August 4, 2022
Some Good News
- Taco Bell is bringing back Mexican Pizza (CNN)
- Senate approves bill to aid vets exposed to toxic burn pits (AP)
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” – Nelson Mandela
Making America…Something Again
Election results in several of Tuesday’s closely-watched primaries proved that candidates who weren’t full-fledged members of Donald Trump’s Republican Party were going to feel the burn. In Michigan, Representative Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021, lost to John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who embraced the false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Meijer was the second GOP House member to lose his reelection bid – the first was five-term congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina, who lost in June to Trump-endorsed state representative Russell Fry. In the governor’s race, Tudor Dixon, who is endorsed by Trump and the family of former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, will face Gretchen Whitmer (D) in November. Dixon, a former conservative media host, is fervently against abortion rights. If the overwhelming support for abortion rights in Kansas is any indicator, Dixon could be facing extra opposition.
In Arizona, state lawmaker Mark Finchem – part of a national coalition of far-right election-denying candidates who want to oversee the vote in 2024 – won the nomination for GOP secretary of state. Blake Masters – an election-denying first-time candidate who spent most of his career in Silicon Valley as a protégé of tech billionaire Peter Thiel – came out on top as the state’s Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. He faces Senator Mark Kelley (D) in the fall.
Speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers, lost his bid for a state Senate seat to former state senator David Farnsworth, a Trump-backed QAnon supporter and election-fraud conspiracy theorist. Bowers, a staunch conservative, was censured by his House colleagues following his testimony before the January 6 committee about being pressured by Trump to help overturn the 2020 election results. Meanwhile, gubernatorial candidate and former television newscaster Kari Lake had a slim 11,000 vote lead Wednesday afternoon over her opponent, attorney Karrin Taylor Robson. Lake pulled a page from the Trump playbook and declared victory, even though over 100,000 ballots were still being counted in Maricopa County. If Lake holds onto her lead, she will face Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), whom Lake has said should be imprisoned for unspecified crimes. (WaPo ($), CNN, PBS, Politico, AP, AZMirror, NYT ($))
The Swede Spot
- On Wednesday the Senate voted 95-1 to ratify NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, with overwhelming bipartisan support expected for quickly expanding the Western military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The sole no vote was Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. Fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky voted present.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who visited Kyiv and the region earlier this year, had urged a unanimous show of approval. Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell cited the two Nordic nations’ well-funded, modernizing militaries and their experience working with U.S. forces and weapons systems, calling it a “slam-dunk for national security” of the United States.
- The expansion – adding Finland would more than double the amount of the organization’s territory directly bordering Russia – “is exactly the opposite of what Putin envisioned when he ordered his tanks to invade Ukraine,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Seven member countries remain to approve the accession. (CBS News, WaPo ($))
Hunt And Center
- Acting on a tip from the public, Kenyan police arrested Abdi Hussein Ahmed, alias Abu Khadi, who is wanted for his links to a transnational wildlife and drug trafficking syndicate. In 2019, Ahmed was indicted in a New York court on conspiracy to traffic rhinoceros horns and ivory. He was also charged with conspiracy to traffic at least one kilo of heroin.
- Three other men were indicted along with Ahmed: Moazu Kromah, A.K.A. Ayoub; Amara Cherif, A.K.A. Bamba Issiaka; and Mansur Mohamed Surur, A.K.A. Mansour. The men reportedly conspired over seven years to smuggle some 190 kilos of horn and 10 tons of ivory – valued at $7 million – from Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania.
- This represented the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinos and over 100 elephants. The horn and ivory were said to be destined for buyers in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. The U.S. had offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Ahmed’s arrest. (BBC)
Additional World News
- Ukraine’s army is waging its 1st major offensive against Russia to retake Kherson (NPR)
- U.S. imposes sanctions on Alina Kabaeva, Putin’s rumored girlfriend (WaPo, $)
- Germany Tells Russia’s Gazprom Its Turbine Is Ready for Pipeline (NYT, $)
- Man charged under Britain’s Treason Act over Christmas Day incident at queen’s home (Reuters)
- Shipping prices rise as Rhine water in Germany falls again, vessels part loaded (Reuters)
- African nations expected to make case for big rise in fossil fuel output (Guardian)
- China’s Manufacturing Sector Unexpectedly Contracts Amid Weak Demand, Covid Lockdowns (WSJ, $)
Indiana Representative Walorski Killed In Crash
- Indiana Republican Representative Jackie Walorski, 58, and two of her staffers, Zach Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28, were killed in a car crash Wednesday. The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said the two-vehicle accident occurred in Indiana at around 12:30 p.m, when a passenger car traveling northbound crossed the center line and collided head-on with the sport utility vehicle traveling southbound carrying Walorski and her two staffers.
- The driver of the northbound vehicle, senior care aide Edith Schmucker, 56, also died at the scene. The news came as a major shock on Capitol Hill and immediately sparked an outpouring of grief and remembrances from lawmakers and aides who paid tribute to the lives and careers of the congresswoman and the staffers.
- Walorski represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District and had previously served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives. She began serving in Congress in 2013. (WaPo, $)
Matter Of Tax
- Two weeks after a federal appeals court ruled Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat law,” titled the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, could take effect immediately, the state’s Department of Revenue has announced pregnant people in the state will now be able to count their fetus as a dependent on their tax return and file for child support.
- The department said it will recognize “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat” as “eligible for the Georgia individual income tax dependent exemption,” which totals $3,000. The law has other implications, including for taxes, because it also redefines “natural person” under Georgia law to mean “any human being including an unborn child” – including an embryo or fetus at any stage of development. However, it isn’t clear if this also means a pregnant person can now drive in the HOV lane. (ABC News)
Additional USA News
- Alex Jones on trial: Sandy Hook parents testify about the ‘hell’ he has caused (CNN)
- Senate approves bill to aid vets exposed to toxic burn pits (AP)
- DOD ‘wiped’ phones of Trump-era leaders, erasing Jan. 6 texts (The Hill)
- Democrats scramble for Sinema’s support on climate, health and tax bill (WaPo, $)
- Girl, 12, Escapes Captivity, Leading Alabama Authorities to Find 2 Bodies (NYT, $)
- L.A. cracks down on homeless encampments near schools (LAT, $)
- A tax loophole made fund managers rich. Closing it may help pay for the climate bill (NPR)
In Very Poor Taste
- It was a terrible idea and now it’s going away. An Airbnb listing for “an 1830s slave cabin” has been removed from the rental site after a TikTok video about the property went viral. The new owner of the Belmont Plantation in Greenville, Mississippi said the listing for the Panther Burn Cottage, located on the plantation’s grounds, was a holdover from the previous owner. Brad Hauser apologized for the listing. “As the new, three-week owner of The Belmont in Greenville, Mississippi, I apologize for the decision to provide our guests a stay at ‘the slave quarters’ behind the 1857 antebellum home that is now a bed and breakfast. I also apologize for insulting African Americans whose ancestors were slaves.”
- He added that he was told when he purchased the cottage that it wasn’t a slave quarters because the building wasn’t old enough to have housed enslaved people. In a now-private promotional video posted on YouTube by previous ownership, the cabin is said to have been relocated several years ago to the plantation from Panther Burn, Mississippi, and was initially a two-bedroom sharecropper’s cabin that was converted into a doctor’s office.
- Hauser said he “strongly opposed the previous owner’s decision to market the building as the place where slaves once slept after toiling in the cotton fields in human bondage.” Airbnb said in a statement: “Properties that formerly housed the enslaved have no place on Airbnb. We apologize for any trauma or grief created by the presence of this listing, and others like it, and that we did not act sooner to address this issue.” The company said it is removing other listings that include former slave quarters in the U.S. and is developing new policies. (CNN)
- Extinct panda from ancient Europe highlights debate over animal’s origins (NBC)
- Celebrities use private jets excessively. It’s a climate nightmare. (WaPo, $)
- Connecticut man captures moment he discovers bear in his kitchen (NBC)
- Oxford University may return items looted from Nigeria by Britain in 1897 (Guardian)
- Rivian Says Senate Climate Deal Puts It at Disadvantage (WSJ, $)
- New York Times Reports a Gain of 180,000 Digital Subscribers (NYT, $)
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