October 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


John Roberts, Swing Vote (MARK JOSEPH STERN, OCT 02, 2018, Slate)

Vernon Madison has spent 33 years in solitary confinement awaiting execution for a crime he can no longer remember. A series of strokes have left the 68-year-old death-row inmate with severe cognitive impairment due to vascular dementia. He cannot see, or walk without aid, or recite the alphabet past the letter G, or process basic information. He struggles to speak and suffers incontinence. A growing portion of his brain tissue is dead. And Alabama would like to put him to death as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Madison v. Alabama, Madison's last, best chance to avoid lethal injection. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often swung left on capital punishment, is gone; no one has yet replaced him, and if the court deadlocks 4-4, Madison will die. It's a grim default that Chief Justice John Roberts seems eager to avoid. Throughout Tuesday's arguments, Roberts appeared eager to broker a compromise that would spare Madison's life by conceding that dementia may exempt him from the death penalty. The case provides an early glimpse of the post-Kennedy court--with the chief justice embracing his role as the new swing vote.

Administering capital punishment justly ought not be a left/right issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Russian Official Linked to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Trump Tower Lawyer, Is Dead (Nico Hines, 10.04.18, Daily Beast)

A Russian official accused of directing the foreign operations of Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met senior Trump campaign officials in 2016, has plummeted to his death in a helicopter crash.

Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan was exposed in a Swiss court this year for a plot to enlist another nation's law-enforcement official as a double-agent for the Kremlin.

Media reports in Russia say he died Wednesday night when his helicopter crashed into a forest during an unauthorized flight in the Kostroma region, northeast of Moscow.

Karapetyan, 58, was intimately familiar with some of the most notorious operations carried out under the orders of Vladimir Putin. He worked closely with Veselnitskaya as well as running some of Moscow's most high-profile efforts to thwart international investigations into Russia's alleged crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Kavanaugh is almost through -- but at what cost to the Republicans? (Jacob Heilbrunn, October 4, 2018, Spectator USA)

[T]he GOP has squeezed about as much as it can out of the Kavanaugh lemon. The price that it will pay in the midterms for ramming Kavanaugh through is the real question. Had Kavanaugh's nomination lingered on until the end of October, it would have been a potent organising instrument for the GOP. Much as in 2016, when McConnell and his confederates stymied the Merrick Garland nomination, Trump and Republican candidates would have been able to point to the signal importance of standing up for embattled white men and for ensuring that the Supreme Court becomes a conservative bastion.

Now the tables are turned. Trump will engage in some chest-thumping over the next few days. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will buy himself some cover by voting for Kavanaugh. But the rage that is percolating in America will be exploited by the Democrats as they point to Kavanaugh's presence on the court as a permanent blot on the judiciary. More witnesses will come forth to testify about Kavanaugh's youth. More transgressions will be identified.

The GOP really needed the stakes in the midterms to be the 5th vote on the Court, not support for the type of party that would seat Kavanaugh and taunt Ford.
Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Whose History Matters? Students Can Name Columbus, But Most Have Never Heard of the Taíno People (Bill Bigelow, 10/04/18, Common Dreams)

Early in my high school U.S. history classes, I would ask students about "that guy some people say discovered America." All my students knew that the correct answer was Christopher Columbus, and every time I asked this question, some student would break into the sing-song rhyme, "In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" -- and others would join in.

"Right. So who did he supposedly discover?" I asked.

In almost 30 years of teaching, the best anyone could come up with was: "Indians."

I brushed that answer away: "Yes, but be specific. What were their names? Which nationality?" I never had a student say, "The Taínos."

"So what does this tell us?" I asked. "What does it say that we all know Columbus's name, but none of us knows the nationality of the people who were here first?  And there were millions of them."

That indigenous peoples were uncivilized and produced no culture of any enduring value?

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


Trump's growing diplomatic isolation on Iran (Ishaan Tharoor, October 4, 2018, Washington Post)

During meetings at the United Nations last week, Trump, Pompeo and Bolton railed against Iran and berated various other member states and U.N. bodies for not bending to American interests. Their approach elicited an icy reaction. At a Security Council session chaired by President Trump, every other member of the U.N.'s most powerful body scolded Washington for its rejection of the nuclear deal, an agreement the council had endorsed.

Iran's political leadership is enjoying its moment of international solidarity. After the ICJ ruling, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif termed the United States an "outlaw regime" in pursuit of a "malign" agenda, parroting U.S. attacks on Tehran. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomed a European proposal to create a barter system in which companies could trade with Iran without money changing hands, thus skirting U.S. sanctions. "Europe has taken a big step," he said.

Iran hopes that the ICJ's announcement, though mostly symbolic, will give a similar boost to its trade prospects. "The decision could encourage European companies, which ceased trading with Iran for fear of falling foul of President Trump, to reconsider their position, specifically those dealing in the humanitarian items outlined by the judges," wrote Anna Holligan, the BBC's correspondent in The Hague.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


These 3D-printed body parts let surgeons practice on a model before they open you up (ADELE PETERS, 10/04/18, Fast Company)

"The use of 3D printing in medicine allows us to pull the patients' anatomy off of a computer screen and put it into the physician's hands," says Todd Goldstein, director of the 3D Design and Innovation Center at Northwell Health, the hospital network. "This type of technology is a game changer for all parties involved, as it allows for physicians to better visualize the pathology, allows for patients to truly see what treatment is needed, and allows for more precise, patient-specific treatments across almost all specialties."

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Republicans Are Cutting Bait on Four House Races That Are Actually Pretty Close (JOSH VOORHEES, OCT 01, 2018, Slate)

In the past several weeks, House Republicans--either via the National Republican Congressional Committee, which serves as their official campaign arm, or the Congressional Leadership Fund, a big-dollar super PAC aligned closely with Paul Ryan--have nixed plans to spend big in defense of at least four incumbents in races that had been widely considered competitive: Reps. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District, Mike Bishop in Michigan's 8th, Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania's new 17th, and Kevin Yoder in Kansas' 3rd.

While a party could conceivably pull funding if they think they have a race wrapped up, it's clear that's not what's happening in these districts, all of which have been trending in the direction of Democrats recently. "That's Washington, D.C.," Coffman's campaign manager told the Associated Press after the CLF canceled a seven-figure ad buy in his boss's district. "One day you're up. The next day you're down." Each decision suggests that, at best, the GOP believes its money is better spent elsewhere or, at worst, that these congressmen are already as good as gone. Even the former would be a stunning admission given that the nonpartisan handicappers at the Cook Political Report currently rate all four races as competitive, with Bishop and Yoder in a toss-up column that includes 20 of their fellow Republican colleagues and another seven open GOP seats.

Kevin Yoder says he won't attend Trump Topeka rally, citing scheduling conflict (ALLISON KITE, October 03, 2018, KC Star)

Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder won't attend President Donald Trump's campaign stop in Topeka this weekend, he said Wednesday, citing a scheduling conflict in Johnson County.

House Rating Changes: Eight More GOP Seats Move Towards Democrats (David Wasserman, October 3, 2018, Cook Political Report)

Five weeks out, several personally popular Republicans who appeared to be defying the "blue wave" in Clinton-won districts are beginning to see their leads erode. GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), John Katko (NY-24) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) led most surveys over the summer but are now prime targets as their well-funded Democratic challengers become better-known and the Kavanaugh debate further polarizes voters into red and blue corners. [...]
After today's ratings changes, there are 15 GOP-held seats in Lean or Likely Democratic (including seven incumbents) and Democrats would only need to win 11 of the 31 races in the Toss Up column to flip the majority.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 AM


With Bobi Wine, people power could finally win in Uganda: The singer-turned-politician is the latest young African challenging the old guard. He has put hope in the hearts of those tired of Museveni's 32-year rule (Patience Akume, 4 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

The government is terrified of Kyagulanyi. It has clobbered his supporters and journalists, and even imposed an electricity blackout as he was due to appear on Voice of America. The money it has tried to use to bribe Kyagulanyi's young supporters from the ghettoes, called the "people power" movement, betrays its desperation. It lends credence to the idea that Kyagulanyi is on to something bigger than he realises.

In August, he was arrested after his driver, Yasin Kawuma, was shot dead during a local election. The government had been restless over Kyagulanyi's ability to turn the tide of an election. Every candidate he endorses wins. After his arrest a military court charged him with unlawful possession of firearms, and the military paraded guns and tried to convince Ugandans the weapons had been found in his hotel room. When it became clear the story didn't add up, the charges were dropped and, emaciated and limping, he was released, after weeks in a military prison. He was handed over to police, charged with treason and held in a civil prison.

His arrest won him international sympathy and put him in the ranks of young Africans challenging the old guard's hold on power - alongside Rwanda's Diane Rwigara, who at 38 has stood up to Paul Kagame's presidency, as well as opposition leaders in South Africa and Zimbabwe. After pressure from social media activists, diplomatic missions and civil society organisations, Kyagulanyi was released on bail after nearly a month.

Three-quarters of Uganda's population are under 35. Kamwokya's residents support 36-year-old Kyagulanyi because he is, like them, young, hungry and angry that the only president they have known is Museveni, 74. They realise the man they sang nursery rhymes in praise of is not indispensable, and that their poverty is not inevitable. Kyagulanyi's journey from the ghetto to Magere - a middle-class area of Kampala - is an inspiration. Unlike previous opposition leaders, Kyagulanyi does not have links to the establishment or a military background. His wealth, unlike that of most of Uganda's rich, is traceable. He was born in the ghetto: a life of crime and drugs beckoned. But, through music, he rose above it, made money and changed his life. So when he talks about transformation, his supporters believe he can do for the nation what he did for himself.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


'Brazil is at war': election plays out amid homicidal violence: Latin America's largest democracy suffered a record 63,880 homicides last year and the phenomenon is driving some to support the hardline policies of candidate Jair Bolsonaro (Tom Phillips, 10/04/18, The Guardian)

Ahead of Sunday's vote, the country's uncontrolled violence is fuelling support for the far-right pacemaker Jair Bolsonaro, who has opened up a 10-point lead over his closest rival, the Workers' party (PT) candidate, Fernando Haddad, with many followers citing security as their main reason for championing the 63-year-old politician.

Many are horrified at the rise of a pro-torture populist notorious for his vicious and incendiary remarks about women, black people, indigenous communities, human rights and Brazil's LGBT community.

But Latin America's largest democracy suffered a record 63,880 homicides last year - more than 6,000 of them in the north-eastern state of Bahia, where Feira is located - and Bolsonaro has promised no-nonsense fixes, including loosening gun laws.

"Why has violence gone up? Why have weeds overtaken your backyard? It's because you didn't eradicate them, so of course they'll grow," he told a campaign event in the Amazon earlier this year. "Have we eradicated crooks in Brazil? No!"

"If someone breaks into our house or our ranch we must have the right to shoot them - and if we kill them, it's their problem for dying, not ours," he added. "This is the only way we are going to put the brakes on these crooks."

Robert Muggah, the head of a Brazilian thinktank called the Igarapé Institute, said crime had been catapulted up the political agenda by both "a sense and an objective reality" among voters that things were on the slide.

Minds had also been focused by a series of "spectacular events of egregious violence" including prison massacres, a surge in bloodshed in north-east Brazil, the collapse of efforts to "pacify" Rio's favelas, the still unsolved assassination of Rio councillor Marielle Franco and the recent stabbing of Bolsonaro himself.

Physical safety is the minimum required of the state.