[guest post by Dana]
First news item:
Judge Cannon sets the date:
A federal judge in Florida has scheduled a trial date for next May for former President Donald Trump in a case charging him with illegally retaining hundreds of classified documents.
The May 20, 2024, trial date, set Friday by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, is a compromise between a request from prosecutors to set the trial for this December and a bid by defense lawyers to put it off indefinitely until sometime after the 2024 presidential election.
Judge Cannon wrote:
In pushing back the trial from the Dec. 11 start date that the Justice Department had asked for, Cannon wrote that “the Government’s proposed schedule is atypically accelerated and inconsistent with ensuring a fair trial.” She agreed with defense lawyers that the amount of evidence that would need to be sifted through before the trial, including classified information, was “voluminous.”
“The Court finds that the interests of justice served by this continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and Defendants in a speedy trial,” Cannon wrote.
(Clearly, this benefits Trump with regard to the primary races. And if he becomes the Republican nominee, another delay would also benefit him with a national election on the horizon…)
Second news item
Russia warned on Wednesday that it would consider any ship sailing around Ukrainian ports a military target, days after Moscow pulled out of a yearlong deal that had enabled Kyiv to export its grain across the Black Sea despite a wartime blockade.
Russia’s moves have profound implications for the export of Ukraine’s grain, a commodity vital for its own economy and world grain markets.
Ukrainian ports targeted by Russia:
Since Monday’s announcement, Russia has launched a series of nightly aerial attacks on Ukrainian ports, killing and wounding civilians. On Wednesday, an attack in Chornomorsk, just south of Odesa, also destroyed 60,000 tons of grain waiting to be loaded onto ships. That is enough to feed more than 270,000 people for a year, according to the World Food Program…The aerial attacks appeared to reinforce Russia’s decision to end the deal and its refusal to allow Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea.
The report notes that the Black Sea deal was a lifeline for Ukrainian farmers.
Meanwhile, thoughts on Ukraine’s predicament:
Ukraine reciprocates to Russia’s threat to Black Sea vessels: Ships to/from Russian and temporarily occupied Ukrainian ports are now valid military targets.
This tit-for-tat situation is intriguing; Russia threatens Ukrainian ships, Ukraine responds similarly.
The formal statement by the military of defense of Ukraine reads:
The Russian Federation has once again blatantly violated the universal right to free navigation and deliberately undermined food security, condemning millions of people to starvation. By openly threatening civilian vessels transporting food from Ukrainian ports, launching missile attacks and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure in peaceful cities, deliberately creating a military threat on trade routes, the Kremlin has turned the Black Sea into a danger zone, primarily for Russian vessels and vessels sailing in the Black Sea towards Russian seaports and Ukrainian seaports located on the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia. Responsibility for all risks lies entirely with the Russian leadership. The fate of the Moskva cruiser proves that the Ukrainian Defense Forces have the necessary means to repel Russian aggression at sea.
The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine warns that starting from 00:00 on July 21, 2023, all vessels sailing in the Black Sea in the direction of the seaports of the Russian Federation and Ukrainian seaports located in the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military cargo with all the corresponding risks.
In addition, shipping in the areas of the North-Eastern Black Sea and the Kerch-Yenikal Strait of Ukraine is prohibited as dangerous, starting from 05:00 on July 20, 2023. The relevant navigational information for mariners has already been published.
So, Ukraine basically says “Russia back to you”. This how Russia should be handled. If Russia is at war and thinks it can do whatever it wants in the Black Sea without consequences, it will be proved wrong.
Third news item
Chino Valley Unified teachers must tell parents if their child identifies as transgender under a fiercely debated policy approved by the school board late Thursday, July 20.
The 4-1 vote in favor of the notification rule came at the end of a contentious, four-hour meeting that at one point saw the ejection of state Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, who was led away by security officers to shouts of “kick him out.”
The policy introduced in June requires schools to notify parents in writing within three days after their child identifies as transgender, is involved in violence or talks about suicide. Under the policy, schools will notify parents if their child seeks to change their name or pronouns or asks for access to gender-based sports, bathrooms or changing rooms that do not match their assigned gender at birth.
Before his removal from the meeting, Thurmond told the board “the policy you consider tonight may not only fall outside of privacy laws but may put our students at risk.”
School board President Sonja Shaw kicked him out after she said he continued to speak beyond his allotted one minute.
“Tony Thurmond, I appreciate you being here, but we are here because of people like you,” Shaw said.
It’s indefensible that school officials would not notify parents immediately if they discovered that someone’s child had been discussing suicide. FFS, who is the parent here: school officials or the actual damn parent? Moreover, according to the CDC, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens and young adults, thus a three-day delay in notification to the parents could mean the difference between life and death for a young person who is hurting and feeling desperate. Shame on these officials.
Fourth news item
The Justice Department told Texas Thursday that it intends to file legal action against the placement of floating barriers in the Rio Grande as part of the state’s operation along the Texas-Mexico border, according to sources familiar and a letter obtained by CNN.
The Justice Department sent the letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday, according to the letter, though there is time for the state to respond.
“The State of Texas’s actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” the letter stated, citing a clause in the law that “prohibits the creation of any obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the United States, and further prohibits building any structure in such waters without authorization from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”).”
The danger of the buoys is increased by additional placement of razor wire against them. See photo here.
Additionally, a Department of Public Safety trooper calls the situation “inhumane”:
According to the email, a pregnant woman having a miscarriage was found late last month caught in the wire, doubled over in pain. A four-year-old girl passed out from heat exhaustion after she tried to go through it and was pushed back by Texas National Guard soldiers. A teenager broke his leg trying to navigate the water around the wire and had to be carried by his father.
The email, which the trooper sent to a superior, suggests that Texas has set “traps” of razor wire-wrapped barrels in parts of the river with high water and low visibility. And it says the wire has increased the risk of drownings by forcing migrants into deeper stretches of the river.
The trooper called for a series of rigorous policy changes to improve safety for migrants, including removing the barrels and revoking the directive on withholding water.
Fifth news item
There’s a power struggle in Newbern, Alabama, and the rural town’s first Black mayor is at war with the previous administration who he says locked him out of Town Hall.
After years of racist harassment and intimidation, Patrick Braxton is fed up, and in a federal civil rights lawsuit he is accusing town officials of conspiring to deny his civil rights and his position because of his race.
“When I first became mayor, [a white woman told me] the town was not ready for a Black mayor,” Braxton recalls.
The town is 85% Black, and 29% of Black people here live below the poverty line.
Two years ago, Braxton says he was the only volunteer firefighter in his department to respond to a tree fire near a Black person’s home in the town of 275 people. As Braxton, 57, actively worked to put out the fire, he says, one of his white colleagues tried to take the keys to his fire truck to keep him from using it.
In another incident, Braxton, who was off duty at the time, overheard an emergency dispatch call for a Black woman experiencing a heart attack. He drove to the fire station to retrieve the automated external defibrillator, or AED machine, but the locks were changed, so he couldn’t get into the facility. He raced back to his house, grabbed his personal machine, and drove over to the house, but he didn’t make it in time to save her. Braxton wasn’t able to gain access to the building or equipment until the Hale County Emergency Management Agency director intervened, the lawsuit said.
“I have been on several house fires by myself,” Braxton says. “They hear the radio and wouldn’t come. I know they hear it because I called dispatch, and dispatch set the tone call three or four times for Newbern because we got a certain tone.”
This has become the new norm for Braxton ever since he became the first Black mayor of his hometown in 2020. For the past three years, he’s been fighting to serve and hold on to the title of mayor, first reported by Lee Hedgepeth, a freelance journalist based in Alabama.
Not only has he been locked out of the town hall and fought fires alone, but he’s been followed by a drone and unable to retrieve the town’s mail and financial accounts, he says. Rather than concede, Haywood “Woody” Stokes III, the former white mayor, along with his council members, reappointed themselves to their positions after ordering a special election that no one knew about.
Read the whole thing.
Sixth news item
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said she was “uncomfortable” showing nude photos of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter in Congress but that “the American people deserve to see” them.
Greene used a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday to hold up photos that purportedly showed Hunter Biden having sex with prostitutes.
The images clearly depict Biden nude and engaging in sex, but use black boxes to obscure his genitals and the faces of the people who aren’t Biden.
She said the pictures would help Americans hold the government accountable, telling the show “Rob Schmitt Tonight”: “This is actually the evidence that I believe the American people deserve to see. Because when the American people can see this evidence, as uncomfortable as it was for me to show it on the Oversight Committee today, I believe that’s how they can hold this government accountable.”
Seventh news item
Rest in peace to one of the greats:
Tony Bennett, the master pop vocalist who had a professional career spanning eight decades with a No. 1 album at age 85, died on Friday morning in New York City. He was 96.
Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, but had continued to perform and record through 2021.
His peer Frank Sinatra called him the greatest popular singer in the world. His recordings – most of them made for Columbia Records, which signed him in 1950 – were characterized by ebullience, immense warmth, vocal clarity and emotional openness. A gifted and technically accomplished interpreter of the Great American Songbook, he may be best known for his signature 1962 hit “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
Have a lovely weekend.