"Clinton has a new weapon against Trump: Elizabeth Warren," a Washington Post headline proclaimed Tuesday. That story referred to a blistering denunciation of Donald Trump that Warren delivered on Tuesday, just one example of the liberal favorite's increasing willingness to jump into the presidential campaign fray. The consensus around Warren's recent attacks on Trump, on Twitter and elsewhere, is clear: She's positioning herself as a prime attacker to hit Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the general election.
But there's one problem with painting Warren as a Clinton surrogate: The senator from Massachusetts has not yet actually endorsed the likely Democratic nominee.
The fact that Warren has endorsed neither Clinton nor her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, makes her an outlier in the Senate, especially after Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey endorsed Clinton on Wednesday. Of the 44 Democrats in the Senate, Warren is now one of just two who have yet to state their preference between Clinton and Sanders. The other is Jon Tester of Montana, who has made it clear that won't be endorsing in the Democratic primary. (Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has also not endorsed.)
Even with Warren sitting things out, Clinton isn't hurting for Senate endorsements. She's won support from 41 senators. Sanders, on the other hand, has struggled to win over his colleagues. So far, he has been endorsed only by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
In one of his final acts as Speaker of the House last October, John Boehner helped form the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives to explore allegations that abortion clinics are illegally selling fetal tissue for a profit.On Tuesday, 181 House Democrats sent a letter to Boehner's successor, Paul Ryan, asking him to break from his fellow Republicans and demand an end to an investigation that the panel's Democratic members have called, at various points, a "farce," "witch hunt," "kangaroo court," and something that "belongs in a bad episode of House of Cards."
"To this day, the panel still lacks credible evidence to support its case that any federal laws were broken," the Democrats wrote to Ryan. "Yet the Chair and majority staff continue to harass individuals, researchers, clinics, and health care facilities...The onus is on you to put an end to this witch hunt. You cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the serious risks presented by the Panel and still claim to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker."
Since its creation, the investigative panel has held two public hearings, and at each one the Democrats repeatedly accused the Republican members of violating House rules.At the first, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked the panel's chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), to explain why she had issued wide-ranging subpoenas for the names of researchers, grad students, lab technicians, and others who were involved in fetal tissue research—a move that abortion advocates worried could endanger the lives of these scientists and their employees. Blackburn declined to elaborate. At the second hearing, in April, Blackburn repeatedlyrefused to provide clear sources for a set of provocative exhibitsthat included a draft contract between a procurement company and an abortion clinic and several charts implying the growing profitability of fetal tissue procurement. She said only that these items came from the "investigatory work" of the panel.
The panel has also cited as evidence widely discredited material from the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group established by activist David Daleiden, who was recently indicted by a Texas grand jury for his work on secretly recorded and deceptively edited anti-Planned Parenthood videos released last summer.
The letter is Democrats' fifth to Ryan in recent months about the panel, airing their concerns about its investigative practices or asking that it be disbanded entirely. Each of those letters, they wrote, "has been met with silence." Three of the previous letters were signed only by the six Democratic members who sit on the select investigative panel; the fourth was signed by 98 House Democrats. This time, the Democrats have upped the ante, getting 181 of 188 House Democrats to sign on to Tuesday's letter, and requesting a response from Ryan in writing.
Earlier this month, the Democratic members of the panel held a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to draw attention to their concerns. Pelosi referred to the panel as "the Committee to Attack Women's Health" and accused it of "abuses that have not been seen on Capitol Hill since the days of Joseph McCarthy."
Pelosi and other Democrats highlighted issues that were laid out in aMay 12 letter to Ryan, written by the Democratic members of the select panel. They wrote that the committee's process for issuing subpoenas to fetal tissue researchers and abortion rights advocates—one of the most aggressive investigative tactics available to Congress—has been deceptive. In early May, for example, the panel issued 19 subpoenas; 17 of those were sent to individuals or groups who had never been asked to comply voluntarily. The other two recipients had already responded to a previous information request and hadn't been informed of any noncompliance. The preemptive subpoenas have allowed Blackburn to make "false public claims" of mass disobedience by researchers and imply that abortion rights advocates have something to hide, the Democratic representatives wrote.
The Democratic members have also repeatedly said that the panel's aggressive investigative tactics put fetal tissue researchers and abortion providers at grave risk. "The danger posed by the Panel is real and serious," they wrote yesterday. "There is a long and undeniable history of violence against women's health care clinics, physicians, and patients." They cited the November 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, where a gunman killed three people and injured nine. They also said the panel disregarded the safety of an abortion provider when it published a press release on May 11 naming him as a "late-term abortionist" who is under investigation by the committee.The doctor haslong been a target of threats and attacks, including a 1991 fire that destroyed his family farm and much of its livestock. "These recent steps are completely outside the bounds of acceptable Congressional behavior," wrote the House Democrats.
The Democratic members of the committee believe the panel's disregard for safety is one-sided, given that it has a whistleblower portal on its website promising confidentiality to anyone looking to provide information. "Apparently, Republicans are willing to protect individuals who provide information that might support their preferred partisan narratives, but are denying this same protection to individuals who perform life-saving research and health care," wrote the members in their May 12 letter.
Ryan doesn't seem to be budging in his support for this investigation. "Speaker Ryan supports the Select Committee’s continued efforts to protect infant lives," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Eleven states sued the federal government Wednesday after the Obama administration told public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.
"Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights," argued the plaintiffs in a suit filed in federal court in Texas.
The lawsuit is being brought by the states of Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and Georgia; the governor of Maine; the Arizona Department of Education; and school districts in Texas and Arizona. You can read the full complaint below.
Earlier this month, the federal departments of Justice and Education sent a directive to all public school districts in the country, saying schools could lose federal funding if they blocked transgender kids from using the bathrooms of their choice. The directive, which does not carry the force of law, came after the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other over North Carolina's decision to restrict bathroom access in public schools and public buildings according to the sex listed on people's birth certificates. The Justice Department has threatened to pull federal education funding from North Carolina because of the law, which it says violates federal civil rights laws.
Unbeknownst to many, there is a hidden culture of men who enjoy dressing up and acting like dogs—as in canines, not male jerks—all while their partners in the real world play the role of their disciplined trainers. Thanks to a new television show airing in the United Kingdom, this community is about to get the attention it so richly deserves.
The State Department's Inspector General has determined that Hillary Clinton violated agency policies on record-keeping, according to a report it released to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
The report—which was first reported by Politico—concludes that Clinton's use of a private email server broke rules that exist to comply with the Federal Records Act.
"Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary," the report states. "At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act."
The IG report also notes that Clinton and her top aides did not cooperate with the investigation. The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for a comment.
In addition to criticizing Clinton's email practices, the report also faults the State Department for "longstanding, systemic weaknesses" concerning records that "go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State." That line of reasoning was reflected in a tweet from Brian Fallon, one of the Clinton campaign’s spokesmen:
GOP will attack HRC because she is running for President, but IG report makes clear her personal email use was not unique at State Dept
While the report mentioned “many examples of staff using personal email accounts to conduct official business,” it singled out two people, in addition to Clinton, for using non-department systems on an “exclusive basis for day-to-day operations”: former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Ambassador to Kenya Jonathan Scott Gration, who served from mid-2011 through mid-2012.
The report notes that the circumstances of each case are different. During Powell’s State Department tenure, for instance, the email system only allowed for inter-department communication. He therefore requested a system so he could communicate with people outside of the State Department.
However, it is not clear whether staff explicitly addressed restrictions on the use of non-Departmental systems with Secretary Powell,” the report states. It notes that agency officials thought they were complying with all relevant security requirements, but “information security were very fluid” during Powell’s years at the State Deparment and the agency wasn’t aware of “magnitude of the security risks associated with information technology.”
By the time Clinton became Secretary of State, the agency’s understanding and practices were “considerably more detailed and more sophisticated,” the report states. “Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives.”
The report says that there’s no evidence Clinton ever requested or received approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server. Had she requested permission, according to the IG report, she wouldn’t have received it. Two State Department staffers in the office of the executive secretariat—the people within State who coordinate the agency’s work internally—told the IG’s investigators that they discussed their concerns about the use of a personal email account with their boss.
“According to [one] staff member, the [boss] stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further,” the report states, adding that there’s no evidence that the agency’s internal legal office reviewed or approved the arrangement.
The report notes that the other employee who raised concerns was told to “never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”
The other official singled out in the report, Ambassador Gration, wanted to use a commercial email systems for daily business. State Department security officials warned him against doing so, but Gration insisted on doing it anyway. “The Department subsequently initiated disciplinary proceedings against him…but he resigned before any disciplinary measures were imposed.”
Nothing says America like an ice-cold can of lavishly marketed, insipidly flavored beer. That's the calculation of AB InBev, the Belgium-based conglomerate that owns Budweiser, the brand that once towered over the US beer landscape like a giant beer-can balloon at a fraternity tailgate party. Earlier this month, AB InBev replaced "Budweiser" with "America" on the front of its 12-ounce cans and bottles sold in the United States, while also adorning the label with quotes from the Pledge of Allegiance, "The Star Spangled Banner," and "America the Beautiful." You'll be able to pop open an icy America until the November election, after which Bud packaging will revert to normal.
But the buyout isn't about Europe or the United States at all—AB InBev's bold Bud rebrand aside. Indeed, to pass antitrust muster in Europe, the combined company had to agree to "sell almost the whole of SABMiller's beer business in Europe," Reuters reports. The United States and Europe are "mature"—i.e., slow-growing—beer markets. The real action right now is elsewhere. As Reuters puts it, AB InBev is "looking to boost its presence in Africa and Latin American countries to offset weaker markets such as the United States, where drinkers are shunning mainstream lagers in favor of craft brews and cocktails."
Here in the United States, corporate beer is a still-profitable but shrinking business. Brands owned by or affiliated with InBev and SAB Miller account for 71 percent of the US beer market. But people are spurning corporate swill and opting for brews from a rising tide of independent breweries focusing on flavor and regional identity. Known as "craft brewers," these outfits saw their beer output grow 12.8 percent in 2015, even as overall US beer production dropped 0.2 percent, according to the Brewers Association, a craft-brew trade group.
Those numbers represent the slow hemorrhaging of US sales and profitability for the beer giants. That's where SAB Miller comes in. While it does well off mega US and European brands like Miller and Pilsner Urquel, where it really shines is in the global south—the company claims to pocket 72 percent of its earnings from developing countries. The real prize for InBev is Africa, where SAB Miller owns about a third of the beer market and InBev has almost no presence. Though both companies' Western operations are stagnating, SAB Miller's profits in Africa are rising at the rate of 20 percent annually, the company claims.
Latin America is a mixed bag. The Wall Street Journal reports that in Brazil, where AB Inbev already dominates, beer sales are falling. But in Peru and Colombia, where SAB Miller has a strong foothold, beer is a high-growth business. As a Wall Street analyst told the Journal, Budweiser and Bud Light "are damaged and never coming back," while "Africa and Latin America are on fire."
This story originally appeared on WIRED and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Ivanpah, the world's largest solar plant, is a glittering sea of mirrors, concentrating sunlight into three glowing towers. It is a futuristic vision rising out of the Mojave desert. But from the day the plant opened for business in 2014, critics have said the technology at Ivanpah is outdated and too finicky to maintain.
The latest problem? A fire at one of the plant's three towers on Thursday, which left metal pipes scorched and melted. As the plant dealt with engineering hiccups, Ivanpah initially struggled to fulfill its electricity contract, and it would have had to shut down if the California Public Utilities Commission didn't throw it a bone this past March. "Ivanpah has been such a mess," says Adam Schultz, program manager at the UC Davis Energy Institute and former analyst for the CPUC. "If [the fire] knocks them offline, it's going to further dig them in." On top of the technical challenges, the plant has had to deal with PR headaches like reports of scorched birds and blinded pilots from its mirrors.
Ivanpah's biggest problem, though, is hard economics. When the plant was just a proposal in 2007, the cost of electricity made using Ivanpah's concentrated solar power was roughly the same as that from photovoltaic solar panels. Since then, the cost of electricity from photovoltaic solar panels has plummeted to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (compared to 15 to 20 cents for concentrated solar power) as materials have gotten cheaper. "You're not going to see the same thing with concentrated solar power plants because it's mostly just a big steel and glass project," says Schultz. It can only get so much cheaper.
Photovoltaic solar systems also have the advantage of scaling up or down easily. You can have one panel on your roof or the airport can have 100, and electricity can be made where it's used. But for concentrated solar power plants, you need a huge tract of empty land. Ivanpah has 173,500 garage door-sized sets of mirrors spread over 3,500 acres. Each mirror has a motor controlled by a computer, which angles the reflective surface to track the location of the sun.
All those moving parts make Ivanpah more challenging to maintain than static solar panels. There's the 173,500 sets of moving mirrors, and then there's also the towers, where the concentrated sunlight superheats steam to generate electricity—each with their complicated plumbing systems. "The sheer size of these plants make it easy to overlook one little flaw," says Tyler Ogden, an analyst at Lux Research. The fire department suggested the fire on Thursday was the result of misaligned mirrors that concentrated their death ray on the wrong part of the tower. David Knox, a spokesperson for Ivanpah's operator, NRG Energy, said it was still too early to tell the cause of the fire. "We are assessing the damage and developing a repair plan," says Knox.
Theoretically, concentrated solar power's advantage is its ability to smooth out energy production. Solar panels produce energy when the sun is shining, and they're basically roof decorations when they're not. At Ivanpah, the water in the towers take time to get to electricity-producing temperatures in the morning, but the towers can continue to produce electricity into the early evening—when electricity consumption is coming off its peak. Plants elsewhere, like Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada, have mirrors that concentrate energy into tanks of molten salt instead of water, which can store the energy much longer.
In the US, for now, photovoltaic power is winning out. No one is looking to build more concentrated solar power plants here. But a huge concentrated solar power plant is going up in Morocco, and smaller scale installations in the US have used a curved mirror configuration to generate heat but not electricity. Knox says there may yet be uses for concentrated solar power, and the lessons learned at Ivanpah will chart the path forward. That's unless those lessons end up being cautionary ones.
In keeping with the trend of Southern states proposing puzzling legislation in recent months, Louisiana is set to pass a bill that would add law enforcement officers to the list of classes protected under the state's hate crime law.
Louisiana House Bill 953, the "Blue Lives Matter" bill, would also add firefighters and emergency medical responders to the list. The current hate crime law covers crimes committed against people because of their race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry. People convicted of hate crimes can have up to five years added to their sentence. Both houses of Louisiana's legislature have passed the bill, and a spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose family includes four generations of police officers, indicated that the governor would sign the bill this week. (Similar legislation was introduced in the US House in March.)
State Rep. Lance Harris, who introduced the Blue Lives bill last month, said it was needed because of rising attacks against law enforcement personnel. As examples, Harris mentioned the August 2015 shooting of a Texas sheriff and the ambush of two New York City police officers in December 2014. But the suspect in the Texas case was found incompetent to stand trial, and the assailant in the NYPD incident showed signs of emotional instability before that attack—and killed himself afterward. This past September, the American Enterprise Institute put out a report noting that shootings of police officers had hit their lowest point in a decade. A December 2015 report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that 42 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2015—a 14 percent drop from the previous year.
Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director for the south-central division of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), says adding cops to the list of categories covered by hate crime law is a bad idea for many reasons. For one, Louisiana—like every other state—already treats crimes against police officers more seriously than crimes against civilians.
Adding police officers to the list of protected classes, she says, distorts the purpose of the original legislation. Hate crime laws are designed to protect people who are victimized because of immutable characteristics, "something that someone cannot change about themselves or should not have to change about themselves," notes Padilla-Goodman, and occupation is temporary and an inherently different kind of attribute. Adding occupations to the list, she says, will "water down" the law, weakening its impact and opening the door to further inappropriate categories. Some states have proposed giving homeless people protected status under hate crime laws—the ADL doesn't support that, either.
Another problem with putting occupations on the list, Padilla-Goodman says, is that it will sow more confusion about what constitutes a hate crime—as it stands, hate crimes are drastically underreported in Louisiana, largely because police officers don't understand how they are defined or why it's important to report them. In 2014, only eight of 86 Louisiana state law enforcement agencies reported hate crimes to the FBI, and those agencies reported only nine hate crimes in all. (States of comparable population—Kentucky and Colorado—reported 163 and 96 hate crimes, respectively.) "There's no confusion that crimes against law enforcement are serious and should be handled seriously," Padilla-Goodman says. "The same cannot be said about crimes against [for example] transgender people."
Ironically, she told me, Louisiana's current law could be interpreted to cover attacks on police or firefighters: People who target someone based on "actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization" are eligible to receive a harsher punishment. In any case, hate crimes can be hard to prove. "If I go out and shoot a cop, I'm going to have an enhanced penalty already," Padilla-Goodman says. But "if somebody wants to try to prove that I committed a hate crime against a cop, somebody had to hear me say, 'I hate all cops.'"
Randy Sutton, a spokesman for Blue Lives Matter, a national law enforcement group, told CNN last week that "it's usually people committing crimes like robbery, or that are being pursued by police, that turn to shooting officers." That, notes Padilla-Goodman, is essentially a concession that people don't usually attack cops because they hate them: "Somebody committing a crime against somebody because they're black didn't mean that the black person had to do anything" to provoke it.
Elizabeth Warren isn't ready to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, but she's had no trouble going after Clinton's presumptive Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Warren and Trump have sparred on Twitter ever since The Donald locked up the Republican nomination, and on Tuesday night she expanded her arguments against him during a speech at the annual gala for the liberal nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy.
"Let's face it: Donald Trump cares about exactly one thing—Donald Trump," said the senator from Massachusetts, according to her prepared remarks. "It's time for some accountability because these statements disqualify Donald Trump from ever becoming president. The free ride is over."
Warren's attack on Trump wasn't quite as harsh as it's been in the past; during her first tweetstorm after he secured the nomination, she said he had "built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia." But that doesn't mean she held back during her speech Tuesday. She began by reflecting on the human toll from the foreclosure crisis and then tied it to an NBC report this week that quoted Trump, shortly before the housing market crash, saying he was "excited" for the bubble to burst since he'd make money off the misfortune it caused. "Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown," Warren said, "because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap."
She also zeroed in on a topic that has been a growing cause of frustration for Democrats: Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, as major presidential candidates have long done. "Maybe he's just a lousy businessman who doesn't want you to find out that he's worth a lot less money than he claims," Warren speculated. Echoing a video from her 2012 Senate campaign, Warren emphasized that "Donald Trump didn't get rich on his own." He inherited a fortune from his father, she said, and "his businesses rely on the roads and bridges the rest of us paid for. His businesses rely on workers the rest of us paid to educate and on police forces and firefighters who protect all of us and the rest of us pay to support."
Warren quoted a recent statement from Trump attacking the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, passed by Democrats to try to rein in Wall Street, for imposing too many restrictions on bankers. Trump pledged to roll back the law should he win the White House. "Donald Trump is worried about helping poor little Wall Street?" Warren said. "Let me find the world's smallest violin to play a sad, sad song. Can Donald Trump even name three things that Dodd-Frank does? Seriously, someone ask him."
An Ohio judge ruled Tuesday that Republican efforts to curtail the state's so-called "Golden Week"—a week that included the ability to register and vote at the same location—violated the Constitution and federal voting laws.
In the 120-page opinion, Judge Michael H. Watson, a Republican, ruled that the elimination of Golden Week in Ohio "imposes a modest, as well as a disproportionate, burden on African Americans' right to vote." If the ruling stands, Ohio voters will be able to vote 35 days before the general election in November, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
"We are thrilled with the results," Marc Elias, the lead lawyer in the case (and also the Hillary Clinton campaign's top lawyer), told Mother Jones on Tuesday. "The restoration of Golden Week is a win for Ohio voters and all [who] support voting rights. It's a shame that Republican officials continue to fight against increased access to the polls, making lawsuits like this necessary."
Tuesday's ruling marks the second time a federal judge has struck down key portions of the 2014 law. State Republicans pushed and passed the bill in 2014 to reduce costs on election administrators and ease concerns that voter eligibility couldn't be confirmed with registration and voting happening at the same time. The ACLU challenged the law in 2014, and a judge sided with the ACLU and ordered the local election officials to set uniform early voting hours, but Golden Week wasn't reinstated.
This case was brought in 2015 by the Ohio Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Cuyahoga County, and the Montgomery County Democratic Party.
In his ruling, Watson determined that the elimination of Golden Week violated the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal rights under the law, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or language.
"The court finds that [the law] results in less opportunity for African Americans to participate in the political process than other voters," Watson wrote.
Watson rejected other claims in the suit. One objected to the law's stipulation that there be only one early voting requirement per county; another stated that Republicans enacted the laws specifically to place a burden on African American voters.
The state says it plans to appeal Tuesday's ruling.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine School of Law, wrote Tuesday that Watson's Appeals Court ruling is likely to stand, given the US Supreme Court's "potentially likely" 4-4 split, with the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat still unfilled.