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[l] at 7/13/24 7:24am
A leading expert on far-right, oppressive governments around the world is warning that former President Donald Trump would usher in fascism in the United States if he wins a second term this fall.In a detailed interview with Guardian reporter Alice Herman, scholar and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat — a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University whose work focuses on fascism — said November's election represents a "democratic emergency" with Trump as the GOP's presumptive nominee. She said his openly stated plans to be a "dictator" on "day one" combined with the Supreme Court's recent ruling guaranteeing presidents absolute criminal immunity for "official acts" is a recipe for authoritarianism."At its most basic, authoritarianism is when the executive branch of government domesticates or overwhelms or politicizes the judiciary, critiques and tries to silence the press, and when the leader has a party that he’s made into his personal tool, and in general, seeks to remove or neutralize any threats to his power," Ben-Ghiat said. "Authoritarianism is about replacing the rule of law with rule by the lawless."RELATED: Trump is grooming his base for 'maximum violence' this year: columnist"Trump is also uniquely dangerous because he has long indulged in fantasies of violence, and he made violence his brand," she continued. "This is someone who started off his campaign saying he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any followers. And he has used his rallies for almost 10 years now to preach that violence should be seen in a positive light. He’d say in the old days, you could beat up people, and that violence is necessary, sometimes, to 'save the nation'."When Trump's lawyers were making the case for him to have absolute immunity before a D.C. Court of Appeals panel, attorney John Sauer posited that Trump would be protected from even assassinating political opponents. While the D.C. Circuit rejected that argument, the former president successfully got the Supreme Court to overturn it in July's 6-3 Trump v. United States decision. "This is someone who talks about executions," she added. "The reason he admires foreign leaders such as Xi [Jinping of China] and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is that they have the power to execute people and pay no consequence."Ben-Ghiat's assessment is not hyperbolic. In her dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the Court's six conservative appointees effectively legalized extrajudicial murders so long as a president declared it to be an official act."Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency," Sotomayor wrote. "Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune."Ben-Ghiat, who has studied Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's reign in depth, said Trump is engaging in 'classic authoritarian maneuvers' by demonizing immigrants, attacking the free press and framing himself as a victim of political persecution. She compared him to both previous far-right world leaders, and identified his contemporaries in Hungary and Turkey."For Mussolini, the enemy of Italy – which was a poor nation – was the League of Nations. Today, Trump says the enemy is the deep state. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan talks about witch hunts. [Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi talked about witch hunts by the press and prosecutors. It makes people get on board with any aggressive actions that this leader takes, because it becomes self defense," she explained. "From Putin to [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán, all these authoritarians say that democracy is the real tyranny, and they present their way – whether it’s fascism or Trumpism – as the way to free the people. And so this idea that Biden is a threat to democracy – this is part of it."Click here to read Ben-Ghiat's interview with the Guardian in its entirety.
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[l] at 7/13/24 7:22am
A network of ultrawealthy Christian donors is spending nearly $12 million to mobilize Republican-leaning voters and purge more than a million people from the rolls in key swing states, aiming to tilt the 2024 election in favor of former President Donald Trump. These previously unreported plans are the work of a group named Ziklag, a little-known charity whose donors have included some of the wealthiest conservative Christian families in the nation, including the billionaire Uihlein family, who made a fortune in office supplies, the Greens, who run Hobby Lobby, and the Wallers, who own the Jockey apparel corporation. Recipients of Ziklag’s largesse include Alliance Defending Freedom, which is the Christian legal group that led the overturning of Roe v. Wade, plus the national pro-Trump group Turning Point USA and a constellation of right-of-center advocacy groups. ProPublica and Documented obtained thousands of Ziklag’s members-only email newsletters, internal videos, strategy documents and fundraising pitches, none of which has been previously made public. They reveal the group’s 2024 plans and its long-term goal to underpin every major sphere of influence in American society with Christianity. In the Bible, the city of Ziklag was where David and his soldiers found refuge during their war with King Saul. “We are in a spiritual battle and locked in a terrible conflict with the powers of darkness,” says a strategy document that lays out Ziklag’s 30-year vision to “redirect the trajectory of American culture toward Christ by bringing back Biblical structure, order and truth to our Nation.” Ziklag’s 2024 agenda reads like the work of a political organization. It plans to pour money into mobilizing voters in Arizona who are “sympathetic to Republicans” in order to secure “10,640 additional unique votes” — almost the exact margin of President Joe Biden’s win there in 2020. The group also intends to use controversial AI software to enable mass challenges to the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of voters in competitive states. In a recording of a 2023 internal strategy discussion, a Ziklag official stressed that the objective was the same in other swing states. “The goal is to win,” the official said. “If 75,000 people wins the White House, then how do we get 150,000 people so we make sure we win?” According to the Ziklag files, the group has divided its 2024 activities into three different operations targeting voters in battleground states: Checkmate, focused on funding so-called election integrity groups; Steeplechase, concentrated on using churches and pastors to get out the vote; and Watchtower, aimed at galvanizing voters around the issues of “parental rights” and opposition to transgender rights and policies supporting health care for trans people. In a member briefing video, one of Ziklag’s spiritual advisers outlined a plan to “deliver swing states” by using an anti-transgender message to motivate conservative voters who are exhausted with Trump. But Ziklag is not a political organization: It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity, the same legal designation as the United Way or Boys and Girls Club. Such organizations do not have to publicly disclose their funders, and donations are tax deductible. In exchange, they are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” according to the IRS. ProPublica and Documented presented the findings of their investigation to six nonpartisan lawyers and legal experts. All expressed concern that Ziklag was testing or violating the law. The reporting by ProPublica and Documented “casts serious doubt on this organization’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization,” said Roger Colinvaux, a professor at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. “I think it’s across the line without a question,” said Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a University of Notre Dame law professor. Ziklag officials did not respond to a detailed list of questions. Martin Nussbaum, an attorney who said he was the group’s general counsel, said in a written response that “some of the statements in your email are correct. Others are not,” but he then did not respond to a request to specify what was erroneous. The group is seeking to “align” the culture “with Biblical values and the American constitution, and that they will serve the common good,” he wrote. Using the official tax name for Ziklag, he wrote that “USATransForm does not endorse candidates for public office.” He declined to comment on the group’s members. There are no bright lines or magic words that the IRS might look for when it investigates a charitable organization for engaging in political intervention, said Mayer. Instead, the agency examines the facts and circumstances of a group’s activities and makes a conclusion about whether the group violated the law. The biggest risk for charities that intervene in political campaigns, Mayer said, is loss of their tax-exempt status. Donors’ ability to deduct their donations can be a major sell, not to mention it can create “a halo effect” for the group, Mayer added. “They may be able to get more money this way,” he said, adding, “It boils down to tax evasion at the end of the day.” “Dominion Over the Seven Mountains” Ziklag has largely escaped scrutiny until now. The group describes itself as a “private, confidential, invitation-only community of high-net-worth Christian families.” According to internal documents, it boasts more than 125 members that include business executives, pastors, media leaders and other prominent conservative Christians. Potential new members, one document says, should have a “concern for culture” demonstrated by past donations to faith-based or political causes, as well as a net worth of $25 million or more. None of the donors responded to requests for comment. Tax records show rapid growth in the group’s finances in recent years. Its annual revenue climbed from $1.3 million in 2018 to $6 million in 2019 and nearly $12 million in 2022, which is the latest filing available. The group’s spending is not on the scale of major conservative funders such as Miriam Adelson or Barre Seid, the electronics magnate who gave $1.6 billion to a group led by conservative legal activist Leonard Leo. But its funding and strategy represent one of the clearest links yet between the Christian right and the “election integrity” movement fueled by Trump’s baseless claims about voting fraud. Even several million dollars funding mass challenges to voters in swing counties can make an impact, legal and election experts say. Ziklag was the brainchild of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Ken Eldred. It emerged from a previous organization founded by Eldred called United In Purpose, which aimed to get more Christians active in the civic arena, according to Bill Dallas, the group’s former director. United In Purpose generated attention in June 2016 when it organized a major meeting between then-candidate Trump and hundreds of evangelical leaders. After Trump was elected in 2016, Eldred had an idea, according to Dallas. “He says, ‘I want all the wealthy Christian people to come together,’” Dallas recalled in an interview. Eldred told Dallas that he wanted to create a donor network like the one created by Charles and David Koch but for Christians. He proposed naming it David’s Mighty Men, Dallas said. Female members balked. Dallas found the passage in Chronicles that references David’s soldiers and read that they met in the city of Ziklag, and so they chose the name Ziklag. The group’s stature grew after Trump took office. Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a Ziklag event, as did former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz, then-Rep. Mark Meadows and other members of Congress. In its private newsletter, Ziklag claims that a coalition of groups it assembled played “a hugely significant role in the selection, hearings and confirmation process” of Amy Coney Barrett for a Supreme Court seat in late 2020. Confidential donor networks regularly invest hundreds of millions of dollars into political and charitable groups, from the liberal Democracy Alliance to the Koch-affiliated Stand Together organization on the right. But unlike Ziklag, neither of those organizations is legally set up as a true charity. Ziklag appears to be the first coordinated effort to get wealthy donors to fund an overtly Christian nationalist agenda, according to historians, legal experts and other people familiar with the group. “It shows that this idea isn’t being dismissed as fringe in the way that it might have been in the past,” said Mary Ziegler, a legal historian and University of California, Davis law professor. The Christian nationalism movement has a variety of aims and tenets, according to the Public Religion Research Institute: that the U.S. government “should declare America a Christian nation”; that American laws “should be based on Christian values”; that the U.S. will cease to exist as a nation if it “moves away from our Christian foundations”; that being Christian is essential to being American; and that God has “called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.” One theology promoted by Christian nationalist leaders is the Seven Mountain Mandate. Each mountain represents a major industry or a sphere of public life: arts and media, business, church, education, family, government, and science and technology. Ziklag’s goal, the documents say, is to “take dominion over the Seven Mountains,” funding Christian projects or installing devout Christians in leadership positions to reshape each mountain in a godly way. To address their concerns about education, Ziklag’s leaders and allies have focused on the public-school system. In a 2021 Ziklag meeting, Ziklag’s education mountain chair, Peter Bohlinger, said that Ziklag’s goal “is to take down the education system as we know it today.” The producers of the film “Sound of Freedom,” featuring Jim Caviezel as an anti-sex-trafficking activist, screened an early cut of the film at a Ziklag conference and asked for funds, according to Dallas. The Seven Mountains theology signals a break from Christian fundamentalists such as Jerry Falwell Sr. and Pat Robertson. In the 1980s and ’90s, Falwell’s Moral Majority focused on working within the democratic process to mobilize evangelical voters and elect politicians with a Christian worldview. The Seven Mountains theology embraces a different, less democratic approach to gaining power. “If the Moral Majority is about galvanizing the voters, the Seven Mountains is a revolutionary model: You need to conquer these mountains and let change flow down from the top,” said Matthew Taylor, a senior scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies and an expert on Christian nationalism. “It’s an outlined program for Christian supremacy.” “The Amorphous, Tumultuous Wild West” The Christian right has had compelling spokespeople and fierce commitment to its causes, whether they were ending abortion rights, allowing prayer in schools or displaying the Ten Commandments outside of public buildings. What the movement has often lacked, its leaders argue, is sufficient funding. “If you look at the right, especially the Christian right, there were always complaints about money,” said legal historian Ziegler. “There’s a perceived gap of ‘We aren’t getting the support from big-name, big-dollar donors that we deserve and want and need.’” That’s where Ziklag comes in. Speaking late last year to an invitation-only gathering of Ziklaggers, as members are known, Charlie Kirk, who leads the pro-Trump Turning Point USA organization, named left-leaning philanthropists who were, in his view, funding the destruction of the nation: MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; billionaire investor and liberal philanthropist George Soros; and the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. “Why are secular people giving more generously than Christians?” Kirk asked, according to a recording of his remarks. “It would be a tragedy,” he added, “if people who hate life, hate our country, hate beauty and hate God wanted it more than us.” “Ziklag is the place,” Kirk told the donors. “Ziklag is the counter.” Similarly, Pence, in a 2021 appearance at a private Ziklag event, praised the group for its role in “changing lives, and it’s advanced the cause, it’s advanced the kingdom.” A driving force behind Ziklag’s efforts is Lance Wallnau, a prominent Christian evangelist and influencer based in Texas who is described by Ziklag as a “Seven Mountains visionary & advisor.” The fiery preacher is one of the most influential figures on the Christian right, experts say, a bridge between Christian nationalism and Trump. He was one of the earliest evangelical leaders to endorse Trump in 2015 and later published a book titled “God’s Chaos Candidate: Donald J. Trump and the American Unraveling.” More than 1 million people follow him on Facebook. He doesn’t try to hide his views: “Yes, I am a Christian nationalist,” he said during one of his livestreams in 2021. (Wallnau did not respond to requests for comment.) Wallnau has remained a Trump ally. He called Trump’s time in office a “spiritual warfare presidency” and popularized the idea that Trump was a “modern-day Cyrus,” referring to the Persian king who defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem. Wallnau has visited with Trump at the White House and Trump Tower; last November, he livestreamed from a black-tie gala at Mar-a-Lago where Trump spoke. Wallnau did not come up with the notion that Christians should try to take control of key areas of American society. But he improved on the idea by introducing the concept of the seven mountains and urged Christians to set about conquering them. The concept caught on, said Taylor, because it empowered Christians with a sense of purpose in every sphere of life. As a preacher in the independent charismatic tradition, a fast-growing offshoot of Pentecostalism that is unaffiliated with any major denomination, Wallnau and his acolytes believe that God speaks to and through modern-day apostles and prophets — a version of Christianity that Taylor, in his forthcoming book “The Violent Take It By Force,” describes as “the amorphous, tumultuous Wild West of the modern church.” Wallnau and his ideas lingered at the fringes of American Christianity for years, until the boost from the Trump presidency. The Ziklag files detail not only what Christians should do to conquer all seven mountains, but also what their goals will be once they’ve taken the summit. For the government mountain, one key document says that “the biblical role of government is to promote good and punish evil” and that “the word of God and prayer play a significant role in policy decisions.” For the arts and entertainment mountain, goals include that 80% of the movies produced be rated G or PG “with a moral story,” and that many people who work in the industry “operate under a biblical/moral worldview.” The education section says that homeschooling should be a “fundamental right” and the government “must not favor one form of education over another.” Other internal Ziklag documents voice strong opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender rights. One reads: “transgender acceptance = Final sign before imminent collapse.” Heading into the 2024 election year, Ziklag executive director Drew Hiss warned members in an internal video that “looming above and beyond those seven mountains is this evil force that’s been manifesting itself.” He described it as “a controlling, evil, diabolical presence, really, with tyranny in mind.” That presence was concentrated in the government mountain, he said. If Ziklaggers wanted to save their country from “the powers of darkness,” they needed to focus their energies on that government mountain or else none of their work in any other area would succeed. “Operation Checkmate” In the fall of 2023, Wallnau sat in a gray armchair in his TV studio. A large TV screen behind him flashed a single word: “ZIKLAG.” “You almost hate to put it out this clearly,” he said as he detailed Ziklag’s electoral strategy, “because if somebody else gets ahold of this, they’ll freak out.” He was joined on set by Hiss, who had just become the group’s new day-to-day leader. The two men were there to record a special message to Ziklag members that laid out the group’s ambitious plans for the upcoming election year. The forces arrayed against Christians were many, according to the confidential video. They were locked in a “spiritual battle,” Hiss said, against Democrats who were a “radical left Marxist force.” Biden, Wallnau said, was a senile old man and “an empty suit with an agenda that’s written and managed by somebody else.” In the files, Ziklag says it plans to give out nearly $12 million to a constellation of groups working on the ground to shift the 2024 electorate in favor of Trump and other Republicans. A prominent conservative getting money from Ziklag is Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer and Trump ally who joined the January 2021 phone call when then-President Trump asked Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes to flip Georgia in Trump’s favor. Mitchell now leads a network of “election integrity” coalitions in swing states that have spent the last three years advocating for changes to voting rules and how elections are run. According to one internal newsletter, Ziklag was an early funder of Mitchell’s post-2020 “election integrity” activism, which voting-rights experts have criticized for stoking unfounded fears about voter fraud and seeking to unfairly remove people from voting rolls. In 2022, Ziklag donated $600,000 to the Conservative Partnership Institute, which in turn funds Mitchell’s election-integrity work. Internal Ziklag documents show that it provided funding to enable Mitchell to set up election integrity infrastructure in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Now Mitchell is promoting a tool called EagleAI, which has claimed to use artificial intelligence to automate and speed up the process of challenging ineligible voters. EagleAI is already being used to mount mass challenges to the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of voters in competitive states, and, with Ziklag’s help, the group plans to ramp up those efforts. According to an internal video, Ziklag plans to invest $800,000 in “EagleAI’s clean the rolls project,” which would be one of the largest known donations to the group. Ziklag lists two key objectives for Operation Checkmate: “Secure 10,640 additional unique votes in Arizona (mirroring the 2020 margin of 10,447 votes), and remove up to one million ineligible registrations and around 280,000 ineligible voters in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Wisconsin.” In a recording of an internal Zoom call, Ziklag’s Mark Bourgeois stressed the electoral value of targeting Arizona. “I care about Maricopa County,” Bourgeois said at one point, referring to Arizona’s largest county, which Biden won four years ago. “That’s how we win.” For Operation Watchtower, Wallnau explained in a members-only video that transgender policy was a “wedge issue” that could be decisive in turning out voters tired of hearing about Trump. The left had won the battle over the “homosexual issue,” Wallnau said. “But on transgenderism, there’s a problem and they know it.” He continued: “They’re gonna wanna talk about Trump, Trump, Trump. … Meanwhile, if we talk about ‘It’s not about Trump. It’s about parents and their children, and the state is a threat,’” that could be the “target on the forehead of Goliath.” The Ziklag files describe tactics the group plans to use around parental rights — policies that make it easier for parents to control what’s taught in public schools — to turn out conservative voters. In a fundraising video, the group says it plans to underwrite a “messaging and data lab” focused on parental rights that will supply “winning messaging to all our partner groups to create unified focus among all on the right.” The goal, the video says, is to make parental rights “the difference-maker in the 2024 election.” According to Wallnau, Ziklag also plans to fund ballot initiatives in seven key states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Montana, Nevada and Ohio — that take aim at the transgender community by seeking to ban “genital mutilation.” The seven states targeted are either presidential battlegrounds or have competitive U.S. Senate races. None of the initiatives is on a state ballot yet. “People that are lethargic about the election or, worse yet, they’re gonna be all Trump-traumatized with the news cycle — this issue will get people to come out and vote,” Wallnau said. “That ballot initiative can deliver swing states.” The last prong of Ziklag’s 2024 strategy is Operation Steeplechase, which urges conservative pastors to mobilize their congregants to vote in this year’s election. This project will work in coordination with several prominent conservative groups that support former president Trump’s reelection, such as Turning Point USA’s faith-based group, the Faith and Freedom Coalition run by conservative operative Ralph Reed and the America First Policy Institute, one of several groups closely allied with Trump. Ziklag says in a 2023 internal video that it and its allies will “coordinate extensive pastor and church outreach through pastor summits, church-focused messaging and events and the creation of pastor resources.” As preacher and activist John Amanchukwu said at a Ziklag event, “We need a church that’s willing to do anything and everything to get to the point where we reclaim that which was stolen from us.” Six tax experts reviewed the election-related strategy discussions and tactics reported in this story. All of them said the activities tested or ran afoul of the law governing 501(c)(3) charities. The IRS and the Texas attorney general, which would oversee the Southlake, Texas, charity, did not respond to questions. While not all of its political efforts appeared to be clear-cut violations, the experts said, others may be: The stated plan to mobilize voters “sympathetic to Republicans,” Ziklag officials openly discussing the goal to win the election, and Wallnau’s call to fund ballot initiatives that would “deliver swing states” while at the same time voicing explicit criticism of Biden all raised red flags, the experts said. “I am troubled about a tax-exempt charitable organization that’s set up and its main operation seems to be to get people to win office,” said Phil Hackney, a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert on tax-exempt organizations. “They’re planning an election effort,” said Marcus Owens, a tax lawyer at Loeb and Loeb and a former director of the IRS’ exempt organizations division. “That’s not a 501(c)(3) activity.”
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[l] at 7/13/24 7:08am
On Saturday morning, MSNBC host Michale Steele called out Democrats who want President Joe Biden to step as the party's presidential nominee and noted the elephant in the room they seem to be ignoring with their demands.Steele, the former RNC head who has remained a staunch supporter of Bicen despite his presidential debate debacle, used his perch on MSNBC's "The Weekend" to put the Biden-dumping Democrats on the spot for their seeming aversion to declaring their full-throated support for Vice President Kamala Harris should Biden step down.Speaking with his co-hosts, he explained, "You have all of these people out here flapping their lips about Joe Biden getting out of the race but I don't hear any of them talking about elevating the vice president to replace him. It makes you wonder, what is that all about?"RELATED: Sharpton nails 'offensive and elitist' Dem lawmakers for ignoring Black Biden voters"I was talking to a couple of Democrats who were saying that chatter was, 'Well, we can probably-- we will negotiate that later.' Negotiate what?" he exclaimed. "How do you negotiate that later? There is no later in this thing.""So what do you think is going on here, where folks just think they are just going to still be able to bypass, if they are successful in getting the president out, which it does not look like that will happen because he has drawn a line in the sand, and no one has met him there so far," he added. "Let's play it out and say they do, what do they think happens next?"ALSO READ: 'Why are we having this conversation?' Ex-RNC chair blows up on MSNBC hostWatch below or at the link. MSNBC 07 13 2024 08 32 24 youtu.be
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:49am
J.D. Vance, the author of the acclaimed memoir "Hillbilly Elegy," has had a complex and evolving relationship with former President Donald Trump. Initially, Vance was a staunch critic of Trump, warning that his presidency would be disastrous for the Republican Party. However, in a surprising turn of events, Vance has since become a vocal supporter of the former president, even being considered as a potential running mate for Trump's 2024 campaign. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Vance was openly critical of Trump's candidacy. In a 2016 article, Vance described Trump as an "idiot" and a "moral disaster," stating that he could potentially become an "American Hitler." Vance also argued that Trump's rise to power would be detrimental to the Republican Party, warning that he could "destroy the GOP." Vance's criticisms of Trump extended beyond his personality and political style. He was particularly concerned about Trump's approach to foreign policy and national security. In 2016, Vance expressed skepticism about Trump's ability to handle delicate international situations, stating that he did not believe Trump had the "depth and complexity" required for the role of commander-in-chief. Vance's concerns were echoed by other prominent Republicans, such as former Montana Governor Marc Racicot, who slammed Vance for his recent statement that he would have blocked the certification of the 2020 presidential election if he were in the place of former Vice President Mike Pence. Racicot described Vance's comments as "stunningly uninformed and mistaken," stating that they demonstrated a "lack of information and knowledge about what's appropriate under the Constitution." However, Vance's views on Trump have undergone a dramatic shift in the years since the 2016 election. In the run-up to the 2024 election, Vance has emerged as a vocal supporter of the former president, even going so far as to defend Trump against accusations of disrespecting veterans and the military. During an interview on Fox News, Vance claimed that he was with Trump on D-Day and that the former president "talked constantly about how much he admired those who served, especially in that generation, but all generations." Vance's defense of Trump's treatment of veterans stands in stark contrast to reports that the former president had referred to service members as "suckers" and "losers." Vance's transformation from Trump critic to Trump loyalist has not gone unnoticed. Critics have accused him of being a "faux populist" who prioritizes style over substance and has "perfected what, on the right, tends to substitute for policy ideas these days: trolling the liberals." The Guardian's Jan-Werner Müller, a professor of politics at Princeton University, has been particularly critical of Vance's shift, describing him as a "faux populist" who has "taken an ultra-MAGA turn and become a strident Trump supporter." Müller argues that Vance's culture-war politics do nothing to benefit working-class voters and that his "praising a man who evidently relishes cruelty as a paragon of 'compassion' beggars belief." Despite the criticism, Vance's newfound loyalty to Trump has earned him a place on the former president's shortlist for a potential running mate in the 2024 election. This development highlights the complex and often unpredictable nature of American politics, as well as the power of political ambition to shape and reshape the perspectives of even the most vocal critics. As the 2024 election cycle approaches, the public will be watching closely to see how Vance's relationship with Trump continues to evolve and what impact it may have on the broader political landscape.NOW READ: I wrote books on Trump's crimes — but did not see the Supreme Court immunity ruling coming
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:23am
According to a former counsel to ex-Attorney General Janet Reno who was called to testify in a hearing conducted by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), it was nothing less than a clown show with the Ohio Republican and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) performing at center stage.In a column for the Daily Beast, attorney Shan Wu claimed the hearing on the supposed "weaponization" of the law against Donald Trump was a deeply unserious affair with Republicans more interested in playing for the cameras than asking serious, substantive questions.As he wrote, he appeared to answer questions about the trial of the former president in Manhattan where Trump was accused — and later convicted — on 34 counts of fraud related to paying off an adult film star before the 2016 presidential election. As he noted, the hearing before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government took place before the verdict had been rendered.Focusing on his personal experience under questioning by Florida's Gaetz, Wu expressed disgust at his absurd questions that seemed designed to amuse Jordan rather than a sincere attempt to understand the law.ALSO READ: Project 2025 group makes immediate splash at Republican National Convention"The questions that stuck out at me the most were the ones from Congressman Matt Gaetz (R. Florida) to the Republican witnesses. Gaetz wanted to make the point that convicting Trump under a theory that involved covering up the payments so as not to have them treated as campaign contributions meant that he, Gaetz, could start buying ties and charging them to his campaign," he recalled before adding, " Gaetz’s pleasure with himself was blatant as he grinned and snickered throughout. Chairman Jim Jordan appeared to enjoy Gaetz’s performance even more than Gaetz, continuously beaming and laughing during Gaetz’s questions."According to Wu, the interaction between the two Republican bomb-throwers was not only appalling but also a sign of what to expect if Democrats don't take the House in November and Jordan remains the chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee."In their frat-boy style joking I could sense that there was no real substance to their inquiries. Sure, they and their Republican colleagues did a bunch of speechifying in their questions critical of Trump’s conviction but that did not seem the real point at all," he wrote before warning, "...it’s a show that masks the real dangers of using the trappings of Congress to interfere with the administration of justice."You can read more here.
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:18am
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s latest stock shopping spree shows a potential conflict of interest with a committee assignment, according to her latest congressional financial disclosure. The Georgia Republican made six purchases on June 24 totaling between $6,006 and $90,000, as well as a purchase on June 21 of U.S. Treasury bills, valued between $100,001 and $250,000, according to her June 27 financial disclosure. Greene’s purchase of stock in cybersecurity technology company, CrowdStrike Holdings, could pose a potential conflict of interest as Greene serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Government Innovation. The Department of Defense granted CrowdStrike authorization to the highest level of controlled unclassified information in May 2023. CrowdStrike works with the Department of Defense, Defense Industrial Base companies and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, according to a May 31, 2023 company press release. Greene also purchased stock in activewear company lululemon, big-box warehouse chain Costco, food and drink conglomerate Nestle, electric utility company NextEra Energy and semiconductor manufacturer ASML, which the United States restricted in its chipmaking involving China. In May, Greene went on another stock shopping spree that posed a potential conflict of interest. She purchased stock valued up to $15,000 in Qualcomm, a federal defense contractor, while serving on the Homeland Security Committee and the Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement.RELATED ARTICLE: Lawmakers, law breakers: 49 members of Congress have violated a conflicts-of-interest lawShe also reported an investment valued up to $15,000 in Microsoft while on the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Government Innovation.The other transactions reported on May 1 include Greene's purchases up to $15,000 each in Home Depot, Goldman Sachs, Hershey, Berkshire Hathaway and Tractor Supply Company stock. She purchased up to $500,000 worth of U.S. Treasury bills, Raw Story reported.This week four senators announced a new push to pass legislation banning stock trading for members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children, Raw Story reported.The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will consider the agreement this month, which would immediately ban members of Congress from buying stocks and would prohibit selling stocks 90 days after enactment.Members’ spouses and dependent children would be prohibited from trading stocks starting in March 2027, and that year, members of Congress, the president and vice president would also be required to divest from covered investments.Raw Story has found at least 51 members of the 118th Congress who have violated the financial disclosure law, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, not including Greene.Thus far, numerous efforts to ban congressional stock trading have been unsuccessful.Greene's congressional spokesperson, Nick Dyer, acknowledged Raw Story's questions about her financial disclosure but did not answer them.
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:16am
Teamsters general president Sean O'Brien is facing mounting internal pressure to cancel his planned speech to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next week, with the union's vice president at large accusing the labor leader of kowtowing to a viciously anti-worker party and a GOP presidential hopeful whose first four years in the White House were marked by open attacks on the labor movement.John Palmer, the Teamsters' vice president at large, wrote in an op-ed in New Politics earlier this week that O'Brien's scheduled appearance at Donald Trump's invitation "only normalizes and makes the most anti-union party and president I've seen in my lifetime seem palatable.""Does O'Brien intend to remind the anti-union delegates that labor unions exist to ensure that workers—regardless of their race, sex, gender, gender identity, or religion—equally enjoy the security and fairness that a written labor agreement provides?" Palmer asked. "Is he going to state the obvious fact that unions' ability to achieve these goals is being stripped away by the current overzealous Supreme Court? The majority of these justices have been appointed by the same Republicans who will be at this convention."Palmer, who urged union members to demand that O'Brien cancel his planned convention appearance, isn't the only Teamsters official who has publicly raised concerns over what one commentator described as O'Brien's "Trumpian tilt.""We will not allow the working-class labor movement to be destroyed by a scab masquerading as a pro-union advocate after doing everything in his power to destroy the very fabric of unions," James Curbeam, national chairman of the Teamsters National Black Caucus, wrote in a letter to Teamsters members after O'Brien announced a meeting with Trump earlier this year.O'Brien has also met with President Joe Biden.During his first term in the White House, Trump moved aggressively to gut worker protections and stacked federal courts and key agencies with anti-union officials. Trump's two labor secretaries, Alexander Acosta and Eugene Scalia, were both hostile to organized labor.The Republican Party more broadly has long worked in concert with its corporate allies to weaken organized labor through so-called right-to-work laws and other means—a decadeslong effort that has had devastating material consequences for workers across the country.Capital & Mainreported Friday that Republicans' upcoming convention in Milwaukee has shined a spotlight on the Wisconsin GOP's "anti-union agenda." Former Gov. Scott Walker, a notorious enemy of organized labor, is a delegate to the Republican National Convention."We will not allow the working-class labor movement to be destroyed by a scab masquerading as a pro-union advocate after doing everything in his power to destroy the very fabric of unions."O'Brien is scheduled to address the convention in a primetime address Monday night. A Teamsters spokeswoman told The New York Times earlier this week that O'Brien "looks forward to addressing a crowd that hasn't traditionally been open to union voices.""But that is what democracy is all about," she added.The Guardian's Michael Sainato noted Friday that O'Brien's appearance in Milwaukee will be the first time a Teamsters president has ever spoken at the Republican convention."In January 2024, the Teamsters PAC donated $45,000 to both the Democratic and Republican national committees, marking its first large donation to the Republican Party in years," Sainato wrote.The American Prospect's Harold Meyerson wrote Thursday that "it's always possible that O'Brien may use his allotted speaking time to ask the Republicans to adopt the pro-union initiatives that Democrats support and that Republican members of Congress have to a person opposed, like the PRO Act, which would enable workers to unionize without fear of being fired, or raising the national minimum wage from its current $7.25.""If O'Brien really wants to do the nation a service, he might speak forcefully against Trump's commitment to deporting undocumented immigrants," Meyerson added. "In my years covering labor, I've met a number of Teamsters who are themselves undocumented—the very workers and their families whom Trump has continually vowed to arrest, lock up, and deport. It's atop Trump's to-do list. It's hard to see how this would be good for the Teamsters."O'Brien's conciliatory posture toward Trump and the Republican Party stands in sharp contrast with the approach taken by United Auto Workers (UAW) president Shawn Fain, who has called Trump a "scab" and a pawn of the billionaire class of which he is a part.The UAW endorsed Biden—the first sitting U.S. president to join striking workers on a picket line—in January, but the union is now grappling with mounting calls for the incumbent to end his reelection campaign following his disastrous debate performance against Trump last month.Reutersreported Friday that Fain "met with the union's executive board late on Thursday to discuss his deep concerns with President Joe Biden's ability to defeat Donald Trump in the November election.""Fain called together top officials at the nearly 400,000-member union to discuss concerns and what the union's options are," the news agency reported, citing unnamed sources. "The union is considering its next steps."
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:14am
Donald Trump, famed for his unpredictable and inflammatory outbursts, is opting for self-censorship in a bid to expand his electorate to more moderate voters ahead of the US presidential election.The 78-year-old billionaire appears to be dialing back his rhetoric on key issues such as immigration and abortion -- a tactic that analysts say is buoyed by his confidence in the loyalty of his conservative base ahead of November's vote.In recent days, the self-proclaimed architect of overturning Roe v Wade, the federal guarantee of abortion rights, has softened his take -- well aware that a hard-line approach does not enjoy majority public support.The Republican Party's Trump-endorsed platform now adopts the former president's position of leaving the question up to states, dropping a proposed call for a nationwide abortion ban.Trump, who will officially become the Republican presidential nominee at the party's convention next week, has also denounced a controversial document called "Project 2025."The 900-page text -- seen as a governing roadmap and drafted by a conservative think tank with some of Trump's close allies -- was subject to harsh criticism for its calls for mass deportations of migrants and a weakening of federal agencies.Trump himself has championed such ideas, but that hasn't stopped him from criticizing the text's propositions as "absolutely ridiculous and abysmal" -- without specifying which ones.This week, he said he represented the "Party of Common Sense" -- a catch-all phrase that could entice voters from all walks of life."Trump is using this moment to broaden his appeal outside of his usual conservative base," said Matthew Continetti of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.Continetti told AFP that Trump is confident in the support of his core voting base, "so he can begin to present a program and a personality that is trying to take voters from the Democratic coalition."That core base -- notably including conservative Christians -- helped elect Trump to the White House in 2016 and has remained largely loyal since his election defeat in 2020.On top of substance, Trump's style of communicating has also been relatively constrained as Democrats debate the state of President Joe Biden's health and his fitness to run again for office.Even on immigration -- one of Trump's core election issues -- his tone has cooled since his widely criticized remarks months ago of migrants "poisoning the blood of our country."But Princeton University professor Julian Zelizer urged caution, saying that Trump is simply backing away from issues that could cause him political vulnerabilities.Zelizer told AFP "there is no reason to think he has changed his fundamental views.""His strategy is to win. But it's his record in office that should define him," he said.
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:10am
Two weeks after the political class's response to President Joe Biden's poor debate performance threw the 2024 election into chaos, four political experts share their thinking about where the race actually stands and what Biden's supporters should do."He can’t win right!? They point to the polling right?" wrote political strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher, a frequent NBC News/MSNBC political analyst, linking to a report about the latest polls which show President Biden ahead of Donald Trump. "Well this is the 2nd poll (credible poll) in 2 days showing the Pres race in statistical deadlock two weeks after debate! Using polls to push Biden out feels like red wave 2020 bs all over again."Belcher was commenting on the latest Marist College poll produced for NPR/PBS NewsHour. It found Biden beating Trump 50-48 in a one-to-one matchup. When factoring in the four third-party/independent candidates including RFK Jr., Trump came out ahead of Biden, 43-42.FiveThirtyEight's regularly updated polling aggregator currently shows Trump up over Biden by 1.9 points, a drop from Thursday where he was more than two points over Biden. FiveThirtyEight also currently shows; "Biden wins 50 times out of 100 in our simulations of the 2024 presidential election. Trump wins 49 times out of 100."READ MORE: Critics: Where’s Trump’s Hour-Long Press Conference With Policy Questions from Reporters?Former Republican and former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer, a resident scholar at Harvard's Institute of Politics, says the Democratic "freak out needs to stop.""Enough."Pointing to that same Marist poll, she focuses on a different question."This poll also shows character matters more than age. That’s to Biden’s advantage."NPR's headline on its article detailing the poll reads: "After Biden's debate performance, the presidential race is unchanged.""Biden actually gained a point since last month’s survey, which was taken before the debate," NPR reports, adding: "the survey also found that by a 2-to-1 margin, 68% to 32%, people said it’s more concerning to have a president who doesn’t tell the truth than one who might be too old to serve."READ MORE: ‘No Change’: Biden Debate Performance Has Had ‘Almost No Impact’ on 2024 Race Report FindsTo Setmayer's point, NPR also says, "A majority said Biden has the character to be president (52%), while a majority also said Trump does not (56%)."Mike Madrid, the Latino GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, offered advice to Biden supporters on how to think about Democrats and pundits pushing for the President to drop out of the race, and how to deal with the day-to-day emotional toll."Getting lots of questions on how to lower the anxiety level people are feeling. Best thing you can do is unfollow the people attacking Biden gratuitously. Don’t engage them. Unfollow them. It’s not an honest discussion. It’s a frenzy that’s doing real damage.""You will not get an explanation from the political arsonists fueling this panic," he added. "Stop looking for one. Unfollow them. Drop your subscription. Quit listening. That’s the best thing you can do in the pro-democracy fight right now. Their gaslighting is now a suppression tactic."To someone who said they are "scared," and the situation is "confusing, maddening and sad," Madrid advised: "Nothing has changed. Stop watching TV and get off Twitter. Take the weekend off. Please."The Lincoln Project's Stuart Stevens, a political strategist for decades and author of "The Conspiracy To End America," writes: "I worked in campaigns for 30 years. I am hardwired to respond one way when your guy is in trouble: fight harder. Don’t start looking for exit ramps or magic bullets. Play the next play. Do your job. Ignore the scoreboard. It’s supposed to be hard."READ MORE: ‘Betrayal’: Trump Hosts ‘Russian Puppet’ Viktor Orbán as Biden Hosts NATO Leaders
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:06am
As much of America baked in heat waves this week, the relatively poor New York borough of the Bronx suffered disproportionately.Reinaldo Morales, a 68-year-old military veteran, went to a seniors' community center with air conditioning because turning it on at home is too costly."We live in a cement jungle," he said."It's nice that they have a cooling center like this. But the idea that we can't even afford to cool our home is outrageous," said Morales.Temperatures soared as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) this week in New York, far from the 118F (48C) that roasted Las Vegas.But one image here stuck out: a swing bridge linking the Bronx and Manhattan got stuck in the half-open position for hours on Monday as the heat expanded the metal in its hydraulics. Boats pumped water to cool it off.The Bronx endures problems with poverty, health care and air pollution, and some of its neighborhoods suffered more than others in the heat because of a lack of trees to cool things off."We have limited shading so it does get very hot especially when the sun is at its peak," said Sandra Arroyo, program director of Casa Boricua, the seniors' center where Morales went to cool off.- 'You are suffocating' -Many residents of the Bronx are low-earning Latinos or African Americans, who say the heat-absorbing buildings that line street after street make life -- and even breathing -- difficult in the scorching, muggy New York summer."You walk a block and you are suffocating," said Juan Lorenzo, a 72-year-old Dominican."You just get really tired," added Stephanie Rodriguez, a 21-year-old cashier watching her two-year-old son play in water spouts at the only large park in all of the borough."We need more green spaces," said Arif Ullah, head of a community organization called South Bronx Unite.All along one bank of the Harlem River in the Bronx stand waste treatment facilities, a power plant and warehouses -- all sources of industry and thus, more heat.Nearby sits a small shadeless kids park, under a series of highway overpasses.Ullah said racist urban policies have allowed communities like his to become urban heat islands that lead to health problems."And really, it's a matter of life or death," he said.Neighborhoods like Hunts Point and Mott Haven in the south of the Bronx have above-average rates of emergency room visits for respiratory problems attributable to pollution, according to a report issued in April by the New York city government, its first to address the issue of what is known as environmental justice.The city says around 350 people in New York die each year because of the heat or health problems made worse by it, and Black residents are hit twice as often as their white counterparts.The city says aggravating factors include a lack of air conditioning at home, a situation more common in the Bronx than New York's other boroughs.Deadly heat waves in major cities in America and elsewhere have become more common because of climate change and things will only get worse, experts say.
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[l] at 7/13/24 6:03am
Jury deliberations began Friday in the high-profile trial of a powerful U.S. senator charged with corruption after gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were found at his home.Robert Menendez, a 70-year-old Democrat from New Jersey, is accused of extortion, obstruction of justice and accepting bribes to perform favors for businessmen with connections to Egypt and Qatar.The most serious charges would carry up to 20 years in prison upon conviction in the trial which began in a New York court in May.Menendez, who said in June he would run as an independent in November's election, is a career politician and formerly led the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee until the charges were filed.In a raid on his New Jersey home, FBI agents were said to have found nearly $500,000 in cash hidden around the house, as well as gold bars worth around $150,000 and a luxury Mercedes-Benz convertible.His wife Nadine Menendez, to whom defense lawyers are seeking to shift the blame, has also been charged but will be tried separately in July as she is receiving treatment for breast cancer.Prosecutors alleged Menendez put his power as a top US senator "up for sale."He is on trial with two of the businessmen he allegedly helped -- Egyptian-American Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, a real estate developer. All have pleaded not guilty.A third businessman, insurance broker Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty to bribery charges in March and has been assisting investigators.Menendez is said to have interfered in the nomination of New Jersey's prosecutor in a bid to ensure that proceedings were dropped against Daibes and Uribe.He is also accused of accepting bribes to use his power and influence to enrich his co-conspirators and benefit the government of Egypt, including by helping Hana protect his monopoly on US exports of halal food products to the country.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:59am
Meta said Friday it was lifting restrictions on US presidential candidate Donald Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts, ending measures put in place after his supporters violently stormed the US Capitol in 2021.It said that "former President Trump, as the nominee of the Republican Party, will no longer be subject to the heightened suspension penalties."Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts were suspended indefinitely a day after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and it was determined he had praised people engaged in violence on social media.His accounts were reinstated in February 2023 but with a threat of penalties for future breaches -- an additional restriction that Meta lifted on Friday."In assessing our responsibility to allow political expression, we believe that the American people should be able to hear from the nominees for President on the same basis," Meta wrote in a blog post.It added that US presidential candidates "remain subject to the same Community Standards as all Facebook and Instagram users, including those policies designed to prevent hate speech and incitement to violence."Trump, the first former president to be convicted of a crime, was also banned from Twitter and YouTube.While those restrictions were later lifted last year, Trump now mainly communicates on his own social media platform, Truth Social.His Facebook profile, which has 34 million users, includes messages originally published on Truth Social as well as invitations to rallies and videos from his campaign.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:56am
Iran's president-elect Masoud Pezeshkian said he looks forward to improved relations with European nations, even though he accused them of reneging on commitments to mitigate the impact of US sanctions.Pezeshkian won a runoff election against ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili last week.The 69-year-old has called for "constructive relations" with Western countries to "get Iran out of its isolation", and favours reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and global powers.The United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, reimposing sanctions, which led Iran to gradually reduce its commitment to the terms of the deal. The agreement aimed to curb nuclear activity, which Tehran maintains is for peaceful purposes.In an article published late Friday in the English-language Tehran Times newspaper, Pezeshkian said that after the US pullout from the 2015 deal, European nations committed to trying to salvage it and mitigate the impact of US sanctions."European countries have reneged on all these commitments," Pezeshkian wrote."Despite these missteps, I look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with European countries to set our relations on the right path, based on principles of mutual respect and equal footing."He said the two sides could explore "numerous areas of cooperation" if the Europeans "set aside self-arrogated moral supremacy coupled with manufactured crises that have plagued our relations for so long."European Union spokeswoman Nabila Massrali had earlier congratulated Pezeshkian on his election, saying the 27-member bloc was "ready to engage with the new government in line with EU policy of critical engagement".The death of ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash necessitated the July 6 election, which was not due until 2025.In the runoff, Pezeshkian secured about 54 percent of the vote against Jalili's roughly 44 percent, with a turnout of just under half of Iran's 61 million electorate.Pezeshkian is a heart surgeon whose only previous government experience was as health minister about two decades ago.He is considered a "reformist" in Iran, and was the only candidate from that camp allowed to stand in the election, for which all contenders were approved by Iran's Guardian Council.- US must face 'reality' -Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policy issues in the country.Under the hard-won 2015 deal, Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of the crippling international sanctions.After the US withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions, Iran gradually began reneging on its own commitments to the agreement."The United States also needs to recognise the reality and understand, once and for all, that Iran does not -- and will not -- respond to pressure," said Pezeshkian, who is to be sworn in on July 30.The parties to the 2015 deal with Iran saw it as the best way to stop the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb -– a goal Tehran has always denied.European Union members France and Germany were also party to the deal, along with Britain, China and Russia.The European nations tried to salvage it, but Iran accused them of perceived inaction.Under the late president Raisi, Iran sought improved relations with China and Russia while mending ties with Arab neighbours, chiefly Saudi Arabia, to avert deeper isolation.In his article, Pezeshkian described Russia as a "valued strategic ally" and said he looked forward "to collaborating more extensively" with China.He said Iran was keen to cooperate with its Arab neighbours and Turkey to deepen economic and trade relations and "tackle common challenges".
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:53am
Storm-chasing for science can be exciting and stressful – we know, because we do it. It has also been essential for developing today’s understanding of how tornadoes form and how they behave.In 1996 the movie “Twister” brought storm-chasing into the public imagination as scientists played by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton raced ahead of tornadoes to deploy their sensors and occasionally got too close. That movie inspired a generation of atmospheric scientists.With the new movie “Twisters” coming out on July 19, 2024, we’ve been getting questions about storm-chasing – or storm intercepts, as we call them.Here are some answers about what scientists who do this kind of fieldwork are up to when they race off after storms. Scientists with the National Severe Storms Lab ‘intercepted’ this tornado to collect data using mobile radar and other instruments on May 24, 2024. National Severe Storms LabWhat does a day of storm-chasing really look like?The morning of a chase day starts with a good breakfast, because there might not be any chance to eat a good meal later in the day.Before heading out, the team looks at the weather conditions, the National Weather Service computer forecast models and outlooks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center to determine the target. Our goal is to figure out where tornadoes are most likely to occur that day. Temperature, moisture and winds, and how these change with height above the ground, all provide clues.There is a “hurry up and wait” cadence to a storm chase day. We want to get into position quickly, but then we’re often waiting for storms to develop. A ‘hook echo’ on radar, typically a curl at the back of a storm cell, is one sign that a tornado could form. The hook reflects precipitation wrapping around the back side of the updraft. National Severe Storms LabStorms often take time to develop before they’re capable of producing tornadoes. So we watch the storm carefully on radar and with our eyes, if possible, staying well ahead of it until it matures. Often, we’ll watch multiple storms and look for signs that one might be more likely to generate tornadoes.Once the mission scientist declares a deployment, everyone scrambles to get into position.We use a lot of different instruments to track and measure tornadoes, and there is an art to determining when to deploy them. Too early, and the tornado might not form where the instruments are. Too late, and we’ve missed it. Each instrument needs to be in a specific location relative to the tornado. Some need to be deployed well ahead of the storm and then stay stationary. Others are car-mounted and are driven back and forth within the storm. Vehicle-mounted equipment can act as mobile weather stations known as mesonets. These were used in the VORTEX2 research project. Dozens of scientists, including the authors, succeeded in recording the entire life cycle of a supercell tornado during VORTEX2 in 2009. Yvette RichardsonIf all goes well, team members will be concentrating on the data coming in. Some will be launching weather balloons at various distances from the tornado, while others will be placing “pods” containing weather instruments directly in the path of the tornado.A whole network of observing stations will have been set up across the storm, with radars collecting data from multiple angles, photographers capturing the storm from multiple angles, and instrumented vehicles transecting key areas of the storm. Not all of our work is focused on the tornado itself. We often target areas around the tornado or within other parts of the storm to understand how the rotation forms. Theories suggest that this rotation can be generated by temperature variations within the storm’s precipitation region, potentially many miles from where the tornado forms. Formation of a tornado: Changes in wind speed and direction with altitude, known as wind shear, are associated with horizontal spin, similar to that of a football. As this spinning air is drawn into the storm’s updraft, the updraft rotates. A separate air stream descends through a precipitation-driven downdraft and acquires horizontal spin because of temperature differences along the air stream. This spinning air can be tilted into the vertical and sucked upward by the supercell’s updraft, contracting the spin near the ground into a tornado. Paul Markowski/Penn StateThrough all of this, the teams stay in contact using text messages and software that allows us to see everyone’s position relative to the latest radar images. We’re also watching the forecast for the next day so we can plan where to go next and find hotel rooms and, hopefully, a late dinner.What do all those instruments tell you about the storm?One of the most important tools of storm-chasing is weather radar. It captures what’s happening with precipitation and winds above the ground.We use several types of radars, typically attached to trucks so we can move fast. Some transmit with a longer wavelength that helps us see farther into a storm, but at the cost of a broader width to their beam, resulting in a fuzzier picture. They are good for collecting data across the entire storm.Smaller-wavelength radars cannot penetrate as far into the precipitation, but they do offer the high-resolution view necessary to capture small-scale phenomena like tornadoes. We put these radars closer to the developing tornado. An inside look at some of the mobile systems and tools scientists use in storm-chasing, including how team members monitor storms in real time.We also monitor wind, air pressure, temperature and humidity along the ground using various instruments attached to moving vehicles, or by temporarily deploying stationary arrays of these instruments ahead of the approaching storm. Some of these are meant to be hit by the tornado.Weather balloons provide crucial data, too. Some are designed to ascend through the atmosphere and capture the conditions outside the storm. Others travel through the storm itself, measuring the important temperature variations in the rain-cooled air beneath the storm. Scientists are now using drones in the same way in parts of the storm.Symbols show the paths of over 70 balloon-borne probes that the authors’ team launched into a supercell thunderstorm. The probes, carried by the wind, mapped the temperature in the storm’s downdraft region, which can be a critical source of rotation for tornadoes. Luke LeBel/Penn StateAll of this gives scientists insight into the processes happening throughout the storm before and during tornado development and throughout the tornado’s lifetime.How do you stay safe while chasing tornadoes?Storms can be very dangerous and unpredictable, so it’s important to always stay on top of the radar and watch the storm.A storm can cycle, developing a new tornado downstream of the previous one. Tornadoes can change direction, particularly as they are dying or when they have a complex structure with multiple funnels. Storm chasers know to look at the entire storm, not just the tornado, and to be on alert for other storms that might sneak up. An escape plan based on the storm’s expected motion and the road network is essential. In 1947, the Thunderstorm Project was the first large-scale U.S. scientific study of thunderstorms and the first to use radar and airplanes. Other iconic projects followed, including ones that deployed a Totable Tornado Observatory, or Toto, which inspired the ‘Dorothy’ instrument in the movie ‘Twister.’Scientists take calculated risks when they’re storm chasing – enough to collect crucial data, but never putting their teams in too much danger.It turns out that driving is actually the most dangerous part of storm-chasing, particularly when roads are wet and visibility is poor – as is often the case at the end of the day. During the chase, the driving danger can be compounded by erratic driving of other storm chasers and traffic jams around storms.What happens to all the data you collect while storm-chasing?It would be nice to have immediate eureka moments, but the results take time.After we collect the data, we spend years analyzing it. Combining data from all the instruments to get a complete picture of the storm and how it evolved takes time and patience. But having data on the wind, temperature, relative humidity and pressure from many different angles and instruments allows us to test theories about how tornadoes develop.Although the analysis process is slow, the discoveries are often as exciting as the tornado itself.Yvette Richardson, Professor of Meteorology, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Penn State and Paul Markowski, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, Penn StateThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:50am
Of the more than 74,000 known meteorites – rocks that fall to Earth from asteroids or planets colliding together – only 385 or so stones came from the planet Mars.It’s not that hard for scientists to work out that these meteorites come from Mars. Various landers and rovers have been exploring Mars’ surface for decades. Some of the early missions – the Viking landers – had the equipment to measure the composition of the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists have shown that you can see this unique Martian atmospheric composition reflected in some of these meteorites.Mars also has unique oxygen. Everything on Earth, including humans and the air we breathe, is made up of a specific composition of the three isotopes of the element oxygen: oxygen-16, oxygen-17 and oxygen-18. But Mars has an entirely different composition – it’s like a geochemical fingerprint for being Martian.The Martian meteorites found on Earth give geologists like me hints about the makeup of the red planet and its history of volcanic activity. They allow us to study Mars without sending a spacecraft 140 million miles away.A planet of paradoxesThese Martian meteorites formed from once red-hot magma within Mars. Once these volcanic rocks cooled and crystallized, radioactive elements within them started to decay, acting as a radiometric clock that enables scientists to tell when they formed.From these radiometric ages, we know that some Martian meteorites are as little as 175 million years old, which is – geologically speaking – quite young. Conversely, some of the Martian meteorites are older, and formed close to the time Mars itself formed. These Martian meteorites tell a story of a planet that has been volcanically active throughout its entire history. In fact, there’s potential for Martian volcanoes to erupt even today, though scientists have never seen such an eruption.The rocks themselves also preserve chemical information that indicates some of the major events on Mars happened early in its history. Mars formed quite rapidly, 4.5 billion years ago, from gas and dust that made up the early solar system. Then, very soon after formation, its interior separated out into a metallic core and a solid rocky mantle and crust.Since then, very little seems to have disturbed Mars’ interior – unlike Earth, where plate tectonics has acted to stir and homogenize its deep interior. To use a food analogy, the Earth’s interior is like a smoothie and Mars’ is like a chunky fruit salad. Martian meteorite samples are prepared for analysis in a clean lab. James DayMartian volcano remnantsUnderstanding how Mars underwent such an early and violent adolescence, yet still may remain volcanically active today, is an area of great interest to me. I would like to know what the inside of Mars looks like, and how its interior makeup might explain features, like volcanoes, on the red planet’s surface.When geologists set out to answer questions about volcanism on Earth, we typically examine lava samples that erupted at different places or times from the same volcano. These samples allow us to disentangle local processes specific to each volcano from planetary processes that take place at a larger scale.It turns out we can do the same thing for Mars. The rather exotically named nakhlite and chassignite meteorites are a group of rocks from Mars that erupted from the same volcanic system some 1.3 billion years ago.Nakhlites are basaltic rocks, similar to lavas you would find in Iceland or Hawaii, with beautiful large crystals of a mineral known as clinopyroxene. Chassignites are rocks made almost entirely of the green mineral olivine – you might know the gem-quality variety of this mineral, peridot.Along with the much more common shergottites, which are also basaltic rocks, and a few other more exotic Martian meteorite types, these categories of meteorite constitute all the rocks researchers possess from the red planet.When studied together, nakhlites and chassignites tell researchers several things about Mars. First, as the molten rock that formed them oozed to the surface and eventually cooled and crystallized, some surrounding older rocks melted into them. That older rock doesn’t exist in our meteorite collection, so my team had to tease out its composition from the chemical information we obtained from nakhlites. From this information, we learned that the older rock was basaltic in composition and chemically distinct from other Martian meteorites. We found that it had been chemically weathered by exposure to water and brine.This older rock is quite different from the Martian crust samples in our meteorite collection today. In fact, it is much more like what we would expect the Martian crust to look like, based on data gathered by rover missions and satellites orbiting Mars.We know that the magmas that made nakhlites and chassignites come from a distinct portion of Mars’ mantle. The mantle is the rocky portion between Mars’ crust and metallic core. These nakhlites and chassignites come from the solid rigid shell at the top of Mars’ mantle, known as the mantle lithosphere, and this source makes them distinct from the more common shergottites. Shergottites come from at least two sources within Mars. They may come from parts of the mantle just beneath the lithosphere, or even the deep mantle, which is closer to the planet’s metallic core. The interior structure of Mars, with the sources of meteorites indicated. James DayUnderstanding how volcanoes on Mars work can inform future research questions to be addressed by missions to the planet. It can also help scientists understand whether the planet has ever been habitable for life, or if it could be in the future.Hints at habitabilityEarth’s active geological processes and volcanoes are part of what makes our planet habitable. The gases emanating from volcanoes are a major part of our atmosphere. So if Mars has similar geological processes, that could be good news for the potential habitability of the red planet.Mars is much smaller than Earth, however, and studies suggest that it’s been losing the chemical elements essential for a sustainable atmosphere since it formed. It likely won’t look anything like Earth in the future.Our next steps for understanding Mars lie in learning how the basaltic shergottite meteorites formed. These are a diverse and richly complex set of rocks, ranging in age from 175 million years to 2.4 billion years or so.Studying these meteorites in greater detail will help to prepare the next generation of scientists to analyze rocks collected using the Perseverance Rover for the forthcoming NASA Mars Sample Return mission.James Day, Professor of Geosciences, University of California, San DiegoThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:48am
In a sun-baked village north of Morocco's capital Rabat, Mustapha Loubaoui and other itinerant workers wait idly by the roadside for farm work made scarce by a six-year drought.Loubaoui, 40, rode his combine harvester for 280 kilometers (175 miles) hoping to pick up work in what previously had been the booming agricultural village of Dar Bel Amri.His day-long journey was for nothing. Now Loubaoui fears he will end up like the roughly 159,000 Moroccan agricultural workers who, official figures say, have lost their jobs since early last year."Work has become hard to come by because of drought," Loubaoui told AFP.Large areas of the Mediterranean have been under "alert drought conditions", a phenomenon even more pronounced in Morocco and its neighbors Algeria and Tunisia, according to the European Drought Observatory's latest analysis.In Morocco, a lack of water threatens the viability of the important agriculture sector, which employs around a third of the working-age population and accounts for 14 percent of exports.More than one third of Morocco's total cultivated area lies unused because of drought.The area is now about 2.5 million hectares compared to four million prior to the onset of severe water scarcity, according to figures given by Agriculture Minister Mohammed Sadiki.And as the arable land shrank, so did employment.The North African kingdom's unemployment rates rose to a record 13.7 percent in the first quarter of 2024, said the High Planning Commission (HCP), the government's statistical body.It said 1.6 million of Morocco's 37 million people are out of work and stressed that "the labour market continues to endure the effects of drought".- 'At the mercy of climate change' -Among the people behind the statistics is Chlih El Baghdadi, a farmer who lives near Dar Bel Amri.His grain harvest suffered a major loss from drought, leaving him sitting at home rather than working his fields.He and his five children now depend financially on his wife, who is employed at a larger farm near the city of Meknes, about 70 kilometers from their village.Such operations, whose yield is mainly for export, have survived the drought because of their water-hungry irrigation systems employed under the "Green Morocco Plan" (PMV) launched in 2008.Since then, agricultural revenues doubled from 63 billion dirhams to 125 billion dirhams ($12.5 billion) in 10 years, according to official data.Another program, "Generation Green 2020-2030", aims to enhance Morocco's sustainable agriculture in light of climate challenges.It targets a doubling of agricultural exports to reach 60 billion dirhams by 2030.Yet despite the initiatives, climate change-driven unemployment has not eased."We have modern and sophisticated agriculture, but it only spans around 15 percent of cultivatable areas," said Abderrahim Handouf, a researcher and agricultural engineer.The "majority of farmers remain at the mercy of climate change" and other economic sectors are "not able to accommodate them," he added.-'Employment is the weak spot'-The kingdom has striven to develop its industrial and service sectors over the past two decades, hoping to create more jobs, but these have not compensated for climate-linked unemployment.Cars, for example, topped Morocco's exports last year with a record value of more than 141 billion dirhams.But the industry "only creates up to 90,000 jobs per year" while there are 300,000 job seekers, Moroccan industry minister Ryad Mezzour said in May."Employment is the weak spot of the economic system," he said in a radio interview.Facing criticism, Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch told parliament last month that "drought has become reality".He announced the expected creation of 140,000 new jobs as part of investment deals worth 241 billion dirhams in fields including renewable energy, telecommunication, tourism and health.But the numbers were far from the million jobs he had promised to create by 2026.For farmers like Benaissa Kaaouan, 66, it's too late. He said he would have walked away from agriculture if he had learned another skill.Now he stands in the middle of his zucchini fields in Dar Bel Amri, most of them sun-spoiled."There's no life without rain," Kaaouan said ruefully.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:43am
SpaceX's highly reliable Falcon 9 rocket has experienced a rare failure that means the latest batch of the company's Starlink satellites won't make it into orbit, the company said Friday, as regulators opened an investigation.The rocket, a prolific launch vehicle that propels both satellites and astronauts into orbit, blasted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Thursday night, with the first stage performing well and executing its impressive yet now routine droneship landing.But the second stage developed a liquid oxygen leak, SpaceX said in a statement, leaving it unable to complete a planned second burn.Though it deployed the 20 Starlink internet satellites it was carrying, they entered an eccentric orbit with a low point of 135 km (83 miles), roughly half of what it needed to be.The team worked overnight to send commands to the satellites to try to lift their orbit, but were ultimately unsuccessful."As such, the satellites will re-enter Earth's atmosphere and fully demise," SpaceX said. "They do not pose a threat to other satellites in orbit or to public safety."The mishap marks a rare failure for a rocket that has launched successfully 364 times, carrying astronauts, payloads for SpaceX's commercial clients and thousands of Starlink satellites to orbit.The last time a Falcon 9 experienced a serious incident was when one blew up on the launchpad in September 2016.And in June 2015, the second stage of a Falcon 9 disintegrated two minutes after lift-off, resulting in the loss of important equipment bound for the International Space Station.The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement it was "requiring an investigation" to determine the root cause of the latest event, identify corrective actions and prevent it from happening again.SpaceX must submit a report before it can be issued a "return to flight," meaning the next scheduled resupply of the International Space Station in early August is likely to be delayed, as is the next crewed launch on July 31 for the private Polaris Dawn mission."SpaceX has an incredible track record with Falcon 9. I can say from personal experience they are very transparent when issues arise," Jared Isaacman, the billionaire businessman behind Polaris Dawn tweeted."As for Polaris Dawn, we will fly whenever SpaceX is ready."The mishap notably comes as the first crew of Boeing's problem-plagued Starliner spaceship are stuck waiting for ground teams to give a green light for them to return from the ISS.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:40am
An Ecuadorian court sentenced a gang member to nearly 35 years in prison Friday for plotting and ordering from his cell the murder of a journalist turned anti-corruption presidential candidate.Five people were handed hefty prison sentences for their role in the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, who was shot dead last year just before the country's election.Gang member Carlos Angulo, 31, was given 34 years and eight months in prison for having planned and ordered the murder, according to the sentence read out in court.Another defendant, Laura Castillo, received the same for providing weapons, money, vehicles and motorcycles to the Colombian hitmen who fatally shot Villavicencio on August 9, 2023 as he was leaving a rally in Quito.Villavicencio, a former investigative journalist who vowed to combat political corruption and drug trafficking, was killed days before the first round of voting in the presidential election.Six Colombian men were arrested hours after the shooting, but all of them were killed while in prison two months later.Seven additional suspects were later arrested, one of whom died and another who was acquitted.The remaining five went on trial.In addition to Angulo and Castillo, accomplices Erick Ramirez, Victor Flores and Alexandra Chimbo were handed 12-year prison terms.According to prosecutors, Flores handled security for the motorcycle on which the hitman who shot Villavicencio was traveling, while Chimbo was in charge of alerting the gunmen about the candidate's departure. Ramirez did logistics work.Some of the suspects were accused of ties to "Los Lobos," one of the main gangs in Ecuador fighting for control of the drug trade that has led to a spike in violence in recent years within the small South American country.- 'Jail for cowardly murderers' -A witness who testified during the trial claimed there was a $200,000 bounty on Villavicencio's head due to his campaign against gangs and corruption.The witness also accused the suspects of working for individuals tied to the administration of former Ecuador president Rafael Correa, who is in exile after he was convicted on corruption charges in 2020.The former president, who lives in Belgium, denies any link to the assassination."We need to know the whole truth and make sure this is not repeated again," Amanda Villavicencio, daughter of the assassinated candidate, wrote on the social media platform X.Outside the court, relatives and supporters chanting slogans held up posters written "jail for cowardly murderers" and pictures of Villavicencio.Villavicencio's work as an investigative journalist exposed high-ranking officials, including Correa's allies.Since 2023 nearly a dozen politicians have been assassinated in Ecuador.Once-peaceful Ecuador is enduring an unprecedented wave of violence linked to narcotics trafficking.With ports on the Pacific, the country serves as a transit point for cocaine produced in Colombia and Peru and sent to the United States and Europe.The homicide rate in Ecuador, a country of about 17 million people, soared from six per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 to 47 per 100,000 last year.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:28am
The Republican National Convention (RNC) kicks off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Monday, and the GOP is still unsure how to make its presumptive 2024 nominee palpable to mainstream American voters.According to the Washington Post, the RNC's planners are sticking to a carefully "scripted" convention next week. This means featuring speakers aimed at broadening the Republican Party's voter base beyond the far-right MAGA movement. However, this is reportedly proving difficult given former President Donald Trump's considerable baggage and extreme rhetoric.“The GOP is unified in its opposition to Joe Biden, but it’s not all peaches and cream when it comes to excitement about Donald Trump,” Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson — who ran against Trump in the primary – told the Post.The Post's Josh Dawsey and Hannah Knowles reported that the Republican National Committee wants to use the national spotlight of the convention to "soften" Trump's image with independent voters and undecided moderate voters in major battleground states. Michael Whatley, who co-chairs the committee with Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara, said the convention's speakers will be staying away from touchy topics like abortion, the January 6 insurrection and Trump's unsuccessful efforts to litigate 2020 election results.ALSO READ: Project 2025 group makes immediate splash at Republican National Convention"That’s one of the things we see in some polls, that some people will vote for Biden even if they think he’s doing a bad job. We want to give the American people something to vote for," Whatley said."We are putting a very significant focus on everyday Americans. We usually have 60 to 65 speakers at one of these things," he continued. "We’re going to have over 100, with many everyday Americans from all walks of life, all across the country."It may be difficult for RNC speakers and delegates to avoid questions about third-rail issues from reporters, however, given that one of the United States' two political parties has never before had a convicted felon as its presidential nominee. Nachama Soloveichik, who was former UN ambassador and GOP primary contender Nikki Haley's communications director, told the Post that one goal of the convention is to define what issues will and won't be at the top of voters' minds in November."Coming in and reassuring people that there’s going to be someone in charge who’s focused on the things that people care about — the economy, inflation, crime, fixing the border, not court cases, not indictments, not revenge, not the drama but just the regular bread-and-butter issues that people care about — I think that will go a long way," she said.RELATED: GOP strategist slams Biden 'frenzy' and vows to make Trump's life 'living, constant hell'Notably, the issues Solocheivik mentioned may be election-defining, but could be more to the benefit of Democrats given available data. The U.S. economy added 206,000 jobs according to the latest jobs report, which beat economists' expectations of 190,000 new jobs. Real, inflation-adjusted wages are consistently rising, meaning more Americans on average have more money in their pockets than before. Following President Joe Biden's recent executive order to more tightly regulate asylum applications, illegal border crossings are down by roughly 40%. Violent crime is down at rates not seen in 50 years, according to FBI data. And a recent Marist/NPR survey found that while 52% of respondents said Biden "has the character to serve as president," only 47% said the same of Trump.Click here to read the Post's report in full (subscription required).
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:18am
This article was originally published by Votebeat, a nonprofit news organization covering local election administration and voting access.Since President Joe Biden’s poor performance in the first presidential debate, the speculation and arguments about whether he will remain the Democratic nominee for president have been unending. And big questions continue to swirl about what happens if he doesn’t. Can he still be replaced on the November ballot despite locking up thousands of delegates in the Democratic primaries? Who would take his place? What would that require? And when must everything be decided?My head hurts. Yours might, too. I will try to make some sense of the various answers.Other news media so far have amply covered the question of how, under the Democratic Party’s rules, Biden could be replaced before the convention (highly doable, if he hands the campaign over to Vice President Kamala Harris) or at the convention (very unlikely, unless he willingly exits). As always, the party is entitled to choose its nominee by its own processes, though it’s hard to imagine a scenario where it chooses someone other than Biden if he doesn’t voluntarily step aside.But looking deeper into the world of elections, we still wanted to know: How late is too late to replace Biden’s name on the ballot?The answer, as with most things in election administration, is that it depends on the state. It’s hard to point to a single clear deadline, but one thing is clear: The logistics of replacing Biden on the ballot become harder the longer the party waits.The conservative Heritage Foundation has announced it will sue if Democrats replace Biden. Several experts have said that if the switch happens soon, such a suit would have little chance of success: Biden isn’t the official nominee until after the convention, and there’s nothing stopping the delegates there from selecting someone else.Every state’s deadline, and the basis for that deadline, is a little bit different, but Richard Hasen, a professor of law at UCLA and the director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project, says “the official nomination” is the key trigger. The Democratic Party’s convention concludes on Aug. 22, which leaves the party with a few weeks to consider its choice.If Biden were to step away after the nomination, Democrats must “turn to the rules that apply for when a vacancy exists,” Hasen said. “And it gets dicey.”While there’s some precedent in a few states for late changes to ballots, they do have to be proofread and printed, and there are hard deadlines to get that process done in time for the election. That means “there is a point where it’s too late, and then the question is how you count the votes cast for Biden,” Hasen said.In other words, at some point, Biden’s name simply has to go on the ballot as the Democratic candidate. Even in states without mail voting, ballots for overseas and military voters go out weeks in advance of Election Day. Once they are printed, there’s really no changing them.If Biden withdraws after the ballots are printed, and Democrats name a replacement who would receive the votes cast in his name — that’s what’s happened in past instances when candidates for other offices have withdrawn or died late in the process — the Electoral College could come into play.When we cast our votes for president, after all, we aren’t really voting for the candidate. We are voting for a slate of electors pledged to that candidate. In states that allow it, those electors could plausibly choose someone other than Biden even if “Joseph R. Biden Jr.” is the name on the ballot.But given recent scandals over electors trying to cast ballots for someone other than the chosen candidate, this comes with its own set of potential issues.To illustrate the slight differences among states, I asked our reporters to figure out how this would work in the states they cover, most of which are highly contested swing states. Here’s what we know:Arizona: A spokesperson for the Arizona secretary of state said the office would permit a new presidential candidate until Aug. 30, a date he said was a bipartisan consensus. But the answer may vary by county. Maricopa County says that its ballots need to be finalized by Aug. 22. The state doesn’t bar electors from casting their ballot for someone other than the nominee. Michigan: A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office said that the names on the ballots are those chosen by party conventions, and this step must be done “no later than 60 days before the election so ballots can be delivered to military and overseas civilians 45 days before the election.” The state requires electors to cast their ballots “for President and Vice President appearing on the Michigan ballot.” Electors who do not follow that requirement are disqualified and replaced. Pennsylvania: The secretary of state’s spokesperson told us that Pennsylvania law has few legal restrictions on when presidential candidates are finalized for the ballot, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t necessary time limits. The state’s election calendar shows that the state must notify counties of the names of candidates no later than Aug. 27. As in the rest of the country, military ballots would go out shortly after. The deadline for printing and sending mailed ballots to voters who requested them is Oct. 22. The state doesn’t bar electors from casting their ballot for someone other than the nominee. Texas: Counties manage the printing of their own ballots, and include the names of the candidates given to them by the secretary of state. That office sends those names in late August, after the conventions. Military ballots, though, go out on Sept. 21, and must be printed days ahead of that. Trudy Hancock, the election administrator in Brazos County, told us the county’s ballots are typically finished by Sept. 10 to allow for proofing and to account for any delays. A 2023 update to Texas’s election code requires electors to sign an oath that they will vote for the chosen candidate. Those who defy the oath are replaced. Wisconsin: State law requires that electors cast their ballots for the candidate of the party that nominated them unless that candidate is dead. In a memo, the Wisconsin Election Commission made clear those names would be certified by the major political party state or national chairs to the Wisconsin Elections Commission “no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 3, 2024.” All ballots are distributed to municipal clerks by Sept. 18.Of course, as the Heritage Foundation has already made clear, Republicans would make replacing Biden on the ballot as challenging and expensive as possible. In addition to the lawsuits Heritage is threatening to file, there are some signs that lawyers are looking to campaign finance law as grounds for a challenge.Democrats must consider what would become of the tens of millions of dollars the Biden campaign has raised. The consensus among many campaign finance lawyers is that the money cannot legally be transferred directly to a replacement presidential nominee — unless that candidate is Harris.But at least one prominent Republican campaign finance lawyer is suggesting the money couldn’t even be legally transferred to Harris until after the two are officially nominated at the convention. The promise by such political heavy-hitters to challenge any transfer before that suggests Republicans see it as advantageous to delay a replacement, as the election administration logistics grow more challenging.It might seem frustrating that a debate about replacing the nominee is happening in only one party, when the other party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, is a twice-impeached convicted felon facing multiple other indictments, including for allegedly trying to subvert the democratic process through fraud. Questions about a candidate’s fitness for office also apply to him.Republicans did have a conversation — both quietly and in public — about replacing Trump as the nominee in 2016, when the “Access Hollywood” tape went public. But after his victory that year, and his sweep of the primaries this year, Republicans aren’t seriously having that conversation now. Democrats, for better or worse, are having this conversation, and out loud.As of this week, Biden is insisting he will remain in the race, though intraparty pressure on him to exit is growing rapidly. None of the scenarios we’re talking about may come to pass. But if they do, we’ll be writing about what comes next and what it means.Jessica Huseman is Votebeat’s editorial director and is based in Dallas. Contact Jessica at jhuseman@votebeat.org.Votebeat reporters Natalia Contreras, Jen Fifield, Alexander Shur, and Carter Walker and Votebeat Managing Editor Carrie Levine contributed.Votebeat is a nonprofit news organization covering local election integrity and voting access. Sign up for their newsletters here.
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[l] at 7/13/24 5:12am
MILWAUKEE — For attendees of the Republican National Convention, there’s nothing remotely subtle about the role of the Heritage Foundation — the Washington, D.C.-based conservative group behind the highly contentious Project 2025 "presidential transition" plan.Fly into Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, and the first evidence that the GOP convention is taking place in this Wisconsin city is a set of giant signs that read: “Heritage welcomes you to the RNC Convention in MKE.”A digital billboard inside the airport atrium flashes a similar message.RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Gonna be insanity’: Inside how Milwaukee Police will secure the Republican conventionOnly after the Heritage Foundation PR bombardment will convention-goers be greeted by signs from C-SPAN, the Daily Signal and generic welcome-to-Milwaukee banners.Go to the website advertised on the Heritage Foundation's airport signs and you're invited to watch the upcoming "Heritage’s Policy Fest" live stream — an event Monday morning and afternoon that "will unite and inspire conservatives around the promise to our country and a plan to target the moral and foundational challenges America faces in this moment of history."The Heritage Foundation's event promises to feature "remarks from elected officials, prominent media figures, and other conservative leaders!"While the come-on doesn't specifically mention Project 2025, the full plan is available just a click away on the website of the Heritage Foundation,Project 2025 has become a flashpoint not only between Republicans and Democrats, but within the Republican Party itself.Former President Donald Trump, who is expected to name his vice presidential running mate this week before formally accepting the Republican Party's 2024 presidential nomination, this week distanced himself from Project 2025, saying he he knows "nothing" about it despite former members of his administration writing it.Project 2025 contains a litany of goals that range from mass deportations and mass federal government firings to a nationwide abortion ban and dismantling of the Education department. It also aims to empower Trump to directly control the Justice Department and the FBI.The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this week that the Heritage Foundation signed on as a major sponsor of the Republican National Convention. It's not yet known how much it donated to either the Republican National Committee's federal convention account or the separate, nonprofit Milwaukee host committee, which is responsible for much of the logistical, promotional and civic-related work surrounding the convention. The host committee is required to disclose its financing to the Federal Election Commission two months after the Republican National Convention's completion, according to federal rules.

[Category: Milwaukee, Gop convention, Donald trump, Project 2025, Republican national convention, Heritage foundation]

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