The Wires

Public Service Announcement

July 27: NBC News: "If your information was compromised during the massive 2017 Equifax data breach, you could be entitled to up to $20,000." The article provides info on how you can claim your share of the restitution fund. Mrs. McC: I might give it a crack. I know my personal info was compromised during the period of the Equifax breach, but I'm not sure Equifax was the source of the breach. So I might give this a crack. 

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":

 

Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

Wednesday
Aug142019

The Commentariat -- August 15, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) subpoenaed Corey Lewandowski and former White House official Rick Dearborn on Thursday, marking Democrats' latest efforts to receive testimony from key figures in the Mueller report."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Thursday baselessly accused the press of trying to tank the American economy, shrugging off any blame for a prospective economic slowdown and possible recession heading into his reelection next year. 'The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election,' he said in a tweet. 'The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!' The president offered no evidence to support his claim that the media, a frequent target of his ire, is working to weaken the U.S. economy."

Rami Ayyub of Reuters: "Israel is considering barring a visit by two of its sharpest critics in the U.S. Congress, Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who plan to tour the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, an Israeli official said on Thursday.... Under Israeli law, backers of the [pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)] movement can be denied entry to Israel. But Israel's ambassador in the United States, Ron Dermer, said last month they would be let in, out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the U.S.-Israeli relationship." --safari: Twitter is confirming that they're indeed barred from a potential visit (no link). ...

     ... Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 News (published in Axios), "President Trump tweeted Thursday that it would show 'great weakness' if Israel were to allow Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to enter the country during an upcoming congressional delegation visit on Sunday.... As Axios' Jonathan Swan and I previously reported, Trump has privately been telling advisers that he thinks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should use an anti-boycott law to bar the two freshman congresswomen over their support for the BDS movement. In response to our story, the White House said that Trump didn't pressure Israel in any way and that Israel can do whatever it wants." ...

     ... Update: Let's look at Ravid & Swan's report, dated August 10, which Ravid linked above: "President Trump has told advisers he thinks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should use Israel's anti-boycott law to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering Israel, according to 3 sources familiar with the situation.... But Trump denies, through White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, ever giving any kind of directive to the Israelis. 'The Israeli government can do what they want. It's fake news,' Grisham said on Saturday." Emphasis added. Mrs. McC: Surprise! The new press secretary is just like the old press secretary. She lies. (And/or she repeats Trump's lies).

     ... Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump's intervention was an extraordinary step to influence an allied nation and punish his political opponents at home. Israel's decision to bar the two congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was widely criticized, including by prominent Israel supporters.... In lobbying a foreign government to bar members of the United States Congress, Mr. Trump crossed yet another line that other presidents generally respected. No matter how virulent their differences at home, presidents have traditionally not enlisted the help of overseas allies to take action against domestic political adversaries.... Mr. Trump's intervention also placed him at odds with the Republican leadership in Congress...." ...

     ... Update. Zack Budryk of the Hill: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday criticized Israel's decision not to allow Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to visit.... 'Israel's denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel,' Pelosi said in a statement.... 'The President's statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President,' she said. Pelosi has had her differences with Tlaib and Omar...."

Spencer Woodman & Maryam Saleh of The Intercept: "In the first 15 months of the Trump administration, U.S. immigration authorities locked thousands of detainees in solitary confinement, some for months at a time, a new report from the Project on Government Oversight ... has found.... In roughly 40 percent of those reports ... across both presidential administrations, the detainee placed in isolation had a mental illness diagnosis.... The U.N. has said that solitary confinement should be banned except in 'very exceptional circumstances.' It should never be used to isolate people with mental illness or juveniles -- and no one should be held for longer than 15 days, the U.N. says." --s

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "An international law group has submitted new evidence to the UK government alleging that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has covered up evidence of its unlawful airstrikes on civilian targets. The allegations will put pressure on the UK government as it prepares its response to a court order directing it to reconsider all existing British government licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.... The government is expected to provide its response next month in a move with big ramifications for future UK-Saudi relations." --s

More than 250,000 people have signed the petition to change the name of Fifth Avenue in the block in front of Trump Tower to "President Barack H. Obama Avenue." The WashPo has a story here. There's a ClickOrlando story here.

~~~~~~~~~~

Matt Phillips of the New York Times: "Trade-war worries hammered financial markets again on Wednesday as data from Germany and China showed trouble for manufacturing-reliant economies, while the bond market renewed fears of an American recession. Stocks and commodities tumbled in Europe and the United States as risk-averse investors raced to the safety of government bonds, pushing bond prices sharply higher and yields -- which move in the opposite direction -- to low levels not seen in years." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Lucy Bayly of NBC News: "Wall Street took a battering on Wednesday, suffering its worst day so far this year after movements in the bond market signaled the sharpest indication yet of an approaching recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had already shed 400 points at the opening bell, spent the day in freefall before closing with a decline of 800 points, a drop of over 3 percent. The S&P 500 closed down 2.93 percent, and the Nasdaq posted a decline of just over 3 percent. The market selloff was the result of an inverted yield curve in government bonds, when the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falls below the 2-year rate -- a phenomenon that has preceded every recession for the past 50 years.... Donald Trump blamed the Federal Reserve for Wednesday's market plunge, calling Fed Chairman Jerome Powell 'clueless' in an afternoon tweet." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post defines "inverted yield curve" & why it spooks investors. "Investors are spooked by a scenario known as the 'inverted yield curve,' which occurs when the interest rates on short-term bonds are higher than the interest rates paid by long-term bonds. What it means is that people are so worried about the near-term future that they are piling into safer long-term investments. In a healthy economy, bondholders typically demand to be paid more -- or receive a higher 'yield' -- on longer-term bonds than they do for short-term bonds." Here's an explanation by Al Lewis of CNBC. ...

... Ben White of Politico: "Trump on Wednesday once again blamed the Fed, taking to Twitter the bash the central bank for not slashing rates fast enough. 'We are winning, big time, against China. Companies & jobs are fleeing. Prices to us have not gone up, and in some cases, have come down. China is not our problem, though Hong Kong is not helping. Our problem is with the Fed. Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut,' Trump tweeted. 'Spread is way too much as other countries say THANK YOU to clueless Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve. Germany, and many others, are playing the game! CRAZY INVERTED YIELD URVE! We should easily be reaping big Rewards & Gains, but the Fed is holding us back. We will Win!'... But the biggest drag cited by economists is uncertainty over trade, which is showing up in lower spending by businesses. The loss of the Chinese market is also hammering farmers." ...

... Man in White House Very Confused. Damian Paletta, et al., of the Washington Post: "Just a few hours [before he wrote the tweets knocking Powell & the Fed], Trump offered a contradictory assessment, saying the inverted yield curve was a good sign because there was 'Tremendous amounts of money pouring into the United States. People want safety!'... Several White House officials have become concerned that the economy is weakening faster than expected, but they are not working on proactive plans to change its course. The Treasury Department has had an exodus of senior advisers in recent months, and the White House just announced a replacement for its chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Instead of rolling out new policies, Trump and other top aides have escalated their attacks on the Federal Reserve, trying to pin much of the United States' problems on what Trump alleges is elevated interest rates that are strangling growth.... A number of investors and foreign leaders have blamed Trump's trade war for causing the contraction in business investment and forcing companies to pull back...."

Man in White House Still Confused. Eliana Johnson, et al., of Politico: "Donald Trump's top aides are urging him to back Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, but the president isn't interested, multiple people familiar with the administration's internal debates say. In recent days, national security adviser John Bolton, China hands at both the National Security Council and the State Department, and several economic advisers have pushed for a more assertive posture on the Hong Kong demonstrations, which have paralyzed the former British colony and roiled markets. They are finding little traction with a president focused more narrowly on trade negotiations with Xi Jinping.... As the protests have intensified over the past month, the president has remained determined to keep China's human rights abuses from complicating his trade negotiations.... But after the initial publication of this report, the president appeared to reverse himself ... on Wednesday evening -- this time demanding that Xi 'deal humanely with Hong Kong.'... 'Of course China wants to make a deal,' the president wrote on Twitter.... 'Let then deal humanely with Hong Kong first!'... It was the most full-throated statement of support Trump has delivered to the pro-democracy protesters.... The remarks marked a reversal from the promise Trump made to Xi in a phone conversation in mid-June. The president surprised his aides when he told Xi that he would not condemn the Chinese government over a crackdown in Hong Kong. He understood it was an internal issue in which the U.S. would not interfere...."

Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "President Trump's disapproval rating has jumped to 56 percent in a Fox News survey released Wednesday, just one point shy of the record high in Fox News polling. The survey found a 5 percentage point increase in Trump's disapproval from last month. The only time his disapproval rating was higher, according to Fox News, was when it reached 57 percent in October 2017. Forty-three percent of respondents said they approve of Trump's job performance, down from 46 percent last month. The record low for Trump approval in Fox News's polling is 38 percent, also from October of 2017. Trump has the disapproval of a record number of men, at 53 percent, white men, 46 percent, and independents, 64 percent...."

Zak Cheney-Rice of New York: Donald Trump's "vision for America reimagines the Statue of Liberty not as a beacon for freedom but for the enhancement of a racist status quo and the empowerment of white Americans' chosen political party. It also establishes the possession of capital as a precondition for entry. And for the president, one kind of capital trumps most others: that conferred by being white. [Ken] Cuccinelli is a fitting spokesman for this vision. As a Virginia state legislator and later attorney general, he fought to repeal birthright citizenship and force employees to speak English in the workplace. He has compared immigration policy to rat extermination and described Representative Steve King -- an open white nationalist -- as 'one of [his] very favorite congressmen.'... [Trump's] political power hinges on galvanizing white voters who are overwhelmingly bigoted and inclined to blame people of color for their problems." Cheney-Rice suggests that Cuccinelli's view that Emma Lazarus' "New Colossus" was for Europeans only is a good example of white supremacism.

Violent Men Think Trump Is Violent. Mike Levine of ABC News: "... Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to accept any responsibility for inciting violence in American communities.... 'I think my rhetoric brings people together,' he said last week.... But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault. In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant's violent or threatening behavior.... ABC News could not find a single criminal case filed in federal or state court where an act of violence or threat was made in the name of President Barack Obama or President George W. Bush. The 36 cases identified by ABC News are remarkable in that a link to the president is captured in court documents and police statements, under the penalty of perjury or contempt.... The perpetrators and suspects identified in the 36 cases are mostly white men ... while the victims largely represent an array of minority groups -- African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and gay men." Via Adam Raymond of New York.

Dominic Holden of BuzzFeed News: "The Trump administration on Wednesday formally proposed a new rule to let businesses with federal contracts cite religious objections as a valid reason to discriminate against their workers on the basis of LGBTQ status, sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, and other characteristics -- thereby skirting worker protections created by past presidents. The move marks ... Donald Trump's latest effort to weaken the civil rights of minorities with ambiguous rules that grant agencies wide discretion to let companies off the hook when accused of discrimination. The 46-page draft rule from the Labor Department would apply to a range of so-called religious organizations — including corporations, schools, and societies -- provided that they claim a 'religious purpose.' Labor Department spokesperson Megan Sweeney confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that the rule would apply to for-profit corporations with federal contracts.... The proposal could apply to up to 420,000 contractors...."

Andrew Blankstein of NBC News: "An IRS staffer who leaked confidential details about former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's finances to Michael Avenatti, ex-lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally accessing and distributing that information. John C. Fry was an investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, the law enforcement arm of the agency, in May 2018 when he twice logged on to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) database and downloaded five Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) -- reports filed by banks when they note potentially suspicious transactions -- related to Cohen and his company Essential Consultants. In court Wednesday, Fry ... pleaded guilty to one county of unauthorized disclosure of SARs. Avenatti made the information public via Twitter, noting Cohen's receipt in 2017 of $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a company with ties to a Russian billionaire, and payments to Essential Consultants from other firms that do business with the federal government, including AT&T."

#MoscowMitch, Ctd. John Wagner of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as 'Moscow Mitch' during a political speech in Illinois on Wednesday as she chided the Kentucky Republican for blocking an array of legislation passed by her chamber this year. Speaking at a Democratic event in Springfield, Pelosi (D-Calif.) recounted a series of bills passed by the House, including measures raising the minimum wage, reforming elections and expanding health care." Here's a CNN story by Kate Sullivan & others. ...

... Tom Hamburger & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post have sort of a follow-up report to the extensive Time report linked here yesterday on Mitch McConnell's successful efforts to lift sanctions on Rusal, Russia's largest aluminum producer, a move that allowed Rusal to partially fund a new aluminum-rolling mill in Kentucky. "A spokesman for McConnell said the majority leader did not know that [entrepreneur Craig] Bouchard had hopes of a deal with Rusal at the time McConnell led the Senate effort to end the sanctions, citing the recommendation of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.... But critics said the timing is disturbing. 'It is shocking how blatantly transactional this arrangement looks,' said Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration.... Democratic senators have called for a government review of the deal, prompting a Rusal executive in Moscow last week to threaten to pull out of the investment. The Rusal-backed project is one of several issues fueling broader scrutiny of McConnell's posture toward Russia and its efforts to manipulate American voters."

Steve King Extols the Crucial Benefit of Rape & Incest. Robin Opsahl of the Des Moines Register: "U.S. Rep. Steve King [R-Iowa] told the Westside Conservative Club [of Urbandale, Iowa,] on Wednesday that humanity might not exist if not for rape and incest. 'What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?' he said at the event in Urbandale, Iowa. 'Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can't certify that I'm not a part of a product of that.' The Kiron Republican was defending his position of not allowing exceptions for rape and incest in the anti-abortion legislation he tried to pass in Congress. Republican leadership had prevented the bills he sponsored on banning abortions from advancing through the House, despite GOP support for the measures, King said." ...

... Too Offensive for Even Scalise & Cheney. Sarah Ferris of Politico: "Democrats in Congress and on the 2020 campaign trail reacted with fury, saying that King's comments amounted to excusing violence against women and disregarding the victims of rape and incest. King's remarks drew a backlash from House GOP leaders -- who already agreed to strip him of his committee posts after a string of racist remarks earlier this year -- though their response took several hours. 'These comments are wrong, and offensive, and underscore why we removed him from his committees,' House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a statement to Politico Wednesday afternoon. House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney redoubled her calls for King to step aside, calling his comments 'appalling and bizarre.'" See also Akhilleus's commentary below on Steve King's anthropological musings.

Presidential Race 2020

Nicholas Riccardi of the AP: "John Hickenlooper is expected to drop out of the Democratic presidential primary on Thursday.... It's unclear whether Hickenlooper will now challenge Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who is considered the country's most vulnerable Republican senator."

Neal Rothschild of Axios: "While Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the presidential candidate who's known for her robust set of policy plans, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the one who's been the most prolific at her day job, introducing the most bills of any senator or House member running for president, according to data from Quorum.... She's also introduced more bills than any senator, whether they're running for president or not." The report also charts the percentage of votes missed by the candidates who are members of Congress. Seth Moulton has missed the fewest, while Booker & Harris have missed the most; Sanders & Gillibrand are tied for next-worst.

Ben Schrekinger of Politico: "A donor with deep ties to Ukraine loaned Joe Biden’s younger brother half-a-million dollars at the same time the then-vice president oversaw U.S. policy toward the country, according to public records.... The 2015 loan came as Biden's brother faced financial difficulties related to his acquisition of a multimillion-dollar vacation home, nicknamed 'the Biden Bungalow,' in South Florida. There is no indication that the loan influenced Joe Biden's official actions, but it furthers a decades-long pattern, detailed in a Politico investigation earlier this month, by which relatives of the former vice president have leaned on his political allies for money and otherwise benefited financially from the Biden name. Details of the loan are laid out in property records in Collier County, Florida, where Biden's younger brother, James, and James' wife Sara, owned until recently a home on Keewaydin Island. The luxurious, six-bed, seven-bath home comes with a guest house and sits on five acres along a pristine, miles-long stretch of sandy beach."


Nicholas Kulish & Mike McIntire
of the New York Times: "... Cordelia Scaife May eventually found her life’s purpose: curbing what she perceived as the lethal threat of overpopulation by trying to shut America's doors to immigrants. She believed that the United States was 'being invaded on all fronts' by foreigners, who 'breed like hamsters' and exhaust natural resources. She thought that the border with Mexico should be sealed and that abortions on demand would contain the swelling masses in developing countries. An heiress to the Mellon banking and industrial fortune with a half-billion dollars at her disposal, Mrs. May helped create what would become the modern anti-immigration movement. She bankrolled the founding and operation of the nation's three largest restrictionist groups ... as well as dozens of smaller ones, including some that have promulgated white nationalist views. Today, 14 years after Mrs. May's death, her money remains the lifeblood of the movement, through her Colcom Foundation. It has poured $180 million into a network of groups that spent decades agitating for policies now pursued by President Trump: militarizing the border, capping legal immigration, prioritizing skills over family ties for entry and reducing access to public benefits for migrants, as in the new rule issued just this week by the administration." ...

... As MAG points out in today's Comments, here's what happens when people like May & Trump succeed in their ignorant crusades: ...

... Jeff Stein of the Washington Post: "Across Maine, families ... are being hammered by two slow-moving demographic forces -- the growth of the retirement population and a simultaneous decline in young workers -- that have been exacerbated by a national worker shortage pushing up the cost of labor. The unemployment rate in Maine is 3.2 percent, below the national average of 3.7 percent. The disconnect between Maine's aging population and its need for young workers to care for that population is expected to be mirrored in states throughout the country over the coming decade, demographic experts say. And that's especially true in states with populations with fewer immigrants, who are disproportionately represented in many occupations serving the elderly, statistics show." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The irony is that Trump already knows this. That's why he's been hiring both undocumented & documented immigrants for decades. Like many rich people, Trump believes laws are made to restrain the masses, not men of means. There's not much reason they shouldn't believe that, either, since law enforcement tends to selectively enforces laws, & this is especially true when it comes to hiring undocumented workers.

The Plot Thickens. Carol Leonnig & Aaron Davis of the Washington Post: "An autopsy found that financier Jeffrey Epstein sustained multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to two people familiar with the findings, deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death. Among the bones broken in Epstein's neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam's apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said.... The office of New York City's chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, completed an autopsy of Epstein's body Sunday. But Sampson listed the cause of his death as pending." The Houston Chronicle has the WashPo story here. ...

... Bizarre "News." Isolde Walters & Cheyenne Roundtree of the Daily Mail: "Jeffrey Epstein had a bizarre portrait of Bill Clinton in a dress hanging in his Manhattan mansion.... The picture depicting the former president apparently lounging on a chair in the Oval Office, wearing red heels and posing suggestively in a blue dress redolent of Monica Lewinsky was in a room off the stairway of the Upper East Side townhouse. The dress is also strikingly similar to one worn by Hillary Clinton at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors. The original painting is called 'Parsing Bill' and is by Australian-American artist Petrina Ryan-Kleid, although it is unclear if Epstein had bought the canvas or had a print mounted." Includes photos. Mrs. McC: I apologize to everyone who is offended by my linking this nonsense.

More Weird News. Jeran Wittenstein of Bloomberg: "Overstock.com Inc. shares fell for a third day Wednesday as investors reacted to statements by Chief Executive Officer [link fixed] Patrick Byrne that he was a part of federal investigations related to the 2016 election. The e-commerce company has lost a third of its value in the two days since releasing a statement by Byrne titled 'Overstock.com CEO Comments on Deep State' and referring to federal investigators as 'the Men in Black.' The stock fell another 23% on Wednesday, bringing its slide to 36% since Monday, the biggest two-day slump in more than 11 years. Byrne's statement addressed stories published on a little-known news website and referenced investigations relating to the Clintons and Russian interference in the U.S. elections, political espionage and the rule of law.... They’re not the first unusual comments from the Overstock founder."

Lauren Said-Moorhouse & Per Nyberg of CNN: "US rapper A$AP Rocky has been found guilty of assault and handed a conditional sentence after he was involved ina street brawl in Stockholm.... The imposition of a conditional sentence means that A$AP Rocky will be subject to a probationary period of two years. The court awarded damages of 12,500 Swedish Krona ($1,300) to the victim 'for violation of his integrity and pain and suffering.' The defendants were also ordered to pay fees of 80,610 Swedish Krona (nearly $8,400) for the victim's lawyer."(Also linked yesterday.)

Beyond the Beltway

New Jersey. Nick Corasaniti, et al., of the New York Times: "A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey's largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation. Urgent new warnings from federal environmental officials about contamination in drinking water from aging lead pipes spread anxiety and fear across much of Newark, but the municipal government's makeshift efforts to set up distribution centers to hand out bottled water were hampered by confusion and frustration.... Newark had long denied that the city had a widespread problem with its drinking water, only to reverse course last fall and give away tens of thousands of water filters. But recent tests have shown that the filters were not properly removing lead.... Standing in long lines, residents expressed anger and fear over how wide-reaching the problem really was." ...

     ... Brian Kahn of Gizmodo has a report on the Newark water crisis.

... Karen Yi of NJ.com: "U.S. Sen. Cory Booker who once led New Jersey's largest city, co-authored a letter to the federal government on Tuesday urging 'immediate assistance' for Newark as officials there distribute bottled water to protect residents from potential lead exposure. The mass distribution of bottled water began Monday, three days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked Newark to do so. The quick decision was based on surprising test results that showed water filters at two homes were not eliminating enough lead. About 38,000 filters have been distributed in the city." Mrs. McC: This can't be helping Cory Booker's presidential hopes.

News Lede

NBC Philadelphia: "A man accused of shooting six Philadelphia police officers during a standoff that lasted more than seven hours has surrendered to police. NBC Philadelphia was there as a member of the SWAT team shot tear gas into the home on North 15th and Butler streets around midnight. The suspect, identified by police as 36-year-old Maurice Hill of Philadelphia, then walked out of the home and was taken into custody by police. Hill was taken to Temple University Hospital for an evaluation. He is likely to be charged with six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault, according to his longtime attorney Shaka Johnson."

Reader Comments (19)

Would be more outraged by Rep. King's recent remarks on rape, incest and his own probable ancestry if as a Biblical literalist I did not have to conclude, as I told my wife tonight, that as descendants of Adam and Eve's progeny we all grew up and live in the same glass house.

August 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken W. There's a difference between acknowledging that some of your ancestors may have committed rape or engaged in incest -- and condoning them as pretty good ways to populate the Earth.

August 14, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Sorry, Bea.

Agree. That is an important distinction.

Maybe I wasn't funny, but I was funnin' at both Mr. King and the Biblical literalists who I assumed had to be present in his audience of conservatives.

Sometimes you swing and miss.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Why we need immigrants!

Read the story in the New York Times about the despicable heiress from Pittsburgh, then came across this piece: Jeff Stein in the Washington Post: This will be catastrophic’: Maine families face elder boom, worker shortage in " preview of nation’s future"

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

It seems unusual to me that almost no details of Epstein's death have been reported. For example, it should have been easy to get a photograph of Epstein's cell, or at least one like it. It ought to have been possible to find out who ordered Epstein taken off suicide watch and why. It should have been possible to explain why authorities were insistent that his death was a suicide. The way it's being handled it appears that authorities want to create a thousand conspiracy theories to distract from Trump's activities. Well, there should be another large mass shooting soon to take our minds off Epstein, and so the whole thing will be forgotten.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterProcopius

@Procopius: The details surrounding Epstein's death seem to be drip, dripping out, thanks to dogged reporters. Yesterday or so we found out that the guards who were supposed to be checking up on Epstein every half-hour were napping & didn't check on him for at least three hours. That apparently was verified by surveillance tapes. Also, we learned he hanged himself with bedsheets. Today we find out -- WashPo story linked above -- that the autopsy report is consistent with hanging -- and with strangulation.

Investigators often do not release details of their work as they gather facts but wait until they've got all the can get -- and if possible reached a conclusion -- before reporting those facts.

This is different from a situation where there is a need-to-know based on public safety considerations. For instance, the public needs to know that a mass shooting is over, that the perp has been caught/killed & that he's so-and-so. Typically, police will provide this information in briefings, while "investigators" like the FBI -- who may be investigating the same crime about which the police are sharing info -- will hold back on their preliminary findings, perhaps not releasing them except to the extent they appear in court filings.

Anyway, I don't think it's unusual not to find out more at this point, though it is useful to learn that the feds are pretty lousy at running prisons.

August 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Nothing seems accurate about what is coming out of the coroner's office regarding the autopsy findings.
A hangman's fracture is up around C-2. This can be seen easily on the Googles Images. It's a very common fracture with hanging.
A hyoid fracture is down around C-4. (Googles again). It is more commonly associated with strangulation injuries.
More fractures were mentioned but not specified. Huh? Massive neck injuries? How did Epstein have time to do this to himself?
Perhaps Epstein was on the floor and a motorcycle ran over his neck?

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

@Victoria: Thanks. I believe that was Hillary on the bike. Varoom.

August 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

I want to comment on little Donnie Trumpy, idiot economist, but first, the eternally execrable Steve King.

Rape and incest are an integral part of population growth across the planet and....this is a good thing?

Wow.

So here's my question.

Who thinks of shit like this? Who? I've been fairly interested in the development of the species, the way populations have spread, and our recent ability to use DNA evidence to connect migrations with points of origin. Very interesting stuff. Never, ever have I thought, or heard, or read of rape and incest being consistently vital elements in human population growth. Ever.

Who sits around (when not thinking of new ways to insult minorities and women) and says to themselves "Hmmm....rape. Incest. Yeaaaahhh. Rape. Rape, rape, rape. Hey, maybe rape was a big part of civilization. Incest too. Oooooh yeah. How cool!"

Fucking perverts and weirdos, that's who.

Now, had anthropologists and ethnographic researchers determined that rape and incest had played a fairly significant role in human development and population growth, I suppose it would be a valid point of inquiry. But I've never heard anyone say such things. Do these things exist? Of course. (Although, to some Republicans there's real rape and then there's the other kind where the woman/girl asked for it. I'm sure King is a member of that crowd.) But did such acts cause measurable increases in human population groups? Enough for it to be a topic of serious inquiry? If so, I think we'd have heard about it. But luckily, we have King: Anthro-rapeologist.

What else is this whack-job thinking about?

You know what? Scratch that. I don't even want to know.

(And a secondary concern--or maybe the primary one--has to do with the fact that not only is he spending time thinking about rape and incest, he thinks it's perfectly fine to come out in public and talk about it. If I were harboring questionable, weird-ass ideas I don't think I'd call a press conference to discuss them. Jesus.)

Your Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Maine's demographics, which reflect the aging Boomer Burden my generation is inflicting on the country, has more implications than the rising cost of labor, and it's not just the Pretender who is confused by it all.

Some years ago I began seeing the prospect of aging Boomers used as an argument against both abortion and zero population growth. The argument was simple: If there are not enough people of working age, who'll do the work?

But the various directions in which the demographic argument ran forked in many, often contradictory, directions.

Some, as I said, used the data to argue against abortion.

Some as an argument for immigration. The economy, it was said, needed a constant influx of new bodies to shelter and new mouths to feed or it would collapse. The Bush II administration among others used this as a reason to keep the door open to immigration from the south.

Similar demographic arguments were applied on various sides to Europe where millions of workers had not survived War II, whose post-war generation was aging at the same rate as our own and whose economy was therefore already fueled and supported in large part by immigration. I remember encountering a heavy influx of Turkish and Greek guest workers into Germany when I was there in the late 1960's.

In many cases demographic arguments followed the unimaginative lead of the Rightist Club for Growth, which keeps telling us that earth's resources are infinite and no number of human beings is too great. The answer to any problem is not less but more.

Another stream of the demographic argument was that the birth rate among white folks was declining so fast white folks would soon be replaced if they didn't get to hopping. Call it the race to breed.

Here the argument split, with some heading in the anti-immigrant and others in the eugenics direction.

Scaife funded both, each with it racist components.

But behind much of the back and forth over the demographic issues which affect both the economy and the way an economy distributes human beings across the globe, is a question I've never heard satisfactorily answered and very seldom asked.

Does an economy have to keep expanding to serve human needs?

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

So, little Donnie Trumpy: Idiot economist!

As usual, nothing is ever donnie's fault. Bad stuff happens, it can't possibly be his doing. He had nothing to do with it. Must've been some other guy. Obama, maybe, or Hillary.

In this case, it's the Fed's fault. Because why not?

I'm certainly not enough of an economist to say whether or not the recent rise in the prime rate by the Fed played an enormous role in the yesterday's bad news (which has been coming for a while), but I know enough about it to be able to say, with some confidence, that although the Fed's lowering or raising of interest rates has an impact, it is not gonna start collapsing world markets unless the difference was on the order of four or five percent rather than a quarter of a percent.

What's going on seems to be more a question of world economies, especially here and in Europe, not doing enough to stave off problems that have been brewing since the world economic collapse overseen by the Decider, who decided not to do shit about it until it was too late.

And this seems to be what's going on now.

Trump's trade war has caused much more unease than the Fed's interest rate. But he will never admit that. His statements clearly indicate that he must have miserably failed his macro economics course at Wharton.

If one thinks of the Fed as a traffic light on the road, which can change from blinking yellow to green, then back again, here we have little donnie in his giant gas guzzling SUV driving down the highway. Except his vehicle is not in great shape. He never takes it in for maintenance, the wipers don't work, and the tires are bald. And he's driving with other travelers who are unsure of what's up ahead or where to go. Largely because little donnie has posted confusing signs along the way and in some cases taken them down altogether. So when things start slowing down, and traffic backs up, or multi-car pileups start happening, instead of looking at his own actions and inactions in this mess, he wants to blame the entire state of affairs on a blinking light he passed a hundred miles ago.

And, of course, instead of trying to do something about it, all donnie can do is complain and point fingers and whine about his dirty diaper.

If Steve King is a pervert, Trump is a child. A very stupid child.

Oh, and a pervert too.

Too much winning.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Ken,

Good question. It seems that in a more balanced system, economic resources, distributed equitably, would still need to keep pace with the growth of the population. More people combined with shortages in housing, food, water, jobs, would be (IS) a bad mix.

We've also seen, throughout history, that such a combination breeds forced migration (check), unrest (check), conflict (double check), and these elements put added strain on places where economic resources are greatest (the US and Europe, for example).

So I think the short answer to your question is, yes. Absolutely. As the population expands, if economic resources don't keep up, the resulting unrest could have tragic consequences.

It already does. Which is why the continued insistence by a certain political party and president* in this country on maintaining and even widening economic inequality is not only nonsensical, but dangerous.

We're not talking here about hypotheticals either. We're already seeing the results of such unrest in this country. In other countries, like points of origin of many immigrants, bad economies, or ones in which a tiny minority controls everything, governments lose control and the place descends into chaos, gang warfare, struggles for whatever scraps are left, leading to violence, hatred, and more disparity, and emigration.

This could happen here. In fact, government, under Republican "control" is pretty much a laissez-faire economic system rigged for the rich and against everyone else. Coupled with the current banana republic approach by the most corrupt administration in US history, and we're not nearly as far from Venezuela as we'd like to think.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

From Israel: More walls. The Pretender must be so proud.

I really don't understand how an economic system which claims to be the foundation of freedom and individual choice can object to and even legislate against people voting with their feet.

Unless, of course, all those claims about capitalism paving the road to freedom are mere bullshit.

And, Akhilleus, I think the implications of economic expansion need to be taken a little further, and not in the direction the Club for Growth dreams of.

If natural resources are truly limited, and they certainly seem to be, then economic and political systems have two challenges. Reasonable and humane distribution, as you say, but also some consideration of how much expansion of population is possible without running headlong into the real walls that nature, not the Pretender, imposes.

The strains associated with limited and poorly distributed resources--I'm thinking water issues everywhere from the Near East to New Mexico to Newark are a present fine example--are already driving our politics in harmful directions.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

A harder headed approach to immigration than many Dem candidates are taking.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/opinion/on-immigration-the-democrats-are-playing-into-trumps-hands.html

I'm thinking the Dems need more head to go along with their hearts.
Anguishing over what Emma Lazarus really meant (not that there's a question) isn't nearly enough.

What do you all think?

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The travel ban on Tlaib and Omar should be met with a declaration that "Netayahu is Prime Minister but Trump calls the shots". Perhaps with a cartoon of Bibi as a puppet on Trumps' hand?

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBobby Lee

Did any else catch the chopper presser when Drumpf two-sided Hong Kong protestors and authoritarian China?

While trying to formulate his irrational thoughts, he "supported" the HK side signaling "liberty". But the way he said the word was sounded so unnatural and forced, almost sarcastic. It made me think that he has never given a non-telepromoter screed and mentioned anything about values of democracy, liberty, freedoms. The only word he'll ever scream is "freeedom". We know why. He doesn't give two shits.

But it occurred to me that the press could really serve the nation by pressing him on his ideas on the topic. My guess is he would obfuscate about "freeedom...Constitution...maybe even delve into 2nd amendment love". The press should insist, getting him to opine about what liberty, democracy means to him. And persist til he answers. If he finally obliged, his answer would surely garner a C+ for a 3rd grader.

We need to bring the debate back to American ideals, and reveal what a n empty vessel the current occupant of the White House is. It won't change many voters opinions, but we could save the idiocy for some ads pre-election.

Every day I'm more embarrassed to have this Fucking Von Clown Stick on teevee. At least I have become numb. That's something...

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Bobby Lee,

And Trump a puppet on Putin’s hand. And the NRA’s hand, and the white supremacists’ hands, and billionaires’ hands...

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Another sign of our oh so tough guy Pretender's cowardice:

https://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/12946/2019-08-15/forget-about-white-house-press-briefings.html

He's not even willing to have others try to explain what his word salads mean, which may not be good for the country but has to please his current press secretary, who doesn't do pressers.

August 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I suspect Trumpanyahu did Democrats a big favor by barring Reps. Omar & Tlaib. If past is prologue, Tlaib & Omar would have gone to Israel & at least one, if not both, of them would have said something, uh, undiplomatic during their visit. Now, Trump & Netanyahu have martyred the Congresswomen & made themselves the heavies.

August 15, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie
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