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.

Mexico’s new president ran on climate goals. Will she follow through?

The Guardian

Mexico’s new president ran on climate goals. Will she follow through?

Thomas Graham in Mexico City – June 10, 2024

<span>Claudia Sheinbaum in Mexico City, Mexico, last week.</span><span>Photograph: Raquel Cunha/Reuters</span>
Claudia Sheinbaum in Mexico City, Mexico, last week.Photograph: Raquel Cunha/Reuters

The month before Mexico’s 2 June presidential vote the country was bedeviled by water cuts and blackouts as a record heatwave took the country beyond red and into an ominous purple on the weather map.

As dehydrated monkeys dropped dead from trees, the landslide victory of Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist, might look like salvation. But her record paints a more complicated picture – one where climate convictions have often, and may still, come second to political pragmatism.

Sheinbaum will inherit a country that has slipped from frontrunner to laggard on climate policy – in part due to the policies of her predecessor and ally, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which she has promised to continue.

López Obrador, who comes from the oil-rich state of Tabasco, prioritised “energy sovereignty” by growing the role of state companies and striving for self-sufficiency.

Related: Mexico was once a climate leader – now it’s betting big on coal

This was manifested in a $17bn oil refinery and colossal injections of cash and tax cuts for Pemex, the most indebted state oil company in the world, and one of the biggest historical polluters.

One result was to entrench a dirty-energy matrix, with almost 80% coming from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s climate commitments were left to languish. It is one of just two G20 countries not to have a net-zero target, and it’s a long way from reducing emissions by 35% by 2030, under the Paris agreement.

“Not only are we nowhere near it, but we don’t have any specific and detailed plans to achieve it, let alone financing and concrete infrastructure projects,” said Diego Rivera Rivota, a researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

This is despite the fact that Mexico is highly vulnerable to climate change – as was driven home by the extraordinary hurricane that hit Acapulco in October 2023, killing dozens and causing catastrophic damage.

“Acapulco taught us a big lesson. We weren’t prepared for that,” said Gustavo Alanís, general director of CEMDA, an environmental NGO. “These floods, droughts, hurricanes and heatwaves aren’t just going to continue, but possibly get more severe and frequent.”

Many hope Sheinbaum’s background as a climate scientist – one who contributed to the reports of the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – will shine through once she takes office on 1 October, notwithstanding her reliance on López Obrador to win the presidency.

When she was mayor of Mexico City, there were certain signs of the approach she might take as president, with an emphasis on solar energy, electrified public transport and a new cable car line.

But then, the city saw no great improvement in either of its fundamental environmental problems: air pollution and water shortages.

Related: A tale of two cities: a month after Hurricane Otis, Acapulco exposes gaps in disaster response

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Sheinbaum promised all things to all people, saying she would both continue López Obrador’s policies but also do more for the environment.

This means the Maya Train – one of López Obrador’s flagship infrastructure projects to develop historically poorer regions – will continue to cut through Latin America’s second-largest tropical forest. Sheinbaum has even suggested expanding it to neighbouring Belize and Guatemala.

There will also be more backing for Sembrando Vida, López Obrador’s pet forestry and rural development initiative that has had money plowed into it as budgets for state environmental agencies have been slashed – even though its results are little understood, and there are reports it even promotes deforestation.

And there will be more public money for Pemex as it staggers on under its debt burden and tries to increase its oil output.

On the other hand, Sheinbaum has also suggested that Pemex expand its remit to include mining for lithium, a crucial element of electric batteries.

And there was a campaign pledge to spend $14bn on clean-energy projects. That would mark a radical change from López Obrador’s government, which not only invested very little in renewables, but also revoked or blocked permits for private projects.

Experts also expect to see more action on the demand side of the equation, with an emphasis on electrification of public transport and incentives for residential solar panels. “This is a country with 300 days plus of sun,” said Rivera Rivota. “It has massive potential for that.”

Although Sheinbaum’s proposals lack detail at this stage, she has repeatedly emphasised the need for long-term planning for both energy and water – looking not just to 2030, but to 2050 and beyond.

“[Long-term planning] was not guaranteed during the current administration. We had several legal and regulatory changes, and other attempts at change that led to battles in court,” said Rivera Rivota. “As long as it’s clear what the rules of the game are, what the legal framework is, I think Mexico has enormous potential for investment in renewable energy.”

The scale of victory for Sheinbaum’s Morena party, which seems to have given it a supermajority in one and perhaps both houses of congress, as well as the governorships of 24 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities, has given Sheinbaum a huge mandate as president-elect.

But whether she wants or will be able to move away from her predecessor’s policies is an unknown.

López Obrador will remain a powerful figure – and his continued support may be needed to help hold together Morena, the party that he founded but has since expanded to house disparate ideologies, and fractious groups.

“She was never going to contradict the president during the campaign,” said Rivera Rivota. “But who knows what will happen when she’s sitting in the Palacio Nacional and making the calls herself.”

“There is hope, and there is a vote of confidence [in Sheinbaum],” said Alanís of CEMDA. “But here we will be vigilant, and we will be checking the actions of her administration every day.

“And if necessary, we will raise our voice.”

Macron’s election call unsettles Paris Olympics build-up

AFP

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’

AFP

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. 

South Korea to resume loudspeaker broadcasts over border in balloon row

BBC News

South Korea to resume loudspeaker broadcasts over border in balloon row

Shaimaa Khalil and Thomas Mackintosh – June 9, 2024

A balloon carrying various objects including what appeared to be trash, believed to have been sent by North Korea, is pictured at the sea off Incheon, South Korea
The move comes as North Korea continues to send balloons carrying rubbish across the border into South Korea [Reuters]

South Korea has said it will resume propaganda broadcasts against North Korea for the first time in six years in response to Pyongyang’s campaign of sending rubbish-filled balloons across the border.

Over 300 North Korean balloons were detected over Saturday and Sunday with around 80 landing in the South carrying scrap paper and plastic sheets.

North Korea is yet to respond to the announcement, but Pyongyang considers the loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts an act of war and has threatened to blow them up in the past.

Last month North Korea appeared to send at least 200 balloons carrying rubbish over the border in retaliation for propaganda leaflets sent from the south.

I recent weeks Pyongyang has launched around one thousand sacks of waste paper, cigarette butts and excrement across the border
South Korean officials warn the public not to touch the balloons, but to report them [Reuters]

Over the weekend North Korea resumed its waste campaign against its neighbour by sending balloons carrying sacks of rubbish over the border into South Korea.

It was in retaliation for activists in the South sending 10 balloons containing leaflets critical of the North Korean regime on Friday, according to AFP news agency.

South Korea’s military said there are no more balloons in the air adding that no hazardous materials have been found.

It has warned the public not to touch the balloons and to be aware of falling objects.

The public should report any sightings to the nearest police or military unit, the military added.

Following the latest batch of balloons, South Korea’s National Security Council said loudspeaker broadcasts on the border would resume on Sunday after agreeing to restart the loudspeakers for the first time since 2018.

On Thursday an activist group in South Korea said it had flown balloons into North Korea carrying leaflets criticising the leader Kim Jong Un, dollar bills and USB sticks with K-pop music videos – which is banned in the North.

In recent years, the broadcasts have included news from both Koreas and abroad as well as information on democracy and life in South Korea.

The South Korean military claims the broadcasts can be heard as much as 10km (6.2 miles) across the border in the day and up to 24km (15 miles) at night.

In May, a South Korea-based activist group claimed it had sent 20 balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets and USB sticks containing Korean pop music and music videos across the border.

Seoul’s parliament passed a law in December 2020 that criminalises the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets, but critics have raised concerns related to freedom of speech and human rights.

North Korea has also launched balloons southward that attacked Seoul’s leaders.

In one such launch in 2016, the balloons reportedly carried toilet paper, cigarette butts and rubbish. Seoul police described them as “hazardous biochemical substances”.

These are the 10 most bacteria-polluted beaches in America, group says

Fox Weather

These are the 10 most bacteria-polluted beaches in America, group says

Hillary Andrews – June 9, 2024

One of nation's most polluted beaches making California residents sick

The Surfrider Foundation just released its list of the top 10 most bacteria-polluted beaches in America during 2023. At two beaches, every sample taken throughout the year exceeded state health standards.

The organization set up the Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) which sampled water at 567 different sites across beaches, oceans, estuaries and freshwater creeks throughout the U.S. They collected 9,538 samples. About 22% of the samples showed high bacteria levels and 64% of the almost 600 beaches monitored didn’t pass state health standards at least once.

According to the report, funding is leading to a reduction in the number of beaches being monitored by government agencies on a regular basis.

“Chronic underfunding has forced states to prioritize which beaches to monitor, reduce sampling frequency, and limit beach seasons in order to stretch their federal grant dollars as far as possible,” stated the Surfrider’s Clean Water Report 2023.

“Most chapter water testing programs are designed to fill in the gaps and extend the coverage of state and local agency beach monitoring programs,” the report continued. “Surfrider volunteers are not only testing beaches that are not covered by agencies, but they are also monitoring potential sources of pollution, such as stormwater outlets, rivers, and creeks that discharge onto our beaches.”

Some beaches only monitor in the summer. About 67% of the samples showed low bacteria levels and 11% showed medium levels.

“The majority of the water samples that failed to meet health standards were collected from freshwater sources, such as rivers, creeks, and marshes, which are influenced by storm water runoff, or at beaches near these outlets,” wrote Surfrider. “These results are consistent with national trends, which show that storm water runoff is the number one cause of beach closures and swimming advisories in the U.S.

FECAL MATTER POSED RISK AT 90% OF TEXAS BEACHES LAST YEAR, REPORT SAYS. HERE’S HOW TO TRACK IT

Stormwater washes chemicals and other pollutants from streets and lawns into local waterways and down to the beach, the group said. Stormwater and flooding after heavy rain can also cause wastewater systems, like cesspools, septic systems and sewers, to fail and send untreated sewage into rivers, streams, oceans and lakes.

“Nearly 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater runoff flow into U.S. waterways every year, carrying a cocktail of pollutants including road dust, oil, animal waste, fertilizers, and other chemicals,” Surfrider wrote. “Sewage can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that make people sick with gastrointestinal symptoms, rashes, skin and eye infections, flu-like symptoms, and worse.”

Both Imperial Beach in San Diego County, California, and Nawiliwili Stream at Kalapaki Bay in LihueHawaii, on the island of Kauai, failed every test. That means that bacterial levels were so high, the state deems the beach unsafe for swimming.

HOW TO TRACK YOUR BEACH’S WATER QUALITY

Authorities have closed Imperial Beach for 930 days, according to local media. However, closing the beach to swimming still won’t keep everyone safe.

“These closures don’t fully prevent people from getting sick as some toxins are aerosolizing and contaminating the air in Imperial Beach and other nearby border communities,” said Surfrider. “People are getting sick just by breathing the air as they go to work, school, and even trying to enjoy their own backyards.”

South Bay Urgent Care in Imperial Beach told FOX 5 San Diego that in the past year the number of patients needing breathing treatments grew by 140%.

RAINWATER POLLUTED BY FOREVER CHEMICALS WORLDWIDE, STUDY SAYS

File: A dog competes during the 5th annual Loews Coronado bay resort surf dog competition in Imperial Beach, south of San Diego, California on May 22, 2010.
File: A dog competes during the 5th annual Loews Coronado bay resort surf dog competition in Imperial Beach, south of San Diego, California on May 22, 2010.

“Every day is another patient getting sick, and we don’t want that anymore. We see newborns come in. It’s tough for people over 100,” Dr. Mathew Dickson said. “They’re coughing, eyes are running, eyes are watering, and they’re wheezing a lot.”

He is on a task force researching long-term effects of pollution exposure.

The Scripps Institute of Oceanography linked 34,000 illnesses to Imperial Beach pollution in 2017.

“Coastal waters along Tijuana, Mexico, and Imperial Beach, USA, are frequently polluted by millions of gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater runoff,” the research stated. “Entering coastal waters causes over 100 million global annual illnesses, but CWP (coastal water pollution) has the potential to reach many more people on land via transfer in sea spray aerosol.”

Hurricane Hilary alone released 2.5 billion gallons of contaminated stormwater through the Tijuana River Valley, according to the Clean Water Report. Volunteers found bacterial levels almost 100 times higher than California’s health standard for safe recreation.

TOXIC ALGAE BLOOM BECOMING DEADLY FOR SEA LIONS, DOLPHINS IN PACIFIC OCEAN

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 19: A surfer walks out of the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach shortly after sunset with Hurricane Hilary approaching on August 19, 2023 in San Diego, California. Southern California is under a first-ever tropical storm warning as Hurricane Hilary approaches with parts of California, Arizona and Nevada preparing for flooding and heavy rains.
File: A surfer walks out of the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach shortly after sunset with Hurricane Hilary approaching on August 19, 2023 in San Diego, California.

HOW TO WATCH FOX WEATHER

Scripps study from 2021 pointed out that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 90 million cases of waterborne illness of the gastrointestinal tract, ear, eye, respiratory tract and skin occur every year from recreational contact. The estimated cost of that is $2 billion every year.

“These priority beaches represent a variety of recreational waters and access points that are important to local communities, yet water quality conditions could be putting public health at risk,” Surfrider said. “No one should get sick from spending time at the beach.”

Other beaches and waterways on the list are recreational waters and access points to rivers and bays for paddleboarders and kayakers in local communities.

Nawiliwili Stream in Hawaii flows across a Kauai, Hawaii, beach where families bring kids to play in the calm shallow waters, according to Surfrider.

HOW FLOODWATER CAN MAKE YOU VERY SICK

Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, California is a popular surf break. Kahalulu on Oahu in Hawaii is an access point for snorkeling, boating and fishing in Kaneohe Bay.

File: Beachgoers walk at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Calif., on Wednesday, June 15, 2023.
File: Beachgoers walk at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica, Calif., on Wednesday, June 15, 2023.

The BWTF posts recent water test results on their website. The EPA has a list of all beaches that are monitored. The EPA also posts beach closures and advisories along with water test results.

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

MSNBC

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.