Daily Bread for 10.20.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of seventy-four. Sunrise is 7:15 AM and sunset 6:03 PM, for 10h 47m 48s of daytime. The moon is new, with .6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philipines. On this day in 1856, Frederick Douglass speaks in Beaver Dam: “On this date Frederick Douglass arrived in Beaver Dam and spoke about the brutality and immorality of slavery. His speech was also intended to generate support for the abolitionist movement in Dodge Co. and Wisconsin. ”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Ari Berman describes How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump (“And possibly handed him the whole election”):

….After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. According to the study’s author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. “We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” he says.

“This particular election was very important to me. I felt like the right to vote was being stripped away from me.”

Its impact was particularly acute in Milwaukee, where nearly two-thirds of the state’s African Americans live, 37 percent of them below the poverty line. Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the nation, divided between low-income black areas and middle-class white ones. It was known as the “Selma of the North” in the 1960s because of fierce clashes over desegregation. George Wallace once said that if he had to leave Alabama, “I’d want to live on the south side of Milwaukee.”

Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election director, believes that the voter ID law and other changes passed by the Republican Legislature contributed significantly to lower turnout. Albrecht is 55 but seems younger, with bookish tortoise-frame glasses and salt-and-pepper stubble. (“I looked 12 until I became an election administrator,” he joked.) At his office in City Hall with views of the Milwaukee River, Albrecht showed me a color-coded map of the city’s districts, pointing out the ones where turnout had declined the most, including Anthony’s. Next to his desk was a poster that listed “Acceptable Forms of Photo ID.”

“I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he said later. “It is very probable that between the photo ID law and the changes to voter registration, enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin”….

Rob Schultz reports New Madison police procedures: Officers should exhaust all options before using a gun:

The Madison Police Department has updated its guide on the use of deadly force, instructing officers to exhaust other options before using a gun in a change lauded by both a police union official and an attorney who has sued the city over the issue.

“When it comes to the rules our police officers are trained to follow, language matters,” said Andrea Farrell, a Madison attorney who earlier this year won a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city on behalf of the family of a woman killed by Madison police.

The police department was ordered by the City Council in May to change its standard operating procedures for how officers use deadly force, as well as one for how they use non-deadly force and to include language emphasizing an officer’s duty to intercede, de-escalate and preserve life. The changes were recommended by a special committee that studied police policy and practices….

(Here’s where we are: this guidance in Madison wasn’t uniformly and everywhere present. Most avenues are not enough avenues: only all avenues are enough avenues.)

Betsy Woodruff reports Exclusive: Senate ‘Russia Probe’ Is Not Investigating Russia:

The Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded documents on Russian meddling from the CIA, interviewed Donald Trump Jr. about his infamous Trump Tower meeting, and subpoenaed Paul Manafort, the president’s Kremlin-friendly former campaign chairman.

In May, the committee held a subcommittee hearing called “Russian Interference in 2016 United States Election.” In June, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley issued a pair of press releases about his “Russia Probe.” One of them, produced with fellow committee Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, asked for documents from the FBI, citing the committee’s “investigations into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

But the Judiciary Committee is not, in fact, running a Trump-Russia investigation—at least, not a full-fledged one.

A staffer for Grassley, speaking on the condition of anonymity to give his candid assessment, told The Daily Beast that the committee is instead engaged in routine oversight of the Justice Department—though under extraordinary circumstances….

Ari Melber, Meredith Mandell, and  Mirjam Lablans report Putin Rival Ties Kushner Meeting to Kremlin Bankers:

A prominent exiled Russian oligarch said in an exclusive interview with NBC News that he is nearly certain Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to collaborate with the Trump campaign, and that he believes a top Russian banker was not “acting on his own behalf” when he held a controversial meeting with Jared Kushner last December.

The pointed remarks come from a longtime Putin rival, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil executive who was Russia’s richest man before he was imprisoned and exiled by the Kremlin.

“I am almost convinced that Putin’s people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way,” Khodorkovsky told MSNBC’s Ari Melber in his first U.S. television interview since Trump took office.

Khodorkovsky says he believes the likelihood that Putin “personally” tried to cooperate with the Trump campaign to affect the election is a “9 out of 10.”

“Whether or not that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for investigating the matter answer that question,” he added.

Khodorkovsky was freed and exiled from Russia in 2013, after spending 10 years in prison for tax evasion. Several international human rights groups have said the prosecution was political retribution for his public criticism of Putin….

Tech Insider lists 5 myths about sugar that you should stop believing:

Daily Bread for 10.19.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy. Sunrise is 7:14 AM and sunset 6:04 PM, for 10h 50m 33s of daytime. The moon is new today, with .1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

The City of Whitewater’s Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 5 PM, her Community Involvement Commission at 5 PM, and the Fire Department Board at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1781, American and French forces win a decisive victory at the Battle of Yorktown:

The fire on Yorktown from the allies was heavier than ever as new artillery pieces joined the line.[64]Cornwallis talked with his officers that day and they agreed that their situation was hopeless.[65]

On the morning of October 17, a drummer appeared followed by an officer waving a white handkerchief.[66] The bombardment ceased, and the officer was blindfolded and led behind the French and American lines. Negotiations began at the Moore House on October 18 between Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas and Major Alexander Ross (who represented the British) and Lieutenant Colonel Laurens (who represented the Americans) and the Marquis de Noailles (who represented the French).[66] To make sure that nothing fell apart between the French and Americans at the last minute, Washington ordered that the French be given an equal share in every step of the surrender process.[66]

The articles of capitulation were signed on October 19, 1781.[66] Signatories included Washington, Rochambeau, the Comte de Barras (on behalf of the French Navy), Cornwallis, and Captain Thomas Symonds (the senior Royal Navy officer present).[67] Cornwallis’ British men were declared prisoners of war, promised good treatment in American camps, and officers were permitted to return home after taking their parole. At 2:00 pm the allied army entered the British positions, with the French on the left and the Americans on the right.[66]

The British had asked for the traditional honors of war, which would allow the army to march out with flags flying, bayonets fixed, and the band playing an American or French tune as a tribute to the victors. However, Washington firmly refused to grant the British the honors that they had denied the defeated American army the year before at the Siege of Charleston.[68] Consequently, the British and Hessian troops marched with flags furled and muskets shouldered….

Recommended for reading in full — 

Betsy Woodruff, Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen, and Spencer Ackerman report Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election (“Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. pushed messages from an account operated from Russia’s ‘troll farm’ — including allegations of voter fraud a week before Election Day”):

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.

The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP’s account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons”….

Kevin Collier reports Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down (“The account was one of hundreds created by Russia’s Internet Research Agency and drew 136,000 followers by tweeting divisive messages in the name of the Tennessee Republican Party”):

Twitter took 11 months to close a Russian troll account that claimed to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party even after that state’s real GOP notified the social media company that the account was a fake.

The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was “permanently suspended.”

Some of its tweets were deliberately outrageous, the archive shows, such as one in December 2016 that claimed that unarmed black men killed by police officers deserved their fate. It also trafficked in deliberate fake news, claiming just before it was shut down that a photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was actually a crowd waiting to hear Donald Trump speak.

Twitter, already under fire, along with Facebook, for being slow to recognize its role in Russian election meddling, declined to comment. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company does not comment on individual accounts….

Dan Friedman observes Jeff Sessions Again Changes His Story on Meetings With Russian Ambassador (“The attorney general nows says their discussions may have included campaign issues”):

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday offered a revised account of his contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions falsely claimed he had no contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign—when he was a prominent supporter of Donald Trump. After reports that he met with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sessions changed his story, arguing that they did discuss any campaign-related issues. Yet while testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, Sessions tweaked his explanation again, noting that it was possible that Trump campaign positions did come up with the Russian ambassador….

In June, appearing before the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions altered his story again, saying, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

On Wednesday, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pressed Sessions on his contacts with Kislyak, the attorney general once more shifted his account, leaving open the possibility that campaign-related matters may have arisen. “I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign other than – it could have been in the meeting in my office or at the convention that some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,” he said. “I think that’s possible.”

Sessions also told Leahy he “did not recall” if he discussed emails—the Vermont senator seemed to be referring to the emails hackers stole from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign—with any Russian officials. Leahy, a former prosecutor, said that Sessions has shifted from issuing flat denials of his contacts with Russians to saying that he could not recall his conversations. Leahy later told reporters that Sessions had changed his story and given “false testimony” in January….

Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen present Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump:

President Trump’s firing of Comey and the subsequent revelations about President Trump’s earlier exchanges with Comey while he was FBI Director raise the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice by endeavoring to impede those investigations. In June, press reports indicated that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is indeed investigating the very question of whether President Trump obstructed justice.[1] Mueller has since impaneled a grand jury in Washington D.C., issued subpoenas, and has begun seeking interviews with current and former White House officials.[2]

In this paper, we break down and analyze the question of whether President Trump may have obstructed justice and explain the criminal and congressional actions that could follow from an obstruction investigation. Addressing the possibility of criminal behavior by President Trump and the complicated issues it raises is not a task that we take lightly. Dissecting allegations of criminality leveled against an individual who has been duly elected president and who has sworn to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution is an inherently solemn task. But it is our hope that by presenting a rigorous legal analysis of the potential case against the president, we will help the American people and their representatives understand the contours of the issues, regardless of whether it is eventually litigated in a court of law, the halls of Congress, or the court of public opinion….

Download “Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump.”

(This is a serious analysis, applying the law to published facts. Those who have supped on Fox News or Breitbart for their assessments of possible obstruction of justice claims have consumed only slop.)

In Australia, an infrared camera captured kangaroos duking it out:

Daily Bread for 10.18.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy. Sunrise is 7:13 AM and sunset 6:08 PM, for 10h 53m 19s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 1.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee is scheduled to meet at 6 AM, and her Parks & Recreation Board at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1867, the United States takes possession of Alaska:

The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governor’s house; the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised amid peals of artillery.

A description of the events was published in Finland six years later, written by a blacksmith named T. Ahllund, who had been recruited to work in Sitka only less than two years previously.[22]

Recommended for reading in full —

Peter Overby reports The Court Challenge Begins: Is Trump Taking Unconstitutional Emoluments?:

On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Here is what is at stake: The Founding Fathers wrote a clause into the Constitution saying U.S. officials cannot accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title” from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Trump’s critics say that by refusing to sell off his global businesses, the president is failing to uphold the Constitution.

But before that issue can be debated, the court first has to decide whether the plaintiffs even have standing to bring their Emoluments Clause case. And that first step is what is happening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York….

Tim Lister, Jim Sciutto and Mary Ilyushina have an Exclusive: Putin’s ‘chef,’ the man behind the troll factory:

Yevgeny Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch dubbed “chef” to President Vladimir Putin by the Russian press. In 2002, he served caviar and truffles to President George W. Bush during a summit in St. Petersburg. Before that, he renovated a boat that became the city’s most exclusive restaurant.

But his business empire has expanded far beyond the kitchen. US investigators believe it was Prigozhin’s company that financed a Russian “troll factory” that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign, according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation. One part of the factory had a particularly intriguing name and mission: a “Department of Provocations” dedicated to sowing fake news and social divisions in the West, according to internal company documents obtained by CNN.

Prigozhin is one of the Kremlin’s inner circle. His company is believed to be a main backer of the St. Petersburg-based “Internet Research Agency” (IRA), a secretive technology firm, according to US officials and the documents reviewed by CNN. Prigozhin was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in December of 2016 for providing financial support for Russia’s military occupation of Ukraine. Two of his companies, including his catering business, were also sanctioned by Treasury this year….

Casey Michel describes How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them:

In early 2016, while researching some of the most popular U.S. secession groups online, I stumbled across one of the Russian-controlled Facebook accounts that were then pulling in Americans by the thousands.

At the time, I was writing on Russia’s relationship with American secessionists from Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These were people who had hitched flights to Moscow to swap tactics, to offer advice and to find support. They had found succor in the shadow of the Kremlin.

That was how I eventually found my way to the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page (and its @itstimetosecede Twitter feed as well). Heart of Texas soon grew into the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook — one that, at one point in 2016, boasted more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Republican Facebook pages combined. By the time Facebook took the page down recently, it had a quarter of a million followers….

Greg Fish reports Putin’s Professional Trolls Catfished And Paid Pro-Trump Activists In The US (“After embedding themselves deeply in social media, Kremlin’s trolls are branching out into mass media and activism):

….In the troll factory’s attempts to spill their propaganda into the offline world, they worked with 100 or so activists in the United States who wanted to spread the pro-Trump message. The trolls pretended to be fellow Republicans sympathetic to Trump’s message and reimbursed a number of travel and media-related expenses incurred by those activists. The political junkie from Florida who really wanted to meet like-minded would-be Trump voters on one of the 118 core social media accounts set up by the trolls was actually interacting with a 20 to 30 year old Russian man or woman sitting behind a desk in Northeast Russia after responding to a vague job ad months prior.

This is very much on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s radar as he investigates Trump’s links to shady Russian interests, but the damage has already been done. These pages and ads on Facebook have been shared hundreds of millions of times before they were deleted, and millions of Americans using the social media platform saw them thanks to hyper-targeted algorithms and a $100,000 ad buy by the trolls. So if you’re wondering how effective these propaganda operations were, the rather disturbing answer seems to be, very. In fact, the targeting was so spot on, one of the questions Mueller’s team is seriously considering is whether the Trump campaign may have helped the troll factories with it.

Trying to empower the political fringes in America is far from their only task. France, Germany, and wide swaths of Eastern Europe are also targeted with the same methods and by the same people. Even Russia itself isn’t safe from its own trolls because last year, the online news portals they ran started hitting the big time with as many as 33 million unique monthly views. This is on par with traffic other major Russia media outlets see individually, so while they’re not dominating the news, they’re definitely influencing the discourse by injecting a pro-Russian, pro-Putin slant into everyday media diets at home and abroad, especially in Russian expat communities….

Here’s Why Penguins’ Feet Don’t Freeze:

Daily Bread for 10.17.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of sixty-eight. Sunrise is 7:11 AM and sunset 6:07 PM, for 10h 56m 05s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 5.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets at 5:30 PM, and City Council at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1931, Al Capone is convicted of tax evasion (and sentenced a week later to eleven years in jail). On this day in 1970, Pres. Nixon visits Green Bay: “On this date President Richard Nixon traveled to Green Bay to speak at a testimonial dinner in honor of Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Michael Gerson contends that The religious right carries its golden calf into Steve Bannon’s battles:

….There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, “economic nationalism” is the “centerpiece of value voters.” I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear? Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees. A movement that has cultivated ties to alt-right leaders and flirted with white identity politics. A movement that will eventually soil and discredit all who are associated with it.

The religious right is making itself a pitiful appendage to this squalid agenda. If Christian conservatives are loyal enough, Bannon promises that they can be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.” All that is required is to abandon the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition: a belief in the inherent value and dignity of every life….

Barbara Radnofsky contends The Founding Fathers designed impeachment for someone exactly like Donald Trump:

….Their writings and debates surrounding the creation of the Constitution make clear that the framers feared a certain kind of character coming to power and usurping the republican ideal of their new nation. Having just defeated a tyrant — “Mad” King George III of England — they carefully crafted rules to remove such a character: impeachment. In the process, they revealed precisely the kind of corrupt, venal, inattentive and impulsive character they were worried about….

Again and again, they anticipated attributes and behaviors that President Trump exhibits on an all-too-regular basis. By describing “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the grounds for impeachment, as any act that poses a significant threat to society — either through incompetence or other misdeeds — the framers made it clear that an official does not have to commit a crime to be subject to impeachment. Instead, they made impeachment a political process, understanding that the true threat to the republic was not criminality but unfitness, that a president who violated the country’s norms and values was as much a threat as one who broke its laws.

Gouverneur Morris, who wrote the Constitution’s preamble, and future president James Madison were worried about a leader who would “pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation” — theft of public funds — “or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers,” as Madison put it. Morris, who like many in the colonies believed King Charles had taken bribes from Louis XIV to support France’s war against the Dutch, declared that without impeachment we “expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate [the President] in foreign pay without being able to guard against it by displacing him”….

Natasha Bertrand reports New memo suggests Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting was acting ‘as an agent’ of the Kremlin:

The Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law, and campaign chairman last June at Trump Tower brought a memo with her to that meeting that contained many of the same talking points as one written by the Russian prosecutor’s office two months earlier.

The memo Natalia Veselnitskaya provided to the Trump campaign last year focused on banker-turned-human rights activist Bill Browder, whose reputation has become inextricably linked to the global human-rights campaign he launched in 2009 after tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison.

Magnitsky was thrown in jail and beaten to death after he discovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme that implicated high-level Kremlin officials, Browder says. The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 that sanctioned high-level Russian officials accused of human rights abuses and corruption….

The document’s language closely mirrored the contents of a memo provided to Republican US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher by the office of Russia’s chief federal prosecutor Yuri Chaika while Rohrabacher was in Moscow last April.

(The similar language isn’t, itself, conclusive; combined with other information, it does strengthen the contention that Veselnitskaya acted as a tool of Russian state authorities when she met Trump Jr.)

Bill Allison reports Trump’s Campaign Paid His Son’s Russia-Probe Law Firm $238,000:

President Donald Trump’s re-election committee paid almost $238,000 in the third quarter to the law firm representing Donald Trump Jr. in connection with ongoing investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Trump’s campaign made two payments — one in mid July, the other in early August — to the law firm of Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer for the president’s son, who is facing scrutiny over a 2016 meeting he had with a Russian lawyer while seeking damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. The third-quarter disclosures with the Federal Election Commission didn’t specify what the legal expenses were for.

Futerfas declined to comment. The Trump campaign and the White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Campaign committees are permitted to pay for the legal defense of a person involved in the campaign as long as the legal services are related to the person’s campaign work….

Cath Le Couteur describes The Threat of Objects Lost in Space:

100 million pieces of “space junk” currently orbit our planet at 17,500 miles per hour. Adrift investigates the fate of these interstellar objects, which threaten to collide with and destroy satellites and spacecraft.
Director and producer Cath Le Couteur recruited Sally Potter to narrate the film from the perspective of the oldest piece of space junk, a solar-powered satellite lost in 1958. Adrift also features interviews with astronomers and scientists, such as NASA astronaut Piers Sellers, who dropped a spatula in space during a repair mission in 2006.

“Space junk,” says Le Couteur, “has become an intriguing but potentially serious and destructive museum of space exploration hurtling above our heads.”

Daily Bread for 10.16.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of sixty-one. Sunrise is 7:10 AM and sunset 6:09 PM, for 10h 58m 53s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 10.8% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred forty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1859, John Brown leads an attack on the Harper’s Ferry Armory. On this day in 1968, the Milwaukee Bucks begin their first season: “the Milwaukee Bucks opened their first season with an 89-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls. The loss was witnessed by 8,467 fans in the Milwaukee Arena. The starting lineup featured Wayne Embry at center, Fred Hetzel and Len Chappell at forward, and Jon McGlocklin and Guy Rodgers in the backcourt. Larry Costello was the head coach. The Bucks had its first win in their sixth game of the season with a 134-118 victory over the Detroit Pistons. ”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Jonathan Easley writes Trump ramps up the culture war:

….Trump’s culture wars differ from his predecessors in both their ferocity and frequency.

The president stirs the pot on a near-daily basis at rallies, from the Oval Office and over Twitter, attracting accusations from his critics that he’s obsessed with winning empty fights with celebrities because he’s been unable to achieve meaningful legislative reforms.

And the unabashed ferocity with which Trump has gone after his targets is evidence to his critics that he doesn’t care if he alienates or annoys large numbers of Americans, as long as his base sticks by him.

Over the past week alone, Trump and his allies have kept the fires burning with fights against the NFL, ESPN, Facebook, late-night comedians and the news media, provoking retaliatory remarks from athletes, anchors, rappers and comics….

David Barno and Nora Bensahel describe The Growing Danger of a U.S. Nuclear First Strike on North Korea:

….First and foremost, the human costs would be catastrophic. Millions of North Koreans would either be killed or grievously wounded from the effects of fires, blasts, and radiation. The radioactive fallout from such a strike could spread contamination thousands of miles, directly affecting South Korea, Japan, and China, as well as countries and populations across the region and beyond. Global or regional weather patterns could also be disrupted, affecting agriculture and the environment for years to come.

Even if those tragic human costs could somehow be set aside, the cascading range of other consequences would be sufficient to avoid such an attack. China could respond militarily, by moving forces into the parts of North Korea less affected by the strike, for example. This could result in a risky confrontation with U.S. forces seeking to confirm the complete destruction of North Korean nuclear capabilities. Chinese troops could also collide with a potential influx of U.S. and South Korean ground troops trying to establish civil order and provide humanitarian relief to the North Korean populace in the aftermath of the strikes. China might also respond to an attack on its ally more forcefully, by striking U.S. bases in the region or possibly even the U.S. homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory….

Finally, the United States would immediately forfeit its moral standing in the world. Initiating a nuclear first strike would abruptly and irrevocably terminate any U.S. claims to be the preeminent world leader, one that claims a deep commitment to the rule of law and accepted norms of international behavior. If the first strike occurred without international support — as would almost surely be the case — the United States would rightly be condemned by the global community for its aggression and blatant violations of international law. A unilateral U.S. decision to use nuclear weapons for first time since World War II by launching a first strike against an adversary without compelling evidence of an imminent attack will be judged harshly for generations — perhaps even by current U.S. citizens as well….

Cameron Easley reports Trump Approval Dips in Every State, Though Deep Pockets of Support Remain:

….The negative swings in net approval ranged from as high as 30 percentage points in solidly blue Illinois and New York to as low as 11 points in red Louisiana. But in many of the states Trump easily carried last year — such as Tennessee (-23 percentage points), Mississippi (-21 points), Kentucky (-20 points), Kansas (-19 points) and Indiana (-17 points) — voters have soured on the president in 2017.

A majority of voters in 25 states and the District of Columbia said they disapproved of the president’s job performance in September, including those residing in Upper Midwest states with large Electoral College hauls that were critical to Trump’s victory over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — and some of which are home to some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats of the 2018 election cycle. Fifty-five percent of respondents in Michigan said they disapproved of Trump, as did 53 percent in Wisconsin and Iowa and 51 percent in Pennsylvania.

Fifty-one percent of voters in Nevada and Arizona, where the Senate GOP’s most vulnerable members are up for re-election next year, also disapproved of Trump’s handling of the presidency….

Aaron Blake writes Steve Bannon totally undercuts Trump’s claim about canceling Obamacare payments:

The White House said it was acting on the recommendation of the Justice Department — that it was canceling illegal federal subsidies that helped sustain the Affordable Care Act. President Trump said what he was doing would hurt the insurance companies only: “That’s not going to people; that’s making insurance companies rich,” he said, adding: “That money is going to insurance companies to prop up their stock price.”

But former top Trump White House aide Stephen K. Bannon told a very different tale this weekend. And it will confirm what every opponent of the move already suspected: that Trump was trying to cause Obamacare to fail.

In the midst of playing up Trump’s accomplishments Saturday at the “Values Voters Summit” in Washington, Bannon turned to Trump’s controversial Obamacare executive order the day before.

“Then you had Obamacare,” Bannon said. Trump is “not gonna make the [cost-sharing reduction] payments. Gonna blow that thing up. Gonna blow those exchanges up, right?”

Here’s the science of why coffee is good for you:

Daily Bread for 10.15.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of fifty-four. Sunrise is 7:09 AM and sunset 6:11 PM, for 11h 01m 40s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 18.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred fortieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1862, the 3rd Wisconsin Light Artillery Battery engages the enemy for the first time in a small skirmish at Crab Orchard, Kentucky. On this day in 1885, Marinette-Menominee lumbermen strike: “2,500 Marinette-Menominee lumbermen walked off the job to support a reduction in workday hours. Mill owners locked out the workers in an attempt to force acceptance of an eleven-hour workday. The lockout failed as many lumbermen simply moved away from the area rather than agree to work eleven hour days. The employers were forced to negotiate with unions and conceded to a ten-hour work day and cash payment for wages.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Jim Tankersley writes Kansas Tried a Tax Plan Similar to Trump’s. It Failed:

….In 2012, Kansas lawmakers, led by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, enacted a tax cut that eliminated state income taxes entirely for pass-through entities — such as sole proprietorships and limited liability partnerships — which are taxed at the owner’s individual income tax rate. The law also lowered individual income tax rates, cutting the top rate to 4.9 percent from 6.4 percent.

The tax package reduced state revenue by nearly $700 million a year, a drop of about 8 percent, from 2013 through 2016, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, forcing officials to shorten school calendars, delay highway repairs and reduce aid to the poor. Research suggests the package did not stimulate the economy, certainly not enough to pay for the tax cut. This year, legislators passed a bill to largely rescind the law, saying it had not worked as intended.

“It caused a lot of budget instability,” said State Senator Jim Denning, a Republican who led the effort to repeal the pass-through exemption this year. Mr. Denning, who earns pass-through income from his interest in a commercial real estate firm, said he had personally benefited from the exemption, but the state’s economy had not….

(It’s always and forever worth noting that libertarianism seeks a smaller, limited government, but the path to a smaller, limited government requires prioritizing government services expressly, and then eliminating some. Ineffectual tax plans that, themselves, neither enumerate and prioritize spending reductions nor even stimulate the economy relative to government spending achieve nothing of a rational reduction in government. They merely foment budget crises that lead to scrambling for ill-considered cuts, or cuts considered only to benefit a majority party’s friends. Walker’s time in office has been like this – not a reduction in government’s size, but merely a redistribution to his favored interests. )

Michael Wines reports Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems:

WASHINGTON — State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers.

One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Another is to spot and defuse attempts to depress turnout and sway election results by targeting voters with false news reports and social media posts.

West Virginia’s elections team has added a cybersecurity expert from the state National Guard with a top-secret federal security clearance. Colorado and Rhode Island will now verify election results via an advanced statistical procedure called a risk-limiting audit….

(The Trump Administration is not part of this effort; even a man of his ignorance has heard the saying that ‘one should not bite the hand…’)

Kenneth Vogel reports Trump legal tab: $4 million and rising:

During his campaign, Donald Trump promised to pay the legal bills of supporters who beat up protesters at his rallies, but a POLITICO analysis found that Trump’s campaign hasn’t always paid its own legal bills in a timely or transparent fashion.

The analysis of court and campaign filings found that Trump’s campaign committee is still spending heavily to defend against ongoing civil lawsuits alleging assault, incitement, threats and other illegal behavior by the president, his supporters and staff. But in at least four ongoing cases, Trump’s campaign had yet to make a publicly disclosed payment to the law firms representing it, paid months late or paid in tiny amounts that don’t appear commensurate with the amount of work performed by the firms.

In some cases, lawyers from the Trump Organization assisted outside law firms paid by the campaign in defending cases that named both Trump’s campaign and his company, blurring the line between Trump’s political and business operations. And there were at least two cases in which Trump’s campaign appears to have settled lawsuits quietly by making lump-sum payments to firms involved in the cases, which it listed in its Federal Election Commission reports as “legal consulting.”

In all, FEC filings show that Trump’s campaign has paid out nearly $4 million in “legal consulting” and “legal fees,” including $556,000 since Election Day. That total is more than twice as much as former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign spent on legal fees through this point in his first term….

Aggelos Petropoulos and Richard Engel report Manafort Had $60 Million Relationship With a Russian Oligarch:

LONDON — Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.

An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.

The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.

Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following allegations of improper financial dealings, charges he has strenuously denied. He is now a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Investigators have said they are looking into Manafort’s financial ties to prominent figures in Russia.

According to company documents obtained by NBC News in Cyprus, funds were sent from a company owned by Deripaska to entities linked to Manafort, registered in Cyprus….

In Canada, good-hearted people are Warming the Feet (and Hearts) of Canada’s Homeless:

After the passing of his wife in 2010, Bob Rutherford searched for a way to give back to his community. He built two custom-made knitting machines and used them to create socks to protect those in need from the frigid Canadian winters. Now, the 88-year old has expanded his sock operation into a four-person outfit, knitting up and churning out socks en masse. Today, Socks by Bob has warmed the feet (and hearts) of thousands, having knit and donated over 11,600 pairs to homeless shelters across Canada.

Daily Bread for 10.14.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be Sunrise is 7:08 AM and sunset 6:12 PM, for 11h 04m 29s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 28.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1066, William the Conqueror is victorious at the Battle of Hastings. On this day in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt is shot in Milwaukee:

On the night of October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was in Wisconsin stumping as the presidential candidate of the new, independent Progressive Party, which had split from the Republican Party earlier that year. Roosevelt already had served two terms as chief executive (1901-1909), but was seeking the office again as the champion of progressive reform. Unbeknownst to Roosevelt, a New York bartender named John Schrank had been stalking him for three weeks through eight states. As Roosevelt left Milwaukee’s Hotel Gilpatrick for a speaking engagement at the Milwaukee Auditorium and stood waving to the gathered crowd, Schrank fired a .38-caliber revolver that he had hidden in his coat.

Roosevelt was hit in the right side of the chest and the bullet lodged in his chest wall. Seeing the blood on his shirt, vest, and coat, his aides pleaded with him to seek medical help, but Roosevelt trivialized the wound and insisted on keeping his commitment. His life was probably saved by the speech, since the contents of his coat pocket — his metal spectacle case and the thick, folded manuscript of his talk — had absorbed much of the force of the bullet. Throughout the evening he made light of the wound, declaring at one point, “It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose,” but the candidate spend the next week in the hospital and carried the bullet inside him the rest of his life.

Schrank, the would-be assassin, was examined by psychiatrists, who recommended that he be committed to an asylum. A judge concurred and Schrank spent the remainder of his life incarcerated, first at the Northern Hospital for the Insane in Oshkosh, then at Central State Hospital for the criminally insane at the state prison at Waupun. The glass Roosevelt drank from on stage that night was acquired by the Wisconsin Historical Museum. You can read more about the assassination attempt on their Museum Object of Week pages.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Hunter Walker and Michael Isikoff report FBI document cache sheds light on inner workings of Russia’s U.S. news (and propaganda) network:

WASHINGTON — On Jan. 23, 2017, the day he started as a Washington correspondent for Sputnik, Andrew Feinberg was emailed a copy of a “style guide” that laid out the organization’s mission.

The 103-page handbook for publications of Sputnik’s Kremlin-owned parent company, Rossiya Segodnya, made it clear that traditional journalistic neutrality was not the company’s mandate. Instead, Sputnik reporters were told they should provide readers “with a Russian viewpoint” on issues and “maintain allegiance” to the country.

“Our main goal is to inform the international audience about Russia’s political, economic and ideological stance on both local and global issues,” the guide reads. “To this end, we must always strive to be objective but we must also stay true to the national interest of the Russian Federation.”

The guide, which was written in English, is included among more than 10,000 internal Sputnik messages on a thumb drive that Feinberg provided to the FBI, which is investigating the agency for possible violations of the law that requires agents of foreign nations to register with the Justice Department. The guide appears to contradict repeated claims by Sputnik executives that they follow traditional journalistic standards and operate independently of the Kremlin. are dedicated to objective reporting. For example, in August, when Sputnik opened a headquarters in Scotland, Sputnik editor and director Nikolai Gorshkov told a local news agency, “No one has ever called me from Moscow”….

(Liars, speaking small truths only to advance greater lies.)

Max Boot observes Russia Has Invented Social Media Blitzkrieg (“And it’s time that America learns to defend itself”):

The tank was a British invention, built to penetrate German trenches during World War I. But it was the Germans who, during the interwar period, figured out how to most effectively utilize the tank, in coordination with aircraft and infantry, for offensive operations. Thus was born the blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) that allowed the Germans to overrun much of Europe in 1939-1940. The British and the French, who still had more and better tanks, were helpless to resist the onslaught.

Something similar seems to have happened with social media networks. All of the leading social media platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Google — are American inventions. Yet the Russians weaponized them to wage political war.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was as shocking, in its own way, as the fall of France in May 1940. The complacent French thought they were secure behind the Maginot Line until the German panzers penetrated the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes Forest. Likewise the complacent Hillary Clinton campaign thought it was secure because of its hordes of cash, its extensive on-the-ground operation, and the sheer awfulness of its opponent. Surprise! The Russians stole Democratic Party emails and, acting through cutouts like WikiLeaks, leaked the most damaging tidbits. Then social media did the rest. And lo and behold on Nov. 8, 2016, the unthinkable occurred: Donald Trump was elected president of the United States….

Nick Bilton recounts Donald Trump’s Fake Renior: The Untold Story (“Trump biographer Tim O’Brien talks about his years covering the developer turned reality star turned president—including a bizarre incident involving a fake impressionist painting”):

Years ago, while reporting a book about a real-estate developer and reality-TV star named Donald Trump, Tim O’Brienaccompanied his subject on a private jet ride to Los Angeles. The plane, as you can imagine, was overly ornate; hanging on one wall, for instance, was a painting of two young girls—one in an orange hat, the other wearing a floral bonnet—in the impressionistic style of Renoir.

Curious, O’Brien asked Trump about the painting: was it an original Renoir? Trump replied in the affirmative. It was, he said. “No, it’s not Donald,” O’Brien responded. But, once again, Trump protested that it was.

“Donald, it’s not,” O’Brien said adamantly. “I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it’s hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.” He concluded emphatically: “That’s not an original.”

Trump, of course, did not agree, but O’Brien dropped the conversation topic and moved on with his interview. He thought that he had heard the last of the Renoir conversation. But the next day, when they boarded the plane to head back to New York City, Trump again pointed to the painting, and as if the conversation had never happened, he pointed to the fake and proclaimed, “You know, that’s an original Renoir.” O’Brien chose not to engage, and dropped the conversation….

Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report Roger Stone attorney says he complied with request for Assange contact:

An attorney for Roger Stone says the longtime confidante to President Donald Trump has complied with the House Russia investigators’ request for him to provide the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.

But Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith, would not say whether that meant Stone had in fact revealed the identity of his WikiLeaks go-between to the House intelligence committee.

“Mr. Stone has complied with the committee’s requests. No further statement will be issued,” Smith said, declining to answer any additional questions….

How Did Wolves Become Dogs?:

Daily Bread for 10.13.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a high of sixty-five, and a probability of afternoon showers. Sunrise is 7:07 AM and sunset 6:14 PM, for 11h 07m 17s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 38.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Today is the two hundred forty-second birthday, from 1775, of the United States Navy (initially the Continental Navy). On this day in 1862, the Wisconsin Minute Men muster in: “Company B of the 28th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment was mustered into service by Captain J. M. Trowbridge. Known as the “Waukesha Minute Men,” this company was part of the 28th Regiment, recruited during the summer of 1862 in Waukesha and Walworth Counties and organized at Camp Washburn in Milwaukee under the command of Colonel James M. Lewis of Oconomowoc. They spent the next nine weeks training at Camp Washburn before heading south on December 20, 1862.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Josh Barro writes Trump has been lying a lot about his ‘small business’ tax cut:

President Donald Trump pitched his tax plan on Wednesday in front of a crowd of truckers. He wanted them to know his business tax cuts aren’t just for rich people — benefits would also flow to regular Americans, including truckers.

“The more than 30 million Americans who have small businesses will see — listen to this — a 40% cut in their marginal tax rate,” he said. “Forty percent.”

This was a lie.

Under Trump’s plan, only 1.8% of small-business owners — about 670,000 people, all with family incomes over $400,000 — would enjoy this 40% tax cut….

Denise Clifton reports Twitter Bots Distorted the 2016 Election—Including Many Likely From Russia (“1 in 5 election-related tweets weren’t from real people, research shows”):

The day Donald Trump was elected president, nearly 2,000 Twitter accounts that had pumped out pro-Trump messages in the run-up to the vote suddenly went dark. Then, in spring 2017, these bot-controlled accounts reemerged to campaign en français for Marine Le Pen in the French election, and then once again this fall, to tweet auf Deutsch on behalf of the far-right party in Germany’s election.

The bots were part of a larger group tracked over a month-long period before the US election by University of Southern California researchers, who discovered that bots were deeply entwined in political conversation on Twitter—accounting for 1 in 5 election-related tweets. And the bots were just as effective at spreading messages as human-controlled accounts were, says USC professor and lead researcher Emilio Ferrara, who has studied the influence of bot networks since 2012. “Botnets accrued retweets at the same rate as humans,” he says of the pre-election activity. His most recent research explores how bots are particularly effective at getting a message to go viral among authentic human users.

Ferrara has found that up to 15 percent of all Twitter accounts are run by automated bots. He focuses on understanding bots’ effectiveness, though he doesn’t track their provenance. But researchers for the cybersecurity firm FireEye told the New York Times recently they had determined that possibly thousands of Twitter accounts that campaigned against Hillary Clinton likely were controlled by Russian interests, including many automated by bots….

Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin report Facebook takes down data and thousands of posts, obscuring reach of Russian disinformation:

Social media analyst Jonathan Albright got a call from Facebook the day after he published research last week showing that the reach of the Russian disinformation campaign was almost certainly larger than the company had disclosed. While the company had said 10 million people read Russian-bought ads, Albright had data suggesting that the audience was at least double that — and maybe much more — if ordinary free Facebook posts were measured as well.

Albright welcomed the chat with three company officials. But he was not pleased to discover that they had done more than talk about their concerns regarding his research. They also had scrubbed from the Internet nearly everything — thousands of Facebook posts and the related data — that had made the work possible.

Never again would he or any other researcher be able to run the kind of analysis he had done just days earlier….

Trevor Timm contends Trump’s threats amount to a First Amendment violation:

Many have commented on the First Amendment implications if Trump were to actually go after NBC’s license (or really, the licenses of local affiliates since NBC itself doesn’t need a license) or the NFL’s tax status. But Trump need not act on his threats for his actions to be considered a First Amendment violation. There’s a compelling argument Trump is in violation of Constitution right now—after he crossed the line from criticism of protected speech to openly threatening government action.

There’s plenty of case law on this subject from the Supreme Court to appeals courts around the country. Most recently, in a case in the Seventh Circuit called BackPage LLC vs. Thomas Dart, Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, just-retired Judge Richard Posner articulated exactly why Trump may already be running afoul of the First Amendment merely through his threats.

In Backpage, Dart embarked on a one-man campaign to get Visa and Mastercard to cut off credit card donations to Backpage.com because of its adult section. Instead of prosecuting Backpage for any specific violation, he sent letters pressuring the credit card companies to cut off any payments to Backpage.com for any reason, since some of the Backpage ads, as Posner wrote, “might be for illegal sex-related products or services.”

Posner, citing several decades of case law, made it clear that if the Sheriff can’t sue or prosecute Backpage for legitimate violations of the law, he can’t then turn around and use his power as a government official to make threatening statements in an attempt to censor them in other ways:

a public official who tries to shut down an avenue of expression of ideas and opinions through “actual or threatened imposition of government power or sanction” is violating the First Amendment. American Family Association, Inc. v. City & County of San Francisco, 277 F.3d 1114, 1125 (9th Cir. 2002).

When Trump veers into actual threats of government action for speech he doesn’t like, he is arguably crossing that same line that the Seventh Circuit, and the Supreme Court before it, has condemned.

Tech Insider explains porgs from Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

Daily Bread for 10.12.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of sixty-two. Sunrise is 7:05 AM and sunset 6:16 PM, for 11h 10m 06s of daytime. The moon is in its third quarter, with 49.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Finance Committee meets today at 5 PM.

On this day in 2000, seventeen sailors are killed in an attack on the USS Cole. On this day in 1783, Henry Dodge is born: “On this date Territorial Governor Henry Dodge was born in Vincennes, Indiana. The son of Israel Dodge and Nancy Hunter, Henry Dodge was the first Territorial Governor of Wisconsin. Prior to this position, he served as Marshall and Brigadier General of the Missouri Territory, Chief Justice of the Iowa County (Wisconsin) Court. During the Black Hawk War of 1832 he led the Wisconsin militia who ultimately brought the conflict to its tragic end. He served as Territorial Governor from July 3, 1836 to October 5, 1841 and again from May 13, 1845 to June 7, 1848. He also served as U.S. Territorial Senator from 1841 to 1846. When Wisconsin was admitted to the Union as a State, dodge was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate; he was reelected in 1851 and served from June 8, 1848, to March 3, 1857. He was also twice nominated for President and once for Vice President, all of which he declined. Henry Dodge died on June 19, 1867 in Burlington, Iowa.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Robert Kagan writes Faster, Steve Bannon. Kill! Kill!:

Rarely has a political party more deserved the destruction the Republican Party may be about to suffer at the hands of President Trump’s former strategist, ideological guru and onetime puppeteer Steve Bannon. It was obvious during the earliest days of the campaign that Trump never intended to be either the leader or the protector of the Republican Party. He had contempt for the party. For one thing, it was a proven loser. For another, it crumpled like stick figures under his steamroller. Who could respect people who fell so easily, and so willingly?…

Should we have rooted for Republican leaders to fight back? Sure. And we did. The party would be worth saving if it contained even a dozen women and men of courage. But of course if it did contain such people, it wouldn’t need saving. Today the definition of a brave Republican is someone who is not running for reelection. So rooting for them is no longer an answer. The best thing for the country may be to let the party go. Let it become the party of Trump and Bannon, and as fast as possible. Let the 35 percent of the country who believe Trump is a suitable president, or who hate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so much that they would elect Mussolini to the White House, have their party.

The rest of Republican voters should leave the party until it earns back the right to their support. They should change their registration and start voting for Democratic moderates and centrists, as some Republicans did in Virginia recently, to give them a leg up in their fight against the party’s left wing. A third party of “good Republicans” is a fantasy. This is a two-party country. To defeat one, you have to support the other, either directly or indirectly. Right now the country’s best hope is for a moderate Democratic Party that speaks for that sizable majority of Americans who recognize the peril of seven more years of Trump in the White House. Bannon is doing his part to make that happen. It’s time for Republican voters who care about this country to do theirs.

Betsy  Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report Russia Probe Now Investigating Cambridge Analytica, Trump’s ‘Psychographic’ Data Gurus:

A data firm backed by some of Donald Trump’s closest allies is now facing scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the president’s team and Russian operatives, The Daily Beast has learned.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is looking at Cambridge Analytica’s work for President Donald Trump’s campaign as part of its investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 race, according to sources familiar with the probe.

The company is in the process of turning over documents to HPSCI, according to a source familiar with the committee’s work. Another source close to the investigation said that the probe’s focus on Cambridge Analytica is “fruitful.”

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million as recently as April of this year, Bloomberg reported. Bannon, now back as the chairman of the pro-Trump media outlet Breitbart, hasn’t been publicly mentioned as a potential witness for or target of Russia investigators. He previously sat on the board of Cambridge Analytica….

Jennifer Rubin observes Evangelical conservatives are proving their harshest critics right:

For years, Democrats accused Christian conservatives of being closet theocrats, seeking to impose Christianity on the country and refusing to accept, let alone embrace, American diversity. That was a generalization, but it turned out to be more true than not.

The evangelical defense of President Trump has taken on a religious fervor immune to reason. The Post reports:

Although some say the Trump-evangelical alliance harms Christianity, it’s common to hear other conservative Christians say that Trump’s unexpected win — down to the electoral college — shows that God had a more-deliberate-than-usual hand, and has put Trump there for some reason.

Brian Kaylor, a Baptist pastor with a PhD in political communications who has written several books about religion and politics, thinks [White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders holds this view of a divine plan and it gives her confidence at the podium.

“When you have to stand up there and defend whatever he’s done, it’s more than you are defending a politician, or even a president; you are defending God’s chosen leader for this time,” he said of Trump’s defenders.

That’s stunning to the many Americans who think the divine right of kings was what we fought against in the American Revolution. A God-chosen president can do no wrong, tell no lie, make no error. And that, it seems, has been the default setting for many of Trump’s most loyal supporters among the religious right….

(N.B.: There is a powerful religious case against Trump; a conservative religious defense of Trump runs counter to this powerful case, and leads one to conclude that it may not be theology, but electoral politics, that underlies a deplorable defense of Trumpism. Indeed, Trump actually does best with evangelicals who don’t go to church.)

Michael Weiss reports The making of a Russian disinformation campaign: What it takes:

….”Between Christmas Eve 1959 and mid-February 1960,” the American journalist John Barron later recounted, “West German authorities recorded 833 separate anti-Jewish acts. Then the epidemic ceased almost as suddenly as and mysteriously as it had begun. Police arrested and interrogated 234 people. Analyzing their motives, the government concluded that 24% acted out of ‘subconscious Nazi motives;’ 8% were inspired by extreme rightist or leftist beliefs; 48% were drunks or thugs; 15% were children; and 5% were mentally deranged.”

Case, then, seemingly closed — but for a few oddities diagnosed in Patient Zero of this epidemic. The two men who had inaugurated the spree of defacements in Cologne had belonged to a minuscule West German neo-Nazi party but, as Barron noted, the authorities discovered “that they frequently made trips to East Germany and one had a Communist Party badge hidden behind his coat lapel”….

It would take a few more years, when defectors from the GDR stole across the Berlin Wall, for the true provenance of the “swastika graffiti operation” to become known.

An operation is exactly what it was, too, cooked up by General Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, who headed Department D of the First Chief Directorate of the Soviet KGB. The “D” stood for Dezinformatsiya, or disinformation, and Agayants, an austere ethnic Armenian, was very good at his job. During his tenure, he oversaw the forgery of documents alleging that the CIA planned to assassinate Indonesian President Sukarno and eliminate Turkish military officials and political actors in the interest of the then-ruling center-right Justice Party.

The 58-year-old provocation may have been a tactical success, but it was a strategic failure: West Germany stayed in NATO and remained an intact liberal democracy immune from the restoration of Hitlerism well into reunification with its eastern neighbor. But the swastika graffiti campaign remains a vivid case study of a poisonous weapon used for decades, not only by the Soviets, but also by their heir, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, in trying to influence western nations, including the course of American democracy….

NASA’s ScienceCasts presents A Display of Lights Above the Storm:

Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) are flashes and glows that appear above storms and are results of activity occurring in and below those storms. Researchers are working to better understand lightning and thunderstorms, how they form and develop over time, and why storms produce different TLEs in different circumstances.

Daily Bread for 10.11.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of sixty-two. Sunrise is 7:04 AM and sunset 6:17 PM, for 11h 12m 56s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 60.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1942, the Battle of Cape Esperance begins (concluding with an American victory the next day): “The naval battle was the second of four major surface engagements during the Guadalcanal campaign and took place at the entrance to the strait between Savo Island and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Cape Esperance (9°15’S 159°42’E) is the northernmost point on Guadalcanal, and the battle took its name from this point.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Patrick Marley reports Internal affairs: Gov. Scott Walker’s team shut unit down for exposing Lincoln Hills problems:

MADISON – The leaders of a Department of Corrections internal affairs unit that was recently shut down by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration said changes were ordered because they had done too good a job at exposing problems at the state’s juvenile prison.

A Department of Corrections spokesman discounted that contention, saying the decision to close the unit was unrelated to the wide-ranging internal investigation into Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls.

The department’s Office of Special Operations in 2014 launched a review of those two juvenile prisons, which share a campus 30 miles north of Wausau. It uncovered extensive problems that grew into a criminal investigation that has been ongoing for nearly three years.

Walker’s administration shut down the Office of Special Operations in June, contending doing so would allow it to concentrate its resources on investigating and preventing sexual assault behind bars….

Steve Wierenga, the head of the office, and Cheryl Frey, the special investigations chief, said they believe “they have done ‘too good a job’ … and are now being pulled from employee investigations because they ‘found out too much’ at (Lincoln Hills) and ‘made the DOC look bad’ ”….

Ellen Nakashima reports Israel hacked Kaspersky, then tipped the NSA that its tools had been breached:

In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm: hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.

Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government.

Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab, the global anti-virus firm under a spotlight in the United States because of suspicions that its products facilitate Russian espionage.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security instructed federal civilian agencies to identify Kaspersky Lab software on their networks and remove it on the grounds that “the risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.” The directive followed a decision by the General Services Administration to remove Kaspersky from its list of approved vendors. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering a governmentwide ban….

Courtney Kube, Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee and Savannah Guthrie report Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military:

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned….

(Trump is so ignorant that he cannot see an increase of this kind would be limited by existing treaties, and that in any event our current force is more advanced and capable than any on Earth.)

David A. Graham asks Are Trump’s Feuds With Tillerson and Corker a Prelude to War?:

….Trump keeps telegraphing a desire to start a war with North Korea. Having first drawn blood with his missile-strike on Syria, and been pleased with the reaction from the public and press, Trump seems to want more. Although the official U.S. position, as outlined by other officials, is that all options are on the table, the president keeps suggesting that really only one is on the table. Why else would he so publicly slam the door shut on Tillerson’s open channel to Pyongyang? What else might he mean when he promised that the U.S. will “do what has to be done”?

There are other indications, too. In August, after a North Korean missile test, he said, “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal statement, and as I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” (Aides said the language was improvised, and could not explain what he meant by it.)

In mid-September, at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump said that if Pyongyang’s aggression continued, the U.S. “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” also saying, “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary”….

The new Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer is available:

Daily Bread for 10.10.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of sixty-one. Sunrise is 7:03 AM and sunset 6:19 PM, for 11h 15m 46s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 71.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Google has a doodle today to commemorate the 156th birthday of Fridtjof Nansen, a “a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate” who when younger was  “a champion skier and ice skater. ” In his later years, “Nansen devoted himself primarily to the League of Nations, following his appointment in 1921 as the League’s High Commissioner for Refugees. In 1922 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of the displaced victims of the First World War and related conflicts. Among the initiatives he introduced was the “Nansen passport” for stateless persons, a certificate that used to be recognised by more than 50 countries. He worked on behalf of refugees until his sudden death in 1930, after which the League established the Nansen International Office for Refugees to ensure that his work continued. This office received the Nobel Peace Prize for 1938. His name is commemorated in numerous geographical features, particularly in the polar regions.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Nicholas Confessore and Daisuke Wakabayashi report How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics:

YouTube videos of police beatings on American streets. A widely circulated internet hoax about Muslim men in Michigan collecting welfare for multiple wives. A local news story about two veterans brutally mugged on a freezing winter night.

All of these were recorded, posted or written by Americans. Yet all ended up becoming grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that has carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin, and which is now believed to be at the center of a far-reaching Russian program to influence the 2016 presidential election.

A New York Times examination of hundreds of those posts shows that one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.

The Russian pages — with names like “Being Patriotic,” “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist” — cribbed complaints about federal agents from one conservative website, and a gauzy article about a veteran who became an entrepreneur from People magazine. They took descriptions and videos of police beatings from genuine YouTube and Facebook accounts and reposted them, sometimes lightly edited for maximum effect.

Other posts on the Russian pages used stilted language or phrases rarely found in American English. Yet their use of borrowed ideas and arguments from Americans, which were already resonating among conservatives and liberals, demonstrated a deft understanding of the political terrain. The Russians also paid Facebook to promote their posts in the feeds of American Facebook users, helping them test what content would circulate most widely, and among which audiences….

Tim Murphy writes that New York Has Voting Laws That Are Just as Bad as Many Red States:

….The reasons for New York’s voting laws are different than the racially targeted statutes and purges in places like Texas or Wisconsin, but the effect on the democratic process is nonetheless disruptive. At the time of its election last April, New York had the second-lowest turnout of any state primary in the United States last year (behind only Louisiana), and nothing seems to have changed since; in September’s Democratic municipal elections in New York City, turnout was 14 percent.

When Sanders supporters complained about New York’s voter registration law during the primary, long-time Democrats, whose patience with the candidate’s insurgency was already wearing thin, had little sympathy for voters who had forsaken their party to begin with. It is understandable that Democrats believe that Democratic candidates should be chosen by Democrats, as is the case in other states with considerably less restrictive re-registration deadlines, but that’s not what the New York system is designed to do—instead it tends to squeeze Democrats out. (Sometimes even the children of candidates miss the cut; Eric and Ivanka Trump were unable to vote for their father in last year’s primary because they had neglected to re-register as Republicans in time.)

Since last year’s primary, there have been efforts to change this. Last spring, a group of state legislators introduced legislation that would have moved up the deadline to change party registration before a primary, while still keeping the primary closed to people who didn’t agree to join the party. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a progressive who was elected four years ago with a lot of help from the pseudo-third-party Working Families Party, urged the state legislature to pass it….

(Harder to vote isn’t a principle of a free society, anywhere.)

David Frum sees  The Problem With ‘Containing’ Donald Trump:

The United States is gripped by two interlocking constitutional crises: one spectacularly visible and noisy; the other unfolding more quietly. Senator Bob Corker’s Sunday remarks to The New York Times brought the quiet crisis into full public view….

Good news: The people containing the commander-in-chief have to a considerable extent succeeded. The United States has not launched a preemptive attack on North Korea, abandoned Estonia to the Russians, canceled NAFTA, or started a trade war with China—each and every one of those outcomes a seemingly live possibility if you heeded Trump’s own words.

Bad news: The national-security services are apparently coping with Donald Trump in ways that circumvent the president’s constitutional role as commander-in-chief. One example spotlights the ways Trump’s orders are shirked by his nominal subordinates. Trump tweeted in July that the “United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” The actual policy set forth in executive orders in August will be very different: It leaves discretion to the secretary of defense to determine whether “military readiness” will be assisted or impaired by allowing transgender soldiers to continue their service….

Ben Collins, Gideon Resnick, and Spencer Ackerman report Russia Recruited YouTubers to Bash ‘Racist B*tch’ Hillary Clinton Over Rap Beats:

According to the YouTube page for “Williams and Kalvin,” the Clintons are “serial killers who are going to rape the whole nation.” Donald Trump can’t be racist because he’s a “businessman.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign was “fund[ed] by the Muslim.”

These are a sample of the videos put together by two black video bloggers calling themselves Williams and Kalvin Johnson, whose social media pages investigators say are part of the broad Russian campaign to influence American politics. Across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, they purported to offer “a word of truth” to African-American audiences.

“We, the black people, we stand in one unity. We stand in one to say that Hillary Clinton is not our candidate,” one of the men says in a November video that warned Clinton “is going to stand for the Muslim. We don’t stand for her.”

Williams and Kalvin’s content was pulled from Facebook in August after it was identified as a Russian government-backed propaganda account, The Daily Beast has confirmed with multiple sources familiar with the account and the reasons for its removal. Williams and Kalvin’s account was also suspended from Twitter in August. But the YouTube page for Williams and Kalvin remains live at press time [10.8.17]….

From a DJI Mavic Pro, it’s FRANCE SURF 2017:

Daily Bread for 10.9.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy-five. Sunrise is 7:02 AM and sunset 6:21 PM, for 11h 18m 37s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 81.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets this evening at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1861, the 1st Wisconsin Infantry musters in: “The 1st Wisconsin Infantry mustered in on October 9, 1861. It left Wisconsin for Louisville, Kentucky, and moved gradually through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia during the war. It would participate in the battles of Perryville and Chickamauga and the Siege of Atlanta. It would lose 300 men during its service. Six officers and 151 enlisted men were killed in combat and one officer and 142 enlisted men died from disease.”

Recommended for reading in full —

David Filipov reports on The notorious Kremlin-linked ‘troll farm’ and the Russians trying to take it down:

SHUSHARY, Russia — She rode into a pitch-black truck stop on a scooter, stepped out of the pouring rain into a gas station cafe on the outskirts of St. Petersburg and recounted her quest to bring down Russia’s infamous “troll farm.”

Lyudmila Savchuk is one of a disparate handful of Russian journalists, activists and legal experts who have tried to shed light on the shadowy operation that has become a focal point of U.S. investigations into Kremlin meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

And like most people who challenge the established order in today’s Russia, Savchuk and the others are jousting against a nebulous entity with apparent Kremlin ties and evident protection from government and law-enforcement agencies. For them, this is a task that entails significant risks and little chance of success.

How much the trolls affected the outcome of the U.S. election is unclear. But their omnipresence is evident on Twitter, where one recent study suggested that trolling by pro-Putin bots trolling dominates political talk about Russia, and in the comments section of publications like The Washington Post, where trolls can be found criticizing the premises, lambasting other posters and accusing one another of being trolls.

While the troll farm’s operations have stirred concerns about the reach of Kremlin propaganda across Europe and the United States, Savchuk and her cohorts are concerned about their own country….

Jason Landers reports White Supremacists Return to Charlottesville Chanting, ‘Russia is Our Friend’:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia—White supremacist Richard Spencer suddenly reappeared on Saturday night with torch-bearing supporters, two months after he organized an infamous hate march here.

Spencer and his 50 or so followers gathered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park chanting white supremacist slogans.

“They were shouting ‘You will not replace us,’ ‘Russia is our friend,’ ‘the South will rise again,’ ‘we’ll be back,’” said a University of Virginia faculty member, who wished not to be named for fear of retribution….

Michael Shear reports White House Makes Hard-Line Demands for Any ‘Dreamers’ Deal:

….The demands were developed by a half-dozen agencies and departments, officials said. But among the officials behind the demands are Stephen Miller, the president’s top policy adviser, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, both of whom have long advocated extremely aggressive efforts to prevent illegal entry into the country and crack down on undocumented immigrants already here.

The demands represented a concerted effort to broaden the expected congressional debate about the Dreamers to one about overhauling the entire American immigration system — on terms that hard-line conservatives have been pursuing for decades….

James Fallows writes that It’s What Bob Corker Does Next That Counts (“After the senator warned that Trump’s reckless threats may set the nation ‘on the path to World War III,’ the question is whether the Tennessee Republican intends to do anything about it”):

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican of Tennessee, deserves credit for saying in public this evening to The New York Times what most prominent Republicans have known and many have said (in careful privacy) over the past two years.

Namely: that Donald Trump is irrational, ill-informed, impulsive, unfit for command, and increasingly a danger to the country and the world. The man who has ultimate authority over the world’s most powerful military, including its nuclear weaponry, is recklessly issuing threats to North Korea and others that set the nation “on the path to World War III,” according to Corker—who, for the record, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” he told Jonathan Martin and Mark Landler of the Times.

This situation is not normal. It is not safe. And the group which for now has a monopoly on legislative and investigative power in Washington, Corker’s own Republican Party, has an obligation to the country’s past and its future to do something about it. Talk is better than nothing, but action is what counts….

Great Big Story describes Summiting Mountains Without Sight:

Scaling the world’s tallest mountains is a feat in and of its own—doing it while blind is extraordinary. Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind rock climber to summit the tallest peak in every continent, Mount Everest included. At a young age, Weihenmayer was diagnosed with retinoschisis, a rare eye disease that left him sightless by age 13. But he didn’t let that hold him back from seeking out adventure, proving that what others may see as a hinderance can oftentimes be your greatest asset. Now, he’s using his incredible spirit to inspire others to live a life with no barriers.

Daily Bread for 10.8.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy-eight. Sunrise is 7:01 AM and sunset 6:22 PM, for 11h 21m 27s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 90.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Aftermath of the fire, corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets, 1871.
Aftermath in Peshtigo, Wisconsin

On this day in 1871, the Great Chicago Fire, a blaze that killed hundreds, “started at about 9:00 p.m. on October 8, in or around a small barn belonging to the O’Leary family that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street.[2] The shed next to the barn was the first building to be consumed by the fire, but city officials never determined the exact cause of the blaze.[3] There has, however, been much speculation over the years. The most popular tale blames Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, who allegedly knocked over a lantern; others state that a group of men were gambling inside the barn and knocked over a lantern.[4] Still other speculation suggests that the blaze was related to other fires in the Midwest that day.[5] ” Also on this day in 1871, Peshtigo, Wisconsin “was devastated by a fire which took 1,200 lives. The fire caused over $2 million in damages and destroyed 1.25 million acres of forest. This was the greatest human loss due to fire in the history of the United States.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Ari Berman reports Trump Election Commission Leader Sought a Radical Change to a Key Voting Law (“New documents show that Kris Kobach wanted Trump to make it much harder to register to vote”):

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chair of President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission, urged the Trump administration to weaken a key federal voting law, according to documents released by a federal court on Thursday. Kobach called for amending the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to offer voter registration at the DMV and other federal agencies, to allow states to require proof of citizenship in order to register—a requirement that has blocked tens of thousands from the polls in Kansas.

On November 20, 2016, Kobach met with Trump at the president-elect’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Kobach was a top adviser to Trump on immigration and voting issues and at the time was under consideration to lead the Department of Homeland Security. As he greeted Trump, Kobach was photographed holding a white paper outlining the “Kobach Strategic Plan for the Next 365 Days.”

Though partially obscured, the document revealed a wish-list of radical policies for the Trump era that included “extreme vetting” and tracking of “all aliens from high-risk areas,” reducing the “intake of Syrian refugees to zero,” deporting a “record number of criminal aliens in the first year,” and the “rapid build” of a wall along the US-Mexico border.

At the bottom of the document was a section called “Stop Aliens From Voting,” where Kobach said he wanted to “Draft Amendment to National Voter Registration Act to promote proof-of-citizenship requirements.” On Thursday, in response to a lawsuit from the ACLU, a federal court ordered Kobach to release the document to the public, along with a draft of his proposed amendment. Those documents show how Kobach would alter one of the country’s most important voting rights laws by adding a new requirement that would make it much more difficult for Americans to register. (Kobach wrote to Trump’s transition team the day after the election and made the same policy recommendation.)

Kobach’s proposal is modeled after a law in Kansas requiring citizenship documents to register to vote, such as a birth certificate, a passport, or naturalization papers. Since the law went into effect in 2013, one in seven Kansans trying to register has been prevented from doing so. Nearly half of those 30,000 people have been under the age of 30. A federal appeals court blocked a key part of the law last year, ruling that “there was an almost certain risk that thousands of otherwise qualified Kansans would be unable to vote in November.” Kobach has appealed that ruling….

David Daley writes How the GOP Made Your Vote Useless:

Ed Gillespie masterminded the devastating 2010 GOP strategy to retake Washington by winning crucial state and local elections that brought the power to redistrict the U.S. House.

His plan, aptly dubbed REDMAP, worked so well that Republicans captured almost 700 state legislature seats in an epic rebuke of Barack Obama and Democrats nationwide. The true spoils of that victory came the following year. New GOP majorities in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania reinvented the gerrymander as a blunt-force partisan weapon.

It took Democrats many years to realize how long-lasting the consequences of 2010 would be. Now—just as the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Gill v Whitford, a landmark case that could create the first-ever constitutional standard to define when a partisan gerrymander goes too far—Democrats have realized that the future of their party will be determined down-ballot. Gillespie, the godfather of the GOP gerrymander and the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, is their most crucial target.

A Gillespie win, combined with well-cemented Republican majorities in the state assembly and senate, would lock in GOP control when new legislative districts for statewide and congressional races are drawn in 2021….

David Corn writes Did Russia Hack the 2016 Vote Tally? This Senator Says We Don’t Know for Sure:

At a packed press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, provided a progress report on his panel’s investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal. Naturally, this is a touchy and dicey matter for a Republican, and Burr tried to make some points that appeared designed to limit President Donald Trump’s political vulnerabilities on this front.

First, Burr declared that although Russian hackers had probed or penetrated the election systems of at least 21 states, he could confidently state that the Russian meddling in the 2016 election resulted in no changes to the vote tallies. That is, there’s no reason to question Trump’s Electoral College win. And second, Burr said that Russia’s use of Facebook ads during the presidential campaign seemed “indiscriminate” and not designed to help a particular candidate—meaning the recent revelations do not bolster the case that Trump was the Kremlin’s choice.

“The chairman said that he can say ‘certifiably’ that there was no vote tampering. I do not agree with this judgment.”

But Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), a feisty member of the intelligence committee, says both assertions are bunk. In an interview with Mother Jones on Thursday, Wyden argued that Burr’s confidence in the election system was unwarranted. “The chairman said that he can say ‘certifiably’ that there was no vote tampering,” said Wyden. “I do not agree with this judgment. I don’t think it is possible to know that. There was no systematic analysis of the voting or forensic evaluations of the voting machines.”

Wyden pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security has noted that its assessment that there was no finagling with the vote count was made with only “moderate confidence.” For Wyden, that’s not good enough for such a sensitive and significant matter—and it sends the misguided signal that the voting system is doing just fine. Wyden believes that’s the wrong message. This week he sent a letter to the major manufacturers of voting machines demanding information about how they protect themselves from cyberattacks.

Wyden also said that Burr erred in declaring that the Russian Facebook ads—some of which targeted swing states—did not favor a presidential candidate. (Presumably Wyden has seen or been briefed on the content of the ads.) “That’s one reason why the ads need to be released to the American people,” Wyden remarked, “so Americans can make up their minds”….

Donnie Sullivan reports an Exclusive: Russian-linked group sold merchandise online:

“Young, gifted and black.” “Melanin and muscles.” “Our sons matter.” The slogans on the clothing that a group called “Blacktivist” offered for sale through Facebook were supposed to look like they came from American Black Lives Matter activists. But they were in fact being promoted by a Russian-linked group working to amplify political discord in the U.S. before the presidential election.

CNN first reported last week that “Blacktivist” accounts on Facebook and Twitter had regularly shared content intended to stoke outrage in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election. The accounts have been suspended and are among those handed over to Congress as part of its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

 The page appears to have sold fewer than 100 items of Blacktivist-branded merchandise, but the actual amount of clothing sold is less significant than what the effort represented: A move by the people behind Blacktivist to go beyond social media and spread their influence into the physical world. The Blacktivist Facebook page also promoted at least seven rallies and demonstrations around the U.S. in 2016.

Related: Exclusive: Fake black activist accounts linked to Russian government

Jonathon Morgan, the founder of New Knowledge, a company that tracks the spread of misinformation online, says the promotion of events and the sale of merchandise is straight out of the Russian misinformation handbook, and that it “fits a pattern of Russian propagandists’ attempts at appearing as authentic Americans participating in politics”….

(One can expect future, more effective Russian attempts if reliable counter-measures are not adopted. See Pell Center Study Warns Russia Threat is Bigger than the 2016 Election.)

Among all animals, these are the animals that travel the farthest:

Daily Bread for 10.7.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be rainy with a high of seventy-four. Sunrise is 7 AM and sunset 6:24 PM, for 11h 24m 18s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 95.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1765, the Stamp Act Congress (First Congress of the American Colonies) convenes in New York, with elected representatives from nine colonies meeting to form a common opposition to the Stamp Act. On this day in 1774, Wisconsin becomes part of Quebec: “On this date Britain passed the Quebec Act, making Wisconsin part of the province of Quebec. Enacted by George III, the act restored the French form of civil law to the region. The Thirteen Colonies considered the Quebec Act as one of the “Intolerable Acts,” as it nullified Western claims of the coast colonies by extending the boundaries of the province of Quebec to the Ohio River on the south and to the Mississippi River on the west. [Source: Avalon Project at the Yale Law School].”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Phillip Bump writes FEMA buried updates on Puerto Rico. Here they are:


….We’ve taken that data for the past week or so and created a tool that will show you not only the status of each of the metrics tracked by Status.pr but also how those numbers have improved (or haven’t) over time. It updates every hour, showing the most recent numbers for any given day.

Experts predict that it will take months to repair the electrical grid enough that most residents of the island have power. For months, then, the numbers above will be below 100 percent, a constant reminder of how much work the administration still has to do before Puerto Rican society has been restored to where it was before Hurricane Maria hit.

FEMA would rather not broadcast that slow progress. So we will.

(FEMA denies intentional removal to conceal bad news that contradicts Trump’s assertions, but offers no explanation why data relevant to FEMA’s role was not included on its 10.6.17 website update.)

David A Graham asks Why Did FEMA Remove Stats About Puerto Rico’s Recovery? (“As in the case of data about climate change and occupational safety, the Trump administration has quietly pulled down bleak numbers about electricity and drinking water after Hurricane Maria”):

….With the post-Hurricane Maria relief effort in Puerto Rico still a long way from complete, there are sobering statistics about conditions on the island. Less than 11 percent of people have electricity. Just 42 percent have working phones. Barely half have access to drinking water. And until this week, anyone visiting FEMA’s page for the Maria recovery effort could have found that information. But then, as The Washington Post first noticed, they’re gone now. FEMA still has some information there, including road status, but the bleakest numbers are gone.

FEMA’s answer is that the numbers are all available on an official Puerto Rican page, which is true. “Our mission is to support the governor and his response priorities through the unified command structure to help Puerto Ricans recover and return to routines. Information on the stats you are specifically looking for are readily available,” a spokesman told the Post. That’s all fair enough, but it doesn’t explain why FEMA was posting those numbers, or why it stopped now.

The deletion of the statistics both fits with the Trump administration’s pattern of treating Maria largely as a matter of so-called optics, the concern with how things look rather than how they are, and with its past tendency to remove public posting of data that cuts against its message in other realms. As a federal project, Maria poses a particularly difficult task: The scale of the destruction on Puerto Rico is bad, even for a major hurricane, and the territory’s remoteness makes it harder to move resources to than other American land. Brock Long, the head of FEMA, has described it as the biggest logistical challenge in American disaster history, and experts broadly agree. As both professional disaster managers and journalists like me have pointed out, while any delay is frustrating to those enduring it, the difficulties are real….

Ivan Nechepuuenko reports Putin Says Russia Has ‘Many Friends’ in U.S. Who Can Mend Relations:

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Wednesday that relations with America had “become hostage to the internal political situation in the U.S.,” but that his country had many friends in the United States who can help improve relations between the two nations when the political tensions in America settle down.

“Certain forces use the Russian-American ties to solve internal political problems in the U.S.,” Mr. Putin said at a high-profile energy development forum in Moscow. “We are patiently waiting until this process in the internal political life in America will end.”

Ties between Moscow and Washington have ebbed and flowed since President Trump took office, despite Russian lawmakers’ Champagne toast after election night in hopes that Mr. Trump would make significant moves in Russia’s favor….

(Those who are Putin’s friends in America are either fellow travelers or, worse, fifth columnists actively supporting his regime. Putin, himself, is responsible for the legitimate grievances against him: annexing part of Ukraine, fomenting an ongong war in eastern Ukraine thereafter, interfering in the American democratic process, ceaseless hacking against the United States military and domestic companies & citizens, and human rights violations at home, including the frequent jailing, torture, and murder of dissidents in Russia & elsewhere in Europe. He is a liar, dictator, and murderer.)

Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Adam Entous report Trump’s company had more contact with Russia during campaign, according to documents turned over to investigators:

….Details of the communications were turned over by the Trump Organization in August to the White House, defense lawyers and government investigators and described to The Washington Post.

Though there is no evidence that these Russia-related entreaties resulted in further action, the email communications about them show that Trump’s inner circle continued receiving requests from Russians deep into the presidential campaign.

After WikiLeaks began to publish emails from the Democratic National Committee that were widely believed to have been hacked at the direction of Moscow, Trump said on several occasions that he had no financial ties to Russia. In July 2016, he tweeted, “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”

But the new disclosures add to an emerging picture in which Trump’s business and campaign were repeatedly contacted by Russians with interests in business and politics. Trump’s son, his son-in-law, his campaign chairman, low-level foreign policy advisers and, now, Cohen, one of his closest business confidants, all fielded such inquiries in the weeks before or after Trump accepted the nomination.

The documents also underscore the Trump company’s long-standing interest in doing business in Moscow….

Simon Whistler explains Who Invented the Chicken Nugget:

Daily Bread for 10.6.17

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a high of sixty-eight, and a probability of afternoon thundershowers. Sunrise is 6:59 AM and sunset 6:26 PM, for 11h 27m 10s of daytime. The moon is full, with 99.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred thirty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1927, The Jazz Singer has its premiere in New York City. On this day in 1917, Robert La Follette supports free speech in wartime: “Senator Robert La Follette gave what may have been the most famous speech of his Senate career when he responded to charges of treason with a three hour defense of free speech in wartime. La Follette had voted against a declaration of war as well as several initiatives seen as essential to the war effort by those that supported U.S. involvement in the first World War. His resistance was met with a petition to the Committee on Privileges and Elections that called for La Follette’s expulsion from the Senate. The charges were investigated, but La Follette was cleared of any wrong doing by the committee on January 16, 1919.”

Recommended for reading in full —

Joseph Bernstein writes Here’s How Breitbart And Milo [Yiannopoulos] Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream (“A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon’s alt-right ‘killing machine.’ “):

“Finally doing my big feature on the alt right,” Yiannopoulos wrote in a March 9, 2016, email to Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a hacker who is the system administrator of the neo-Nazi hub the Daily Stormer, and who would later ask his followers to disrupt the funeral of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer. “Fancy braindumping some thoughts for me.”

“It’s time for me to do my big definitive guide to the alt right,” Yiannopoulos wrote four hours later to Curtis Yarvin, a software engineer who under the nom de plume Mencius Moldbug helped create the “neoreactionary” movement, which holds that Enlightenment democracy has failed and that a return to feudalism and authoritarian rule is in order. “Which is my whorish way of asking if you have anything you’d like to make sure I include.”

“Alt r feature, figured you’d have some thoughts,” Yiannopoulos wrote the same day to Devin Saucier, who helps edit the online white nationalist magazine American Renaissance under the pseudonym Henry Wolff, and who wrote a story in June 2017 called “Why I Am (Among Other Things) a White Nationalist.”

The three responded at length: Weev about the Daily Stormer and a podcast called The Daily Shoah, Yarvin in characteristically sweeping world-historical assertions (“It’s no secret that North America contains many distinct cultural/ethnic communities. This is not optimal, but with a competent king it’s not a huge problem either”), and Saucier with a list of thinkers, politicians, journalists, films (DuneMad MaxThe Dark Knight), and musical genres (folk metal, martial industrial, ’80s synthpop) important to the movement. Yiannopoulos forwarded it all, along with the Wikipedia entries for “Alternative Right” and the esoteric far-right Italian philosopher Julius Evola — a major influence on 20th-century Italian fascists and Richard Spencer alike — to Allum Bokhari, his deputy and frequent ghostwriter, whom he had met during GamerGate. “Include a bit of everything,” he instructed Bokhari.

“Bannon, as you probably know, is sympathetic to much of it.”

“I think you’ll like what I’m cooking up,” Yiannopoulos wrote to Saucier, the American Renaissance editor.

“I look forward to it,” Saucier replied. “Bannon, as you probably know, is sympathetic to much of it.”

Five days later Bokhari returned a 3,000-word draft, a taxonomy of the movement titled “ALT-RIGHT BEHEMOTH.” It included a little bit of everything: the brains and their influences (Yarvin and Evola, etc.), the “natural conservatives” (people who think different ethnic groups should stay separate for scientific reasons), the “Meme team” (4chan and 8chan), and the actual hatemongers. Of the last group, Bokhari wrote: “There’s just not very many of them, no-one really likes them, and they’re unlikely to achieve anything significant in the alt-right.”

“Magnificent start,” Yiannopoulos responded….

Andrea Bernstein, Jesse Eisinger, Justin Elliott, and Ilya Marritz explain How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment:

In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included e-mails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

In one e-mail, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coördinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the e-mails, they worried that a reporter might be on to them. In yet another, Donald, Jr., spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the e-mail chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the e-mail. There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” one person who saw the e-mails told us. “They knew it was wrong.”

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal-defense lawyers to represent Donald, Jr., and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, entered the case.

Kasowitz, who by then had been the elder Donald Trump’s attorney for a decade, is primarily a civil litigator, with little experience in criminal matters. But, in 2012, Kasowitz donated twenty-five thousand dollars to the reëlection campaign of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance’s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower-level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the investigation be dropped….

(Although not ending with an indictment, evidence gathered in this matter might be used in a subsequent prosecution to show a pattern of dishonesty.)

Chris Strohm reports that Russian Hackers Stole NSA Information From Contractor, Source Says:

Russian hackers obtained classified information about National Security Agency cybersecurity programs after breaching a personal computer used by an agency contractor in 2015, according to a person familiar with the matter.

 The contractor, who wasn’t identified, took the classified material home, where Russian hackers stole it by exploiting vulnerabilities in Kaspersky Lab Inc. software that he had on his computer, according to the person, who asked not to be identified….

See also Russian Kaspersky Lab faces new scrutiny, suspicionKaspersky Lab Antivirus Software Is Ordered Off U.S. Government Computers.

Josh Dawsey, Emily Stephenson, and Andrea Peterson report that John Kelly’s personal cell phone was compromised, White House believes:

White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December, according to three U.S. government officials.

The discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly’s phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing.

Tech support staff discovered the suspected breach after Kelly turned his phone in to White House tech support this summer complaining that it wasn’t working or updating software properly.

Kelly told the staffers the phone hadn’t been working properly for months, according to the officials.

White House aides prepared a one-page September memo summarizing the incident, which was circulated throughout the administration….

Monarchs by the Millions Await in the Butterfly Forest:

(You may have heard that a local official’s address would be a wonderful opportunity, and that one should be fortunate for it. No, and no again: wonder is to be found elsewhere, in other places, among them the created, natural order.)

Daily Bread for 10.5.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-two. Sunrise is 6:57 AM and sunset 6:27 PM, for 11h 30m 02s of daytime. The moon is full. Today is the three hundred thirtieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission is scheduled to meet at 6 PM, and her Fire Department to hold a business meeting at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1931, Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon complete the first non-stop trans-Pacific flight, flying from Japan to Washington state. On this day in 1846, Wisconsin’s first state constitutional convention meets: “[t]The Convention sat until December 16,1846. The Convention was attended by 103 Democrats and 18 Whigs. The proposed constitution failed when voters refused to accept several controversial issues: an anti-banking article, a homestead exemption (which gave $1000 exemption to any debtor), providing women with property rights, and black suffrage. The following convention, the Second Constitutional Convention of Wisconsin in 1847-48, produced and passed a constitution that Wisconsin still very much follows today. [Source: The Convention of 1846 edited Milo M. Quaife].”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Nicholas Fandos reports that Senate Intelligence Heads Warn That Russian Election Meddling Continues:

WASHINGTON — The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered a stark warning on Wednesday to political candidates: Expect Russian operatives to remain active and determined to again try to sow chaos in elections next month and next year.

At a rare news conference, Senators Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the committee’s chairman, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and its vice chairman, broadly endorsed the conclusions of American spy agencies that said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a campaign of hacking and propaganda to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

“The Russian intelligence service is determined — clever — and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously,” Mr. Burr said.

“You can’t walk away from this and believe that Russia’s not currently active,” he added….

Jim Ludes writes Pell Center Study Warns Russia Threat is Bigger than the 2016 Election:

….The conference [proceedings of a closed conference held at the Pell Center on the campus of Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, in June of 2017, drawing together 36 researchers, technologists, scholars, journalists, and policy experts from North America, Europe, and Australia] produced several specific recommendations:

Improve transparency and raise public awareness of the threat. Specifically, the Pell Center authors call for the appointment of an independent bipartisan commission to establish a widely-accepted understanding of Russia’s actions, means, and objectives in the 2016 U.S. election. Specifically, the study highlights the need for a public accounting of irregular social media activity in battleground states prior to the 2016 election as well as on-going social media efforts to sow division in the United States.  Ludes and Jacobson also call on the news media to review, and if necessary revise, their standards and practices so that they don’t become unwitting vehicles for foreign propaganda.  Social media platforms, themselves, must be regulated and held to federal standards of transparency when it comes to political advertising.  Finally, the study recommends public and private investment in the investigations and reporting needed to educate the American public about a threat that has not waned.

Prepare the executive branch for a new cold war. Organizations from the White House to the intelligence community need to be reviewed for their efficacy in meeting the propaganda challenge to the West, according to Ludes and Jacobson. The White House must communicate to Con­gress the need for any new authorizations to meet this threat. It must also request suf­ficient appropriations for these activities and prosecute these programs vigorously. The authors called on the Trump administration, as well, to provide the diplomatic leadership required for an international response to the common challenge posed by Russian intervention in the democratic processes of the West.

Congress must lead. Ludes and Jacobson argue that in the absence of clear executive branch willingness or readiness to lead on this issue, the U.S. Congress must take the initiative. It can do so by elimi­nating “dark-money” in American politics; requiring more transparency by corporations operating in the United States; embracing bipartisanship in the defense of American democracy; and reforming the laws governing the activities of foreign agents operating in the United States—to begin by considering legislative changes that would require state-sponsored media outlets, such as RT and Sputnik, to publicly reveal their sources of funding.

Invest in the American people. Finally, the authors of the Pell Center conference report urged the public to once again consider education a national pri­ority and the cornerstone for an effective defense of democracy. Russia, they argue, “exploited Amer­ica’s media illiteracy, our civic illiteracy, and our historical illiteracy.” The Pell Center study calls for increased funding for programs to increase the public’s resistance to influence by foreign powers.

“Shatter the House of Mirrors” is available for download here.

Dan Friedman writes that Trump Still Hasn’t Gotten Around to Appointing Someone to Protect Our Elections From Cyberattacks (“The National Protection and Programs Directorate remains leaderless 10 months after Trump promised to get cybersecurity personnel in place”):

On January 6, after intelligence agencies briefed Donald Trump on cyberattacks against the United States during the election, he pledged to “appoint a team to give [him] a plan within 90 days of taking office.” Ten months later, Trump not only lacks that cybersecurity plan, he doesn’t even have the team.

The president has still not nominated anyone for arguably the most important cybersecurity job in the government, Homeland Security undersecretary running the department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, which oversees private and public networks in the United States. Trump has also failed to nominate a new chief for the entire department since former DHS Secretary John Kelly left to become White House chief of staff. Kelly’s former job is among nine out of 14 top DHS posts that currently are filled by acting officials or remain vacant.

Trumps refusal to accept the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that Russia used cyberattacks to help him win the presidential election has of course gained wide notice. But critics say his head-in the-sand stance has more quietly hamstrung his entire his entire administration, impeding government-wide efforts to prepare for expected meddling by Russian hackers and others in the 2018 midterm elections….

By Thomas Grove, Julian E. Barnes, and Drew Hinshaw report that Russia Targets NATO Soldier Smartphones, Western Officials Say:

Russia has opened a new battlefront with NATO, according to Western military officials, by exploiting a point of vulnerability for almost all allied soldiers: their personal smartphones.

Troops, officers and government officials of North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries said Russia has carried out a campaign to compromise soldiers’ smartphones. The aim, they say, is to gain operational information, gauge troop strength and intimidate soldiers….

NASA happily notes that the New Horizons Discoveries Keep Coming:

Daily Bread for 10.4.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-two. Sunrise is 6:56 AM and sunset 6:29 PM, for 11h 32m 54s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred twenty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1957, the Soviet Union launches the world’s first satellite into orbit: “The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It was a 58 cm (23 in) diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses. Its radio signal was easily detectable even by amateurs, and the 65° inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth. This surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments.”

On this day in 1897, a union is chartered: “At the time of organization, seven-eighths of the woodworkers labored for twelve-hour days, five days a week, for no more than $1.10 a day. Further, women were employed at lesser wages and boys worked for forty cents a day. Frank J. Weber, American Federation of Labor and Wisconsin Federation of Labor general organizer, visited the city and spoke to a large audience of Oshkosh woodworkers. Four days later Local 29 initiated one hundred new members and Local 49 gained thirty-nine laborers. [Source: The Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike of 1898: A Wisconsin Community in Crisis by Virginia Glenn Crane]”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Manu Raju, Dylan Byers and Dana Bash report that Exclusive: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin:

A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said.

It has been unclear until now exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the ads. And while one source said that a large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections, some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.

Michigan saw the closest presidential contest in the country — Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 10,700 votes out of nearly 4.8 million ballots cast. Wisconsin was also one of the tightest states, and Trump won there by only about 22,700 votes. Both states, which Trump carried by less than 1%, were key to his victory in the Electoral College.

The sources did not specify when in 2016 the ads ran in Michigan and Wisconsin.

As part of their investigations, both special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are seeking to determine whether the Russians received any help from Trump associates in where to target the ads….

Tony Romm reports that Twitter and Facebook haven’t stopped Russia-backed RT from advertising on their websites:

Twitter has continued to allow a Russian government-supported news network to advertise on its platform, even though the tech company sounded alarms about its ads to lawmakers investigating the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a meeting with House and Senate investigators last week, Twitter executives shared more than 1,800 promoted tweets from Russia Today, known as RT, and its three main accounts on the site. Some of the ads, valued in total at about $274,000, sought to promote RT’s own stories, including those that sharply attacked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Twitter’s decision to share that information with Congress followed a report by the U.S. government’s top intelligence agencies, which slammed RT in January as the “Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” Despite those concerns, though, the news network’s three Twitter accounts — @RT_com, @RT_America and @ActualidadRT — remain fully operational. And Twitter has not banned RT from advertising, according to a source familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook, meanwhile, similarly has not shut down RT’s official pages, one of which boasts more than 4.5 million followers. Nor has Facebook targeted any new advertising restrictions against the news network, a spokesman for the social giant told Recode, before adding they are monitoring the situation. Facebook nonetheless finds itself in congressional crosshairs for Russian-sponsored misinformation circulated in posts and advertisements before Election Day.

Google is still reviewing its platform for potential Russian interference. So far, it has not yet announced any findings or steps to harden its review process, and a spokeswoman declined to comment for this story. But RT videos had been viewed about 800 million times on Google-owned YouTube between the video platform’s founding in 2005 and the U.S. government’s January 2017 analysis of the election….

(See James Kirchick’s RT wants to spread Moscow’s propaganda here. Let’s treat it that way:”It should register as an agent of a foreign government.”)

Elias Groll reports GOP Congressman Met in Moscow With Kremlin-Linked Lawyer at Center of Russia Investigation:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during a 2016 trip to Moscow, a previously undisclosed tête-à-tête that sheds additional light on the extent to which Moscow-based political operatives sought to influence American officials in the run-up to last year’s presidential election….

While in Moscow, Rohrabacher and his staff met with a variety of Russian officials and received a collection of documents stamped “confidential” alleging that Browder had duped American lawmakers into passing the sanctions bill, according to the Daily Beast. The document was supplied by officials in the Russian prosecutor-general’s office and raised the possibility that repealing the sanctions law could lead to improved relations between Moscow and Washington.

Paul Behrends, a top Rohrabacher aide, was removed from his job as staff director of the foreign affairs subcommittee chaired by the California Republican after news of his involvement in the meeting was made public.

A vocal advocate of warmer relations between Russia and the United States, Rohrabacher has repeatedly gained the attention of Kremlin officials, who view him as one of their few reliable allies in Congress. In 2012, the FBI even warned Rohrabacher that Russian spies were attempting to recruit him, according to the New York Times.

News Front, based in Crimea, publishes a mix of aggregated and original news in six languages, including Russian and English. One former employee alleges that it is financed by Russian security services, a claim News Front denies.

Amy Howe has an Argument analysis: Cautious optimism for challengers in Wisconsin redistricting case?:

Today may have been only the second day of the Supreme Court’s new term, but it may also prove to be one of the biggest. The justices heard oral argument in Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to the redistricting plan passed by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. A federal court struck down the plan last year, agreeing with the plaintiffs that it violated the Constitution because it was the product of partisan gerrymandering – that is, the practice of purposely drawing district lines to favor one party and put another at a disadvantage. After roughly an hour of oral argument this morning, the justices seemed to agree that partisan gerrymandering is, as Justice Samuel Alito acknowledged, “distasteful.” But there was no apparent agreement about whether courts could or should get involved in policing the practice.The case arose after Republicans won majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature and captured the governor’s office, giving them control over the maps that were drawn after the 2010 census. In the 2012 elections, Republicans won slightly less than half of the statewide vote, which translated into 60 seats in the state’s 99-seat assembly; by contrast, Democrats won just over half of the statewide vote but garnered only 39 seats. Two years later, Republicans won 52% of the vote and 63 seats, while Democrats won approximately 48% of the vote and 36 seats.

A group of challengers argued that the new redistricting plan amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. They contended that the new plan sought to dilute Democratic votes across the state, using two methods: “cracking,” which divides up supporters of one party among different districts so that they do not form a majority in any of them; and “packing,” which puts large numbers of a party’s supporters in relatively few districts, where they win by large margins.

The dispute went to a divided three-judge district court, which Congress has designated as the forum for redistricting challenges. That court regarded the case as an easy one. Although it may sometimes be difficult to tell when politics plays too influential a role in redistricting, the lower court conceded, this case is “far more straightforward”: The Republican-controlled legislature drafted a redistricting plan to lock in the party’s control of the state legislature, even though it could have created a different plan that would have accomplished redistricting goals without giving Republicans such a partisan advantage….

(Howe published her analysis on her own website and at the highly-regarded SCOTUSblog.)

The Atlantic Series presents The Harrowing Personal Stories of Syrian Refugees, in Their Own Words:

“I don’t think the human mind is able to understand the suffering we’ve experienced,” says a man in Matthew K. Firpo’s short documentary, Refuge. Filmed on location in 2016 in four different refugee camps across Greece—outside Athens and on the islands of Lesvos and Leros—the film allows victims of the Syrian Civil War to share their experiences. One man describes how his sewing factory was completely destroyed, leaving him penniless and starving. Another man says he was jailed and tortured for attempting to distribute food; his brother was killed shortly thereafter. Some lost everyone and everything. “Wherever I went in Syria, I saw the injured and the dead,” yet another refugee recounts. For Firpo and his production team, Refuge was a passion project fueled by “wanting to know more about the people living these headlines. I wanted to know more about their stories, about what they had lost, what they had left behind, and where they hoped their lives were headed. While news coverage focused on the problem, it often forgot about the human being.”

For more information on the film, visit the Refuge website.

Daily Bread for 10.3.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of eighty. Sunrise is 6:55 AM and sunset 6:31 PM, for 11h 35m 46s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 945.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred twenty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1941, The Maltese Falcon premieres in New York City.

On this day in 1862, the 17th Wisconsin Infantry fights at Corinth: “On this date at Corinth, the 17th Wisconsin Infantry, also known as the Irish Brigade, led a bayonet charge with the Gaelic battle cry “Faugh a ballagh!” or “Clear the Way.” The 17th Wisconsin Infantry unit also participated in the Atlanta campaign and the March to the Sea during the Civil War, and was disbanded at the end of the war. [Source: Bishops to Bootleggers: A Biographical Guide to Resurrection Cemetery, p.94]”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Steve Kovach observes that Facebook’s response to fake Russian ads is not going to cut it:

Last month the company disclosed that it found about 3,000 ads that ran during the 2016 US election that were run by fake accounts linked to Russia. While the company hasn’t shown the ads publicly, there’s evidence that they were designed to influence voters by promoting polarizing topics. It was a wild abuse of Facebook’s automated ad platform.

Facebook’s answer: Throw bodies at the problem.

Facebook announced on Monday that it would hire 1,000 people in the coming months to monitor automated ads on the social network and remove those that don’t meet its guidelines. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the same response Facebook had in May after a string of incidents where users live-streamed suicides and killings. Facebook said then that it would hire 3,000 new content moderators on top of the 4,500 it already had.

In addition to the 1,000 new hires announced Monday, Facebook said it’s going to beef up its algorithms using machine learning to automatically detect abusive ads.

Ignoring the obvious fact that these moves come far too late, there’s still a massive lack of transparency about what Facebook says will make its advertising more transparent.

Here’s what we still don’t know:

Are the new employees who will be monitoring content full time staffers or contractors?

Where are they based?

What kind of training will they go through and what specifically are they looking for?

What kind of machine learning improvements will Facebook make and what kind of content will the algorithm start flagging that it isn’t flagging today?

Is Facebook working with the FEC and other governments to come up with ad monitoring standards, or is it developing these standards on its own?

Facebook didn’t say, and a spokesperson declined to comment beyond the company’s formal announcement from Monday morning….

Adam Entous, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin report that Russian Facebook ads showed a black woman firing a rifle, amid efforts to stoke racial strife:

One of the Russian-bought advertisements that Facebook shared with congressional investigators on Monday featured photographs of an armed black woman “dry firing” a rifle — pulling the trigger of the weapon without a bullet in the chamber, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Investigators believe the advertisement may have been designed to encourage African American militancy and, at the same time, to stoke fears within white communities, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the probe. But the precise purpose of the ad remains unclear to investigators, the people said.

The apparent tactic underscores how the Russians used U.S.-based technology platforms to target Americans with highly tailored and sometimes-contradictory messages to exploit divisions in American society over the past two years….

David Frum hears A Presidential Speech Steeped in Hypocrisy (“Trump would have done better to say a few things that sound real than a great many that sound false”):

….Trump’s speech to the nation after the Las Vegas atrocity, however, was steeped in hypocrisy. He is the least outwardly religious president of modern times, the president least steeped in scripture. For him to offer the consolations of God and faith after mass bloodletting is to invite derision. “It is love that defines us,” said President Trump, and if we weren’t heartbroken, we would laugh….

But whereas Vice President Pence could have pronounced those words with sincerity, or a convincing simulacrum thereof, Donald Trump looked shifty, nervous, and false. Speeches are watched as well as heard, and the viewer saw a president who wished he were somewhere else because he had been compelled to pretend something so radically false to his own nature….

What he can do is acknowledge his own nature and character, and speak as himself, in his own tones and accents, and without the religion in which he gives no evidence of believing and in which he is so poorly at home. “This is a terrible day. We are all saddened and outraged. We’ll learn more. If any criminals are still at large, we’ll hunt them down.” It’s better to say a few things that sound real than a great many that sound false….

(Frum is a secular Jew, and so easily discerns how unaccustomed to religious discussion Trump is, however different Trump & Frum are in every other respect; others of us are religious, and candidly, we can hear the same from an opposite perspective.)

Stef W. Knight offers Good news: 10 things humanity is getting right [listing three of her full list]:

Teen pregnancies are down by 51% from ten years ago, an extraordinarily fast social change compared to adult smoking, which took 40 years to reduce by half. Experts attribute the phenomenon to better use of birth control, as teenage girls were found to be just as likely to be sexually active in 2007 as 2012.

Oil independence: The U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil continues to decrease, with even fewer imports in 2016, a new 30 year low.

The hole in the earth’s ozone layer is on the mend with the help of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which helped phase out ozone-destroying chemicals.

Scientists have solved one of Pluto’s most puzzling mysteries:

Daily Bread for 10.2.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of eighty. Sunrise is 6:54 AM and sunset 6:33 PM, for 11h 38m 38s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 88.4% of its visible disk illuminated.Today is the three hundred twenty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1780, Benedict Arnold’s accomplice, British officer John André, is hanged for espionage. (Arnold escaped capture by traveling to occupied New York in HMS Vulture.) On this day in 1958, Janesville’s auto workers strike: “On this date 4,000 members of United Auto Workers Locals 95 (Fisher Body) and 121 (Chevrolet) at Janesville’s two GM plants walked off the job as part of a national strike over GM’s refusal to agree to a contract patterned after those reached with Ford and Chrysler. The desired contract demanded pay increases of 24 to 30 cents an hour and raises in supplemental unemployment benefits and severance pay.”

Recommended for reading in full —

James West reports Leaked White House Memo Details Puerto Rico Spin: “The Storm Caused These Problems, Not Our Response” (“Meanwhile, Trump is blaming “politically motivated ingrates” for criticism):

When White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert returned from a trip to Puerto Rico last week, he got to work telling his colleagues exactly how the Trump administration could put a positive spin on the government’s troubled hurricane relief efforts, according to a leaked memo obtained by Axios.

“I hope to turn the corner on our public communications,” he wrote to White House staff, before detailing new, more-upbeat “themes” he’d like to see the administration highlight over the next couple of days. “Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts,” he wrote.

One of Bossert’s talking points for responding to criticism of the relief efforts: “The storm caused these problems, not our response to it.” Here’s a longer excerpt from the memo (and go over to Axios for the full report):

I recommend that today and tomorrow we use the general theme of supporting the governor and standing with the people of Puerto Rico to get them food, water, shelter and emergency medical care. Monday and Tuesday we can pivot hopefully to a theme of stabilizing as we address temporary housing and sustaining the flow of commodities and basic government services, including temporary power. After that we focus on restoration of basic services throughout next week and next weekend. Then we start a theme of recovery planning for the bright future that lies ahead for Puerto Rico. Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts.

The storm caused these problems, not our response to it. We have pushed about as much stuff and people through a tiny hole in as short a timeframe as possible.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take my colleague AJ Vicens long to find a town in Puerto Rico entirely cut off from the help Bossert asserts is making such a difference on the island.

“You are the first person to come here,” a woman told him. According to residents Vicens interviewed, none of the 10,000 federal workers on the island had made it to Ciales, just 45 minutes from San Juan, by the time he got there yesterday. People in the town described a scene of utter desperation. (Follow Vicens on Twitter for regular updates from the island.)

Denise Clifton reports Fake News on Twitter Flooded Swing States That Helped Trump Win (“A new study reveals how junk content—including from Russia—hit Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and beyond”):

….Efforts by Vladimir Putin’s regime were among the polarizing content captured in the new Oxford study. “We know the Russians have literally invested in social media,” Bradshaw told Mother Jones, referring to reports of Russian-bought Facebook ads as well as sophisticated training of Russian disinformation workers detailed in another recent study by the team. “Swing states would be the ones you would want to target.”

The dubious Twitter content in the new study also contained polarizing YouTube videos–including some produced by the Kremlin-controlled RT network, which were uploaded without any information identifying them as Russian-produced. All the YouTube videos have since been taken down, according to Bradshaw; it’s unclear whether the accounts were deleted by the users, or if YouTube removed the content.

The Oxford researchers captured 22 million tweets from November 1 to November 11 in 2016, and they have been scrutinizing the dataset to better understand the impact of disinformation on the US election. The team has also analyzed propaganda operations in more than two dozen countries, using a combination of reports from trusted media sources and think tanks, and cross-checking that information with experts on the ground. Their recent research has additional revelations about how disinformation works in the social-media age, including from Moscow.

Putin’s big investment in information warfare

In studying Russia’s propaganda efforts targeting both domestic and international populations, the Oxford researchers found evidence of increasing military expenditures on social-media operations since 2014. They also learned of a sophisticated training system for workers employed by Putin’s disinformation apparatus: “They have invested millions of dollars into training staff and setting targets for them,” Bradshaw says. She described a working environment where English training is provided to improve messaging for Western audiences: Supervisors hand out topical talking points to include in coordinated messaging, workers’ content is edited, and output is audited, with rewards given to more productive workers….

John Barlow writes How partisan is too partisan? Wrong question:

The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to tackle one of the most divisive issues in election law: partisan gerrymandering. The June announcement that the court will review the problem in a case from Wisconsin has caused some to wonder: Do we really want the Supreme Court to decide how partisan is too partisan?

This misstates the problem. The question is not whether the courts should decide how partisan is too partisan. It is how to make it possible for voters to decide that for themselves.

Right now, due to a combination of polarized voting and partisan gerrymandering, primary voters rule the roost. As a result, a relatively small number of primary voters are vastly overrepresented in our legislative bodies while voters who show up only in general elections are vastly underrepresented. The most partisan voters end up deciding how partisan is too partisan. That’s the problem….

Bill Barrow reports GOP governors launch ‘news’ site critics call propaganda:

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican governors are getting into the “news” business.

The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.

Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.

The governors association describes the website as routine political communication. Critics, including some Republicans, say it pushes the limits of honest campaign tactics in an era of increasingly partisan media and a proliferation of “fake news” sites, including those whose material became part of an apparent Russian propaganda effort during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“It’s propaganda for sure, even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate,” said Republican communications veteran Rick Tyler, whose resume includes Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign….

Fields of Sunflowers in Castilla-La Mancha:

Daily Bread for 10.1.17

Good morning.

A new month begins in Whitewater with partly cloudy skies and a high of seventy-one. Sunrise is 6:53 AM and sunset 6:34 PM, for 11h 41m 31s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 80.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred twenty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Valentin Blatz is born this day in 1826: “On this date Valentin(e) Blatz, founder of the Blatz Brewing Co., was born at Miltenberg-on-the-Main, Bavaria. The son of Casper and Barbara Blatz, his father owned a brewery in Miltenberg. Valentine Blatz migrated to New York in August 1848 and moved to Milwaukee in 1849. Blatz operated one of the most successful breweries in Milwaukee. [Source: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Archive]” On this day in 1861,  On this day in 1861, the 4th and 5th Wisconsin Light Artillery Batteries muster in: “Recruited in various towns around the state, the batteries gathered at Camp Utley in Racine for training. They spent three months learning how to transport and operate cannons before heading to different parts of the Southern front in January 1862.”

Recommended for reading in full — 

Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn writes that These Numbers Show Just How Bad Trump Has Been for Immigrants:

Between January and July of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal history skyrocketed by more than 200 percent, according to a Reuters analysis—jumping from 1,411 arrests in January to a whopping 4,399 in July. Arrests of immigrants with criminal records have also increased but by a much smaller margin of 17 percent.

Reuters’ findings demonstrate the chilling effects of President Trump’s crackdown—and that his policies have led to repercussions across the justice system and multiple borders….

While Reuters only looks at data through July, the Washington Post reports the trend is ongoing; immigrants without criminal records have become the fastest-growing category of ICE arrests this year….

Reuters also found that immigrants’ lives in the US are more imperiled because those who were previously spared from deportation orders under the Obama administration are now seeing their cases reopened. Between March and May, the Trump administration has requested the courts reopen more than 1,300 cases. During that same period, the Obama administration requested 430.

John Burnett reports Border Patrol Arrests Parents While Infant Awaits Serious Operation:

When 2-month-old Isaac Enrique Sanchez was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a condition that causes vomiting, dehydration and weight loss in infants, his parents were told that their son’s condition was curable. The problem was that no hospital in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas had a pediatric surgery team capable of performing the operation on his stomach.

To make Isaac well, Oscar and Irma Sanchez would need to take their infant son to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was just a couple of hours up the highway, but for them it was a world away.

The Sanchezes, who are undocumented, would need to pass a Border Patrol checkpoint.

“The nurse told us we had to go there,” Oscar says in Spanish. “We said we couldn’t go.”

While they pondered their predicament in a Harlingen, Texas, hospital, a Border Patrol agent showed up in the waiting room — Oscar Sanchez suspects a nurse turned them in — and said he could arrange for officers to escort the parents through the checkpoint to Corpus. But the agent said when they arrived, they would be arrested and put into deportation proceedings. The couple agreed.

The events that followed at the Corpus Christi hospital are the latest developments in a national controversy over so-called sensitive locations. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Homeland Security adopted a policy that immigration agents should avoid enforcement actions at hospitals, schools, churches and public demonstrations unless there are special circumstances….

Advocates are puzzled why the Border Patrol chose to put the Sanchezes under such intense supervision, which one would expect for higher-value targets like drug traffickers or MS-13 gang members. The couple has no criminal records. They overstayed visitors visas that were issued 12 years ago. He works construction and landscaping; she stays home with their four children, all of whom are citizens.

David Corn asks Who’s Telling the Truth About the Russia Meeting: Kushner or Trump Jr.?:

For months, Donald Trump and his lieutenants insisted there was no collusion between the Trump crowd and Vladimir Putin’s regime during the 2016 election. But after news broke of the June 9, 2016, meeting that brought Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort together with a Kremlin emissary bearing dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a secret Russia government effort to help Trump, no one could accurately say there had been no collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. So the Trump crew then shifted its denials and claimed that nothing came out of the meeting. But given that the Trump camp first covered up the existence of the meeting and then lied about its origin and purpose—until Trump Jr. was forced to release emails about the gathering—there is no good reason to accept the assertion that the session was a bust. Moreover, a review of the recent statements issued by Trump Jr. and Kushner about the meeting reveals an important contradiction between their accounts.

The emails sent before the meeting indicated that a representative of the Russian prosecutor general would be conveying government information that the Trump campaign could use against Clinton, and Trump Jr. expressed enthusiasm about this prospect. Kushner and Manafort received those emails, as well. Both Kushner and Trump Jr. have recently put out similar statements that dismiss the whole episode as a nothing-burger. But there is an intriguing difference in their recollections….

What’s different? Trump Jr. recounted that Kushner was present when Veselnitskaya discussed contributions to Clinton and the DNC that the Russians thought could somehow be used against Clinton. Kushner asserted he only heard the Russian lawyer talk about the adoption issue.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Somini Sengupta report Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees:

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.

The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. The issue has sparked intense debate within his administration as opponents of the program, led by Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, Stephen Miller, assert that continuing to welcome refugees is too costly and raises concerns about terrorism.

Advocates of the program inside and outside the administration say refugees are a major benefit to the United States, paying more in taxes than they consume in public benefits, and filling jobs in service industries that others will not. But research documenting their fiscal upside — prepared for a report mandated by Mr. Trump in a March presidential memorandum implementing his travel ban — never made its way to the White House. Some of those proponents believe the report was suppressed.

The internal study, which was completed in late July but never publicly released, found that refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state and local taxes. “Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion”….

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shares What’s Up for October 2017: