason said last month that the Pentagon wants to treat recruits with “dignity and respect.” An unknown number of recruits and reservists have been kicked out after their enlistment because of problems in their counterintelligence screening process — which typically occurs after recruits clear background checks through FBI and police databases, Stock said. The Pentagon has defended the stricter screening measures introduced in 2016, saying 20 MAVNIs have been investigated for national security concerns in the past five years. It will not say if any of those investigations led to charges or action. But what has emerged in recent months is a mosaic of seemingly innocuous reasons for dismissals or for reasons outside a recruit’s control. Many reasons for discharges are connected to their foreign backgrounds — which the Pentagon desired to harness in the first place.

Washington Post - September 19, 2018

Trump says he found inspiration for border wall at memorial for Flight 93 victims

President Trump said he found inspiration for his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexcio border during a visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, which honors the lives of 40 people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “They built this gorgeous wall where the plane went down in Pennsylvania, Shanksville. And I was there. I made the speech,” Trump told Hill. TV. “And it’s sort of beautiful, what they did is incredible. They have a series of walls, I’m saying, it’s like perfect. So, so, we are pushing very hard.” The president’s comments came in an interview conducted Tuesday and were made public Wednesday. Trump traveled to Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11 to pay tribute to the passengers of Flight 93, who disrupted the plan of al-Qaeda terrorists to crash one of their hijacked planes into the U.S. Capitol. Thirty-three passengers, seven crew members and one unborn child died when the plane slammed into an open field there 17 years ago. During his remarks, Trump said the passengers and crew had “joined the immortal ranks of American heroes.” “They attacked the enemy,” he said. “They fought until the very end. And they stopped the forces of terror and defeated this wicked, horrible, evil plan.” On Tuesday, the Senate passed a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 7, aiming to avert a government shutdown and put off a fight over funding for Trump’s border wall until after the midterm elections. The House is expected to take up the bill next week. Senate Democrats have agreed to $1.6 billion for Trump’s wall in 2019, far short of the $5 billion Trump wants. Convinced they do not have the votes in the Senate to get Trump the money he wants, GOP leaders elected to put off a messy fight over Trump’s signature campaign issue until after the midterms.

Washington Post - September 19, 2018

Republicans seem to have the votes to move forward with Brett Kavanaugh

Republicans haven’t officially made the decision to press forward with federal judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, but they appear likely to have the votes to do so. Three key GOP senators have fallen in line with the arguments put forward by their colleagues. They said that Christine Blasey Ford has been given a chance to share the story of her accusation against Kavanaugh in a hearing setting, and encouraged her to testify — even without the FBI investigation she says must come first. “Republicans extended a hand in good faith,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was among the first senators to call for a pause in Kavanaugh’s confirmation when Ford came forward. “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.” The first senator to issue such a call was Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Late Tuesday, he encouraged Ford to testify and noted that the GOP-controlled committee has offered her a private session. “When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so,” Flake wrote on Twitter. “I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.” Flake doesn’t explicitly say that the committee should vote even if Ford still won’t testify without an FBI investigation, but CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that Flake agrees with Corker on that point. And in perhaps the biggest development Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Ford should testify and suggested her options were sufficient. Collins also notably echoed some of her GOP colleagues in criticizing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for not having discussed the matter with her Judiciary Committee colleagues. Feinstein’s decision to wait has been cast as an effort to politicize the process. “I recognize the letter was an anonymous one, but it seems to me the way it was handled it was unfair to both the judge and professor, because it casts a cloud of doubt on both of them,” Collins told WVOM radio.

Wall Street Journal - September 19, 2018

Behind your rising health care bills: Secret hospital deals that squelch competition

Last year, Cigna Corp. and the New York hospital system Northwell Health discussed developing an insurance plan that would offer low-cost coverage by excluding some other health-care providers, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It never happened. The problem was a separate contract between Cigna and NewYork-Presbyterian, the powerful hospital operator that is a Northwell rival. Cigna couldn’t find a way to work around restrictive language that blocked it from selling any plans that didn’t include NewYork-Presbyterian, according to the people. Dominant hospital systems use an array of secret contract terms to protect their turf and block efforts to curb health-care costs. As part of these deals, hospitals can demand insurers include them in every plan and discourage use of less-expensive rivals. Other terms allow hospitals to mask prices from consumers, limit audits of claims, add extra fees and block efforts to exclude health-care providers based on quality or cost. The Wall Street Journal has identified dozens of contracts with terms that limit how insurers design plans, involving operators such as Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, the 10-hospital OhioHealth system and Aurora Health Care, a major system in the Milwaukee market. National hospital operator HCA Healthcare Inc. also has restrictions in insurer contracts in certain markets. The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other developed nation and will soon spend close to 20% of its GDP on health. Americans aren’t buying more health care overall than other countries. What they are buying is increasingly expensive. Among the factors driving spending is the opaque way the price of health care is set, a problem exacerbated by the hidden details in agreements between insurers and health-care providers.

The Guardian - September 19, 2018

'People will die': Obama official's warning as Trump slashes refugee numbers

A former senior government official who oversaw refugee resettlement under Barack Obama warned that the Trump administration’s decision to slash the refugee admissions cap to a record low could have fatal consequences. Bob Carey, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017, told the Guardian the new limit of 30,000 refugees per year and the Trump administration’s justification for the cap was “a new low in our history”. “People will be harmed,” Carey said. “People will die.” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, announced on Monday that in the fiscal year that begins 1 October, the US will only allow up to 30,000 refugees – a sliver of 1% of the more than 68 million people forcibly displaced across the globe. Carey and other refugee advocates said the new limit is part of a systematic effort by the US government to dismantle humanitarian protections for people fleeing violence, religious persecution and armed conflict. And they are concerned other countries will follow the US in dismantling refugee programs. Pompeo’s announcement followed a six-month period where the US forcibly separated more than 2,600 migrant children from their parents, ended its commitment to funding the United Nations’ program for Palestinian refugees and was scrutinized by its own military officials for denying entry to Iraqis who assisted US troops. Carey left his posting at ORR, an office in the health department, when Trump took office in January 2017. He said the refugee program – which is overseen by the health department, department of homeland security and state department – is being “managed to fail”. “It’s really disturbing and tragic,” said Carey, who is now a fellow at the Open Society Foundations. “I think it will ultimately make the world less secure.” Resettlement is what happens after people flee to one county and are then given a chance to start new lives in a third country. Resettlement is not what happens to most refugees: there were 19.9 million people who had fled their home country at the end of 2017, but less than 1% were resettled that year, according to the UN refugee agency.

Rolling Stone - September 19, 2018

Music Modernization Act passes despite music industry infighting

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Music Modernization Act Tuesday evening, despite weeks — or, by some measures, years — of internal music industry turmoil that made the bill’s future seem highly uncertain. Aimed at updating music copyright laws for the digital era, the MMA in the form it’s being passed will accomplish three key things: Making sure songwriters and artists receive royalties on songs recorded before 1972; allocating royalties for music producers; and updating licensing and royalty rules for streaming services to pay rights-holders in a more streamlined way. In short, music-makers will get more money. Music rights groups and executives in the industry are largely cheering the news. The Recording Academy’s CEO Neil Portnow praised the passage as “a historic moment” while National Music Publishers Association president David Israelite called it a “true step forward for fairness,” and several other groups such as the RIAA, ASCAP, BMI, and SoundExchange have all issued statements of approval. But the MMA has not been viewed with such glowing regard across the entire industry. Earlier this year, performing rights organization SESAC made a fuss about an aspect of the bill and started a fight among songwriters, artists and various music rights groups before eventually backing down. Another major industry player, satellite radio giant SiriusXM, has voiced its dissent from the start over a provision that requires the company to pay a new set of royalties on pre-1972 recordings. SiriusXM has argued the provision is unfair, given that terrestrial radio companies do not have that rule imposed on them. On Monday, more than 150 songwriters and artists, including Paul McCartney and John Legend, signed a letter condemning SiriusXM’s disapproval and accusing it of selfishly holding up a bill from which the rest of the industry would benefit. SiriusXM said in a statement Tuesday that it came to an agreement with other industry players to pay half of the performance royalties for pre-1972 recordings, allowing the bill to move forward for unanimous vote.

National Catholic Reporter - September 19, 2018

Gehring and Isler: Systemic racism is pro-life issue, and Catholics must step up

When white supremacists gathered in Washington last month to mark the bloody anniversary of a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. a year ago, demonstrators preaching hate found themselves vastly outnumbered by nonviolent Americans showing up to offer a defiant rejection of racism. The United Methodist Church organized the main faith event in response. Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders took the stage to speak with urgency and eloquence. The strong interfaith display of solidarity summoned the spirit of the civil rights era, and reminded us that progressive advances toward racial equity will again require a moral movement where religious leaders play a leading role. As two Catholics — a black woman and a white man — we found it unacceptable that Catholic bishops were missing in action when white supremacists came to our town. In particular, given their geographical proximity to the rally, the fact that neither Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington or Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, failed to take a few minutes to come stand with other faith leaders left a gaping void from the nation's largest religious denomination. Both Wuerl and Burbidge did write brief responses. "In the face of groups whose messages we deplore and even as they exercise their First Amendment right, we must stand firm in our convictions," Wuerl wrote in rather tepid language that lacked a sense of urgency or specificity. In a statement, Burbidge asked Catholics "and people of good will to pray for peace in our nation," and to be "advocates for those who are victims of discrimination." Prayers and calls for reconciliation are needed, but real leadership requires action, organizing and putting resources behind your rhetoric. The church has set precedents for what social action informed by prayer and faith look like. Catholic bishops are front and center in Washington for the annual March for Life, a gathering that draws thousands of Catholics and other people of faith to protest the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The U.S. bishops' conference even sponsored a "Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life" timed for the Senate confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Bishops and clergy in dioceses across the country have mobilized parishioners to take political action by distributing parish bulletins with specific instructions for contacting lawmakers on religious liberty and right-to-life issues. In July, the president of the bishops' conference, along with other bishops, visited children separated from their parents who are now imprisoned in a detention center at the southern border. Bishops have publicly denounced the administration's immigration policies. Yet, they were nowhere to be seen at the interfaith rally in Washington challenging white supremacists, whose very ideology contradicts the Gospel and the church's proclamation of the dignity of all people. Systemic racism is a "pro-life" issue. If Catholic leaders are willing to hit the streets, carry banners and lobby lawmakers for the unborn, they should also be pouring out of churches to resist the assault on black and brown bodies.

Religion News Service - September 15, 2018

Discovered letter exposes roots of Ronald Reagan’s ‘city on a hill patriotism’

Anyone interested in religion and politics in the U.S. needs to reckon with Ronald Reagan, whose presidency marked the emergence of the religious right onto the national scene. That white evangelicals in 1980 should have turned away from Jimmy Carter, the Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher they had backed four years earlier, to support a nonchurchgoing, divorced Hollywood actor was a remarkable and portentous moment in American political history. Evangelicals have shown themselves capable of voting for candidates who exhibit few of the virtues they require of leaders, not least the current president. But Reagan was the first such candidate, and many still wonder if Reagan was merely an opportunistically seized vessel for the nascent movement of social conservatism that has reshaped American politics. The answer is no. Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty has come up with a hitherto unknown document that shows Reagan the president to have been a man of deep, traditional Protestant faith. It’s a letter he wrote from the White House to his father-in-law, Loyal Davis, when Davis was on his deathbed in August of 1982. Davis, a leading neurosurgeon, was a nonbeliever. Reagan, who was very attached to him, used the letter to try to convince him of the truth of the Christian understanding of Jesus and the world to come. To gain “a greater life, a greater glory,” he concludes, “all that is required is that you believe and tell God you put yourself in his hands. Love, Ronnie.” With its quotations from Scripture, its appeals to biblical prophecy and its expression of personal belief, the letter makes clear that Reagan had lost none of the faith that had shaped him in his youth. Although Reagan’s father was a Roman Catholic and his parents married in a Catholic church, his mother had herself baptized into the Disciples of Christ the year before he was born and brought him up in the church. The Disciples emerged from the early 19th-century Restoration Movement, which was devoted to recovering the basic tenets and practices of the early church. Hoping to transcend denominationalism, they insisted on calling themselves just “Christians.” There can be little doubt that Reagan’s adult worldview harked directly back to what historian Joe Creech has termed the Disciples’ “unashamed city-on-the-hill patriotism.” In other words, it was no accident that Reagan’s favorite political trope was to equate America with the city Jesus evokes in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Not that Reagan came up with this himself. Its source in American rhetoric is the well-known address given by John Winthrop to the Puritans embarking for Boston aboard the Arbella in 1630. In latter-day political discourse, it was employed by President-elect John F. Kennedy in a speech to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1961. But Reagan made it his watchword, using it in announcing his candidacy for president in 1979, in accepting the Republican nomination in 1984 and in bidding farewell to the nation in 1989. The image perfectly embodied his project of restoring America after the country’s defeat in Vietnam and the so-called malaise of the Carter years. Being a city on a hill meant serving as that “light unto the nations” that the prophet Isaiah identified as Israel’s special role in the world and that antebellum restorationists had long since attributed to America.

ProPublica and Stat - September 19, 2018

Black patients miss out on promising cancer drugs

It’s a promising new drug for multiple myeloma, one of the most savage blood cancers. Called Ninlaro, it can be taken as a pill, sparing patients painful injections or cumbersome IV treatments. In a video sponsored by the manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., one patient even hailed Ninlaro as “my savior.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2015 after patients in a clinical trial gained an average of six months without their cancer spreading. That trial, though, had a major shortcoming: its racial composition. One out of five people diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the U.S. is black, and African Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with the blood cancer. Yet of the 722 participants in the trial, only 13 — or 1.8 percent — were black. The scarcity of black patients in Ninlaro’s testing left unanswered the vital question of whether the drug would work equally well for them. “Meaningful differences may exist” in how multiple myeloma affects black patients, what symptoms they experience and how they respond to medications, FDA scientists wrote in a 2017 journal article. The racial disparity in the Ninlaro study isn’t unusual. Reflecting the reluctance of the FDA to force drugmakers to enroll more minority patients, and the failure of most manufacturers to do so voluntarily, stark under-representation of African Americans is widespread in clinical trials for cancer drugs, even when the type of cancer disproportionately affects them. A ProPublica analysis of data recently made public by the FDA found that in trials for 24 of the 31 cancer drugs approved since 2015, fewer than 5 percent of the patients were black. African-Americans make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. population. As a result, desperately ill black patients who have exhausted other treatment options aren’t getting early access to experimental drugs that could extend their life spans or improve their quality of life. While unapproved treatments also carry a risk of setbacks or side effects, new cancer drugs have dramatically shifted outcomes for some patients. Recently approved lung cancer treatments are “revolutionary,” said Dr. Karen Kelly, associate director for research at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Even in the first phase of clinical testing, which is aimed at making sure a drug is safe, 20 percent of cancer patients now see their tumors shrink or disappear, up from 5 percent in the early 1990s, Kelly said.

The Hill - September 20, 2018

Trump's HHS diverting funds from NIH, CDC to pay for increased number of migrant children: report

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reportedly reallocating more than $260 million in funds this year to house the increased number of detained migrant children. According to a letter from HHS Secretary Alex Azar obtained by Yahoo News, nearly $80 million of that funding will be diverted from other refugee support programs, leaving more than $180 million coming from other programs within the department Those diversions include $13 million from the National Cancer Institute, $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and millions from programs within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Yahoo News. The report, which deals with funding for the current fiscal year ending at the end of this month, comes amid heightened scrutiny over the Trump administration’s handling of immigrant families and children. The New York Times reported last week that the number of detained migrant children in the U.S. has skyrocketed under President Trump, from 2,400 in May 2017 to a record-high 12,800 earlier this month. Yahoo News, citing data from HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, reported that there were 13,312 migrant children in federal custody as of Wednesday. Democratic senators have expressed concerns that the need for additional funding for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program has been driven by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which saw the separation of thousands of migrant families at the border earlier this year. HHS also confirmed last week that it was keeping open a “tent city” shelter for migrant children that was originally slated to close in July. The agency said that the need for the shelter’s continuation was not due to the family separations, but because of more children crossing the border alone. According to data obtained by Yahoo News, there has not been a significant increase in immigrant children being taken into custody, but children are spending more time in custody before being released to a family member or sponsor in the U.S.

The Atlantic - September 19, 2018

A new petition from House Democrats could complicate Nancy Pelosi’s future

In a move described as a direct shot at Nancy Pelosi, some Democrats are trying to make it more difficult for one of their own to become speaker of the House. At least 10 Democrats in the lower chamber have signed onto a letter to Caucus Chair Joe Crowley seeking a change to caucus rules that would raise the number of votes required to nominate a candidate for speaker. Current rules mandate that a nominee receive support from only a simple majority of caucus members before advancing to the floor for a vote. The letter requests that threshold be changed to 218, a majority of the House. Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter and New York Representative Kathleen Rice delivered the letter, obtained by The Atlantic, late Wednesday afternoon. Multiple House Democratic sources said the letter has been in the works for the last week. Those sources see it as an attempt to increase the threshold needed for Pelosi, the minority leader, to be the caucus’s nominee for speaker should Democrats take the House in November. While 10 signatures don’t even come close to representing most of the caucus, the figure is nevertheless significant: Only five are needed for a vote on a petition like this one. The proposed rule change will be voted on next week. That’ll put House Democrats in the potentially awkward position of taking sides in the brewing leadership fight. With many Democratic activists and candidates pushing for a change at the top, incumbents have largely tried to avoid declaring their position on Pelosi ahead of the midterm elections. Current rules have promised some level of comfort to Democrats in more conservative districts, who can score political points by voting against her in caucus elections with the knowledge she’d beat a Republican candidate once her nomination reached the House floor. Multiple House Democratic sources predicted the measure would overwhelmingly fail, noting that there is likely no member, currently, who could get 218 votes. Moreover, those sources added, most members with their eyes on a leadership position won’t want to risk alienating Pelosi and her allies. Two senior House Democratic aides told me the move is likely the brainchild of Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, who has openly expressed his desire to take the speaker’s gavel. One of his closest allies, Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge, has been actively recruiting signatures for the letter in the last week.

Associated Press - September 19, 2018

How 65 women came to Kavanaugh’s defense in matter of hours

It started as a series of phone calls among old high-school friends and ended up embroiling 65 women in the firestorm over a sexual assault allegation that could shape the Supreme Court. In a matter of hours, they all signed onto a letter rallying behind high court nominee and their high school friend Brett Kavanaugh as someone who “has always treated women with decency and respect.” And they signed up, whether they anticipated it or not, for becoming a focus of scrutiny themselves. The powerful strength-in-numbers statement, offered to bolster Kavanaugh’s denial of a claim that he attacked a girl at a party during their high school years, has drawn questions from journalists, social media skeptics, even Hollywood figures. How well did the women know him? How could a statement and 65 signatures come together so fast after outlines of the allegation first surfaced publicly? And after subsequently hearing the details and learning that his accuser was a woman some of them knew, do they stand by their declaration? Yes, say more than a dozen signers who have since spoken to The Associated Press or other media outlets. “Brett wouldn’t do that in a million years. I’m totally confident. That would be completely out of character for him,” said Paula Duke Ebel. She said she interacted with Kavanaugh hundreds of times while they were students in a close-knit constellation of single-sex Catholic schools around Washington in the 1980s. Christine Blasey Ford, 51, now a psychology professor in California, said a very intoxicated Kavanaugh cornered her in a bedroom during a party in the early 1980s. She said he pinned her on a bed, tried to undress her and clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She escaped only when a friend of his jumped on the bed and knocked them all over. The letter was released the morning after the allegation first got wide public attention. The letter and its roster of supporters seemed to come at supersonic speed and out of the blue. Women who organized and signed it say it was a rapid response by a social network that endures decades after they graduated. They say it was easy to mobilize: a chain of friends calling, texting and emailing friends from a Washington-area world where many still live and see each other.

Politico - September 19, 2018

Trump taps Darrell Issa to lead trade agency

President Donald Trump on Wednesday named retiring Rep. Darrell Issa to head the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, setting up what could be a contentious confirmation battle in the Senate. As former House Oversight Committee chairman, the nine-term congressman built a name for himself by dogging the Obama Administration for years. He turned the IRS upside-down by accusing top officials of targeting conservative groups for political purposes, led the charge to hold former Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, and accused President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of trying to covering up the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks in 2012. That’s left him virtually friendless on the left, which could be problematic for his confirmation in a chamber with a very slim GOP majority. Trump’s decision to name Issa USTDA director comes just weeks before Issa was set to retire from politics. Due to the changing demographics in his Southern California district, Issa’s once-safe GOP seat has become a top target for Democrats. Issa barely won his reelection last year, squeaking by with only a couple thousand more votes than his Democratic challenger. Issa briefly considered running for Rep. Duncan Hunter’s more conservative neighboring seat should the now-indicted Californian retire. But Hunter refused to budge, promising GOP leaders he was innocent and that his name would be cleared. If confirmed, Issa would take the helm of the trade agency as Trump upends trade deals and tries to renegotiate more favorable terms for the U.S. Issa has been a supporter of those tough trade policies. He frequently appears on Fox News praising the president.

Fox News - September 19, 2018

Senators, aides being targeted by foreign government hackers, lawmaker says

Hackers working on behalf of a foreign government are still targeting the personal accounts of senators and their aides and Senate security isn't stopping it, a Democratic lawmaker said in a letter to U.S. Senate leaders on Wednesday. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., claimed that "at least one major technology company" has warned senators and their staff that their accounts are being targeted by hackers from foreign governments. The Senate Sergeant at Arms (SAA) isn't defending the lawmakers, Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, alleged. A spokesperson from the office told The Associated Press it would have no comment. "Given the signficance of this threat, I was alarmed to learn that SAA cybersecurity personnel apparently refused to help Senators and Senate staff after these attacks," Wyden wrote. The senator said that those who "asked for helped" were told the SAA "may not offer cybersecurity assistance for personal accounts." Wyden argued that the 2016 presidential election "made it clear that foreign governments, including Russia, are leveraging cyberspace to target the fundamental pillars of American democracy," and noted the Trump administration has said Russia is continuing its hacking operations.

September 19, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - September 18, 2018

Political nonprofits must now name many of their donors under federal court ruling after Supreme Court declines to intervene

Advocacy groups pouring money into independent campaigns to impact this fall’s midterm races must disclose many of their political donors beginning this week after the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a long-running case. The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes. With less than 50 days before this fall’s congressional elections, the ruling has far-reaching consequences that could curtail the ability of major political players to raise money and force the disclosure of some of the country’s wealthiest donors. In an interview, FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said that the names of certain contributors who give money to nonprofit groups to use in political campaigns beginning Wednesday will have to be publicly reported. Hunter and other conservatives warned that the decision could have a chilling effect just as the fall midterms are heating up. “It’s unfortunate that citizens and groups who wish to advocate for their candidate will now have to deal with a lot of uncertainty less than two months before the election,” Hunter said. Advocates for stricter regulation of money in politics celebrated the move. “This is a great day for transparency and democracy,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsiblility and Ethics in Washington, which brought the case, said in a statement,” adding: “We’re about to know a lot more about who is funding our elections.” The ruling last month by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell will be challenged on appeal. But in the immediate, the decision forces some major groups on the left and the right to scramble and reassess how they plan to finance their fall campaigns. “Moving forward, these groups will need to disclose to the public any donor that gave money for the purpose of influencing a federal election, regardless of whether they want to sponsor a particular race or specific communication,” said Matthew Sanderson, elections law expert. “Some groups will not need to adjust their approach to raising funds, but this will be a significant change for others.”

San Antonio Express-News - September 18, 2018

Flores defeats Gallego in Senate District 19

Voters elected political newcomer Pete Flores to the Texas Senate on Tuesday, flipping a Democratic district red for the first time in 139 years and bolstering Republicans’ supermajority in the chamber ahead of the November elections. A retired game warden, Flores defeated former state and U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego for the Senate District 19 seat after receiving backing from some of the state’s most prominent politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and U.S. Sens John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. “We conservatives are conservative in the way we make approaches. The gunfight’s not over until the last shot’s fired,” Flores told the Express-News after Gallego conceded in a phone call just before 9 p.m. “The last shot’s been fired.” According the Secretary of State’s website, Flores won with 53 percent of the vote to Gallego’s 47 percent with 44,487 ballots cast. In his victory speech, Flores reflected about the historic significance of his win and the job ahead. “This district has not been Republican since Reconstruction. And in September of 2018, it’s Republican once again,” Flores told supporters. “The work starts tomorrow.” Christian Archer, Gallego’s campaign strategist, said he was shocked by the results, adding that they weren’t able to generate as much excitement as the Republicans. “I don’t have any regrets, but I have a lot of disappointment,” Archer said. Flores’ win marked an incredible upset in a district that political observers said shouldn’t have been competitive for Republicans. Low turnout in special elections and high-level GOP interests in preserving a Senate supermajority helped push Flores across the line, they said. “It will provide a completely unexpected gift for Republicans for the next legislative session,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University. Jones said Flores’ victory all but assured a Republican supermajority next year, which would allow Senate Republicans to bring bills to the floor without any Democratic support “Tonight, I doubt anyone other than Pete Flores is happier than Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick,” Jones said. Indeed, Patrick was jubilant at Flores’ victory party at Don Pedro’s restaurant on San Antonio’s Southwest Side. “Tonight, you all just made history,” Patrick told supporters. “For the first time in history, we have 21 Republican senators. For the first time in history, we have a Hispanic Republican senator.” Patrick, who spent around $175,000 on Flores’ campaign, said the supermajority was secured Tuesday night. “This guy gives us a two-thirds majority,” he said.

Politico - September 18, 2018

Obamacare lawsuit boosts Democrats in state AG races

Democrats believe they have their best chance in years to flip crucial state attorney general seats by trumpeting the same message that drew furious protesters to town halls and to the polls last year: Republicans are trying to take away your health care. These down-ballot races usually fly under the radar, but they are front and center in 2018 as many Democratic officeholders have turned the positions into the cornerstone of resistance to President Donald Trump, challenging dozens of his policies in court, from the separation of immigrant families at the border, to the ban on travel from several Muslim countries, to the crackdown on marijuana sales in states that legalized the drug. With a blue wave already forecast for this November’s midterm elections, and the battle over the Affordable Care Act now playing out in the courts rather than in Congress, Democrats seeking to claim as many as a half dozen attorney general seats are using a lawsuit brought by 20 Republican AGs to abolish Obamacare as a political battering ram — highlighting its threat to the health law’s popular protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The lawsuit has already injected unexpected energy and cash into many of the 30-plus races across the country for state attorneys general — a dozen of which are seen as competitive. Democratic challengers in battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona are attacking the incumbents for bringing the lawsuit and vowing to withdraw their states from the case or join with states defending Obamacare. Many are cutting ads saying the lawsuit could threaten health coverage for tens of millions of people with preexisting conditions, from children with cancer to adult diabetics, and holding rallies featuring people who struggled to obtain insurance before Obamacare due to a health condition. Even in deeply conservative Texas, where the Republican governor is set to coast to an easy reelection, Democratic challenger Justin Nelson has relentlessly hammered the already scandal-plagued state Attorney General Ken Paxton on his role as the lead plaintiff in the case and is now within one point of Paxton in the polls. “I will withdraw Texas from the lawsuit on my first day on the job,” Nelson told POLITICO. “Texas has one of the worst rates of uninsured people and one of the highest rates of pre-existing conditions in the country. We should be the leader in fighting to protect people from insurance companies, but instead we’re the face of the lawsuit to end coverage of pre-existing conditions.” Paxton’s office did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

New York Times - September 18, 2018

Trump sides with Kavanaugh, accusing Democrats of timing sex assault charge to delay confirmation

President Trump falsely charged on Tuesday that Democrats had sought to time a sexual assault allegation against his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, to obstruct his confirmation, siding with the judge as he called for a swift process for airing the accusation on Capitol Hill. “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this,” Mr. Trump said of Judge Kavanaugh, who has been accused by Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychiatrist, of attempted rape at a party in Washington in the 1980s, when both were teenagers. “This is not a man that deserves this.” Judge Kavanaugh has flatly denied the charge. The president attacked Democrats for not having raised the accusation earlier in the confirmation process, when they first learned of it over the summer, arguing that they had deliberately withheld the information to harm him. “Why didn’t the Democrats bring it up then?” Mr. Trump said Tuesday during a news conference at the White House with President Andrzej Duda of Poland. “Because they obstruct, and because they resist. That’s the name of their campaign against me — they just resist and they just obstruct.” “It’s a shame,” he added, “because this is a great gentleman.” In casting doubt on the timing of Dr. Blasey’s accusation, Mr. Trump, himself the subject of sexual misconduct allegations that he has denied, mischaracterized Democrats’ role. They took their cue from Dr. Blasey, who was not willing to go public with her accusation until this past weekend. She contacted a reporter this year about the episode and detailed it in July in a confidential letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. Dr. Blasey had initially asked to remain anonymous, until she came forward this weekend in an interview published in The Washington Post. Mr. Trump, who has been uncharacteristically restrained about the matter in his public statements and on Twitter, said he felt “terribly” for Judge Kavanaugh and did not address his feelings about the alleged victim, Dr. Blasey, to whom he referred as “the woman.” He said senators should hear out both parties and then go forward with a vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. “They will look at his career, they will look at what she had to say — from 36 years ago — and you will see what happens,” Mr. Trump said.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2018

George W. Bush stands by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid sexual misconduct allegation

Former president George W. Bush said he will stand by his former employee and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid an allegation of sexual misconduct, Politico reported Tuesday. "Laura and I have known and respected Brett Kavanaugh for decades, and we stand by our comments the night Judge Kavanaugh was nominated," Bush said in a statement to Politico. Bush previously said Kavanaugh "is a fine husband, father, and friend — and a man of the highest integrity. He will make a superb Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States." Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed her identity as the author of an anonymous letter this weekend. She told theWashington Post that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her when both of them were in high school more than 30 years ago. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation, and is scheduled to testify publicly about the alleged incident on Monday Sept. 24. Ford has said she is willing to testify, but not said whether she will participate in Monday's hearing. Pressure on Senate Republicans to delay Kavanaugh's confirmation process intensified after Ford came forward on Sunday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein had the letter, which requested confidentiality, for weeks before she turned it over to the FBI and fellow Senate Democrats. Ford's lawyer Debra Katz told The New York Times Sunday that Feinstein "did well by [Ford], and we do think that people took this decision away from her, and that's wrong." Kavanaugh worked in the Bush White House for five years as an associate counsel and then staff secretary. As staff secretary, he was responsible for controlling the paper flow to Bush's desk. Documents from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House were a lightning rod for Democrats during public confirmation hearings in early September. The White House declined to allow more than 100,000 documents from Kavanaugh's tenure to be released because the administration considers them protected under presidential privilege. However, Trump did not officially invoke executive privilege.

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2018

Dallas Sen. Royce West hopes new training for Texas drivers, police and high school students will ease tensions

A peaceful protest over the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile turned violent in July 2016, when a gunman took the lives of five Dallas police officers. At the time, Dallas Sen. Royce West called Dallas “ground zero for change” and said he wanted to address the tension between law enforcement and the minority community. The result is a law the Legislature passed last year to require that Texas students, drivers and law enforcement be taught how to behave during traffic stops. He said the bill he wrote focused on traffic stops because Castile was fatally shot by a Minnesota officer while he was reaching for his driver’s license. In July 2015, Sandra Bland was arrested after a traffic stop in Texas and later found dead in her jail cell. “Sometimes people get pulled over and fumble around in their car trying to get their driver’s license, and if you’re a police officer, you may take that the wrong way,” West said. “We want to make sure drivers understand what they should and shouldn't do when they’re stopped and understand their rights.” But critics of the law say that during traffic stops, the onus should be on police. “While in theory this legislation sounds good, it does some victim-blaming,” said Edwin Robinson, director of Dallas-based Faith in Texas, which advocates for racial justice. “It seems like a way of deflecting the conversation from what it really needs to be — police accountability.” The law also wouldn’t prevent a shooting like that of 26-year-old Botham Jean, a black man who was killed in his apartment last week by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. What is the Community Safety Education Act? The law requiring the training program went into effect Sept. 1. The State Board of Education and the Commission on Law Enforcement created the program with help from the Department of Public Safety, Department of Licensing and Regulation and the Austin, Houston and Dallas police departments. In June, DPS incorporated information about expected behavior during traffic stops into driver’s license education and testing. West said anyone in Texas who wants a license will have to read the content, and at least one question on the exam will cover traffic stops. The agency also added instructions to file complaints or concerns. “You need to comply in the streets, but you can complain in the courtroom,” West said. “It’s important for people to know their rights.”

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2018

'Dallas nine' freed from jail after arrests on traffic obstruction charges during Botham Jean protest outside AT&T Stadium

Nine people were released on bail just before noon Tuesday after they were arrested Sunday on traffic obstruction charges during protests outside of a Dallas Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium. They were booked into the Arlington City Jail between 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday and moved Monday to Tarrant County Jail, where they stayed overnight until Tuesday. The people arrested were Stephanie Briant, 29, Darryl Burnham, 31, Miracle Freeman, 29, Arminta Jeffreys, 25, Michael Lowe, 38, Melissa Perry, 33, Davante Peters, 25, Lelani Russell, 25, and Dion Williams, 29. Each had bail set at $100 for the traffic obstruction charge. Lowe was also charged with resisting arrest, for which his bail was set at $200. They were part of a protest that featured around 75 marchers, some of them holding two coffins, outside the stadium ahead of the Cowboys home opener Sunday night. One coffin represented 26-year-old Botham Jean, who was fatally shot Sept. 6 by Dallas Officer Amber Guyger. The other represented Oshae Terry, the 24-year-old killed by Arlington officers a few days before Jean's death. The protesters were arrested about 7:30 p.m. Sunday after they blocked traffic at North Collins Street and East Randol Mill Road outside of AT&T Stadium, said Lt. Christopher Cook, an Arlington police spokesman. Arlington police can't set bail for arrests involving Class B misdemeanor charges or higher, authorities said. Inmates had to first be transferred to the Tarrant County Jail and go before a magistrate to have their bail set, Cook said.

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2018

Rival of Texas bullet-train company blasts Japanese investment, says high-speed rail's private funding plan is 'just a dream'

A competitor of the company trying to build a Dallas-to-Houston bullet-train connection has blasted the notion that a high-speed rail line can be built without public money. "The whole thing is just a dream," said Alain Leray, president of SNCF America, the Maryland-based arm of the French national railway company. "It's not going to happen on private financing." Those remarks came after Texas Central Partners announced last week it had secured a loan of up to $300 million from Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp. for Transport & Urban Development and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Both institutions are backed by the Japanese government. That drew the ire of SNCF, which has a rival plan to bring speedy rail service to the state. The Texas Central "project is right for Japanese companies subsidized by Japanese taxpayers and wrong for Texas," said Scott Dunaway, spokesperson for SNCF America, in a statement Tuesday. "Nowhere in the world have high-speed rail projects become reality without government participation." SNCF America leaders also called on the Texas Legislature to give direction to the high-speed rail policy debate. The company last spring lobbied state legislators to consider its plan to serve the Interstate 35 corridor with "higher-speed" rail, rather than bullet-train technology. Texas Central's Dallas-to-Houston plan calls for the Shinkansen technology used on Japanese bullet trains. Texas Central officials said in a statement Tuesday that the Shinkansen technology is the safest in the world, and that's why the two international financial institutions are backing the project. SNCF America officials said Texans will choose the technology they want, but that Shinkansen "lacks inter-operability" with other rail and sets the Japanese supplier up for a monopoly in the U.S.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2018

Santa Fe parents blast school board for subpar safety, academic standards

A Santa Fe Independent School District board of trustees meeting turned rancorous Monday night, with family members of the victims of a May school shooting berating the board for the district's poor academic performance and inadequate safety measures in the wake of a recent threat against Santa Fe High School students. A group of family members of victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 18, in which 10 people were killed and 13 wounded, claimed that the school district had continually denied them the opportunity to address the board of trustees in a public forum. The group, many of whom wore t-shirts emblazoned with the letter "F", was motivated to pay tribute to the shooting victims after the school district alerted parents on Sept. 6 to a text message threat sent by two Santa Fe High School students that led the Galveston County district attorney's office to investigate. The threat comes less than a month after students returned to the campus to start the school year. The students will face disciplinary action, but the threat incident angered many Santa Fe parents, including the families of victims and survivors of the May shooting. "(The school district's) hands are tied to a certain extent and I completely get that, but when it comes to punishment (for the students that sent the threat), that's in their hands," said Rosie Y. Stone, whose son, Christopher, was killed in the May shooting. The public forum part of the meeting began with Flo Rice, a substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School wounded during the shooting, who calmly approached the lectern using a walker. Surrounded by her husband, Scot, and other parents of victims, Rice read a speech that left many in the audience in tears. "They knocked bombs off of tables and kicked guns out of the shooter's hand; they lay across other students to protect them from bullets; they pry open locked doors to gain an escape route and they ran like hell for help," Rice said. Addressing the board directly, Rice concluded: "These are the people who have my admiration and respect and deserve yours. These are not the victims of May 18, these are our heroes." After a standing ovation for Flo Rice, a family member read the name of each of the 10 victims, ringing a bell that was brought to the lectern after each name. Tension arose when Flo Rice's husband, Scot, began reading the names of the survivors of the shooting, drawing a rebuke from Rusty Norman, the board president, for exceeding the allotted speaking time. At one point, two Santa Fe ISD police officers approached Rice at the lectern, only to stand down when Norman allowed him to read the names of the survivors. "You interrupted us, and there's dead bodies between me and you, and you can't step over them," Scot Rice said. Other family members of Santa Fe victims admonished the school board for the district's poor academic performance on the Texas Education Agency's Accountability Rating System. Santa Fe ISD was not technically rated for the 2017-18 school year after applying for an exemption due to Hurricane Harvey, but if they had been rated they would have received an "F."

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2018

Ted Cruz holds 9-point lead on Beto O’Rourke, new poll shows

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has a comfortable 9 percentage point lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the latest major public poll. While O’Rourke’s national popularity has surged with major television show appearances, his numbers among likely Texas voters have not followed suit, according to the new Quinnipiac University Poll. The poll of 807 likely Texas voters showed 54 percent favored Cruz's re-election while 45 percent sided with O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso. Unlike other Quinnipiac surveys released in previous months, this time the pollsters only questioned likely voters and pushed any undecided respondents to say which way they lean. In an Aug. 1 Quinnipiac poll, Cruz had led O’Rourke 49 percent to 43 percent. “Congressman O’Rourke may be drawing big crowds and media attention, but Texas likely voters like Sen. Cruz better,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. Texas Republicans have been highly skeptical of a bevy of summer polls showing Cruz in essentially a dead heat with O’Rourke. Cruz has questioned the legitimacy of some of the polling while on the campaign trail but has consistently said he believes the race is tight and has warned against complacency in a year that Democrats are fired up.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2018

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick sworn in during formal Houston ceremony

A few months into his job as the top law enforcement officer for a massive quadrant of Texas, Trump administration appointee Ryan Kelley Patrick stood in a field surrounded by hundreds of federal, state and local police officers responding to a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School. Patrick’s well-known father, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and his first deputy recounted the moment as a example of his ability to lead in his role as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. They were part of the public remarks Tuesday as Patrick was sworn into office for a second time to the key federal post, during a formal investiture ceremony in a Houston courtroom before luminaries from the executive and judicial branches. Three of Patrick’s predecessors and two newly-appointed prosecutors from the eastern and western districts of Texas were on hand along with 10 federal judges and magistrates, Patrick’s wife and three young children, his mother-in-law and his parents. Patrick, 39, is a former state district judge and criminal lawyer with no experience in federal court. His father, a GOP stalwart in the conservative culture wars, was an early supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy. Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal acknowledged the family’s history at the U.S. attorney’s ceremony. “He comes from a political family but his current focus is not on politics, it’s on policy,” Rosenthal said. “And that is as it should be as he faces intensely tactical problems of running this large and complicated office in our very large and very complicated district…at a large and complicated time.” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Braley ribbed Patrick from the podium about coming on board in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, enduring a government shutdown in his second week, and noted that Patrick had learned quickly on the border “that building a few miles of fence was really complicated and really expensive.” Braley joked, over the squeals of Patrick’s 1-year-old son, that the office, “introduced him to the concept of ‘zero tolerance’ and he learned that it wasn’t simply a parenting technique.” Because the district has been a focal point amid this highly controversial policy, which separated hundreds of children from parents, Patrick has regularly spoken on the phone with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and sometimes with the Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump, Braley said.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2018

Despite spending $100 million, instruments on canceled lunar rover may never leave Earth’s atmosphere

After NASA sank more than four years and $100 million into a lunar rover just to cancel it earlier this year, officials quelled concerns from the scientific community by saying it would be scrapped for parts to use in the future. But that may no longer be the case. “A lot of good work was done on [the rover] and we want to see what it would take to complete those,” said Steven Clarke, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration. But “there may be some good commercial ideas that do the same science that [the lunar rover] was going to do.” The rover, known as Resource Prospector, was being built by NASA to find water on the moon. But then the space agency abruptly shuttered the project in April after more than four years of work, saying it would rely on commercial companies for future robotic missions to the lunar surface. Now, NASA is asking for bids from companies for those missions. The winners, announced in December and under contract for 10 years, will be tasked with launching instruments and scientific experiments to the moon. In theory, those instruments would be Resource Prospector’s — such as its ice drill, a system to search for hydrogen below the lunar surface, and a tool to quantify water extracted from the moon. But later this month, NASA also is asking for bids for instruments and scientific experiments that would hitch a ride on those landers. Resource Prospector’s instruments may never leave a NASA facility, let alone Earth’s atmosphere. “It all depends on if [the instruments] are viable still, and if it’s still cost effective, as well,” Clarke said. NASA will choose those projects in February, at which point they will be matched up with the landers for a launch to the moon's surface. Contract missions are expected to begin as soon as 2019, but NASA plans a first delivery to the surface no later than Dec. 31, 2021. Resource Prospector was slated to fly in 2022 or 2023.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2018

As utilities pass along tax savings, consumers may miss out

State regulators have forced utilities in Texas to pass along $333 million in federal tax savings by cutting their electric distribution rates, but consumers may never see a dime of that money. The reason is the state’s deregulated power markets. Under the market structure, electricity providers bill for both the cost of the electricity and utility charges for moving power from generators to homes and businesses. Under state law, retail companies can charge their customers whatever they want; they are under no obligation to pass along the savings when utilities lower distribution rates. About 85 percent of electricity customers are in deregulated markets, including Houston. CenterPoint, the regulated utility in the Houston area, is lowering its transmission and distribution costs by $62 million, according to the state Public Utility Commission records So far, the state’s two biggest retail sellers of electricity, NRG Energy and TXU have committed to pass along the tax savings to their customers. But the state’s third largest power retailer, Direct Energy, would not comment on its plans for passing along the tax windfall. Several other companies, including Gexa Energy, Infinite Energy and Our Energy did not respond to requests for comment. “The federal tax cut was a huge gift to retail electric providers and utility companies in Texas,” said Tim Morstad, who follows electricity markets for the AARP in Texas, the advocacy group for older consumers. “We feel that ratepayers should share in that windfall.” State Sen. Kelly Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican who chairs the committee overseeing the Public Utility Commission, sent a letter to the commission earlier this year, urging power retailers to pass along the tax savings from the utilities to consumers, who are “ultimately entitled” to the money. If electricity providers ignore the request, Hancock threatened to file legislation that would give the commission authority to order retailers to pass along tax savings to consumers. For the time being, the Public Utility Commission is hoping that competitive pressure will encourage retail electric providers to pass along their savings, said spokesman Andrew Barlow. But it’s unclear how many retail electric providers will respond in a market that includes dozens of companies offering hundreds of electricity plans. The commission plans to track whether savings from tax cuts flowed to consumers through retail electricity providers as part on an examination of how power markets performed over the summer.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2018

Out of control: Houston is ‘ground zero’ for drunken and drugged driving

Mishann Childers slowed as the flashing lights came into view. Telge Road in northwest Harris County was closed. A crash, a sheriff's deputy said. Someone hit a silver Buick. Her husband, Wayne, drove a silver Buick. He often took that road. Owen McNett's blood-alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit when he crashed into Wayne Childers' car, killing him, police said. Five times before, McNett had been arrested for driving drunk, with two lengthy prison stays. That rainy Friday night in February became the sixth. He had a valid Texas driver's license. Consider the tragedy for the Childers, then multiply it by more than 300 each year. Drivers impaired by booze and drugs are dying — and killing — in the Houston area at a startling rate, an epidemic unchecked by police, prosecutors or public-awareness campaigns. The nine-county region tallied more fatal drunken-driving crashes during the last 16 years than any other major metropolitan area in the country, a Houston Chronicle analysis of federal highway data shows. Drivers and passengers died in more than 3,000 wrecks caused by drunk or drugged drivers, roughly 1,000 more than Los Angeles, which has about twice the population. Among the 12 largest metro regions in the country, only Dallas/Fort Worth — with 2,425 alcohol- or drug-related fatal crashes over the same time period — even comes close. The top two spots show that the cliché holds: Everything is bigger in Texas, including the body count. The Houston region has broader trouble on its roads. The nine-county area is the most deadly major metro area in the U.S. for drivers, passengers and people in their path, the Chronicle reported earlier this month. But the wreckage left behind by impaired drivers is a significant reason that Houston outpaced the others. Since 2010, the Houston area has averaged more than 5,000 crashes caused by impaired drivers annually. That's roughly 14 a day, or more than one every other hour. Fatalities across the region remain above 300 each year.

San Antonio Express-News - September 18, 2018

UTSA plans downtown growth on city and county land

The University of Texas at San Antonio is planning a major downtown expansion on city and county land fueled by millions of dollars in state funding - some already committed, some dependent on future action by the Legislature — and gifts. Mayor Ron Nirenberg, City Manager Sheryl Sculley and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff were set to announce Tuesday their commitment to transfer to the university more than five acres bounded by South Santa Rosa Avenue and Dolorosa, South Flores and West Nueva streets. “This represents a partnership that you rarely ever find in public higher education, where governmental entities like this are behaving in a bold way to do something big and audacious in concert with the university to help realize the opportunity that is before us,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy told the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board in a briefing Monday. The parcels belonging to the city will become the locations of the university’s $33 million National Security Collaboration Center and $57 million School of Data Science. The UT System Board of Regents committed $70 million from the state’s Permanent University Fund at its Sept. 6 meeting for both projects. Businessman Graham Weston has pledged $15 million toward the School of Data Science, the largest one-time personal donation he’s ever given to a single project and the university’s largest cash gift in its history, Eighmy said. Weston has been devoted to rehabilitating downtown and his real estate development firm, Weston Urban, is working with Frost Bank to build its new headquarters downtown, about two blocks north of the proposed UTSA expansion. Weston Urban has accumulated several more acres along San Pedro Creek. “UTSA is building the best data science program in the world,” Weston said in a prepared statement. “It will train the smartest students in the field and make them the hottest commodities in the workforce. We hope that as UTSA creates them, the biggest employers in the world will come to downtown San Antonio to recruit their IT workforces.” Eighmy said details are still being finalized, but Sculley said the university will purchase the city land for $7.3 million with the expectation that the city will donate other property on Frio Street in the future as part of a proposed second phase of UTSA development. Such an acquisition will need approval from City Council, she said.

Daily Texan - September 18, 2018

University of Texas Police Department Sexual Assault Investigation Specialists focus on supporting assault victims

To improve support for sexual assault victims, UTPD’s Sexual Assault Investigation Specialists undergo training to take a more empathetic and understanding approach in helping survivors get through their traumatic experiences. Only 9 percent of all sexual assault cases are reported in Texas, and it is the most underreported violent crime in the U.S., according to the 2017 Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments Survey. UTPD’s Sexual Assault Investigation Specialists receive specialized training to focus on how to work with victims and reduce the stigma attached to reporting sexual assault. When a student reports a sexual assault to UTPD, the specialists, Sergeant Samantha Stanford and Detective Eliana Decker, conduct an interview with the victim, make sure the student’s medical needs are met and provide information on available resources. Evidence, including video footage or witness statements, is collected, and a follow-up interview with the suspect is conducted. Once all interview statements and evidence are collected, UTPD presents those facts to the district attorney’s office to determine whether or not the case can move forward. Stanford said one of the goals of UTPD’s Sexual Assault Investigation Specialists is to make sure victims know they’re believed and heard. “We’re focusing not only the facts of what happened but also on addressing (victims’) needs, so they can hopefully get some assistance moving forward,” Stanford said. “We really try to focus on how they’re feeling, how the incident has impacted them and try to help them through that.” In April 2016, Stanford was moved into the Criminal Investigations Unit with the intention of receiving training in sexual assault and was later joined by Decker. In June, UTPD Chief David Carter, Stanford and Decker joined the Interagency Sexual Assault Team, or ISAT. ISAT was established by Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore in fall 2017 to bring together police agencies from Travis and surrounding counties that are committed to enhancing the sexual assault criminal investigative process. “It’s important to me to have detectives that students can relate to, and that’s how this all came about,” Carter said. “Our sexual assault investigative specialists are people that fully comprehend the impact of trauma and know how not to act in a judgmental way, allowing the victim to remain in control.”

Texas Observer - September 18, 2018

Inside TPPF's coordinated attack on wind power and a North Texas windfarm

Earlier this year, a Canadian energy producer was poised to build two large wind farms in Clay County, a mostly featureless stretch of plains at the Texas-Oklahoma line. The 300-megawatt project would have bolstered Texas’ growing portfolio of renewable energy, which last year supplied a record 17 percent of the state’s electricity. But then anti-wind farm activists led by John Greer, a Dallas oil investor, swooped into the farming and ranching community to attack the deal. Mounting pressure from Greer, politicians and the nearby Air Force base was enough to convince the project developer, Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., to pull the plug in June. The situation is a case study in how opponents can stop wind projects even as Texas has increasingly embraced renewable energy. Greer, whose companies include Matador Oil and Gas LLC, an energy investment firm, had been trying to kill the wind farms since 2015. He helped form Clay County Against Wind Farms, which put on a series of “informational” sessions in Henrietta, the county seat. Greer told the Observer that he took on wind in order to protect his family’s ranch in Clay County; his business interests have “zero” influence, he said. At one meeting, the group hosted fighter pilots from Sheppard Air Force Base, who told attendees that the turbines would interfere with radar operations, possibly forcing pilot training to be moved elsewhere. Meanwhile, Sheppard press flacks launched a quiet campaign to sway public opinion about the turbines’ “encroachment” into military airspace. Midwestern State University lent them a hand, releasing a report showing that losing Sheppard would devastate the local economy. The university also hosted anti-wind personalities and loaned a classroom for a Texas House committee hearing, where state electric grid operators described an initiative, pushed by Governor Greg Abbott, to require wind farm operators to tell the military about their plans before connecting to the grid. State Representative James Frank, who was vice chair of the committee, helped pass legislation in 2017 to remove tax incentives from wind farms near military bases. In Congress, Senator John Cornyn and now-disgraced former Congressman Blake Farenthold both proffered similar federal laws, though they failed to pass. If anything, the anti-wind effort seems to be reaching gale force. In August, state Senator Donna Campbell appeared on Fox News to warn of a wind development that she said could hinder operations at a naval air base near Kingsville. “It’s a threat that needs to be dealt with,” Campbell said. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is funded in part by oil and gas companies, embarked this year on a campaign to end subsidies for wind farms. The group even took the show on the road to Georgetown, which is 100 percent powered by renewable energy, in an attempt to get leaders there to return to good ol’ fossil fuels.

Star-Telegram - September 18, 2018

Leave Willie alone, says Fort Worth Republican Krause. ‘Texans should be better than this’

Just leave Willie Nelson alone. State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, took to Twitter recently to let Texans know that they don’t have to attack someone just because they don’t like what he or she is doing. These comments came after many took to social media to lambast Nelson for agreeing to perform at a Sept. 29 Austin rally for Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Republican Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat. They called him names such as “socialist commie” and “damn socialist.” Willie Nelson “can Shove his new record...he might as well get a pair of Nikes and an Antifa flag as far as I’m concerned,” Calvin Carr posted on Facebook. “Texans should be better than this,” Krause posted on Twitter. “We’ve come to a place where we can’t merely disagree with someone’s political choice but have to attack & berate them. “I don’t like (Nelson’s) choice either but we shouldn’t resort to name calling. Reflects poorly on our ability to have civil discourse.” This fierce battle in Texas for the U.S. Senate has become one of the costliest — and most watched — races across the country, as many wonder if O’Rourke can manage to do what no other Democrat has done for more than two decades in the Lone Star State: win a statewide office. After his tweet, Krause said he heard from people in both parties and “all over the political spectrum.” He said he didn’t know how many Willie Nelson fans didn’t know he was “a liberal/Democrat.” But he said the reaction to his post “shows folks are fed up with being ‘outraged’ at everything,” Krause told the Star-Telegram. “It happens on both sides of the aisle, and I think most people would like to return to the days of ‘agree to disagree’ instead of what we have today.”

Texas Monthly - September 18, 2018

These are the rural Texas voters enthusiastically supporting Ted Cruz

The folks from the Gonzales area just will not let you forget they live where the Texas Revolution began in 1835 when local citizens stood in defiance of Big Government—or at least in defiance of 100 Mexican dragoons who had arrived to remove the town cannon before it could be used in insurrection. The iconic “Come and Take It” cannon flag has now been co-opted by Second Amendment gun rights supporters across the country, and the folks I met in Gonzales are proud of that. The idea of the little guy standing up to big government is everywhere in Gonzales and was evident as I attended a rally for Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in the “Baker Boys BBQ, Come and Taste It” restaurant. This is really the heartland of Republican Texas. No statewide Republican candidate in the past two elections has gotten less than 70 percent of the vote here. This area once was represented in Congress by one-time Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul, and years ago, on the highway north of here, there was a sign reading: “U.S. out of the U.N.”—no globalists here. When Republican political consultants say the cornerstone of their campaign will be God, Guns and Country, places like Gonzales are what they have in mind. Even as close as we are getting to the November election, I did not expect a large crowd to turn out for a rainy, Saturday-afternoon rally for Cruz. Experience told me there might be somewhere between 65 and 100 people here, but Baker Boys was packed, easily with more than 200 people, whooping and hollering for Cruz. Although this was not the thousand-plus people Democrat Beto O’Rourke had at a Collin County rally the same day, it does say Cruz’s rural Republican base is solid and as enthused as O’Rourke’s supporters. To understand just how important that base is for Cruz, consider this: 4.2 million more Texans voted in the 2016 presidential election than in the 2014 election for governor. Despite that overall increase, Republican Governor Greg Abbott got more votes in 2014 than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016 in 211 mostly rural Texas counties. In total, Abbott got 538,431 more votes than Clinton. O’Rourke’s path to victory rests in the 43 urban and South Texas counties where Clinton outpaced Abbott by about a million votes; however, Clinton carried only 25 of those counties over Republican winner Donald Trump. In those 25 counties, there were 887,000 Democratic votes that were not cast in the 2014 election. O’Rourke needs to get those voters to the polls without prompting an equivalent Republican increase in its voters. With superior fundraising, large crowds, and Beto-mania, that seems possible for O’Rourke. What I saw in Gonzales on Saturday is that Beto-mania also is energizing Republicans. No one at Baker Boys went AWOL—Asleep with open lids—and they reacted with enthusiasm to each of Cruz’s applause lines. Something striking about the Cruz supporters I spoke with is how easily they dropped the word “socialist” to describe O’Rourke. For several decades now, I have heard Republicans refer to Democrats as “liberal,” and sometimes used “socialist” to describe former President Barack Obama. Using this word to describe O’Rourke is a transitional demonization, ratcheting up rhetoric from the idea that O’Rourke has policies they don’t like to the concept that O’Rourke is a threat to their way of life.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2018

Wounded San Antonio soldier gets his dog back

Six weeks ago, Army Spc. Alec Alcoser and his working dog, Alex, turned the corner of a narrow street outside Bagram Airfield just after dawn and saw a young Afghan coming toward them. Two Afghan and three Czech soldiers moved between Alcoser and the civilian to conduct a search while he called the dog back and bent down to get a cigarette. “And that's when the whole world just kinda went upside down. And it was all yellow and orange because of the blast,” said Alcoser, 22, of San Antonio. Alex yelped. Alcoser went down. As a firefight broke out, the dog stayed at his side. “I would yell at him and his ears would twitch, but he wouldn’t look at me,” Alcoser said. “I think he was in a state of shock. He didn’t growl, he didn’t bark, he didn’t cry. He stayed right there.” On Friday, they were together once more, this time at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. It was an emotional reunion, with the Harlandale High School graduate wiping tears from his eyes at one point and Alex licking his face. It was the first time they had seen each other since both were in Washington, D.C., where both received the Purple Heart. And if all goes well in rehab over the next few months, they’ll be together for good, buddies until the end. They were close in Afghanistan, where Alcoser was six and a half months into a nine-month deployment when they got hurt. They were together pretty much everywhere Alcoser went, except the dining hall. On his days off, they slept in the same bed together, rising late and enjoying the leisure time. On duty days, they had rituals. “On a day with a mission, we’d wake up, I would give him a doggie treat, and I would have some ice cream before we went out, and when we got back, we usually slept,” Alcoser recalled. “That was a normal day for me and Alex out there,” he said, adding that a taste for sweets was born of his association with troops in special operations forces. “It was kind of their thing to eat a sweet because you never know if that’s going to be your last when you go out.”

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2018

Criticized by some former employees, Irving ISD superintendent calls it quits with no explanation

Irving ISD Superintendent Jose Parra abruptly resigned Monday without a public explanation, ending his four-year tenure at the school district effective Friday. Parra will remain a district employee until March 31 to help with the transition, according to a voluntary separation agreement that wasn't made public Monday night. But a district statement reads the agreement is in the board's and Parra's "respective best interests." The district's board of trustees unanimously accepted Parra's resignation at a special-called meeting Monday. Parra sat mostly expressionless among board trustees during a work session that preceded the meeting, and then exited the chambers before his resignation was considered. Despite some grumbling about Parra from former employees, trustees expressed "sincere appreciation" for his tenure. "Success requires hard work, dedication, leadership and vision," board president Randy Randle read during the meeting as part of a joint statement. "The board and Dr. Parra wish to acknowledge and recognize the teachers, principals, administrators, staff, students, parents and patrons who have all contributed to the district's success." But several former employees who attended the meeting and applauded at the announcement of his resignation said Parra's tenure was one of intimidation, too little communication, a negative culture and a constant sense that everyone was "replaceable." "It went from people-focused to no focus," said Beverly Wilson, who retired in 2014 several months after Parra arrived as district math coordinator, after almost three decades at Irving ISD.

National Stories

New York Times - September 18, 2018

Christine Blasey Ford wants F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh before she testifies

The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first. Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.” Republicans signaled Tuesday night that they would not negotiate an alternative date and would go ahead with the hearing without her or declare it unnecessary if she refuses to appear, then possibly move to a vote. They have repeatedly stressed that Monday would be Dr. Blasey’s opportunity to testify, either privately or publicly, and that they planned to move forward with the confirmation process afterward. The apparent standoff was yet another turn in a high-stakes drama over the president’s second Supreme Court nominee that began Thursday, when the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee revealed that she had referred the sexual assault allegations to federal investigators. Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist in Northern California, has accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than 30 years ago when they were teenagers at a boozy high school party, a charge that he has categorically denied. In a letter sent to the committee on Tuesday evening, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers charged that some senators have already “made up their minds,” but she did not explicitly reject appearing before them. In an appearance on CNN, however, one of the lawyers, Lisa J. Banks, seemed to suggest that Dr. Blasey would not show up on Monday. “She’s not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday,” Ms. Banks said. Even if Republicans agreed to an F.B.I. investigation, it would take time to complete, she added. “No legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday.” Democratic leaders quickly endorsed Dr. Blasey’s position, but her resistance to coming to the committee on Monday seemed to harden the resolve of Republicans who said they gave her a chance to make her case. “Republicans extended a hand in good faith,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of the Republicans who insisted on postponing a vote until she could be heard. “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.”

New York Times - September 18, 2018

Trump’s growing legal team has a problem: It’s operating partly in the dark

Nearly a dozen lawyers now assist President Trump in contending with two federal investigations, one in Washington and one in New York, that could pose serious threats to his presidency and his businesses. But the expanding legal team is struggling to understand where the investigations could be headed and the extent of Mr. Trump’s legal exposure. The lawyers have only a limited sense of what many witnesses — including senior administration officials and the president’s business associates — have told investigators and what the Justice Department plans to do with any incriminating information it has about Mr. Trump, according to interviews with more than a dozen people close to the president. What is more, it is not clear if Mr. Trump has given his lawyers a full account of some key events in which he has been involved as president or during his decades running the Trump Organization. Another potential problem for Mr. Trump emerged Friday when his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. It is not publicly known what, if any, damaging information about the president Mr. Manafort can give prosecutors — Mr. Trump’s lawyers insist he has none — but his cooperation brings a new level of uncertainty. Mr. Manafort spent considerable time with Mr. Trump and his family during the 2016 presidential campaign, including attending a meeting with Russians offering negative information on Hillary Clinton, and has had extensive business dealings with Russians close to the Kremlin. His plea brings to four the number of former close associates of Mr. Trump who have agreed to cooperate with Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the election and obstruction of justice by the president. And while Mr. Trump’s lawyers insist Mr. Mueller has nothing on their client about colluding with Russia, they are bracing for him to write a damaging report to Congress about whether the president obstructed justice.

Washington Post - September 18, 2018

‘We need help’: N.C. towns plead for dam, levee upgrades after second major flood in two years

Paddling through the swamp that was once her front yard Tuesday morning, Megan Curry saw this waterlogged community through the eyes of someone who had lived there all her life. That trash-strewn waterway was really a paved road. Those submerged shingles were the roof of the shed that held Curry’s childhood Christmas ornaments. And this sodden structure — with its walls buckling, its stairs crumbling, its floorboards detached from the foundation and floating in a foot of water — this was home. It was the house her grandfather built, on land her great-great-grandparents cleared, the house her family had finished repairing just 11 months ago in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. But out there was the Lumber River, normally so distant it’s not even visible through the trees, now sloshing into her living room for the second time in as many years. All Curry could think was, “Again.” It had happened again. When it inundated North Carolina in 2016, meteorologists called Hurricane Matthew a “500-year rain event,” the kind of downpour that was likely to occur once every half-millennium. But then, just two years later, here came Florence, a “1,000-year event” that hit all the same places in all the same ways, if not harder. “This can’t keep happening to us,” said Charles Gregory Cummings, mayor of Pembroke, 10 miles upriver from Lumberton. “We know what to do, but we need help.” Local officials say improvements recommended in the aftermath of Matthew must be implemented in the wake of Florence so their communities will be ready when the next hurricane comes. But some residents wonder whether it is worth the risk to stay. Cummings was sworn in amid the deluge from Hurricane Matthew two years ago. After local canals and drainage systems backed up during the 2016 storm, contributing to flooding in 70 percent of the town, Cummings worked with researchers at the local campus of the University of North Carolina to develop a plan for mitigating future disasters.

Washington Post - September 19, 2018

‘Why didn’t she bring it up?’: Feinstein under scrutiny for handling of allegations against Kavanaugh

Twenty-six years after she won a Senate seat in the “Year of the Woman,” Dianne Feinstein stands as a central figure in deciding the fate of Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose Supreme Court nomination is in jeopardy after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. Feinstein has been a lightning rod for loud criticism from President Trump and quieter frustration from some fellow Democrats after she disclosed she received a letter in July from the woman that she did not share with Senate colleagues and federal law enforcement until last week. The episode has put the 85-year-old senator from California, who is seeking a sixth term in Nov­ember, in the middle of a fast-moving and explosive cultural, political and social firestorm charged by forces of the #MeToo movement and Trump’s divisive presidency. As Kavanaugh forges ahead and denies the allegation, Feinstein is under some of the most intense scrutiny of her career, with Trump bluntly accusing her Tuesday of timing her bombshell revelation to sink his nominee. “When Senator Feinstein sat with Judge Kavanaugh for a long period of time — a long, long meeting — she had this letter. Why didn’t she bring it up?” Trump said. “Why didn’t the Democrats bring it up then? Because they obstruct and because they resist. That’s the name of their campaign against me.” Now, Feinstein faces a legacy-defining moment as one of the most powerful women in the country and the first to hold several prominent posts. As the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein is helping her party prepare for an unprecedented public hearing scheduled for Monday at which Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, have been invited to testify. The hearing was cast into uncertainty late Tuesday, as the lawyers for Ford said in a letter to the Judiciary Committee that an FBI investigation of the alleged sexual assault should come first. Feinstein quickly issued a statement saying the Senate should respect Ford’s wishes and “delay this hearing.” Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) disputed that the FBI would need to investigate before Ford appeared before the committee and said in a statement: “The invitation for Monday still stands.”

Washington Post - September 19, 2018

North Korea leader offers to dismantle nuclear test site — but only after U.S. acts

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered Wednesday to permanently dismantle the country’s main nuclear site, but only if the United States makes concessions first. The leaders of the two Koreas have been meeting in Pyongyang in an attempt to push forward their peace process, as well as advance dialogue with the United States. Standing side by side after their second day of talks, they declared that they had made a major step toward an “era of peace and prosperity” on the Korean Peninsula. Kim pledged to visit the South Korean capital, Seoul, in what would be a first for a North Korean leader. He also pledged to allow in “external inspectors” to verify that a key missile test site has been disabled. The talks were supposed to enhance cooperation between the two Koreas, as well as pave the way for a second summit between Kim and President Trump later this year. Experts said it was far from clear that Kim had made concessions that would make a summit an attractive proposition for the U.S. administration, but Trump himself reacted positively, calling the news “very exciting” on Twitter. “We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat,” Kim said. “The road to our future will not always be smooth, and we may face challenges and trials we can’t anticipate. But we aren’t afraid of head winds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation.” Talks between the United States and North Korea have reached an impasse over who should make the next move. Washington wants Pyongyang to take a meaningful step toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program. North Korea, however, is pushing for the United States to declare the 1950-1953 Korean War formally over, and claims Trump made a promise to that effect in Singapore during a summit with Kim in June. In a joint statement, North Korea pledged to “permanently dismantle” a missile engine test site and launchpad at Tongchang-ri “in the presence of experts from related countries.” That is a site he had already promised to close, although allowing in foreign inspectors would be a step forward.

Washington Post - September 18, 2018

Milbank: Texas creates the perfect curriculum for the Trump age

I tip my 10-gallon hat to the Texas school board, which just voted to “streamline” the public-school curriculum in a way that will surely Make America Great Again. The board, on which Republicans have a two-thirds majority, agreed with recommendations that it is “not necessary” for students to learn about Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller or the father of modern conservatism, Barry Goldwater, the Dallas Morning News reported. Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Friedan were also deemed “not necessary” by a working group, which undertook an intriguing ranking of historical figures: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln fell short of perfect scores, but “local members of the Texas legislature” scored a perfect 20 of 20, as did “military and first responders.” The board decided to save 40 minutes of third-graders’ time by sparing them a lesson on how government services are paid for. But it did preserve the one teaching that “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict.” My favorite: the decision to strike from the fourth-grade curriculum a lesson about “holding public officials to their word.” (Killing this topic, deemed “not being grade appropriate,” should save kids 30 minutes, the board estimates.) Some will take this as evidence that politicians should not write lesson plans. But I think Texas has done a great service. Indeed, if we are to survive the current era without succumbing to terminal cases of cognitive dissonance, we must eliminate all lessons, at all grade levels, on “holding public officials to their word.” (For maximum relief, it would also help to strike all lessons involving “math” or “economics.”) Abandoning the obsolete teaching that public officials should be held accountable would make us all feel better about current affairs. Applying the veil of ignorance to our eyes, we would no longer be troubled to discover that: Despite President Trump’s promise that the $1.5 trillion tax cut would not benefit rich people, the rich can now write off 100 percent of their multimillion-dollar corporate jet purchases — double their previous benefit, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Brookings Institution - September 17, 2018

Bridgeland and Duncan: Free college for all will power our 21st-century economy and empower our democracy

Education beyond high school is essential for Americans to prosper in the 21st century. Looking into the past, we have seen the majority of those earning a college degree or other postsecondary credential achieve higher earnings, quality of life, civic engagement, and other positive outcomes. Looking ahead, we see a new future where the vast majority of jobs will require some level of postsecondary education. From either perspective, it’s clear that “college for all” should become our national aspiration. The question is how best to achieve that goal. Many of the success stories that produced these good outcomes for individuals and our country are the result of Americans who got their postsecondary education and training for free in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. The Rice Institute, now Rice University in Texas, was free to its students until the 1960s. SUNY and CUNY in New York State were virtually free until the 1980s. The same was true for the University of California, the California State Universities, and the California Community Colleges. Many states made sure that the returning World War II veterans and the next two generations had access to a free postsecondary education. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that our nation’s economy boomed, along with America’s civic health. In fact, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the GI Bill in 1944 and President Eisenhower signed the National Defense Student Loan legislation in 1958, millions of veterans, women, and minorities came to college because they could afford it and knew their education beyond high school would make a significant difference in their future livelihood. They bought cars, took out home loans, worked hard, and advanced in their careers. They weren’t burdened by enormous college debt. At the same time, trust in one another and key institutions, as well as civic habits of volunteering, voting and charitable giving, were also on the rise among this Greatest Generation. During this era, the U.S. was first in the world for its college graduates, outpacing Germany, the U.K., and other OECD countries. By the new century, our educational advantage had clearly slipped. President Bush’s higher education commission highlighted the fact that after decades of progress, other countries were outpacing the United States in educating more of their citizens to advanced levels. President Obama—who also recognized that we had lost our way, that we were 12th in the world in higher education attainment, and that we had mounting student debt exceeding the ability of students to pay off their loans—pointed to a North Star for America to regain its place by making a college education within reach for all hardworking students. During that same time, following his service as county mayor of Knoxville and implementing the Knoxville Promise, Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) launched the Tennessee Promise–a commitment that every high school graduate could obtain at least a free community college education. Since then, Tennessee has added Tennessee Reconnect for adults to obtain a free postsecondary education in fields to help grow their regional economies across the state. Tennessee has some early outcomes of success, as do many other Promise programs across our nation.

CityLab - September 18, 2018

Florida: The truth about the rural and urban divide

The notion of a deep and enduring divide between thriving, affluent, progressive urban areas and declining, impoverished, conservative rural areas has become a central trope—if not the central trope—in American culture today. In May 2017, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “Rural America Is the New Inner City.” And ever since Donald Trump was elected president, the narrative of urban revitalization and rural decline has only gained steam. But the reality is that this narrative fails to capture the full complexity of economic life in America. In fact, parts of rural America are thriving, even as other parts decline; just as parts of urban America continue to lose population and face economic decline as other parts make a comeback. Yes, America is highly urbanized along its two coasts, but urban and rural areas are interspersed across much of the nation, and even on the coasts. There are three types of urban counties: those that are part of large metros of more than 1 million people, such as Los Angeles County, Miami-Dade County, and New York County (Manhattan); those that are part of medium-size metros of between 250,000 and 1 million people, like Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Saratoga County, New York; and those that are in small metros, with populations of fewer than 250,000 people—for example, Barnstable County, Massachusetts (which is essentially Cape Cod) or Jackson County, Oregon, where Medford is located. Then there are two broad types of rural counties, each with three categories. The first type is more connected rural counties, located adjacent to major metro areas. The second is more isolated rural counties, located apart from metro areas. Within each of these types, rural counties are classified as large (more than 20,000 people, such as Litchfield, Connecticut), medium-size (2,500 to 19,999, for example, Hillsdale County, Michigan), and small (fewer than 2,500 people, like Elk County, Kansas).

Marketwatch - September 18, 2018

Tesla stock tanks after report company faces criminal probe over Musk’s tweet

Tesla Inc. shares relinquished earlier gains and fell more than 5% on Tuesday after a report said the Silicon Valley car maker was under criminal investigation for Chief Executive Elon Musk’s going-private tweet. Federal prosecutors have opened a fraud investigation to look into Musk’s statements on Twitter, Bloomberg News reported, citing two people familiar with the matter. Tesla did not immediately comment and a Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment, the report said. In a statement to several news organizations, Tesla said that the company last month received a “voluntary request” for documents from the Justice Department and it has been “cooperative in responding to it.” Tesla has not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any formal process, it said. “We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received,” the company said. Reports of investigations “will be an overhang on the stock until more information is released,” analysts at Baird said in a note. Musk will likely be liable for fines, but not necessarily Tesla, although details are unclear, they said. Musk on Aug. 7 tweeted that he was “considering” taking Tesla private, followed by the phrase “funding secured.” The tweet surprised Tesla’s other board members and created volatility in the stock with many investors and analysts questioning whether that phrase was accurate. The Securities and Exchange Commission is reported to be investigating whether funding had indeed been secured. Musk said on Aug. 24 he was keeping Tesla public.

National Review - September 18, 2018

The risks of American intervention in Venezuela

Last week, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had held a series of meetings with elements of the Venezuelan military who are considering an attempt to depose President Nicolas Maduro. These revelations have intensified the debate over whether the United States should intervene militarily in Venezuela. Most analysts covering the country have come out strongly against a U.S.-backed coup, arguing that an American intervention would be unpopular in the region, undermine U.S. interests, violate international law, and exacerbate Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis. I, too, am slightly opposed to a U.S.-backed coup, but I think the case in favor of one is far stronger than the anti-interventionists concede. The first reason to favor overthrowing Maduro is that his government has effectively destroyed Venezuelan democracy. Despite his pathetically low approval rating (23 percent), there currently exists no way for the opposition to legally take power. Maduro’s party controls the presidency, the Supreme Court, the legislature, and the CNE (the body that oversees elections). In one form or another these institutions have all been packed with Chavista loyalists; as a result, Venezuelan elections have become increasingly farcical. And by manipulating the country’s foreign-exchange regime and controlling its massive oil reserves, Maduro’s government can leverage its economic power to hold on to its political power. In short, the odds of a legal, orderly transition of power are nonexistent. The second reason to favor a coup is humanitarian. The Venezuelan people have suffered tremendously due to the astonishing absurdity of their rulers’ economic policies. Here is the Times’ concise description of their plight: [Venezuela’s] health care system is in such dire straits that malaria, once almost wiped out, is soaring; about three quarters of the population has involuntarily lost nearly 20 pounds of weight and people scrounging for food in garbage has become, according to the Brookings Institution, the new normal. Overthrowing an unpopular and irresponsible government might allow an opening for proper economic management. The final reason to consider a coup is strategic. A million Venezuelans have fled their rapidly deteriorating nation, mainly to Colombia. Massive refugee flows could well threaten regional stability. And given that the Venezuelan kleptocracy controls the world’s largest oil reserves, has abetted terrorist and drug-trafficking activity, and espouses a rabid form of anti-Americanism, the case for overthrowing it starts to sound rather appealing after all.

Weekly Standard - September 18, 2018

Senators shouldn't harass their constituents on Twitter. That includes you, Sen. Rubio.

Paging @jack. Florida Senator Marco Rubio on Monday night took to Twitter to engage in what looked dangerously close to online harassment. The target of Rubio’s ire was so-called “Salt Bae,” a Turkish celebrity chef whose Nusr-Et steakhouse empire spans Istanbul to Doha to New York to Miami. Nusr-Et’s Istanbul location hosted Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, on a visit he paid to Turkey last month. Maduro—like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a fat leader of a hungry country—is a malevolent buffoon whose mismanagement and cruelty have resulted in the mass immiseration of what used to be Latin America’s most prosperous country. It was, to put it delicately, poor form for him to fete himself at a pricey steakhouse while on a foreign junket while his countrymen starve. Salt Bae, in Istanbul for the occasion, also personally welcomed Maduro to the restaurant and even served him. This too was a questionable decision. The moral culpability for this episode lies squarely with Maduro, however: It was his decision to deplete already emptying state coffers for a good steak in a decadent restaurant. (I’m going to go out on a limb and assume he expensed the dinner.) Salt Bae was merely the host. (And yes, it should be noted that the chef has displayed bad political judgment before: He was also once photographed admiring a photograph of Fidel Castro.) Senator Rubio, whose state hosts many Venezuelan refugees, understandably loathes Maduro. But his Tweet Monday night singled out the restaurateur rather than the president: "This guy @nusr_ett who admires dictator @NicolasMaduro so much actually owns a steakhouse in, of all places, #Miami. It’s called NUSR-ET STEAKHOUSE MIAMI located at 999 Brickell Avenue, Miami, FL 33131 The phone number is 1 305 415 9990 in case anyone wanted to call." No, what Senator Rubio did was not “doxxing”—outing an anonymous Internet user’s “IRL” identity. Salt Bae is a quasi celebrity, and the location of his steakhouses is hardly a state secret. But by including not just the address of Salt Bae’s Miami restaurants (at least plausibly, therefore, simply urging people to boycott the business), but also the phone number in his tweet, the senator crossed a line.

The Hill - September 18, 2018

Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills

A bipartisan group of senators is unveiling a draft measure to crack down on surprise medical bills, which they say have plagued patients with massive unexpected charges for care. The measure would prevent a health care provider that is outside of a patient’s insurance network from charging additional costs for emergency services to patients beyond the amount usually allowed under their insurance plan. The insurer, not the patient, would have to pay additional charges, which are limited under the proposal. The bill targets situations like one that received a flood of national attention last month, when NPR and Kaiser Health News reported on a high school teacher who was charged $109,000 by the hospital that cared for his heart attack, even after his insurance had already paid $56,000. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a sponsor of the bill, said the measure would mean patients don’t “get this surprise billing which is basically uncapped by anything but a sense of shame.” Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are also supporting the measure. Those lawmakers are part of a working group on health care price transparency that says it plans to put forward additional legislation as well. “I think this is common ground in the health care debate,” Cassidy said. “No American should have to file bankruptcy or fall into poverty as a result of a serious ailment or unexpected medical emergency,” Carper said in a statement. “The Affordable Care Act made great progress in reducing rates of medical bankruptcies, and this bipartisan discussion draft will build on that progress by protecting patients from surprise medical bills after they are treated in emergency situations or receive care from an out-of-network provider.”

Reuters - September 17, 2018

S&P: Most U.S. states lack reserves to weather next recession

While U.S. states’ financial health has strengthened in 2018 compared with last year, fewer than half have enough financial reserves to weather the first year of a moderate recession, according to an S&P Global Ratings report on Monday. Only 20 states have the reserves needed to operate for the first year of an economic downturn without having to slash budgets or raise taxes, S&P said. “In their fight against recessions, budget reserves are what states send to the frontline,” the report said. “They are an internal source of immediate liquidity and can provide transitional funding to agencies before budget cuts take effect.” States face worse revenue shortfalls in the next recession compared with the Great Recession, S&P said. That is because states rely more heavily on personal income taxes as a percentage of general fund revenues now than a decade ago, with the taxes currently contributing a combined 55 percent to the funds compared with 49 percent in 2008, S&P said. In addition to lacking reserves, states at risk of severe financial stress in the first year of the next recession also have higher revenue volatility and elevated fixed costs, including debt payments and pension contributions, S&P said. Increased social costs like Medicaid could also contribute to the steepening of budget shortfalls, it said.

Governing - September 18, 2018

Will clergy sex abuse allegations spur change in statute-of-limitation laws?

This summer, a Pennsylvania grand jury released an explosive report, accusing more than 300 Catholic priests in the state of sexually abusing 1,000 children over seven decades. Despite the number of accused, only two priests reportedly can face criminal prosecution. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations only allows victims of child sex abuse to file criminal lawsuits until they reach the age of 50. Civil cases can be filed until the victim is 30 years old. The Pennsylvania report has prompted attorneys general in at least six states -- Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York -- to review or investigate clergy sex abuse cases. But the concern is not just with the Catholic Church. Recent events have brought attention to sexual abuse, assault and harassment in Boy Scouts of America, USA Gymnastics, Hollywood and the halls of government. Amid this national conversation, a growing number of lawmakers want to expand the window that victims of child sex abuse have to file civil and criminal lawsuits. Some want to eliminate these time limits altogether. If history is any indication, it will likely be an uphill battle. The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill in 2017 that would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations and raise the cutoff age to file a civil lawsuit to 50. That measure has stalled in the House. State Rep. Mark Rozzi, who describes the Senate bill as weak, introduced his own bill that would eliminate criminal and civil statutes of limitations as well as provide a two-year window from the day the law goes into effect for victims to sue for past abuse. Members of the Senate and House disagree over whether the retroactive window would be unconstitutional. In New York, where child victims have until age 23 to file civil and criminal lawsuits, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal is pushing the Child Victims Act, which would raise the ages to 50 and 28, respectively. Her bill would also create a one-year retroactive window. The Child Victims Act passed the Assembly in May, but the Senate's Republican leaders have blocked the measure from making it to the floor for a vote. Rosenthal believes the growing understanding of the issue will help her legislation pass. "We've seen Republicans who were [opposed to] the bill for years. After that Pennsylvania report, they turned 180 degrees and said 'Now I support it,'" Rosenthal says. "None of the facts changed in New York. They just saw their constituents were rising up."

Rolling Stone - September 18, 2018

Willie Nelson on fans angry over Beto rally: ‘We’re not happy ‘til they’re not happy’

Willie Nelson was a guest on Tuesday’s installment of The View, sitting down with Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar and their co-hosts of the talk show. The brief conversation turned from politics to his longtime friendship with fellow music icon Frank Sinatra. Dressed in a black hoodie with “Willie’s Reserve” on the back, a reference to his line of cannabis-related products, the 85-year-old icon seemed bemused by the line of questioning regarding his support of Democratic Texas senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who’s currently locked in a tight race with Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. “I’ve been supporting Democrats all my life…,” Nelson said. “I haven’t hidden it that much.” Nelson, who was joined onstage by O’Rourke during the country legend’s 4th of July picnic earlier this summer, will headline a free-to-the-public rally in support of O’Rourke on September 29th in Austin. Behar asked the country singer about the perceived backlash that his support has caused within his fan base. “I love flak,” he said. “We’re not happy ’til they’re not happy.” “Everybody has an opinion,” Nelson added. “Everybody has a right to an opinion. I think I have one too.” Nelson’s appearance on the talk show coincided with his just-released album, My Way, which pays homage to songs popularized by Sinatra. Nelson likened Sinatra’s prevailing attitude to his own, noting, “If you liked him, fine; if you didn’t, that’s cool.” Nelson continues making the TV rounds with an appearance Wednesday night on CBS’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Earlier this week, Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson came out in support of his father’s political stance, expressing his thoughts in an online video.

September 18, 2018

Lead Stories

The Hill - September 17, 2018

Trump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe

President Trump has ordered the declassification of a series of highly sensitive documents related to the Russia investigation, the White House announced Monday. Under the order, classified portions of a surveillance application for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and "all text messages relating to the Russia investigation" from former FBI Director James Comey and several other top federal officials could become public. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the decision was made "at the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency." The move will please conservatives in Congress who have been clamoring for the documents' release, saying they will back up their argument the Russia investigation has been tainted by political bias. But it is likely to ratchet up tensions with law-enforcement officials and Democrats who believe such a move is an example of improper interference in an ongoing investigation.

Washington Post - September 17, 2018

Trump defends Kavanaugh after sexual assault allegation, says Senate will ‘go through a process and hear everybody out’

President Trump on Monday defended Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her at a party when the two were in high school, praising him as “one of the finest people that anybody has known” and signaling that he supports a proposed hearing on the allegations. “We want to go through a full process,” Trump told reporters at an event on workforce development. He added that the Senate will “go through a process and hear everybody out.” He called Kavanaugh “somebody very special” who “never even had a little blemish on his record.” And he criticized Democrats, who he said should have “done this a lot sooner because they had this information for many months.” “If it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay,” Trump said of the confirmation process. “It will, I’m sure, work out very well.” Trump’s comments marked his first public response after The Washington Post reported Sunday on Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh. An attorney for Ford said Monday that Ford is willing to testify about the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh was scheduled to speak with staffers for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans at 5:30 p.m. Monday. All 10 Democrats on the panel issued a statement early Monday evening declaring their opposition to hearing from Kavanaugh through such a call. In an article published Sunday, Ford told The Washington Post that one summer in the early 1980s, ­Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her in a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County, Md.

Bloomberg - September 18, 2018

Coca-Cola is eyeing the cannabis market

Aurora Cannabis Inc. led pot stocks higher after Coca-Cola Co. said it’s eyeing the cannabis drinks market, becoming the latest beverage company to tap into surging demand for marijuana products as traditional sales slow. Coca-Cola says it’s monitoring the nascent industry and is interested in drinks infused with CBD -- the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that treats pain but doesn’t get you high. The Atlanta-based soft drinks maker is in talks with Canadian marijuana producer Aurora Cannabis to develop the beverages, according to a report from BNN Bloomberg Television. “We are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world,” Coca-Cola spokesman Kent Landers said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg News. “The space is evolving quickly. No decisions have been made at this time.” Landers declined to comment on Aurora. Aurora’s shares surged on the news, jumping as much as 23 percent Monday in New York to $8. Other stocks in the cannabis industry got a boost, with Tilray Inc. adding as much as 9.4 percent in response to Coca-Cola’s interest. Coke’s possible foray into the marijuana sector comes as beverage makers are trying to add cannabis as a trendy ingredient while their traditional businesses slow. Last month, Corona beer brewer Constellation Brands Inc. announced it will spend $3.8 billion to increase its stake in Canopy Growth Corp., the Canadian marijuana producer with a value that exceeds C$13 billion ($10 billion). Molson Coors Brewing Co. is starting a joint venture with Quebec’s Hexo’s Corp., formerly known as Hydropothecary Corp., to develop cannabis drinks in Canada. Diageo PLC, maker of Guinness beer, is holding discussions with at least three Canadian cannabis producers about a possible deal, BNN Bloomberg reported last month. Heineken NV’s Lagunitas craft-brewing label has launched a brand specializing in non-alcoholic drinks infused with THC, marijuana’s active ingredient.

Laredo Morning Times - September 17, 2018

Officials release identity of a third victim allegedly killed by Border Patrol agent

Authorities identified Monday a third victim who was killed over the weekend by a Border Patrol agent in Webb County. The victim was identified as Humberto Ortiz, 28. Authorities said Ortiz was a transgender woman. The identity of the last victim, who was killed shortly before Ortiz was slain, has not yet been released. Border Patrol agent Juan David Ortiz, 35, remains behind bars on four counts of murder in the deaths of four sex workers. Following his arrest early Saturday, authorities said he confessed to the killings, which occurred over a two-week period. According to arrest affidavits, Ortiz would pick up the victims on San Bernardo Avenue, drive them outside city limits and shoot them in the head. He was not on duty and wore civilian clothes during the killings. The first victim, Melissa Ramirez, 29, was killed Sept. 3. The second, Claudine Anne Luera, 42, was killed Sept. 13. The Webb County Sheriff's Office said during a news conference Monday afternoon that investigators believe Ortiz targeted the victims because of their profession. Ortiz was arrested after a woman, Erika Peña, escaped from his vehicle Friday night. She told investigators that she fled from his vehicle after he pulled a pistol on her. Earlier, she said, they had visited his house off Loop 20 after he had picked her up on San Bernardo. Ortiz was arrested hours later at Hotel Ava, 800 Garden St., but not before he picked up and killed two more people, according to the affidavits. Webb County Sheriff's Office Chief Fred Garza said during Monday's news conference that Ortiz tried to "commit suicide by cop" by intentionally holding his cellphone in a way that made it look like he had a gun, Garza said. However, he was detained without incident. Investigators said Ortiz later confessed to the killings and told them the location of his fourth victim.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2018

Cruz says Democrats 'playing games' but agrees that Kavanaugh's accuser should testify before confirmation vote

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested Monday that Democrats "are playing games" in forcing a delay in Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, though he agreed that senators should hear from the judge and his accuser about a sex assault allegation from three decades ago. "There are no doubts that the Democrats are engaging in theatrics and playing political games. At the same time, the allegations that have been raised are serious. The merits of the allegations are concerning. Now, I don't know if the allegations are true or false but I agree that the accuser should have have an opportunity to have her story heard," Cruz told supporters Monday night on a telephone town hall organized by his campaign. "The fact that we are fighting battles like this really underscores the stakes. The Democrats want far left judicial activists on the Supreme Court. They want activists who will impose their own left win policy agenda and set aside the decisions of democratically elected legislatures," he said. The comments came hours after Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced that the judge and his accuser will testify next Monday -- delaying a committee confirmation vote scheduled for Thursday. Sen. John Cornyn said earlier in the day that the allegations should be "treated with the seriousness it deserves," though he refrained from saying that the confirmation hearing should be reopened, or the vote set for Thursday should be delayed. On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward as the author of a previously anonymous letter. She told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh had tried to sexually assault her when both of them were in high school more than 30 years ago. Ford is now a professor at Palo Alto University in California. Kavanaugh has denied that the incident occurred, calling the allegation "completely false."

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2018

Ted Cruz sees 'blame the police officer' reflex from Beto O'Rourke after Botham Jean killing

Sen. Ted Cruz has lashed out at his Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, for agreeing that the Dallas police officer who shot an unarmed black man in his own apartment should be fired. "I wish Beto O'Rourke and Democrats weren't so quick to always blame the police officer," Cruz said this weekend in an interview with KRIV-TV (Channel 26) in Houston. Cruz said that Botham Jean's killing is a "tragic situation where everyone is horrified by what happened." But he cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying that the shooting may have been a "horrifying and horrific misunderstanding or it may be something else." "It may well be that two lives were destroyed that night," the Republican said on Saturday. His comments came after O'Rourke focused on the killing at a rally Friday at the Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas. Jean was shot in his own apartment on the night of Sept. 6 by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who told police that she had parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean's apartment as her own. Guyger was charged with manslaughter and put on paid administrative leave. The killing has sparked national outrage, particularly since many key details remain unknown or in dispute.

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2018

Why Johnson Space Center's deputy director sees her job as being bigger than NASA

Young Vanessa Wyche sat hunched over a piece of paper, drawing the childish outline of a U.S. president in crayon for a class assignment. When it came time to shade in the two-dimensional man's face, Wyche instinctively reached for the brown crayon. It was her skin tone, after all: why couldn't it be a president's? But her second-grade teacher was furious. It was the early 1970s and South Carolina schools had just been desegregated. A black man could not be president, her teacher said. This exchange was the first time Wyche -- now 54 and second in command at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston -- can remember being openly belittled for her race by an authority figure. But it's also the first time she can remember her parents, both educators, standing up for her in the face of oppression. "I'm certain my father went to the school administration and said 'Absolutely not, this is her art,' " Wyche recounted in a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle. "I remember them standing up for me and maybe that reinforced that I don't have to be afraid because someone will always have my back." Wyche has carried that confidence and fearlessness throughout her life, trailblazing a path for minorities and women to follow. She was one of just two minority women in her graduating classes at Clemson University for both her bachelor's degree in materials engineering and a master's in bioengineering. When she arrived at NASA in 1989, she was the first woman hired full time in the space life sciences division. And now, Wyche is the first African-American to ever hold the deputy director position at Johnson. Officially, her role is to help center Director Mark Geyer run one of NASA's largest facilities, home of the nation's astronaut corps that had a budget of $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 and employs about 10,000 civil service and contractor employees.

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2018

How much has Texas dropped its reliance on coal? You'd be surprised

Plentiful and cheap natural gas continues to undercut coal, as the go-to source of energy, in Texas and much of the nation. Still, coal leads natural gas in at least one statistical category, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Coal was the largest electricity generator in 18 states last year, compared with 16 for natural gas. In Texas, electricity producers used coal more than natural gas in 2010 but otherwise, natural gas has led the way in the last couple of decades. Renewable sources have also grown quickly in the Lone Star State. Wind energy has doubled as a percentage of Texas' electricity mix in the past five years. Also, a new report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association, said Texas moved up to number five in the nation in solar electricity capacity, up from ninth place a couple of years ago. Texas' solar capacity increased by 61 percent in the last year. Although coal still has a state-by-state lead, that gap narrowed greatly. In 2007, coal was the leading fuel in 28 states, 10 more than a decade later. Of those states where coal slipped from the top slot, it was replaced equally by natural gas and nuclear. The U.S. as a whole relied more on natural gas (32 percent) than coal (30 percent) last year. This year, coal has also continued to slide in Texas, accounting for less than 24 percent of electricity generated. That's down by nearly 9 percentage points from last year. Luminant, the state's largest electricity generator, announced late last year its plans to shut down three large coal-fired power plants in 2018 for financial reasons. There were some concerns this year about what the plant closures would mean for the electricity supply this summer in Texas. The surplus capacity, available to meet surge in demand on the hottest days, was lowest in more than a decade.

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2018

Ted Cruz’s ‘summons’ sparks outcry. But is the letter deceptive, illegal or fair play?

A “summons” letter from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s re-election campaign that has landed in Central Texas mailboxes in recent days has reignited the debate about what qualifies as a deceptive and illegal fundraising practice. Austin resident Sean Owen shared on Twitter Saturday such a letter from the Cruz campaign addressed to his grandmother. “Official Travis County Summons,” “Voter Enrollment Campaign Division” and “Ted Cruz for Senate 2018” span three lines on the top left side of the envelope. “SUMMONS ENCLOSED - OPEN IMMEDIATELY,” states the middle of the envelope. “Received this for my 88-year-old grandma,” Owen said in his post, which also shared a photo of the envelope. “Says it’s a summons from Travis County, but is actually for money for @tedcruz. Did your campaign authorize this? Is this even legal? Shame on you. That’s one more @BetoORourke voter.” The letter offers a spot to check only one box, which reads “YES, Senator Cruz! I am answering your summons to join your re-election campaign today!” Owen revealed in a follow-up Twitter post. Members of Cruz’s press team did not respond to requests for comment Monday. A spokesman for Cruz’s Democratic rival U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, also did not respond to a request for comment. PolitiFact Texas, a fact-checking news organization operated by the American-Statesman, found that a similar mailer sent to someone in Kerr County might have been deceptive, but not illegal under federal law. State Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, though, said in a Twitter post Sunday that sending out the mailers violates the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, legislation he sponsored in 2015. Wu, who supports O’Rourke, told the Statesman on Monday that he isn’t an expert in the law, but that if the campaign’s letters don’t violate the letter of the law, “this still absolutely violates the spirit of the law. And even if it doesn’t violate the spirit of the law, this is slimy as hell.” Cruz’s campaign also might have violated Section 32.48 of the state’s penal code, Wu said. “A person commits an offense if the person recklessly causes to be delivered to another any document that simulates a summons, complaint, judgment or other court process with the intent to: (1) induce payment of a claim from another person; or (2) cause another to: (A) submit to the putative authority of the document; or (B) take any action or refrain from taking any action in response to the document, in compliance with the document, or on the basis of the document,” the statute states.

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2018

Final step: Judge dismisses voter ID challenge

A federal judge formally dismissed the lawsuit challenging the Texas voter ID law Monday, the final step in a yearslong fight that will allow the state to enforce a weakened version of the 2011 statute. At the urging of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi issued a two-sentence order dismissing the case in light of April’s decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the law. Lawyers for the minority voters, Democratic politicians and civil rights groups that challenged the law had argued that Paxton’s request for a dismissal was an unnecessary step because there was nothing left to decide — except for assessing legal fees and costs — after the 5th Circuit Court’s decision. Paxton said he was proud of the effort to defend the voter ID law. “With this major legal victory, voter ID requirements remain in place going forward to prevent fraud and ensure that election results accurately reflect the will of Texas voters,” he said in a statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process.” Ramos had tossed out the state voter ID law in August 2017, ruling that changes adopted by the Legislature earlier that year fell short of fixing requirements that were drafted to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. Ramos said the Republican-drafted law violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution because it was “enacted with discriminatory intent — knowingly placing additional burdens on a disproportionate number of Hispanic and African-American voters.” The 5th Circuit Court overruled Ramos, issuing a 2-1 decision that said the legislative action — which included a wider variety of identification that could be presented at the polls — fixed flaws in the Texas law. The original 2011 law listed seven forms of acceptable photo identification that could be presented at polling places. Under changes adopted in 2017, a registered voter who lacks a required photo ID can cast a ballot after showing other documents that list a name and address, including a voter registration certificate, utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2018

John Cornyn picks fight with Beto, gets battle with Houston police chief instead

Just 24 hours after Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O'Rourke agreed to a series of debates, Texas Sen. John Cornyn wanted to draw O'Rourke into a discussion about guns over social media. Cornyn, a Republican, on Saturday night started the exchange by Tweeting out an old clip of O'Rourke saying in February that he opposed selling AR-15s in America. "I just don't think we should be selling AR-15s in this country," O'Rourke says in the video clip Cornyn tweeted out to his 140,000 followers. Cornyn Tweeted out the question: "For self defense?" O'Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, did not respond. But Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo did. "In 32 years policing I've yet [to] encounter a case of a community member using an AR-15 for self-defense," Acevedo tweeted. "I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I'd bet the house they've been used many, many times to slaughter innocent Americans as opposed to self-defense." Cornyn responded quickly. "Chief, it isn't the gun it is the shooter. Let's focus on mental health, background checks and information sharing that can save lives." But Acevedo proposed more. "Let's get robust Universal background check with real teeth, red-flags for mental health; abusers, etc, close the private seller at gun-show loop-hole, & commission a study to det mine (sic) why we lead the industrialized World in gun-deaths." Acevedo said he jumped into the fray, not to defend O'Rourke, but for a bigger reason. "I'm weighing in as a practitioner on behalf of the people we are sworn to protect," Acevedo said, adding that he is part of a group of 69 police chiefs from major cities advocating for gun law reforms. Members of the Major Cities Chiefs Association have called for a new assault weapons ban and stiffer penalties for illegal guns.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2018

HC: Texas keeps slurping up local property taxes

Do you hear that giant sucking sound going up U.S. 290? It’s the sound of our state government in Austin slurping up your local school taxes. Last week, the Texas Education Agency projected that the state will spend $3.5 billion less in general revenue funds on education over the next couple of years. That’s because the local property tax revenues are expected to go through the roof — rising by about 6.8 percent each year. As property tax revenues rise, the state cuts its share of school funding. More of the tax burden is left on the shoulders of homeowners and businesses. Or, to put it bluntly: You pay billions more in property taxes so that the state can pay billions less and your local school district ends up with the same amount of money. That doesn’t seem fair, but it’s what the state planned. The biennial budget was balanced on the presumption of a nearly 14 percent hike in property taxes. Texas needs to reverse the flow on the school funding pipeline and start sending more state dollars down to local school districts. Considering how important education is to Texas’ future, and how much voters hate the inexplicable rise in property taxes year after year, you would think state leaders would be laser focused on fixing our school finance system. Unfortunately, they’re acting more like the kids in the classroom’s back row who would rather goof off than pay attention to their work. Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that he wants to pass an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would ban the possibility of an income tax. That’s a bit like saying he’s going to spend July preparing for the next major blizzard in Brownsville. Texas doesn’t have an income tax, but we do have a broken property tax system. At the Christian Values Summit in The Woodlands this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick chose to relitigate his infamous bathroom bill — the last thing Texas needs. It’s not as if Texas is wanting for ideas on how to fix our school funding system. In meetings with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, several House Republicans discussed the idea of the state growing its share of the public school budget and giving local districts the flexibility to lower their property tax rates.

Texas Public Radio - September 17, 2018

Childhood cancer survivors at greater risk of developing HPV-related cancer

Childhood cancer survivors are at a much greater risk of developing HPV-related cancer than the general population, yet far less likely to get vaccinated. Dr. Allison Grimes, the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program at UT Health San Antonio, said both women and men who've survived childhood cancer are much more likely to get HPV-related cancer later in life. "In fact, females have a 40-fold increased risk of an HPV malignancy, and male survivors of childhood cancer have a 150-fold increased risk of developing HPV-related cancers," Grimes said. Grimes said just over 13 percent of the people treated for childhood cancer at UT Health San Antonio started the HPV vaccine series, and only 6 percent completed it. She thinks these kids, who often have more than one doctor, are simply falling through the cracks. "Pediatricians might think it's the job of the oncologists since it's a cancer prevention vaccine, and oncologists don't routinely provide vaccines in their cancer clinics, and so they generally assume this is going to happen in the primary pediatric or family medicine type clinic," Grimes said. Grimes wants to fix that, and in August she received a $1 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to teach health care providers about the increased HPV related cancer risk survivors of childhood cancer face, and to offer to kids eligible for the HPV vaccine the shots at five pediatric oncology clinics across Texas.

Texas Observer - September 18, 2018

The prosecution rests: Is the Aransas County DA taking on bad cops, or abusing the law?

On the evening of August 15, 2017, as Hurricane Harvey was just starting to take shape in the Atlantic, the Rockport Pilot posted a press release from Kristen Barnebey, the chief prosecutor in Aransas County. In late July, the release revealed, she had stopped accepting cases from Chad Brooks, an officer with the Rockport Police Department. The reasons were tantalizing, but vague. Brooks had “shown a pattern of untrustworthy behavior” and “continued to engage in the unethical behavior of profiling defendants,” the press release said. Further, Brooks had “engaged in activity” that she couldn’t explain further due to ongoing investigations. Though she had “issues” with other officers, she didn’t describe those either. The final allegation took aim at the city’s leaders. Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe had deliberately withheld evidence, the press release said. And when Barnebey appealed to C.J. Wax, then Rockport mayor, and Kevin Carruth, the city manager, “nothing was done.” Barnebey dismissed 17 cases that Brooks had pending and notified the court that prosecutors would no longer sponsor his testimony. Then she drew a line. “When law enforcement will not uphold the law,” she said, “prosecutors must step forward and ensure the law is being followed and unethical officers are not being put before the judge and jury as credible witnesses.” Until Rockport police cleaned up their department, Barnebey said, she wouldn’t take cases from any of their officers. Ten days later, Harvey made landfall in Texas, destroying homes and businesses and so badly battering the Aransas County Courthouse that Barnebey and her deputies decamped to a temporary office in a strip mall. In the small lobby, legal books line the shelves, giving the space a sense of permanence as prosecutors pursue criminal complaints from behind a window that separates them from the visiting public. Even though Brooks was fired in July, Barnebey hasn’t prosecuted a case from the Rockport PD for more than a year. Over the last few weeks, she and city officials have been meeting regularly in the hopes of ironing out their differences. As this story went to press, both sides were hopeful they’d finally reached an agreement. But after months of accusations and acrimony on both sides, many questions remain unanswered. Is Barnebey a green criminal prosecutor bungling the law, as some detractors have suggested? Or a woman taking on good ol’ boys who haven’t enforced laws meant to hold authorities accountable? Barnebey’s claims center on laws requiring prosecutors to give criminal defendants favorable evidence that could help their case. Under the so-called Brady Rule, a federal law that stems from the 1963 Brady v. Maryland case, any exculpatory evidence that’s withheld is considered suppressed. More recently, the Michael Morton Act — named for the Williamson County man who spent more than two decades in prison before evidence withheld by prosecutors exonerated him — strengthened the Brady disclosure requirements. The 2013 Texas law also directs prosecutors to hand over evidence, including offense reports, witness statements and other documents relevant to the case. For prosecutors, the stakes are high, at least in theory. If they’re caught skirting the law, they could lose their license, be disbarred or even face criminal charges. Because prosecutors are also required to tell defendants about any evidence that could impeach one of their witnesses, many DAs now keep formal or informal lists of officers whose alleged misconduct would have to be divulged to defense lawyers. In Texas, hundreds of law enforcement officials have landed on so-called “Brady lists.” Some cops have been blacklisted by prosecutors altogether. But Barnebey appears to be the first to snub an entire agency. In March, the city of Rockport returned fire, running a newspaper ad that blamed Barnebey for the standoff. Dozens of cases were languishing, the city claimed, and Barnebey was creating an environment that could put residents at risk. By late April, two aggravated assaults, one sexual assault and five domestic violence or protective order violations were among 67 cases the city said Barnebey had declined to accept.

Texas Public Radio - September 17, 2018

Supreme Court ruling means thousands of deportation cases may be tossed out

The Trump administration's push to deport more immigrants in the country illegally has hit a legal speed bump. For years, immigration authorities have been skipping one simple step in the process: When they served notices to appear in court, they routinely left the court date blank. Now, because of that omission and a recent Supreme Court decision, tens of thousands of deportation cases could be delayed, or tossed out altogether. "I'm not sure if the Supreme Court knew what they were doing," said Marshall Whitehead, an immigration lawyer in Phoenix. "But the end result of this is a major impact." The Supreme Court's decision in the case known as Pereira v. Sessions didn't get much attention when it was announced in June, partly because it seemed so technical. The court ruled 8 to 1 that immigration authorities did not follow the law when they filled out the paperwork in that case. They served an immigrant with a notice to appear in court but didn't say when and where the hearing would be held. "Basically the Supreme Court decision said look, you're not following the statute," Whitehead said. "So this notice to appear was ruled as being invalid." That seemingly minor technicality has big implications. Consider the case of Whitehead's client, Jose Silva Reyes, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He was living in Arizona, under law enforcement's radar, for years — until 2010, when he ran a red light and got into a car accident. Since then, Silva Reyes has been fighting in immigration court to stay in the country with his wife, a green card holder, and two kids who are citizens. He was due in court for his final deportation hearing last month, when the case against him was suddenly thrown out. "When they told me that my case was terminated, I felt good," Silva Reyes said. Like many undocumented immigrants caught up in President Trump's recent crackdown, Jose Silva Reyes has been in the U.S. for more than 10 years. If you've lived in the U.S. for a decade without getting into trouble, and without ever getting a notice to appear in immigration court, you could be eligible to stay. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, these immigrants can argue they never got a valid notice to appear in that 10-year time-frame. But the Supreme Court ruling could have an even wider impact. Immigration lawyers are arguing that if any immigrant received a defective notice to appear, their whole deportation case is invalid. Silva Reyes's lawyer, Marshall Whitehead, says he's already gotten dozens of cases tossed out using this line of reasoning. "I'm only one attorney, and I've got 200 cases I'm looking at," Whitehead said. "So you can see the massive numbers that we're talking about across the United States." But the federal government is fighting back. Government lawyers are appealing, and arguing immigration authorities did eventually notify immigrants about the time and place of their hearings, just not right away. And, in August, they won an important case before the Board of Immigration Appeals, which oversees the nation's immigration judges, that could limit the impact of the Pereira ruling. Still, all of this is straining an already overburdened court system.

National Catholic Reporter - September 17, 2018

Hispanic Catholics from across the country gathering in Grapevine to form unified voice

The four-year nationwide consultations with the Hispanic Catholic community will culminate at the national V Encuentro Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas, as delegates from around the United States gather to form a collective Hispanic Catholic voice — one that will be imperative to the future of the church. With Hispanics making up 40 percent of U.S. Catholics (a number that swells to 60 percent when looking at those younger than 18, according to ENAVE, the National Team of Accompaniment that oversees the process), the V Encuentro is meant as an opportunity for Hispanics to organize, assess their needs as Catholics, and own the responsibility that comes with these numbers. "How is the church going to respond to the needs and questions and concerns of the Hispanic community if we do not engage with the community?" said Hosffman Ospino, co-chair of the process committee. The V Encuentro, he continued, "aims to close the gap." Spanish for gathering, encuentros began as consultations at the parish level, with delegates eventually going on to diocesan and then regional levels to convey concerns, needs and ideas expressed at earlier sessions. Ospino, director of graduate programs in Hispanic ministry at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, said that the current process has already raised more awareness among bishops, diocesan personnel and pastors, who know that more needs to be done "to invite Latinos to assume more protagonism, more responsibility in the process of evangelization." With roughly 3,400 participants and 130 bishops attending the upcoming national gathering, a third of the delegates at the V Encuentro should be young people and a third should be U.S.-born, Ospino said. The resulting mix "will be a model for what's happening in the near future." The first encuentro occurred in 1972, as priests who worked with Latino Catholics wondered how to better minister to and form leaders among this new group — a successful attempt that inspired more organized encuentros, each with different goals and convoked by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Though identifying young leaders and opening more Hispanic ministry offices are some goals, quantifying the fruits of the V Encuentro can be a tricky and slow process, Ospino said. "The third encuentro in the '80s triggered the opening of a large number of [Hispanic ministry] offices at the diocesan level," he said. "But the late '80s and early '90s were the peak of migration from Latin America in the U.S., so many of these were going to happen anyway." But what the third encuentro actually did is give a purpose and a language to these communities, he said, with one focus being a shift from assimilation to integration, for example. "I'm not interested in the numbers. I'm more interested in the philosophy, the vision, the narrative that emerges. In five years, how are the new bishops, new priests, new seminarians, new lay ministers talking about Latinos? What's the language they're using? If they're using the language of the V Encuentro process and the conclusions that emerge, then we have done well."

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 16, 2018

Did backers of city audit proposition skirt ‘dark money’ restrictions?

The political action committee behind a ballot proposition that calls for an independent efficiency audit of Austin City Hall might have broken local campaign finance laws by shielding the identities of its donors, according to city officials. In the sole campaign finance report it filed with the city, Citizens for an Accountable Austin showed only a single source — a local nonprofit — for $137,080 of cash and in-kind donations, which fueled a petition effort to land the audit item on the November ballot. A closer look finds that the Austin Civic Fund, the 10-month-old nonprofit that directed donations to Citizens for an Accountable Austin, is headed by the same man who created the PAC. In any other city in Texas, using a nonprofit to shield the identities of the people who paid to back the ballot initiative — known in this instance as Proposition K — would be kosher. In Austin, though, the passage of a 2016 city ordinance made these types of donations, known pejoratively as “dark money,” illegal. The PAC’s lack of transparency as well as its connections to local Republican Party officials have made Proposition K a partisan issue to a degree that is unusual in Texas municipal politics. In recent weeks, many local Democratic leaders have voiced their opposition to the seemingly innocuous sounding initiative, calling Prop K the opening salvo in a full-fledged attack on Austin’s local control. “Whatever information is gathered (in the audit) would be taken back to the Legislature to undermine our local decision-making,” said state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, who has taken a lead in opposing Proposition K. Proponents of the audit form an unlikely group made up of local Republicans, people associated with the drive to kill CodeNext and the man who helped to write the Austin ordinance that bans dark money from local campaigns, Austin attorney Fred Lewis. They dismiss the fears of such prominent local Democrats as Hinojosa, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and political consultant David Butts as something akin to a conspiracy theory.

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2018

UT researchers to present map charting Austin’s changing neighborhoods

University of Texas researchers say they have mapped Austin’s gentrification and will present their findings to the Austin City Council on Tuesday. The group, commissioned by the city in August 2017, used census tract data to create an interactive map that identifies neighborhoods where lower-income residents have been displaced by development and rising property values and where that process is spreading. “The maps produced show striking levels of change, including an alarming loss of low-income persons of color from several areas of Austin’s eastern crescent,” said Jake Wegmann, one of the study authors and a School of Architecture professor, in a statement Monday. The researchers confirmed gentrification is mostly occurring in East Austin, an area east of Interstate 35 the researchers call the “eastern crescent.” But they also found signs of similar change happening from the St. John’s area in Northeast Austin to Montopolis south of the Colorado River. Study co-author Heather Way, a UT Law professor, said the interactive map will allow the city and residents to better understand how severe the demographic changes are in each neighborhood. “It allows us to to take a more nuanced look to understand what stage of gentrification a neighborhood is on and help policymakers tailor strategies to help those specific communities,” Way said. The researchers looked at demographic changes and market values of neighborhoods to place them into different stages of gentrification. Of the 200 neighborhoods mapped, the researchers found 16 neighborhoods with ongoing gentrification or in the late stages of gentrification and 23 increasingly high-value neighborhoods with vulnerable communities. The stage of gentrification will determine which strategies will be most effective to help lower-income residents remain, according to the researchers. Land acquisition and development of multi-family residential properties could be a solution for neighborhoods in the early stages, Way said, but this may prove too expensive in neighborhoods in the late stages of gentrification. “In late stages, creating additional affordable housing opportunities on properties owned by public entities or nonprofits will be more effective,” Way said. In their report, the researchers also include case studies of successful anti-gentrification efforts in Portland, Ore.; Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C.; and in East Austin, where the first land-trust home in Texas was established in 2012.

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2018

Think Dallas is immigrant friendly? Not so much, according to a new analysis

Dallas’ immigrants are steadily employed and play a strong role in the city’s entrepreneurship landscape, but their quality of life, trust in law enforcement and civic participation levels lag compared to the U.S.-born population, according to a new analysis. The Cities Index looked at how inclusive the city’s policies are and socioeconomic outcomes for immigrants. The findings were presented Monday at the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law by the City of Dallas and the New American Economy, a think tank that aims to influence public opinion on comprehensive immigration reform. Richard André, NAE’s Associate Director of State and Local Initiatives, said during the presentation that the analysis examined poverty, rent burden, education levels, local policing tactics and the presence of official city government outreach efforts toward immigrants in 100 cities all around the country. Dallas ranked at No. 87. “Dallas had a mix in both government decisions and socioeconomic outcomes,” André said. “The city did well in government leadership, but there’s a few policy areas where it could improve. In socioeconomic terms, the city did well in economic empowerment but lagged in civic participation.” Overall, Dallas scored a 2.53 out of 5. Its highest scores came in government leadership and economic prosperity, two categories that looked at things like immigrant outreach efforts and having programs aimed at providing entrepreneurial support for immigrants. The lowest scores came in livability, civic participation and legal support. These three categories looked at naturalization rates, home ownership, health insurance coverage, rent burden and local law enforcement’s participation with federal immigration authorities. Other Texas cities included in the Cities Index are Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston, Irving, Laredo, Lubbock, Plano and San Antonio. Dallas ranked fourth among Houston, San Antonio and Austin, but none of these cities scored higher than a 3 out of 5. André said that just having an outreach effort like the Office of Welcoming Communities & Immigrant Affairs puts Dallas at an advantage in trying to better understand the immigrant population. “The timing is right for the city to be building an infrastructure to integrate these folks,” André said. “Ultimately it’s not just to the benefit immigrants themselves but to every Dallas resident who is reaping the benefits of these economic and demographic contributions.”

Star-Telegram - September 17, 2018

More mumps cases confirmed at TCU. Here’s what you need to know

Additional cases of mumps have been confirmed at TCU by health officials who are working to trace possible contacts, assess immune status and offer immunizations for those who have not completed their vaccine series. Tarrant County Public Health officials announced their findings Monday just days after one student was found to have the mumps. Public health spokeswoman Elizabeth Tolentino did not give an exact number of those currently infected, saying it was under five cases. “Mumps is a contagious disease but it is preventable by MMR (Measles, mumps and Rubella) vaccine,” said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja. “We are supporting TCU by working with all known contacts and the university. At this time the general public is not at risk.” Health officials are offering an additional dose of the MMR vaccine to those who have previously received the vaccine series but are at an increased risk of acquiring mumps due to recent exposure.

National Stories

Washington Post - September 17, 2018

Elon Musk sued by Thai-cave rescue volunteer he called a ‘child rapist’

Vernon Unsworth, a Thai-cave rescue volunteer, has sued Tesla chief executive Elon Musk for claiming that Unsworth is a “pedo” and “child rapist,” ratcheting up the chaos surrounding one of the most prominent and volatile tech billionaires. The defamation lawsuit will extend an episode that has made even Musk’s biggest supporters squirm, with several inside Tesla, Musk’s electric automaker, questioning why he remains so committed to doubling down on what they consider a self-inflicted embarrassment. Unsworth is seeking more than $75,000, the statutory minimum, to compensate for the “worldwide damage” he suffered following Musk’s attacks, uttered by Musk in July to his more than 22 million Twitter followers. Unsworth, through his attorney, said Musk’s claim was baseless and lacked evidence. “Elon Musk falsely accused Vern Unsworth of being guilty of heinous crimes,” Unsworth’s attorney, L. Lin Wood, said in a statement. “Musk’s influence and wealth cannot convert his lies into truth or protect him from accountability for his wrongdoing in a court of law.” The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. A separate lawsuit is being filed in London for the damages Unsworth, who is British, suffered in England and Wales, his lawyer said. Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment, and it’s unclear who will represent him. Unsworth was not made available for comment. In June, when a young boys’ soccer team and their coach were found stranded in a sunken cave in northern Thailand, rescue officials turned to Unsworth for help. The experienced cave explorer had surveyed the underground system’s narrow passageways since shortly after his first visit to the country in 2012. As the dangerous rescue gained global attention, Musk pledged to lead a team of engineers in building a mini-submarine that could snake through the cavern’s cramped arteries and whisk the boys to safety. An international team of divers and rescue workers — one of whom, a Thai Navy SEAL, died during the operation — ultimately brought the boys to the surface July 10. Musk’s mini-submarine was not used.

Washington Post - September 17, 2018

Sullivan: The claim against Kavanaugh is not a suspicious 11th-hour bombshell. Because we’re not in the 11th hour.

Readers of the Los Angeles Times were furious in 2003 when — only five days before the California gubernatorial election — the paper published a stunning investigation in which 16 women accused candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger of groping them. They canceled their subscriptions in droves and accused the paper of trying to help Democrat Gray Davis’s campaign. The paper’s revered editor, John Carroll, later explained the imperfect timing. Basically, he said, it came down to this: The story wasn’t ready until it was ready. As Washington reels from the disclosure in The Washington Post on Sunday of Christine Blasey Ford’s detailed allegation of an attempted rape by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh decades ago, those who remember can hear echoes of 2003. Right-wing pundits like Erick Erickson have relentlessly pounded the idea that The Post’s story is a suspiciously timed Democratic/media plot to interrupt Kavanaugh’s glidepath. “I’m not as surprised by the Democrats pulling out a last minute allegation against Kavanaugh as I am by the number of 20 & 30 something Republicans who immediately think surrender is the only option,” Erickson wrote on Twitter, adding a hopeful note: “Clarence Thomas survived worse.” The timing — a last-minute allegation, as Erickson put it — may seem unfortunate, given that the Senate Judiciary Committee was due to vote on Kavanaugh this week. The judge has consistently called the allegation false. The Post itself reported Ford first contacted the paper’s tip line in July, when Kavanaugh was merely a shortlist prospect, not the nominee. What could have possibly taken so long, the thinking goes. Carroll took up this point in an editor’s note after the election, which Schwarzenegger won. The editor addressed the question of the moment: Should he have waited to publish until after the election, as some thought — or maybe never? Carroll thought citizens deserved to know everything they could, even though the timing was bad. But why did it take so long to do that reporting, some demanded? “It is hard to overstate the amount of wasted time such work entails,” Carroll wrote. (Schwarzenegger later admitted he had often behaved badly toward women.) But that time is necessary. In the Kavanaugh case, as The Post’s Emma Brown reported in her piece, Ford didn’t want her name used, for fear of subjecting herself to criticism and the personal attacks that would be sure to follow. (And have.) In time, and for various reasons — including what she described as a moral duty — she changed her mind and spoke to Brown on the record. It’s always a long, necessary process, with many twists and turns, from tip line to completed story.

Washington Post - September 17, 2018

Theresa May just warned of a ‘no-deal Brexit.’ Here are some of the doomsday scenarios.

When it was built a quarter-century ago, the Eurotunnel was hailed as an engineering marvel. The game-changing undersea rail link between Britain and the European continent helped spark our global age of frictionless, “just-in-time” trade and manufacturing. But the imminent departure of Britain from the European Union — just six months away — threatens to undercut one of the most elaborate transit networks and business models on the planet, disrupting daily life for businesses and people alike. The $20 trillion European economy is built on open borders for delivering fresh English lamb to butchers in Milan or German disc brakes to BMW in Oxford — not in days, but hours. British negotiators remain resolute that a new free-trade accord can be hammered out with Europe by October, or if not then, by November, or December, or January — or before the stock and currency markets begin to freak out. Yet, at the same time, the British government is also warning British consumers and companies that they should brace themselves for a cold-turkey withdrawal, a “no-deal Brexit” or “Brexit doomsday” — causing some degree of panic. “I believe we will get a good deal, we will bring that back from the E.U. negotiations and put that to Parliament,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in an interview with the BBC that aired Monday. But she added that if Parliament rejects her proposals, then the alternative “would be not having a deal.” May’s government once sang a song of “Global Britain,” a vision for a 21st-century trading dynamo, exploiting new markets in new lands. But now Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is encouraging drug companies to stockpile extra medicine in case supplies cannot get onto the island after a no-deal Brexit.

Washington Post - September 17, 2018

‘I support higher taxes’: The billionaire behind the National Debt Clock has had it with Trump

When U.S. government debt topped a trillion dollars for the first time in the early 1980s, New York real estate magnate Seymour Durst sent every member of Congress a holiday card that said: “Happy New Year! Your share of the federal debt is $5,000.” When lawmakers refused to act, Durst went further, putting up the National Debt Clock in 1989 on a building he owned just off New York City’s bustling Times Square. Three decades later, the clock is still running, yet U.S. debt has skyrocketed and most in Congress ignore it. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, campaigned on balancing the budget, yet they have added more than $1.5 trillion to the debt in the past year. The result is that by the end of 2018, the nation will hit milestone: The federal government’s total debt owed to outsiders (known as “debt held by the public”) will exceed all debt that U.S. households have for mortgages, credit cards, cars, student loans and other personal loans for the first time in modern history, according to JPMorgan. Seymour’s normally private son, Douglas Durst, manages the National Debt Clock and the family’s real estate empire now. He felt compelled to speak out after what he calls the “worst months” he’s ever seen for fiscal policy. Douglas has a message for Congress: Tax the rich more. “I support higher taxes on people like me,” said Douglas in an interview from his office in midtown Manhattan with sweeping views of the city. “I think America has more of a revenue problem than a spending problem.” When his father put up the National Debt Clock, total gross U.S. debt was just shy of $3 trillion — or about $12,000 a person. Today it is over $21 trillion, or about $65,000 a person.

New York Times - September 17, 2018

Hearing set for Monday to hear Kavanaugh and his accuser

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under mounting pressure from senators of his own party, will call President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault before the committee on Monday for extraordinary public hearings just weeks before the midterm elections. Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, told reporters Monday afternoon that the chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, told senators there would be an “opportunity” for senators to hear from Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, in a public setting where senators would be able to ask questions. Both have said they are willing to testify. A Senate Republican aide confirmed that it would be on Monday, effectively delaying a planned committee vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, which had been scheduled for this Thursday. “Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said. The hearings will set up a potentially explosive public showdown, one that carries unmistakable echoes of the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill, who accused the future Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in an episode that riveted the nation and ushered a slew of women into public office. They will play out against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, which has energized Democratic women across the nation. Mr. Trump on Monday vigorously defended his nominee, calling him an “outstanding” judge with an unblemished record, and dismissing as “ridiculous” the prospect that Judge Kavanaugh might withdraw his nomination. Nevertheless, he told reporters that he was willing to accept a delay in the judge’s path to confirmation in order to air the new information. “He is somebody very special; at the same time, we want to go through a process, we want to make sure everything is perfect, everything is just right,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay — it shouldn’t certainly be very much.” The willingness of accuser and accused to testify publicly carried the potential for a high-profile hearing over the charge, with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court at stake. Dr. Blasey has said Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a social gathering in the 1980s when they were both teenagers. Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations, which Dr. Blasey, a research psychologist, detailed in a letter sent in July to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, who kept its existence secret until last week.

New York Times - September 17, 2018

Rivers keep rising and more deaths are feared as Florence pushes away

Emergency workers rushed into beleaguered cities across the Carolinas on Monday as residents struggled with the aftermath of a storm that drenched the region with record rainfall, damaged tens of thousands of homes and delivered floodwaters that may not recede for days. Even as the remnants of Hurricane Florence pulled away, it was clear that the turmoil had only begun. Wilmington, one of North Carolina’s most populous cities, was virtually cut off. Floodwaters pushed ever higher in some communities as the rains flowed into rivers and rushed downstream. The authorities in North and South Carolina rescued more people by air and water. Curfews were in effect, and thousands of people remained out of their homes with no certainty of when they would be able to return. “This remains a significant disaster that affects much of our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said Monday. “The next few days will be long ones as the flooding continues.” Granite-colored clouds largely gave way to blue skies on Monday, and zipping winds and clacking rains were replaced by a different soundtrack: the helicopters that roared and hovered above Wilmington; leaf-blowers and chain saws that cleaned up Charlotte; and the soft swirl of the still-rising Cape Fear River that menaced Fayetteville as it flowed under the Person Street Bridge. The storm’s slow-motion siege was blamed for at least 32 deaths, and the authorities fear additional fatalities as floodwaters fill more streets and homes. The sunshine, they warned, did not signal an end to the danger, and counties in the Pee Dee region in northeast South Carolina braced for water racing toward them. “We encourage people to not cross any bodies of water because that is what’s getting people injured and killed,” said Scott Dean, who oversees a search-and-rescue task force from Miami that was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Marion County, S.C., ahead of expected flooding.

New York Times - September 17, 2018

Trump hits China with tariffs on $200 billion in goods, escalating trade war

President Trump, emboldened by America’s economic strength and China’s economic slowdown, escalated his trade war with Beijing on Monday, saying the United States would impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods and was prepared to tax all imports. Mr. Trump, in a statement released late Monday, showed no sign of backing down from the type of full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies that has rattled financial markets, saying he was prepared to “immediately” place tariffs on another $267 billion worth of imports “if China takes retaliatory action against our farmers or other industries.” The tariffs on $200 billion worth of products comes on top of the $50 billion worth already taxed earlier this year, meaning nearly half of all Chinese imports into the United States will soon face levies. The next wave of tariffs, which are scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 24, will start at 10 percent before climbing to 25 percent on Jan. 1. The timing of the staggered increase will partially reduce the toll of price increases for holiday shoppers buying Chinese imports in the coming months. “For months, we have urged China to change these unfair practices, and give fair and reciprocal treatment to American companies,” Mr. Trump said. “We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly. But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices.” The tariffs are aimed at pressuring China to change longstanding trade practices that Mr. Trump says are hurting American businesses at a moment when the administration believes it has an advantage in the trade dispute. China’s economy is slowing, with consumers holding back and infrastructure spending slowing sharply. The Chinese slowdown is expected to worsen as America’s tariffs ramp up. The United States, by contrast, has continued to experience robust economic growth, including the lowest unemployment rate since 2000.

New York Times - September 17, 2018

FEMA Chief Brock Long’s woes mount as House GOP launches travel inquiry

House Republicans will investigate reports that Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, repeatedly misused government vehicles to commute from Washington to North Carolina, where his family resides. Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Mr. Long on Monday requesting documentation and other information related to his use of government vehicles and about the agency personnel who may have accompanied him on the trips. Mr. Gowdy learned of the potential misuse last week from press reports, but he delayed launching an inquiry as FEMA girded for what was then Hurricane Florence, which was bearing down on the Carolina coast. For Mr. Long, who is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, news of another federal investigation will only complicate an already precarious balancing act as he marshals an ongoing rescue effort and what will be a sprawling recovery program, even as he tries to convince investigators he did not knowingly violate agency rules. “I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly,” Mr. Long told reporters during a call last Thursday. “Doing something unethical is not in my DNA.” The White House has said it is aware of the charges and will review the inspector general’s report when it is completed. The investigations stem from frequent commutes by Mr. Long, a hurricane expert with years of emergency management experience, between the agency’s headquarters in Washington and Hickory, N.C., where his wife and two sons live. Several former and current officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss security matters said the FEMA administrator must have access at all times to classified communications equipment. In some cases, that requires sending a government car equipped with special capabilities with Mr. Long when he travels. Several FEMA aides accompanied Mr. Long on his trips home and stayed at nearby hotels at taxpayers’ expense. “Official travel on the part of federal employees must be ‘by the most expeditious means of transportation practicable’ and ‘commensurate with the nature and purpose of the employee’s duties,’ ” Mr. Gowdy wrote in the letter, quoting U.S. law. “This does not include using government-owned or government-leased vehicles for exclusively personal reasons.”

New York Times - September 17, 2018

With Ford accusation coming to light, echoes of Anita Hill, but in a different era for women

She went public just days before a critical vote and took a polygraph test to bolster her credibility. He unequivocally denied her years-old charges of sexual misconduct. Calls mounted to delay the vote and investigate. It was late September, and a Supreme Court seat hung in the balance. For those of a certain age in Washington, the past few days have felt like an eerie echo of the confirmation battle that consumed the capital in 1991 when Anita F. Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her. Now it is Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh who faces a hearing on Monday to address explosive accusations by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. While not a perfect parallel, the case has quickly polarized Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, once again drawing in all three branches of government for a showdown over sex, truth and politics. Justice Thomas ultimately prevailed, and has been on the Supreme Court for more than a quarter of a century. But this time the battle takes place in a different era, at a moment when the #MeToo movement has brought down many powerful men over accusations of sexual misconduct that were once swept under the rug. “I am stunned that this is happening again,” said Barbara Boxer, a former Democratic senator from California who, as a representative in 1991, was part of a group of female members of the House who marched across the Capitol plaza to demand that their own party give Ms. Hill a fair hearing. “But it is not surprising because our culture has not completely dealt with inequality between men and women.” Washington now faces a test of what, if anything, was learned from the Thomas-Hill hearings that riveted a nation for a fall weekend almost exactly 27 years ago. Neither side emerged from that confirmation crucible happy about the process, and for some, the scar tissue remains deep. Justice Thomas and Ms. Hill both remain aggrieved a generation later, each feeling badly treated under the klieg lights. Republicans were excoriated for their cross-examination of Ms. Hill, and Democrats like Joseph R. Biden Jr., then the committee chairman, were blamed for not taking her seriously enough. Conservatives were embittered by what they considered a last-minute attack on their nominee. Many of the same dynamics are playing out in the questions raised about Judge Kavanaugh. “It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Kenneth M. Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan who led the confirmation fight for Justice Thomas on behalf of President George Bush. But one major difference is that, this time, race is not an issue as it was with Justice Thomas, who angrily called the accusations against him “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.”

Wall Street Journal - September 16, 2018

Trump promised a rush of repatriated cash but company responses are modest

U.S. companies have moved cautiously in repatriating profits stockpiled overseas in response to last year’s tax-law rewrite, after the Trump administration’s assertions that trillions of dollars would come home quickly and supercharge the domestic economy. The tax-law revamp ended the practice of taxing U.S. companies when they bring home foreign profits. Companies long complained that profit earned abroad was trapped and held it in foreign subsidiaries to avoid additional taxes. The new law imposes a one-time tax on those old earnings—whether or not money is repatriated. It also removes federal taxes on subsequent repatriations and makes future foreign profits generally free from U.S. taxes. “We expect to have in excess of $4 trillion brought back very shortly,” President Trump told executives assembled at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., in August. “Over $4 [trillion], but close to $5 trillion, will be brought back into our country. This is money that would never, ever be seen again by the workers and the people of our country.” The Wall Street Journal reviewed securities filings from 108 publicly traded companies accounting for the vast majority of an estimated $2.7 trillion in profits parked abroad, and asked each company what it was doing with the funds. In their filings and responses, they said they have repatriated about $143 billion so far this year. About two-thirds of the money came from two corporations—networking-equipment giant Cisco Systems Inc. and drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. Beyond that, companies have announced plans to repatriate an additional $37 billion. Some with the largest stockpiles, including Apple Inc., have made general promises to repatriate profits without saying when or how much. More than a dozen large companies, including General Electric Co. and Boston Scientific Corp. have said they don’t need past foreign earnings in the U.S. or have no immediate plans to bring cash home. Far more are waiting or won’t say.

Wall Street Journal - September 17, 2018

Senate passes bipartisan legislation to combat opioid epidemic

The Senate on Monday passed sweeping, bipartisan legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic through new research, treatment and help for families affected by addiction. The bill, which includes more than 70 provisions, passed the Senate with a 99-1 vote. Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) voted against the legislation. To become law, the package would need to be reconciled with legislation that passed the House of Representatives in June. Senate aides are optimistic the measures can be reconciled and passed by the end of the year. One proposal, by Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, prompts physicians to discuss pain-management alternatives for those who use Medicare. Nearly one in three who use Medicare’s Part D prescription plan received a prescription opioid in 2017, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. “The bill also increases the ability to track opioid prescriptions to prevent misuse and diversion, while also ensuring beneficiaries promptly get the medications they need,” Mr. Hatch said on the Senate floor Monday. The Senate legislation would give money to the National Institutes of Health to research a nonaddictive painkiller. It would also try to stop synthetic drugs from being shipped across the border by requiring foreign shippers to provide electronic data to help U.S. officials target illegal packages. Another provision would clarify that the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to require prescription opioids to be packaged in set amounts, for three or seven days, for example. Yet another provision aims to increase the detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, by strengthening communications between the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Federal funding to combat the opioid epidemic has increased over the past few years, as the health crisis has worsened. The spending bill passed in March of this year included $4.7 billion to fight the health crisis, including $1 billion for grants for states. Lawmakers are also on track to approve $3.8 billion for the crisis in the appropriations bill for next year. U.S. overdose deaths from all drugs soared to more than 72,000 in 2017, a record, according to preliminary data released in August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That compares with about 66,000 deaths in 2016. The report shows how much deadlier opioid drugs have become, with the largest number of deaths traced to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. But the data also show a slight decline in deaths in the last month of 2017 and January 2018, suggesting that efforts to prevent opioid use and treat addiction may be starting to have an effect.

USA Today - September 16, 2018

Lack of flood insurance heaps misery on homeowners slammed by Hurricane Florence

The drenching rains and massive flooding caused by Florence are expected to inflict a high financial toll on homeowners in North Carolina and other states, as only a small percentage are covered by flood insurance that could help offset the costs of rebuilding their damaged homes. An estimated quarter of a million homes in North Carolina are projected to be affected by Florence, which has caused flash flooding and record rain amounts across the state, according to CoreLogic, a property analytics company. Estimates from insurance analysts and actuaries show an alarmingly high percentage of homeowners – both in coastal towns and those far inland – that are underinsured for a water-driven natural disaster as destructive as Florence. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of coastal homeowners in the hard-hit eastern part of North Carolina, for example, have coverage through the government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and only 1 percent to 3 percent of homes in inland counties have flood policies, according to estimates from John Rollins, an actuary at consulting firm Milliman. Statewide, roughly 3 percent of the homes in North Carolina have flood coverage and 8 percent of homeowners are covered in South Carolina, Rollins said. “Obviously, that leaves a lot of people uninsured,” Rollins told USA TODAY. The numbers of those covered are low, he said, because people think that because their home isn't in a high-risk zone designated by the government that there's "zero risk" of a flood. "But that's not true," Rollins says. Many also don't realize their basic homeowners policy doesn't cover flood damage, while others overestimate the disaster aid they will get from the government. Unfortunately, standard homeowners insurance won’t cover any flooding-related issues. The estimated insured losses from Florence are in the range of $3 billion to $5 billion, according to CoreLogic. Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street bank, said they could go as high as $10 billion to $20 billion.

USA Today - September 17, 2018

Indicted Rep. Chris Collins changes course, will remain on November ballot

Republican New York Rep. Chris Collins will remain on the ballot this fall despite being indicted in August on federal insider-trading charges, changing his mind after suspending his campaign more than five weeks ago. Erie County (New York) Republican Chair Nick Langworthy confirmed Monday that Collins had reversed course and decided to keep his spot on the ballot, despite the indicted lawmaker pledging as recently as last week to cooperate with efforts to remove him. Langworthy said Collins informed him of the decision Monday morning, saying the congressman told him he was acting on the advice of his criminal-defense attorneys. Republican leaders had been working to remove him from the November ballot, with Langworthy claiming the party had identified a "crystal clear" path to replace him. But any effort to replace Collins needed the congressman's cooperation because he would have had to accept a nomination to another office. Now, Democrats are hopeful the embattled Collins could be vulnerable in the fall, when he will face off against Democrat Nate McMurray, town supervisor in Grand Island, N.Y. At a news conference in Buffalo, Langworthy said he felt "a bit like a jilted groom at the altar" because Republicans were going to choose Collins' replacement this week. "There's nothing in my power or any other Republican leader here or in Washington can do to tell him, 'You're off the ballot,' " Langworthy said. "That's not how it works." Collins' attorneys, congressional office and campaign spokesman did not immediately return requests for comments Monday morning. In order to remove him, Collins would have had to accept a Republican nomination to another office. Party leaders had spent weeks identifying local nominations Collins could have accepted, and Langworthy suggested a local official was willing to "do a selfless act" — resign, likely — to clear a spot for him.

CNN - September 17, 2018

CNN Polls: Democrats hold the upper hand in Arizona, Tennessee Senate races

Democrats hold an advantage in two states that are critical to the party's chances of taking control of the US Senate, according to new CNN polls conducted by SSRS. The surveys show Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and former Gov. Phil Bredesen leading their Republican opponents for open seats Arizona and Tennessee, where sitting Republican senators are retiring. In Arizona, Sinema tops Republican Rep. Martha McSally by 7 points, 50% to 43% among likely voters, while in Tennessee, Bredesen holds a 5-point edge over Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 50% to 45% among likely voters there. Roughly 1 in 6 voters in each state say there's a chance they'll change their mind before Election Day. Likely voters are a subset of registered voters in the poll and include those most likely to turn out based on a combination of self-reported intention to vote, interest in the election and past voting behavior. Arizona and Tennessee are two of the four states where Democrats are widely seen as having at least some chance of picking up Senate seats in November's election. The others are Texas -- viewed as more of a long-shot - and Nevada -- generally viewed as the Democrats' best chance for a Senate pickup. In order for the party to have any shot at taking control of the senate, it's almost certain that at least one seat from Arizona or Tennessee would need to go Democrats' way. Arizona has been a Democratic target for some time on account of its changing demographic profile, though the state hasn't voted for a Democrat in major statewide elections since Janet Napolitano's turn as governor in the Bush years. Tennessee has generally moved away from its more Democratic-friendly past. Those differences are readily apparent in the two states' impressions of President Donald Trump in the new polls. In Tennessee, likely voters are about evenly split on the president's performance, 49% approve and 48% disapprove, far outpacing his nationwide approval rating in the latest CNN polling of 36%. In Arizona, by contrast, Trump fares only slightly better than his national number, with 39% of likely voters saying they approve of the way he's handling his job while 57% disapprove. The Republican incumbents for these seats -- Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee -- have both been publicly critical of Trump. Approval ratings of the president are closely tied to preferences in the Senate race, according to the poll. Among those voters who disapprove of Trump's performance in Arizona, 85% back Sinema, while in Tennessee, 92% of those who disapprove of the president back Bredesen.

CNN - September 17, 2018

Michael Flynn set to be sentenced after midterms

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is ready to be sentenced, prosecutors and his defense team told a federal judge Monday. Flynn's sentencing had been delayed four times since he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators last December. The change, indicated in a court filing, suggests that Flynn's cooperation with the Mueller investigation will end soon. The legal teams have asked federal Judge Emmet Sullivan to set Flynn's sentencing for the end of November, well after the midterm elections. Until three days ago, Flynn was the highest-ranking Trump associate cooperating with the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and its aftermath. On Friday, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two federal charges in DC District Court. He agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller as well. Flynn cut a deal year, sidestepping additional, potentially more serious charges. Flynn admitted to lying about his communications with the Russian ambassador during Trump's presidential transition. He also said he had lied to the Justice Department in 2017 about doing consulting work for the Republic of Turkey, according to his court filings. Though his plea avoided describing his work in the White House, Flynn is thought to be central to Mueller's investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in dealing with top Justice Department officials in the early days of his presidential administration, especially former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired. Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee last year that Trump asked him to drop an investigation into Flynn during an Oval Office meeting not long after Flynn resigned as national security adviser. Flynn was also expected to corroborate details for investigators about other Trump campaign officials' interests in Russian policy pushes during the campaign and transition. According to a statement filed in court, Flynn conducted several calls with senior officials on the Trump transition team about his discussions with then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak related to US sanctions of Russia. Since December 1, 2017, Flynn was required to cooperate with Mueller's office "fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly," including speaking to law enforcement officials about what he knows and testifying before any grand juries and trials if needed. Manafort's cooperation agreement follows similar terms on most items. Yet Flynn's agreement with prosecutors appears to have a natural end with sentencing. Manafort's cooperation obligations do not end once he's sentenced, prosecutors said last week.

The Atlantic - September 16, 2018

Clinton: American democracy is in crisis

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown. They were not. In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.” Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis. I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose. John Adams wrote that the definition of a republic is “a government of laws, and not of men.” That ideal is enshrined in two powerful principles: No one, not even the most powerful leader, is above the law, and all citizens are due equal protection under the law. Those are big ideas, radical when America was formed and still vital today. The Founders knew that a leader who refuses to be subject to the law or who politicizes or obstructs its enforcement is a tyrant, plain and simple. That sounds a lot like Donald Trump. He told The New York Times, “I have an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.” Back in January, according to that paper, Trump’s lawyers sent Special Counsel Robert Mueller a letter making that same argument: If Trump interferes with an investigation, it’s not obstruction of justice, because he’s the president.

NBC News - September 17, 2018

Trump admin cuts number of refugees U.S. will admit to lowest level in four decades

The Trump administration announced Monday that it would limit the number of refugees admitted into the United States in the next fiscal year to 30,000, the lowest number in more than 38 years. For this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the Trump administration's cap was 45,000 — the lowest number set since the State Department data began keeping refugee data back to 1980. Even then, the U.S. did not meet the ceiling this year and only admitted about 21,000. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement publicly, adding that this year the U.S. will also be inundated with more than 280,000 asylum seekers, who are immigrants who come to the U.S. to claim protection rather than applying for resettlement from abroad. The refugee limit had been a source of debate between Trump-appointed officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security versus non-political officials at the State Department who have argued the number should be higher in order to promote diplomacy. Two administration officials told NBC News stricter vetting procedures have limited the number of refugees that can feasibly enter the country in a year and even the 30,000 number may not be reached, just as the limit wasn't reached this year. Refugee advocates say the number is a reflection of the fact that the Trump administration wants to limit overall immigration and is not tied to national security. "This is another demonstration that the U.S. is stepping back from global leadership and engagement to protect refugees," said Betsy Fisher, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project. "We were told that the slow rates of processing this year were due to the implementation of new security checks and that processing would pick back up. This number shows that was never the intent and the goal has always been to reduce the overall number of refugees admitted." Lawmakers from both parties and humanitarian organizations — including Christian charities — had urged the White House not further restrict the number of refugees allowed in the United States, arguing that it damaged U.S. credibility with allies and betrayed America’s values.

Weekly Standard - September 17, 2018

Kellyanne Conway Says Kavanaugh accuser 'should not be ignored'

When Brett Kavanaugh’s former high-school acquaintance Christine Blasey Ford came forward this weekend to accuse him of trying to rape her at a party, the initial reaction from those in Trumpworld was brusque and combative. Politico asked “a lawyer close to the White House” whether Kavanaugh’s nomination would be withdrawn. “No way, not even a hint of it,” the lawyer responded. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.” Officially, the White House gutted through the weekend by re-releasing Kavanaugh’s own statement: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.” But on Monday morning, they changed their tune. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters outside the White House that President Trump thinks Ford should be permitted to testify before the Senate before they vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. “This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored,” Conway said. “I’ve spoken with the president, I’ve spoken with Senator Graham and others. This woman will be heard.” It was a dramatic shift—so much so that it led many to speculate that Conway herself had bucked the administration line and gone rogue. But let’s not get carried away: Hearken back to last November, when the first explosive allegations were reported that then-Senate candidate Roy Moore had sexually assaulted two teenagers and harassed other young women while an Alabama prosecutor in his 30s. At that time, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a similar furrowed-brow statement of concern. “The president believes that these allegations are troubling and should be taken very seriously, and that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be,” Sanders said on Nov. 16, a week after Leigh Corfman made her bombshell accusation that Moore had driven her to his home, undressed her, and touched her inappropriately when she was only 14.

Associated Press - September 17, 2018

Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

Thousands of foster children may be getting powerful psychiatric drugs prescribed to them without basic safeguards, says a federal watchdog agency that found a failure to care for youngsters whose lives have already been disrupted. A report released Monday by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office found that about 1 in 3 foster kids from a sample of states were prescribed psychiatric drugs without treatment plans or follow-up, standard steps in sound medical care. Kids getting mood-altering drugs they don’t need is only part of the problem. Investigators also said children who need medication to help them function at school or get along in social settings may be going untreated. The drugs include medications for attention deficit disorder, anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Foster kids are much more likely to get psychiatric drugs than children overall. “We are worried about the gap in compliance because it has an immediate, real-world impact on children’s lives,” said Ann Maxwell, an assistant inspector general. Among the situations investigators encountered was the case of a 6-year-old boy diagnosed with ADHD, learning and speech disorders, outbursts of temper and defiance, and hair-pulling disorder. He had been put on four psychiatric drugs. But a medication review questioned the need for some of the medications. Of the four, two were discontinued and one was reduced in dosage, investigators said. Two different medications were then prescribed. Investigators found no evidence that a treatment plan for the boy had been developed in the first place, before starting him on medication. In another case, an 11-year-old boy had been put on two medications after being diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and behavior problems. But over a three-month period his foster mother had problems getting prescription refills. By the fourth month, the boy’s life was out of control. His decline included stealing, lying, bullying and an in-school suspension. Investigators found there was no requirement in that state for case workers to follow up with foster parents about medications. The lack of effective follow-up contributed to the boy’s downward spiral. “These children are at greater risk of not getting the medications they need, but equally important, they are at risk of getting powerful medications that they do not need,” Maxwell said. The inspector general is recommending that the HHS Administration for Children and Families develop a strategy to help states meet their existing requirements for prescribing psychiatric drugs to foster children, and to generally raise standards for case-by-case oversight.

September 17, 2018

Lead Stories

NPR - September 17, 2018

Kavanaugh accuser will testify if asked

A Senate committee may be forced to postpone its vote this week on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, while members explore fresh allegations of a decades-old sexual assault. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee's chairman, was scrambling Sunday to arrange staff telephone calls with Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s when they were both students in high school. "Her recollection of these events is crystal clear," Ford's attorney Lisa Banks told Morning Edition. "She will agree to participate in any proceedings that she's asked to participate in." The accusation, made privately in July, took on new weight over the weekend when Ford went on the record with the Washington Post. She described a high school party in the early 1980s at which a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, attempted to pull off her clothes, and covered her mouth as she tried to scream. She said she escaped after Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, jumped on them. Kavanaugh said Friday, before Ford's name was made public, that the charge is false. "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation," Kavanaugh said in a statement. "I did not do this back in high school or at any time." The White House said Monday that the nominee's denial has not changed. "Judge Kavanaugh and the White House both stand by that statement," said spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who sits on the judiciary committee, joined Democrats in saying the vote on Kavanaugh's nomination may have to be postponed. "I've made it clear that I'm not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further," Flake told the Washington Post. "For me, we can't vote until we hear more."

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2018

Texas women can gain political clout in 2018, after 20-year slump

Women ruled Texas in 1990. Half of the state’s biggest cities were run by female mayors. Straight-shooting Ann Richards commandeered the governor’s office. And the number of women in the state Legislature began to climb to an all-time high. The nation took notice as women in charge in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas laid groundwork for other female politicians, predicting that scores more would be catapulted into office. “We all expected that to continue and, surprisingly, that hasn’t continued,” said Congresswoman Kay Granger, who in 1991 was the first woman elected mayor in Fort Worth. Today, only one woman serves in statewide office, state Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. Just one major Texas city has a woman at the helm. And the number of women sent to Washington, D.C., and Austin to represent Texans has hit a 15-year low. That could all change in November. This year, 105 Texas women are in the final sprint for elected office. If successful, they could reclaim their largest share of political power since 2008, when 50 elected women served in state government and Congress. Pundits have branded 2018 as the “year of the woman.” Hot off the divisive 2016 presidential election, perhaps kindled by the #metoo movement’s backlash against men who misuse their power, women across the country are opting to run for election in record numbers. Here, they include MJ Hegar, a decorated Air Force pilot from Central Texas running for Congress whose viral campaign ad focuses on the doors that have been closed to her. And former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones would be the first congresswoman from San Antonio if she defeats incumbent Republican Rep. Will Hurd. Other candidates include Democrats Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar from opposite ends of the state who are favored to become the first Texas Latinas elected to Congress. And they include Lupe Valdez, a former Dallas County sheriff running for governor who is openly lesbian. “Voters are ready for change and women are perceived as being more capable of bringing change because we’re seen as more outside — which I guess is the only upside to being so under-represented,” said Kimberly Caldwell, program director for Annie’s List, which supports progressive female candidates in Texas. “It’s hard to understate the opportunity that we have to not only change the Texas Legislature, but the stories we tell ourselves about Texas and who we are and who we elect.”

Texas Public Radio - September 14, 2018

Gallego, Flores spend last days Of Senate District 19 special election appealing to voters

The midterm election is two months away but southwest Texas is gearing up for a special election first. Republican Pete Flores and Democrat Pete Gallego are contending for State Senate District 19, a seat former State Sen. Carlos Uresti vacated after he received a 12-year prison sentence in June 2018. Flores, a former Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden, recently visited the Alamo City Republican Women’s monthly fundraising luncheon in San Antonio. The group annually raises about $40,000 for political candidates, including Flores. He urged a crowd of about 150 people to help him turn red a district that has been blue for decades. “And I can’t stress how important it is for us to get the vote out. If you don’t live in the senate district, then contact those that do and have them show up at the polls,” he said. Flores, 58, faced Uresti in 2016 but lost with 40 percent of the vote. Despite that experience, he still feels he's new to politics. Bexar County voter Lille Gough likes that about Flores. She says he’s relatable. “He’s not a politician. He’s just a regular next door neighbor type of guy — that’s who we need. He’s what Trump went for. He’s exactly like Trump — going out to the people who have been forgotten,” she said. That's the message Flores shares with the voters. He says his biggest goal is property tax reform. “It’s not that we don’t want to pay our fair share,” he said, “It’s just, it’s gotten to the point it's not fair and equitable any more. The legislature created it and the legislature can un-create it. That’s the beauty of the process.” The Senate District 19 is one of the largest in the state, stretching from southern San Antonio into West Texas and down to the border. It’s 66 percent Hispanic. Flores came out the frontrunner in the initial special election this July. Out of eight candidates, he gained 34 percent of the vote. Democrat Pete Gallego finished with 29 percent. Another Democrat — State Rep. Roland Gutierrez — received 24 percent.

Marketwatch - September 15, 2018

Anheuser-Busch descendent says marijuana, not beer, is his business future

The scion of the Anheuser-Busch family wants to sell you a different kind of bud. Adolphus Busch V — great-great-grandson of the legendary beer pioneer — is launching ABV Cannabis, a Colorado-based startup that sells marijuana vaping pens instead of booze. “I saw that cannabis is the future,” Busch told The Post in a Thursday interview. He’s the latest heir to an American business empire to turn to weed. In June, Ben Kovler, a descendant in line for the Jim Beam whiskey fortune, took his Chicago-based cannabis cultivator, Green Thumb Industries public in Canada. And earlier this month, William “Beau” Wrigley Jr., the former head of the Wrigley gum and candy company, teamed up with Jimmy Buffett to launch the “Coral Reefer” cannabis brand. “It’s not a coincidence,” John Kaden, chief investment officer of weed-focused hedge fund Navy Capital, told The Post. “Alcohol is the most immediately affected” as marijuana gets legalized by states for medical and recreational use, he added. The U.S. cannabis industry is expected to grow to $75 billion by 2030, according to research from Cowen. By comparison, U.S. alcohol sales totaled roughly $180 billion in 2017, according to combined data from the Distilled Spirits Council, the Brewers Association and Wines & Vines.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 16, 2018

Will these Texas veterans help rebrand the Democratic Party?

When Joseph Kopser introduces himself to voters in the 21st Congressional District as a combat veteran, a successful entrepreneur and a Democrat, he gets double-takes. “Young man, are you sure you’re not a Republican?” Kopser, who lives in Southwest Austin, said he is asked almost daily. He is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in a district that stretches from Central Austin to the north side of San Antonio and encompasses six Hill Country counties. Kopser, 47, is one of three military veterans and political newcomers running as Democrats in closely watched congressional races in Central and South Texas. MJ Hegar, 42, a decorated Air National Guard pilot, is running in the 31st Congressional District against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock; and Gina Ortiz Jones, 37, a retired Air Force intelligence officer is in a tight race against U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in the 23rd District. They are among a new breed of Democrat running in Texas and elsewhere who are upending political party stereotypes and appealing to voters who traditionally vote Republican. “This was our effort early-on,” said Rep. Ben Lujan, R-N.M., the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, explaining that recruiting military veterans was “part of our strategy” after the 2016 election. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a Marine elected in 2014, has been leading the effort to recruit veteran candidates and supports them through his Serve America PAC. “These veterans represent a new generation of leadership for our party and for our country,” he said. Hegar, in particular, has captured the limelight with her compelling biography: She was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for saving the lives of her crew after being shot down during a helicopter rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2009. In a campaign ad, she touts her tattoos, which cover her shrapnel wounds. “A lot of people think I’m a Republican at first because I’m a veteran,” Hegar told the American-Statesman. But she tells voters in her district, which encompasses all of Williamson County and most of Bell County, including parts of Fort Hood: “I used to vote for John Carter, too. We’ve both been fooled.” Disenchanted when Carter wouldn’t meet with her during her effort to force the Pentagon to allow women into combat, Hegar decided to take him on. She has outraised Carter in the historically Republican district, putting her on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which gives money and support to challengers. Ortiz Jones, an Iraq war veteran, often brings up the challenges of being a lesbian and having to work under the so-called don’t ask, don’t tell policy that closeted gays in the military. “It’s one of the very formative experiences of my life,” she said of her military service. “I was honored to wear our nation’s cloth.” Why are veterans good candidates? “We need people to get things done,” she said. “We have a public service mindset. We took the oath to keep our country safe — that’s certainly shaped my desire to run for office.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 16, 2018

Naming of white man to lead TCEQ follows familiar pattern

Two senior officials at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality were among the unsuccessful candidates for executive director of the agency, according to documents reviewed by the American-Statesman through a request under the Texas Public Information Act. Instead, Toby Baker, who had been appointed as one of three TCEQ commissioners by then-Gov. Rick Perry in April 2012, got the job, announced Aug. 20. Stephanie Perdue, who was serving as interim executive director of the agency, and L’Oreal Stepney, who oversees the agency’s water division, had applied for the executive director position. Baker and the two commissioners who hired him are white men. Perdue is a white woman, and Stepney is an African-American woman. Baker is recognized as deeply engaged in the sort of environmental issues that come before the agency, but the hiring decision reflects a common scenario in Texas: From the general manager position at the Lower Colorado River Authority, the state-established utility that delivers water and electricity to more than a million Central Texans, to the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, boards made up largely of white men, appointed by the governor, have given the top staff job at their agencies to well-qualified white men. Baker said that after submitting his application he recused himself from all discussion on the hiring by his colleagues on the board governing the state environmental agency. He oversees a regulatory agency with 2,800 employees, a $370 million budget and 16 regional offices outside of the Austin headquarters. The TCEQ is charged with regulating air pollution, keeping waterways clean and making sure landfills operate properly. It tries to accomplish those goals in a way “consistent with sustainable economic development,” according to its mission statement. Perdue has worked at the agency since 1999, Stepney since at least 2000. Stepney earns $165,000 annually, in keeping with other deputy directors at the agency; Perdue, now second-in-command, earns $190,000. Baker had been earning $189,500 as a commissioner; he now will make $211,000 as executive director. Baker told the American-Statesman in August that he has “always been passionate about this policy area” — he once served as an aide to the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development — and decided to apply for the executive director post because he wanted a role on the front end of regulatory matters. “I feel like it plays to my strengths. … I can bring everyone to the table, find solutions and be fair,” he said.

San Antonio Express-News - September 14, 2018

Nirenberg pressured from all sides about Alamo Plaza decision

Mayor Ron Nirenberg is under mounting pressure to act on a plan to revamp Alamo Plaza, with appeals coming from people on opposite sides of the hotly debated issue. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush signed off on the plan Wednesday and publicly admonished Nirenberg to immediately do the same. That step would move the plan toward the final stages of approval. But Nirenberg said he wants to pore over the details and that he expects the City Council to vote on it in mid-December. “I’m confident this plan will finish the final approval stages before the end of the year. And we’ll be proud of it,” he said. On Friday, some opponents called on Nirenberg to reject it. State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, said he and other Texans have “grave concerns” about the relocation of the Cenotaph and a long-term lease that he said could expose the plaza to international influence to revise history. “Mayor Nirenberg, don’t sign, because we are not happy with the agreements that have been put forth so far,” Biedermann said at a news conference at the Cenotaph, surrounded by a throng of opponents. “This is the shrine of our liberty. And we want to keep it that way. So please don’t sign it because we’re going to continue with the pressure.” The makeover plan for the plaza includes construction of an Alamo museum, closure of plaza streets to traffic, demolition of commercial buildings and the Cenotaph relocation. The plaza would be enlarged and function as an outdoor museum. Access to it would be controlled, with as few as one entry point during daytime museum hours and six after hours. Bush and other supporters of the plan are eager to get moving on the project. He sent that message to Nirenberg via a news release and a posting on Twitter. “Join me in executing this plan to treat the Alamo with the respect and reverence it deserves,” he wrote and included a photo of a resolution, with a red “sign here” sticker. But Nirenberg noted that even though the plan has been “painstakingly developed,” he and Bush have “different constituencies.”

San Antonio Express-News - September 15, 2018

‘Cobots’ and humans can work alongside each other

Using a device resembling an iPad, engineer Levi Armstrong taps out commands for the robot in front of him, simulating how the machine could pick up and move objects in assembly-line fashion. Then he grips the robot, maneuvering its “hand” to trace where he wants it to go and what he wants it to do — a simple illustration of how robots and humans can work together to accomplish different tasks. The so-called collaborative robot, or cobot, is part of a lab at San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute designed to help manufacturers figure out how their human workforce and robots can work together to make products. While conventional robots are usually surrounded by cages or gates, walled off from human contact, cobots can work safely alongside people. They tend to be easier to program, cost less and operate at a slower rate than traditional robots, lab officials said. Even their appearance is different: the rounded edges and gentle grippers of the cobots are quite different from the hulking arms and claws of conventional robots. “We want to make it easier for people to use and teach robots,” said Paul Evans, who directs SwRI’s manufacturing technologies department. “That’s the goal.” There are different types of sensors in the lab, which can be used with the cobots to teach them how to perform more complex tasks, and meeting space for events. Companies can touch and feel the robots and see how they work in person, and SwRI has already hosted workshops and other events at the lab. The launch of the lab, announced in August, was prompted in part by inquiries from customers, Evans said. They’d heard about a new class of robot and wanted to know whether it was a match for their operations and, if so, how to program and integrate it. SwRI and the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, or TMAC, are working together to educate manufacturers on the cobots through seminars and other events, and to help companies determine whether a robot is a good fit for their operations. There’s a risk assessment involved to determine what a manufacturer’s goals are and how they would use the robot, said Matt Robinson, program manager for the ROS-Industrial Consortium Americas at SwRI. For example, a cobot is better suited to lifting bags of coffee and moving them than cutting parts, he said. Then there’s the question of which kind of robot with what specifications would work best.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2018

Activists march with coffins at AT&T Stadium to protest Botham Jean killing

Activists used two coffins to drive home their message about police slayings at a protest outside AT&T Stadium ahead of Sunday night's Dallas Cowboys game. About 75 people marched alongside the coffins to symbolize Oshae Terry and Botham Jean, men who were fatally shot by North Texas officers this month. Terry was killed by Arlington officers Sept. 1 when he drove away while an officer had his arm inside the window. Jean was killed Sept. 6 in his apartment by Dallas officer Amber Guyger who says she thought it was her own home. The group, which includes members and leadership from various religious institutions and activists, have called for Guyger to be fired and charged with murder, and for Dallas take greater responsibility for investigating police brutality. Guyger has been placed on administrative leave and charged with manslaughter. The stadium protest was a first for Milton Perkins. He said he's never joined and activist event before, that Jean's death convinced him to speak out. "I will fly anywhere, I will walk anywhere, I will ride my bike anywhere," he said. "It's got to stop." Sunday's march is latest in the days since Jean's death. Ralliers have gathered outside Dallas police headquarters, halted a City Council meeting and marched through downtown.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2018

DMN: We recommend Ron Simmons for Texas House District 65

Republican Ron Simmons won his first election to represent Texas House District 65 in 2012. Since then, he has served his constituents well, and they rewarded him with re-election in 2014 and 2016. There's no reason voters shouldn't do so again, and we recommend Simmons over his opponent, Democrat Michelle Beckley. Simmons, 57, of Carrollton, will be the first to tell you he's an ideological conservative. His candor is a breath of fresh air at a time when many politicians want to convince people they're different from how they legislated in the past. However, Simmons is not a blind partisan and has a demonstrated record of working with others to benefit all Texans. His efforts on transportation are a perfect example, not only looking for ways to improve projects but prioritizing them based on need.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2018

Dallas reproductive rights pioneer Virginia Whitehill dies at 90

After 1973's landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, reproductive rights activist Virginia “Ginny” Whitehill figured the war was won. The Dallas woman was at the Supreme Court when the oral arguments were presented ahead of the 7-2 ruling that secured the legal right to abortion. But Whitehill quickly realized activism was like tending a garden, said close friend Gail Griswold of Dallas. Even though the Supreme Court's decision was a major victory for abortion rights, Whitehill learned she would have to keep fighting for them for the rest of her life. “You couldn’t just plant your flowers and walk away,” Griswold said. “You had to tend it and weed it and replant.” A Dallas women’s rights pioneer, Whitehill died Saturday at age 90. She had been in declining health in recent years, said daughter Margaret Whitehill-Boynton of Georgia. Whitehill was fiercely committed to the women’s rights movement throughout her life, friends said. Feminism was in her blood — her mother, Myrtle Bulkley, was a women’s suffrage supporter and passed her passion to her daughter. “Ginny came from a line of strong women, and I think her mother also had a big personality and a lot of conviction,” Griswold said. Whitehill considered birth control as vital to women as the right to vote, and she devoted hours volunteering with Planned Parenthood to help educate others, Griswold said. Part of Whitehill’s early work with Planned Parenthood required her to take her typewriter to Parkland Memorial Hospital. From there, she typed up the names and addresses of mothers who’d given birth so she could mail them information on how to space out their pregnancies, Griswold said. Whitehall was “indefatigable” in her belief that if women didn’t have freedom of choice in her reproduction, there could never be gender equality, said friend Cecilia Boone of Dallas. Patty Whitehill, who lives in Florida, described her mother as a "white-gloved feminist activist" who co-founded the Dallas Women’s Coalition, the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and the Family Place, the first women’s shelter in Dallas. Virginia Whitehill's efforts were recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including Planned Parenthood’s “Champion of Choice” award. She was named a Woman of the Century by the Texas Women’s Chamber of Congress in 2000. Whitehill was interviewed for a documentary about women’s rights, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. “The bitter lesson is that no victories are perfect,” she says in the trailer.

Waco Tribune-Herald - September 15, 2018

Waco's short-term rental restrictions could face legal, legislative challenges

Waco’s short-term rental industry has continued to thrive under new regulations enacted by the city council last year, but those rules could face attacks next year by state legislators seeking to let residents use their properties as they wish. Bolstered by a recent Texas Supreme Court decision in their favor, those legislators said they will try once again to curb the powers of cities to regulate the fast-growing market for homes that can be reserved through online services such as Airbnb. Property rights advocates say Waco’s 2017 ordinance could be especially vulnerable to challenge because it requires property owners to get City Plan Commission and city council approval for a short-term rental, even if it’s for renting a single room in the house while the owner is at home. In several cases, neighbors persuaded the council to reject short-term rental applications that otherwise met the city’s standards. City officials say the ordinance balances the interests of individual property owners with the interests of neighborhoods in keeping their residential character intact. But Rob Henneke, a lawyer at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, calls the Waco ordinance “constitutionally suspect.” Henneke represented the plaintiffs in the recent Texas Supreme Court case, successfully challenging a homeowners association prohibition on short-term rentals. The court found that for legal purposes, such rentals should be considered as residential uses and not commercial ones. In an interview, Henneke said he has not heard of any other city ordinance that requires council approval to operate a short-term rental. Other processes are handled administratively through city code enforcement and licensing staffers. “It seems especially bureaucratic, and in some ways suspect, to have to go to the city council to get permission to use your property, which seems contrary to the very notion of private property rights,” he said. State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, a seven-term Republican whose district includes much of Waco, agreed that the city’s policy places an undue burden on property owners. A bill tackling this issue passed the Texas Senate in 2017 but ultimately stalled. Similar legislation is expected for the Legislature’s 140-day session beginning in January.

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2018

Texas education officials OK Mexican-American studies course

After four years of battles over ethnic studies textbooks and courses in a state with a booming Latino population, state education officials gave final approval to adopt a Mexican-American studies course that can be taught statewide. Although the State Board of Education OK’d the course with no discussion at its board meeting Friday in Austin, the issue of teaching Texas students about the influence of Mexican-Americans has dominated much of the board’s discussion for more than four years. The board has gone to blows over adopting a textbook that critics describe as offensive for describing Mexican-Americans as lazy and omitting or downplaying contributions of Mexican-Americans. Later, the board tentatively agreed to create the framework for a Mexican-American studies course — although teachers could already teach such a class — but fought over the name of it after conservative board members wanted to change the name of the course to “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” The final title is “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies.”

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - September 16, 2018

Lawsuits muddle law enforcement pay negotiations in Bexar County

A state high court decision earlier this year has created a dispute among several law enforcement unions in Bexar County over which one will negotiate compensation with commissioners. The conflict could force an election among union members to decide who takes the lead on collective bargaining, county attorney Edward Schweninger said last week. Since 2005, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County has negotiated compensation for its deputies with the county commissioners, Schweninger said. But in April, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that constables also qualify as police officers and are entitled to collective bargaining. In the wake of the ruling, the Texas Association of County Employees, which represents deputy constables in precincts 2, 3 and 4, sued the county to begin their own bargaining process. Another union, the Deputy Constables Association of Bexar County, also filed suit. Representatives from both unions could not be reached for comment. “We have three different associations that currently represent various law enforcement groups within the county and that sets up a dilemma,” Schweninger said, since it is only legally required to negotiate with one. “It’s not for us to decide who the bargaining agent is, it’s for the officers,” Schweninger said. The county has now asked the three unions to hold an election to decide who will be the representative. According to county records and officials, there are many more deputy sheriffs than deputy constables.

Rivard Report - September 17, 2018

As Election Day approaches, the race is on to register voters

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9, and Bexar County residents are hustling to help people register. Since 2013, the number of volunteers certified to register voters in Bexar County – known as volunteer deputy registrars – has steadily risen. Between 2013 and 2014, Bexar County had 1,758 volunteer deputy registrars. In 2015 and 2016, 1,856 people were deputized. Between 2017 and 2018 — which isn’t over yet — the number increased again to 2,143. And to add to 2018’s numbers, nearly 160 more volunteer deputy registrars were sworn in on Tuesday at the Bexar County Elections Department. The number of registered voters in Bexar County also has increased over the years. In the 2014 midterm elections, 959,438 people registered and 304,092 cast ballots. In 2016, the last presidential election, more than 1 million people registered while 598,691 voted. Valid deputy registrar status expires at the end of every even-numbered year, so people deputized between 2017 and 2018 will have to be re-deputized next year. Kristy Torralva, a voter registrar with the Elections Department, officiated a volunteer class on Tuesday morning. Nearly every seat was filled, and the volunteers listened to Torralva explain the rules and procedures of registering Bexar County residents to vote. Ruby Washington, a first-time volunteer deputy registrar, joked that she was retired and didn’t have anything better to do. She added that she believes voting and helping others register to vote is important. “I think it’s our civic duty to do it,” she said. Torralva said when “big elections” like the midterms or a presidential election nears, volunteer class attendance spikes. Volunteer registrars also account for much of Bexar County’s voter registration, she said. She estimated that 50 percent of registered voters register in person, while the other half do so through a deputized volunteer. “[Volunteer deputy registrars] want to engage people,” Torralva said. “They see it’s their right to vote and want to promote that. Those that don’t know or understand the application, our deputies are engaging and telling them.” And the more deputies, the better, she added.

National Stories

Washington Post - September 16, 2018

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed. Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it. Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County. While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house. Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.

Washington Post - September 16, 2018

John Kerry criticized for saying Trump has ‘the insecurity of a teenage girl’

Former U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry is being criticized for comparing President Trump to a teenage girl during an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Kerry visited the late-night talk show Friday to promote his new memoir, “Every Day is Extra.” Shortly after Kerry sat down, however, host Bill Maher brought up a Trump tweet from the day before, in which the president had accused the former secretary of state of having “illegal meetings” with the Iranian government. “BAD!” Trump wrote at the end of the tweet. “What did you do, John F. Kerry, that was 'BAD’?” Maher asked Kerry. “I think I told the truth,” Kerry replied. “He’s the first president that I know of who spends more time reading his Twitter ‘likes’ than his briefing books or the Constitution of the United States." The crowd cheered. Kerry continued to lament what he thought was the deleterious effect of Trump’s lies on American democracy. “Unfortunately, we have a president, literally, for whom ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ is three different things. And you don’t even know what they are,” Kerry said. “I don’t want to get into a real riff on this, but I gotta tell you —” “Do it!” someone in the audience shouted, egging him on. Kerry acknowledged the interjection, then continued: “He really is the rare combination of an 8-year-old boy — I mean, he’s got the maturity of an 8-year-old boy with the insecurity of a teenage girl. It’s just who he is.” “A ‘mean girl!’” Maher said. “Mean girls,” Kerry replied, nodding. “It can be mean.” Kerry shrugged. Maher laughed. The audience applauded. The two men moved on to discuss a variety of other subjects covered in the forthcoming memoir, including Kerry’s work as secretary of state and his friendship with the late senator John McCain.

Washington Post - September 16, 2018

After attacking Trump, JPMorgan chief now says the president has done ‘pretty good’ with economy

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon backed away Sunday from the sharp criticism he leveled at President Trump earlier in the week and said he was not planning to run for president himself. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Dimon was asked “what kind of grade” he would give Trump just on the economy. “I’d say pretty good,” Dimon said. “You know, when President Trump was elected, confidence skyrocketed, consumers, small business, large corporate and because pro-business, pro-competitive taxes, pro some regulatory reform — and that has helped the economy,” Dimon told Rebecca Jarvis of ABC. “So it’s impossible for me to tease out how much, but it has helped the economy,” he said. “Yeah, he should take some credit for that.” Last week, Dimon had been asked whether “he could beat Donald Trump in a potential 2020 matchup.” Dimon replied “I’m as tough as he is; I’m smarter than he is. I — I would be fine. He could punch me all he wants; it wouldn’t work for me; I’d fight right back.” He said that “by the way, this wealthy New Yorker actually earned his money; it wasn’t a — it wasn’t a gift from daddy.” But Dimon said Sunday he regretted his earlier comments. “I shouldn’t have said it. And I — more out of frustration and a little of my own machismo. But I shouldn’t have said it, and so — it also proves I wouldn’t be a good politician,” he said. Trump tweeted that “the problem with banker Jamie Dimon running for President is that he doesn’t have the aptitude or ‘smarts’ & is a poor public speaker & nervous mess — otherwise he is wonderful.” Dimon gave President Barack Obama a mixed review on the economy. “President Obama helped to stop the economy from getting much worse,” he said. “But they also did policies, I think, that slowed down growth. Some of those are being reversed."

Washington Post - September 16, 2018

A woman’s daring escape from a Border Patrol agent helped reveal a ‘serial killer,’ police say

The woman in the white pickup was feeling increasingly uneasy about the driver, whom she knew only as “David.” Two fellow sex workers in Laredo, Tex., had been recently killed, and one of them was her friend Melissa. The man and the woman had already been at his house, where she had discussed Melissa. He had reacted strangely, she later told authorities, and the situation had grown so tense that she vomited in the front yard before they left for a gas station. The woman’s mind lingered on Melissa. She wanted to keep talking about her. He produced a gun in response, and grabbed hold of her shirt. She managed to jump out of the truck and into the night, her shirt torn from her body. He fled, and she found a state trooper fueling up nearby. She told the trooper where the man lived. That information led officers to Juan David Ortiz, a supervisory Border Patrol agent. He had been hiding in a hotel parking lot after fleeing from officers and was arrested at 2:30 a.m., according to an affidavit provided to The Washington Post by county prosecutors. Ortiz, 35, confessed to the two September murders, according to the document. But he had other confessions to make. He had killed two more people early Saturday morning in the five hours between the assault on the escaped woman and his capture.' “We consider this man to be a serial killer who was preying on one victim after another,” Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said. Webb County-Zapata County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said he believed Ortiz acted alone in the murders while off duty. He is a 10-year veteran of the agency and worked in intelligence, authorities said. Ortiz was charged with four counts of murder, aggravated assault and unlawful restraint, Alaniz told The Post on Sunday. All of his victims were sex workers, including the woman who escaped, the district attorney said, and there are signs that at least some of them were not chosen at random.

New York Times - September 16, 2018

With 17 dead, Hurricane Florence 'has never been more dangerous’

North Carolina confronted a spiraling statewide crisis on Sunday as Tropical Depression Florence slowly ravaged the region, flooding cities, endangering communities from the coastline to the rugged mountains, and requiring well more than 1,000 rescues. Sunday, it seemed, was when the storm system that had stalked the South for days — first as a hurricane, then as a tropical storm and eventually as a tropical depression — showed its full power with staggering scope. The death toll from the storm rose to at least 16 in North and South Carolina, where roads were treacherous and even the most stately trees were falling. “It’s horrible,” said Mitch Colvin, the mayor of Fayetteville, N.C., in the eastern part of the state, where the rising Cape Fear River was expected to swamp bridges and cut his city in two in the next few days. “Things are deteriorating,” he said. The perils stretched across North Carolina’s more than 500-mile width. Weary, drenched coastal cities were scenes of daring rescues. Waterways swelled throughout the eastern and central parts of the state, testing dams and menacing towns with floodwaters that had no place to go but up. Inch after inch of rain fell on Charlotte and its suburbs, and communities in North Carolina’s western mountains feared landslides. The storm has “never been more dangerous than it is right now,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference. “Wherever you live in North Carolina, be alert for sudden flooding.” All 100 counties in North Carolina had at least one type of National Weather Service alert, from a flash-flood warning to a hazardous weather outlook, in effect for Sunday or the days ahead. Rain was expected to continue in parts of the state until Tuesday, but flooding on some rivers would last longer, and may not ease until the end of the week. South Carolina faced its own set of troubles, with its death toll rising Sunday and the storm’s rains still unspooling havoc. Although Gov. Henry McMaster said flooding might continue in his state, he said he expected that South Carolina had “seen the end of the hurricane and most of the storm.” Even before Florence could fully steer its way out of the Carolinas, it was leaving behind a waterlogged landscape of tragedies, worries and restlessness.

New York Times - September 16, 2018

As Trump’s trade war mounts, China’s Wall Street allies lose clout

When President Bill Clinton deliberated whether he should loosen trade barriers against China, Wall Street helped plead Beijing’s case. When Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama talked tough about labeling China as a currency manipulator, Wall Street urged restraint — and both presidents backed down. Today, China is hoping that Wall Street will once again use its political heft to soothe tempers in Washington. But as President Trump ratchets up the trade war with Beijing, Wall Street’s words are falling on deaf ears. Senior Wall Street executives met in Beijing on Sunday with current and former Chinese officials and bankers at a hastily organized session to find ways to strengthen financial ties between the United States and China. On Monday, the group — which included executives from Goldman Sachs Group, Morgan Stanley and the Blackstone Group, the private equity firm, among others — planned to meet with Vice President Wang Qishan, the right hand man of Xi Jinping, the country’s leader. New trade talks between the two governments are tentatively scheduled between Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Liu He, a Chinese vice premier, later this month in Washington. Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chief, has been playing a critical role in organizing them, say people familiar with the talks, who asked for anonymity because the process is sensitive. But the Chinese have indicated that they will pull out of the talks if Mr. Trump follows through on his threat to impose tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump has told advisers that he wants to move ahead with the new round of tariffs and an announcement could come as early as this week, another person familiar with the discussions said. That continues a frustrating trend for America’s financial titans: Even as they win tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks from the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, they appear to be able to do little to stop the trade war. “What’s really surprising is that the connections that used to work, the formula that used to work, just don’t work at this point,” said Marshall W. Meyer, an emeritus professor of management at the Wharton School of Business. Wall Street has long gambled that helping China would pay off. China has been slow to open its vast but tightly controlled financial markets, and Wall Street banks hope to get more business advising Chinese companies on acquisitions in the United States, lending money and selling financial services. Pressure from the Trump administration is now bearing fruit as China has begun to open its financial markets to foreign banks, though a worsening trade war could stymie that progress.

New York Times - September 17, 2018

Bloomberg may run for President as a Democrat. His views on policing and #MeToo could be a problem.

Michael R. Bloomberg is actively considering a campaign for president as a Democrat in 2020, concluding that it would be his only path to the White House even as he voices stark disagreements with progressives on defining issues including bank regulation, stop-and-frisk police tactics and the #MeToo movement. Mr. Bloomberg, 76, a billionaire media executive and former New York City mayor, has already aligned himself with Democrats in the midterm elections, approving a plan to spend $80 million to flip control of the House of Representatives. A political group he controls will soon begin spending heavily in three Republican-held districts in Southern California, attacking conservative candidates for their stances on abortion, guns and the environment. At events across the West Coast and Nevada in recent days, Mr. Bloomberg, who was elected mayor as a Republican and an independent, denounced his former party in sharp terms. He urged audiences in Seattle and San Francisco to punish Republicans who oppose gun control or reject climate science. And in Las Vegas on Sunday he called on Democrats to seize command of the political center and win over Americans “who voted Republican in 2016.” But Mr. Bloomberg’s aspirations appear to run well beyond dismantling Republicans’ House majority, and he is taking steps that advisers acknowledge are aimed in part at testing his options for 2020. After a gun control-themed event in a Seattle community center Friday, Mr. Bloomberg, who has repeatedly explored running for president as an independent in the past, said in an interview that he now firmly believes only a major-party nominee can win the White House. If he were to run, Mr. Bloomberg said it would be as a Democrat, and he left open the door to changing his party registration in the coming months. “It’s impossible to conceive that I could run as a Republican — things like choice, so many of the issues, I’m just way away from where the Republican Party is today,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “That’s not to say I’m with the Democratic Party on everything, but I don’t see how you could possibly run as a Republican. So if you ran, yeah, you’d have to run as a Democrat.” Mr. Bloomberg said he had no specific timeline for deciding on a presidential run: “I’m working on this Nov. 6 election, and after that I’ll take a look at it.” There is considerable skepticism among Democratic leaders, and even some of Mr. Bloomberg’s close allies, that he will actually pursue the presidency, because he has entertained the idea fruitlessly several times before, and shown little appetite for the rough-and-tumble tactics of traditional partisan politics. A campaign would require him to yield his imperial stature as a donor and philanthropist, and enter a tumultuous political and cultural climate that could make him a highly incongruous candidate for the Democratic nomination.

New York Times - September 16, 2018

Asian immigrants feel brunt of policy led by 'misperception'

The young engineer arrived in America when he was 23 with a good education and little else. He landed a job at a nuclear test site, and built a home in Nevada. Between the 1970s and the mid-1980s, he brought his wife, mother, five sisters and a brother over from India, his native land. In later years, his siblings sponsored family members of their own, and their clan now stretches from Nevada to Florida, New Jersey to Texas — more than 90 Americans nurtured on the strength of one ambitious engineer, Jagdish Patel, 72. In late June, four generations of Patels assembled for a reunion in Las Vegas, a gathering that included a venture capitalist, a network engineer, physicians, dentists and students. “I am so glad that I came to America,” Mr. Patel said recently, sitting in the custom-designed house he built in Las Vegas, complete with a home theater where he hosts Super Bowl parties and a marble-lined Hindu temple room. “I brought everyone here,” he said, “and we have provided valuable service to this country.” The share of the United States population that is foreign-born has reached its highest level since 1910, according to government data released last week. But in recent years, the numbers have been soaring not so much with Latin Americans sweeping across the border, but with educated people from Asia obtaining visas — families like the Patels, who have taken advantage of “family reunification” provisions that have been a cornerstone of federal immigration law for half a century. Since the Patels began flocking to America in the 1970s, millions of other Indians have arrived to work as programmers and engineers in Silicon Valley, doctors in underserved rural areas and researchers at universities. The majority were sponsored by relatives who came before them. Others arrived on work visas and were later sponsored for legal residency, or green cards, by their employers.

Politico - September 16, 2018

Flake opposes quick vote on Kavanaugh, putting confirmation in doubt

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court hit a serious roadblock Sunday night, as GOP Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Flake said he is uncomfortable voting to advance Kavanaugh's nomination later this week after the nominee's sexual assault accuser went public. The Arizona senator said he needs to hear more about the allegations raised publicly by Christine Blasey Ford on Sunday in a Washington Post article, and said other Republicans share his view. Flake is one of 11 Republicans on the narrowly divided panel and without his support, the committee cannot advance his nomination. However, GOP leaders could try to bring Kavanaugh‘s nomination directly to the Senate floor. "If they push forward without any attempt with hearing what she's had to say, I'm not comfortable voting yes," Flake said. "We need to hear from her. And I don't think I'm alone in this." Flake declined to address whether Kavanaugh should withdraw his nomination: "I'm not responding to that question at all." The retiring Arizona Republican has long been a thorn in the side of President Donald Trump, refusing to support his campaign in 2016 and often critiquing his policies and rhetoric. In return, Trump has repeatedly mocked Flake. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is also seeking more information on Ford's account that Kavanaugh groped her, tried to pull off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream at a party in Maryland more than three decades ago. A spokesman for Grassley said that given the new information about Kavanaugh and Ford revealing her identity after the allegations were first revealed anonymously, "Grassley is actively working to set up ... follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote." It remains unclear whether Ford wants to appear before the committee or whether Grassley wants her to testify. Flake said he was not sure what forum would be appropriate: "I don't know what she's comfortable with ... we need to hear from her."

USA Today - September 16, 2018

Rose: Twitter feigns political neutrality, but my pro-life organization sees the bias firsthand

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has repeatedly told the news media that Twitter doesn’t ban content based on users’ viewpoints. Earlier this month, at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, members of Congress tested him on that assertion and asked several times whether Twitter engaged in suppressing more conservative voices. Each time, Dorsey replied no. Even in his written statement to the committee, he said, “The purpose of Twitter is to serve the public conversation, and we do not make value judgments on personal beliefs.” Yet for years, Twitter has blocked one of the most prominent pro-life organizations online from advertising our pro-life message on the platform. So I can tell you from experience, Jack Dorsey's statements are not the truth. Twitter’s reasoning for blocking Live Action’s message? In emails to us, the company has said that our content violated its sensitive advertising content policy, which prohibits "inflammatory or provocative content which is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction." Some examples of this supposedly offensive content include pictures of children developing in the womb and even simple ultrasound images of babies — like the ones that expectant parents hang on their refrigerator doors. Twitter's actions suggest it’s OK for Planned Parenthood to tweet that a woman has a right to an abortion, but when I tweet and try to promote that a baby has a right to life, Twitter considers that inflammatory. Twitter's actions suggest it's fine for Planned Parenthood to tweet that taxpayers who don’t want to fund the nation’s largest abortion chain are "extremists," but when I tweet that there are alternative options to Planned Parenthood, Twitter calls that an offensive violation of policy. While the platform won’t censor our tweets outright, it has banned our ability to promote (advertise) our content beyond our own followers until we delete all of our tweets that it deems offensive. That includes tweets of our undercover investigations into the abortion industry, tweets calling for the end of taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, and any ultrasound images of preborn children. And because many of our tweets link back to Live Action’s website, Twitter requires us to scrub our website of similar content before it will allow us to promote our tweets again. In other words, Twitter wants Live Action to scrub almost all of its pro-life messaging. Yet Jack Dorsey says there’s no bias. Much of the content that Live Action posts on Twitter is used to educate society about abortion and human development in the womb. When people learn the facts about what abortion really does to a child and how developed that child really is, many change their minds about abortion.

Fox News - September 17, 2018

Strzok-Page texts calling to 'open' case in 'chargeable way' under fresh scrutiny

Text messages from disgraced FBI figures Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, discussing whether to open a "case" in a "formal chargeable way" after Director James Comey was fired, are under fresh scrutiny after Page told congressional investigators there was no evidence of Russian collusion at the time, according to three congressional sources. Two hours after Comey's termination became public on May 9, 2017, Strzok, a now-former FBI agent, texted Page, his then-colleague and lover: "We need to open the case we've been waiting on now while Andy is acting." "Andy" is a reference to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who temporarily took over the bureau until Christopher Wray was confirmed as director in August 2017. Page, a former FBI attorney, replied to Strzok: "We need to lock in (redacted). In a formal chargeable way. Soon." Strzok concurred. "I agree. I've been pushing and I'll reemphasize with Bill," believed to be Bill Priestap, the head of the FBI's counterintelligence division. The text messages were provided to congress earlier this year, and among the six months of missing messages blamed on software and technical issues with the FBI issued Samsung phones. The recovered texts cover December 2016 to May 2017, including Comey's firing, and the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Page sat for a transcribed interview before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in mid-July as part of a joint congressional investigation into the Justice Department's handling of the Russia and Clinton email probes. During the deposition, Page said that by the time special counsel Mueller was appointed and Comey was fired in May 2017, investigators still could not say whether there was collusion, according to a transcript reviewed by Fox News. While it is unclear what "case" Strzok and Page are talking about opening, three Republican sources on the house intelligence, and judiciary committees, said the texts demanded further explanation. If there was no solid evidence of Russian collusion, as Page recently testified, the sources questioned whether "the case" relates to obstruction, and the President's decision to fire Director Comey. The sources asked not to be identified citing the sensitivity of the ongoing investigations.

Reuters - September 17, 2018

Pompeo seeks rapprochement with alienated U.S. diplomats

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has nearly doubled promotions of top American diplomats as he seeks to restore diplomatic ties with a workforce alienated by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. Since taking over in April, Pompeo has lavished attention on diplomats demoralized by the former oil executive’s distant management style, reluctance to consult in-house experts and inability to get personnel choices through President Donald Trump’s White House. The charm offensive by the former Republican lawmaker and CIA director includes resuming the hiring of diplomats’ family members when posted abroad, cheerleading emails to staff about his travels and a push to replenish the top ranks of U.S. diplomacy, officials said. The most tangible sign of Pompeo’s effort may be the State Department promotion lists, disclosed internally since Aug. 31 and reviewed by Reuters, which show Pompeo has sharply increased the number of diplomats promoted to three of the top four ranks. According to a provisional agency document circulated internally on Friday, Pompeo recommended doubling the number of "career ministers" - the second-highest rank in the U.S. foreign service - to eight from four. ( Pompeo also proposed nearly doubling those promoted to the third rank, “minister-counselor,” to 68 from 35 the year before. For the critical level of ‘officer counsellor’- the entry point for the “senior” foreign service and the hurdle at which many careers in the up-or-out system founder - he increased the number by more than 50 percent to 97 from 63. The State Department had no immediate comment on the data.

Wall Street Journal - September 16, 2018

Willett: Happy Constitution Day, if you can keep it

Like most Philly crowds, the one surrounding Independence Hall 231 years ago Monday was amped. The infant nation was floundering. The United States were anything but. America’s first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, had created a “league of friendship” among states, but the former colonies hadn’t coalesced into a country. A constitutional reboot was crucial. For four sweltering months, delegates to the Constitutional Convention huddled behind closed doors. Those outside were wary of those inside. On the final day of deliberations, Benjamin Franklin delivered the last great speech of his life, urging delegates to adopt the new Constitution “with all its faults.” It worked. As James Madison scribbled understatedly in his notes, “The members then proceeded to sign the instrument.” Triumphant, Franklin exited the hall, and a woman shouted, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin’s notoriously sharp-witted reply: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s zinger was heartening—no more royal absolutism!—and ominous, because it suggested the survival of freedom depends on people, not parchment. The Framers were not tinkerers. They upended things. The Constitution inaugurated a revolutionary design. Madisonian architecture infused with Newtonian genius: three separate, coequal branches locked in synchronous orbit by competing interests. Ambition counteracting ambition. But the truly extraordinary element? These three rival branches derived their power from three unrivaled words, inscribed on the page in supersize script: “We the People.” In an era of kings and sultans, nothing was more radical than the idea that ultimate sovereignty resides not in the government but in the governed. Popular sovereignty isn’t just a theory; it is a duty. “Wherever the people are well informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote from Paris in 1789, “they can be trusted with their own government.” This prognosis underscored what the Constitution presupposes: An enlightened citizenry is indispensable to American self-government. Fast-forward more than two centuries, and We the People’s civic illiteracy is staggering. Seventy-one percent of Americans can’t identify the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, according to a 2012 Xavier University study. Ten percent of U.S. college graduates think Judith Sheindlin (a k a “Judge Judy”) sits on the Supreme Court, according to a 2015 American Council of Trustees and Alumni poll. Only 32% can name all three branches of government—and 33% can’t name a single one, according to this year’s Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey. The legendarily good-humored Franklin would be dismayed that the generation of Americans with access to the most information is also the least informed. Madison—Father of the Constitution—warned of this expressly: “A popular Government, without popular information . . . is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.” But even a well-informed populace cannot guarantee good governance. Franklin cautioned, “if you can keep it,” because he knew that an engaged citizenry with its sleeves rolled up was the secret sauce. We the People—not We the Government, We the Judges or We the Subjects. Citizenship is not a spectator sport. “The only title in our democracy superior to that of president is the title of citizen,” said Justice Louis Brandeis. Our Constitution is an exquisite charter of freedom, but freedom requires patriots, not passersby. It demands fierce defenders, not feeble bystanders. Let me introduce you to a tenacious Texan with a Mensa-level civics IQ named Gregory Watson. In 1982 Mr. Watson wrote a paper as a University of Texas sophomore arguing that one of Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution was still eligible for ratification. The proposal barred Congress from raising its salary midterm; it set no ratification deadline. Unconvinced, Mr. Watson’s professor awarded him a C. Fueled by righteous indignation, Mr. Watson spent the next decade writing letters, bending ears and twisting arms in state capitals from sea to shining sea. And in 1992 the 27th Amendment was ratified—203 years after Congress proposed it. Gregory Watson got a bad grade. So he amended the Constitution. All it took was aptitude and attitude. (In 2017 the university officially changed Mr. Watson’s grade from C to A-plus.)

The Nation - September 12, 2018

Alterman: The myth of ‘liberal intolerance’

As President Trump and his Republican quislings continue to undermine our democracy, the punditocracy obsesses over another apparent threat to the nation: liberal intolerance. When New Yorker editor David Remnick disinvited former Trump strategist Steve Bannon from his magazine’s annual festival, The Wall Street Journal ran an article bemoaning the “growing list of news organizations that have reversed their decision to engage with conservatives after a public outcry.” On The New York Times’ op-ed page, ex–Journal opinion editor Bret Stephens crossed into Crazytown when he concluded that “what this really means is that Remnick is no longer the editor of The New Yorker. Twitter is.” He added that the magazine was “on the road to [becoming a] left-wing version of Fox & Friends.” In a front-page article in The New York Times Book Review, author Thomas Chatterton Williams asked: “How did we arrive at this fraught place where the use of nothing more sinister than a body metaphor can assume the power to cause harm?” The blame, he argued, belongs with “the country’s rapidly shifting mores, which are the product of new generations increasingly fluent in, in thrall to and in fear of the hyperspecialized language and norms of academia.” Now I don’t think The New Yorker should have invited Bannon, and I don’t think The Nation should have apologized for its poem. But in the case of the former, Remnick published an 829-word statement explaining why he’d changed his mind after listening to his staff, his readers, and other conference participants. And The Nation ran a lengthy letters section in which both the poem and the apology came in for criticism, including from columnists and contributors to this magazine. The Nation and The New Yorker may be the current marks, but the true target of these attacks is the liberal academy. Writing in The Spectator, Toby Young opined that “the real problem on college campuses is not the whiny, neurotic students, but the post-modern neo-Marxist professors who are manipulating them.” Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald agree that the ideology of the modern American university is “clearly literally destroying the country” (Carlson), driven as it is by the proposition that “whiteness is a source of all evil in the world [and] lethal to people of color,” and also by “a contempt for objectivity and truth seeking” and “a belief that all females exist in a state of oppression by rape culture” (Mac Donald). Lo and behold, Sanford Ungar, director of Georgetown University’s Free Speech Project, did some actual research and offers evidence that the most significant threats to free speech come not from campus liberals but, most frequently, from conservatives.

The Hill - September 16, 2018

Congress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms

Congress is preparing to do what it does best: punt. In a spending deal reached this past week, lawmakers agreed to postpone fights over funding President Trump’s border wall and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) until after the November midterm elections. But there are still a host of federal programs slated to expire on Sept. 30, meaning lawmakers may need to pass additional stopgap measures if they can’t find a way forward. Among the unresolved issues is whether to overhaul food stamps in the farm bill and whether to include trucking provisions in a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Further complicating matters is the fact that there are just nine legislative days before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. That’s putting the squeeze on both chambers, and lawmakers are starting to point fingers across the Capitol. “I’m not getting a lot of movement from the Senate side on work requirements,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told The Hill, referring to the proposed changes to the food stamp program. “We need to break the logjam.” Before the House adjourned on Thursday for a weeklong recess, appropriators announced a spending deal to fund the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments in time for the fiscal 2019 year -- a significant feat for Congress in recent years. Lawmakers also sent a trio of other spending bills to Trump’s desk before House members left town for a one-week recess. But the spending agreement announced Thursday includes a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the rest of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through Dec. 7. Trump has been demanding money for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of DHS. But with Democrats fiercely opposed to the border wall, GOP leaders didn’t want to risk a pre-election government shutdown, so they decided to push the fight until after the midterm elections. The CR also temporarily reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act through Dec. 7. The landmark legislation, which expires Sept. 30, supports federal programs and grants designed to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It was first signed into law in 1994 and has been reauthorized ever since. But Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over which version to bring to the floor this year. Democratic and Republican negotiators are also still working to hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, which authorizes a number of key food and agriculture programs that are set to expire at the end of the month. The House-passed version of the legislation would impose tougher work requirements on participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps for low-income Americans. But conferees have struggled to reach a compromise, with Democrats staunchly opposed to the food stamp changes, prompting Trump to weigh in.

September 16, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 12, 2018

Glaring omission as George W. Bush raises money for vulnerable Texas Republicans: Ted Cruz

Former President George W. Bush is hosting a series of fundraising events for vulnerable Republican candidates, including a couple of House members facing tough re-election bids in his home state of Texas. Politico first reported that Bush held a closed-door event Wednesday morning in Fort Worth for Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, and will host a similar gathering next week in Dallas for Rep. Pete Sessions, the Republican who serves as Bush's congressman. The former president will also headline fundraisers in the coming days and weeks for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for Senate in that state; North Dakota Senate candidate Kevin Cramer; Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley; and Indiana Senate candidate Mike Braun. "While he prefers to consider himself retired from politics, President Bush recognizes how important it is to keep the Senate and decided to help a few key candidates," Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told Politico. Noticeably absent from the list is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who is facing a surprisingly robust challenge from Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso. Cruz once worked for the former commander in chief, both on Bush's presidential campaign and then in his administration. The senator also met his wife, Heidi, while working for Bush's campaign, leading him to say that he "will always be grateful" to the former president. But Bush hasn't reciprocated many warm feelings for Cruz, who made his name by rebelling against the GOP establishment that Bush represents. Bush reportedly dissed Cruz at a private fundraising event in late 2015 by saying, "I just don't like the guy." Bush and his wife, Laura, also haven't given to Cruz's campaigns, despite supporting other Republicans since leaving the White House, according to campaign finance records. Ford, the Bush spokesman, on Wednesday said there are currently no plans to host a fundraising event for Cruz, adding that he's not aware of the senator having requested such assistance. "We've considered the requests we've received and accepted those that work with our schedule," he told The Dallas Morning News.

Texas Public Radio - September 14, 2018

Census citizenship question trial could start day before midterm elections

The first potential trial of the six lawsuits over the hotly contested 2020 census citizenship question could kick off the day before voters head to the polls for the upcoming midterm elections. During a court hearing at Manhattan federal court on Friday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman set the tentative start date for Nov. 5, adding that his "strong instinct" is that the two cases before him require a courtroom trial before he can issue a ruling. Potential trials for the two cases in California and one of the Maryland cases are set to start in January. Rulings by the district court judges are expected to be appealed to higher courts. That could extend this legal battle into the final months of preparations for the 2020 census. New York and more than two dozen states and cities, plus other groups, are suing the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau, over Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' decision in March to add a question about U.S. citizenship status to forms for the upcoming national headcount. Ross has said he approved adding the question — which asks, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" — so that the Justice Department can use the responses to better enforce the Voting Rights Act's Section 2 provisions against discrimination of racial and language minorities. The federal government has relied on estimates of voting-age citizens from a sample survey now known as the American Community Survey to enforce that civil rights law since it was enacted in 1965. The Census Bureau's chief scientist and other researchers have warned against adding the citizenship question to the census. They cite research that suggests asking about citizenship status in the current political climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric and increased immigration enforcement under the Trump administration could discourage noncitizens from participating in the census. Findings from focus groups conducted for the 2020 census marketing campaign by the advertising agency Young & Rubicam indicate the question could complicate the Census Bureau's outreach to certain groups. A slide for an internal bureau presentation that was released Thursday with one of the plaintiffs' court filings noted: "A number of focus group participants responded negatively to adding the citizenship question, most notably Spanish (U.S. mainland) as well as Vietnamese, Chinese, [Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander], and members of the female [Middle Eastern or North African] group."

Fox News - September 15, 2018

Police arrest 5 in North Carolina as looters begin to capitalize on Florence chaos

Police in North Carolina arrested five people Saturday night as looters began to break into stores while Tropical Storm Florence brought chaos to the region. Wilmington Police confirmed the arrests on Twitter but did not immediately release the identities of the five individuals. “Charges are pending and those details will be released as they become available,” police said. Authorities said about 1:30 p.m. they became aware of looting taking place at the Dollar General on 5th and Dawson Streets but were initially asked by management “not to intervene at this time.” In response to looting reports, the city of Wilmington extended its curfew for the affected area. A tweet spelled out the particulars: "In response to looting in the area, an extended curfew is now in place for the block between 13th, 14th, Greenfield and Martin Streets. This curfew went into effect at 5 pm and will remain in effect until 6 am. The citywide curfew will run from 10 pm until 6 am."

Sacramento Bee - September 14, 2018

’Failure of leadership:’ Dem activists slams Feinstein for holding back Kavanaugh allegations

Questions continue to swirl about the letter California Sen. Dianne Feinstein received containing, reportedly, sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But while most Democrats, even ardent critics, have declined to criticize Feinstein for her handling of the letter and its sensitive subject matter, her 2018 election opponent says it’s evidence of “a failure of leadership.” “The American people deserve to know why the Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee waited nearly three months to hand this disqualifying document over to the federal authorities and why Sen. Feinstein politely pantomimed her way through last week’s hearing without a single question about the content of Kavanaugh’s character,” California state Sen. Kevin de León, a fellow Democrat, said in a statement. Feinstein disclosed on Thursday morning that she had “received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.” She added that she had “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.” Feinstein Communications Director Tom Mentzer elaborated further, telling McClatchy that, “The Senator took these allegations seriously and believed they should be public, however, the woman in question made it clear she did not want this information to be public.” Feinstein’s statement came after the Intercept reported she’d received a letter from a California constituent about Kavanaugh, but was refusing to share it with fellow Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Friday morning, the New Yorker reported that the woman who wrote the letter claimed Kavanaugh “held her down” and tried to “force himself on her” at a high school party several decades ago, even turning up the music in the room to drown out her protests. “She was able to free herself,” the story continued. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. Nearly three decades ago, Anita Hill testified before the Senate that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Thomas was still confirmed. But the ensuing outrage among female voters helped sweep a historic number of women into Congress in 1992, including Feinstein. Now, Feinstein is the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees judicial confirmations, including a multi-day hearing last week on Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. The hearings were marked by liberal protests and complaints from Democrats about Republicans’ lack of disclosure and rushed hearing schedule. De León and others on the left were particularly critical of Feinstein for not being tougher on Kavanaugh and apologizing for the protests.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2018

President Donald Trump endorses Pete Sessions for re-election to Congress

President Donald Trump on Saturday endorsed the re-election bid of longtime Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas. In an afternoon tweet, Trump said Sessions would "be tough on Crime and the Border, fight hard for our Second Amendment and loves our Military and our Vets." "He has my full and complete Endorsement!" Trump tweeted. Sessions is running against Dallas lawyer Colin Allred in the November general election. "Congressman Sessions votes with President Trump 98 percent of the time," Allred said Saturday. "It's clear he cannot be an independent voice for North Texas. I'll have the courage to stand up to President Trump when he's wrong, and work with him when he's right." The race is one of the few competitive House contest in Texas and national Republicans have vowed to protect Sessions in a district that is more favorable to a Democratic candidate than when it was drawn by state GOP lawmakers more than a decade ago. Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan campaign in Dallas with Sessions. Vice President Mike Pence, and perhaps Trump, are expected to make visits to the 32nd Congressional Distrct on behalf of Sessions. An endorsement from Trump is likely to motivate conservatives in the north and east Dallas County district. But Trump is not a popular Republican in much of Dallas County. He finished third in the county in the 2016 Texas presidential primary behind Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2018

Beto O'Rourke on Botham Jean’s slaying: ‘That is not justice. That is not us'

Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke on Friday questioned why a black Dallas resident was shot by a police officer while in his apartment. "How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African-American, in his own apartment, is shot and killed by a police officer," O'Rourke told an overflow crowd at the Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas. "And when we all want justice and the facts and the information to make an informed decision, what's released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen.” O'Rourke, who received a standing ovation for his remarks, said the focus should not be on whether Botham Jean had marijuana in his apartment when he was fatally shot by Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger, but on ending unarmed black residents being shot by white police officers. "That is not justice. That is not us. That can and must change," O'Rourke said of such shootings. O'Rourke, the El Paso congressman and Democratic nominee for Senate, was in Dallas trying to make greater inroads with black voters. His rally at Good Street attracted more than 2,000 people, including Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and state Sen. Royce West. O'Rourke has inspired legions of followers and has become a national celebrity. But earlier this year, as Betomania raged with white Texans, black and Hispanic residents barely knew his name. After months of groundwork, O'Rourke appears to be gaining traction with black voters in his Senate race against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, even though African-Americans are the most reliable base of the Democratic Party. "We're just trying to show up everywhere and make sure no Texan is taken for granted," O'Rourke said before his speech.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2018

Former state lawmaker backs Matt Rinaldi's challenger, the latest Texas Republican to endorse a Democrat

In what has become a trend, Bennett Ratliff, a Republican who preceded Matt Rinaldi as state representative for House District 115 in Dallas County, on Friday endorsed Rinaldi's Democratic opponent, Julie Johnson, in the Nov. 6 election. Ratliff joins other Texas Republicans, including former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who have come out in support of Democrats in November. In a message to supporters on Friday, Ratliff wrote: "As a lifelong Republican, I have supported and worked for Republican candidates since before I was able to vote, I have voted Republican since I was able and served as a Republican elected official. I have supported the party, our nominees, and I have never endorsed a Democrat for office. But extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures." Ratliff represented House District 115, which covers Irving, Coppell, Carrollton, Farmers Branch and Addison, in 2013 after defeating Rinaldi in the 2012 Republican primary. Rinaldi then won the seat from Ratliff in a rematch in 2014 and beat back another challenge from Ratliff in 2016 before narrowly defeating his Democratic opponent that November. Ratliff said that the upcoming legislative session will be a critical moment for Texas public schools and that Rinaldi is "in the pocket of a small group of wealthy donors" and has failed to fight for schoolchildren and taxpayers. "In addition to his complete ineffectiveness and lack of decorum in office, Representative Rinaldi voted 10 times against legislation to reform our school finance system, legislation that would have helped public schools and provided local tax relief," Ratliff said. "As a result, I believe it's time we change our representation, so we can refocus the priorities of our State Legislature." At the end of last session, Rinaldi was involved in a shoving match and war of words that almost escalated into a brawl on the House floor. Rinaldi called Ratfliff's claims false. He said that he is a "huge supporter" of public schools and that he voted to increase education spending and filed a bill to end the "Robin Hood" school finance system that would let school districts keep their money instead of property-wealthy districts having to share their tax revenue with poorer districts. "I think it's been apparent to everybody over the past few years since the voters chose me over him twice that Bennett Ratliff would endorse Bernie Sanders before he would endorse me," Rinaldi said. "I just think it's sad when bitterness over a past race injects its way into politics like that. This is a personal thing."

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2018

French: I see now that race is more of a factor in policing than I've wanted to believe

It's a horrifying story, and it's not the only terrible police shooting to shock the American conscience. In Texas, a white officer went to a black man's apartment, apparently thinking it was her own. When she saw the man in the darkness, she claimed she thought he was a burglar. She shot him and killed him. The existence of outrageous killings (such as the police shootings of Philando Castile, Walter Scott and Botham Jean) is no more evidence of systemic racist targeting of black men than the existence of hoaxes (such as "hands up, don't shoot" or the claim that Charlotte's Keith Lamont Scott was killed while holding a book) debunks claims of comprehensive racial bias. It's a big country. Activists can always find individual stories to support larger claims, but the individual stories do not render the larger claims true. Since 2015, when The Washington Post began keeping an invaluable database of police shootings, we have vastly more information than we used to possess. And that information is both troubling and reassuring. Here's the troubling part. Police kill far more people than we thought. The FBI had long undercounted police shootings, and it took news organizations to get more accurate information. If you survey the Post data, as of today, police have shot and killed 3,648 men, women, and children since Jan. 1, 2015. That is a toll so high and persistent that it raises questions about deeply rooted, systemic causes, including causes related to race, culture, law and training. But I'm going to make a confession. The way I covered this issue in 2015 and much of 2016 shed more heat than light. Here's what I did. I looked at the riots in Ferguson, Milwaukee, Baltimore and Charlotte, the extremism of the formal Black Lives Matter organization (which referred to convicted cop-killers as "brothers" and "mama" and said its goal was to "disrupt the western-prescribed nuclear family structure"), and the continued use of debunked claims, including "hands up, don't shoot," and I focused on these excesses largely to the exclusion of everything else. Yes, I used all the proper "to be sure" language — there are some racist cops, not every shooting is justified, etc. — but my work in its totality minimized the vital quest for individual justice, the evidence that does exist of systematic racial bias. To put it bluntly, when I look back at my older writings, I see them as contributing more to a particular partisan narrative than to a tough, clear-eyed search for truth.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2018

ICE is ordering immigrants to appear in court, but the judges aren’t expecting them

Santos Monroy, Raymundo Olmedo and more than a dozen other immigrants reported for Dallas court hearings on their deportation cases Thursday only to be turned away. They’d been ordered to be in court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But their official notices to appear on Sept. 13 were greeted by court staffers who matter-of-factly called them “fake dates.” Their names weren’t on judges’ dockets. "We've got fake dates," said one security guard as about two dozen immigrants clustered near a court filing window. The orders to appear are not fake, but ICE apparently never co-ordinated or cleared the date appearances with the immigration courts. It’s a phenomenon that appears to be popping up around the nation, with reports of “fake dates” or “dummy dates” in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. Some immigrants have even been given documents ordering them to be in court at midnight, on weekends and on a date that doesn’t even exist: Sept. 31. The result, immigrant advocates say, is more “chaos” in the heavily backlogged immigration court system. The immigrants turned away in the Dallas court had been detained at a raid at the Load Trail trailer factory on Aug. 28 in Sumner, about 100 miles northeast of Dallas. The raid was billed by ICE as one of the largest such operations at a single workplace in a decade. As is often the case, most immigrants were released while awaiting an administrative hearing before a judge. On Thursday, after they showed up without being expected by the courts, a court clerk collected the confused immigrants’ “notices to appear,” the charging document usually prepared by ICE, and they were told to fill out another form and sent away with instructions to call a phone number regularly to eventually find out what their first real court date is. “It’s a madhouse,” muttered Dalila Reynoso, a church worker who has been assisting workers and their families since the raid.

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2018

Quirk in Texas law means registrars cannot block suspect addresses from voter rolls

The debate in Harris County over a resident’s challenge to 4,000 voter registrations ended with the county attorney declaring them invalid, but drew attention to a quirk in Texas law that bars voter registrars from investigating what they suspect are bogus addresses. Residents of a county are permitted to challenge the voter registration of other county residents if they have “personal knowledge” a voter has listed an incorrect address. The Harris County attorney concluded local Republican Party official Alan Vera could not possibly know where 4,000 voters lived, and rejected the challenges. Vera’s list, however, included thousands of voters who listed their residences at business addresses, such as parcel stores and post offices, raising questions about how those applications were approved, and what Harris County can do to correct them. Texas law requires voters to register where they live. At the same time, state law requires counties to take voters at their word that their voter registration applications are truthful. Registrars who suspect an address may be invalid can send letters to voters asking them to confirm where the live. If residents re-submit the same address, however, registrars must process the application. Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, said the only other remedy registrars have is to refer cases to district attorneys for prosecution. “The Texas Election Code does not grant any sort of additional investigative authority to a voter registrar in that situation,” Taylor said. “That’s where investigators and/or law enforcement get involved.” Taylor said the secretary of state’s office has received complaints about the issue in the past, but said instances in which voters insist they live at an address that appears commercial are not a widespread problem. “It does occur occasionally and we do occasionally hear frustrations from county voter registrars,” Taylor said. The Texas Election Code defines a voter’s residence address as the street address or the address at which mail is received if the residence has no address, along with the city, state and zip code. A voter registrar must register a person if the application is complete and the person otherwise is eligible, provided the registrar can determine the address claimed and assigned it to the proper voting precinct. The registrar can refer cases to the district attorney if he or she believes an applicant is falsely claiming a business address as a residence address.

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2018

Rescue website, born of Harvey, now brings help for Florence

The emergency management agency for New Bern, N.C., was skeptical when Matthew Marchetti initially called to explain how his crowdsource technology could help rescue people during Hurricane Florence. Then Marchetti said he was from Houston. “Oh, oh, so you know the drill,” was the response from North Carolina. Marchetti’s website, CrowdSource Rescue, is now in use in North Carolina as Florence’s powerful storm surge and torrential rains create widespread flooding, matching rescuers to people seeking rescue. The site, refined since Harvey, still relies on two simple buttons: “I can help rescue” and “I need to be rescued.” But it has had a profound impact. During Hurricane Harvey, the site helped connect some 30,000 people needing rescue to 12,000 volunteers with boats, trucks and airboats. “We went through hell with Harvey. But it was battle-testing,” Marchetti said. “It was battle-testing for moments like these, I think, with larger purpose.” George Ruiz, a retired Coast Guard member living on Dauphin Island, Ala., is now in North Carolina, leading a volunteer rescue group that he formed called Geaux Rescue. A volunteer rescuer during Hurricane Harvey, he didn’t discover Marchetti’s site until Hurricane Irma hit Florida about a year ago, not long after Harvey devastated the Houston area. He recalled the difference was dramatic. In Houston, the rescue efforts were chaotic as one call for help would sometimes receive six or seven boats; during Irma, the right resources were deployed at the right time to get people out of danger. “When we found this tool and started using it in Irma, everything started to go a lot smoother,” he said. As Florence moved toward the North Carolina coast, Ruiz had already alerted CrowdSource Rescue that his team would be available as volunteers. On Friday morning, Ruiz received a text from Marchetti saying help was needed in Rhems, N.C., which is just outside of New Bern, the scene of catastrophic flooding. t took three hours to drive there from where his crew was staying in Willard, N.C., twice the normal time as they used chainsaws to clear trees off the roads. They arrived around 9 a.m. Friday and spent the morning knocking on doors and helping people evacuate “The app that he built saves lives,” Ruiz said.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2018

SBOE saves Alamo's heroes but cuts Hillary Clinton, Barry Goldwater and Helen Keller

Texas high school students would no longer be required to learn about Hillary Clinton’s role as the first woman nominated for president by a major political party, according to proposed curriculum standards given preliminary approval by the State Board of Education on Friday. Also eliminated from the proposed social studies standards: Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee who was the first ethnically Jewish presidential candidate from a major party and is considered the progenitor of the modern conservative movement. In addition, Texas public school students would no longer be required to learn about Helen Keller, the disability rights advocate who was the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college. The proposed removal of Clinton, Goldwater and Keller did not generate substantive discussion among board members or any of the several dozen people who addressed the board about the changes Tuesday. Elementary or high school students are required to learn about these figures, among others, in lessons about exemplars of “good citizenship,” but the committees had recommended their deletion to save teachers several minutes of instruction time or to remove irrelevant information. The board also tentatively approved restoring language that board-nominated committees recommended removing, including references to Moses in lessons about America’s founding and “heroism” at the Alamo. The board also softened language on slavery as a cause of the Civil War. The board nominated committees of teachers and other education professionals earlier this year to recommend reductions to the voluminous amount of social studies content that the state’s 5.4 million Texas public school students must learn. Similar to previous social studies streamlining efforts, the process has prompted concerns that the board has allowed liberal and conservative bias into such historical events as the Civil War and the founding of the United States. The board on Friday approved most of the recommendations that the committees made.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2018

Groups ask Paxton to intervene in Univision, Dish Network fight

Dish Network subscribers in Austin – and across the nation – have been without Univision-owned channels for more than two months. With little public progress in negotiations to return those networks to the satellite provider’s lineup, three organizations are now asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to “look into Dish’s marketing and consumer practices, especially as related to the Latino community.” In a letter sent this week to Paxton’s office, the CEOs of the Houston and Rio Grande Valley Hispanic chambers of commerce – as well as the board chairman of the National Hispanic Construction Association – say the groups have requested meetings with Dish to address the blackout, but haven’t received a response. Dish subscribers no longer have access to Univision, UniMás and Galavision, while folks who subscribe to Dish’s Sling streaming service have lost Univision, UniMás, Galavision, Univision Deportes Network and El Rey. “Like the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Hispanic Construction Association, we are dedicated to serving the Latino community, and we appreciate the support they deliver,” Dish said in a written statement provided to the American-Statesman. “The situation with Univision is a business dispute, plain and simple.” Univision says it is the No. 3 most-watched network that Dish carries, regardless of language, and that its various networks combined account for 60 percent of Spanish-language viewership on the Dish Latino package. “Instead of fulfilling its promise to its customers, Dish has chosen to devalue our programming, disingenuously offering a fraction of what it pays our English-language peers,” Univision said in a recent statement. “Dish should do right by its Spanish-speaking audiences, agree to restore service, and negotiate a good faith agreement.” Dish, however, disputes those claims. “Univision executives are seeking a massive rate increase despite reports showing the programmer lost more than 50 percent of its prime-time viewership in the last seven years,” Dish’s written statement said. “We refuse to allow our customers to pay outrageous increases, especially for content that is available for free over the air, as well as available online for substantially less than Univision is trying to charge Dish customers.” Spats between cable and satellite providers and broadcast and cable networks are nothing new, but typically they are resolved in a matter of days. That has many Latinos concerned, the letter to Paxton says.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2018

Three years after listeria scandal, Blue Bell back in growth mode

Three years after a health scare that nearly spelled the end of the line for a beloved Texas brand, Blue Bell has rebounded — and is, in fact, growing and expanding. The Brenham-based company, which got its start 111 years ago, shut down production for a time in 2015 and recalled 8 million gallons of ice cream after reports of listeria started coming in. In all, 10 people fell ill. Three died. During the shutdown, the company deep-cleaned its three plants in Brenham, Sylacauga, Ala., and Broken Arrow, Okla., replaced some equipment and reworked procedures to remedy investigators’ concerns. The state of Texas says it is pleased with the company’s progress and, as of this year, has closed out an enforcement agreement it had with Blue Bell that had allowed operations to resume with expanded monitoring. “We’re now regulating Blue Bell just as we would any other ice cream maker,” said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “Blue Bell has certainly made strides to improve their manufacturing process and limit the chance that their products could make someone sick.” Health officials in Alabama and Oklahoma said last week that their states also were treating Blue Bell as they would any similar company. Because Blue Bell abided by the terms of Texas’ enforcement agreement, it wound up only paying $175,000 of an $850,000 fine levied by the state. The remaining $675,000 was forgiven, according to a letter from Jonathan Huss, assistant commissioner in the Texas Department of State Health Services Consumer Protection Division, to Blue Bell President Ricky Dickson. Van Deusen characterized issues found at Blue Bell’s Brenham plant in recent months as minor. An American-Statesman review of state inspection reports from the past three years found just a few concerns mentioned. Those included condensation dripping from the ceiling, cobwebs in a dry storage area, insects in a floor crack, ingredients being unboxed in close proximity to clean-up operations, ice buildup on doors and dusty air intakes. Also, in one case from June, the state and Blue Bell received a report that a customer found two pieces of metal in a half-gallon of Southern Blackberry Cobbler ice cream. The metal, according to the report, appeared to be “two halves of a decorative spoon collar” – a type of spoon not used in Blue Bell’s facilities. Blue Bell spokeswoman Jenny Van Dorf said the company has acted quickly whenever inspectors have pointed out possible problems.

The Eagle - September 16, 2018

School officials warn against cutting cosmetology programs

The Texas Education Agency has placed high school cosmetology programs on the chopping block, but a Bryan school official says that move could be detrimental to schools. If the program were to be cut, Bryan Career and Technical Education Director David Reynolds said, it would eliminate an opportunity for students who are interested and passionate about cosmetology and barbering, describing that possibility as "sad." "My opinion on CTE is kids come to CTE for fine arts, athletics and CTE. They don't come to school for English, math, history and science," he said. "You might have a few that do, but they're few and far between. Most kids come to school because of programs that they're interested in, whether it be sports, fine arts or career and technical education. If you start removing some of those choices, then you start removing student interest." The result, he said, could be increased student dropout rates as the programs they are involved in disappear. Research done by Shaun Dougherty, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, supports the idea that CTE keeps students in school, especially when broken down into socioeconomic populations, according to The Texas Tribune. "Lower-income students in CTE programs are 25 percent more likely to graduate from high school compared to those who aren't in a concentrated CTE program," the article stated, citing Dougherty's research. "It's not only about the career; it's about what the student's interest is," Reynolds said. "If that's what's keeping a kid in school. It may not even be about the kid ever going into the industry, but if it kept that kid engaged in school, then that's a success. You look at dropout rate around Texas, everybody's fighting that, so you've got to keep kids engaged. When you start taking away programs, you're going to start taking away engagement." With success rate of almost 100 percent -- meaning almost all students who complete the program earn their license -- the process to get that certification is much more affordable at a high school than in a private cosmetology school. For the 135 students enrolled in the Bryan school district's cosmetology programs at Bryan High School and Rudder High School, the program is between $300 and $400, paid out over the program's four years. Outside of high school, the same training would cost thousands of dollars, Reynolds said. The state's consideration of dropping the program stems from changes in CTE qualifications. According to the TEA website, the agency is revising the CTE programs of study "to reflect high-wage, high-demand occupations in Texas. These sequences of courses progress from foundational knowledge and skills in a career cluster, to specific academic and technical skills related to aligned industry and occupations." To be considered high demand, it must have more than 17 percent annual growth, and a high-wage job means a median salary of at least $35,339.

The Eagle - September 16, 2018

A&M expert on report: Sexual harassment is a public health problem

Though more women are joining the fields of science and medicine, sexual harassment and bias have also increased, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Three women leaders at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center addressed recommendations to combat the issue in a Journal of the American Medical Association report earlier this month. In it, Carrie Byington, senior vice president and vice chancellor for health services; Amy Fairchild, associate vice president for faculty and academic affairs; and Lavern Holyfield, chair of the Diversity Leadership Committee, highlighted the National Academies' recommendations for fundamental structural changes to combat sexual harassment and how they're being implemented at the Health Science Center. Sexual harassment can lead to higher stress and declines in productivity, they wrote in the report, and it also can contribute to health concerns. Fairchild said that when she read the National Academies' report, it struck her that sexual harassment "really is a public health problem" because of its pervasiveness and presence in many institutions. In addition to potential health consequences such as mental and physical stress, negative mood, fear and increased use of prescription drugs, Fairchild says women are leaving the science, engineering and medical fields because of unchecked work climate issues. Changes that include attention to commitment, transparency, resources and accountability are recommended to prevent sexual harassment, according to the report. Fairchild says that structural -- not cosmetic -- changes are those that will have the most impact. "Monitoring and transparency has to be ongoing," Fairchild said. "We can't be in a position where there's just a swell of transparency whenever there's an incident or major report. There is a national moment in which this is really possible based on the #MeToo movement nationwide, and based on what I've seen happening here not only at Texas A&M but other colleges around the country."

Star-Telegram - September 14, 2018

FCC gave this company $281 million to expand high-speed internet to rural areas

A Parker County company will bring high tech jobs and high speed broadband internet to rural areas in six states. Nextlink, based in Hudson Oaks, announced this week that the company received $281 million from the Federal Communications Commission to bring broadband fiber internet to rural areas in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. The $281 million is the largest award under the FCC’s $1.98 billion Connect America Fund, which was established to close the digital divide in rural America. “The United States is moving to a digital economy,” said Bill Baker, co-founder and CEO of Nextlink. “So many are working from home now. If you don’t have stable, reliable and fast internet, it becomes a challenge. Things become limited in terms of remote employment,” he said. People living in smaller communities or rural areas often have DSL internet provided by their phone companies with download speeds of 10 megabytes a second, and the service often becomes congested in the evenings and speeds can slow. The broadband internet will have speeds of approximately 100 MB, he said. “We get calls from someone who bought a house and signed up with their cable TV company for internet. They realize that they are not in downtown Dallas anymore,” he said. “People are begging us to come in to their communities. Having high speed internet service is very impactful to the businesses and residential customers. People are working at home on their laptops. They have jobs in a larger city. They have to have quality internet to log in and do work from home,” he said. Baker said he is submitting the final paperwork to the government and hopes to start rolling out the high speed internet in 2019.

Associated Press - September 15, 2018

Webb County Sheriff: Border Patrol agent suspected of killing 4 women

A U.S. Border Patrol agent suspected of killing four women was arrested early Saturday after a fifth woman managed to escape and notify authorities, law enforcement officials said, describing the agent as a "serial killer." Juan David Ortiz, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, fled from state troopers and was found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2 a.m. Saturday, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said at a news conference. Laredo is located about 145 miles southwest of San Antonio. Cuellar said investigators have "very strong evidence" that he is responsible for the deaths of the four women, who are believed to worked as prostitutes. "We do consider this to be a serial killer," said Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz. In a statement, Andrew Meehan, assistant commissioner for public affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said his agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General are fully cooperating with all investigators. "Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims' family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated," Meehan said. He referred questions about the investigation to authorities in Webb County and to the Texas Department of Public Safety, whose Texas Rangers are also investigating. "Out of respect to the victims' family and friends, we ask that deference and due process be given to the investigation so that all the facts are brought to light and they can receive the closure they deserve," the statement said. Authorities did not immediately disclose the victims' names or nationalities.

KWTX - September 14, 2018

Texas Farm Bureau tells employees to drop Nike apparel

Nike stocks have reached an all-time high Friday afternoon but that is not stopping people from wearing their products; Texas Farm Bureau has informed claim employees they are not allowed to wear Nike apparel while on the job. Texas Farm Bureau Director of Communications Gene Hall said the company chose to do this to avoid controversy. Employees received this statement in an email: “There is a wide range of viewpoints on the Nike controversy. Texas Farm Bureau and Affiliated Companies employees are asked to not wear Nike branded apparel while representing the companies. We are choosing to remove our companies from this controversy by discontinuing the use of Nike branded apparel for business purposes. The attire you choose on your own time is a personal matter.” After the recent dip in stock after the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick advertisement, Nike stocks are on the rise as of Friday afternoon. The move comes weeks after Nike unveiled its new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, who was the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. Nike's decision to feature Kaepernick prompted a whirlwind of criticism from President Trump and his base, who slammed the move as being unpatriotic. The deal also prompted a number of other institutions to say they would stop purchasing Nike products in protest of the brand's ad campaign.

City Stories

Star-Telegram - September 15, 2018

Prayer service for fallen officer shows depth of city’s support for department

A memorial prayer service for an undercover officer who died on Friday drew dozens of people from around Fort Worth on Saturday. It was an show of caring for a department that is hurting. “For those of you going on shift tonight, I know it seems tough,” said Officer Buddy Calzada “But just like the vehicle behind me says, dedicated to protect. That’s what Officer Hull did. We expect that out of you guys tonight.” Officers hugged each other and thanked those in attendance, knowing that a hard week approaches as arrangements are made to lay to rest a man the city has claimed as a hero, Fort Worth Police Officer Garrett Hull said. “He was a good officer,” said Fort Worth Police Chaplain, Dean Nichols. “He was an officer who is to be emulated and followed. Lord, he’s the kind of officer that every department would want. He was a good man.” The community is also in pain and asked for comfort for all from a higher power, Nichols said in prayer. Hull was shot in the head on Friday as he chased robbery suspects, who were suspected of committing a robbery just minutes before the pursuit began. One of those suspects was killed by Hull’s fellow officers while Hull was placed in a patrol car and taken to JPS. Hull, an undercover officer with the intelligence unit, died at 9:40 p.m., according to the police department. Two suspects were apprehended by police. The suspected gunman, Dacion Steptoe, was killed at the scene, Fitzgerald said Friday. Samuel Mayfield, 23, and Timothy Huff, 33, were charged Saturday with capital murder. “He did his job with dignity,” said Officer Jim Pollozani, president of the Fort Worth chapter of Brotherhood for the Fallen, an organization designed to support the families of officers who have died. “He did his job as a hero trying to actually make Fort Worth a safer place for individuals to freely conduct business and he did that exactly on the day he was shot.”

National Stories

CBS News - September 16, 2018

Nike stock price reaches all-time high after Colin Kaepernick ad

Shares of Nike reached an all-time high Friday afternoon, rebounding from a recent dip spurred by concerns about consumer boycott after the athletic apparel maker signed a high-profile deal with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The company's stock rose slightly on Friday, closing at $83.49. Since Nike announced the campaign on Labor Day, shares are up about 4 percent. Longer-term, Nike stock has surged 33 percent this year as Wall Street bet that the company would be able to ride out the negative publicity. Online sales of Nike gear jumped 31 percent from Sept. 2 through Sept. 4, nearly double the company's sales during the same period a year ago, according to Edison Trends, a digital commerce research company. Kaepernick gained notoriety for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed African Americans. He opted out of his contract in 2017, although there were reports the San Francisco 49ers were preparing to cut him during the off-season. Subsequently, the quarterback claimed in a lawsuit that the NFL's 32 teams colluded to deny him a chance to play for another team. The case is currently in arbitration. The ad features a close-up of Kaepernick's face and the tagline "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." The spot proved polarizing, with some consumers voicing their displeasure by burning Nike merchandise. President Donald Trump, who has frequently criticized the anthem protests, denounced Nike's campaign for sending a "terrible message." "In my view, fans believe it is disrespectful to kneel during the national anthem," wrote Christopher Arps, a member of the conservative Project 21 national advisory council, at the conservative publication The Daily Caller. "We don't want to see or hear someone's political speech or opinions. We want to escape for a few hours to watch great athletes entertain us. Especially when we've paid a lot of money to watch." The Kaepernick campaign, however, is resonating with the company's core customer base, such as millennial and Generation Z men, "in a way that is authentic, culturally relevant, experiential and emotionally engaging," according to Wedbush Analyst Christopher Svezia.

New York Times - September 15, 2018

Former GOP megadonor: democracy is at stake, vote for and give to Democrats

The first page of Seth Klarman’s most recent 25-page investor letter does not inspire confidence. There are quotes about truth and justice from George Orwell, Reinhold Niebuhr and Mark Twain. But the kicker is a line from Ramsay Bolton, a character from “Game of Thrones”: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” Mr. Klarman is not the kind of guy given to hyperbole. He reads at least a book a week. He lives in Boston. He rarely gives interviews. It’s not because people aren’t interested in what he has to say. The 61-year-old, who has $30 billion under management at Baupost Group and is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.5 billion, is compared regularly with Warren Buffett. Paul Singer, one of the most influential hedge fund managers in the country, told me that if he was going to invest in any fund other than the one he himself manages, “the only one would be Seth’s.” Used copies of a book about investing that Mr. Klarman wrote in 1991 go for more than $650 on Amazon. “I’m kind of a loner,” Mr. Klarman said last week in his 17th-floor office close to the Boston Common. “One of the reasons I’m willing to come out of my shell and talk to you is because I think democracy is at stake. And maybe I’ll be able to convince some other people of that. And get them to support Democrats in 2018.” Not two years ago, Mr. Klarman, a registered independent, was the biggest donor to the Republican Party in New England. According to The Boston Globe, during the Obama administration, Mr. Klarman gave more than $7 million to the party. If you look at his Federal Election Commission filings for 2016, you will find $100,000 to the Hillary Action Fund, but mostly a long list of donations to names like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie and the Republican National Committee. No longer. Among the many things Donald Trump has upended, one has been Mr. Klarman’s political giving. The denunciation of the president and his party in papers like this one has done nothing to change their behavior. He hopes money will. The F.E.C. filings that will come out on Sept. 20 will show that Mr. Klarman is now giving almost exclusively Democrats — and donating far more money than he ever has.

New York Times - September 16, 2018

12 dead, power failures and catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas

Florence, the powerful storm that has already left at least 12 people dead and about a million without power on the East Coast, continued to move inland at an ominously sluggish pace Saturday, fat with rain and threatening to deliver hardship and devastation far beyond the wind-battered coasts. A Category 1 hurricane when it plowed ashore near Wilmington, N.C., early Friday, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm hours later and the damage of the first blow along the coast was not as bad as many had feared. But an early Saturday report from the National Hurricane Center had it crawling west at two miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. It is likely to mow a path northwest across nearly all of South Carolina, promising a brutal weekend of heavy rain and potential flooding for millions. Storm conditions could also lead to tornadoes and landslides, officials said. The center of the storm is expected to head west through South Carolina before turning north on Sunday. Rainfall in North Carolina has broken a state record, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service. More than 30 inches were recorded in Swansboro, N.C. The previous record of 24 inches was set in 1999, when Hurricane Floyd pounded the region. The 12 storm-related deaths include a mother and child who were killed after a tree fell on their home in Wilmington; Amber Dawn Lee, 61, a mother of two who was driving in Union County, S.C., when her vehicle hit a tree in the road; three people in Duplin County, N.C., who died because of flash flooding on the roadways; and a couple who died in a house fire in Cumberland County, N.C. Local, state and federal officials are rushing to rescue people stranded in half-submerged homes across the region. So are many volunteers, including Tray Tillman, 26, a construction foreman who was part of a makeshift rescue flotilla that has plucked hundreds of stranded people from attics, second-floor bedrooms, church vestibules and crumbling decks.

New York Times - September 15, 2018

The Progressive Playbook: How these candidates pulled off their upsets

It has become a familiar pattern this primary season. The day after a surprising victory by a progressive underdog — say Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Andrew Gillum of Florida, Jahana Hayes in Connecticut, Wesley Bell in Missouri or Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts — national audiences rush to meet the latest Democrat who defied expectations. Separately, every race has had its own challenges, but taken together, the group represents a sea change in the Democratic Party, which has repeatedly this primary season, seen its voters embrace candidates who are younger, more progressive and more diverse than the party’s establishment has been. Certainly, Republicans have had their surprises. But “insurgency” on the conservative side has often meant the candidate most like President Trump in this primary season, particularly in races where Mr. Trump has offered his all-powerful endorsement on Twitter. The New York Times spoke with the strategists, campaign managers and candidates at the front lines of progressive insurgent victories, in search of common threads that defined successful campaigns this election cycle. A progressive candidate in a district full of moderate voters can overcome some ideological differences, and bring new voters into the process, through personality. A candidate’s life experience needs to reflect those of the voters she needs to convince, the group of experts said. The “right” candidate is particularly important in building coalitions for statewide races, the experts said. Progressive candidates like Abdul El-Sayed in Michigan and Cynthia Nixon in New York failed to draw support outside of urban centers. A nimble, grass-roots campaign must also be responsive to voter feedback, the experts said. Whether it’s listening to the advice of on-the-ground organizers, or tailoring digital messages to response patterns, the advantage of a nontraditional campaign should be its ability to quickly adjust. For these organizers, many of whom are taking principles from the activism world and applying them to electoral politics, a true grass-roots campaign means leaving no voter ignored — no matter the traditional wisdom. It also means splitting time between voters who are traditionally more likely to turn out in a primary (which trend older and whiter than a general election electorate) and “low-likelihood” voters (particularly minorities and younger voters). As national Democrats wrangle with incremental, politically pragmatic solutions to policy problems such as immigration and health care, progressive Democrats are offering bold, sweeping proposals. “One of the things that we feel strongly about is that candidates run an unapologetically progressive campaign and speak authentically about the issues that they actually care about connect with voters,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director for the Working Families Party. Ms. Hayes, Ms. Pressley and Ms. Ocasio-Crotez all won their congressional races without buying a traditional television advertisement. Instead, each created highly shareable, viral-focused campaign ads tailor made for social media. The ads focused more on the candidate’s biography than policy issues, and used slick cinematography.

Washington Post - September 15, 2018

Alarm grows inside FEMA as administrator Brock Long fights for his job

As the Federal Emergency Management Agency heads into peak hurricane season, an internal investigation has imperiled its top official, sparking a growing backlash within the agency where career officials and even some political appointees are worried there is no proven disaster manager on hand to replace him. FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long is said to be resisting an effort by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to replace him over his alleged misuse of government vehicles. The feud among senior Trump administration officials surfaced publicly in recent days as FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security raced to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Florence. The prospect of Long’s dismissal has alarmed current and former staff at FEMA and DHS, and it has captured the attention of officials on Capitol Hill, who note that the agency’s No. 2 position has been vacant for nearly two years and that Trump’s current nominee, Peter Gaynor, still awaits Senate confirmation. Trump’s original nominee for the post, Daniel Craig, withdrew from consideration a year ago after reports surfaced that the DHS inspector general found he had falsified work and travel records while working for the George W. Bush administration. FEMA’s third in command, Daniel Kaniewski, could take over, at least on an interim basis, if Long were to leave. But his background in policy and academia ­— and his lack of hands-on emergency management experience ­— has generated concern that an internal shake-up would unsettle the agency at the worst possible time. This account of the power struggle and internal strife at FEMA and DHS is based on interviews with 14 current and former government officials and congressional aides. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer their candid assessment of the matter. “Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea to try to take out the FEMA administrator in the middle of a storm?” said one former top FEMA official, angry that the infighting spilled into public view with millions of Americans under threat from Florence. “Even if that’s your objective, save it for after the hurricane.”

Washington Post - September 15, 2018

‘Robert Mueller’s real quest here is for the truth’: How Paul Manafort’s plea brings the special counsel probe closer to its endgame

First came George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser who was arrested by the FBI when he stepped off a plane at Dulles International Airport and soon agreed to help the special counsel’s office as part of a plea agreement. Then there was Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser who admitted he lied to the bureau and would now be cooperating with Robert S. Mueller III’s team to make things right. Next to fall was Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman who conceded he conspired to defraud the United States and tried to deceive investigators looking into his overseas work. One by one, the special counsel’s office methodically turned allies of President Trump into witnesses for its investigation — irking the commander in chief so much that he has suggested the commonplace law-enforcement tactic “almost ought to be illegal.” But former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had long eluded Mueller’s team, with his resistance to a plea deal so intense that some in law enforcement figured he must know he would soon receive a pardon. On Friday, though, the special counsel finally nabbed his white whale. Manafort, whose role in the Trump campaign and ties to a Russian-aligned strongman and a suspected Russian intelligence agent make him an enticing cooperator, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. As part of his agreement with prosecutors, he said he would tell the special counsel’s office all that he knows. Manafort’s plea could be a key cog in pushing Mueller’s case toward its ultimate end. Legal analysts say Manafort must have something valuable to share with Mueller’s team, which agreed to drop five of the seven charges he faced and potentially urge leniency at his sentencing, if his cooperation is helpful. Generally, those who plead guilty sit down with prosecutors to detail what they know in a “proffer” session, so the government knows what it will get in the bargain. Manafort’s plea makes reference to a written proffer agreement on Tuesday — showing he has been in talks with the special counsel’s office at least for several days. Whether Manafort ultimately implicates the president remains to be seen. Manafort’s defenders and Trump’s lawyers have long insisted that the political consultant, who left the campaign in August 2016, had no information that would incriminate Trump.

Washington Post - September 14, 2018

Manafort’s guilty plea exposes hardball tactics he used to thrive in Washington swamp

Before he was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort embraced extreme tactics in his lobbying efforts: He schemed “to plant some stink” and spread stories that a jailed Ukrainian politician was a murderer. He enlisted a foreign politician who was secretly on his payroll to deliver a message to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. And he gleefully fueled allegations that an Obama Cabinet member who had spoken out against his Ukrainian client was an anti-Semite, according to court papers. With his guilty plea Friday, Manafort admitted the lengths to which he went to manipulate the American political system and the media for massive profit, exposing how he thrived in the Washington swamp that Trump railed against during his campaign. The president has dismissed the allegations against his former campaign chairman as run-of-the-mill lobbying — and has even contemplated pardoning him. But new details revealed Friday show how far beyond the law Manafort went in pursuit of his goals. By pleading guilty, Manafort agreed that he knew he was required by law to publicly report that a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party was paying him and his stable of lobbyists, which included former leaders of Austria, Poland and Italy. Instead, he operated in the dark, working diligently to keep his lobbying for Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych a secret and pocketing millions routed through offshore bank accounts to hide his work and avoid paying taxes. “This is extraordinary,” said Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who served as U.S. ambassador to Moscow. “I was well aware at the time that Manafort was making efforts to present Yanukovych in the best light,” McFaul said, but added that he had no idea of the extent of Manafort’s elaborate schemes. The prosecution of Manafort by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has drawn in players from across the political spectrum, including pillars of the Washington lobbying and legal community like Mercury Public Affairs; the Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom law firm; and the now-defunct Podesta Group, helmed by Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta. Trump has downplayed Manafort’s wrongdoing, writing in an August tweet that he felt “very badly” for his former campaign chairman. “What he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does,” the president told Fox News the following day. Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, told The Washington Post on Friday that the president “knows how badly Manafort has been treated, worse than organized criminals are treated.”

Washington Post - September 15, 2018

Borrowing strategy from NRA, activists quietly overturn knife restrictions across U.S.

He ordered the 20-ounce rib-eye, and so the waitress at the upscale restaurant dropped off a wood-handled serrated steak knife. Doug Ritter ignored it. Instead he pulled out a folding knife, its 3.4-inch blade illegal to carry concealed here in Clark County. He flicked it open with one hand. When the steak arrived, medium-rare, he started cutting. The steak dinner came as Ritter was savoring his many successful attempts at repealing the nation’s knife laws. Decades-old restrictions on switchblades, daggers and stilettos have fallen away in state after state in recent years. Much of this is because of Ritter and his little-known Arizona-based advocacy group Knife Rights, which has used tactics borrowed from the National Rifle Association to rack up legislative victories across the nation. And many of the changes have escaped widespread notice, obscured, in part, by the nation’s focus on guns. But knife fans know. The morning after his steak dinner, Ritter walked like a celebrity into a major knife convention here. “Thank you for everything you’re doing for us. Really,” an official with knife maker Ka-Bar told him. “I live in Louisiana, so thank you,” said another convention-goer, hailing from a state that abandoned its switchblade ban this summer. Ritter, 65, said that knives, like guns, should be considered arms protected by the Second Amendment. He doesn’t support any restriction on knives — not on switchblades or push daggers or even the ballistic knives that shoot like spears from a handle. That’s become a winning argument. Twenty-one states have repealed or weakened their knife laws since 2010, many of them with bipartisan support, including Colorado, Michigan and Illinois. New York came close to doing the same last year. Ohio could be next. Texas passed its bill last year despite a high-profile stabbing death just days before lawmakers voted. And Knife Rights, with little financial backing, has been working behind the scenes to help make it happen.

The Guardian - September 14, 2018

Mike Pompeo accuses John Kerry of 'actively undermining US policy' on Iran

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has accused his predecessor John Kerry of trying to undermine the Trump administration’s Iran policy by meeting several times recently with the Iranian foreign minister, who was his main interlocutor in the 2015 nuclear deal negotiations. “What Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented,” Pompeo told a news conference on Friday, adding that he “ought not to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s inconsistent with what the foreign policy of the United States is, as directed by this president. It is beyond inappropriate.” His comments came a day after Donald Trump accused the former secretary of state of “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime” in a late-night tweet. Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran in May and his administration has pushed a hard line against Tehran as it moves to reimpose sanctions that were lifted after the deal. A spokesperson for Kerry rejected the criticism, saying in a statement that “no secrets were kept from this administration”. “Secretary Kerry stays in touch with his former counterparts around the world just like every previous secretary of state, and in a long phone conversation with Secretary Pompeo earlier this year he went into great detail about what he had learned about the Iranian’s view.” The statement said there was “nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate” about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts, adding that Henry Kissinger continues to meet with Russian and Chinese diplomats. “What is unseemly and unprecedented is for the podium of the state department to be hijacked for political theatrics.”

The Guardian - September 15, 2018

Ken Starr: 'There are eerie echoes of the past'

Ken Starr, the chief tormentor of President Bill Clinton, remains unrepentant about his treatment of Monica Lewinsky. But what does he make of the current investigation into Donald Trump? The #MeToo has brought the affair of the president and the intern in the Oval Office back into view as the mother of all gender-related workplace abuses. Then there’s the fact that the White House incumbent is once again in the sights of a special prosecutor – for Ken Starr 1998, read Robert Mueller 2018. Several lead characters have made a comeback, from Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential bid down. Brett Kavanaugh, who was a key member of Starr’s team in the Clinton investigation, is on the verge of being confirmed to a supreme court seat that would lock in rightwing control of the nation’s highest court for generations. Rod Rosenstein, another core Starr investigator, is the justice department official overseeing Mueller’s dive into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. “There are eerie echoes of the past,” Starr says. “The years go by yet many of the characters are back on stage, and some of the issues – presidential accountability, rule of law – have re-emerged.” So what tips would Starr have for Mueller? “My advice would be what I told my team every day: ‘Let’s just get this job done as quickly and professionally as we can. We are being very closely watched.’” Mueller appears so far to have avoided traps that befell Starr. Mueller is discreet, focused, ruthlessly effective – adjectives rarely attached to his predecessor in the Clinton days. Could it be that Mueller studied and learned from his mistakes? Starr thinks so. He shudders as he recalls giving a couple of high-profile media interviews to disastrous effect. ABC’s Diane Sawyer snarkily wondered on live TV whether she had the right to ask him if he had cheated on his wife (he said he hadn’t). By contrast Mueller has kept schtum. “He’s got into a submarine and gone deep and silent into the depths of the investigation,” Starr says. “I have no doubt he is mindful of the past and trying to avoid landmines.” As for Trump, Starr says he is struck by the “overwhelming distinctions” between the president and Clinton in their responses to their respective investigations. He tells me that, from what he has seen, Trump “has not engaged in obstruction of justice and has been cooperating, whereas the Clintons did everything they could to be obstructive”. That’s a bold statement given Trump’s firing of the FBI director James Comey and the increasingly bizarre attacks on Mueller by Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

The Hill - September 16, 2018

Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching

Less than eight weeks ahead of the midterms, House Democrats are riding high and feeling the wind at their backs. Heading into a weeklong Yom Kippur recess, the party has an enormous lead in the generic poll, President Trump’s approval rating is ticking downward, and Republicans are scrambling to protect dozens of vulnerable seats in order to fend off a blue wave in November. The confluence of factors has jolted the Democrats with a fresh burst of confidence, and they are growing increasingly confident that the House is theirs for the taking after eight years in the minority. “The mood is: we wish the elections were Tuesday,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). “The Republicans are in political quicksand, and the more they struggle the harder it is for them. “Getting out of town is probably a good thing for them.” Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to capture the Speaker’s gavel — a seemingly heavy lift — but they have history on their side. The party controlling the White House has lost seats in 36 of the 39 midterm cycles going back to the Civil War. The average loss, according to the analysts at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an election handicapper at the University of Virginia, is a whopping 33 seats. Democrats, though, see signals well outside of civics textbooks that are fueling the optimistic sense that they’ll control the chamber next year for the first time since they were clobbered at the polls in 2010. The most recent generic poll, a gauge of how voters feel about the parties without naming individual candidates, found the Democrats with a 14 point advantage — an enormous gap predicting the House would likely flip.

The Hill - September 15, 2018

George Conway rips Trump over tweet about Obama's '57 states' gaffe

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's husband George Conway took aim at the president on Twitter Friday over President Trump's criticism of his predecessor, former President Obama. In a tweet, George Conway, a conservative lawyer, criticized Trump for mocking Obama for a 2008 gaffe in which he mistakenly said he visited "57 states" during his first presidential run. "When President Obama said that he has been to '57 States,' very little mention in Fake News Media. Can you imagine if I said that...story of the year!" Trump had written in his tweet. George Conway responded on Twitter, saying that there is a "huge difference" between Obama's mistake and Trump's "witless prevarication on virtually all topics, large and small." "Needless to say, there’s a huge difference between an isolated slip of the tongue and ceaseless, shameless, and witless prevarication on virtually all topics, large and small," Conway responded. Trump's tweet followed the former president's recent return to the campaign trail to support some Democratic candidates ahead of November's midterm elections. Earlier this month, Obama stumped for several California Democrats, issuing several veiled shots at Trump during his remarks. “It’s always tempting for politicians for their own gain and for people in power to try to see if they can divide people, scapegoat folks, turn them on each other, because when that happens you get gridlock and government doesn’t work and people get cynical and decide to not participate," he said at a rally earlier in September. George Conway has frequently criticized Trump on social media, despite his wife's position at the White House. Earlier this month, George Conway retweeted a controversial anonymous New York Times op-ed warning that Trump is a dangerous and amoral leader. Both Conways were the subjects of an interview in The Washington Post last month in which Kellyanne Conway stated that "part" of her husband "thinks I chose Donald Trump over him."

New Republic - September 14, 2018

Jones: Why the gubernatorial glass ceiling Is So Hard to Shatter

For the first time in American history, white men comprise a minority of Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives: The party has nominated 180 women and 133 people of color for the House’s 435 seats, according to Politico. “The numbers are even starker in the districts without Democratic incumbents,” Elena Schneider reported. “In the 125 districts where a Democratic incumbent is leaving office or a Republican seat is at risk of flipping...more than half the nominees (65) are women.” White male dominance in the House—and Senate—won’t end in November, but it appears to be on the wane. This “year of the woman” isn’t limited to Congress. A record 14 women are competing in the 36 gubernatorial races being decided in November. Eleven of them are Democrats, and three of those would make history if they won their races, as Vox noted earlier this week: Georgia’s Stacey Abrams would become America’s first black woman governor; Vermont’s Christine Hallquist would become the first transgender governor; and Idaho’s Paulette Jordan would become the first Native American governor. In South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem is likely to win her bid to become the state’s first female governor. The latest evidence suggests that these candidates are up against greater odds than their counterparts running for Congress. As of Thursday, according to Politico’s women candidate tracker, half of all women running for the House and 42 percent of women running for Senate have won their primaries. But only 27 percent of women candidates for governor have accomplished the same. Some of that may have to do with greater competition for fewer seats: 61 women had declared campaigns for just 36 gubernatorial seats. But historical evidence bears out this truth: It’s extremely difficult for women to become governor. There are only six female governors in office today, down from a peak of nine in 1994. There have been only 39 women governors in U.S. history, and 22 states have never had one at all, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP). Voters didn’t elect a female governor in her own right until 1974, when Connecticut voters put Democrat Ella T. Grasso in office. Previously, three female governors had succeeded their husbands in office. Jane Swift, a Republican and former acting governor of Massachusetts, explained what women are up against in running for the office. “If they think you’re nice, they think you can’t run their state, and if they think you can run their state, they worry you’re not nice,” she told The New York Times.

Associated Press - September 15, 2018

History-making runs turn black governor nominees into stars

It was a raucous scene that could have been backstage at a rock concert: camera flashes, fans clamoring for autographs, scowling bodyguards, reporters hungry for a scoop. But the center of this attention wasn't Beyonce or the Rolling Stones. It was three black gubernatorial candidates who stood side by side in a throng of admirers, soaking up all that love. If elected, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Ben Jealous of Maryland and Andrew Gillum of Florida would give America its largest number of black governors ever. That historic possibility was not lost on them, or the black voters who hope to make that history happen, as they shared the stage at the Congressional Black Caucus' annual legislative conference this week. "This moment, and the significance of it, won't seep in for some time from now," said Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, and at 39 the youngest of the three. "What this signals is not only the continued evolution of our country but the increasing recognition of diversity, not only of capacity but of backgrounds," said Abrams, 44, later. Abrams, who could become the nation's first black female governor, is getting the most national attention. But all three were squired around the Washington Convention Center by black politicos who are strategizing ways to help on turnout, campaigning and fundraising. Jealous, 45, faces the steepest challenge, down in polls against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Abrams and Gillum are running for open seats. After the three spoke together on stage, Jealous listened attentively backstage as Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas laid out plans to help him with voter turnout and fundraising. Gillum, meanwhile, stood nearby shaking hands with other state elected officials and Abrams conducted a media interview. "I believe what we see in this current electoral cycle is not going to stop," Abrams said. "We have more diversity in the candidates running and in the candidates winning and particularly for women of color. ... I'm proud to be part of a national trend and I think it's a trend that's becoming a permanent one for America." None of them were heavy favorites in their primaries. Abrams is a longtime state official and former state House leader; Gillum has been a fixture of local Tallahassee politics since his college days; and Jealous is a former head of the NAACP and was a venture capitalist and activist before entering the governor's race last year. Their historic primary wins — and the national attention it brought — will bring out Democratic voters who might not have voted in a midterm election otherwise, they said. Midterm elections typically draw fewer than half of those eligible to vote. "I know we have people keep wanting to hedge on these races: 'Oh, you can win in the primary, but what happens in the general?'" Gillum said. "I honestly believe for all three of us, we are the best, and frankly, the most likely of the whole lot we were in to bring the kind of energy necessary in order to win states like ours."

NBC News - September 14, 2018

Six gay candidates are running in Connecticut — as Republicans

A record number of openly LGBTQ candidates are seeking office across the country this election cycle, and the vast majority are Democrats. But there’s one state that’s bucking the trend. In Connecticut, six gay people are running as Republicans for seats in the state’s General Assembly, underscoring the state’s reputation for producing a “different breed” of Republican. In contrast, there are only two openly gay Democrats running for office in the state. The six GOP candidates — five men and one woman — are challenging LGBTQ political trends. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, 82 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual registered voters identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, up from 79 percent in 2013. And an NBC News exit poll conducted during the 2016 presidential election found 78 percent of LGBTQ voters cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, while just 14 percent voted for Republican Donald Trump — approximately half the percentage that voted for John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008. Most of the gay Republican candidates come from the northern and eastern parts of Connecticut — traditionally conservative areas — including John Scott of Mystic, 48, who served one previous term in the Connecticut General Assembly. Scott is again running for the state’s 40th District, which covers Groton and Mystic on the state’s eastern coast. “Not once was I ever discriminated against in the Capitol; both parties were open and affirming,” Scott said. The Republican minority leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Themis Klarides, even announced Scott’s marriage on the floor, which led to a standing ovation. “I’ve always said that Connecticut Republicans are just a different animal, a different breed of Republicans,” Scott told NBC News. “We are fiscally conservative and socially liberal; we want a state that people can afford to live in and afford to stay in.”

Law and Crime - September 15, 2018

Obama’s former White House Counsel prepares for scrutiny after Mueller probe referral

Greg Craig, former president Barack Obama‘s very first White House counsel, has retained a lawyer of his own. The move comes as federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) weigh charges against Craig and other high-profile Democratic Party influence peddlers after special counsel Robert Mueller referred the cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in southern Manhattan. As reported by the National Law Journal, Craig is now represented by William Taylor III, a founding member of the elite Zuckerman Spaeder law firm, which is based out of Washington, D.C. with an additional office located in one of Midtown Manhattan’s glitzier quarters–due south of Central Park. Craig himself is a former counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, another high-priced mega law enterprise which has been described as “Wall Street’s most powerful law firm.” Skadden Arps also once employed a direct target of Mueller’s wide-ranging Russia probe–convicted felon Alex Van Der Zwaan, the Dutch-born attorney who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators and who was the first person sentenced in the special counsel’s increasingly corruption-focused dragnet. Craig is currently under scrutiny as part of the SDNY’s investigation into whether he improperly failed to register as a foreign agent under the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Notably, Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to a similar violation of the FARA statute in a superseding indictment released on Friday morning by the special counsel’s office. In terse comments to the National Law Journal, Taylor said, “Greg Craig was not required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

National Review - September 15, 2018

Continetti: Conservatives can't escape Trump. He controls Republican and conservative fortunes.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when a recent discussion on the future of conservatism turned into an argument over Donald Trump, his presidency, and the midterm election. The renaissance in conservative thought that began with the publication of The Road to Serfdom in 1944 and culminated in the founding of National Review in 1955 and Conscience of a Conservative in 1960, gave way to conservative politics long ago. Since 1964, it has been difficult if not impossible to disentangle conservatism’s fate from the Republican party’s. And for the last three years, Trump has dominated that party and the movement associated with it. Neither Republicans nor conservatives ought to kid themselves. There is no escaping Trump. And conservatism may very well be about to take a body blow. The general election of 2018 begins with the Republican party in a weakened state. Trump continues to be unpopular, the GOP trails in the general ballot, and the list of toss-ups in both the House and Senate continues to grow. Objective conditions — low unemployment, economic growth, rising incomes, no new wars — seem to have little bearing on evaluations of this presidency. Nor does the specter of what might come after the House Republicans loom large enough to spook independent voters away from the Democrats. This is a one-issue election. The issue is Donald Trump. The loss of the House would foreclose the possibility of serious conservative legislation for at least two years. The loss of the Senate would slam the door shut on conservative judges and executive appointments. Newly empowered democratic socialists will push for impeachment. Pelosi and Schumer won’t know how to stop them. Conservative initiatives would be limited to Trump’s foreign policy and to bureaucratic measures the next Democratic president will try to reverse. There is a lot of false hope being taken in Republican and conservative circles that, because Trump defied the polls in 2016, the party will do so again in 2018. Maybe. On the other hand, Trump was elected thanks to 77,000 votes in three states, and it could well be the case that the Trump spell works for him alone. His failure to make inroads among independents and Democrats over the last 20 months puts the majority party at a terrible disadvantage. Republican leaders are praying that he somehow changes his behavior or deletes the Twitter app in these last weeks before the election. This is wishful thinking. Trump hasn’t changed in three decades. He isn’t about to now.

The Hill - September 15, 2018

Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh

Democrats making a last-ditch effort to block Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court are arguing he misled members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with incomplete or unsatisfactory answers to questions. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the pitch publicly to undecided Republicans, arguing that during his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh “evaded” questions, gave “totally unsatisfactory” answers or, in some cases, “offered misleading testimony” and “shaded the truth” about his work in the George W. Bush White House. “I urge my colleagues on the other side to scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s comments to the Judiciary Committee … and decide for yourself whether he was completely forthcoming,” Schumer said during a Senate floor speech Wednesday. “Because if a nominee provides false or misleading testimony to a committee that should weigh heavily, very heavily on the minds of every senator when it comes time to vote, to confirm or reject the nominee,” Schumer said. The White House has dismissed the comments from Democrats as an attempt to “smear” Kavanaugh. But Democrats argue that Kavanaugh’s testimony, as well as “confidential” documents released after the hearing, show that he wasn’t truthful about his work in the Bush White House, where he served as an associate counsel and staff secretary. “Time and again, on issue after issue, Judge Kavanaugh has misled the Senate, under oath, when a job promotion was on the line. That is disqualifying,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former committee chairman, said when he announced his opposition to Kavanaugh. If confirmed, Kavanaugh, 53, is expected to tilt the court to the right for decades. Leahy said that he had “never been more concerned” about a Supreme Court nominee’s “willingness and unwillingness to be truthful under oath.” He made the remarks as part of the Senate Democratic weekly address released on Friday.