Councilwoman shot dead outside her home in Mexico

CBS News

Councilwoman shot dead outside her home in Mexico

CBS News – June 10, 2024

A local councilwoman was gunned down Friday as she was leaving her home in the southern state of Guerrero, authorities and local media said, marking the second female politician to be killed in Mexico after Claudia Sheinbaum became the first woman to win the country’s presidency last week.

Esmeralda Garzon, a councilwoman in the municipality of Tixtla, was shot dead as she was leaving her house, local media reported. The Guerrero state attorney general’s office said in a statement that police were sent to the scene to gather evidence and find those responsible for the shooting.

Garzon, who led the equity and gender commission in Tixtla, had been elected under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Reuters news agency reported. However, she eventually backed Sheinbaum’s Morena party in the June 2 elections, according to posts on social media. Garzon herself was not running in the elections.

Her murder comes a few days after the mayor of a town in western Mexico and her bodyguard were killed outside of a gym. Yolanda Sanchez Figueroa was killed just hours after Sheinbaum won the presidency.

Most violent elections in modern Mexican history

At least 23 political candidates were killed while campaigning before the elections, according to official statistics, marking the most violent elections in modern Mexican history, according to Reuters.

But some non-governmental organizations have reported an even higher toll, including Data Civica, which counted at least 30 killings of candidates. The toll increases to more than 50 people if relatives and other victims of those attacks are counted, according to Data Civica.

A few days before the elections, one mayoral hopeful’s murder was captured on camera — an assassination that came just one day after another mayoral candidate in the central Mexican state of Morelos was murdered.

The week before that, nine people were killed in two attacks against mayoral candidates in the southern state of Chiapas. The two candidates survived.

Last month, six people, including a minor and mayoral candidate Lucero Lopez, were killed in an ambush after a campaign rally in the municipality of La Concordia, neighboring Villa Corzo.

In April, one mayoral hopeful was shot dead just hours after she began campaigning.

Macron’s election call unsettles Paris Olympics build-up


Macron’s election call unsettles Paris Olympics build-up

Cyril Touaux – June 10, 2024

France will hold snap elections just weeks before the Paris Olympics (Ludovic MARIN)
France will hold snap elections just weeks before the Paris Olympics (Ludovic MARIN)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Monday described the prospect of French parliamentary elections just weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics as “extremely unsettling”, while the International Olympic Committee played down any direct impact on the event.

“Like a lot of people I was stunned to hear the president decide to do a dissolution (of parliament),” Hidalgo said of Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call snap parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The surprise announcement came after hugely disappointing European parliament election results for the centrist president which Hidalgo said meant the president “could not continue as before”.

“But all the same, a dissolution just before the Games, it’s really something that is extremely unsettling,” the 64-year-old Socialist, a domestic political rival of the president, added during a visit to a Paris school.

The two-round parliamentary elections have been called for June 30 and July 7, with the Paris Olympics set to begin less than three weeks later on July 26.

The vote could lead to political instability in the event of another hung parliament in which no party wins a majority, or a seismic change if the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen emerges as the biggest party nationally.

Rumours in Paris had previously suggested Macron might dissolve parliament after the Games, with the 46-year-old head of state possibly eyeing a bounce in the polls if the first Games in France in 100 years were deemed a success.

Hidalgo stressed that from an operational perspective the elections would not affect the Olympics, a message echoed by the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, who was with her during the school visit.

“I think that all the work of installing, of preparing the Games, the infrastructure, is behind us and what remains is to welcome the entire world and we will do it with the joy that we have to host these Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris,” Hidalgo said.

Bach said the elections are “a democratic process which will not disturb the Olympics”.

“France is used to doing elections and they are going to do them once again. We will have a new government and a new parliament and everyone is going to support the Olympics,” Bach said.

– Divided country –

The Paris Olympics begin with an unprecedented open-air ceremony on the river Seine on July 26, the first time the opening festivities for a Summer Olympics have taken place outside the main stadium.

Organisers have consistently talked up the ambitions of their vision, promising “iconic” Games that will see the world’s biggest sports event play out against the historic backdrop of the City of Light.

Worries so far had focused on security arrangements for the opening ceremony, and whether the river Seine would be cleaned up in time to hold the open-water swimming events and triathlon as expected.

Repeated strike threats from trade unions have also cast a shadow over preparations, as did public feuding over the choice of music for the opening ceremony and the official poster — indicators of France’s starkly divided political class.

Those divisions were illustrated during Sunday’s European elections, in which anti-immigration and far-right parties won almost 40 percent of the vote, inflicting heavy defeat on Macron’s centrist allies.

The snap parliamentary elections raise question marks over the government that will be in place at the time of the Olympics, with ministers such as transport and interior set to play key roles in ensuring the smooth functioning and safety of the event.

The two-stage election will also mobilise hundreds of thousands of security forces, further straining resources.

“For the preparations, the installations are ready, accreditations have been sent, plans put in place for transport: everything is primed, it remains only to be put in place,” Jean-Loup Chappelet, an Olympics expert at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, told AFP.

He also played down the impact of any personnel changes in the cabinet.

“Nothing will change between now and July 8 in the preparations of the Games and afterwards it will be absolutely too late to change anything,” he added.

David Roizen, an Olympics expert at the left-leading Jean Jaures Foundation think-tank in Paris, said the political turmoil would put an end to a “largely successful” phase for organisers, including the ongoing Olympic torch relay.

“It risks ending the positive dynamic, meaning that people only talk about the Olympics from a security perspective,” he told AFP.

N. Korea sends more balloons as Kim’s sister warns of ‘new counteraction’


N. Korea sends more balloons as Kim’s sister warns of ‘new counteraction’

Hieun Shin and Cat Barton – June 10, 2024

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons into the South, carrying trash like cigarette butts and toilet paper (Handout)
In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons into the South, carrying trash like cigarette butts and toilet paper (Handout)

North Korea has sent hundreds more trash-carrying balloons toward South Korea, Seoul’s military said Monday, after Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister warned of further responses if the South keeps up its “psychological warfare”.

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons into the South, carrying trash like cigarette butts and toilet paper, in what it calls retaliation for balloons laden with anti-Pyongyang propaganda floated northwards by activists in the South, which Seoul legally cannot stop.

The South Korean government this month fully suspended a 2018 tension-reducing military deal and restarted loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border in response to Pyongyang’s balloons, infuriating the North which warned Seoul was creating “a new crisis”.

Kim’s sister and key government spokeswoman Kim Yo Jong said in a statement released early Monday that South Korea would “suffer a bitter embarrassment of picking up waste paper without rest and it will be its daily work”.

In the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, she slammed the activists’ leaflets as “psychological warfare” and warned that unless Seoul stopped them and called off the loudspeaker broadcasts, the North would hit back.

“If the ROK simultaneously carries out the leaflet scattering and loudspeaker broadcasting provocation over the border, it will undoubtedly witness the new counteraction of the DPRK,” she said, referring to both countries by their official n

Seoul’s military said the North had sent more than 300 trash-carrying balloons overnight, but that the winds had not worked in Pyongyang’s favour.

“Although they launched over 310 balloons many of them flew toward North Korea,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, adding that around 50 had landed in the South so far, with more expected.

They said that the latest batch of trash balloons had been found to contain waste paper and plastic, but nothing toxic.

“So far we haven’t seen any special movement within the North Korean military,” a JCS official said, adding that they had “detected signs of North Korea installing loudspeakers to broadcast to the South in the front area.”

North Korea has also used its own loudspeakers along the border since the 1960s, typically broadcasting praise of the Kim family, but it suspended them in 2018 as ties warmed

– ‘Beyond our imagination’ –

The statement from Kim’s sister shows that “North Korea is raising its voice in order to shift the blame for the current situation to South Korea and also to justify their provocation,” Kim Dong-yub, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

The cycle of escalation will likely continue and “North Korea will do something beyond our imagination,” Kim said.

Pyongyang could do “something creative like throwing flour (which) will cause absolute panic in the South which they will be happy about,” Kim added, referring to the possibility of the North faking a biological attack on the South.

The tit-for-tat balloon blitz started in mid-May when activists in the South — including North Korean defectors — sent dozens of missives carrying anti-Kim propaganda and flash drives of K-pop music northwards.

In 2018, during a period of improved inter-Korean relations, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to “completely cease all hostile acts”, including stopping the leaflets and broadcasts.

The South Korean parliament passed a law in 2020 criminalising sending leaflets to the North, but activists did not stop and the law was struck down by the Constitutional Court last year as an undue limitation on free speech.

In 2018, Seoul also dismantled some of the loudspeakers, a tactic that dates back to the Korean War and which infuriates Pyongyang, which previously threatened artillery strikes against the loudspeaker units unless they were switched off.

Both sides are now facing a risky proposition, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“Seoul does not want military tension at the inter-Korean border, and Pyongyang does not want outside information threatening the legitimacy of the Kim regime,” he said.

“North Korea may have already miscalculated, as South Korea’s democracy cannot simply turn off NGO balloon launches the way an autocracy would expect.”

The Day My Old Church Canceled Me Was a Very Sad Day

The New York Times – Opinion

The Day My Old Church Canceled Me Was a Very Sad Day

By David French, Opinion Columnist – June 9, 2024

An image of a blurry American flag and of a small cross hanging in a car.
Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This week, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church in America will gather in Richmond, Va., for their annual General Assembly. The Presbyterian Church in America is a smalltheologically conservative Christian denomination that was my family’s church home for more than 15 years.

It just canceled me.

I am now deemed too divisive to speak to a gathering of Christians who share my faith. I was scheduled to speak about the challenges of dealing with toxic polarization, but I was considered too polarizing.

I was originally invited to join three other panelists on the topic of “how to be supportive of your pastor and church leaders in a polarized political year.” One of the reasons I was invited was precisely that I’ve been the target of intense attacks online and in real life.

The instant my participation was announced, those attacks started up again. There were misleading essays, vicious tweets, letters and even a parody song directed at the denomination and at me. The message was clear: Get him off the stage.

And that’s what the conference organizers chose to do. They didn’t just cancel me. They canceled the entire panel. But the reason was obvious: My presence would raise concerns about the peace and unity of the church.

Our family joined the P.C.A. denomination in 2004. We lived in Philadelphia and attended Tenth Presbyterian Church in Center City. At the time, the denomination fit us perfectly. I’m conservative theologically and politically, and in 2004 I was still a partisan Republican. At the same time, however, I perceived the denomination as relatively apolitical. I never heard political messages from the pulpit, and I worshiped alongside Democratic friends.

When we moved to Tennessee in 2006, we selected our house in part because it was close to a P.C.A. church, and that church became the center of our lives. On Sundays we attended services, and Monday through Friday our kids attended the school our church founded and supported.

We loved the people in that church, and they loved us. When I deployed to Iraq in 2007, the entire church rallied to support my family and to support the men I served with. They flooded our small forward operating base with care packages, and back home, members of the church helped my wife and children with meals, car repairs and plenty of love and companionship in anxious times.

Two things happened that changed our lives, however, and in hindsight they’re related. First, in 2010, we adopted a 2-year-old girl from Ethiopia. Second, in 2015, Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign.

There was no way I could support Trump. It wasn’t just his obvious lack of character that troubled me; he was opening the door to a level of extremism and malice in Republican politics that I’d never encountered. Trump’s rise coincided with the rise of the alt-right.

I was a senior writer for National Review at the time, and when I wrote pieces critical of Trump, members of the alt-right pounced, and they attacked us through our daughter. They pulled pictures of her from social media and photoshopped her into gas chambers and lynchings. Trolls found my wife’s blog on a religious website called Patheos and filled the comments section with gruesome pictures of dead and dying Black victims of crime and war. We also received direct threats.

The experience was shocking. At times, it was terrifying. And so we did what we always did in times of trouble: We turned to our church for support and comfort. Our pastors and close friends came to our aid, but support was hardly universal. The church as a whole did not respond the way it did when I deployed. Instead, we began encountering racism and hatred up close, from people in our church and in our church school.

The racism was grotesque. One church member asked my wife why we couldn’t adopt from Norway rather than Ethiopia. A teacher at the school asked my son if we had purchased his sister for a “loaf of bread.” We later learned that there were coaches and teachers who used racial slurs to describe the few Black students at the school. There were terrible incidents of peer racism, including a student telling my daughter that slavery was good for Black people because it taught them how to live in America. Another told her that she couldn’t come to our house to play because “my dad said Black people are dangerous.”

There were disturbing political confrontations. A church elder came up to my wife and me after one service to criticize our opposition to Trump and told me to “get your wife under control” after she contrasted his support for Trump with his opposition to Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Another man confronted me at the communion table.

On several occasions, men approached my wife when I was out of town, challenging her to defend my writing and sometimes quoting a far-right pastor named Douglas Wilson. Wilson is a notorious Christian nationalist and slavery apologist who once wrote that abolitionists were “driven by a zealous hatred of the word of God” and that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the war or since.”

We also began to see the denomination itself with new eyes. To my shame, the racism and extremism within the denomination were invisible to us before our own ordeal. But there is a faction of explicitly authoritarian Christian nationalists in the church, and some of that Christian nationalism has disturbing racial elements underpinning it.

A member of the denomination wrote “The Case for Christian Nationalism,” one of the most popular Christian nationalist books of the Trump era. It argues that “no nation (properly conceived) is composed of two or more ethnicities” and that “to exclude an out-group is to recognize a universal good for man.”

I do not want to paint with too broad a brush. Our pastors and close friends continued to stand with us. Our church disciplined the man who confronted me about Trump during communion. And most church members didn’t follow politics closely and had no idea about any of the attacks we faced.

But for us, church no longer felt like home. We could withstand the trolls online. We could guard against physical threats. But it was hard to live without any respite, and the targeting of my children was a bridge too far. So we left for a wonderful multiethnic church in Nashville. We didn’t leave Christianity; we left a church that inflicted harm on my family.

I still have many friends in the Presbyterian Church in America, people who are fighting the very forces that drove us from the church. In March, one of those friends reached out and asked if I’d join a panel at this year’s General Assembly.

I agreed to come. The P.C.A. extended a formal invitation for me to join a panel with three church elders to speak at a session before the main event. I knew the invitation would be controversial. Members of the denomination have continued to attack me online. But that was part of the point of the panel. My experience was directly relevant to others who might find themselves in the cross hairs of extremists.

The anger against me wasn’t simply over my opposition to Trump. It was directly related to the authoritarian turn in white evangelical politics. My commitment to individual liberty and pluralism means that I defend the civil liberties of all Americans, including people with whom I have substantial disagreements. A number of Republican evangelicals are furious at me, for example, for defending the civil liberties of drag queens and L.G.B.T.Q. families. A writer for The Federalist ranted that granting me a platform was akin to “giving the wolf a brand-new wool coat and microphone and daring the sheep to object.”

The panel was announced on May 9. On May 14, the denomination caved. It canceled the panel, and in its public statement, I was to blame. I was sacrificed on the altar of peace and unity. But it is a false peace and a false unity if extremists can bully a family out of a church and then block the church from hearing one of its former members describe his experience. It is a false peace and a false unity if it is preserved by granting the most malicious members of the congregation veto power over church events.

When I left the Republican Party, I thought a shared faith would preserve my denominational home. But I was wrong. Race and politics trumped truth and grace, and now I’m no longer welcome in the church I loved.

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Not Paying Taxes

By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist  – June 10, 2024

An American flag being flown upside-down next to the flag of the Heritage Foundation.
Outside the Heritage Foundation in Washington on May 31.Credit…Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

After Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts, the Heritage Foundation — a right-wing think tank that has, among other things, produced the Project 2025 agenda, a blueprint for policy if Trump wins — flew an upside-down American flag, which has become an emblem for support of MAGA in general and election denial in particular.

This action may have shocked some old-line conservatives who still thought of Heritage as a serious institution, but Heritage is, after all, just a think tank. It’s not as if upside-down flags were being flown by people we expect to defend our constitutional order, like Supreme Court justices.

Oh, wait.

But Heritage’s embrace of what amounts to an attack on democracy is a useful symbol of one of the really troubling developments of this election as it heads into the final stretch. Heritage presents itself as a defender of freedom, but its real mission has always been to produce arguments — frequently based on shoddy research — for low taxes on rich people. And its tacit endorsement of lawlessness illustrates the way many of America’s plutocrats — both in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street — have, after flirting with the crank candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., been rallying around Trump.

Why would billionaires support Trump? It’s not as if they’ve done badly under President Biden. Stock prices — which Trump predicted would crash if he lost in 2020 — have soared. High interest rates, which are a burden on many Americans, are if anything a net positive for wealthy people with money to invest. And I doubt that the superrich are suffering much from higher prices for fast food.

Wealthy Americans, though, are surely betting they’ll pay lower taxes if Trump wins.

Biden and his team have offered fairly explicit guidance about their tax agenda, which would directly raise taxes on high-income Americans and also raise corporate taxes, which would indirectly be mainly a tax on the wealthy. These measures wouldn’t produce taxes at the top remotely comparable to what they were during the Eisenhower years, when the top marginal income tax rate was 91 percent and large estates could face inheritance taxes as high as 77 percent. Still, Biden’s plans, if carried out, would make the rich a bit less rich.

Trump has been far less explicit, but he clearly wants to retain his 2017 tax cut in full, and his allies in Congress are committed not just to tax cuts but to starving the Internal Revenue Service of resources, which would allow more wealthy Americans to evade the taxes they legally owe.

So billionaires aren’t wrong in thinking they’ll pay less in taxes if Trump wins. But why aren’t they more concerned about the bigger picture?

After all, even if all you care about is money, Trump’s agenda should make you very worried. His advisers’ plans to deport millions of immigrants (supposedly only the undocumented, but do you really believe many legal residents wouldn’t get caught up in the dragnets?) would shrink the U.S. labor force and be hugely disruptive. His protectionist proposals (which would be very different from Biden’s targeted measures) could mean an all-out global trade war. If he’s able to make good on them, his attacks on the independence of the Federal Reserve risk much more serious inflation than anything we’ve experienced in recent years.

Beyond all that, Trump will almost certainly try to weaponize the justice system to go after his perceived enemies. Only someone completely ignorant of history would imagine himself safe from that kind of weaponization — even if Trump considers you an ally now, that can change in an instant.

And if you’ve been following Trump’s rantings, you know that his rhetoric is getting less rational and more vindictive by the week. Yet his support among billionaires seems if anything to be consolidating.

So what’s going on? Here’s what I think, although it’s admittedly speculative.

First, America’s oligarchs probably believe that their wealth and influence would protect them from the arbitrary exercise of power. Trump and company might turn corrupt law enforcement and a cowed judiciary against other people, but surely not them! By the time they realized how wrong they were, it would be too late.

As I’ve written before, the superrich can be remarkably obtuse and ignorant of history.

Second, at some level I don’t really think it’s about the money. How much difference does it make to a billionaire’s quality of life if he has to settle for a slightly smaller superyacht? At the top of the pyramid, wealth is largely about status and self-importance; as Tom Wolfe wrote long ago, it’s about “seeing ’em jump.”

And when politicians don’t jump, when they don’t treat the very wealthy with the deference and admiration they consider their due, some of them become enraged. We saw this when many Wall Streeters turned on President Barack Obama — after he helped bail them out in the financial crisis — because they felt insulted by his occasional criticisms.

Biden is hardly a class warrior, but he clearly doesn’t worship the superrich. And all too many of them are turning to Trump out of sheer pettiness.

In Secret Recordings, Alito Endorses Nation of ‘Godliness.’ Roberts Talks of Pluralism.

The two justices were surreptitiously recorded at a Supreme Court gala last week by a woman posing as a Catholic conservative.

Abbie VanSickle, Reporting from Washington – June 10, 2024

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., wearing a black robe.
“One side or the other is going to win,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said in a recording when talking about differences between the left and the right in the United States. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. told a woman posing as a Catholic conservative last week that compromise in America between the left and right might be impossible and then agreed with the view that the nation should return to a place of godliness.

“One side or the other is going to win,” Justice Alito told the woman, Lauren Windsor, at an exclusive gala at the Supreme Court. “There can be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised.”

Ms. Windsor pressed Justice Alito further. “I think that the solution really is like winning the moral argument,” she told him, according to the edited recordings of Justice Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., which were posted and distributed widely on social media on Monday. “Like, people in this country who believe in God have got to keep fighting for that, to return our country to a place of godliness.”

“I agree with you, I agree with you,” he responded.

The justice’s comments appeared to be in marked contrast to those of Chief Justice Roberts, who was also secretly recorded at the same event but who pushed back against Ms. Windsor’s assertion that the court had an obligation to lead the country on a more “moral path.”

“Would you want me to be in charge of putting the nation on a more moral path?” the chief justice said. “That’s for people we elect. That’s not for lawyers.”

Ms. Windsor pressed the chief justice about religion, saying, “I believe that the founders were godly, like were Christians, and I think that we live in a Christian nation and that our Supreme Court should be guiding us in that path.”

Chief Justice Roberts quickly answered, “I don’t know if that’s true.”

He added: “I don’t know that we live in a Christian nation. I know a lot of Jewish and Muslim friends who would say maybe not, and it’s not our job to do that.”

The chief justice also said he did not think polarization in the country was irreparable, pointing out that the United States had managed crises as severe as the Civil War and the Vietnam War.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., wearing a black robe.
Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a recording, pushed back against the notion that the United States is a “Christian nation.”Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

When Ms. Windsor pressed him on whether he thought that there was “a role for the court” in “guiding us toward a more moral path,” the chief justice’s answer was immediate.

“No, I think the role for the court is deciding the cases,” he said.

The justices were secretly recorded at an annual black-tie event for the Supreme Court Historical Society, a charity aimed at preserving the court’s history and educating the public about the role of the court. The gala was open only to members, not journalists, and tickets cost $500.

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the charity released a statement on Monday that its “policy is to ensure that all attendees, including the justices, are treated with respect.”

The charity added: “We condemn the surreptitious recording of justices at the event, which is inconsistent with the entire spirit of the evening.”

Ms. Windsor describes herself as a documentary filmmaker and “advocacy journalist.” She has a reputation for approaching conservatives, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.

She said in an interview on Monday that she felt she had no other way to report on the candid thoughts of the justices.

“We have a court that has refused to submit to any accountability whatsoever — they are shrouded in secrecy,” Ms. Windsor said. “I don’t know how, other than going undercover, I would have been able to get answers to these questions.”

Ms. Windsor would not say how she recorded the encounters, other than that she did not tell the justices she was a journalist or that they were being recorded. She said she felt she needed to record the justices secretly to ensure that her account would be believed.

“I wanted to get them on the record,” she said. “So recording them was the only way to have proof of that encounter. Otherwise, it’s just my word against theirs.”

Some journalism ethics experts questioned her tactics.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said that the episode called to mind the tactics used by Project Veritas, a conservative group well known for using covert recordings to embarrass its political opponents.

“I think it’s fair to say that most ethical journalists deplore those kind of techniques,” Ms. Kirtley said. “How do you expect your readers or your viewers to trust you if you’re getting your story through deception?”

Bob Steele, a retired ethics scholar at the Poynter Institute, has written ethics guidelines for journalists on when it is appropriate to use secret recordings or to conceal their identities as reporters.

“I don’t believe that in this particular case the level of misrepresentation of her identity and the surreptitious audio recording is justifiable,” Mr. Steele said.

The secret recording is the latest controversy around the Supreme Court and its justices, particularly Justice Alito, who has faced recent revelations that provocative flags flew outside two of his homes. The flags raised concerns about an appearance of bias in cases currently pending before the court tied to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In the weeks following the attack, an upside-down American flag, a symbol used by Trump supporters who contested the 2020 election results, flew outside the Alitos’ suburban Virginia home. Last summer, a flag carried by Capitol rioters, known as an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, was flown at their New Jersey vacation home.

Justice Alito has declined to recuse himself from any of the Jan. 6-related cases and has said that it was his wife who flew the flags.

This is also not the first time the historical society has been in the spotlight. The group, which has raised millions of dollars in recent decades, made news after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade when a former anti-abortion leader came forward to say that he had used the historical society to encourage wealthy donors, whom he called “stealth missionaries,” to give money and mingle with the justices.

Abbie VanSickle covers the United States Supreme Court for The Times. She is a lawyer and has an extensive background in investigative reporting. 

Alex Jones’ lies about the Sandy Hook shooting may have finally caught up with him


Alex Jones’ lies about the Sandy Hook shooting may have finally caught up with him

Clarissa-Jan Lim – June 8, 2024

Tyler Sizemore

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has agreed to sell his assets to help pay the massive debt he owes to families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, whom he has spent years spreading lies about and defaming.

Jones’ decision to liquidate his assets this week ends his pursuit of Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of an effort to avoid paying the $1.5 billion he owes the families after they successfully sued him for defamation in Texas and Connecticut. The move also could see him lose ownership of Infowars, the far-right platform from which he’s peddled lies that the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a “hoax” perpetrated to strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights. Proceeds from the sale of his assets would go to his creditors and the families.

“Alex Jones has hurt so many people,” Christopher Mattei, who represents the Sandy Hook families, said in a statement. “The Connecticut families have fought for years to hold him responsible no matter the cost and at great personal peril. Their steadfast focus on meaningful accountability, and not just money, is what has now brought him to the brink of justice in the way that matters most.”

Jones’ Chapter 7 liquidation will not cover the debt that he owes the shooting victims’ families, but it is an outcome they have been seeking. Last year, Jones offered the families a $55 million settlement, a fraction of the $1.5 billion he owes them. The families filed a counterproposal that sought to liquidate nearly all his assets, including Free Speech Systems, the company that owns Infowars. A judge is set to rule on June 14 as to whether Free Speech Systems will be liquidated.

The far-right radio show host spent part of his Friday broadcast railing against the latest development in his financial troubles, NBC News reported. He also lamented Infowars’ potential impending doom, though he suggested he may “relaunch” a similar platform.

Trump says it’s “very possible” that Biden and other political rivals will have to be jailed


Trump says it’s “very possible” that Biden and other political rivals will have to be jailed

Nicholas Liu – June 5, 2024

Donald Trump Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Donald Trump Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald Trump, spinning the old, false line that the trial that led to his conviction on felony charges was “rigged” and orchestrated by Joe Biden, suggested in an interview with Newsmax that the “precedent” would give him an opening pay his political opponents back in kind, according to the Washington Post.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it really be bad? … Wouldn’t it be terrible to throw the president’s wife and the former secretary of state — think of it, the former secretary of state — but the president’s wife into jail?” Trump mused on Tuesday, referring to his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, who he had repeatedly said should be “locked up” despite now blaming his supporters for saying it instead.

“But they want to do it,” Trump said, apparently referring to Biden and other political rivals. “So, you know, it’s a terrible, terrible path that they’re leading us to, and it’s very possible that it’s going to have to happen to them … it’s a terrible precedent for the country.”

The precedent Trump was referring to was his imagined version of events, in which President Biden supposedly instructed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to prosecute him, and then rigged the trial secure a conviction. Despite making this claim for several months now, Trump has been unable to cite any evidence to suggest that Bragg, an independently elected prosecutor, coordinated with the White House at all. Prosecutors said that they were only following the facts in their case.

Trump, who faces criminal charges in three other cases, has made revenge a central message of his campaign, telling supporters at one point that “I am your retribution.” Other times, he has vacillated, saying in an Iowa rally that he “didn’t have time for retribution.” Since he first ran for president in 2015, Trump has called for the Justice Department to investigate political opponents and former allies who are now critical of him; in the lead up to the 2024 election, he has a plan to make that a reality by purging DOJ staff turning the department into what Reuters referred to as “an attack dog for conservative causes.”

Russia is trying to scare people away from the Paris Olympics, report says

NBC News

Russia is trying to scare people away from the Paris Olympics, report says

Ken Dilanian – June 4, 2024

New warnings of Russian threats to Paris Olympics

Banned from the 2024 Olympics over the war in Ukraine, Russia has mounted a secret influence campaign seeking to discredit the Games and sow fears of terrorism, according to a new report from Microsoft’s threat intelligence unit.

The report tracks what it calls “prolific Russian influence actors” that last summer began focusing on disparaging the 2024 Olympic Games and French President Emmanuel Macron, including by posting a bogus documentary featuring a deepfake of actor Tom Cruise.

“These ongoing Russian influence operations have two central objectives: to denigrate the reputation of the [International Olympic Committee] on the world stage; and to create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris during the 2024 Summer Olympic Games,” the report says.

“Russia has a decades-long history of undermining the Olympics, but for the Paris Games, we’ve observed this old playbook has been updated with new generative AI tactics, “ said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who directed the study. “They want to scare spectators from attending the Games for fear of physical violence breaking out.”

Most recently, the Russian campaign has sought to capitalize on the Israel-Hamas war by impersonating militants and fabricating threats against Israelis who attending the 2024 Games, the report found. Some images referenced the attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organization killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and a West German police officer.

Munich Olympics 1972 Hostage Crisis (Russel McPhedran / Fairfax Media via Getty Images file)
Munich Olympics 1972 Hostage Crisis (Russel McPhedran / Fairfax Media via Getty Images file)

The fake documentary, posted online last summer, was titled “Olympics Has Fallen,” a play on the 2013 movie “Olympus Has Fallen.” Designed to resemble a Netflix production, it used AI-generated audio resembling Cruise’s voice to imply his participation, the report says, and even attached sham five-star reviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC.

YouTube took it down at the behest of the International Olympic Committee, but it remains available on Telegram, Microsoft says.

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently been faced with a number of fake news posts targeting the IOC,” the committee said in a statement last fall, citing “an entire documentary produced with defamatory content, a fake narrative and false information, using an AI-generated voice of a world-renowned Hollywood actor.”

Tom Cruise in
Tom Cruise in

The Russian campaign also put out videos designed to look like news reports that suggested intelligence about credible threats of violence at the Paris Games, Microsoft found.

One video that purported to be a report from media outlet Euronews in Brussels falsely claimed that Parisians were buying property insurance in anticipation of terrorism.

In another spoofed news clip impersonating French broadcaster France 24, the Russian campaign falsely claimed that 24% of purchased tickets for Olympic events had been returned due to fears of terrorism.

A third Russian effort consisted of a fake video news release from the CIA and France’s main intelligence agency warning potential attendees to stay away from the 2024 Olympics due to the alleged risk of a terror attack.

Microsoft says Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, has a long history of attacking the Olympics.

“If they cannot participate in or win the Games, then they seek to undercut, defame, and degrade the international competition in the minds of participants, spectators, and global audiences,” the report says. “The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Summer Games held in Los Angeles and sought to influence other countries to do the same.”

At the time, according to Microsoft, U.S. officials linked Soviet actors to a campaign that covertly distributed leaflets to Olympic committees in countries including Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and South Korea, claiming that nonwhite competitors would be targeted by American extremists if they went to Los Angeles.

In 2017, the IOC banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games after finding widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by Russian athletes.

But the current ban is over the war in Ukraine. The committee decided that qualifying athletes from Russia and close ally Belarus may compete in the 2024 Summer Games only as “individual neutral athletes,” prohibited from flying their national flags.

Microsoft said the online influence campaign picked up shortly afterward.

The Russian Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

People With Criminal Records React to Trump Verdict: ‘Now You Understand’

The New York Times

People With Criminal Records React to Trump Verdict: ‘Now You Understand’

Shaila Dewan – June 4, 2024

Former President Donald Trump outside Trump Tower after his felony convictions in Manhattan, May 30, 2024. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
Former President Donald Trump outside Trump Tower after his felony convictions in Manhattan, May 30, 2024. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

Some Democratic leaders are eager to make former President Donald Trump’s new identity as a convicted criminal central to their pitch to voters on why he is unfit for office. At the same time, there has been a movement on the left for years to end the stigma of criminal records and point out grave issues in the country’s legal system.

That is why in the wake of the news last week that a New York jury had found Trump guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, there were especially complex and personal reactions among the millions of Americans who have also been convicted of felonies.

They debated whether the former president’s convictions made him one of them or only underscored how unlike them he was, and discussed their mixed feelings over hearing an entire country discuss the ramifications of having a rap sheet.

“He’s convicted, so now he’s in our community,” said Rahim Buford, 53, who also has a felony conviction on his record.

Buford believes that neither Democrats nor Republicans have done enough to address significant parts of America’s criminal justice system that are broken, including wrongful convictions, racial disparities and a rate of imprisonment that far outstrips that of other industrialized nations.

So he wondered if sharing a label with the leader of the Republican Party might not, in some way, help his cause.

“Will he go to prison? I doubt it. Will it change his lifestyle? I doubt it,” said Buford, who founded the organization Unheard Voices Outreach for the formerly incarcerated in Nashville, Tennessee. “But what I know it will do is give him — he’s already had — an experience that he can never forget. Because once you go through the criminal legal system and you’re put on trial, that’s traumatizing.”

He added: “Now you understand, at least a little bit, what it feels like.”

For Dawn Harrington, who served time on Rikers Island in New York and now directs an organization called Free Hearts for families affected by incarceration in Tennessee, watching the news coverage of Trump’s criminal conviction last week was upsetting.

She heard liberals rejoice that he was now a “convicted felon,” a term she and others have tried to persuade people not to use.

Harrington said she did time for gun possession after traveling to New York with a handgun that was registered in Tennessee. She is from a part of Nashville that has a high level of incarceration, she said, and her brother had also gone to prison.

After the Trump verdict, she also heard President Joe Biden defend the justice system as a “cornerstone of America” that has endured for “nearly 250 years” — back to a time, Harrington noted, when slavery was legal.

The rhetoric, she thought, was “quite frankly dehumanizing to the base that we organize with,” she said.

At the same time, Harrington said, a group chat she is on erupted into a conversation about what it was like to see national news outlets discussing “permanent punishments,” like the loss of voting rights. Criminal convictions often become obstacles to finding jobs and housing, and bar people from voting, owning guns and pursuing some careers.

An estimated 77 million Americans have a criminal record of some kind, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nearly 20 million, according to another estimate, have been convicted of felonies.

Differences abound between Trump and the vast majority of Americans who are convicted of felonies, who are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately Black, Latino and Native American. It is rare for a criminal case to even go to trial; most are resolved through plea bargains.

Trump is running for the highest office in the country, and prosecutors in the case argued that by falsifying business documents to cover up hush-money payments to a porn actor, he deceived the American people.

Few of the typical consequences are expected to affect Trump, who now lives in Florida. Some legal experts said he was likely to retain his voting rights, unlike most other Florida residents convicted of felonies, because he was convicted in a different state.

“Him having a felony conviction now, that doesn’t make him one of us,” said David Ayala, who lives in Orlando, Florida, and said that his last criminal conviction, for conspiracy to sell drugs in 2000, still kept him from accompanying his daughters on school field trips. “He has had access to plenty of resources. He has privilege.”

Yet Ayala recognized a chance to make criminal justice a bigger issue. “Here we have a former president who feels he did not receive a fair trial,” he said. “So what does that say about our justice system?”

At the same time, Ayala cannot forget that after a group of Black and Latino teenagers were arrested in connection with the rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty. The teenagers, who became known as the Central Park Five, were later exonerated and the real perpetrator was identified.

Ayala said that it was tricky to craft a statement about the Trump conviction on behalf of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement, a network of groups that he leads.

The group’s leaders wanted to caution against the use of terms like “felon” and “convicted criminal” for Trump, but without appearing to support him. “There are so many characteristics to him that are completely against what we stand for,” Ayala said, citing Trump’s record on race.

Buford, in Nashville, was less guarded in his hopes for capitalizing on the moment. He served 26 years for killing a man during an armed robbery when he was 19, and he knows that political will can be very different when it comes to people whose offenses were, like Trump’s, nonviolent.

“We have a different narrative now,” he said. “President Biden could do massive clemencies right now. I think it can change things for us if we strategize and think bigger and leave our personal feelings out of it.”