Even Exceptions To Abortion Bans Pit A Mother’s Life Against Doctors’ Fears

“With the end of Roe v. Wade’s abortion protections, there are now millions of Americans who won’t be able to get an abortion if they want one. Some, like Houshmand, will be people who are seeking abortion because of the way a pregnancy is affecting their health. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem, thanks to exceptions for the life of the mother that are common, even in the strictest abortion bans. But the medical professionals, legal experts and researchers we spoke to said those exceptions are usually vague, creating an environment where patients have to meet some unspoken and arbitrary criteria to get treatment.”

Why Aren’t We Out of Yemen Yet?

“President Joe Biden’s announcement two weeks after taking office that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” was welcome. It was also inexcusably ambiguous, and when lawmakers sought clarity into the scope of the policy change, the administration mostly declined to give it. Biden’s announcement “includes the suspension of two previously notified air-to-ground munitions sales and an ongoing review of other systems,” wrote the State Department in a letter. But beyond that, the administration didn’t indicate what military support would continue to flow to the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen’s grueling civil war.

An extensive new report from The Washington Post this week confirms that skepticism of the drawdown was warranted and the specification of “offensive operations” was deceptive. While rightfully decrying Russian aggression against civilian targets in Ukraine, the U.S. government continues to be implicated in the same kind of brutality against civilians in Yemen, the site of the world’s most acute humanitarian crisis. This Post report is fresh evidence that we need to know exactly how the U.S. government is backing the Saudi-led coalition and its war crimes in Yemen—and that this backing needs to stop.”

Biden’s Summit of the Americas Was Over Before It Started

“In a speech delivered last Wednesday at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, President Joe Biden made a passionate plea for renewed purpose and partnership between the United States and its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors.

But it was some conspicuously empty seats in the audience that grabbed the attention. Out of the 35 countries in the Americas, only 23 sent heads of state, one of the lowest attendance rates since the first summit almost 30 years ago.

Most of these absences stem from Biden’s decision to not invite Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to the summit over their human rights records, a move driven in part by pressure from Cuban-American exile groups. “There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if all the countries of the continent don’t participate,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated at a press conference on June 6. The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, major sources of migration to the United States, also announced they would not attend in protest.

In 2001, the Organization of American States passed the Inter-American Democratic Charter, officially barring nondemocratic states from participating in successive summits at the behest of the United States. However, this rule was seemingly annulled when the U.S. and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations under former President Barack Obama.

Cuba attended the 2015 summit in Panama, where Obama’s meeting with former Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first time Cuban and American heads of state had met since the Cuban Revolution.”

“”There is no way President Biden can make progress on addressing the migrant crisis since the Presidents of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador chose not to attend””

“The summit’s perceived disconnects have confirmed what some in the region have feared: The U.S. is failing to reset or even update its Latin America policy after years of neglect under former President Donald Trump.”

“”Washington seems to have prepared this summit as if it was 1994,” said Rivero Santos, referring back to the first Summit of the Americas held in Miami. Rivero Santos believes the Biden administration still sees the Americas through the prism of the 1990s neoliberal political wave that swept south, but socialist and populist governments have been making inroads in the region for years. “Washington has not been able to keep up with the changes in the region. The Latin America of 1994 is very different than the Latin America of 2022.””

It’s a Bad Year for Criminal Justice Reform at the Supreme Court

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2021-2022 term is not yet over and it is already going down in the books as a terrible term for criminal justice reform. A pair of recent dissents by Justice Sonia Sotomayor spotlights the sorry state of affairs.

First, in Shinn v. Ramirez, the Court held that a death row inmate who received ineffective state-appointed counsel at both trial and postconviction state court proceedings is now barred from presenting new exculpatory evidence—evidence of actual innocence—in federal court. “Innocence isn’t enough,” declared the state attorney during oral arguments, insisting that the federal courts must defer to the flawed state proceedings.

“This decision is perverse,” wrote Sotomayor in dissent. “It is illogical.” She is right on both counts. As The Washington Post’s Radley Balko has detailed, “every court to consider the actual merits of [death row inmate] Barry Jones’s innocence claim has ruled that he never should have been convicted of murder. And every court to rule against Jones did so for procedural reasons without considering the new evidence. If Jones is executed, it will not be because there is overwhelming evidence of his guilt. It will be because of a technicality.””

“The second notable Sotomayor dissent came in Egbert v. Boule, a ruling which shielded a border patrol agent from being sued in federal court for his alleged violations of the First and Fourth Amendments. Among its many sins, this outcome made a mockery of the Court’s 1971 decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which said that federal officers may indeed be sued in federal court for alleged Fourth Amendment violations.

“Bivens itself involved a U.S. citizen bringing a Fourth Amendment claim against individual, rank-and-file federal law enforcement officers who allegedly violated his constitutional rights within the United States by entering his property without a warrant and using excessive force. Those are precisely the facts of Boule’s complaint,” wrote Sotomayor in dissent.

She is again right on all counts. Innkeeper Robert Boule alleged that Border Patrol Agent Erik Egbert assaulted him on his own property after Boule asked Egbert to leave. That Fourth Amendment complaint does not differ in any meaningful way from the Fourth Amendment complaint at issue in Bivens.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s flawed judgment, Sotomayor observed, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “agents are now absolutely immunized from liability in any Bivens action for damages, no matter how egregious the misconduct or resultant injury. That will preclude redress under Bivens for injuries resulting from constitutional violations by CBP’s nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, including those engaged in ordinary law enforcement activities, like traffic stops, far removed from the border.” So much for the Fourth Amendment when a federal officer is involved.”

50 Years Later, the Motive Behind Watergate Remains Clouded

“One strange thing about Watergate, the scandal that led Richard Nixon to resign as president, is that 50 years later we still don’t know who ordered the core crime or why.
This was the crime: On June 17, 1972, a squad of five bagmen, all with at least past connections to the CIA, broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the Watergate office building. They were supervised by James McCord, director of security for Nixon’s reelection committee.”

“The most obvious and common speculation is that the burglars were trying to steal political intelligence from DNC chair Larry O’Brien for the Nixon campaign’s benefit. But anyone knowledgeable about how presidential campaigns work would know that any political intelligence worth stealing had already moved to the headquarters of Democratic nominee George McGovern. The party’s national headquarters doesn’t have much to do at that point except to put on the convention, and O’Brien had already moved to Miami to take charge of that. His office in the Watergate was vacant and ghostly.

Besides, the burglars were caught bugging the telephone not of O’Brien but of a minor party official named Spencer Oliver, a man whose duties kept him out on the road most of the time and away from his phone—a fact that has engendered some fascinatingly strange speculation”

“Five decades later, despite 30,000 pages of declassified FBI investigative reports, 16,091 pages of Senate hearing transcripts, 740 pages of White House tape transcriptions, and scores of histories of the scandal and memoirs by its participants, we still know more about the cover-up than we do about the break-in.”

“The most interesting information to emerge from the Watergate investigation, and certainly the most legally actionable, came not from journalists via Felt-like leaks but from other parts of the FBI and, indirectly, from the Senate’s investigation, which stumbled onto the fact that Nixon had a secret taping system that picked up most of his conversations with his most intimate advisers.

While the media gabbled about what kind of paranoid loon would do such a thing, every president going back to Franklin Roosevelt had taped at least some of his conversations. Nixon had actually disconnected the White House recording equipment when he entered office. He relented in 1971, evidently thinking tapes would help him write memoirs of what he expected to be an epic presidency. Instead, he sealed his own doom, creating 3,432 hours of tape that turned what otherwise would have been uncorroborated he-said/he-said conversations into smoking guns.

The tapes also yielded no end of fascinating insights into the president’s positions on everything from Catholicism (“You know what happened to the popes? They were layin’ the nuns”) to Northern California sociology (“The upper class in San Francisco…is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine….I can’t shake hands with anybody from San Francisco”).”

“Reconsidering those events and the mysteries still surrounding them can help us see government for what it really is: not a holy calling besmirched by a uniquely sinister Richard Nixon, but a generally lowly site of struggle for personal and institutional power. The bad guys may not always get away with their crimes, but the government is so thick with secrecy and omerta that we can’t always be sure we know what they are up to—not at the time, and not even 50 years later.”

A Wonky Evisceration of Biden’s Bad Deficit Math

“Biden’s administration did nothing to bring about the deficit’s decline. Credit really goes to large increases in tax revenues as the economy rebounded combined with the decision by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D–Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and their Republican colleagues to block Biden’s expensive “Build Back Better” proposal. BBB would have made permanent many of the emergency programs created or expanded during the pandemic, and had it passed, government spending and deficits would be heading even higher than they are today.

That said, the still-too-close-to-$1 trillion deficit for FY 2022 is inexcusably large. More worrisome is the cost that we taxpayers must shoulder because of the pre- and post-COVID-19 deficits. According to that same Treasury report, in May, the U.S. government paid $56 billion in interest payments on its debt, up from $44 billion in April. As of now, total interest payments for this year are $311 billion. With four months still to go on this figure, we can assume a total interest cost for FY 2022 of at least $500 billion.

This is just the beginning. Before the pandemic and the inflation unleashed by irresponsible government spending and easy money, the Congressional Budget Office projected that in 2050, interest payments on U.S. debt would consume 8 percent of GDP and 40 percent of government revenue. These projections assumed modest increases in interest rates over a long-term period. However, as of today, the short-term figures look optimistic as inflation and the Federal Reserve’s response to it are boosting interest rates.”

“It’s expensive for sure, but it is also a vicious cycle if the interest is paid for with yet more borrowing. More borrowing raises total interest payments. In addition, if one believes (as I do) that most of our current inflation is rooted in recent fiscal irresponsibility, then more borrowing to pay for more interest will only add more fuel to the inflation fire.

Finally, as the average interest rate on marketable debt approaches 2 percent, we are getting close to the threshold that some left-leaning economists say should trigger concerns about the size of government debt.”

“the budget deficit might be smaller than at the height of the pandemic, and that is a good and predictable thing. But it’s no cause for celebration as interest rates and servicing costs could push us into worrisome territory sooner than we think.”

Blame High Gas Prices on Red Tape

“as CNN pointed out not long ago, oil companies used to respond like other businesses to rising prices by increasing supply. Burying their industry in red tape and choking off access to capital has been a very effective signal to rethink their entire business strategy. Oil industry insiders may coast along and enjoy the profits from existing capacity, but they’re unlikely to invest in facilities to meet demand for gasoline, and offset soaring prices, until they’re certain their industry will be allowed a future.”

Why Is the EU Telling Apple Which Chargers It Can Use?

“After ten years of hard work to try and promote innovation and consumer welfare, the European Union has revealed its bold plan: to force device manufacturers to use a single charging standard.

The Eurocrats are now hard at work patting themselves on the back for this glorious outcome of the decade-long “trilogue on the common charger.” By 2024, wired devices sold in the EU must use the USB-C charging port and will not be sold with a charger by default. This is intended to “curb e-waste” and give consumers “more choice.” Can you feel the innovation? Never say the EU does not dream big.

Unless you are one of the 56 million or so Europeans who use iPhones, not much will change. Private companies have converged on common standards for years. Most, if not all, of your devices might already use the nifty USB-C charger, which in addition to being small and symmetrical, allows fast charging to boot.

And some Apple products, like my own MacBook Air, use the USB-C standard too. It is nice to be able to seamlessly charge my phone and my laptop without hassling with extensions.

The problem is the iProducts. Most, but not all, of these famously (or infamously) use Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, which is incompatible with other companies’ devices. iPhones, iPads, and iPods usually use Lightning connectors, which means people need to have a separate charger for these specific products.

The Lightning charger has few fans today. It’s proprietary, it doesn’t always allow fast charging, and you’ll pay a lot for the privilege. Haters—and there are many—will be tempted to applaud this move by the EU.

But as usual, the EU’s meddling will almost certainly have the opposite effect that it is intending. Instead of “limiting e-waste,” this ban will create millions of useless chargers that will soon head to a landfill.”

“Although that rat’s nest of old chargers in your bedside table is aesthetically salient (and awful), it’s apparently not a big contributor to this ballyhooed e-waste problem. According to the 2020 Global E-Waste Monitor, chargers represent some 0.1 percent of the 53.6 million metric tons of tech garbage produced each year.

As usual, the EU is spending a lot of time and effort on something that is not that big of a problem in the grand scheme of things.”

“Apple is not a big fan of the rules, having argued that the prohibition on non-USB-C chargers will limit the kinds of innovations they can offer their customers. This might not convince the well-sized anti-Lightning community, but it is a little rich that professional bureaucrats who have not so much as opened a business in their lives would deign to tell some of the world’s most successful technology companies how to design their products.”

World Food Supplies Are Enough To Feed Everyone

“So if there’s enough food to go around, why has the global trend toward lower levels of hunger recently reversed? “As of today, the world has no global shortage of food, but food is quite expensive and people’s wages have not adjusted yet,” said David Laborde, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. “The main issue is that we have problems moving this food around, either due to the war or export restrictions.”

As a result, world food prices reached an all-time high earlier this year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The price increases are the result of a concatenation of events stemming from the disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including price increases in fuels and fertilizers and blocked grain exports. In addition, the WFP notes, “Conflict is still the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world’s hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence.”

In a world with more than enough food to feed everybody, despotic governmental brutality and stupidity are once again causing famines.”

We Don’t Need a White House Monkeypox ‘Coordinator.’ We Just Need the Vaccines.

“We’re up to about 3,600 known cases of monkeypox in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s more than double the number of cases from just two weeks ago.

As the federal government struggles to distribute vaccines where they’re needed, The Washington Post reports that the White House is thinking of declaring a public health emergency and naming a “White House coordinator” to oversee the response.

The public response should be: Please don’t. Please just get the vaccines to local public health agencies and let them deal with it. Because right now, that’s about half the problem that’s causing monkeypox to spread.

Red tape from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC left more than a million monkeypox vaccine doses stuck in storage in Denmark, and then another roll of red tape made it incredibly difficult for doctors to prescribe an alternative monkeypox treatment because it’s still in clinical trials.

As a result, local health agencies have had to carefully portion out vaccines to the highest-risk citizens—and they’re still running out. In Los Angeles, the county Public Health Department will only administer to people who are infected, people who have had high-risk contact (typically sex) with somebody who is infected, and then gay or bisexual men or trans people who fit in one of the [certain] categories”

“Fortunately, monkeypox’s spread has still remained pretty limited even as it has grown. The percentage of growth seems huge because we’re dealing with a fairly low baseline. And though monkeypox is not technically a sexually transmitted disease—it is spread through contact with the rashes and lesions created by the virus as well as through saliva—this particular version of monkeypox has been pretty resistant so far to being spread through methods other than sexual contact.”