Resilience in the Face of the Onslaught

By Charles M. Blow – July 11, 2024

A blurry photo shows President Biden speaking at a podium in front of the American flag.
Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Joe Biden is still standing, refusing to bow out — he reiterated that once again in a lengthy and mostly successful news conference on Thursday night. Some may view it as selfish and irresponsible. Some may even see it as dangerous. But I see it as remarkable.

Despite sending a clear message — in his recent flurry of interviews and rallies, in his stalwart address this week to members of the NATO alliance and in his letter on Monday to congressional Democrats, in which he assured them that “I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024” — there’s still a slow drumbeat from luminaries, donors and elected officials trying to write Biden’s political obituary.

The talent agency mogul Ari Emanuel (a brother of Rahm Emanuel, Biden’s ambassador to Japan), recently said Biden “is not the candidate anymore.” In a post on X, the best-selling author Stephen King said that it’s time for Biden “to announce he will not run for re-election.” Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Walt Disney fortune, said, “I intend to stop any contributions to the party unless and until they replace Biden at the top of the ticket.”

They seem to believe that they can kill his candidacy, by a thousand cuts or by starving it to death.

But none of this sits well with me.

First, because Biden is, in fact, his party’s presumptive nominee. He won the primaries. He has the delegates. He got there via an open, organized and democratic process.

Forcing him out, against his will, seems to me an invalidation of that process. And the apparent justification for this, that polls, which are highly fluctuant, now indicate that some voters want him replaced, is insufficient; responses to polls are not votes.

Yes, two weeks ago, Biden had a bad debate, and may well be diminished. Yes, there’s a chance he could lose this election. That chance exists for any candidate. But allowing elites to muscle him out of the race would be playing a dangerous game that is not without its own very real risk. It won’t guarantee victory and may produce chaos. The logic that says you have to dump Biden in order to defeat Trump is at best a gamble, the product of panicked people in well-furnished parlors.

Furthermore, no one has really made the case that whatever decline Biden may be experiencing has significantly impacted his policy decision-making or eroded America’s standing in the world. The arguments center on the visual evidence of somewhat worrisome comportment but mostly speculation about cognition.

That is just not enough.

I am not a Biden acolyte. I’ve never met the man. And I’m not arguing against the sense among those who have seen him up close and express worry. I’m not pro-Biden as much as I am pro-stay the course.

Like Biden’s Democratic doubters, I want above all to prevent Trump from being re-elected and to ensure the preservation of democracy. It’s just that I believe allowing Biden to remain at the top of the Democratic ticket is the best way to achieve that.

And since that’s the goal, perhaps the best argument in Biden’s favor is that his mettle has been revealed by the onslaught of criticism he has endured since the debate, much of it from other liberals.

Biden’s support hasn’t cratered, as one might have expected. Which suggests that the idea that Biden can’t win — or that another Democrat would have an easier run — is speculative at best.

Indeed, when I saw one headline that read, “Poll finds Biden damaged by debate; with Harris and Clinton best positioned to win,” I thought: Hillary Clinton? Now we’re truly in fantasy baseball territory.

And in the national poll on which that article was premised, Biden trailed Trump by just one percentage point while Vice President Kamala Harris led Trump by just one percentage point; in both cases, well within the margin of error.

A new Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll found that Biden and Trump are tied nationally.

As for hypothetical candidates like Harris — who I do believe would acquit herself well at the top of the ticket — that same poll shows her performing slightly better against Trump than Biden does. But that is in the abstract, before the chaos of a candidate change, and before she received the full-frontal assault that being the actual nominee would surely bring. And in an era of opposition to “wokeness” and the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, that frontal assault, directed at the first Black, Asian American and female vice president, would be savage.

The potential drag on down-ballot races is a legitimate concern for some Democrats, but it appears to be the panic of some down-ballot candidates that has exacerbated the problem, as more than a dozen House Democrats and one Senate Democrat have called for Biden to leave the race.

There’s no guarantee that swapping out candidates would leave Democrats in a better position, but I believe the case is building that the continued dithering among Democrats about Biden’s candidacy is doing further damage to their chances.

Biden’s candidacy may not survive. But forcing him out of it may hurt Democrats more than it helps them, even with voters who say they want a different choice.

More on President Biden:

David French: Biden Has an Inner Circle Problem. He’s Not the Only One. – July 11, 2024

Ezra Klein: Democrats Are Drifting Toward the Worst of All Possible Worlds – July 11, 2024

Charles M. Blow is an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, writing about national politics, public opinion and social justice, with a focus on racial equality and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

What Does the G.O.P. Have Against America?

By Paul Krugman – July 11, 2024

A lectern and a teleprompter at an outdoor rally for Donald Trump. In the middle ground is a crowd of people and in the background are palm trees.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

While Democrats tear themselves apart over President Biden’s disastrous debate performance and his refusal to consider stepping aside, the Republican National Committee, without much fanfare, has released its 2024 platform.

Compared with previous platforms, it dials back references to abortion — downplaying what is, for Republicans, a losing issue. That choice goes along with Donald Trump’s recent attempt to distance himself from the extremist Project 2025 — even though that blueprint was concocted by some of his close political allies. Here, Trump is clearly employing sleight of hand in an effort not to be seen as autocratically inclined. But at this point, if you believe that, I have a degree from Trump University I’d like to sell you.

In any case, there’s nothing moderate about a platform whose first plank reads, “SEAL THE BORDER, AND STOP THE MIGRANT INVASION” and whose second item calls for “THE LARGEST DEPORTATION OPERATION IN AMERICAN HISTORY.” (Yes, the list is in all caps, just in case you need help imagining Trump shouting it to you from a Mar-a-Lago ballroom.)

I’ll have a lot more to say about Republican policy ideas in the weeks ahead. For today, however, I want to focus not on what the platform proposes but what it says about the G.O.P. image of America today — a dystopian vision that bears hardly any resemblance to the vibrant country I know, a nation that has coped remarkably well with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Republicans may try to brand themselves as patriots, but they truly appear to despise the nation they live in.

Start with item No. 10, which begins with the promise to “STOP THE MIGRANT CRIME EPIDEMIC” — presumably one of the justifications for mass deportations. Any attempt to carry out such deportations would be a humanitarian, social and economic nightmare. But leaving that aside, the whole premise is false. There is no epidemic of migrant crime in America.

Yes, some Americans have been the victims of terrible crimes, and some of the perpetrators have been migrants. But violent crime in America, homicides in particular, which surged during the last year of the Trump administration — a year of low immigration — has plunged over the past two years.

And Americans have been signaling by their behavior, literally voting with their feet, that our big cities feel fairly safe. Downtown foot traffic on nights and weekends — that is, traffic that mainly reflects people going out for shopping and entertainment rather than for work — is close to or above prepandemic levels in many major cities.

Far from facing a crime “epidemic,” America has been highly successful in recovering from the Trump crime wave.

The G.O.P. platform also pledges to “MAKE AMERICA THE DOMINANT ENERGY PRODUCER IN THE WORLD.” The subtext here is the pervasive belief on the right that woke environmentalists have undermined the U.S. energy sector.

Given how often one hears this asserted, it’s a bit shocking to look at the data and learn that America produced more energy in 2023 than ever before. In fact, we’ve become a major energy exporter, for example selling Europe vast quantities of liquefied natural gas that helped it reduce dependence on Russian supplies after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

The area in which we’re really lagging China is renewable energy, which the Biden-Harris administration is promoting — and Republicans hate.

Further, the platform promises to “END INFLATION, AND MAKE AMERICA AFFORDABLE AGAIN.” In reality, inflation is already way down — from 9 percent at its peak to just 3 percent as measured by the Consumer Price Index, and is probably down to 2.4 percent according to an alternative price index preferred by the Federal Reserve. Gasoline and groceries are just as affordable, as measured by their prices compared with the average hourly earnings of nonmanagerial workers, as they were in 2019.

So what are Republicans talking about? Are they promising to roll back the price increases that took place almost everywhere as the world economy recovered from the pandemic? We haven’t seen deflation on that scale since the Great Depression — not exactly an experience we want to repeat.

Why does the Republican vision of America, as revealed in the party’s platform, bear so little resemblance to reality? A large part of it, I believe, is that the party instinctively favors harsh, punitive policies — which obliges it to believe that failure to pursue such policies must lead to disaster, even when it doesn’t. Democrats haven’t been deporting millions or toying with the idea of shooting protesters, therefore, the logic seems to go, we must be experiencing a crime epidemic. Democrats care about the environment, therefore they must be hampering energy production. Democrats want to expand health care coverage and alleviate poverty, therefore they must be feeding runaway inflation.

For a little while, reality seemed to cooperate with some of these grim visions, mainly because of spillovers from the pandemic and its aftermath. We did have a spike in homicides, although it mostly happened on Trump’s watch. We did have a burst of inflation, but it’s behind us.

Bottom line, there’s no reason at all to believe that Republicans have moderated their extremist agenda. Energy independence — which we have already achieved! — won’t be on the ballot this year. Health care, abortion and, probably, birth control will.

Paul Krugman has been an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is also a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on international trade and economic geography.

Rising Frustration in Houston After Millions Lost Power in Storm

With outages expected to last days, a top state official promised to look into whether the utility company could have done more to prepare for Hurricane Beryl.

By J. David Goodman and Ivan Penn July 10, 2024 

Reporting from Houston and Los Angeles.

Toppled power poles block part of a street, as cars approach.
Fallen power lines littered the roads in Galveston after Hurricane Beryl hit the Texas coast on Monday.Credit…Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

The sun felt hotter than usual in Houston this week, as millions of sweltering residents emerged from the rapid thrashing of Hurricane Beryl to face a prolonged power outage — the largest ever seen by the city’s utility, according to the state’s lieutenant governor.

The outages from the storm affected as many as 2.7 million customers across the state, mostly in and around Houston. Despite a promise by the utility, CenterPoint Energy, to restore power to one million customers by the end of the day on Wednesday, large swaths of the nation’s fourth-biggest city remained without power.

The scale of the outages raised questions about whether enough had been done to prepare the city, just 50 miles from the Gulf Coast, for the kinds of storms that climate scientists predict will arrive with greater frequency.

“For a Category 1 hurricane to result in over a million customer outages in its immediate aftermath demonstrates that there is plenty of need for the resiliency hardening investments,” said Wei Du, an energy expert with PA Consulting and a former senior analyst and engineer for Con Edison.

Beryl was not a particularly strong storm when it made landfall early Monday. But the hurricane struck at the heart of Houston with a ferocity that toppled trees into power lines and that knocked over 10 transmission towers, officials said.

By late Tuesday, some 1.5 million of CenterPoint’s customers still had no power — and little sense of when it would return. Neighbors reported flickerings of light to each other on group chats, hoping for signs of progress. Many shared a map of open Whataburger locations, suggesting that the fast-food chain was a better way to find out about available electricity service, compared with the spotty information released by the utility.

As the temperatures rose, so did many residents’ anger.

“The response has been too slow,” said Patricia Alexander, 79, who sat in a cooling center in northwest Houston to get a break from the heat inside the senior center where she lives. “The mayor said he was looking out for senior centers and that CenterPoint’s teams were prioritizing senior facilities, but I don’t believe it, because we don’t have air-conditioning.”

Cars make their way in the darkness toward a nonfunctioning traffic light.
About 2.2 million customers — 80 percent of the utility’s customers in the Houston area — lost power in the storm, a CenterPoint Energy spokesman said.Credit…Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

The sheer number of damaged lines accounted for the extent of the outages, which surpassed those during Hurricane Ike in 2008. After that storm, the utility described making efforts to better manage the vegetation around power lines.

Company officials said they had been surprised by the behavior of the storm, which initially was expected to strike further south but instead hit near Matagorda, Texas, after strengthening somewhat and then spiraling north toward Houston.

“No one should have been surprised,” said Dan Patrick, the state’s lieutenant governor, who has been acting in place of Gov. Greg Abbott while he travels abroad.

Mr. Patrick said in a news conference that he wanted the utility to focus on restoring power, but that afterward the company would need to explain its preparations for the storm.

“If they made mistakes beforehand, then that will be addressed,” Mr. Patrick said. “The real question is: Were they as prepared as they should be? And that’s up to them to answer, and they will answer not only to the public but to the P.U.C.,” he added, referring to the state’s Public Utility Commission.

Texas officials have spent much of the past few years worrying about the vulnerability of the state’s power grid to extreme cold after a failure during a winter storm in 2021.

But amid increasingly frequent extreme heat, the grid has also been tested in the summer, not just during storms but also on hot, cloudless days when energy demand is high.

“It’s not just during a storm: Texas in general tends to have more outages on a blue sky day than other states,” said Doug Lewin, an energy consultant and the author of the Texas Energy and Power newsletter. “We rank very poorly compared to other states. We’ve got a long way to go.”

In CenterPoint’s last three annual reports to federal regulators, including the most recent one in February, the utility said it had risks related to aging facilities. “Aging infrastructure may complicate our utility operations’ ability to address climate change concerns and efforts to enhance resiliency and reliability,” the company told the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A spokeswoman for CenterPoint said that the company had monitored Beryl’s development and had prepared, but “a lot of the issues were just purely because the hurricane hit more intensely than we expected.”

In particular, the company said, many of the outages occurred after trees fell on power lines.

“While we tracked the projected path, intensity and timing for Hurricane Beryl closely for many days, this storm proved the unpredictability of hurricanes as it delivered a powerful blow across our service territory and impacted a lot of lives,” Lynnae Wilson, senior vice president for CenterPoint, said in a statement.

About 2.2 million customers — 80 percent of the utility’s customers in the Houston area — lost power in the storm, a company spokesman said.

Utility experts said that power companies have little excuse for not being ready for events that develop over the course of days, in particular when the primary job is to deliver safe, reliable service.

“Most of all, it really is the preparation issue,” said Robert McCullough, of McCullough Research, a consulting firm based in Portland, Ore. “Mild storm. Why weren’t we better prepared?”

A house stands surrounded by floodwaters.
The outages from Beryl came less than two months after powerful thunderstorms knocked out power across Houston in May.Credit…Daniel Becerril/Reuters

In April, CenterPoint filed a resiliency plan with the state, proposing to spend billions to “modernize and harden our existing infrastructure” to increase reliability. A significant focus, according to the plan, is to modernize the company’s transmission and distribution systems.

After a series of powerful hurricanes struck Florida two decades ago, that state took steps to improve its electrical infrastructure.

The process, which included burying a targeted number of power lines, appeared to bear fruit, according to a 2024 report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The power grid grew more resilient to storms, the report found.

But simply burying power lines underground is not always the best solution, experts say, particularly in areas that are prone to flooding, like many parts of Houston.

“In areas where you worry more about water, you can end up making the system more vulnerable and more expensive when you underground,” said Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida. “Storm hardening is often a choice between what type of damage you’re more concerned about,” he added.

If it’s water, you go aboveground and accept the wind damage, he said, and “if it’s wind, you might want to underground” but would then have to worry about the water.

The $2.19 billion investment plan proposed by CenterPoint includes upgrading or replacing existing poles and structures to meet current wind loading standards, and improving the distribution system to prevent automatic shut-offs. The plan also proposes a pilot program to assess whether “utility-scale” microgrids can speed up the restoration of power during a fire or weather emergency.

The plan, which still needs state approval, calls for making these investments over a three-year period from 2025 to 2027.

A committee of the Texas Legislature was set to meet on Monday in Austin to discuss the utility resiliency issue — but the meeting was canceled because of the storm.

Delay is becoming more costly. Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing the capacity of the atmosphere to hold moisture, leading to more rain, more flooding and more potential for trees to fall, said Karthik Balaguru, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “I think Houston is an area that we should expect more outages,” he said.

The outages from Beryl came less than two months after powerful thunderstorms knocked out power across Houston in May. Hundreds of thousands of residents lost power in that storm, and many of the same people found themselves again dumping spoiled food and looking for cool air this week.

“This is a double whammy,” said Cleveland James, 70, of West Houston, describing the almost back-to-back storms as he sat in the local cooling center. “I lost power for five days. So that doesn’t give me much encouragement that it will come back soon. I think it’ll take a week.”

Ms. Alexander, nearby, said she worried that Beryl would not be the last time she found herself without power this summer.

“This is going to happen again,” she said of the storm, only the second to get a name this hurricane season. “I mean, we’re only in the B’s.”

Shannon Sims contributed reporting from Houston.

J. David Goodman is the Houston bureau chief for The Times, reporting on Texas and Oklahoma. More about J. David Goodman

Ivan Penn is a reporter based in Los Angeles and covers the energy industry. His work has included reporting on clean energy, failures in the electric grid and the economics of utility services. More about Ivan Penn

The Devil May Be Enjoying This Election Season, but I Am Not

Thomas L. Friedman – July 9, 2024

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

When I look at my country’s presidential contest, the first thought that comes to mind is that only the Devil himself could have designed this excruciating mess.

Both men running for president right now are unfit for the job: One is a good man in obvious cognitive and physical decline, and the other is a bad man who lies as he breathes, whose main platform is revenge — and who is in his own cognitive tailspin.

But the most important difference for the country — where you really see the Devil at work — is in the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. The plain fact is that only one party in America’s two-party system is ready to defend our constitutional order anymore. The other party is interested only in gaining and holding power for the sake of it.

The G.O.P.’s moral emptiness is manifested in several ways. The party has been purged of virtually every Republican politician unwilling to submit to its Dear Leader — Donald Trump, who attempted to overturn our last presidential election. The wife of a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice advocated overturning the results of the election on utterly bogus grounds, which shows you just how little respect that party now has for our sacred institutions. And it is ready to renominate Trump even though many of those who worked most intimately with him in his first term — including his vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, chief of staff, national security adviser, press secretary, communications director and attorney general — have warned the country in speeches, interviews and memoirs that Trump is erratic, immoral and someone who must never be let near the White House again.

One of the biggest mistakes Americans would be making if they were to elect Trump again is assuming that because we survived four years of his norm-busting, law-abusing, ally-alienating behavior once, we can skate by again without irreparable damage. It is the political equivalent of assuming that because you played Russian roulette once and survived you can play it again. That’s insane.

But that is precisely why this election is so important and precisely why the Democratic Party, which still prioritizes defending our democracy, must urgently produce a presidential candidate with the wits, vitality and appeal to independents to build an electoral majority to preserve our constitutional order.

Nothing else matters today — nothing, nothing, nothing.

But the leader the Democratic Party has right now, President Biden — someone I admire but who clearly has lost a step cognitively and physically — has combatively dug in his heels, lashed out at his critics and dared them to challenge him at the convention, despite the mounting calls for him to step aside. One would hope that his wife and family, who surely know the extent of his physical and mental frailties, would prevail upon him to step aside, but they won’t — seemingly oblivious to the risk this is posing to the country and the whole Biden legacy.

My God, the Devil must be enjoying this. I am not.

If Biden were to win, we’d all need to pray that he can get out of bed every day to carry out his agenda as well as he did in the past. If Trump were to win, we’d all need to pray that he stays in bed all day so that he can’t carry out his impulsive agenda, which seems driven first and foremost by which side of the bed he gets out of.

We can do better than this — and we must. Because this is also no ordinary election season. We are at a profound hinge of history that is going to put us on a roller coaster of job market volatility, geopolitical volatility and climate volatility.

The artificial intelligence revolution of the past four years is widely expected to slam into the white-collar job market in the next four like a Category 5 hurricane. The lengthy Hollywood writers strike last year was just a tiny foretaste of what this destabilizing revolution in white-collar work will look like.

At the same time, we are in the middle of defining the post-post-Cold War order, now that the U.S.-dominated post-Cold War order has come unstuck since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Managing a hostile Russia — aligned with an increasingly hostile China, aligned with malign actors like Iran and North Korea, and super-empowered nonstate actors like Hamas, the Houthis and Hezbollah — will take not only incredibly wise U.S. leadership but also a U.S. leader able to forge multiple alliances. The post-post-Cold War world can’t be managed by a lonely American superpower telling all its allies to spend more on defense or we will leave you to the tender mercies of Vladimir Putin.

And finally, speaking of hurricanes, there is every indication that our core climate change challenge — how we manage the disruptive weather that is already unavoidable and avoid the disruptive weather that would become unmanageable — is now on our doorstep. The decisions we make in the next four years may be our last chance to avoid the unmanageable.

Those are just a few of the anticipated challenges facing the next president. And God save us from the unanticipated ones, like massive climate-driven migrations amplifying geopolitical instability. America always needs clearheaded and vigorous leadership, but we need it now more than ever.

Democrats, if they are being responsible, need to imagine Biden two or three years from now, given the inevitable march of time. Do those running the Biden campaign and those Democratic Party leaders who tell Biden to hang tough really believe that in two years he will have the capacity to carry out the rigorous job of president, with all its pressures, even on a good day? He is already saying he doesn’t want to schedule events past 8 p.m., but the presidency has never been and will never be an 8 a.m.-to-8 p.m. job.

And can you imagine the conspiracy theories that will be circulating on social media and Fox News over “who is actually making decisions?” at the Biden White House when people see a president in two years who is more physically and verbally impaired? The only-Biden Democrats — and the Biden campaign — owe the country an answer to that question. I take no joy in asking it, but ask it we must.

Ditto for Trump. What will it mean for America in the age of A.I. to have a president who swore in an affidavit in a 2022 court case, “Since at least Jan. 1, 2010, it has been my customary practice to not communicate via email, text message, or other digital methods of communication”?

What will it mean to have a president who is a crude-oil-loving climate change skeptic when nearly 70 million Americans were under heat alerts last Sunday, a day on which temperatures in Las Vegas hit 120 degrees for the first time in recorded history?

What will it mean in an age when there is no important problem that can be solved by one country alone — whether mitigating climate change, regulating A.I., dealing with massive global migrations or confronting nuclear proliferation — to have a president who believes in America first and only, and that most allies are freeloaders, that U.S. tariffs are paid by China, not American consumers and that global multilateral institutions — NATO, the W.T.O., the European Union, the W.H.O., the U.N. — are an alphabet soup of useless “globalists”?

Of course, I will vote for Biden if he is the Democratic nominee. And you should, too. We have to do anything we can to stop Trump. But Democrats continuing to insist on putting him there are behaving with dangerous recklessness.

I repeat: Just because we managed to barely survive the Trump stress test to our constitutional order once — not without some serious damage — does not mean our democracy can survive another four Trump years with his now Supreme Court-fortified sense of impunity. Especially if we combine the self-induced stress levels from a second Trump term with the boiling external stresses already building up around us.

That would indeed be playing Russian roulette again — only this time with a fully loaded pistol. That’s a game only the Devil himself would design.

More on the 2024 presidential candidates:

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens: The Presidential Fitness Test Is Back – July 8, 2024

Charles M. Blow, Ross Douthat, David French, Nicholas Kristof, Pamela Paul, Lydia Polgreen, Derek Arthur, Sophia Alvarez Boyd, Vishakha Darbha and Jillian Weinberger: Who Should Lead the Democratic Ticket? Six Columnists Weigh In. – July 4, 2024

Charles M. Blow: Forcing Biden Out Would Have Only One Beneficiary: Trump – July 3, 2024

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Opinion columnist. He joined the paper in 1981 and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award.

Extreme heat waves broiling the US in 2024 aren’t normal: How climate change is heating up weather around the world

The Conversation

Extreme heat waves broiling the US in 2024 aren’t normal: How climate change is heating up weather around the world

Mathew Barlow and Jeffrey Basara, UMass Lowell – July 9, 2024

Visitors walk past a sign reading 'Stop: Extreme Heat Danger' in Death Valley National Park during a heat wave on July 7, 2024. <a href=
Visitors walk past a sign reading ‘Stop: Extreme Heat Danger’ in Death Valley National Park during a heat wave on July 7, 2024. Etienne Laurent/AFP via Getty Images

Less than a month into summer 2024, the vast majority of the U.S. population has already experienced an extreme heat wave. Millions of people were under heat warnings across the western U.S. in early July or sweating through humid heat in the East.

Death Valley hit a dangerous 129 degrees Fahrenheit (53.9 C) on July 7, a day after a motorcyclist died from heat exposure there. Las Vegas broke its all-time heat record at 120 F (48.9 C). In California, days of over-100-degree heat in large parts of the state dried out the landscape, fueling wildfires. Oregon reported several suspected heat deaths.

Extreme heat like this has been hitting countries across the planet in 2024.

Globally, each of the past 13 months has been the hottest on record for that month, including the hottest June, according to the European Union’s Copernicus climate service. The service reported on July 8, 2024, that the average temperature for the previous 12 months had also been at least 1.5 C (2.7 F) warmer than the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average.

The 1.5 C warming threshold can be confusing, so let’s take a closer look at what that means. In the Paris climate agreement, countries worldwide agreed to work to keep global warming under 1.5 C, however that refers to the temperature change averaged over a 30-year period. A 30-year average is used to limit the influence of natural year-to-year fluctuations.

So far, the Earth has only crossed that threshold for a single year. However, it is still extremely concerning, and the world appears to be on track to cross the 30-year average threshold of 1.5 C within 10 years.

A chart shows yearly averages and the trend line going out 10 more years before it crosses 1.5 C for the 30-year average.
Global temperatures showing the trend line averaged over 30 years. Copernicus Climate Change and Atmosphere Monitoring Services

We study weather patterns involving heat. The early season heat, part of a warming trend fueled by humans, is putting lives at risk around the world.

Heat is becoming a global problem

Record heat has hit several countries across the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia in 2024. In Mexico and Central America, weeks of persistent heat starting in spring 2024 combined with prolonged drought led to severe water shortages and dozens of deaths.

Extreme heat turned into tragedy in Saudi Arabia, as over 1,000 people on the Hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, collapsed and died. Temperatures reached 125 F (51.8 C) at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on June 17.

A large number of people in traditional clothing covering them from their necks to their wrists and ankles walk on wide pathway, some carrying umbrellas for shade.
Muslim pilgrims spent hours in extreme temperatures and humidity during the Hajj in June 2024 in Saudi Arabia. Over 1,000 people died in the heat. AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

Hospitals in Karachi, Pakistan, were overwhelmed amid weeks of high heat, frequent power outages, and water shortages in some areas. Neighboring India faced temperatures around 120 F (48.9 C) for several days in April and May that affected millions of people, many of them without air conditioning.

In Greece, where temperatures were over 100 F (37.8 C) for days in June, several tourists died or were feared dead after going hiking in dangerous heat and humidity.

Japan issued heatstroke alerts in Tokyo and more than half of its prefectures as temperatures rose to record highs in early July.

The climate connection: This isn’t ‘just summer’

Although heat waves are a natural part of the climate, the severity and extent of the heat waves so far in 2024 are not “just summer.”

A scientific assessment of the fierce heat wave in the eastern U.S. in June 2024 estimates that heat so severe and long-lasting was two to four times more likely to occur today because of human-caused climate change than it would have been without it. This conclusion is consistent with the rapid increase over the past several decades in the number of U.S. heat waves and their occurrence outside the peak of summer.

These record heat waves are happening in a climate that’s globally more than 2.2 F (1.2 C) warmer – when looking at the 30-year average – than it was before the industrial revolution, when humans began releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions that warm the climate.

Two global maps show much faster warming per decade over the past 30 years than in the past 120 years.
Global surface temperatures have risen faster per decade in the past 30 years than over the past 120. NOAA NCEI

While a temperature difference of a degree or two when you walk into a different room might not even be noticeable, even fractions of a degree make a large difference in the global climate.

At the peak of the last ice age, some 20,000 years ago, when the Northeast U.S. was under thousands of feet of ice, the globally averaged temperature was only about 11 F (6 C) cooler than now. So, it is not surprising that 2.2 F (1.2 C) of warming so far is already rapidly changing the climate.

If you thought this was hot

While this summer is likely be one of the hottest on record, it is important to realize that it may also be one of the coldest summers of the future.

For populations that are especially vulnerable to heat, including young children, older adults and outdoor workers, the risks are even higher. People in lower-income neighborhoods where air conditioning may be unaffordable and renters who often don’t have the same protections for cooling as heating will face increasingly dangerous conditions.

Extreme heat can also affect economies. It can buckle railroad tracks and cause wires to sag, leading to transit delays and disruptions. It can also overload electric systems with high demand and lead to blackouts just when people have the greatest need for cooling.

The good news: There are solutions

Yes, the future in a warming world is daunting. However, while countries aren’t on pace to meet their Paris Agreement goals, they have made progress.

In the U.S., the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act has the potential to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half by 2035.

Switching from air conditioners to heat pumps and network geothermal systems can not only reduce fossil fuel emissions but also provide cooling at a lower cost. The cost of renewable energy continues to plummet, and many countries are increasing policy support and incentives.

A chart shows the number of heat waves is likely to be four times higher in a world 2.7 F (1.5 C) warmer and nearly five times higher in a world 6.3 F (3.5 C) warmer. Both scenarios are possible as global emissions rise.
Actions to reduce warming can limit a wide range of hazards and create numerous near-term benefits and opportunities. National Climate Assessment 2023

There is much that humanity can do to limit future warming if countries, companies and people everywhere act with urgency. Rapidly reducing fossil fuel emissions can help avoid a warmer future with even worse heat waves and droughts, while also providing other benefits, including improving public health, creating jobs and reducing risks to ecosystems.

Read more:

Mathew Barlow has received funding from the NOAA Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections Program to study heatwaves.

Jeffrey Basara has received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation to study flash drought and extreme temperatures.

Legal expert: SCOTUS “invented a new rule” that could even give Trump immunity for “unofficial acts”

Salon

Legal expert: SCOTUS “invented a new rule” that could even give Trump immunity for “unofficial acts”

Marina Villeneuve – July 8, 2024

Donald Trump Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
Donald Trump Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s classified documents case in Florida could hinge on how courts define what constitutes an official presidential act under a landmark Supreme Court ruling outlining presidential immunity, according to a legal expert.

The Supreme Court last week ruled 6-3 that presidents have “absolute immunity from criminal prosecution” for acts that fall within the “exercise of his core constitutional powers he took when in office.” Presidents, according to the ruling, have “at least presumptive” immunity from other official acts, and no immunity for unofficial acts.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 40 criminal counts stemming from the discovery of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left office.

His lawyers argue that the Supreme Court’s ruling “guts” special counsel Jack Smith’s own theory of presidential immunity. Trump’s team wants to prevent prosecutors from using evidence that concerns Trump’s “official acts” in any trial.

“The million-dollar question now is how the president’s conduct is categorized,” University of Miami School of Law professor Caroline Mala Corbin told Salon.

“If what he did is considered official conduct, then he has either absolute immunity or at least a presumption of immunity,” she said. “And a presumption that will be very difficult to rebut.”

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon — who is presiding over the documents case — is now set to weigh whether Trump had immunity for any alleged acts.

She paused upcoming court deadlines for prosecutors and Trump’s team, and gave special counsel Jack Smith until July 18 to respond to Trump’s motion claiming presidential immunity. A reply from Trump’s team is due July 21.

The grand jury’s indictment includes 32 counts of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense documents, along with counts that allege Trump conspired to conceal documents from FBI investigators.

On Friday, Trump’s lawyers asked Cannon to decide whether the alleged conduct in the documents case is official or unofficial.

In Trump’s motion, his lawyers Todd Blanche and Christopher Kise pointed out that Chief Justice John Roberts — who authored the majority immunity ruling — said that “questions about whether the President may be held liable for particular actions, consistent with the separation of powers, must be addressed at the outset of a proceeding.”

Trump’s lawyers said the indictment concerns “important Presidential powers” including meeting with foreign relations leaders, overseeing international diplomacy and intelligence gathering and responsibility for Executive Branch actions.

Earlier this year, Trump’s lawyers argued that 32 criminal counts are based on official acts — including Trump deciding to “retain” the documents by having them “removed from the White House” while he was still president.

“The timeframe alleged for each of Counts 1 – 32 begins on January 20, 2021,” reads his lawyer’s motion. “President Trump was the Commander in Chief until noon that day.”

Trump’s lawyers said he had the authority to designate the records as personal under the Presidential Records Act, and that he could declassify records under Article II of the Constitution and Executive Order 13526.

Corbin said whether Trump will have absolute immunity for official acts depends on whether Cannon determines he was acting pursuant to a power he shares with Congress.

She pointed to the ruling, which said: “Not all of the President’s official acts fall within his ‘conclusive and preclusive’ authority. The reasons that justify the President’s absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for acts within the scope of his exclusive constitutional authority do not extend to conduct in areas where his authority is shared with Congress.”

Corbin said the Supreme Court’s ruling lacked detailed parameters of what constitutes an official — and core — presidential act.

“I think they defined official conduct expansively, but not definitively,” she said. “So I think there are a lot of questions that remain.”

Pace Law School professor Bennett Gershman said the documents Trump removed belonged to the National Archive.

Trump’s possession and use of those documents as president did fall within the “outer perimeter” of his official duties, according to Gershman.

“But will a court find that his retention of the documents after he left office reasonably could be considered an official act of his presidency? Or would a court more likely conclude that his retention of these documents after he left office was a purely private and personal action on his part having nothing to do with his presidency or with any official acts of his presidency?” Gershman told Salon.

Gershman said it’s “much more reasonable” for a court to conclude that Trump’s retention of the documents falls into the unofficial bucket.

“The Supreme Court’s emphasis on affording a president extremely broad immunity is to allow the president to do his job energetically and fearlessly without tempering his decision-making over fears of prosecution,” Gershman said. “Trump, when he decided to take the documents, had no concern over how the retention and possession would affect his presidency. “

Gershman added: “The way Trump mishandled the documents — storing them in his bathroom, showing them to guests at his house, losing some of them — suggests he didn’t think these documents were official or that he was possessing in an official capacity.”

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the Supreme Court’s ruling won’t “jeopardize the case altogether” — but could limit evidence used by prosecutors.

“The hurrendous [sic] SCOTUS immunity decision’s effect on the Trump MAL case: it may restrict certain evidence, but not jeopardize the case altogether as it is about conduct after Trump was president (unlawful retention of docs and obstruction),” Weissmann wrote on X. “But certain allegations in the indictment may be struck.”

Weissmann pointed to half a dozen paragraphs in the Florida indictment that outlines the alleged conduct, including Trump gathering official documents and other materials in cardboard boxes in the White House.

The indictment also mentions Trump receiving intelligence briefings from high-level government officials and regularly receiving classified intelligence information in the “President’s Daily Brief.”

Trump issued a statement in 2018 stating he has a “unique, Constitutional responsibility to protect the Nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it.”

And as he prepared to leave the White House in January 2021, the indictment says he and White House staff packed boxes containing “hundreds of classified documents” that were brought to Mar-a-Lago.

Weissmann pointed out that the Supreme Court’s ruling itself opened the door to impact proceedings involving unofficial acts.

“Because the SCOTUS decision says (ie invented a new rule) that even in such an ‘unofficial case’ the government cannot use evidence of ‘official’ conduct to prove the case (and some such arguable conduct is cited in the indictment),” he wrote.

The Supreme Court majority ruling said that allowing evidence of official conduct in cases about unofficial conduct could jeopardize presidential immunity.

“If official conduct for which the President is immune may be scrutinized to help secure his conviction, even on charges that purport to be based only on his unofficial conduct, the ‘intended effect’ of immunity would be defeated,” the ruling says. “The President’s immune conduct would be subject to examination by a jury on the basis of generally applicable criminal laws. Use of evidence about such conduct, even when an indictment alleges only unofficial conduct, would thereby heighten the prospect that the President’s official decisionmaking will be distorted.”

Trump’s lawyers pointed to that finding in their motion, and argued that the indictment does not only include official conduct.

The Supreme Court’s opinion adds: “Allowing prosecutors to ask or suggest that the jury probe official acts for which the President is immune would thus raise a unique risk that the jurors’ deliberations will be prejudiced by their views of the President’s policies and performance while in office.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett disagreed and concurred in part with Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, arguing that excluding “any mention” of an official act associated with a bribe ‘would hamstring the prosecution.'”

Barrett said a prosecutor could point to public record to show the president performed the official act and admit evidence of what the president “allegedly demanded, received, accepted, or agreed to receive or accept.”

But Barrett said admitting testimony or private records would invite the jury to “second-guess” the president’s motivations for official acts — which she argues would “‘seriously cripple'” a president’s exercise of official duties.

In her dissent, Sotomayor said federal criminal prosecutions require “‘robust procedural safeguards.'”

“If the Government manages to overcome even that significant hurdle, then the former President can appeal his conviction, and the appellate review of his claims will be ‘particularly meticulous,’” she wrote.

She added: “I am deeply troubled by the idea, inherent in the majority’s opinion, that our Nation loses something valuable when the President is forced to operate within the confines of federal criminal law.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, meanwhile, called the “official-versus-unofficial act distinction… both arbitrary and irrational.”

Jackson said “the Court has neglected to lay out a standard that reliably distinguishes between a President’s official and unofficial conduct.”

Jackson said she questioned whether a president could be held accountable for committing crimes while undertaking official duties.

“[C]ourts must now ensure that a former President is not held accountable for any criminal conduct he engages in while he is on duty, unless his conduct consists primarily (and perhaps solely) of unofficial acts,” Jackson said.

Corbin called the Supreme Court’s ruling troubling.

“It’s assumed that everyone is subject to the law in the United States, including the president, and it’s a little worrisome that the President might be absolutely immune from criminal law just because he was executing a power given by the Constitution,” Corbin said. “The court’s justification for absolute immunity seemed pretty flimsy, and granting absolute immunity to a president especially when we know certain presidents will happily abuse their power is very worrisome.”

And she called the level of immunity granted unnecessary to protect a president’s ability to do the job.

“Given that future presidents may not be trustworthy, it’s a real worry,” Corbin said. “I mean, we’ve already seen what certain presidents will do without knowing they had absolute immunity. I can’t imagine what we might see from a president who has absolute immunity.”

In a concurrence, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas raised another issue altogether — concerning the constitutionality of the special counsel.

Trump has raised such legal arguments for months and argued that Special Counsel Smith’s appointment and budget violates the Constitution.

Thomas said he wasn’t sure about whether the Attorney General could appoint a private citizen as special counsel, saying: “A private citizen cannot criminally prosecute anyone, let alone a former President.”

“Whether the Special Counsel’s office was ‘established by Law’ is not a trifling technicality,” Thomas said. “If Congress has not reached a consensus that a particular office should exist, the Executive lacks the power to unilaterally create and then fill that office. Given that the Special Counsel purports to wield the Executive Branch’s power to prosecute, the consequences are weighty.”

Trump’s lawyers cited Thomas’ dissent in their motion asking Cannon to resolve constitutional questions about presidential immunity and the special counsel’s authority.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have argued that long-held court precedents have upheld the authorities of special counsels.

Smith has pointed out that when Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr served under former President George H.W. Bush, Barr appointed former circuit and district judges.

And legal experts including D.C.-based national security attorney Bradley Moss say that for decades, criminal defendants indicted by special counsel have unsuccessfully challenged their lawfulness.

The Supreme Court’s ruling could also potentially forestall sentencing for Trump’s criminal charges in New York.

In May, jurors in Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial found Trump guilty of 34 charges of falsifying business records.

Manhattan prosecutors alleged that Trump disguised $130,000 in hush money as a legal expense as part of a scheme to keep information about alleged extramarital sex from voters and unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election.

But in the wake of the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling, Judge Juan Merchan postponed Trump’s sentencing for at least two months — if, the judge said, “such is still necessary.”

Trump’s lawyers argue that because Trump’s crimes occurred before he assumed the presidency, some of the evidence used should have been redacted.

Prosecutors alleged Trump made or caused the falsification of business records, including invoices and checks to longtime fixer Michael Cohen — some of which have Trump’s signature on them.

Prosecutors also alleged that 2017 Trump Organization general ledger entries falsely described 2017 payments to Cohen as a “legal expense.”

Trump also faces charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

A D.C. federal grand jury indicted Trump on four charges in August 2023 accusing the former president of conspiring to thwart his 2020 electoral defeat and the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

Last December, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s motion to dismiss the charges on grounds of absolute presidential immunity, which he argues completely shields him from prosecution for any actions taken while in office.

In late February, the Supreme Court decided to take up Trump’s immunity appeal.

The justices sent the case back to Chutkan to figure out which acts are official and unofficial.

The Supreme Court’s ruling said deciding whether Trump’s alleged fake electors scheme “requires a close analysis of the indictment’s extensive and interrelated allegations.”

The ruling stressed that the federal government’s role in appointing electors is “limited” and that the president lacks “authority to control the state officials who do.” The opinion also says the framers excluded electors “suspected of too great devotion to the president in office.”

Still, the opinion said: “Unlike Trump’s alleged interactions with the Justice Department, this alleged conduct cannot be neatly categorized as falling within a particular Presidential function.”

The lower court will also weigh Trumps’ tweets urging his supporters to travel to D.C. on Jan. 6, as well as his speech to the crowd gathered at the Capitol.

The court’s opinion said the president has “extraordinary power” to speak with citizens.

But, the opinion added: “There may, however, be contexts in which the President, notwithstanding the prominence of his position, speaks in an unofficial capacity—perhaps as a candidate for office or party leader.”

Schumer pushing bill to strip Trump of court-granted immunity

The Hill

Schumer pushing bill to strip Trump of court-granted immunity

Alexander Bolton – July 8, 2024

Schumer pushing bill to strip Trump of court-granted immunity

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Monday that he and other Senate Democrats will work to advance legislation to strip former President Trump of the immunity he was granted under a recent Supreme Court ruling protecting a president’s official acts from criminal prosecution.

Schumer, invoking Congress’s powers to regulate the courts, said Democrats are working on legislation to classify Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election as “unofficial acts” so they do not merit immunity from criminal prosecution under the high court’s recent 6-3 decision.

“They incorrectly declared that former President Trump enjoys broad immunity from criminal prosecution for actions he took while in office. They incorrectly declared that all future presidents are entitled to a breathtaking level of immunity so long as their conduct is ostensibly carried out in their official capacity as president,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Schumer said the court’s conservative justices had “effectively placed a crown on Donald Trump’s head,” putting him above the law and making him “in many ways untouchable.”

“I will work with my colleagues on legislation classifying Trump’s election subversion acts as unofficial acts not subject to immunity,” he announced. “We’re doing this because we believe that in America no president should be free to overturn an election against the will of the people, no matter what the conservative justices may believe.”

Schumer said senators will keep on working on other proposals to “rein in the abuse of our federal judiciary.”

Some Democrats, including Sens. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), have expressed support for adding language to the Supreme Court’s annual funding bill that would require it to adopt an enforceable code of ethics.

Government watchdog groups, Democratic lawmakers and media pundits have criticized conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in free travel and other gifts from wealthy benefactors.

The Supreme Court granted Trump substantial immunity when it ruled on July 1 that Trump and future presidents could not be prosecuted for crimes related to official acts but left it to lower courts to determine whether Trump’s actions to overturn the results of the 2020 election fell under the category of official acts.

Some legal analysts, however, think the ruling may protect Trump entirely from being prosecuted for the attempts to overturn the election results, which resulted in a mob storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, because it would bar prosecutors from presenting actions related to official conduct to a jury as evidence.

Sen. Chuck Schumer eyes new bill hitting back at the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling on Trump

NBC News

Sen. Chuck Schumer eyes new bill hitting back at the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling on Trump

Sahil Kapur and Frank Thorp V – July 9, 2024

WASHINGTON — Accusing conservative Supreme Court justices of placing “a crown on Donald Trump’s head” that allows him to commit crimes with impunity, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that he’s eying a legislative response to last week’s court ruling.

“We Democrats will not let the Supreme Court’s decision stand unaddressed. The Constitution makes plain that Congress has the authority to check the judiciary through appropriate legislation. I will work with my colleagues on legislation classifying Trump’s election subversion acts as unofficial acts not subject to immunity,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor.

Schumer spoke as the Senate returned from recess, a week after the Supreme Court handed Trump a big win in a 6-3 ruling along ideological lines that said presidents have legal immunity from prosecution for “official acts” carried out on the job but not unofficial acts. The terms are subject to interpretation, and Schumer is seeking to define Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results as being outside the scope of his presidential duties.

“We’re doing this because we believe that in America no president should be free to overturn an election against the will of the people, no matter what the conservative justices may believe,” Schumer said. “As we work on this important matter, we’ll also keep working on other proposals to reassert Congress’s Article I authority to rein in the abuse of our federal judiciary. The American people are tired, just tired, of justices who think they are beyond accountability.”The specifics of the bill aren’t yet determined, and there would undoubtedly be hurdles to advancing the legislation in the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in a chamber that requires 60 votes for passage.

Apart from Congress, the White House told NBC News after the Supreme Court’s ruling that it is exploring its own options for how to respond.

“We are reviewing the decision and certainly will be exploring what could be done to address it to better safeguard democracy and the rule of law in the future, given this dangerous precedent,” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said.

The Most Interesting Justice on the Supreme Court Is Also the Loneliest

By Stephen I. Vladeck – July 8, 2024

Justice Amy Coney Barrett walking at the bottom of steps, next to the figure of a person partly out of frame.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

When this Supreme Court term began last October, one of the more intriguing predictions from commentators was that Justice Amy Coney Barrett — entering her third full term on the court — would come out of her shell and emerge as the court’s new swing justice, casting the decisive vote in the most divisive cases.

The commentators got half of that right: There’s little doubt, in looking at the oral arguments the court has conducted and the decisions it has handed down over the past nine months, that Justice Barrett has found her voice — and has easily become the most interesting justice. Her questions at argument are penetrating; the analysis in her written opinions spares no one in its detail.

The second part of that prediction didn’t come true, though. Justice Barrett did side with some or all of the three Democratic appointees in several of the term’s most important cases — but her fellow conservatives seldom joined her. Indeed, while Justice Barrett was establishing her principled independence in the middle of the court, the other five Republican appointees moved only further to the right.

When the majority in the Colorado ballot disqualification case went further than necessary, and the Democratic appointees called them out for doing so, there was Justice Barrett — writing separately to chastise all of her colleagues for failing to send a unified message to the country. When Justice Clarence Thomas took too wooden an approach to assessing historical practice and tradition in a trademark case, there was Justice Barrett — pushing back in an important concurrence that was joined by Justice Elena Kagan and in part by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

When the Fifth Circuit allowed anti-vaccine activists and red states to bring an unprecedented lawsuit against the Biden administration built on the dubious claim that the government had coerced social-media networks into removing vaccine-related disinformation and misinformation, there was Justice Barrett — writing the majority opinion holding that the plaintiffs hadn’t come close to establishing that they had been harmed by the alleged government action and that the Fifth Circuit clearly erred in concluding to the contrary. And when the court sidestepped a highly charged dispute over emergency abortions in Idaho, it was Justice Barrett who wrote for the court’s “middle” in explaining why.

Even on Monday, when Justice Barrett otherwise joined the five other Republican appointees in holding that presidents enjoy at least some immunity from criminal prosecution, she went out of her way to push back against the majority’s most controversial holding — that protected conduct can’t even be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions against former chief executives.

Her partial concurrence offered a not-so-subtle road map to Judge Tanya Chutkan, presiding over the Jan. 6 prosecution, for how she might apply the majority’s new framework. Just as in her dissenting opinion in the Fischer v. United States case — in which the other Republican appointees, joined by Justice Jackson, voted to narrow a criminal obstruction statute used to prosecute Jan. 6 rioters — Justice Barrett was cleareyed about the threat to democracy Jan. 6 posed and the importance of holding to account those who were responsible for it.

This pattern has repeated in the more opaque context of emergency applications. In March, when the court briefly allowed Texas’ new state-level deportation regime to go into effect, it was a not-so-subtle nudge from Justice Barrett, in a concurring opinion, that prompted the Fifth Circuit to quickly put it back on hold (where it remains).

And in January, it was Justice Barrett who provided the fifth vote (joined by the three Democratic appointees and Chief Justice John Roberts) to allow the Biden administration to remove razor wire that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas had placed along the U.S.-Mexico border — defusing what had been a brewing conflict between state and federal authorities in and around the town of Eagle Pass.

The justice reflected in all of these cases is someone who comes across in her writings as principled, nuanced and fair-minded — regardless of the bottom line that her votes end up supporting. Many of us may not agree with the principles reflected in her writings (like her majority opinion in a case holding that U.S. citizens don’t have a liberty interest in the immigration status of their noncitizen spouses). What cannot be doubted is that they are principles, and that, to an extent greater than many of her colleagues, Justice Barrett does her best to hew to them.

The problem that the court’s rulings at the end of the term drove home is that, as willing as Justice Barrett is to follow her principles even when they lead her away from Republican political preferences, the same can’t always be said of the other two justices in the court’s middle — Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The chief justice wrote the majority opinion in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, in which the court overruled its 40-year-old decision in Chevron — and the principle of deference to administrative agencies for which it stood. The chief justice wrote the majority opinion in Fischer, which narrowed the criminal obstruction statute so prevalent in Jan. 6 cases in blatant defiance of the principles of textualism to which the conservative justices are supposedly committed. And the chief justice wrote the court’s sweeping majority opinion in the Trump immunity case.

And it is the split between the five other Republican appointees and Justice Barrett in that last case that is most revealing. Whereas the majority mostly left application of its new and not exactly clear approach to presidential immunity to be hashed out by the lower courts, Justice Barrett “would have answered it now.” Whereas the majority went out of its way to punt on whether the charges against Mr. Trump can go forward, Justice Barrett was emphatic that, for at least some of the charges, she saw “no plausible argument for barring prosecution of that alleged conduct.”

And whereas the majority went out of its way to hold that immunized presidential conduct couldn’t even be used as evidence to try charges for which even the majority agrees there is no immunity, Justice Barrett criticized the majority and endorsed Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, noting that “the Constitution does not require blinding juries to the circumstances surrounding conduct for which presidents can be held liable.”

As with her dissent in the Jan. 6 obstruction ruling, Justice Barrett seems willing to accept that the court lives in the real world — and that the rules it hands down should be designed to actually work on the ground and to persuade those reading them that the court understands the limits on its proper role in our constitutional system.

In the end, this contrast is perhaps one of the defining — and most chilling — takeaways from the Supreme Court’s term: Justice Barrett came out of her shell. And the other Republican appointees retreated into theirs.

Stephen I. Vladeck is a professor of law at Georgetown, writes the One First weekly Supreme Court newsletter and is the author of “The Shadow Docket: How the Supreme Court Uses Stealth Rulings to Amass Power and Undermine the Republic.”

US heat wave turns deadly as high temperatures continue to scorch the West

CNN

US heat wave turns deadly as high temperatures continue to scorch the West

Robert Shackelford, Sydney Bishop, Rachel Ramirez, Angela Dewan, Raja Razek and Jamiel Lynch – July 8, 2024

(CNN) — More than 50 million people across the US are under heat alerts amid a brutal heat wave that has shattered records and caused multiple deaths across the West.

As of Monday, much of the West and South are experiencing moderate to major heat risk, the National Weather Service said.

California and Nevada are expected to see more daily record high temperatures in the week ahead. By Thursday, the heat in the Pacific Northwest will shift to the Intermountain West and northern High Plains, the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center cautions.

In Oregon, four people died of suspected heat-related illnesses over the weekend, according to a Monday news release from Multnomah County. Three of the four were residents of Multnomah County, while the other individual was transported from outside the county and later died at a Portland hospital.

These deaths happened after the county declared a state of emergency Friday due to “dangerously hot temperatures,” but the news release noted “further tests and investigation will determine whether the deaths are officially hot-weather-related. In some cases, the deaths may be found to have had other causes.”

Dozens of locations in the West and Pacific Northwest tied or broke previous heat records in recent days, and more than 165 daily high temperature records could be tied or broken this week.

A motorcyclist died Saturday in California’s Death Valley from heat exposure, the Death Valley National Park said in a news release. The high temperature that day was 128 degrees Fahrenheit, according to preliminary data.

Six motorcyclists were near Badwater Basin when they became sick due to the heat, the release said. In addition to the cyclist who died, one was transported to a hospital in Las Vegas and the other four were treated on scene.

Rescue efforts were hampered due to the extreme heat at the park, as emergency medical flight helicopters cannot fly safely when it is over 120 degrees, the release noted.

“Heat illness and injury are cumulative and can build over the course of a day or days,” the release said. “Besides not being able to cool down while riding due to high ambient air temperatures, experiencing Death Valley by motorcycle when it is this hot is further challenged by the necessary heavy safety gear worn to reduce injuries during an accident.”

Heat is the deadliest weather threat in the United States, killing more than twice as many people each year on average than hurricanes and tornadoes combined.

Record-high heat during a holiday weekend

Death Valley was among a slew of places where daily temperature records were broken this Fourth of July weekend.

On Saturday, Death Valley reached 128 degrees, breaking the daily record of 127 set on July 6, 2007. An excessive heat warning is in effect until late Wednesday evening for the area where temperatures are expected to be between 122 to 129 degrees.

Areas across the West are bracing for multiple days of triple-digit temperatures this week. - Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images
Areas across the West are bracing for multiple days of triple-digit temperatures this week. – Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images

On the more-humid East Coast, temperatures above 100 degrees were also widespread, The Associated Press reported.

Many areas in Northern California surpassed 110 degrees Sunday, while Phoenix, Arizona, set a new daily record for the warmest low temperature: it never got below 92 degrees.

Las Vegas also made history, reaching a record high of 120 degrees on Sunday.

Indiana resident Mark Kavacinski told CNN affiliate KVVU his family almost canceled their vacation to Las Vegas because of the intense heat.

“We knew it was going to be hot. It’s July, right? Did we know it was going to be this hot? No,” Kavacinski said. “But we decided that heat’s heat. We can handle it.”

Las Vegas hit an all-time high temperature record on Sunday, with 120 degrees. - John Locher/AP
Las Vegas hit an all-time high temperature record on Sunday, with 120 degrees. – John Locher/AP

Las Vegas temperatures have exceeded 110 degrees each day since Wednesday and are forecast to do so every day until at least next Sunday, which would mark a stretch of prolonged extreme heat longer than any ever experienced in the city, with 11 days or more above 110 degrees.

Sunday’s heat was enough to melt crayons, the weather service office in Las Vegas demonstrated on X.

And parts of western Nevada and northeastern California won’t see temperatures below 100 degrees until next weekend, the National Weather Service office in Reno said.

Further north, Oregon’s weekend scorcher broke many records. On Sunday, Salem hit 103 degrees, just over the city’s 100-degree record from 1945, according to the National Weather Service office in Portland. Eugene also experienced temperatures of 103, breaking the 1945 record of 98 degrees.

But some Oregonians told CNN affiliate KATU Sunday they would not miss the Portland Timbers soccer game, regardless of the heat.

“Yeah, I know it’s hot! It’s 100, it’s crazy. but the game here is greater,” Tim Hueng of Tigard, Oregon told KATU as he waited in line to enter Providence Park.

Officials are urging people to take precautions in the face of dangerously high temperatures. - Zoe Meyers/Reuters
Officials are urging people to take precautions in the face of dangerously high temperatures. – Zoe Meyers/Reuters

Even mountain destinations couldn’t beat the heat.

Reno, Nevada, saw a new daily record of 105 degrees on Sunday, the weather service office there announced. And on Monday, Reno reached 106, topping the 2017 record of 104.

And despite its elevation of just over 6,000 feet, South Lake Tahoe hit 92 degrees Sunday, beating its daily record of 88 degrees. The high temperatures continued Monday, with the city seeing 91 degrees, breaking 2017’s record of 89.

CNN’s Dalia Faheid, Monica Garrett and Brandon Miller contributed to this report.