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Newsclips - October 22, 2018

State Stories

Denton Record-Chronicle - October 21, 2018

Congressman Michael Burgess is not overlooking the Democrats this time

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess took office just before the United States went to war in Iraq. He’s legislated through the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama years. From his view, President Donald Trump’s arrival to Washington has brought clarity and a long overdue change in pace to Congress.

The president also has had an impact in Burgess’ home district. This past primary election, Burgess said, was the most competitive he has seen from Denton County Democrats. Linsey Fagan beat Will Fisher in the Democratic primaries to be Burgess’ latest opponent. Burgess himself has said Fagan’s efforts have not received the proper amount of attention for how successful her campaign has been. In a congressional district that has been loyally conservative, Fagan said she’s OK with lying low and focusing on the basics. She said if she were getting large party donations, making big headlines and receiving high-profile endorsements (she was recently overlooked by President Obama’s Democratic endorsements in federal races) it would work to her disadvantage in the long run. “It would force the other side at looking to do the same thing,” Fagan said. “I work very hard, and I have no problem with flying under the radar a little bit. I think it makes it easier to win.” Burgess has the support of the Trump administration. In some of his political advertising, Burgess has used Trump’s “great again” rhetoric. Next week, the president is expected to sign into law a bill Burgess authored that addresses what Trump has called an opioid drug-use crisis in the country. “There are times when I would choose a different word than he chooses, but as for as principles, I think it’s a pretty tight alignment,” Burgess said of his Trump connection.

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KERA - October 21, 2018

Protestors demand Greyhound refuse immigration checks by Border Patrol

The American Civil Liberties Union, members of the local Greyhound bus drivers’ union and representatives of other groups delivered 200,000 signed petitions to the Greyhound bus headquarters in downtown Dallas on Friday. They’re demanding the company stop allowing border patrol agents onto its buses to question passengers.

Gathered in Main Street Garden Park, immigrant advocates said Greyhound has the right to refuse border patrol agents from boarding their buses without a warrant or probable cause. The campaign, called Transportation Not Deportation, accuses U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents of racial profiling and violating passengers’ constitutional rights by asking that they prove their U.S. citizenship. Rep. Joaquin Castro said the practice is happening in heavily Hispanic areas and beyond border checkpoints. “Greyhound is doing something that they don’t have to do. They’re subjecting many of their passengers who have paid them a fare, who have helped them thrive as a company for so many years in this great country,” Castro said. “They’re subjecting them to warrantless searches to racial profiling.” After a series of speeches, the group walked several blocks to Greyhound’s headquarters carrying boxes containing 200,000 signed petitions. Tricia Martinez, senior vice president for Greyhound’s legal department, read a statement from CEO Dave Leach. The statement said the company understood customers’ concerns but that the searches were legal. She also said Greyhound didn’t support the searches and that it doesn’t coordinate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “CBP officers do not ask our permission to board our buses,” Martinez said. “We do not want to put our drivers’ safety or our passengers at risk by attempting to stop federal agents from doing legal checks.” The statement also said that the searches by CBP agents had negatively affected the company’s operations and its passengers. More protests are planned in the coming weeks, including one in Los Angeles later this month.

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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - October 20, 2018

Texas Tech’s Schovanec talks need for more faculty during State of the University

One day after Texas Tech leaders gave an overview of the state of the system at a Lubbock Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Tech President Lawrence Schovanec filled in faculty and staff at the university with more details on university plans.

Possibly of most interest to many of his audience on Wednesday morning, Schovanec told them he hopes to hire more faculty and staff. The current student-to-faculty ratio at Tech is 20-to-1, this as Tech’s enrollment has swelled to a record 38,246 in the fall of 2018. That’s up 3.3 percent from 2017. Schovanec’s goal is to get the student-to-faculty ratio down to 18-to-1. Schovanec said that five years ago, Tech’s student-to-faculty ratio was 24-to-1, and the university has been working to improve that. “We also are going to need to add more staff. As I mentioned, we only added about 5 percent in the past five years. I think if you talk to chairs and deans, they’d say we are short in that area,” Schovanec said. Another area of interest to faculty and staff is Tech’s goal to transform lives and communities through engaged outreach and scholarship. Schovanec said a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education is titled, “Do universities value public engagement? Not much.” Schovanec said Tech has been honored by the Carnegie Foundation for its community engagement. “We have a good track record there, but we can do more,” Schovanec said. He said he really wants work with the community to be a part of the culture at Texas Tech. He said John Opperman, a former interim Tech president, was named as the associate vice president of outreach and engagement, and is overseeing many different dimensions of engagement. Opperman will be looking not only at why engagement with the community is important, but also at merit pay or promotions. Schovanec also expanded on themes that were mentioned during the Chamber luncheon, including the veterinary school. The Tech president noted that most veterinarians in Texas are located along the Interstate 35 corridor. About 1,000 people move into Texas each week, he said, with many bringing cats and dogs. “That’s where the business is,” he said.

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San Antonio Express-News - October 21, 2018

Kosten: To fight opioid addiction, allow more treatments for more people

Opioid addiction is a national crisis, and Texas has not escaped it. As a specialist in addiction psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, I have devoted my professional life to studying addiction, including opioid addiction, and developing medical treatments that help patients fight it.

Texas can do far more to combat this scourge that has afflicted so many families and communities here and across the country. The best first step would be to allow people on Medicaid to access the full range of medication assisted treatments to help them beat their dependency. On Thursday, the state’s Medicaid Drug Utilization Review Board will consider giving preferred status to additional medications for the Medicaid program. Right now, there is an entire class of medications that simultaneously reduces the cravings for opioids and eases the nausea and other withdrawal symptoms that drive people back to addiction. Yet only one of these medications, known as Suboxone, has been given preferred status by the review board. Additional options would better serve many of Texas’ most vulnerable patients, but the state forces physicians to jump through numerous hoops to provide those alternatives. As a result, patients often suffer delays and interruptions to treatment. The review board should take this opportunity to exert leadership during this epidemic and lift unnecessary medical authorizations for medication assisted treatments. Then, next year, the Legislature should pass a bill to codify that policy. Opioids are responsible for about half of Texas’ drug overdose deaths, claiming the lives of nearly four Texans every day. The state has four of the top U.S. cities for opioid abuse — Texarkana, Odessa, Longview and Amarillo — according to the health care information company Castlight. And drug overdoses, primarily from opioids, were the second-leading cause of maternal death in Texas, according a report by a state task force created in 2013 to address that growing problem.

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Houston Chronicle - October 20, 2018

Two Harris County judges responsible for one in five children sent to state juvenile prisons

Two Harris County judges accounted for more than one-fifth of all children sent to the state’s juvenile prisons last year, driving up the county’s Texas Juvenile Justice Department commitments even as those figures fall in the rest of the state.

The two courts — overseen by Judges Glenn Devlin and John Phillips — not only sent more teens to juvenile prison, but they also sent them younger and for less-serious offenses than the county’s third juvenile court, where Judge Mike Schneider presides. And, from all three courts, the kids sent to state lockups were almost all — about 96 percent — children of color. The high incarceration numbers surfaced in a judicial grievance filed earlier this year against one of the three jurists, and experts said the data raise red flags regarding local judicial practices. “This confirms to me that Houston is still the center of the pipeline to juvenile detention,” said Jay Jenkins, project attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Since 2014, the number of kids the county sends to youth prisons has doubled, a shift some experts attributed to an increase in aggravated robberies, while others chalked it up to judicial preference. But whatever is behind it, the recent incarceration uptick comes amid a long-term decline coupled with a growing acknowledgment that state-run juvenile prisons can be costly and unsafe. “The judges that overuse the state are making a true mistake,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, advocating instead for the use of probation or county-run detention facilities. “That’s not speculation — that’s data-driven, that’s results-oriented.” Last year, Harris County made up about 15 percent of the state’s population but, among the three courts, it accounted for 25 percent of kids sent to juvenile prisons. Devlin questioned the numbers from the county and state, as did a staff member in Phillips’ office. But neither judge commented on the findings. They, like Schneider, are up for re-election in November. Both the 313th and 314th Juvenile District Courts — overseen by Devlin and Phillips, respectively — sent at least two times as many kids to TJJD last year as they did in 2014, while Scheider’s 315th District Court sent 1.4 times as many as before. Phillips, who had the highest incarceration numbers of the three, sent 88 kids to juvenile prison last year while Schneider, on the low end, sent 36.

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San Antonio Express-News - October 19, 2018

Cornyn talks new NAFTA pact, tariffs on Toyota anniversary visit

Texas Sen. John Cornyn on Friday called the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement a “good deal” during a visit to San Antonio, though he said it needs some tweaks to avoid pain for Texas manufacturers.

During a visit to Toyota’s San Antonio plant, Cornyn discussed USMCA, which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, and its effect on the automaker. “One of the concerns was the increased requirement of content from NAFTA countries that has to go in the vehicles, but I’m told by Toyota officials that that will not have a negative impact,” he told reporters. “What they are concerned about is some of the steel and aluminum tariffs that have been issued and the cost that that will increase to the consumer and the impact on jobs.” “That’s something I think they have a very good point on,” he added. “I intend to go back to Washington and continue my advocacy to drop those steel and aluminum tariffs, which I think will have a negative impact on Toyota, on Texas and on jobs.” Cornyn, a Republican, was there for a celebration of the plant’s 15th anniversary. Toyota employs more than 3,000 people at the plant, and another 4,000 work at the 23 suppliers on the campus. More than 2.2 million Tacoma and Tundra trucks have been built at the plant, known as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, since its opening in 2003. USMCA is “a good deal” that will support at least 14 million jobs and “hopefully many more in the future,” Cornyn said. Asked about the November midterm elections, he acknowledged that much could change. “My hope is that it will give us the time to work with the administration to tweak problematic areas in the agreement,” he said. “There needs to be time for us to be able to educate members of Congress and then to sell it so that we can get it passed.”

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City Stories

Star-Telegram - October 19, 2018

How a split between Rep. Kay Granger and her son changed Panther Island forever

For more than a decade, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger and her son, J.D. Granger, have worked on Panther Island, an ambitious $1.16 billion project that includes re-routing the Trinity River north of downtown Fort Worth. But they haven’t always seen eye-to-eye.

A key moment in their separate but parallel efforts to build the massive flood control and economic development project — which would feature a mix of high-end housing, restaurants and other attractions in the city’s north side — occurred in 2012, a Star-Telegram review of emails shows. At the time, those working on the Panther Island project were trying to figure out how to build three bridges connecting the new island to the city’s downtown. Kay Granger, the longtime Republican congresswoman from Fort Worth, wanted to accept an offer from the Texas Department of Transportation to build the three bridges just like Fort Worth’s West Seventh Street bridge, which features bold, lighted arches. The transportation department pledged to do all the design and construction in-house, get the work done by 2016 and cover any cost overruns beyond the original $72.5 million estimate. The bridges at North Main Street, Henderson Street and White Settlement Road were to be built over dry land, to save time and money. Once the bridge work was complete, the Trinity River would then be re-channeled through north Fort Worth and routed under the structures. The result would be a quicker end to the traffic jams caused by construction on those streets. Also, having the bridges complete might speed up the effort to secure $580 million in federal funding to re-channel the river. And, it would provide an incentive for private investors to pour their money into development of the area. But J.D. Granger — who as executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority bears ultimate responsibility for the Panther Island flood control and economic development project — disagreed with the proposal to use the West Seventh Street bridge design. Instead, he wanted to keep the bridges’ original design, which calls for flat-top structures with V-shaped piers — a design that he and others felt would focus more attention on the underside of the bridges, which was important because the bridges would serve to create a river-walk atmosphere along the Trinity River banks. The difference of opinion displayed in the emails provide a fresh glimpse into the project, which drew headlines earlier this month after the Star-Telegram determined that funding for the project was left out of the 2018 and 2019 federal budgets. The emails were provided to the Star-Telegram by a source who asked not to be identified.

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National Stories

Washington Post - October 21, 2018

Special counsel examines conflicting accounts as scrutiny of Roger Stone and WikiLeaks deepens

In recent weeks, a grand jury in Washington has listened to more than a dozen hours of testimony and FBI technicians have pored over gigabytes of electronic messages as part of the special counsel’s quest to solve one burning mystery: Did longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone — or any other associate of the president — have advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked Democratic emails in 2016?

While outwardly quiet for the last month, Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have been aggressively pursuing leads behind the scenes about whether Stone was in communication with the online group, whose disclosures of emails believed to have been hacked by Russian operatives disrupted the 2016 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the special counsel probe. Stone, who boasted during the race that he was in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has said since that his past comments were exaggerated or misunderstood. Both he and WikiLeaks have adamantly denied they were in contact. However, prosecutors are closely examining both public comments and alleged private assertions that Stone made in 2016 suggesting he had a way to reach Assange, the people said. Last month, Randy Credico, a onetime Stone friend, told the grand jury that the Trump loyalist confided during the 2016 campaign that he had a secret back channel to WikiLeaks, according to a person familiar with the matter. In a series of interviews with The Washington Post, Stone said his only connection to the group was through Credico, a liberal comedian who had hosted Assange on his New York radio program in 2016. The special counsel’s prosecutors have also zeroed in on Stone’s relationship with conservative journalist and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, examining whether he served as a conduit between Stone and Assange, according to another person familiar with their interest. Corsi appeared before Mueller’s grand jury last month, and FBI agents have recently been seeking to interview Corsi’s associates, according to the person.

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Washington Post - October 21, 2018

GOP lawmakers criticize Trump’s decision to withdraw from nuclear arms treaty

President Trump’s weekend announcement that he would pull the United States out of a nuclear arms control treaty alarmed members of his own party, who criticized the decision and worried that other international pacts to control proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons also might be upended.

“I hope we’re not moving down the path to undo much of the nuclear arms control treaties that we have put in place,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-TN, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting that he had heard that the Trump administration wanted to pull out of not only the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty but also New START. “I think that would be a huge mistake,” Corker said. Trump told reporters Saturday night that his administration would “terminate” and “pull out” of the INF Treaty, a strategic arms reduction pact that President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev struck in 1987. Russia has long been accused of violating the treaty, prompting calls from some defense hawks in the United States to end U.S. participation. Many also argue that the treaty is obsolete because it doesn’t restrict China’s nuclear arsenal. New START seeks to limit the stockpiles of long-range and submarine missiles and heavy bombers, plus related warheads and launchers, in U.S. and Russian possession. Corker played a leading role in the Senate’s ratification of an updated extension of the treaty in 2010, but its future is in doubt ahead of its expiration in early 2021. Trump’s announcement came as his national security adviser, John Bolton, traveled to Russia to meet with counterparts and discuss, among other things, treaty compliance. But Corker said Trump’s announcement to pull out of the INF Treaty came as a surprise — and one he hoped was simply presidential bluster. “This could be something that is just a precursor to try to get Russia to come into compliance,” Corker said, guessing that Trump might be attempting a power play to influence Russia’s stance on nuclear arms control treaties as he did with the parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement to affect trade policy. But Corker warned that unless the United States was ready to compete with Russia, “they’re going to move ahead of us quickly.”

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Richmond Times-Dispatch - October 21, 2018

Mark Rozell: Virginia may help Democrats regain control of the House

With the congressional midterm elections just weeks away, it’s remarkable that political pundits are discussing the possibility Democrats might pick up four Virginia congressional seats held by Republicans, including the long-standing GOP bastion 7th District, anchored in the Richmond suburbs.

In Virginia, it is rare for so many congressional seats to be up for grabs. But the political landscape is different this year, given the looming presence of President Donald J. Trump, who has both fired up a loyal base and energized his opponents. In a recent Washington Post-Schar School of Policy and Government poll, voters in 69 battleground congressional districts nationwide said that Trump is “the most important issue” in their vote this year — more important than the economy, health care, or immigration. For most of this century, Republicans have held most of Virginia’s 11 seats in the House, comfortable in far-flung rural districts. Democrats have held on in eastern population centers. The current Virginia lineup in the House includes seven Republicans and four Democrats. A four-seat partisan swing would be big news. The political makeup of Virginia’s congressional delegation has been remarkably stable over the years, even after major national events. Virginia Democrats picked up only two seats in 1974, after the Watergate scandal. Republicans gained just one seat here during the big GOP “Contract with America” revolution in 1994. Democrats seized three GOP-held seats during the Obama wave in 2008, but Republicans grabbed them back two years later in the backlash against Obamacare. Election Day 2018 will help tell us if Virginia is still trending blue. The Old Dominion was the only state in the old South to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2017, the anti-Trump tidal wave denied Republicans yet another round of statewide offices and nearly swept away the GOP’s once-iron grip on the House of Delegates.

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Des Moines Register - October 20, 2018

Kathie Obradovich: Want to impeach Trump? Watergate lessons caution against partisan attacks on the president.

As Watergate anniversaries go, Oct. 30 is a relatively obscure one. We in the media are more likely to mark the date of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices on June 17, 1972, or the historic day that Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974. But what happened in the middle — the House Judiciary Committee’s approval of three articles of impeachment — offers some important lessons and some warnings for those who think Donald Trump should face a similar fate.

Even if Special Counsel Robert Mueller turns up evidence of collusion or a clear case for obstruction of justice or other crimes against Trump, impeachment would be a treacherous road for Democrats and for the country. Earlier this month, I moderated a panel discussion on the topic at Iowa State University. One of the panelists, former Iowa Congressman Ed Mezvinsky, an Ames native, served on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment debate. Mezvinsky, a Democrat, has donated his papers to Iowa State, which will give historians an insider’s perspective on the process. “What was different between then and now is there was a conscious effort to make it bipartisan — to make it nonpartisan,” Mezvinsky said of the Judiciary Committee’s process. He said he and Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-N.Y., a fellow committee member, were saddened by the committee impeachment vote. “… And when we voted for that, we cried. We cried. Why did we cry? Because, as I was raised in Ames, we respected the presidency, and we had hope for our institutions of government.” Another panelist, Jonathan Yarowsky, was general counsel in Clinton’s White House during impeachment proceedings. He noted that while Congress in 1974 was controlled by Democrats and Nixon was a Republican, “there was probably a pretty objective review of the president's actions. Would that happen in this Congress? These are rhetorical questions, but it’s different.” For one thing, he noted, moderates in both parties are an endangered species today, but they were a linchpin of the Watergate investigation. “There were moderates on both sides of the aisle … and that was probably one of the key interpersonal chemistry reasons why we saw incredible investigation and bipartisan action back then. Because people were able to work with each other.” It’s a paradox. Impeachment proceedings against Trump likely couldn’t happen without at least a Democratic majority in the House. But the bipartisanship that seemed so vital in the Nixon proceedings would be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate today. That would require not only Republicans to place their interest in rule of law over party loyalty but also Democrats to restrain their own worst impulses. After viewing the partisan debacle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, does anyone think this Congress would be capable of setting partisanship aside for the good of the country?

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CNS News - October 19, 2018

Florida and Texas post record yearlong job gains; Ohio has largest gain in 21 years

Florida and Texas not only led the nation in the number of nonfarm jobs they added in the year running from Sept. 2017 to Sept. 2018 but also added the greatest number of jobs to their states in any similar period on record.

Ohio and Pennsylvania—sometimes considered part of the nation’s “Rust Belt”—also saw significant job gains from September 2017 to September 2018, with Ohio showing the largest increase for its state in 21 years and Pennsylvania showing the largest increase in 18 years. “Thirty-seven states had over-the-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment in September,” BLS said in its state employment report. “The largest job gains occurred in Florida (plus 407,300), Texas (plus 406,400), and California (plus 339,600). The largest percentage gain occurred in Florida (plus 4.8 percent), followed by Utah (plus 3.6 percent) and Texas (plus 3.3 percent). The unemployment rate in Florida was 3.5 percent. In Texas, it was 3.8 percent. In California, it was 4.1 percent. While California ranked third among all states for the number of job gained during the period from September 2017 to September 2018, its statewide jobs growth numbers during that period were actually smaller than they were in two of the previous three September-to-September periods. (From September 2014 to September 2015, California added 493,000 jobs; from 2015 to 2016, it added 393,800 jobs; and from 2016 to 2017, it added 307,500 jobs) Florida’s jobs grew 4.8 percent during the latest September-to-September period. Texas’s jobs grew 3.3 percent. California’s jobs grew 2.0 percent. In Florida, the number of nonfarm jobs rose from 8,435,100 in September 2017 to 8,842,400 in September 2018—accounting for the record 407,300 increase.

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Chicago Tribune - October 20, 2018

Frustrated with health insurance costs, some turn to religious plans: ‘For us it’s been a godsend’

Sarah Barazza doesn’t have health insurance, but money was the last thing on her mind as she and her 15-month-old son raced to the hospital in an ambulance last year. The toddler’s airway had become swollen from croup, and he struggled to breathe.

The Barazza family belongs to a health care sharing ministry, a religious nonprofit in which members pay for each other’s health care needs. Compared with traditional health insurance premiums, ministries’ monthly member costs are often much lower. But unlike traditional insurance, members must often commit to religious principles. The ministries generally won’t pay for services that don’t align with those principles, such as abortion and substance abuse treatment, and they often limit coverage of pre-existing conditions and prescriptions. Despite those differences, people are turning to the ministries amid frustrations over the costs of traditional health insurance and Obamacare’s mandate that everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty. Ministry members are exempt from that mandate, which will end after this year. The ministries are another way many people are thinking outside-the-box, trying to find creative solutions to pay for their health care needs without spending sometimes large amounts on health insurance. It’s hard to say exactly how many people take part in the ministries, but the IRS estimates that in 2016, more than 330,000 people claimed exemptions to the health insurance mandate because they were members of a health care sharing ministry. More than 20,000 people in Illinois are members of three of the larger Christian ministries, some of which have been around for decades. But experts, and the ministries themselves, caution that they’re not the same as health insurance and they’re not right for everyone. No one regulates health care sharing ministries, and they’re not subject to the same standards and requirements as health insurance, such as those meant to ensure prompt payments and financial solvency. “They’re not insurance,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “There’s no contract. This is just a group of people who say God wants us to pay for each other’s medical bills, and then they either will or won’t send money.”

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Newsclips - October 21, 2018

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 20, 2018

GOP Congressman John Culberson to skip Trump's MAGA rally in Houston

President Donald Trump's Make America Great Again rally in Houston Monday night is being billed as a chance to boost U.S. Sen Ted Cruz and other Texas Republicans, but one GOP politician who will not be present is Houston U.S. Rep. John Culberson.

Culberson, a nine-term incumbent facing a tight race with Democratic challenger Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, has chosen to skip the event to attend a neighborhood on flood control, according to campaign spokeswoman Catherine Kelly. "Congressman Culberson is attending a previously scheduled neighborhood meeting that represents around 30 neighborhoods in west Houston, and he will be talking about his work to strengthen the area's flood-control network," Kelly said. Fletcher's campaign said the move appeared to be an effort by Culberson to distance himself from a president who is not necessarily popular with independents and even some Republicans in Houston. "John Culberson can run from Donald Trump but he can't hide from his nearly 20-year record in Washington where he has put a partisan agenda and his pet projects over what is best for Houston," said Fletcher campaign manager Erin Mincberg. Culberson's Seventh Congressional District, which covers much of the city's west side and suburban Harris County, is one of three traditionally Republican districts in Texas that went to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Political analysts attribute Clinton's narrow win in Culberson's district in part to changing demographics and also to anti-Trump sentiment among some old-line Republicans such as George H.W. Bush, who lives in and once represented the district.

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Star-Telegram - October 19, 2018

Unhappy about getting texts from O’Rourke’s campaign? There’s a lawsuit for that

At least one Texan is not happy about receiving text messages about Beto O’Rourke’s run for U.S. Senate. A class action lawsuit filed against the Beto for Texas campaign claims the organization sent text messages to Texans without obtaining their permission, violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The suit, filed Friday in the Northern District of Texas Court, names Collin County resident Sameer Syeed as a plaintiff on behalf of all Texans that the O’Rourke campaign sent texts to Texans without obtaining permission. Syeed says in the suit that, starting in 2018, he received nine texts from Beto for Texas without granting the organization permission to contact him. When he called the numbers he was receiving the messages from, he says, the calls resulted in error messages or disconnected dial tones, showing the calls came from an automated phone system. Syeed says he tried to stop the messages by texting back, but there was no response. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of automated telephone equipment to send texts or calls to a person’s cellphone without their permission except for emergency purposes. The suit demands Beto for Texas pay at least $500 per text message to Syeed and other members of the class action suit. In response to the lawsuit, Chris Evans, communications director of Beto for Texas, said the campaign’s program is fully legal. “Our grassroots volunteer program with thousands of Texans canvassing, phone banking, texting, and organizing is the largest this state has seen. It is fully compliant with the law,” he said. Syeed and his attorney, Shawn Jaffer, were not immediately available for comment Friday night.

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Washington Post - October 20, 2018

Trump doubts Saudi account of journalist’s death: ‘There’s been deception, and there’s been lies’

President Trump strongly criticized Saudi Arabia’s explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi late Saturday, saying that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.” At the same time, Trump defended the oil-rich monarchy as an “incredible ally” and kept open the possibility that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not order Saudi agents to kill Khashoggi.

“Nobody has told me he’s responsible. Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point .?.?. I would love if he wasn’t responsible,” Trump said in a phone interview with The Washington Post. The kingdom’s claim that Khashoggi was killed after a fistfight escalated inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul was met with a torrent of international skepticism Saturday over how a team of Saudi agents could fly to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi and eventually kill him without the knowledge or consent of the crown prince, the de facto leader. Trump had told reporters Friday that the Saudi explanation was credible, but U.S. officials said he has privately grimaced that his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s close relationship with the crown prince has become a liability and left the White House with no good options. In the interview, Trump defended Kushner as doing a “very good job” but acknowledged that he and the crown prince, both in their 30s, are relatively young for the amount of power they wield. “They’re two young guys. Jared doesn’t know him well or anything. They are just two young people. They are the same age. They like each other, I believe,” Trump said. The Trump administration made its relationship with Mohammed a linchpin of its Middle East policy, relying on him to help strike a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis and unite the Arab world against Iran. Now, the Saudi government’s handling of the killing of a Washington Post contributing columnist has tarnished Mohammed’s image as the Trump administration is questioning the value of its high-profile partnership with him.

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Weekly Standard - October 19, 2018

Handicapping the prospects of a Roe v. Wade reversal

Concluding her Senate floor speech in behalf of Judge Brett Kava­naugh—her vote for him was the decisive one—Republican Susan Collins expressed “her fervent hope” that he “will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored.”

This is a lot to ask of Kava­naugh, and while there might be fewer 5-4 decisions thanks to his efforts, the far more important question about his service will concern the fate of a single case, Roe v. Wade (1973), in which the Court created a constitutional right to abortion extending through all nine months of pregnancy. About no other right did Collins say, “protecting this right is important to me.” Abortion cases have been on the Court’s docket since the 1980s. Narrow majorities have upheld some regulations of the abortion right. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) the Court reviewed regulations of that right from Pennsylvania. It was reported at the time that at least six justices disagreed with Roe. In her floor speech Senator Collins did not concern herself with that aspect of Roe, but instead discussed Kava­naugh’s views of Griswold, which voided a state law banning the use and sale of contraceptives. The Court relied then on the right of privacy that eight years later, in Roe, it would expand to include the abortion right. No nominee of a Republican president has dared to challenge Griswold since Robert Bork did in 1987, as a failed Reagan nominee. It is therefore understandable that Kava­naugh stayed far away from any fight over the case. Precedent is a judicial decision, and adhering to precedent is also known as letting the decision stand (stare decisis, in Latin). A decision that is allowed to stand may govern the resolution of similar issues in future cases. Adherence to precedent, Kava­naugh told Collins, can provide stability, predictability, reliance, and fairness. Kava­naugh is hardly an authority on the doctrine of precedent. He has written little on the subject and as a federal appeals court judge he had no experience in applying it, fully complying with the Supreme Court’s demand that lower court judges not overrule its precedents. But Kava­naugh is a quick study, and he impressed Collins in their conversations about precedent. In their conversations Collins asked Kava­naugh whether it would be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed it was wrongly decided. His answer: “No.” Apparently, as Kavanaugh sees the matter, at least six would be needed to overrule Roe and Casey.

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New York Times - October 20, 2018

Mexico’s President-elect rethinks his campaign promises

Winning Mexico’s presidency this summer did not slow down Andrés Manuel López Obrador: Three months into his transition, he is traveling across the country to thank voters, replay his campaign promises and pledge, “I will not fail you.” But now there’s often an asterisk: “We wish we could give more.”

Mr. López Obrador was elected by a landslide in July on a mandate to battle corruption, reduce soaring violence and tackle the country’s entrenched inequality. Now those promises are colliding against a reality too complex to be reduced to a stump speech. As a result, a new note has crept into his speeches. He has backtracked on many of his signature issues and hedged on his commitments, trying to whittle down his supporters’ outsize expectations. At stops around the country, he is renewing his pledges to provide cash grants for young people, higher pensions for retirees, price supports for farmers and loans for small business. Only now he adds, “We are not going to spend more than what comes in,” as he told a rally recently. Instead of pulling the military off the streets as he had once suggested, Mr. López Obrador now admits that Mexico’s ill-trained, underpaid police forces cannot protect citizens and that the soldiers will remain for the near future. During his campaign, he had vowed to cancel construction of a costly airport to replace Mexico City’s congested hub. Now, Mr. López Obrador says citizens will decide the airport’s fate in a vote later this month. Critics say the poll’s design is rigged against the new airport; fewer than 2 percent of Mexico’s voters will get ballots. He has also flipped between stating that Mexico’s economy is in solid shape to declaring that the country is bankrupt, and he recalibrated a plan to increase steadily declining oil production. In July, he said he would increase output by about 30 percent in two years. Now he says it will take six years. Some Mexicans and analysts say these shifts might be the result of a pragmatic and necessary adjustment to the reality of governing, after the hyperbole of campaigning. As he prepares to switch from the opposition to the role of president on Dec. 1, Mr. López Obrador “is seeing Mexico with different eyes for the first time,” said Jesús Silva-Herzog, a political scientist at the School of Government at the Tec de Monterrey in Mexico City.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2018

NASA’s recent woes took root with loss of space shuttle program

When the Hubble Space Telescope’s mechanics got finicky 25 years ago, NASA scientists didn’t worry too much — they sent astronauts aboard a space shuttle to service the groundbreaking observatory. Even 10 or 15 years ago, crews made regular trips on a shuttle to the International Space Station to conduct research, learn about life in space, and build and repair the orbiting laboratory that they shared with international partners.

But NASA is much different today than it was back then, faced with a new reality driven home by a series of unfortunate events earlier this month that left the Hubble darkened, a much-anticipated modern moon trip mired in questions and an American astronaut grounded after a Russian spacecraft took a terrifying tumble through the sky. The incidents may seem unrelated, but experts say they can be traced back to the early 2000s as the end of the space shuttle program neared and the agency started trying to do too much with too little. “The sudden finality of the shuttle program is what leads to this, but the root cause of that is not having enough money to do all the things we wanted to,” said Herb Baker, a former NASA manager who retired last year after 42 years. The decision to end the shuttle program came in 2004 as President George W. Bush’s administration shifted its focus to frontiers beyond Earth’s orbit. But with too few coins to divvy up amongst its many projects and a lack of political direction, the history-making agency instead has been forced to change course virtually every four years as political winds change. “NASA’s budget and policy seem to be based on Twitter,” said Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. “It’s like, ‘How can I come up with something in 280 characters?’ We can’t think long term. We can’t think multi-administrations.” That leaves space agency leaders wondering what will happen after the 2020 election. President Donald Trump has pushed to bolster human exploration — with an eye toward the moon and then onto Mars — but what happens if he isn’t re-elected is anyone’s guess. Policy fluctuations “can be difficult to weather,” Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, previously told the Houston Chronicle. “It can cause fluctuations in the space program and that’s hard if you’re trying to move the country forward. But that’s life, so you need to develop strategies to navigate that.”

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Houston Chronicle - October 21, 2018

Overshadowed by Permian, but Eagle Ford making its own comeback

Oil companies, contending with rising costs and shortages of workers, materials and pipelines in the Permian, are beginning to make new bets on the Eagle Ford’s 90 million-year-old shale rock.

In the communities surrounding the formation, which stretches 400 miles from north of College Station to the Rio Grande near Laredo, people offer a sense that the hard times are ending, even if the Eagle Ford is no longer the epicenter of the nation’s oil and gas industry, as it was in 2012. “I’d say it’s a rebirth,” said Rick Saldana, production superintendent for SM Energy, a Denver company drilling near Catarina, not far from the Mexican border. “It’s not a boom, but there’s a resurgence here in the Eagle Ford.” Major Houston energy companies such as ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil, which both have holdings in the Permian, are pivoting to the Eagle Ford. The British oil major BP, meanwhile, is poised to become one of the top players in the Eagle Ford when it closes its $10.5 billion acquisition of the Australian mining company BHP Billiton’s Texas shale holdings within the next few days. About 100 drilling rigs are operating in the Eagle Ford, roughly half the activity from 2014, but well above two years ago, when fewer than 30 were active. Oil and gas production from the Eagle Ford again exceeds 2 million barrels a day of oil equivalent and should match the early 2015 peak of 2.6 million barrels a day by the end of 2019, said Lauren Droege, senior analyst for the research and consulting firm IHS Markit. “The Eagle Ford is definitely still in great shape,” Droege said. “It’s not what it used to be, but there’s still a good bit of play left.” The Eagle Ford’s advantage is that it is much closer to Gulf Coast markets and its oil is fetching higher prices than that produced in the Permian, where pipeline shortages and delivery challenges have forced producers to deeply discount their crude. The Houston oil company WildHorse Resource Development is targeting the northeastern section of the shale, near College Station, where it holds 400,000 acres and has five rigs operating. The last boom went bust just as that part of the shale play saw a spike in drilling. WildHorse views that as another advantage. The company, which will soon open a sand mine close by, is experimenting with drilling longer wells, using more sand and water in hydraulic fracturing to release more oil and gas from the shale rock, and employing fiber-optic monitoring to improve efficiency and production.

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Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2018

Here’s why Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is missing three key endorsements in his re-election bid

Republican Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has the endorsements of President Donald Trump and the tea party and the Church of God in Christ PAC as he seeks re-election this fall after his first term. But three major groups that work more closely with Miller are endorsing neither Miller nor Democratic challenger Kim Olson, who has raised substantially more campaign cash than the incumbent.

The Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Food and Fuel Association have stayed neutral in the race. “We’re just fed up with the way things were going,” said Paul Hardin, president of the Texas Food and Fuel Association that speaks for about 800 companies, mostly gas stations with convenience stores. The group endorsed Miller’s opponent in the Republican primary election, which “put a strain on an already strained relationship,” Hardin said. Since then, the department has reached out to work more closely with the group. In explaining the non-endorsement thus far, Hardin offered: “We have to work with whatever administration is there.” Hardin said it was unknown whether the group’s board will decide to offer an endorsement when the group meets next in late October, days before the election. Miller and the group have been at odds over fuel pump inspections required by the department. An uptick in inspections had left gas stations feeling picked-on although in the vast majority cases, the tests found stores had been in compliance, said Hardin. The group complained to the Texas Legislature, which passed a law to require three complaints to trigger an inspection by a state-licensed company working as an agent of the department. However, Miller required that gas stations pay for the inspection since it would not be performed directly by the department. Miller’s campaign declined to comment on the department’s fuel pump inspections and other issues frustrating agricultural industries, but he has said the law passed is akin to having a “fox guard the henhouse” and complained the law allows gas stations to “cheat at least three people” before the the state can fine them. Hardin says anyone can file a complaint against a gas station without even proving they bought gas there, which could allow competitors to call in false reports that spur additional pump inspections and fees.

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Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2018

Donald Trump’s message to Houston: A vote for Ted Cruz is a vote for Trump agenda

What exactly President Donald Trump will say at a podium is never easy to predict. But when he steps to the microphone at Houston’s Toyota Center on Monday night, there is little doubt what his core message will be. "I’m not on the ballot, but in a certain way, I’m on the ballot so please go out and vote,” Trump said at a rally earlier this month in Mississippi and since repeated in city after city.

While Trump’s policies continue to energize Democrats against him and other Republicans, the White House is in an all-out push to re-energize the president’s base and get those voters to the polls to match the Democratic energy. That applies even to candidates like Cruz who was a determined enemy of Trump just two years ago, but whom the White House absolutely needs to win re-election to protect the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate. In Montana just days ago, Trump warned thousands of supporters that if Democrats sweep into power in Congress, all of the “extraordinary progress” he’s made as president is in jeopardy. “All they want to do is obstruct,” Trump said. By coming to Texas, Trump will be trying to counter Cruz’s opponent, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who Thursday again acknowledged in an interview that if he is elected he would vote to impeach the president. In debates and on the campaign trail, Cruz has made O’Rourke’s stand on impeachment a major talking point. And Trump himself has begun to target O’Rourke. Days after calling O’Rourke a “flake” on Twitter, Trump on Friday launched another attack, calling O’Rourke a “total lightweight” compared to Cruz. Trump’s speech at the 18,000-seat Toyota Center begins at 6:30 p.m. Doors for the event open at 3:30 p.m. People wanting to attend are required to register beforehand with Trump’s official campaign website: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/. Trump in some ways is answering a plea from other Republicans in Texas who pushed the White House to focus more on Texas, and on Cruz’s re-election. While Cruz acknowledged he talked to Trump about visiting Texas, it was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who traveled to the White House during the summer and made a direct pitch to get Trump to Texas to motivate voters.

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Star-Telegram - October 18, 2018

Attorneys accuse AG Paxton of seeking voter fraud charges to suppress minority vote

Recent charges alleging that four women are part of an organized voter fraud ring on the city’s north side — announced just weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm election — are political moves geared to diminish minority voting in one of the state’s reddest counties, two attorneys allege.

“They are political footballs being kicked back and forth by people who have a vested interest in suppressing minority vote,” said Greg Westfall, who along with Frank Sellers is representing one of the women, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin. “They are mothers and grandmothers. They are active in the community. “They are being used by people who want to justify voter ID,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’s not going to be any fraud in this deal.” These comments come one week after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced that four people were arrested — Tepichin, her mother Leticia Sanchez, Maria Solis and Laura Parra — after being indicted on dozens of felony counts of voter fraud. The women allegedly were paid to target older voters on the north side “in a scheme to generate a large number of mail ballots and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016,” according to the AG’s statement. “The timeline speaks to this being political,” Westfall said. He and Sellers note that news reports first were published about the state’s investigation regarding voter fraud in Tarrant County in October 2016, weeks before that year’s presidential election. And news of the indictments and arrests came this month, just weeks before the 2018 midterm election. In 2016, as the investigation began, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “Largest Voter Fraud Investigation in Texas History Underway in Tarrant County. We will crush illegal voting.” But that’s not what is happening, Westfall said. “The governor says that, ‘OK, we’ve got a big problem in Tarrant County,’” he said. “I disagree.” “It is a political maneuver three weeks outside of the election to suppress the vote,” he said. “These folks are being used.”

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Star-Telegram - October 19, 2018

S-T: Powell a better choice for Fort Worth, Arlington for state senate seat

Beverly Powell of Fort Worth has led an area school board and the Texas Wesleyan University board of trustees. First as a real estate agent and developer, then as an education leader, the Democratic nominee has deep roots in Fort Worth and state Senate District 10.

Current State Sen. Konni Burton, a Colleyville Republican, prides herself on being an independent voice for conservative voters. She has done honorable work to help reform the criminal justice system to better protect Texans’ liberty. But her $500,000 in campaign contributions from a West Texas-led conservative group show she is anything but independent. Burton is far too independent from leaders and needs in Fort Worth and Arlington. She does not work as closely as our state senator should with business and government leaders. What’s more, she opposes routine state and local economic development measures and tax incentives that bring needed jobs, development, growth and success. Beverly Powell’s record is flawed. In the 2000s, her business partnerships suffered liens and debts, and she was sued along with one partnership in a 2006 tax dispute. She should have explained that clearly, openly and up front. She must become a leader for openness and transparency. But Powell’s life of leadership in the area and at Texas Wesleyan still make her the best senator to speak for Fort Worth and Arlington. The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Beverly Powell for State Senator, District 10.

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Star-Telegram - October 19, 2018

Facing tough November, Texas Tea Party now wants to stitch the GOP back together

Leaders of the conservative Texas tea party movement who have spent years railing against GOP moderates are now urging their supporters to get behind a full slate of Republican candidates this fall — even ones they’ve previously opposed.

The more inclusive approach comes as Republicans strategists across the state concede their party is out of practice when it comes to campaigning for a general election, a concern in a year where Democrats have fielded an unusually large number of strong candidates to run against them. A number of prominent Texas Republicans have also endorsed Democrats over the tea party’s top candidates this fall. “A lot of our fights here in this room, in the conservative movement, have been focused in the primaries,” state State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, an outspoken member of the Texas House Freedom Caucus, told a gathering of the NE Tarrant County Tea Party at the Grapevine Convention Center earlier this week. “You must care about this general election in a way that none of us have ever done before,” said Stickland, who faces a challenge this fall from Democrat Steve Riddell. Texas hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976 or elected a Democrat statewide since 1994. Yet in the first midterm election of Donald Trump’s presidency, Democratic candidates are waging aggressive campaigns in places that haven’t seen a serious race in recent memory. “Most of our Republican candidates, incumbents, and consultants under the age of 50 have never had a race where they’ve had to worry about a general election,” said Dave Carney, the architect of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaigns and former White House political adviser to President George H.W. Bush. “It’s been a big learning curve for everybody.” Democrats are now targeting eight congressional races in Texas is districts currently held by Republicans. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has raised more money than any U.S. Senate candidate in history, funds that Republicans worry could trickle down to help other Democrats. “This isn’t [Republicans’] daddy’s reelection campaign,” said Carney, the Abbott strategist. “You have to go talk to voters, new voters, so-called independents, who vote in general elections but don’t vote in primaries.” Tea Party leaders insist their base is big enough to stave off a Democratic uprising without compromising their conservative values, as long as their party sticks together this fall.

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Dallas Morning News - October 20, 2018

Ted Cruz jokes Beto O’Rourke may lead Hondurans' caravan, as challenger blasts Trump border policies

Sen. Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, said in Houston that his Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, takes "reckless and extreme" positions that would undercut President Donald Trump's tighter enforcement of immigration laws.

Campaigning in North Texas, O'Rourke fiercely denounced the federal government's separation of immigrant children from their parents. For a time, it was ordered by Trump, who appears to be Cruz's new social media point man. Trump will attend a Houston rally for the GOP incumbent Monday, the first day of early voting. In a Friday tweet, the president called O'Rourke "a total lightweight compared to Ted Cruz." O'Rourke reportedly said he has lost weight on the trail, despite the Whataburgers and fried pies, and took a dig at Cruz and Trump's reconciliation. "Now they're together again," O'Rourke said, "and so that's great for them." In Houston on Saturday, Cruz said O'Rourke's hometown of El Paso benefits from a border barrier. But O'Rourke inexplicably wants to thwart Trump's desire to build a more imposing wall, Cruz said. The first-term senator ridiculed O'Rourke's immigration stance by noting that thousands of Hondurans are fleeing their home country in a caravan, which has arrived at the Mexico-Guatemala border. "There's a caravan right now marching north," Cruz told about 800 supporters. "I'm just waiting to see Beto O'Rourke come down and start leading the caravan," he said with a smile. A man in the audience shouted, "Who's feeding those people, Ted? Send 'em back to Honduras." Cruz continued, "In Texas, what we believe is simple. It's not complicated. Secure the border. Stop illegal immigration. And there's a right way to come to this country, which is legally, waiting in line, following the rules and coming here and seeking the American dream. That's how it's supposed to work." Meanwhile, O'Rourke unleashed a blistering attack on Trump's policy to separate children and parents who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The families are escaping to a better way of life, and separating children from parents is "tantamount to torture," he said. "We're doing real harm to these kids," O'Rourke told several hundred supporters at Lava Cantina in The Colony, the same bar and music venue where Cruz held a rally several weeks ago. "It's tantamount to torture. It's cruelty and it's inhumane." "We must meet this challenge with our urgency and make it right," O'Rourke said.

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Dallas Morning News - October 21, 2018

Despite tough odds in bout against Dan Patrick, Democrat Mike Collier is still swinging to win Texas' No. 2 job

If the race for lieutenant governor were a boxing match, Mike Collier would be the intrepid underdog — suited up, limbered up and waiting in the ring. Problem is, his opponent doesn’t even have his gloves on.

For a year, Collier has pulled no punches in his fight to unseat Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But Patrick, easily one of the state’s most influential Republicans, behaves as though he’s running unopposed. With statewide name recognition and a 4-to-1 fundraising advantage, Patrick has dodged Collier’s volleys, right and left. It’d be hard for any boxer to expect a fair fight with their punches seeming to fall on empty air. Yet Collier keeps swinging. And all he needs to land a knockout, he claims, is for the fans to turn out. “I’m not ready to say we’re going to win, I’m saying that we can,” Collier told The Dallas Morning News. “If Democrats turn out, we win.” Both Collier and Patrick live in the Houston area, but the two men have never met. Patrick has refused to debate Collier or engage with his campaign. He hasn't sat down with newspaper editorial boards or answered their voter guide questionnaires. He doesn't need do these things to win, his campaign thinks, so he won't. "There isn't anyone in the Lone Star State who isn't absolutely clear about where Dan Patrick stands on the issues," Allen Blakemore, Patrick's spokesman, said earlier this year. "He told us what he was going to do, then he did it." Patrick rarely even mentions Collier. Instead, he's dipped into his coffers to support other more vulnerable candidates, to hold a series of traveling press conferences touting his 2019 agenda and to cut ads that attack a more amorphous enemy he makes out as a gun-stealing, unpatriotic liberal mob. “Democrats support open borders, sanctuary cities, taking our guns and undermining the Texas values that protect innocent life and liberty. And they celebrate those who take a knee during our national anthem,” Patrick said in a recent YouTube video. “Truth is, Democrats want to turn Texas into California. Well, I’m not about to let that happen. “What about you?” Sitting in a rocking chair on a porch, a tractor visible in the background, Patrick affects the perfect image of rural Texas idyll. A dog lays on the floor beside him and, as the ad fades to black, Patrick is pictured driving away in a spotless ’57 Chevy truck. In the power vacuum left by former Gov. Rick Perry, Patrick has thrived. After eight years representing the Houston area in the Texas Senate, he challenged fellow Republican David Dewhurst for the job of lieutenant governor in 2014, unseating the incumbent by convincing voters he was the more conservative choice.

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Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2018

Scientists warn flooding to be more common in Central Texas

The rain that has soaked Central Texas the last few weeks has not packed the one-time intensity of a hurricane-level rain. But climate scientists say the steady, above-normal rainfall — nearly 15 inches have fallen in Central Texas since Sept. 1, more than double the average for that period — that has led to flooding across the region is a foretaste of the sort of deluge and destruction that Austin might come to expect.

In September, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration released an analysis that found significantly higher rainfall frequency values in parts of Texas, redefining the amount of rainfall it takes to qualify as a 100-year event. In Austin, for example, the 100-year rainfall amounts for 24 hours increased as much as three inches, up to 13 inches. Precipitation previously classified as 100-year events are now 25-year events. The new classifications will have real consequences for infrastructure design, flood insurance and flood plain development. The “new rainfall frequency values for Texas will help state and local authorities better understand their flood risk and more accurately plan and design infrastructure to minimize the threat of flooding,” Thomas Graziano, director of the NOAA Office of Water Prediction, said in September. Already, county officials are planning to spend $1.1 million to study how to reduce flood damage. The new federal analysis, hammered home by the rain and flooding of the last several weeks, suggests Travis and other counties will have to spend more on resiliency measures for road, sewer line and other infrastructure projects. Among the destruction the floods wrought over the past week: the two-lane RM 2900 bridge over the Llano River in Kingsland was washed away. It was the third bridge to be destroyed by floodwaters in Central Texas since 2015. “The science of climate change is not in question,” Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said earlier this month. “All one has to do is look at the multiple severe weather events Travis County has experienced in the past few years. Travis County must be prepared to protect our constituents and make certain our projects are climate change resilient. By doing this as early as possible, we can maintain fiscal responsibility and prioritize safety.”

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Austin American-Statesman - October 20, 2018

After period of relative stability, drama returns to UT Board of Regents

The unexpected decision by Sara Martinez Tucker to step down as chairwoman of the University of Texas System’s governing board comes at a delicate time for a board that has largely maintained stability after years of turmoil under then-Gov. Rick Perry.

Not only is the system’s new chancellor, James B. Milliken, just getting his feet wet, having started Sept. 17, but the Legislature is coming to town in January for its every-other-year session of 140 days. The UT System, like other state entities, is busy preparing to defend its budgetary and policy interests, and it helps when all hands on deck are rowing in the same direction. The system oversees 14 academic and health campuses across the state, including the Austin flagship. Martinez, a former U.S. undersecretary of education under President George W. Bush, told Gov. Greg Abbott via email Oct. 15 that it was “with regret” that she has decided to step down as chairwoman and as a member of the Board of Regents on Jan. 15. That’s one week after the legislative session begins. Her note to the governor gave no reason for her decision. She did not respond to a request for comment by the American-Statesman, and a spokeswoman for the UT System said it had no comment. But three days after her announcement, the UT System released a report by a task force of regents — not including Tucker — that said the system should consider cutting 70 to 110 of the nearly 700 employees based at its offices in downtown Austin. That would save $9.6 million to $15 million a year in salaries and fringe benefits, according to the report, which the consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP helped prepare under a $375,000 contract. Tucker was not aligned with the report’s recommendations, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Abbott wants reductions in system spending so that more money can be allocated to the various campuses, the sources said. As chairwoman, Tucker gets to decide what goes on the board’s agenda. But the report has never been presented, discussed or approved by the Board of Regents at a public meeting. That’s highly unusual for a report with such sweeping recommendations. Tucker no doubt knew the report was about to be released, and her note to Abbott seemed to suggest the system had already done plenty to trim administrative spending. “It should be noted that decisions made in the last year have positioned the UT System to shift more investment into its 14 institutions,” she wrote. “Both the UT System Administration budget and headcount have been reduced by 25 percent.”

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Beeville Bee-Picayune - October 20, 2018

Sowing seeds of illegal votes in Bee County

A personal post by County Judge Stephanie Moreno has people voicing concerns about illegal activities going on during this election. “Vote harvesting is alive and well in Bee County,” Moreno wrote on her Facebook page. “Candidates pay people to hit the streets and sign up the elderly and disabled to control their votes.

Moreno said that since she has been in office, no cases of vote harvesting, which can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances, have come before her in court. “I think the problem is that people either do not know that it is illegal because it has been going on for so long, or they are scared to come forward,” she said this week. “We are talking about elderly and disabled people being targeted — a specific set of individuals who rely on others to help them. It’s why I am asking neighbors and family members to watch out for this. Family members and friends should be assisting voters, not someone who is paid by a specific campaign to gather these votes." Laura Warnix, who replaced Mirella Escamilla Davis as election administrator, said that they are watching for signs of this occurring as they review requests for ballots by mail. “The application is required to be completed by the voter unless they are unable to do so,” Warnix said. “A person may assist the voter, when requested, to complete the application. “The person who assists must complete the assistant section. Failure to do so is a Class A misdemeanor. Warnix said that her office has referred several cases to the district attorney’s office. “The DA has met and/or talked to these individuals and advised them that continued abuse of Election Code may be referred for prosecution,” Warnix said. “My office is receiving many applications completed in the same handwriting, indicating that persons may be completing these applications in advance or without being in the presence of the voter,” Warnix said. “It has been reported that persons are requested to sign a blank application and then they are filled in later.” Warnix said this should never be done. “These vote harvesters are marking applications as being 65 when they are not, misspelling names, providing incorrect dates of births, incomplete addresses, which can result in an application being rejected,” Warnix said. “The result is increased cost to the taxpayers of Bee County and extra hassle for the voter.”

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Beeville Bee-Picayune - October 16, 2018

Bee County Democratic Party Chair calls vote harvesting concerns just a ‘scare tactic’

The leader of the Bee County Democratic Party is calling the recent concerns of vote harvesting a scare tactic.“What a scare tactic...same ole scare tactic shenanigans,” Dela Castillo wrote online. “If anyone feels they are a victim to vote harvesting please report it; otherwise, people need to stop trying to stir the pot,” she adds.

Her thoughts were countered strongly by Republican Party Chair Patty Johnson. “I know for a fact that people were talked to by the district attorney and by the elections administrator to cease and desist with their practices with the applications and the ballots,” Johnson said. “Obviously they have not.” Johnson, noticeably annoyed at the ongoing problem, said she has no recourse now. “I am filing a complaint today with the Texas Secretary of State’s office,” she said. Concerns of this illegal practice, known commonly as vote harvesting, came to light this week with a Facebook post by County Judge Stephanie Moreno. “Vote harvesting is alive and well in Bee County,” Moreno said. “I think the problem is that people either do not know that it is illegal because it has been going on for so long, or they are scared to come forward,” she said earlier this week. “We are talking about elderly and disabled people being targeted — a specific set of individuals who rely on others to help them."

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Texas Tribune - October 19, 2018

Abbott going on 19-stop tour to campaign for other Republicans

Gov. Greg Abbott, facing little competition in his own campaign for another term, is hitting the road for other Republicans. This weekend, Abbott will embark on a statewide tour during which he will appear with over three dozen down-ballot candidates across 18 cities, according to his campaign

The candidates include some whose races are among the most competitive this fall in Texas, such as U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Houston and state Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville. Beyond aiding individual candidates, the stops are geared toward motivating Republicans to turn out in the face of long-building Democratic enthusiasm. The statewide trip comes as Abbott remains the heavy favorite in his own race, consistently leading Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez by double digits in polling. She is currently crisscrossing Texas with other Democratic statewide candidates as part of a bus tour organized by the state party. In addition to the travel, Abbott is putting his massive campaign operation to use in down-ballot races. His campaign expects to spend millions of dollars assisting other candidates — spending that began in earnest on his most recent campaign finance report, which shows he funneled $276,000 to nine House incumbents and candidates through Sept. 27. “From the beginning of this campaign the Governor has made it a priority to help Republicans up and down the ballot and that is exactly what he has been doing by investing money and time in competitive races all across the state," Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement. Candidates include State Rep. Paul Workman of Austin, State Sen. Pete Flores of Pleasanton and John Lujan, Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson and others.

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ABC 13 - October 20, 2018

Tropical Storms Vicente and Willa could drench Texas next week

Tropical Storm Vicente and Willa have formed off the west coast of Mexico in the eastern Pacific. Those storms are expected to curve back east towards Mexico which means we'll need to watch the moisture from those systems closely all next week.

Our latest computer models forecast the moisture to move into Texas and produce potentially heavy rain. The moisture may combine forces with a cold front, potentially dumping several inches of rain over rivers that are already swollen in the Lone Star State. Right now, the window for unsettled weather will open on Monday and close on Thursday. Wednesday is still the most likely day for widespread rains to occur across our part of Texas. While hurricane season runs until the end of November, the Texas hurricane season normally ends by mid-October as the strong cold fronts cool off the Gulf waters, pushing storms away from us.

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City Stories

Rivard Report - October 21, 2018

Robert Rivard: City Manager versus Firefighters' union head is a lesson on return on investment for San Antonio voters

Former Mayor Phil Hardberger was reminiscing about the highlights of his term-limited four years in office from 2005-09, which began inauspiciously, he recalled, when he was booed after taking the stage at the Alamodome during a free fan celebration staged for the NBA champion Spurs. The raucous crowd wanted Tim and Tony and Manu, not a newly elected mayor.

Hardberger's popularity soared later that summer when he opened the city's arms to thousands of New Orleans residents left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. I still remember a CNN reporter telling viewers that other Texas mayors had said their cities lacked the room and resources to take in so many homeless people. "Looking back, it wasn't my most important decision or action. Having watched this city grow and change over the last decade, I'd say recruiting Sheryl Sculley to become our city manager was the biggest thing I did," he said. Hardberger is right. Welcoming thousands fleeing New Orleans showed the world San Antonio's big heart. Hiring Sculley that same summer gave us the brains we needed to complement our other strengths. That's why I am voting Monday, Oct. 22, the first day of early voting for the Nov. 6 election, against Proposition B. I'll vote no on A and C, too, but defeating B is the only way to make sure the person who one day succeeds Sculley comes from a pool of the best and brightest. The definition of ridiculousness: Telling city manager candidates they will be fired on their eighth anniversary, no matter how well they perform, and their salary will be maxed out at a multiple of 10 times the salary of the lowest paid City employees. Let's consider, for example, park workers employed to operate weed eaters. Who delivers the most value to the City and its 1.5 million people? The person who manages a multibillion-dollar budget and 12,000 employees, or 10 such maintenance workers? We need both, but what is the value proposition? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Sculley has earned $5 million in her job since she was hired in 2005. Chris Steele, the president of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, the union, has been paid $3 million, ostensibly to represent a few thousand firefighters every five years in contract negotiations and in the interim years on other matters. Who has delivered the greatest return on investment? Steele apparently has the support of his union members, even after his refusal to bargain for a new contract. I wonder how many of his supporters understand he is the reason they have not had a raise in four years? What has Sculley done for San Antonio? Well, start with leadership, including her deputies and all 50 of the City's department heads that she hired. More than half are people of color, and nearly half are women. City Hall watchers will remember a different City Hall before Hardberger and Sculley teamed up when three people who served on the City Council were indicted on public corruption charges. Hardberger and Sculley ushered in a new era of professionalism.

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National Stories

New York Times - October 21, 2018

Trump administration eyes defining transgender out of existence

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of sex in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing sex largely as an individual’s choice — and prompting fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed. Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times. The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing. “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.” The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

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New York Times - October 19, 2018

Justice Department's rank-and-file tell of discontent over Sessions’s approach

During his 20 months in office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has swept in perhaps the most dramatic political shift in memory at the Justice Department, from the civil rights-centered agenda of the Obama era to one that favors his hard-line conservative views on immigration, civil rights and social issues.

Now, discontent and infighting have taken hold at the Justice Department, in part because Mr. Sessions was so determined to carry out that transformation that he ignored dissent, at times putting the Trump administration on track to lose in court and prompting high-level departures, according to interviews over several months with two dozen current and former career department lawyers who worked under Mr. Sessions. Most asked not to be named for fear of retribution. The people interviewed — many yearslong department veterans, and a third of whom worked under both the Bush and Obama administrations — said that their concerns extended beyond any political differences they might have had with Mr. Sessions, who is widely expected to leave his post after November’s midterm elections. “Since I’ve been a lawyer, going back to the late 1970s, I can’t recall a time when morale has been as low as I have heard from some former colleagues,” said Robert Litt, a former Justice Department official during the Clinton administration. A department spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, said that Mr. Sessions and other senior law enforcement officials were committed to the department’s mission of upholding the rule of law, and that they had heard no complaints about that. “We know of no department employee who is opposed to policies that uphold the rule of law and protect the American people — which are precisely the policies that this department has implemented and embraced,” Ms. Flores said in a statement.

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New York Times - October 19, 2018

Cohn: For a change, Democrats seem set to equal or exceed Republicans in turnout

A wide range of evidence indicates that Democratic voters are poised to vote in numbers unseen in a midterm election in at least a decade. Democrats have largely erased the turnout deficit that hobbled them during the Obama presidency, according to results from more than 50 New York Times Upshot/Siena College polls of the most competitive House battleground districts.

Democrats may even be poised to post higher turnout than Republicans, a rarity, in many relatively white suburban districts on Nov. 6. But it’s not clear if this blue turnout surge will extend much further, particularly among young and nonwhite voters. Whether Democrats turn out broadly could make the difference between a fairly close fight for control of the House and sweeping Democratic gains of 40 or more seats. Turnout is always important, but it varies more in lower-turnout elections, like a midterm, meaning that even modest shifts in enthusiasm can transform the electorate. It is a particularly challenging question this year, in part because the turnout in recent midterm elections has been so low and so Republican. Across the Times/Siena polls, Republicans have a six-point lead among voters who turned out in 2014. But Democrats counter with a 10-point advantage among voters who didn’t turn out in that election. Those voters are poised to represent more than one-third of the electorate, enough to essentially eliminate the Republican turnout advantage of the last decade. A Democratic turnout surge would be consistent with the long history of midterm elections. When Democrats hold the presidency, Republicans generally have a big midterm turnout edge, based on voter file and survey data stretching back to the 1970s. And when Republicans hold the presidency, Democrats fight back to parity. A similar pattern has played out in the special and general elections during the Trump presidency: Democratic turnout has surged over 2014 levels to essentially match that of Republicans. In these same jurisdictions in 2014, Republicans had an eight-point edge, with 62 percent voting versus 54 percent of Democrats. But the historical record offers little precedent for Democratic turnout to beat Republican turnout by the same sort of large margin by which Republican turnout usually beats Democratic turnout when Democrats hold the presidency.

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Washington Post - October 20, 2018

Central Americans in caravan cross into Mexico with eyes on United States

Hundreds of Central American migrants arrived in southern Mexico late Friday and early Saturday, taking small rafts across the narrow river from Guatemala, continuing a journey toward the United States.

President Trump seems to hope the migrant caravan will galvanize his base ahead of next month’s midterm elections. He played up the threat as he stumped for GOP candidates this past week. “These are some bad people coming through. These aren’t babies, these aren’t little angels coming into our country,” he said Friday at the White House. At a rally Saturday in Elko, Nev., Trump falsely suggested that the Democratic Party was behind the caravan, and he thanked Mexico for its assistance in deterring the migrants. But along the Mexico-Guatemala border, it was clear Saturday that stopping the caravan would require both resources and will that, so far, have been lacking. While hundreds of migrants waited at an official border crossing point, behind a fence erected by Mexican authorities, hundreds — or even thousands — more gave up on crossing legally. Instead, they swam or took small rafts to Mexico. Mexican authorities watched the migrants arrive, occasionally patting them down but allowing them to proceed to Ciudad Hidalgo’s central plaza, where the Central Americans held an informal assembly, cheering “Si, se puede,” each time more migrants arrived. “I didn’t think it would be this easy,” said Samuel Barela, 17, who crossed in a raft Friday night, about a week after leaving his hometown of Choluteca in southern Honduras. Like many of the migrants, he said he was in pursuit of work in the United States, and a lifeline from his impoverished city. The border between Mexico and Guatemala has long been famously porous. On most days, goods are traded by raft, while authorities from both countries stamp passports on the official bridge above. It has never been particularly hard for migrants to cross the border here, and the caravan’s arrival has made law enforcement even more difficult, despite Mexico’s recent deployment of additional federal police.

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Washington Post - October 21, 2018

After 2010 wipeout, Democrats see opportunities in some state legislative races. (No, Texas is not among them.)

After years of losses, Democrats are hoping for a wave of wins across state legislatures this fall. Controlling the state legislature gives a party more sway during redistricting, and it also lets it drive state law on divisive issues such as abortion, guns and voting rights. Since the 2010 midterms, Republicans have consistently gained seats and control at the state level. Now Democrats plan to reverse the trend.

Democratic contenders will face entrenched Republican control in many states. Republicans have control of both the House and Senate in 31 states, compared with just 14 for Democrats. “Well over 90 percent of incumbents will win in November,” said Tim Storey, director of state services for the National Conference of State Legislatures, in a recent talk. With incumbents widely favored, the best chance for Democrats to gain state House or Senate control is where they already have a near-majority of seats or where incumbents are not seeking reelection. To win elections, you need to run candidates. And Democrats have more state legislative candidates than anytime in the past two decades — 5,349 this year as of September, compared with 4,741 Republicans. Republicans had fielded more candidates than Democrats in the past six election cycles, and Democrats are even ahead of Republican candidate counts in 2010, an election in which the GOP made huge gains at the state and federal level. For most state legislative districts, the legislator’s party aligns with how the district voted in the 2016 presidential election. But Republican state legislators whose district voted for Clinton in 2016 could present opportunities for Democratic challengers in the midterms. There are plenty of seats with Democratic legislators that voted for Trump as well, but these are safer in what is expected to be a Democratic wave year. In 15 states, legislatures face term limits in office. In some states, this puts Republican majorities at risk, given how big of an advantage incumbents have in state-level elections. In Michigan, Republicans have controlled the senate for over 25 years and hold a supermajority. But 26 of 38 senators will be unable to run because of term limits, 19 of whom are Republican. The Democrats are not expected to flip the Senate but are likely to break the supermajority, according to an analysis from election analyst Dr. Carl E. Klarner. They have a better chance of flipping the house, where over a fifth of incumbents can’t run because of term limits. The party that wins control over state Houses and Senates this fall will be well positioned to shape redistricting and laws for a host of divisive issues. Democrats and Republicans are also vying for governorships and attorney general positions to further direct state policy and law. Voters will also have the chance this fall, through ballot initiatives in 26 states, to directly vote on the issues themselves.

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The Guardian - October 20, 2018

Website offering abortion drugs by mail benefits hundreds of women in U.S.

About 600 women in the US have obtained abortion pills through Aid Access, a website that launched quietly six months ago, aiming to help women who cannot easily access abortion. Aid Access allows women to request the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol after an online consultation with a doctor.

If the doctor decides it would be safe for the woman to use the pills, a payment of $95 is suggested. The fee can be waived. It appears to be the only site of its kind offering this service in the US. Women on Web has helped American soldiers deployed in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, a small study of 18 online pharmacies found it was “feasible” to obtain abortion pills in the US without a prescription. Aid Access, which is available in English and Spanish, is different from such sites because women must consult a doctor to get a prescription. The price is also lower than that typically offered by online pharmacies. Its founder Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts writes the prescriptions, which are sent to a pharmacy in India, which sends the pills to the US. Women are welcome to contact Gomperts for further medical advice. The pills are only meant for women 10 weeks pregnant or less. A May 2017 study of 1,000 women who were less than 10 weeks pregnant and used abortion pills at home showed 95% safely ended their pregnancy without surgical intervention.

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The Guardian - October 20, 2018

Trump says US will withdraw from nuclear arms treaty with Russia

Donald Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades. “We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”

Trump was referring to the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), which banned ground-launch nuclear missiles with ranges from 500km to 5,500km. Signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, it led to nearly 2,700 short- and medium-range missiles being eliminated, and an end to a dangerous standoff between US Pershing and cruise missiles and Soviet SS-20 missiles in Europe. The Guardian reported on Friday that Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, a longstanding opponent of arms control treaties, was pushing for US withdrawal. The US says Russia has been violating the INF agreement with the development and deployment of a new cruise missile. Under the terms of the treaty, it would take six months for US withdrawal to take effect. US hawks have also argued that the INF treaty ties the country’s hands in its strategic rivalry with China in the Pacific, with no response to Chinese medium-range missiles that could threaten US bases, allies and shipping. Bolton and the top arms control adviser in the National Security Council (NSC), Tim Morrison, are also opposed to the extension of another major pillar of arms control, the 2010 New Start agreement with Russia, which limited the number of deployed strategic warheads on either side to 1,550. That agreement, signed by Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, then president of Russia, is due to expire in 2021. “This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute. “If the INF treaty collapses, and with the New Start treaty on strategic arms due to expire in 2021, the world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972.” Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out.

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Pew Research Center - October 18, 2018

Gun policy remains divisive but several proposals still draw bipartisan support

The partisan divide that for years has defined public opinion about the nation’s gun policies remains firmly in place. Yet there continue to be several specific policy proposals that draw broad support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic leaners (89% each) say mentally ill people should be barred from buying guns. Nearly as many in both parties (86 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Republicans) favor barring gun purchases by people on federal watch lists. And sizable majorities also favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks (91 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans). Yet there is a 30-percentage-point difference between Democrats and Republicans in support for an assault weapons ban (81 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans) and even wider gaps on two other proposals: arming teachers and school officials in elementary and high schools and allowing people to carry concealed weapons in more places. Large majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor both of these proposals (69 percent arming school officials, 68 percent expanded concealed carry), compared with only about a quarter of Democrats and Democratic leaners (22 percent arming school officials, 26 percent expanded concealed carry).

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Pacific Standard - October 19, 2018

David M. Perry: #HimToo should be a conversation about male victims of sexual assault

Last Monday, a self-described Navy mom posted a picture of a lovely young man in a sailor suit on Twitter. She told the world that her son respected women, but that he "won't go on solo dates due to the current climate of false sexual accusations." She finished her tweet with the hashtag "#HimToo."

Behind the Internet hilarity and Hanson's evident charm, the demagogic use of the #HimToo hashtag by conservatives is a problem. By casting recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a victim of false accusations, many conservatives have been working trying to derail the "#MeToo" movement and its ability to call powerful men to account. But #HimToo didn't spring from conservative Twitter; it began as a hashtag intending to highlight the silences around and among male victims of sexual assault. Those silences persist. Moreover, even as some male victims of assault have come forward—and as more and more men reckon publicly with whether their own romantic history has contributed to rape culture—there's still a lot of work to be done highlighting overt and subtle sexual violence among men. #HimToo should be a call for introspection and action instead of just a smug joke against accusers. As detailed by researcher Joanna Schroeder, we're just beginning to understand the prevalence of sexual assault suffered by American men. Schroeder notes that a 2005 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that 18 percent of men experience sexual assault before age 18 (compared to 25 percent of women), but when the CDC added in new categories of abuse, such as being "forced to penetrate" someone, the percentage for men became about the same as for women. A 2014 meta-study of data on male victims of sexual assault by Lara Stemple and Ilan Meyer, both scholars at the University of California–Los Angeles School of Law, found that gendered assumptions—such as the idea that the penetrator is always male and always in control—can limit our understanding of the pervasiveness of sexual assault in American society. What's more, most surveys seeking data on sexual assault focuses on "households," according to Stemple and Meyer, thus erasing the experiences of incarcerated men.

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Truthout - October 18, 2018

William Rivers Pitt: The longest goodbye: why the Clintons need to leave the stage

To the great confusion of many, Bill and Hillary Clinton will embark on a multi-city speaking tour beginning one scant week after the 2018 midterm elections. They will visit seven cities together, including Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and the immortal Wallingford, Connecticut, and will join Michelle Obama for another six engagements.

Without a clear purpose, the Clintons’ tour has the feel of some strange roadshow zoo. Come see the politicians! Only $375 a ticket! “Attendees will have the opportunity to hear one-of-a-kind conversations with the two leaders as they tell their stories from some of the most impactful moments in modern history,” explains Live Nation, which is promoting the tour. Right, except when someone asks about the impeachment, Monica Lewinsky or Bill Clinton’s place in the constellation of #MeToo villains. Like as not, attendees will hear nothing of the sort; the itinerary for this journey only involves cities very friendly to the former First Family, and uncomfortable questions of any sort will probably be checked with the coats at the door. The Clintons, for their part, are offering no public explanation for the timing or purpose of this road trip. They aren’t promoting a book like Obama is, and the midterm campaigns will all be over. “Spokesmen for Bill and Hillary Clinton didn’t respond to questions about whom the ticket sales benefit,” reported the Boston Globe. “Or what, exactly, the message of the events would be. Or why the former two-term president and former secretary of state feel the need to hit the road now as a slice of the nation looks to future leaders to take on Trump.” Pertinent question, that last bit there. Thirty years after the Clintons first appeared on the national state, the Democratic Party is in an astonishing state of disrepair. The midterm elections since 2010 have been lopsided wipeouts for the most part, with Republicans currently in control of both congressional chambers. Republicans have been running the table on state and local elections all across the country. Donald Trump is president of the United States of America, and has put a pair of far-right ideologues on the Supreme Court with the giddy help of Mitch McConnell and the Senate majority. Blame gerrymandering, an unfair news media, money in politics, 9/11 or the man in the moon for these serial electoral calamities. All these are chapters in this book of failure, to be sure, but the book itself was written in large part by the policies and priorities of Bill and Hillary Clinton. So long as they fashion themselves as the reigning leaders of the Democratic Party, they will own much of the responsibility for its comprehensive collapse.

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CNN - October 20, 2018

Trump looking at "major tax cut" ahead of midterms

Republicans are looking into implementing an additional tax break for middle-income Americans ahead of the midterm elections, President Donald Trump said on Saturday. Speaking to reporters after a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada, Trump said Republicans Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are working on developing a "major tax cut for middle income people" in the coming weeks.

"If we do that, it will be sometime just prior, I would say, to November," Trump said. It's unclear what tax proposal Trump was referring to on Saturday, with deep partisan divisions in Congress making it unlikely for a new tax plan to advance following the midterms during the lame duck sessions. Congress is currently out of session ahead of the highly anticipated election, which is set for November 6. Pressure on Republicans continues to mount as they'll attempt to maintain control of Congress. Additionally, the politics surrounding passing a new tax cut are made more complicated by news this week of the country's ballooning deficit caused at least in some part by the previous tax cut plan passed by congressional Republicans last year. Trump's announcement also comes just days after Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris announced legislation aimed at providing tax breaks for low- and middle-income individuals. "We should put money back into the pockets of American families to address rising costs of childcare, housing, tuition, and other expenses," Harris previously said in a statement. "Our tax code should reflect our values and instead of more tax breaks for the top 1% and corporations, we should be lifting up millions of American families." Harris' plan would give tax credits of up to $6,000 per year for households earning less than $100,000 annually and would offer tax credits up to $3,000 for individuals earning under $50,000 per year.

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The Guardian - October 20, 2018

Canadian deported despite having served for US military under zero tolerance policy

A Canadian army captain who fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan, and who is married to a former officer in the US air force, has been deported as Donald Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policies continue to break apart military families.

Demetry Furman, 47, says he held a top-level security clearance with US forces during his service in the Middle East and worked with them on several successful anti-drugs operations that prevented millions of dollars of heroin coming to the West. But in a twist of irony he says it was a long-spent 1992 marijuana conviction that led to his being dumped by agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (Ice) at the Canadian border on Tuesday – after he spent 77 days in a maximum security jail in Ohio labelled as a drugs trafficker. “I feel betrayed. It’s a slap in the face because when I was in Afghanistan no-one cared what flag was on my shoulder,” Furman said. “I’m labelled a drug trafficker by them right now, but when I was in Afghanistan and guarding poppy fields, I was stopping opium convoys through Pakistan to China to be made into heroin and shipped to the US.” The conviction, which at the time resulted in an $80 fine and 28 days’ community service, came after a passenger in the car he was driving attempted to sell one ounce of marijuana to an undercover policeman. Canadian authorities later vacated the conviction and Furman says he was told by US immigration officials as recently as 2016 that it was no barrier to his application for a green card after he married his wife Cynthia in 2014. They couple had met when they served together in Ohio three years earlier. But under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policies, what appeared to be a minor blip on his record has taken on greater significance. Ice agents have widened their scope for deportations, and even military families with clean criminal records have been affected. In August, the wife of a decorated US marine and their nine-year-old daughter were deported to Mexico after years of being told they were not a priority. The Furmans were similarly assured they were safe while his green card application was being processed. “They interviewed us in Cleveland in 2016 and said everything looks great and we should be getting everything taken care of in the next 30 to 45 days,” said Cynthia Furman, 50. “I even got a call from Washington and the immigration officer chuckled when I said I was worried my husband would be deported because this is taking so long. He said there’s no need to be worried because we were doing everything right.”

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Fox News - October 20, 2018

John Sanchez: Republicans offer Hispanics hope and have earned our votes

As lieutenant governor of New Mexico, I have had the privilege of living and serving in a state with over 50 percent minority residents. Now that I’m in the last few months of my second term, I want to share a little bit about my story and explain why many Hispanics should and will vote for Republicans in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

My mother told all of us that if we worked hard, stayed in school and did the right thing we could live the American Dream. She was right. I often tell the story of going through the trashcans behind the local supermarket with my brothers, trying to find cardboard from old boxes to replace the worn-out soles of our shoes. We hoped it wouldn’t rain that night, causing our shoes to fall apart on the way to school. But the story didn’t end there. Because we lived the values passed to us by my mother, we achieved success. I found myself 40 years later having dinner with the president of the United States. Sitting there with the most powerful man, in the most powerful city, in the most powerful nation in the world, I looked down at my new expensive dress shoes. I realized how far my mother’s values and her dream of America had taken me. Like many Hispanic families, we wanted to secure a better life, so we started a business at Mom’s kitchen table. We founded what would become one of New Mexico’s most successful small businesses, twice being honored as the small business of the year. We did this by following the pro-business, empowerment principles that we learned at home and found in the Republican Party. After realizing the truth of the American Dream, I was compelled to give back to my community through public service. My first election was to serve as a councilman of our small community, working hard to empower the business community. Next, I was inspired to do what many thought was impossible: taking on the powerful speaker of the New Mexico state House. At that time, Raymond Sanchez was the longest-serving speaker of any assembly in the nation. In a heavily Hispanic district that was 2-1 registered in favor of the Democrats, I emerged the winner as the Republican candidate. Having the same last name as the opposing candidate, all that separated us was the values that we fought for. I spoke about the hand up while he talked about the hand out. I discussed using welfare as a trampoline to propel you to a better life; he spoke of welfare as a hammock to lie in, keeping you safe until you die. I went on to speak of how the empowerment of education leads to economic freedom. He believed people deserved increased dependency on government. Obviously, my message resonated with our people and we won! As a businessman, city councilman, state representative, and now as lieutenant governor of New Mexico, these are the values that I believe in, as we wage a battle between two distinct visions for America. The traditional Hispanic values include a strong faith in God, a deep sense of patriotism, devotion to family, reverence for the sanctity of life and a powerful work ethic. There is a strong drive among traditional Hispanics to be free to build lives that hold to these values without government interference or societal condemnation.

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Daily Beast - October 19, 2018

Matt Lewis: Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke, cultural appropriators

Elizabeth Warren wants to be Native American. Robert Francis O’Rourke wants to be Latino. But they aren’t. And they’re being hoist on the left’s own petard. I’m a fan of cultural appropriation. I think it’s actually healthy for the dominant society to incorporate some aspects of other cultures. This makes us more diverse, more interesting, and more tolerant.

But many on the left strongly disagree with me on this. They hate themselves for loving yoga, and don’t think two white women should be able to own a burrito cart in Portland. They are adamant about it. This leads to what some might call cognitive dissonance, or even hypocrisy. After all, the people most inclined to frequent yoga studios and burrito carts in the Pacific Northwest are rich white liberals. You know, the kinds of people who might vote for Democratic politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Robert “Beto” O’Rourke—arguably, the two most beloved darlings of the left. Should “Beto,” as O’Rourke calls himself, and “Pocahontas,” as Trump calls Warren, get a pass on cultural appropriation? I think not. Let’s start with Warren who, this week, decided it would be a smart idea to release a DNA test showing that she has some claim to Native American ancestry. Regardless of whether her DNA test demonstrates a large enough percentage of Native American blood to justify Warren’s claim (the whole thing seems pathetic and laughable to me), when it comes to the specific question of cultural appropriation, the stinging rebuke issued by the Cherokee Nation is utterly damning: “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” Making matters worse, during an interview with NPR, Chuck Hoskin, Cherokee Nation secretary of state (and a Democrat), basically accused Warren of cultural appropriation. “[O]ften it is about appropriating our identity and our culture,” Hoskin said. Of course, the even hotter liberal commodity today is O’Rourke, the rising star who has been “lauded and cuddled by reporters,” even as his campaign for senate in Texas looks increasingly destined to fall short. The cultural appropriation charge comes from the fact that O’Rourke is obviously an Irish surname, but the Latino nickname “Beto” (short for Robert Francis) suggests Hispanic heritage. In a piece boasting about this “Irish-American” candidate, the Irish Examiner newspaper explains that “O’Rourke is the son of Melissa Martha Williams and Judge Pat Francis O’Rourke, whose forebears emigrated to Texas from Ireland in the 19th century to help build a railroad in the state.” Just as the gatekeepers at Cherokee Nation felt slighted by Warren calling herself a Native American, O’Rourke has faced similar obstacles from official sanctioning bodies. Back in 2013, for example, he was deemed ineligible for membership in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “For us, we have to have Hispanic descent to be in the caucus,” Kristian Ramos, the CHC's communications director, explained to the Texas Tribune. To be fair, O’Rourke’s childhood in El Paso takes the edge off of what might be viewed differently if he, say, just moved to the state and adopted the nickname. Still, one wonders what people would think if I started calling myself “Mateo.” There’s also the irony that O’Rourke is running against, you know, an actual Hispanic. As of now, Beto is not running well enough among Hispanics to come out ahead of Ted Cruz among that bloc in polls, which at least suggests the “Beto” ploy (and speaking fluent Spanish) isn’t enough to win over an entire voting bloc.

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Newsclips - October 19, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2018

Court says Texas must hire more state workers to protect foster kids, a 'huge victory for children'

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling that Texas must hire more of two types of protective-services employees who check on foster kids who are lingering in the state's custody after being removed from their birth families.

But U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi went too far in prescribing how quickly the state must build up a better quantity and geographic dispersal of foster homes and treatment beds for kids in long-term foster care, the appellate judges ruled Thursday. In a decision that could take months to sort out, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services needs more and better-trained conservatorship caseworkers to visit foster children and make sure they are safe. It also said Texas needs more residential child-care licensing inspectors and investigators. Outcries by foster children that they are being harmed are not investigated quickly or thoroughly, said a unanimous opinion by Judges Jerry E. Smith of Houston, Edith Brown Clement of Louisiana and Patrick Higginbotham of Austin, formerly of Dallas. "In short, [the department] is aware of the systemic deficiencies plaguing its monitoring and oversight practices," they wrote. "It also knows that these deficiencies pose a significant safety risk for foster children. Despite this knowledge, [the department] has not taken reasonable steps to cure the problems. Indeed, it is not clear that it has taken any steps at all." A lead lawyer for child advocacy groups who brought the class-action suit called the ruling, by appointees of three Republican presidents, "a huge victory for children." Paul Yetter of Houston, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said youth advocates were sorry to see the appellate judges reverse Jack's orders for a better placement array and a ban on foster group homes. Still, he noted: "The court found a constitutional violation in the state's failure to provide enough caseworkers. The court also found that the state must enforce licensing standards. Child welfare is about child safety, yet this system isn't getting it done."

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San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2018

Gov. Abbott funnels campaign cash into vulnerable GOP state House races

Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign is pumping more than $275,000 into vulnerable state House Republican races, trying to bat down any Democratic gains in the November 6 election. With a $26 million campaign war chest, Abbott’s spending is also a public pronouncement of his patron role in the party in Texas.

Since August, Abbott’s campaign has funded political advertising and grassroots support for nine Republican candidates in the Dallas and Austin-metro areas, according to campaign finance reports. All are especially competitive districts that Hillary Clinton won, or just barely lost, in the 2016 election. It’s the first time Abbott has waded into state House races since the GOP primaries, when he drew some criticism from within the party by working to defeat three sitting Republican representatives, including Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place. Democrats tout Abbott’s final-stretch spending as confirmation the seats are in their grasp. “It confirms to me that they are trying to build some kind of firewall or prevent the inevitable,” said Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democratic candidate for state representative in San Antonio who previously served in the House. “Democrats are going to increase seats. How many is really up to the voters.” Abbott’s campaign is planning to invest in more state legislative races during the final weeks, but spokesman John Wittman wouldn’t name which ones. Early voting begins Monday. Abbott is in his own race against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez, though she trails in fundraising and in recent polls. “The governor wants to help Republicans who might be in tighter races than others,” Wittman said. “Our campaign goal is to help Republicans up and down the ballot.” With Straus departing this year after nearly a decade in power, the gavel is up for grabs and at least five representatives are in the running. Abbott’s campaign has shelled out the most money — roughly $50,000 on political advertising — for Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, campaign finance records show. Workman has been in office since 2011 and has fended off primary challenges from the tea party. Travis County is one of several that’s seen a surge in voter registrations ahead of the mid-term, with election officials still processing thousands of applications.

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Dallas Business Journal - October 19, 2018

Ryan LLC gets $1.1 billion valuation with new investment from Onex

Ryan LLC in Dallas has joined a special club of companies valued at more than $1 billion. The tax services and software provider has received a $317 million investment from private equity firm Onex Corp. that values the company at $1.1 billion, according to a statement by the companies.

Onex is based in Toronto and has more than $33 billion in assets under management. The deal gives Onex a 42 percent interest in the company. “Onex is the ideal partner for us given its strong track record and focus on growing companies and supporting the management teams in which it invests,” said G. Brint Ryan, CEO of Ryan, in the statement. “In recent years, we’ve significantly expanded our business, adding new service lines and growing our premium client roster.” Ryan is ramping up growth efforts after attracting more than 14,000 business customers. The company, which provides federal, state, local, and international tax services, has more than more than 2,200 employees. In a report last year, the company reported revenue of nearly $470 million in 2016, up about 8 percent from the year before, according to research by the Dallas Business Journal. “Ryan is a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most respected organizations,” Amir Motamedi, a managing director with Onex, said in the statement. “We’re delighted to be in business with Brint and his team and look forward to the years ahead.”

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Associated Press - October 18, 2018

Texas' O'Rourke tells national audience he'd impeach Trump

Democratic Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke told a national television audience Thursday night that he'd vote to impeach President Donald Trump and believes Texas can lead the way to a national embracing of relaxed immigration policies and gun control — unapologetically liberal positions that may be hard for some in his deep-red state to stomach.

O'Rourke, an El Paso congressman giving up his seat to challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, had previously suggested that he'd support impeaching the president over alleged collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice. But he went further while appearing at a CNN town hall from the U.S.-Mexico border town of McAllen, saying that even as members of Congress wait for more evidence to emerge during federal investigations, "I do think there's enough there for impeachment." Cruz has accused O'Rourke of being the only Democratic Senate candidate in the nation to support impeachment. At least one other, California state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who is challenging U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, has said he too would vote to do so. Still, it's a position that most candidates from both parties have avoided. Even O'Rourke conceded to moderator Dana Bash, "I know that this not politically easy or convenient to talk about." O'Rourke fielded audience questions for nearly an hour. Bash said Cruz was invited to attend and declined — even though the Republican's campaign said he offered to make the McAllen event a debate and O'Rourke didn't respond. O'Rourke said he opposed Trump's proposed border wall and that Texas should be a national model in how to overhaul federal immigration policy in a humane way. He said he was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and Texas gun culture but added, "We lose 30,000 of our fellow Americans every year to gun violence."

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2018

'Affluenza' mom Tonya Couch released on bond, now must avoid all medication — even cough syrup

Tonya Couch was released from the Tarrant County jail Thursday after her latest stint behind bars over a failed drug test. Couch, 51, has been charged with hindering the apprehension of a fugitive — her son, "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch — and money laundering. The pair were arrested in late 2015 after fleeing to Mexico.

Under updated bond conditions, Couch is now prohibited from taking "any medication at all" — including aspirin, cough syrup and vitamins. She also is not allowed to consume or possess drugs and alcohol or to possess weapons. Couch was free on bond from January 2016 until she was arrested in March after authorities said she'd failed a urinalysis test. She was released in May but returned to jail in June, when officials said she tested positive for methamphetamine. Her charges stem from a 2015 incident when she and her son fled to Mexico after a video surfaced on Twitter that appeared to show Ethan Couch violating the terms of his own probation by playing beer pong. The younger Couch had been sentenced to 10 years of probation and rehab for crashing a pickup in June 2013, killing four people and seriously injuring two others. He gained notoriety when a psychologist testified that the then-16-year-old suffered from "affluenza" because of a dysfunctional relationship with his wealthy parents, keeping him from developing a sense of responsibility.

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Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2018

Texas companies paid $654M more in tariffs this summer than the last amid Trump's trade war

Texas companies paid $654 million more in tariffs in June through August than in the same three-month stretch the year prior, a 142 percent increase that comes as a direct consequence of President Donald Trump's sprawling trade war.

That's one of the major findings in an analysis released Thursday by the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland campaign, a national coalition of business and farm groups. The startling jump in import levies jibes with the impact that's been reported anecdotally by Texas businesses over the last several months as Trump has imposed tariffs on washing machines, solar panels, steel and aluminum, and an enormous list of goods produced in China. Affected businesses may be forced to reduce investment and hiring as a result, while consumers could end up feeling the pinch by way of higher prices. "This affects our bottom line," said Texas Ale Project president Kat Thompson, explaining how the aluminum tariffs are hitting her company's beer cans. "You may think, 'OK, a one-cent increase on a can, whoop-de-doo.' But it adds up real fast when you're talking about 100,000 cans." Texas has been on the front lines of Trump's trade war from the start, thanks to a trade-heavy economy that features strong ties to Mexico, Canada and other commercial hubs. In addition to the duties Trump has put on goods coming into the U.S., Texas farmers, ranchers and other businesses have suffered due to retaliatory tariffs from countries across the globe that now cover billions of dollars in Lone Star State exports. While Texas lawmakers in both parties have generally pushed back against Trump's tariffs, the president has threatened to enact even more. Trump has cited the levies as an effective way to gain leverage over America's trading partners and get better deals for the U.S. He made that case, for instance, while touting the accord the U.S. reached late last month with Canada and Mexico on a new North American Free Trade Agreement. "Without tariffs, we wouldn't be talking about a deal," he said then, referring to what he's calling the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. "Just for those babies out there that keep talking about tariffs. That includes Congress."

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Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2018

Latinos are making dramatic college gains in Texas, but huge disparities remain

Fewer than half of all Latinos who start college in Texas end up earning a bachelor's degree within six years. But federal data shows there are reasons to be hopeful because those students also are making the biggest gains.

The graduation rate for Hispanic students has climbed steadily even as their enrollment has more than doubled, according to the data. Latinas are even outpacing white men across the state in earning college degrees. Nationwide, college graduation rates have been lackluster, with overall enrollment decreasing. But because there was a 25 percent increase in Latino enrollment from 2010 to 2016, many colleges are pinning their futures on the growing Latino population. "We're making significant gains in Latino graduation rates, more than any other group," said Raymund Paredes, Texas' commissioner of higher education. "The numbers look promising and are way up. We have many more second- and even third-generation college students now who are Latino. And their numbers in higher ed are going up considerably." The Dallas Morning News, in conjunction with Tuition Tracker — a tool for parents and students produced by The Hechinger Report, the Education Writers Association and The News — looked at the latest available federal graduation data and found that: (1) The graduation rate for Latinos in Texas who earned a bachelor's degree within six years of starting college rose from about 37 percent for the freshman class of 1996 to 46 percent for those who started in 2010. 92) The increase for Latino students came as the number of first-time, full-time Latino freshmen more than doubled, from about 12,400 to 26,700 at four-year institutions. (3) Only Asian students saw a larger increase in graduation rates, from 55 percent to 68 percent. Their enrollment for the number of first-time, full-time freshmen in four-year institutions was significantly smaller, growing from about 3,200 to 5,300. (4) Since 2012, the largest group of first-time freshmen in Texas — including those at two-year colleges and universities — has been Latino. (5) The number of degrees or certificates earned by Latino students annually has nearly tripled in 15 years from about 42,007 to 113,067, the largest increase among any student group.

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Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2018

For new Texas HHS chief, some familiar problems await

Four years ago, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was in a state of disrepair. The child welfare division was floundering after a disastrously failed privatization experiment, Medicaid managed care was racked with delays, and officials were on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in federal fines.

Hoping to restore some semblance of order at the embattled agency, Gov. Pete Ricketts turned to a young outsider named Courtney Phillips. The Louisiana native, now 39, faces the same task this week as she takes the helm at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission amid great upheaval. The agency has come under fire most recently for mishandling contract bids and allowing the state’s Medicaid managed care providers to rake in billions while denying essential services to medically fragile Texans. Former executive commissioner Charles Smith, considered a close ally of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, retired in May, just two years into the job. If Phillips’ record in Nebraska is any indication, it won’t be easy. While advocates and elected officials there describe her as transparent and open-minded with extensive knowledge of the health care field, they acknowledge that parts of the agency are still struggling. “There were challenges at DHHS when she got there and, unfortunately, there will continue to be some challenges after she leaves,” said Aubrey Mancuso, executive director at Voices for Children in Nebraska, an advocacy group. She added: “It takes more than one individual.” Two weeks before Abbott announced Phillips’ appointment in August, auditors in Nebraska unleashed a biting assessment of the agency’s child welfare efforts, estimating that 40 percent of claims between 2016 and the end of last year were paid erroneously, meaning $26 million in wasted expenses. Auditors found that children were being moved to lower care levels but at much higher costs, that subsidy rates were at times grossly inflated, that employees were racking up tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary travel expenses, and that a key contract had not been competitively bid. What’s more, the federal Department of Health and Human Services found that Nebraska had failed to bring any of seven key child and family measures into adequate compliance, according to the audit. Those include categories such as “Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect,” and “Children are safely maintained in their homes whenever possible,” and “Children have permanency and stability in their living situations.” Child welfare accounts for about 8.5 percent of the agency’s budget in Nebraska.

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Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2018

Democrat Kulkarni up with TV ads in Houston in bid to unseat Rep. Pete Olson

Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni is continuing to put pressure on U.S. Rep. Pete Olson in what has fast become one of the most competitive races for Congress in Texas. Kulkarni has launched a new television ad blasting Olson, a 5-term incumbent, as a "do-nothing Congressman."

"What happened to Pete Olson?" a narrator says, noting that Olson had sponsored just three bills that passed in 10 years in office. According to records with the Library of Congress, Olson two of those bills renamed post offices in Pearland and Sugar Land. Another bill awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II pilots who made raids on Tokyo. Olson's campaign manager Craig Lewellyn brushed off the attack ad. "It's not surprising Sri would run a dishonest ad," Lewellyn said. "The vast majority of voters in our district have never heard of him." The ad comes at a time that new campaign finance reports show Kulkarni raised more money in the last three months for his campaign than Olson, and Kulkarni has more money going into the final weeks of the campaign. In addition, national Democrats are promising more help for Kulkarni after his surprise showing. This week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Kulkarni to their "Red to Blue" program, which provides organizational and fundraising support for campaigns. "Sri has put together a strong people-powered campaign that makes this race competitive," said DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan. At the start of the year, few saw the 22nd Congressional District as a battleground. Olson, a 55-year-old former Navy pilot, easily won his last four re-elections. But the changing demographics of the district has given Kulkarni a boost. The 22nd District includes Fort Bend, Brazoria and part of southern Harris County. Kulkarni has relied heavily on his ability to connect with the district's diverse population to give Democrats hope that he could pull off an upset in the district. About 20 percent of the population in the district is of Asian heritage — more than any other district in Texas. About 25 percent of the district's population is foreign-born, according to U.S. Census records.

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Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2018

National Democrats seek to boost Gina Ortiz Jones in District 23 race

National Democrats are now aiming their efforts solely at Latinos in a San Antonio-area congressional race in hopes of boosting Gina Ortiz Jones in her quest to unseat Republican Rep. Will Hurd.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running a Spanish television ad in San Antonio after making a tactical decision to run Spanish-only ads entering the last weeks of the campaign. The ad accuses Hurd of betraying his majority Hispanic district by joining other Republicans in legislation that gives billions in tax breaks to big drug companies. Democrats are seeking to capitalize on polls that show an energized Latino electorate, with health care near the top of Latino concerns about the future. “The thing that is going to be the turning point in this race is that the Congressman Hurd people see in Texas is not the same Congressman Hurd who is voting in lockstep with Republicans in Washington,” said DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter. Hurd, a former CIA officer seeking a third term, and Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer who later worked in the Obama administration, are competing in the district that stretches from San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso and includes more than 800 miles of territory along the border. Democrats have found it challenging to link Hurd to some of the Trump administration policies unpopular in the district. Hurd, a moderate, has rejected the administration’s hardline immigration policies and was among GOP defectors last year when Republicans narrowly approved a repeal of major portions of the Affordable Care Act. In July, after President Donald Trump’s much-criticized appearance in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hurd said Trump had gotten “played by old KGB hands.” It remains uncertain if voters will see the candidates on the same stage debating before the Nov. 6 election. Jones on Wednesday persisted in her contention that Hurd is hiding and refusing to debate, asserting that “it’s nothing short of shameful.”

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San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2018

Texas first lady, TABC team up to fight human trafficking

First lady Cecilia Abbott said she didn’t know how pervasive human trafficking is in Texas until she learned many children who age out of the state’s foster care system are forced into labor and sex. “It just broke my heart,” she said from the Capitol on Thursday, when she announced her partnership with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to combat human trafficking.

Abbott cited the University of Texas’ Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, which reported 234,000 people in Texas are victims of labor trafficking and 79,000 young people are sex trafficking victims. “I couldn’t believe it,” Abbott said. “It is out there. I had no idea the numbers were what they are, but I am so glad now that there is such a focus on this.” Abbott participated with commission officials in a public service announcement released this week that shares signs of human trafficking and ways to report it. The announcement contributes to the state’s “Be the One” campaign against human trafficking. In the public service announcement, an official with the commission explains that the agency regulates bars, nightclubs and convenience stores, where bad actors might use their legitimate establishments as fronts for trafficking. State Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, whose bill in 2015 created the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit under the governor’s office and requires prosecution of human trafficking, said he’s confident that during the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers will provide “additional tools” to state agencies that help prosecute more cases of trafficking. “It is shameful, shameful (that) we have this many people in captivity in Texas,” he said. “When Mrs. Abbott talks about hiding in plain sight, it’s not just an urban problem. I represent the suburbs. It’s a suburban problem. It’s a rural problem. It happens all over Texas.” Commission Chairman Kevin Lilly said when he came on board his top priority was eliminating trafficking at all licensed establishments under its purview. “It’s an ignoble and sad fact,” he said. “It’s not something that we like to brag about, but Texas is the No. 2 most-trafficked state in the country. My hometown, my city, Houston, is No. 1 in the country.”

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Star-Telegram - October 18, 2018

Texas voter fraud victim: ‘I can’t believe people have the nerve to do that’

Two Attorney General investigators arrived at Ofelia Peña’s north Fort Worth home earlier this year, wearing suits and flashing badges. The cautious 72-year-old woman let them in, but she checked their identification twice and kept her handgun within easy reach.

“They were investigating people that had been using our identity,” Peña said the investigators told her. “I thought why would someone want my identity? We’re not rich. We’ve lived here 42 years.” What the investigators didn’t say, and what she only learned this week in a phone call from the Star-Telegram, is that the suspects were allegedly after Peña’s vote. State officials say Peña was one of more than two dozen people victimized in an organized voter fraud ring where several women were paid to target elderly voters in north side Fort Worth neighborhoods. Four people were arrested — Leticia Sanchez, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin, Maria Solis and Laura Parra — after being indicted on 29 felony counts of voter fraud, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office. These women allegedly were paid to target older voters on the north side “in a scheme to generate a large number of mail ballots and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016,” the statement read. When asked who paid the women, Texas Attorney General spokesman Jeff Hillery said “details will come out when this case goes to trial.” He did say that the charges in these cases “are in connection with the 2016 Democratic primary, but the case has connections with the 2015 city council election.” These indictments come years after allegations of voter fraud were investigated. In 2016, before the presidential election, workers from Paxton’s office were in Tarrant County gathering paperwork and interviewing potential witnesses. As for Peña, she said when investigators showed her a picture of herself and then her husband, she recognized them as their passport pictures by the mustard brown blouse she wore and the way she wore her hair. “I recognized the blouse because I used to make my own clothes,” she explained. “That was taken in 2014 because we were going to go to Italy for our 50th anniversary, but my doctor wouldn’t allow it.” The investigators also asked her to look at two signatures, which she confirmed were her own and that of her husband. Peña said, to her knowledge, she’d never met or been approached by the women and doesn’t know how they got their pictures and signatures. “They showed me several names to see if I knew these women,” Peña said. “I said ‘Nope. Nope. I don’t know any of them.” She said until recent health problems, she’d been a regular voter but likes to vote in person. Peña said she voted Republican last year, but doesn’t necessarily affiliate with one party over the other. “I think they’re all worthless,” she said.

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The Hill - October 19, 2018

Joaquin Castro accuses Kushner of orchestrating killing of Khashoggi

Rep. Joaquin Castro on Friday accused senior White House adviser Jared Kushner of orchestrating the killing of Saudi-born Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Castro, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN he did not have substantial evidence to support his claim, but repeatedly cited media reports on the subject.

Castro cited unspecified reporting “that Jared Kushner may have, with U.S. intelligence, delivered a hit list, an enemies list, to the crown prince, to MBS, in Saudi Arabia and that the prince may have acted on that.” CNN host Poppy Harlow attempted to clarify what reporting Castro was referring to, saying CNN had not reported on that accusation. Castro continued, saying “I’ve seen reporting to that effect … That needs to be investigated.” Castro later clarified his comments, tweeting that he did not intend to accuse Kushner of orchestrating the killing and noting he meant to express that he wants Congress to open an investigation into whether U.S. intelligence was shared with Saudi Arabia that may have led to Khashoggi's death. He also linked media reporting that highlighted ties between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia. “To be clear, I did not intend to accuse @jaredkushner of orchestrating anything,” Castro tweeted. “Based on press reporting, I’m asking for Congress to open an investigation of whether any US Intelligence was shared with Saudi Arabia that led to political persecution or killing of #Khashoggi.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later condemned Castro's remarks, calling the allegation "outrageous" and "slanderous." ".@JoaquinCastrotx’s allegation is an outrageous slanderous lie without a shred of proof, it’s reprehensible for a sitting Congressman and supposed 'news' outlets to continue citing an article that used unnamed sources and was completely debunked," Sanders tweeted Friday afternoon.

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Washington Examiner - October 18, 2018

Trump economist bets administration can find more workers to fuel boom

Top Trump administration economist Kevin Hassett believes that the booming economy will draw millions more people back to work, defying projections for falling workforce participation, with an additional nudge from work requirements for welfare.

“It’s going to be very easy for people to convince themselves to re-enter the labor force,” Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told the Washington Examiner. “The success of others is drawing more people in,” as they see neighbors or friends get jobs, he argued. By many, if not all, measures the U.S. economy is booming. This week's latest confirmation came with this month’s job openings report, released by the Labor Department on Tuesday, which showed 7.1 million job openings — the most since the report began in 2000, a fact that President Trump quickly touted on Twitter. The Trump administration’s ambitious economic growth projections in part rely on there being enough workers to fill the massive number of current job openings. But as the recovery stretches on, fewer people need jobs because they already have them. The Federal Reserve says that businesses across the country are complaining that it’s harder to find qualified workers to fill the record numbers of openings. Still, Hassett doesn’t think adding workers back into the economy will be a challenge. “Sustaining the higher labor force participation rate is easy,” said Hassett. It's a bold prediction given that long-running demographic trends, particularly the aging of the Baby Boom generation into retirement, is expected weigh down on the number of potential workers in the months and years ahead. The current supply of workers may, in a sense, be living on borrowed time. “I have been surprised by how stable the labor force participation rate has been for about five years now, in the face of demographic forces that really should be lowering it,” said Jason Furman, who held the same position as Hassett under President Barack Obama and is currently a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Labor force participation, meaning the total number of people with jobs or looking for work, has remained basically flat for more than four years, at around 62.7 percent of the civilian workforce. That rate is the lowest it has been since the late 1970s, when women were still entering the workforce, but it's remained stable for the last several years despite predictions that demographics would cause a further decline.

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National Review - October 18, 2018

Wilhelm: The embarrassing spectacle of Betomania

Attention, journalists of America: Time is running out! You have under three weeks left to publish your last batch of over-the-top pre-election puff pieces on Texas Democrat/cross-country liberal sensation/wing-and-a-prayer Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke!

It is here that we must face the difficult truth: Barring a GOP-related disaster of some sort, O’Rourke — he of that ineffable “cool factor” and “special sauce,” at least according to easily impressed columnists at the Washington Post — is likely to lose big. According to the latest polls, Senator Ted Cruz leads him by anywhere between seven and nine points. Tuesday’s debate between the two, meanwhile, was so mismatched that O’Rourke’s best moment might have involved a random deer-in-the-headlights story in which he described how he “got to meet this blind squirrel who is slowly regaining its sight.” In summary, this year’s Betomania — a somewhat weird phenomenon, as we’ll explore in a bit — seems set to disappear from view just as quickly as it arrived, at least in the Lone Star State. On one hand, this possibility warms my heart, given that in my neck of Texas, it has grown rather exasperating to have to wade through 15,000 blaring BETO yard signs when I’m simply trying to get a breakfast taco or four. On the other hand, I also feel a tinge of melancholy and regret about all of this, given that I never got my act together enough to print ironic t-shirts with the following brilliant slogan I made up all by myself: “You BETO vote for Ted Cruz.” Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I’d like to further discuss the debate between O’Rourke and Ted Cruz, and also actual policy issues, and also perhaps the fact that many people in politics seem to be slowly going insane. But first, can we talk about how embarrassing Betomania is? Friends, I am deeply concerned for our culture. When you look at a middle-aged establishment politician as an icon of “rock star” cool, you’re doing something wrong. “Skateboarding Beto O’Rourke Shreds Whataburger Parking Lot,” read an actual recent headline on the website of the Dallas Morning News. This all sounds really rad and sick and gnarly and whatever until you actually watch the video, which features O’Rourke gently coasting around the parking lot, soccer-dad style, looking precariously close to biting the dust when he gives a bystander a high five. Don’t get mad: I’m not judging! I would do exactly the same thing, except I’d probably actually fall! But no wide-eyed journalist would write a headline claiming that I “shredded” anything, nor credulously act like I belonged on the cover of Thrasher magazine. Of the countless head-scratching elements of the O’Rourke phenomenon, one wins handily as the head-scratchingest of all: A troubling percentage of the Betomaniacs I have met in Texas moved here after fleeing places ruined by Beto’s favored policies. These locales are often expensive, increasingly dysfunctional, wildly overregulated, sometimes mystifyingly poop-ridden despite being wildly overregulated (here’s looking at you, San Francisco!), and inevitably run by Democrats.

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Rivard Report - October 18, 2018

San Antonio City Council approves historic Alamo Plaza redevelopment plan

City Council voted 9-2 Thursday to approve a historic overhaul of the Alamo Plaza that includes a plan to create a single entry point to a portion of the public plaza and relocate the Alamo Cenotaph, two of the most contentious elements of the multimillion-dollar plan.q

Councilmen John Courage and Clayton Perry voted against the plan after more than three hours of passionate citizen testimony – 57 people signed up to speak before Council – and two hours of Council members' comments. "When the 2.1 million visitors [per year] come to the grounds of the Alamo," Land Commissioner George P. Bush told City Council before its vote, “they are underwhelmed. Instead of coming onto a historic battlefield of valor, they are welcomed by nothing but distraction." This plan, Bush said, changes that and gives those who lived, fought, and died there the respect they deserve. And while many have tried over the past decades to improve the plaza, he added, "none have gotten this far." Technically, City Council voted to close adjacent street closures, pursue contracts for the repair and relocation of the Cenotaph, and approve a 50-year lease and management agreement with two 25-year renewals, with the Texas General Land Office. These actions allow the plan as a whole to move forward. Officials hope to complete the redevelopment in 2024, exactly 300 years after the Alamo, originally the Spanish colonial Mission San Antonio de Valero, was established. "This is a historic moment and a turning point that finally give the Alamo the reverent treatment it deserves,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. "The commercial nature of Alamo Plaza [as it is today] has made that difficult." There have been several protests regarding the relocation of the Cenotaph roughly 500 feet south, and many local urban designers have vocally opposed fencing off the historic plaza footprint in front of the iconic mission to manage access aimed at preventing "distractions" such as protests, street preachers, souvenir vendors, and other casual pedestrian traffic that exists today.

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CNBC - October 17, 2018

Tilman Fertitta and advisors offered $13 a share in cash and stock for Caesars, according to sources

Billionaire owner of the Golden Nugget Casinos Tilman Fertitta wants to make a cash and stock deal with Caesars Entertainment that values the casino at $13 per share, sources told CNBC Wednesday. His holdings also include the Houston Rockets basketball team and restaurant and entertainment company Landry's, would be chairman and CEO of the combined company, sources say.

The merger, which was proposed about a week ago, would exchange stock in a private company owned by Fertitta for shares in Caesars, at the same multiple that Caesars currently trades, according to sources. There would then be somewhere between a $2 billion and $3 billion dutch tender to give Caesars shareholders an option to sell, according to people familiar with the deal. Fertitta would be chairman and CEO and the largest shareholder of the combined company, sources said. The merger would create one of the largest gaming and hospitality companies in the world, and launch Fertitta and Landry's back into the markets again as a public enterprise. Fertitta and Landry's declined to comment on the details of a potential deal. Fertitta and his advisors sent a proposal to U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment about merging last week, source said. Fertitta's proposal has not been responded to yet and no agreement has been made, sources told CNBC. The arrangement would be a reverse merger where Caesars is the the acquirer, Reuters reported earlier Wednesday. Caesars shareholders, including private equity firms Apollo Global Management and TPG Global, would remain shareholders in the combined company, according to Reuters. Shares of Caesars Entertainment jumped more than 14 percent to $10.40 Wednesday. The stock is down more than 16 percent year to date.

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Dallas Observer - October 18, 2018

Texas gubernatorial race stands out as missed opportunity amid Democratic successes

There's probably a more delicate way to put it, but former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is getting molly-whopped by incumbent Greg Abbott in their race to be Texas' governor. That's the only takeaway one can draw from the new gubernatorial forecasts published by polling guru Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight on Wednesday.

Valdez, according to Silver's prediction model, has a 0.4 percent chance of beating Abbott, meaning that she's about a 250-to-1 underdog. Silver's model is based on all the polling that's available for a given race, as well as a set of fundamentals including fundraising, past voting in the state and historical trends. The governor's race has taken a back seat to the senatorial showdown between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, as well as several competitive U.S. House races and, among political partisans at least, the attorney general's race between incumbent Ken Paxton and Democratic challenger Justin Nelson. One can argue about whether a governor's race or a Senate campaign is a bigger deal, but Nelson, a previously unknown corporate lawyer running an insurgent campaign against Paxton, out-raised Valdez by about 50 percent in the last quarter. O'Rourke, like Valdez, faced an opponent with far higher name recognition and a big campaign checking account when he announced he was running for Senate last year, has shattered fundraising records and drawn huge crowds around the state, even in Republican strongholds like Collin and Tarrant counties. Despite a string of negative polls, the FiveThirtyEight model still gives him a very real chance (about 20 percent) of knocking Cruz off. U.S. House candidates like Colin Allred in North Dallas and Lizzie Fletcher in the Houston area both have even better odds of beating their incumbent Republican opponents, according to Silver's predictor, at 32 and 48 percent respectively. It's possible, as Nelson, O'Rourke, Allred and Fletcher have shown, for a Democrat to mount a real challenge in Texas. Thanks to shifting demographics and President Donald Trump's relative unpopularity in the state, it seems unlikely that Texas is as Republican as Alabama, but that's what the polling models say, at least when it comes to the governor's race.

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County Stories

Dallas Observer - October 18, 2018

Dallas County GOP tried, and failed, to take advantage of John Wiley Price's mailer linking Trump and Hitler in key House race

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price gave local Republicans a gift earlier this month when he sent out a mailer encouraging his constituents to vote a straight Democratic ticket in the mid-term elections by comparing President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.

Predictably and rightfully, much of the local media, led by The Dallas Morning News, was left aghast by the comparison. Dallas' paper of record editorialized that "[w]ith this mailer, we are back to full Price, a leader liable to sound off in ways that are as offensive and harmful as the ugly history of racism that he purports to stand against." Late Wednesday afternoon, the Dallas County Republican Party took advantage of the mailer to run one of former President Lyndon Johnson's most famous political plays. In an email to reporters, the Dallas GOP blasted John Turner, the Democrat running against anti-vaccine maven Lisa Luby Ryan, for failing to condemn the mailer. "It’s been eight days since the news broke of the outlandish mailer by Price, and Dallas voters are still waiting on John Turner for any public sign of condemnation in any official statements or social media posts," Dallas County GOP Chairwoman Missy Shorey said in the email. "John Turner’s silence is deafening when we consider the offense and disgust this abhorrent political propaganda continues to cause the voters of Texas House District 114." After reading those serious charges, the Observer figured Turner must have been ignoring a big pile of constituent mail about Price's comparison or evading questions about it from reporters. Turns out that's not the case. Our question about the mailer was the first Turner had received from anyone, he told the Observer Wednesday afternoon. "I believe the mailer is highly inappropriate. The reference diminishes the unique horror of Hitler and the Holocaust, and such a comparison does not belong in a constructive political dialogue," he said.

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Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2018

Travis County declared in state of disaster after floods

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt has declared a state of local disaster in response to damage in the county caused by this week’s floods. The proclamation Thursday activating recovery and rehabilitation operations and authorizing aid and assistance as established in the county’s emergency management plan.

n a letter requesting state and federal assistance from Gov. Greg Abbott, Eckhardt said the floods have brought severe damage and property loss near the Colorado River and other watersheds, including several Lake Travis homes and county roadways that have inundated or are at risk of flooding. The county is studying further risks as the forecast calls for more rain that could contribute to floodwaters, she said. “Travis County and jurisdiction within Travis County expect to incur significant costs associated with debris removal and road repair once the water begins to recede,” Eckhardt said in the letter. Authorities have extended the ban on using Austin waterways, including Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake, until next week, the Austin Fire Department said in a statement Thursday. Authorities have also extended the ban on using Austin waterways, including Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake, until next week, the Austin Fire Department said in a statement Thursday. Floodwaters released from Mansfield Dam is helping to draw down rising waters on Lake Travis, but the release also is creating dangerously high flow rates downstream. “These conditions have created high and swift waters, which combined with debris, has made recreational, commercial, and navigational use of all water ways including all creeks within the City of Austin unsafe,” Austin fire officials said in the statement.

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National Stories

Washington Post - October 18, 2018

Republican candidates rely on stealth campaigner George W. Bush

Republican Rep. Martha McSally will spend Friday with President Trump, trying to rally conservative support for her Senate bid in Arizona. But Thursday evening, McSally is hosting another big name in GOP politics who, these days, prefers to do his work behind closed doors: George W. Bush.

The former president is the guest of honor at a Scottsdale fundraising reception for the congresswoman’s bid to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake. On Monday, Bush flew to Indiana for a fundraiser with the Republican Senate nominee, Mike Braun. And in mid-September, Bush crisscrossed Florida for a lunch fundraiser in Tampa and then an evening dinner reception in Palm Beach to boost Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign. He has also hosted events in Texas for other Republican candidates. At a time when Trump rules the Republican Party, practically choosing winners and losers through his endorsements in the primaries, Bush is in high demand on the campaign trail. He even played a key role in helping shore up the votes of Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Flake for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination, placing repeated calls to the two wavering Republicans to talk about his former White House aide. And, as Trump has injected a sense of mania into today’s politics, voters have taken a second look at Bush and his presidency. He left the Oval Office as the most unpopular president since Richard M. Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal, but he has become arguably the most popular Republican in the nation, with his ailing 94-year-old father as his only rival. According to a CNN poll in January, 61 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the younger Bush and just 33 percent had an unfavorable view. That’s a complete reversal of his standing from February 2009 just after he left office amid a deep economic recession and costly, years-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That level of popularity places Bush on par with the most recent ex-president, Democrat Barack Obama, who was viewed favorably by 66 percent of the country and unfavorably by 32 percent.

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Washington Post - October 18, 2018

Emmet Flood named White House counsel on a temporary basis

Emmet T. Flood, a White House lawyer who has been helping handle the special-counsel investigation into Russian election interference, has taken over the role of White House counsel on a temporary basis.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the move Thursday. Flood assumed the position following the departure Wednesday of Donald McGahn, whose tenure as White House counsel was marked by a significant reshaping of the federal judiciary but also clashes with President Trump over the ongoing special-counsel probe. Flood will serve in the position until McGahn’s permanent replacement, veteran Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone, comes on board, Sanders said. “President Trump has a great deal of respect for both individuals and is glad to have them on his team,” Sanders said in a statement. Weeks ago, after it became clear McGahn would be leaving, Trump considered hiring Flood for the job permanently but ultimately decided to let him focus on his current task related to the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump announced in late August that McGahn would exit after his second Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was confirmed — a process that took slightly longer than initially planned after sexual misconduct allegations roiled the contentious fight over his nomination on Capitol Hill. Flood spent most of his professional career at the white-shoe Washington firm Williams & Connolly, where he served on the personal legal team of President Bill Clinton during impeachment proceedings. Flood also represented former Vice President Richard Cheney in a lawsuit filed by former CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked to the media by a Bush administration official. He left his firm for two years starting in 2007 so he could serve as special counsel to President George W. Bush, where he handled Bush’s response to investigations of his midterm firing of seven U.S. attorneys. Flood’s appointment in the Trump White House was announced in May. He replaced lawyer Ty Cobb, who had been serving as a point person for the White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation.

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Washington Post - October 18, 2018

Justice Department investigates abuse by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania

The Justice Department has launched an investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy across the state of Pennsylvania — a major escalation of government scrutiny of the church long sought by victims of pedophile priests.

The decision to launch such a probe, even one limited to a single state, is noteworthy because the federal government has long shied away from tackling allegations that the church spent decades hiding the extent of the sexual abuse problem among its priests and that it allowed pedophiles to continue to work and live undetected in communities. “This is just a breathtaking, stunning and very welcome development,” said Michael Dolce, a lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse. The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia began issuing subpoenas recently, according to one person familiar with the matter. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney William McSwain declined to comment, but church officials around the state confirmed having received subpoenas. The subpoenas seek years of internal records, including any evidence of church personnel taking children across state lines for purposes of sexual abuse, any evidence of personnel sending sexual material about children electronically and any evidence that church officials reassigned suspected predators or used church resources to further or conceal such conduct, according to a person familiar with the matter. The investigation was sparked by a scathing report from a state grand jury in August that found more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania had sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up. The lengthy report identified about 1,000 children who were victims but concluded there were probably thousands more. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in its report.

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New York Times - October 18, 2018

Seeking work after Congress? Sharp partisans need not apply on K Street

Dozens of soon-to-be former lawmakers will be looking for work come mid-November, but big K Street trade associations might not be the best place for them to send a résumé.

Once a comfortable landing spot for retiring and defeated members of Congress seeking to keep their hand in federal affairs and be paid well to do so, the trade groups that represent the nation’s businesses, industries and professions in the nation’s capital are, as they say, moving in a different direction. Influential trade groups are no longer looking to build instant status and credibility by bringing on prominent former lawmakers. Instead, they are looking for skilled managers and communicators with Washington expertise who are capable of effectively running large, multimillion-dollar organizations and being held accountable to representing the interests of their members. But there is another big reason departing members of Congress are not as attractive as they once were: the sharp partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill. Association leaders have to work with people of all political persuasions, and many of those coming off of Capitol Hill these days are inextricably linked to one political perspective or the other, diminishing their marketability afterward. “Partisanship today is a factor,” said Dave McCurdy, the former centrist Democratic House member from Oklahoma who has overseen three trade groups and is retiring from the American Gas Association — and Washington itself — early next year. “I was selected because they knew I had respect on both sides of the aisle, that I could talk to both sides of the aisle and that I was a fact-based leader.” Mr. Sommers agreed that today’s intense political environment was a factor for association search committees. “The member companies, I think, see Washington as a place that has become so partisan,” he said. “If you hire a partisan who has been on the ballot, that is not how you want your trade association to be portrayed. It is not that former members or former senators aren’t capable; they are. They could run these trade associations. But I think they are not being hired by what outside of Washington views as dysfunction.” Some Washington groups continue to be supervised by former lawmakers but they are a diminishing presence. In the past five months, more than half a dozen top association jobs have gone to former high-level nonelected officials from Capitol Hill or the executive branch or to seasoned executives from other associations. And in at least two cases, the new heads replaced former elected officials who left — Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor from Minnesota, at the Financial Services Roundtable, and Dirk Kempthorne, the former Republican governor and senator from Idaho, at the American Council of Life Insurers. This week, the Distilled Spirits Council hired Chris R. Swonger, a longtime government affairs specialist, as its new leader.

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New York Times - October 18, 2018

Citing intelligence reports, Trump says he believes Khashoggi is dead

President Trump said on Thursday that he believes the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and he expressed confidence in intelligence reports from multiple sources that strongly suggest a high-level Saudi role in Mr. Khashoggi’s assassination.

Mr. Trump stopped short of saying the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. But the president acknowledged that the allegations that the prince ordered the killing raised deep questions about the American alliance with Saudi Arabia and had ignited one of the most serious foreign policy crises of his presidency. “This one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately,” Mr. Trump said to reporters from The New York Times in a brief interview in the Oval Office. “It’s not a positive. Not a positive.” “Unless the miracle of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he’s dead,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s based on everything — intelligence coming from every side.” A short time later, Mr. Trump reiterated to reporters at Joint Base Andrews that he believed Mr. Khashoggi is dead, and said the consequences will “have to be very severe.” “I mean,” he said, “it’s bad, bad stuff.” The Times interview occurred after the president was briefed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Mr. Pompeo had pressed officials from both countries during the trip about the fate of Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and a columnist for The Washington Post, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

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New York Times - October 19, 2018

'That’s my kind of guy,’ Trump says of Republican lawmaker who body-slammed a reporter

President Trump praised a Republican candidate’s assault last year on a reporter and fumed over his Democratic opponents here on Thursday night in a freewheeling rally meant to mobilize his base’s support in the coming midterm elections.

In urging the crowd to vote for Representative Greg Gianforte, who is running for re-election and who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for assaulting a reporter last spring, Mr. Trump jokingly warned the crowd to “never wrestle him.” “I had heard he body-slammed a reporter,” Mr. Trump said, noting that he was initially concerned that Mr. Gianforte would lose in a special election last May. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well; I think it might help him.’ And it did.” “Anybody that can do a body-slam,” the president added, “that’s my kind of guy.” Mr. Trump made no mention at the rally of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, who disappeared this month after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. United States intelligence officials say Mr. Khashoggi was most likely killed by Saudi officials. Backlash against the president over his attacks on the news media and over his administration’s mild response to allegations that the Saudi government orchestrated the killing has been swift. The Guardian U.S., which employs the reporter whom Mr. Gianforte body-slammed, issued a statement on Thursday night after Mr. Trump finished speaking. “To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it,” said John Mulholland, the editor of The Guardian U.S. “In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats.”

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Wall Street Journal - October 19, 2018

Amazon revisits some cities as HQ2 decision looms

Amazon executives have made a fresh round of visits to several of the 20 finalists for its $5 billion second-headquarters project, fueling added anticipation as it nears a decision in a process that has stretched over more than a year.

The visits over the past couple of months include New York City, Newark, N.J., and Chicago, according to people familiar with the matter. In addition, Amazon has been following up with other locations, including Miami and the Washington, D.C.-area, according to some of the people. Some cities, like Raleigh, N.C., haven’t heard from the retail giant in months, according to people familiar with the matter. The discussions, which follow an initial round of visits early this year, have added to the already intense speculation regarding which way the technology giant is leaning. While Amazon appears to be narrowing its list of 20 finalists, it is still unclear which cities may be in the lead, and what exactly the additional visits indicate about specific cities’ chances. Still, the visits have shed some additional light on the process. Amazon, for instance, appears to be favoring an urban site, say people familiar with the matter, which could be a problem for some sites in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md. Those two suburbs of Washington, D.C., along with the district itself, have long been speculated to be front-runners, in part because Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has a home there and owns the Washington Post. People close to the process caution that Amazon is still in negotiations with several cities and hasn’t yet completed a deal with any one location. They said the company may negotiate near-final deals with several of them before announcing its ultimate selection, something that could help avoid signaling its choice prematurely. The HQ2 search has broken the mold for economic development in a way that experts say could have lasting impact on how companies invest in new sites—much like Amazon in its business has disrupted everything from the way consumers shop to the way companies compute and store their data. The shortlist of 20 locations includes large, established cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities like Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis that have recently experienced an economic revival. The stakes for these smaller cities in winning HQ2 are especially high, promising drastic change by drawing in more highly-skilled workers, attracting other businesses and boosting real-estate prices, according to economic development experts. After more than a year, officials “are all sitting by their phone waiting,” said Jeff Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council, an organization that represents economic development officials across the country. Amazon is considering dozens of metrics and factors in its decision, including available tech talent and educational resources, cost of living, and public transportation. After it announced its shortlist, Amazon conducted whirlwind, two-day site visits to all 20 cities, and asked a host of follow-up questions. They also requested reams of data as detailed as local high school test scores, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

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Wall Street Journal - October 19, 2018

NYSE, Nasdaq take it on the chin in Washington

The country’s biggest stock exchanges are on a losing streak in Washington. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision this week to block the exchanges from raising fees on some data products is the latest example. The three main exchange operators also are fighting to kill off a two-year SEC initiative to test lower trading fees.

Separately, the SEC has rebuffed their requests to delay and pare back a surveillance database that exchanges are nearly a year late in delivering. The exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Inc., were once powerful interests in Washington. And for decades the SEC deferred to the exchanges and didn’t dictate the plumbing of markets. That started to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a mix of new regulations and technology-driven competitors challenged the slower NYSE, leading to more competitive trading and erosion of NYSE’s power and market share. “Generally speaking, the SEC would always try to adopt a light touch, and guide and provide expertise,” Ken Durr, a historian who has studied the SEC, said of the agency’s earlier approach. Now the tide appears to have turned, with the SEC taking a more forceful stance on key aspects of the exchange business. In the recent clash over market data, the exchanges claim the SEC has taken sides in a debate that pits them against the biggest banks and savviest traders. “The SEC is proactively picking commercial winners and losers,” said Tom Farley, a former NYSE president. “The exchanges seem to be losing out to the big institutions every time.” Despite their storied history, the exchanges have a smaller presence in Washington than Wall Street’s big banks. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which sued to overturn the exchanges’ market-data fee increases, spent over $8 million on lobbying in 2017, according to Senate records.

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Weekly Standard - October 18, 2018

One of Elizabeth Warren's Harvard Law students explains why her Native-American gambit matters

Whoever advised Senator Warren that releasing her DNA results would put to rest the controversy over her claimed Native American ancestry should be fired. Rather than settle the matter once and for all, the results have raised more questions about the presumptive presidential candidate’s integrity with respect to matters of race and ethnicity.

Not to be deterred, Warren claims that the test results provide “strong evidence” of her Native American heritage. I have no doubt that Warren’s mother told her earnestly that there was a Native American ancestor in her family tree. We all have heard family stories passed down through the generations that may be apocryphal or exaggerated. It is human nature to believe the tales told us by trusted and beloved relatives and to weave them into the fabric of our personal stories. That Warren did so is not a moral failing. But such tales belong in the realm of family lore, not in the realm of racial preferences. The reason we are talking about Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry today—more than six years after the story originally broke—is because she used this family story to boost her chances of obtaining teaching jobs at a time when elite law schools were desperate to hire racial and ethnic minorities. Harvard Law School was no exception. In the early 1990s, HLS was a hotbed of left-wing agitation. I was there and remember well the explosive protests and sit-ins that erupted over a lack of diversity on the faculty. In April 1992, scores of protestors demonstrated outside Dean Robert Clark’s office, some of them wearing masks of Clark’s face. Nine students (my closest friend, among them) refused to leave the Dean’s office for over 25 hours. Their specific demand? That the administration hire a faculty member who was a “woman of color.” It was against this backdrop of race and gender activism that Elizabeth Warren arrived in Cambridge. Then a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, she came to Harvard as a visiting professor (that is, on a trial basis). During this time, Warren categorized herself as Native American and was deemed a minority in a professional directory used by law schools for recruiting purposes. Warren says she classified herself this way to meet other Native Americans. That may be true; it must also have had the effect of catching the attention of hiring committees at prestigious law schools. Once at Harvard, Warren quickly developed a reputation as an engaging and committed teacher. Students of all political stripes flocked to her classes. I was one of them. She was, I can attest, an excellent professor.

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ProPublica and Philadelphia Inquirer - October 18, 2018

Even in Philadelphia, one of the most determined sanctuary cities, refuge is elusive

The city has wielded policy to fight back against Trump and ICE, but in the background, some public employees have quietly cooperated with immigration enforcement agents.

Philadelphia had emerged as one of the largest thorns in the Trump administration’s side. It wore its sanctuary reputation like a badge of honor, and its leaders, including Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner, continued to find creative ways to outmaneuver ICE’s enforcement efforts. Kenney saw his administration’s role in a more noble light. By wielding policy to fight back against Trump and ICE, the city’s leaders believed they were sending an important message: Immigrants could trust the city and feel comfortable reporting crimes. Philadelphia’s violent crime rate has fallen by more than 17 percent, to levels not seen in decades, since it became a sanctuary city in 2014. “Trump and Sessions and those folks rule by division and fear, by putting out intentionally wrong views of who people are and what they are, and what they aspire to be,” Kenney said in an interview. Trump “wants to use Philadelphia to play to the heartland of people who are scared of anyone that’s a different color than them.” This is the immigration debate most people are familiar with, writ large: each side seeing itself as good, the other as bad, and neither willing to move beyond the lines drawn without worrying that it will appear, to their supporters, like a surrender. But the reality of life in a sanctuary city like Philadelphia is far more complex. The city’s police union, like many across the country, heartily endorsed Trump in the 2016 election, but many commanders and rank-and-file officers are committed to winning the trust of immigrant communities by not asking about people’s immigration status or contacting ICE to share data. And Krasner, elected on a reformer’s platform, has prosecutors regularly adjusting plea deals to help immigrant defendants avoid deportation. But ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer found that the city’s resistance to ICE’s agenda comes with some surprising caveats: On two dozen occasions, police, probation officers and even one of Kenney’s top deputies have quietly provided tips to ICE about undocumented immigrants who were charged with crimes. Other forms of information-sharing still continue, which shows that even the most extreme of sanctuary cities eventually bend to comply with a federal law that says local governments cannot restrict sharing immigration status with ICE.

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Pacific Standard - October 17, 2018

A politics requiring Taylor Swift is not healthy or durable

For a long time, Taylor Swift's biggest political failure was silence. After Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election, speculation ran hot around the question of whom Taylor Swift had voted for.

There was no indication of what Swift's voting itself had looked like. When the now-infamous 2016 data came back showing that 53 percent of white women voters had gone for Trump, Swift became a scapegoat in some corners. People of color, specifically women, were justifiably angry at these numbers, feeling once again let down by the political actions of white women, while various progressive white women expressed frustration at how their peers were holding back progress. Swift, at the center of this debate by virtue of her success and iconography, kept silent, which only fueled further speculation about her possible complicity. Finally, last week, after 12 years of politically coy pop stardom, Swift once again took to Instagram to clear the air. She acknowledged that she'd long been silent on politics but said that she could no longer sit idly by. Further, she endorsed two Tennessee Democrats, Phil Bredesen for United States Senate and incumbent Congressman Jim Cooper. She also wrote: "I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent." Swift's political debut was surprising, since for a long time she'd seemed more interested in protecting her commercial prospects than in standing up for basic humanitarian principles. But I'm still unsure about the role that extremely famous musicians play, or should play, in national politics. While I don't look to musicians for political insights, I'll admit that when a musician keeps mum, it seems odd, almost suspicious. Whenever I hear or see a version of the line that "I don't talk politics," I become instantly skeptical about how that speaker moves through the world: Who are they afraid of offending, and why? I also inform my listening choices based off of political actions. Not listening to abusers is political. Not listening to Ted Nugent, who spouts about his racist views on television, is also political.

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CNBC - October 18, 2018

Dow falls more than 300 points as the market's October struggles persist

Thursday's declines add to the market's steep losses for the month. The Dow and S&P 500 have fallen more than 4 percent each, while the Nasdaq is down nearly 7 percent in October. Among the reasons for selling on Thursday, according to investors, were worries about the U.S.-China trade war, rising interest rates and lingering worries about possible overvalued U.S. tech stocks.

Thursday's declines added to the market's steep losses for the month. The Dow and S&P 500 have fallen more than 4 percent each, while the Nasdaq is down nearly 7 percent in October. Tech, the largest S&P 500 sector by market cap, is among the laggards this month, dropping 7.1 percent. Among the reasons for selling on Thursday, according to investors, were worries about the U.S.-China trade war, rising interest rates and lingering worries about possible overvalued U.S. tech stocks. Stocks also fell as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulled out of a Saudi Arabia investment conference as traders worried a large global investor in the kingdom is coming under greater scrutinee. Several stocks seen as economic bellwethers fell sharply in the U.S., including United Rentals and Textron, which dropped at least 11 percent each. Snap-on and Caterpillar, meanwhile, fell 9.6 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. Large-cap tech shares like Facebook and Amazon both fell more than 2.5 percent, along with Alphabet and Netflix. The Shanghai Composite dropped 2.9 percent and hit its lowest level since November 2014. "Mr. Market is speaking loud and clear on China. The country is losing and needs to cry uncle," Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout, said in a note to clients. "Chinese stocks are now at a four year low as rising U.S. interest rates and the likelihood of less favorable trade deals is going to adversely impact Chinese companies profits next year and its market price is re-setting lower to reflect that," Raich said.

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Reuters - October 18, 2018

Trump warns Mexico on migrant caravan, threatens to close border

President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the military and close the southern U.S. border on Thursday if Mexico did not move to halt large groups of migrants headed for the United States from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught - and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!” Trump wrote on Twitter. Trump threatened to withhold aid to the region as a caravan with several thousand Honduran migrants traveled this week through Guatemala to Mexico in hopes of crossing into the United States to escape violence and poverty in Central America. Trump’s threat came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepared to travel later in the day to Panama and then Mexico City, where he was to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday. Mexico’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a string of tweets on Thursday, Trump also said the issue was more important to him than the new trade deal with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement pact. “The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA. Hopefully Mexico will stop this onslaught at their Northern Border,” Trump wrote. He was referring to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is awaiting ratification. More Honduran migrants tried to join a caravan of several thousand trekking through Guatemala on Wednesday, defying calls by authorities not to make the journey. The caravan has been growing steadily since it left the violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Saturday.

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Governing - October 17, 2018

Georgia's Brian Kemp is not the only Secretary of State accused of abusing elections power

Civil rights groups argue that Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running for governor, is doing just that. Kemp, who oversees the state's election process, faces legal accusations of voter suppression –– particularly among minorities –– as he battles Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the nation's first black woman to be governor.

Kemp denies any wrongdoing, but the controversy echoes questions raised about whether secretaries of state who oversee elections have irreconcilable conflicts as candidates. "It is a problem that we have partisan-elected secretaries of state as the chief election officers," says Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine. "It creates an inevitable conflict of interest when the person's allegiance is partly to their own political party. But the problem is of a different magnitude when the elected official is supervising an election where the secretary himself or herself is on the ballot." Kemp is one of several secretaries of state who have come under fire recently for allegedly abusing their power. After complaints, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, now the GOP nominee for governor, recused himself from the recount for his own primary race in August. His rival, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, accused Kobach of giving improper counting instructions to county election officials. In Kentucky, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, is under investigation by an independent counsel amid accusations that she misused voter data. The executive director of the state board of elections accused Grimes of improperly accessing voter information and using it to check the partisan affiliations of job applicants. Grimes denies the allegations. (Last month, her father, a former state Democratic Party chair, pleaded not guilty to charges that he made illegal campaign contributions.) Meanwhile, Arizona GOP Secretary of State Michele Reagan is being sued for allegedly failing to update voter registration information as required under the federal motor-voter law, potentially disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters. Last week, journalist Greg Palast published allegations that Indiana's secretary of state's office has illegally removed at least 20,000 voters from the rolls using a method that was blocked in June by a federal judge. The cases are all different, but the possibility that secretaries of state might be putting their thumbs down on the scale for partisan advantage encourages suspicions about their ability to be fair and impartial. "There is a fundamental conflict of interest for an official to administer an election at the same time that he is running for office," says David Kimball, a voting expert at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "The tension around this conflict is raised because issues around election laws and voting rights have become more divided and partisan."

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NPR - October 18, 2018

Deep in the desert, a case pits immigration crackdown against religious freedom

In January, Border Patrol agents walked up to a ramshackle old building on the outskirts of a small town in Arizona's Sonoran Desert. They found three men. Two were Central Americans who had crossed the border illegally. The third was an American — a university lecturer and humanitarian activist named Scott Warren.

Warren was arrested and ultimately charged with two federal criminal counts of harboring illegal migrants and one count of conspiracy to harbor and transport them. Warren has pleaded not guilty. Warren's arrest briefly made headlines amid the partisan tug of war over the administration's immigration policy before fading into the background. But his legal team's decision to stake out part of his defense on religious liberty grounds has made the case a clash between two of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' top priorities: cracking down on illegal immigration and defending religious liberty. One aspect of Warren's defense is based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, also known as RFRA. At root, Warren is saying that his faith compels him to offer assistance to people in dire need, including immigrants. Congress passed RFRA in 1993 with an eye toward protecting the exercise of religious beliefs, particularly of religious minorities, by providing narrow exceptions to neutral laws that apply to everyone. The law would allow, for example, a religious group to use an otherwise illegal drug, such as peyote, in religious observances. In recent years, Christian evangelical groups have used the law to advance their causes. In one prominent case, Hobby Lobby, a for-profit chain of arts and crafts stores, opposed — on religious grounds — providing its employees with health insurance that includes contraceptive services, as required under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby's favor. As attorney general, Sessions has taken up the banner of religious liberty for the Trump administration. Last year, Sessions issued a memo with guidance on protections for religious liberty in federal law. And he called religious liberty America's "first freedom" in a July speech and vowed to aggressively protect it. He also announced the creation of a task force to help the Justice Department accomplish that goal. But some critics say the Justice Department is failing to do just that. Instead, they say the DOJ is selectively supporting religious liberty. "There's a public face of this government, which is very protective of religious liberty, and then the real work they're doing is only protecting the religious liberty rights of those who are religious conservatives, not of religious progressives," said Katherine Franke, director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School. Franke was one of several law professors who filed a friend of the court brief in Warren's case to help explain the statute.

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The Atlantic - October 18, 2018

Caruso: Trump won't force me out of the Republican Party.

Now, nearly a quarter century later, after a lot of ups and downs, good candidates and bad, I’m not going to let Donald Trump force me out of the Republican Party. The GOP was never perfect. It never will be perfect.

But not too long ago we had in Mitt Romney a party leader of great character. Like many other Republicans, I thought he had a good shot at winning in 2012. Then Romney’s campaign allowed the Democrats to define an obviously honorable man as a bloodsucking oligarch who was once a high-school bully, caused a woman to get cancer, and tortured dogs like some twisted version of Clark Griswold. After Romney’s loss and before Trump’s win, the GOP didn’t change much, but the base of the party did. Republican voters became increasingly hostile to the “establishment,” which they perceived as having capitulated to President Barack Obama. I often heard it said that the “establishment” didn’t fight, that they gave Obama “everything he wanted” in budget deals. I have no love for Trump. As someone who grew up in Queens and lived in the New York City area throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I was well aware of his schtick long before he hit the national political stage. I was disgusted that he made his bones resurrecting the absurd Obama birther conspiracy. In 2014, long before anyone had heard of the Never Trump movement, I wrote a blog post imploring conservatives to stop playing footsie with Trump and tell him to get lost. In December of 2015, while writing for RedState, I listed five reasons why I wouldn’t vote for Trump if he was the GOP nominee. Like many others, I thought Trump wouldn’t make it past the primaries, but I was wrong, and I kept my word. After Trump’s inauguration, I didn’t become a blind Trump partisan, defending him at every turn, nor did I become a blind Trump critic, opposing him at every turn. I supported the GOP health-care plan. I supported the GOP tax-cut package. I supported moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But I’ve criticized Trump’s attacks on the press, on the Justice Department, on the FBI, and on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Whatever good comes from specific policies, Trump has inflicted wounds on the GOP that will take a long time to heal. His horrific trade policies, his general ignorance of world affairs, particularly his embrace of strongmen and dictators at the expense of our true allies, and his overall temperament and demeanor have left the GOP in a bad place. But I am not about to abandon the party as a result, let alone vote for Democrats in Congress, as some conservatives have pledged to do in the near term. George Will, Max Boot, Tom Nichols, and others have said they will back Democrats as a necessary step in saving our democracy from Trump.

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Politico - October 18, 2018

How Republicans could (barely) hang on to the House

Just about every poll predicts it won’t happen: Suburban voters are too fed up with Donald Trump, and Democrats too awash in cash, for Nancy Pelosi’s party not to seize the House on Nov. 6. And yet House Republicans — and privately, even a few Democrats — say the GOP could still hang on, if only by a few seats.

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has given GOP voters a badly-needed enthusiasm boost, they argue, and several races seen as unwinnable just weeks ago are suddenly back within reach for Republicans. Democrats, meanwhile, have retreated from several battlegrounds once considered prime targets. They’ve also deserted a Democratic-controlled open seat in Minnesota, creating a new, rare pick-up opportunity for Republicans in a cycle where they’ve consistently been on defense. “The environment has significantly improved over the past few weeks,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the GOP super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund. “For the first time in months, we have the wind at our backs instead of in our face. Now it is incumbent upon Republicans to keep that up.” There’s also the still-fresh memory of Election Night two years ago. Even Trump, by some accounts, expected to lose, and all the political experts who predicted a Hillary Clinton romp were left red-faced. “Let’s not forget the same geniuses that predicted a huge romp by that woman who lost in 2016 are the same people predicting a huge win by the Democrats this time,” Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News last week. “So we have to be a little bit cautious.” Nevertheless, it’s indisputable Republicans are in a serious jam: Democrats have infinitely more paths to win the chamber than Republicans do of holding it. Even Republicans admit that Democrats have already closed out about 15 races, well over halfway to the 23 seats they need to win the majority. Democrats are competing in more than 75 districts currently represented by Republicans, giving them ample room to secure the final dozen seats needed to take the majority. At the same time, Republicans say there’s no question that their lot has improved the past few weeks. Their internal polls show the president’s approval ratings have increased by an average of 5 points in a handful of swing districts, giving Republicans who were underwater a fighting chance.

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Newsclips - October 18, 2018

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2018

Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke explains his more aggressive approach in debate

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke said he was determined to be more aggressive in his second debate with Sen. Ted Cruz to counter what he said was a barrage of dishonest attacks.

“I became convinced after that first debate that I had to draw a very clear and clean and precise distinction,” O’Rourke said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News editorial board, his first interview after Tuesday night’s debate. Early in the debate, O’Rourke challenged Cruz’s veracity. “He’s dishonest,” O’Rourke said in response to Cruz’s charge that O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, favors a $10 a barrel tax on oil. “That’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted. And that’s why the nickname stuck. Because it’s true.” In the interview on Wednesday morning in San Antonio, O’Rourke listed off a series of attacks he said are false, including that he wants open borders, wants to legalize heroin and that he called the police the new Jim Crow. For much of the campaign, O’Rourke said he’s tried to brush off the attacks, but he said there is a chance that those claims could stick if he is not more forceful in pushing back. Cruz acknowledged the more aggressive O’Rourke during the debate. “Well it’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz said during one exchange. “So if he wants to insult me and call me a liar, that’s fine." O’Rourke on Wednesday morning said his approach wasn’t dictated by polls. Asked about the accuracy of the public polls, O’Rourke said simply: “I don’t know.”

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Wall Street Journal - October 17, 2018

Trump says he wants answers on missing journalist but emphasizes Saudis’ importance

President Trump said he wanted answers in the disappearance and suspected murder of a dissident Saudi journalist but stressed the importance of protecting business and security ties with Saudi Arabia, as Washington tried to navigate a dispute pitting the kingdom against another regional power, Turkey.

Mr. Trump said he would receive a “full report” over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once he returned Wednesday night from his trip to Riyadh and Ankara, where he heard conflicting reports from Saudi and Turkish leaders. “I want to find out what happened, where is the fault,” Mr. Trump said. He pushed back on suggestions his administration was seeking to give cover to Saudi Arabia, while praising the country as an “important ally” and “tremendous purchaser” of military equipment from the U.S. Mr. Trump also resisted the suggestion that he order the FBI to investigate Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, telling reporters of the missing journalist: “He wasn’t a citizen of this country.” Washington has emerged as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are conducting separate probes into Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance. Turkish officials haven’t disclosed the results of a search on Wednesday of the Saudi consulate general’s residence in Istanbul and have said little about their nine-hour inspection of the consulate earlier this week. Mr. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. After visiting Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Pompeo emphasized there are “lots of important relationships” among the U.S. and Saudi governments and businesses, particularly on countering Iran’s influence in the Middle East. The Trump administration plans to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran next month, a stance that has put it at odds with its European allies and Turkey. “We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that as we approach decisions that the United States government will take when we learn all of the facts associated with whatever may have taken place,” he said. Mr. Trump also questioned the existence of what Turkish officials said is an audio recording showing that Mr. Khashoggi was beaten, drugged and killed by Saudi agents. He said the U.S. had asked for the recording “if it exists.” He added: “I am not sure yet that it exists—probably does, possibly does.”

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Wall Street Journal - October 17, 2018

Democrats, flush with cash, spare no expense on key races

The 39 Democrats in House and Senate races rated tossups by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report as of Tuesday night had a collective $89 million in available cash as of Sept. 30, compared with the Republican candidates’ $61 million, a Wall Street Journal review of Federal Election Commission reports filed Monday found.

“Campaigns are very expensive, so it’s hard to spend too much money,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who worked on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid. “There are ways to do massive communications programs, intense voter persuasion and get-out-the-vote operations –– it all adds up.” Republican strategists acknowledge that Democrats are raising record sums this election cycle but say their candidates have plenty of money to compete. And in the tossup House races, the Republicans are often incumbents who are better known, requiring less cash to raise name recognition. In many races, well-funded outside groups are helping to close the money gap. “The GOP is certainly facing this great wave of Democratic fundraising, and that’s why we as an outside group went in early with advertising, to blunt that advantage,” said Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan. An Oct. 9 memo from CLF executive director Corry Bliss to the group’s donors noted, “the GOP is now facing a green wave, not a blue wave.” The Democrats’ challenge is also one of geography, as some of the best-funded races are being fought out on Republican-leaning turf in Texas, Kentucky and elsewhere.

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Rolling Stone - October 17, 2018

Julián Castro gives his clearest signal yet he’s running in 2020

For months, the 44-year-old Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development has been hopscotching between Nevada, Florida, Arizona and other battleground states to campaign for Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterms. He dutifully trekked to the Iowa State Fair in August for a turn on the famous political soapbox.

Somewhere in all of this Castro is promoting a new book, An Unlikely Journey: Waking up from My American Dream, the sort of get-to-know-me memoir widely seen as a prerequisite for a presidential run. Castro spoke with Rolling Stone for an hour and a half about his life story so far, why Latino voters aren’t fired up to vote in 2018 and why the Democratic Party must change to survive. On the subject of his presidential aspirations, he gave the clearest indication yet about his plans for 2020. “I’m likely to do it,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I’ll make a final decision after November, but I’m inclined to do it.” The book title, he said, "represented the optimism of the times when we had a president that had a strong vision for making sure everybody had opportunity. There was an optimism and a can-do attitude that’s very different from today." But today, "for a lot of folks, when Donald Trump says that he wants to make our country something again, that ain’t a good thing. The story of a lot of vulnerable communities through the years has been there was more and more opportunity going forward. We don’t want to go backward, and that’s what it seems like we’re doing now," he said.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2018

Feds sign a new contract for Dilley immigrant detention center that’s a boon for the small town

The city of Dilley has signed a deal with the federal government that will provide the city more than $600,000 a year to keep open the largest family immigrant detention center in the country.

In September, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement signed contracts with the small town south of San Antonio and Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic to keep operating the 2,400-bed South Texas Family Residential Center, which holds women and children. ICE will pay Dilley, which has a population of about 4,000, roughly $13 million a month for the cost of detaining immigrants at the facility, according to the contracts which were first obtained by the Associated Press. Dilley will then send almost all of that money to CoreCivic, minus administrative fees that add up to an estimated $438,000 a year. Dilley already collects annual revenue-sharing payments from CoreCivic, with $200,000 due in December. CoreCivic will continue operating a facility that generated $171 million in revenue last year, according to the Associated Press reports. The Dilley City Council met in closed session in mid-September to discuss the two contracts. Interim city manager David Jordan said Wednesday that the potential arrangement was included in the agenda posted publicly before the meeting, and it was announced during the open portion of the meeting as it was approved by the council. Jordan signed the contracts the day after the meeting. “There was nothing secret about the contract,” Jordan said. ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said Tuesday that the agency created the agreement with Dilley in response to the inspector general’s concerns about ICE’s previous arrangement with the city of Eloy, Arizona. The new agreement with Dilley took effect Sept. 26. A government report in February by the internal watchdog of ICE’s parent agency, the Homeland Security Department, knocked ICE’s previous contract, signed in 2014, because it “created an unnecessary ‘middleman’” by having the contract pass through the coffers of Eloy.

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Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2018

Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick to speak at Trump rally in Houston

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick confirmed they will be among the speakers when President Donald Trump comes to Houston next week to rally Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.

"When I invited President Trump to visit Texas in July, I said that keeping Texas red - from the top of the ballot to the bottom - is critical," Patrick said in a statement to the media late Wednesday in confirming he would be one of the speakers at the event. Trump is set to speak at 6:30 p.m. at NRG Arena in Houston in part to help U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in his re-election battle against Democrat Beto O'Rourke. Patrick's role is little surprise given he was Trump's Texas chairman in 2016 and was reported to have flown to Washington, D.C. earlier this summer to personally ask the White House to help campaign for Cruz and other Republicans in Texas. Earlier on Wednesday Abbott too confirmed he would be a speaker at the rally. Over the last four weeks, Vice President Mike Pence, the president's son Donald Trump Jr., and his daughter Ivanka Trump have all been in Texas for events with Cruz. Cruz has said he welcomes Trump coming to Texas to help him even though the two had an often rough primary battle in 2016 for the Republican nomination for president. Cruz said after that election he met with Trump and vowed to help him get his agenda through the U.S. Senate. Trump is campaigning for a number of Senate candidates over the next week. He has other rallies planned for Montana, Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin, in addition to the Houston stop. Members of the public wanting to attend the rally must register on the Trump campaign website.

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Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2018

Smugglers may be taking advantage of Trump’s policies as immigrant families again surge across border

More than four in 10 immigrants detained at the U.S.-Mexico border were traveling in families or as unaccompanied minors in the fiscal year that just ended, and the number of such families arriving in the U.S. broke a monthly record in September.

Some analysts say the spike may be happening because smugglers are exploiting the on-again, off-again family separation immigration policy implemented by President Donald Trump, even as his administration reportedly considers reviving the controversial practice of splitting children from their parents. Adam Isacson, a security analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America, said worries about the crackdown by the Trump administration kept apprehensions lower in 2017. “That has clearly worn off,” Isacson said. “The smugglers' sales pitches have something to do with this,” he said. “If you are determined to get out of Central America, we are in a period between a horrible crackdown and another crackdown.” The latest wave of family immigration is putting a strain on federal authorities, who have been unprepared for the shift in the type of immigrants moving north. Where border crossings were once dominated by adults from Mexico seeking work, the bulk of immigrants crossing the border over the last 12 months were from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where violence and poverty remain at high levels. About 16,658 family members were apprehended in September — about 300 persons more than in the previous record month in 2014, according to statistics not yet officially released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection but reported by The Washington Post and other media. For the fiscal year ended Sept, 30, there were nearly 400,000 immigration apprehensions. More than 157,000 were immigrants traveling in families or as unaccompanied minors. That's about 40 percent. By comparison, in fiscal year 2013, about 1 out of 8 migrants were in families or traveling as unaccompanied minors.

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Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2018

UIL to consider policy change that would allow girls to compete against boys — paving way for more inclusion of transgender athletes

The UIL rule change Mack Beggs wanted might finally be coming to Texas. For years as a Euless Trinity wrestler, Beggs, a transgender athlete transitioning to male, wanted to compete against boys, but UIL rules forbid him to.

A proposed rule change could adjust that for future Texas high school athletes if the UIL Legislative Council passes it during the group's bi-annual meeting Sunday and Monday in Pflugerville. Beggs, now 19 and a freshman at Life University in Marietta, Ga., couldn't act on his desire to join boys' wrestling. UIL rules dictate that a student-athlete must compete based on the gender on his or her birth certificate if a school offers corresponding boys' and girls' options for a sport. The potential amendment to the Section 360 non-discrimination policy states: "Girls may try out for, and if selected, participate on any boys' team regardless of the fact that there may be a girls' team in the same sport." The UIL already allows girls to try out for boys teams if there's not a corresponding alternative - such as football - or enough participation to field girls' soccer or basketball squads. While transgender athlete advocates say the amendment doesn't represent a comprehensive fix to Texas' inclusion rules, any female, or transgender boy who has female on his birth certificate, would be granted the choice Beggs didn't have. The proposal explains that a girl who joins a boys team or competes individually against males would be electing to do so for the entirety of the school year in that sport. The person wouldn't be eligible to play on a girls team or individually against girls in a corresponding sport during that season. A line in the proposal also addresses wrestling –– "girls may try out for and, if they are selected, wrestle on a boys' wrestling team and wrestle boys" –– in language that would have satisfied Beggs' goal. If adopted, the change would take effect on Aug. 1, 2019.

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Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2018

Many Texas Latinos are cynical about politics and don’t trust politicians, new study shows

A record 29.1 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2018 midterms across the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. In Texas, about 5.4 million could vote and swing certain elections in favor of some candidates.

But will they? That’s the question many politicians, activists and Latino advocacy groups have been asking for years now. A new survey conducted by Jolt Texas, a left-leaning voter mobilization group, found that it may be a combination of factors, including mistrust of the political process and not having enough information about elections, that contributes to low Latino voter turnout in the state. Half of those polled said they feel cynical about politics and a third say they don’t trust politicians. Other responses highlighted a disconnect between respondents and civic participation: Almost 40 percent said they lacked confidence or trust in the political process; slightly more than 25 percent said they didn’t identify with candidates; and a third said they didn’t see voting as a civic duty. The study, titled We Are Texas, surveyed 1,016 Latinos during in-person interviews throughout the state, ranging from all age groups, likely voters and disinterested eligible voters. The survey was conducted from April 1 to May 16. University of Texas political science lecturer Victoria Defrancesco Soto said the presence of these attitudes did not surprise her but the rates of distrust are higher than she would like to see. “It’s kind of a sobering picture when you account for the high levels of cynicism,” Soto said. “We gotta turn that around with more personal approaches. We have to get people canvassing, but we also have to use these networks -- family, close friends, churches.”

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Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2018

Austin dominates state’s video game industry, new data show

Video gaming is everywhere in Austin. It’s at legacy video game companies with large operations here, startups trying to dig into the space, multimedia corporations and even in university classrooms. While Austin has long been recognized for this strong scene, new research shows just how tight Austin’s grip is on the state’s gaming industry.

Of the the more than 270 gaming companies operating in the state, 140 are in Austin, according to data compiled by Chicago-based investment firm JLL. JLL combined data from the International Game Developers Association and Entertainment Software Association, as well as internal research, to draw its conclusions. For Austin, a tech hub known for its strong startup culture and big brand companies, the report is a reminder that the city is also a leader in a industry that last year was valued at $108.4 billion by gaming market research firm SuperData Research. “Austin has been one of the largest sectors for technology, and one of (the leading industries) has been with games, starting back in the day with studios like Midway,” JLL executive Jake Ragusa said. “You’re seeing this grow because companies are looking for places to diversify, and Texas always checks every box.” Video gaming was once represented only through mainstream consoles or old arcade machines. But it’s much different now. These days, the industry thrives not only through games offered by Xbox or Playstation but also by applications on mobile devices and PC games, with professional players being featured on magazine covers, and big-money tournaments drawing thousands. In Austin, legacy firms such as Electronic Arts and Blizzard Entertainment have established operations here, while locally based gaming companies such as Virtuix and Phaser Lock Interactive continue to play a part. Events such as South by Southwest also help showcase the latest gaming technology.

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Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2018

Cleanup begins as Central Texas braces for more flooding

The Llano River rose to historic levels Tuesday, cresting 30 feet above flood stage after days of relentless rain, sending a mass of water downstream through the entire Highland Lakes system and creating additional flood risks across Central Texas as other rivers swelled.

“This is a historic flood,” Lower Colorado River Authority General Manager Phil Wilson told reporters at a news briefing Wednesday. “All of the Highland Lakes are closed and remain closed until further notice. ... We have flood operations underway at every dam along the Highland Lakes. This continues to be a very serious situation. ... People need to take every precaution to protect their safety.” When floodwaters receded in Llano, authorities found a woman’s body at a low water crossing at Sandstone and Flag Street. Officials said her family had been notified, but they did not release her identity or cause of death. Hers was the second body found after the Llano River topped its banks. A person was found dead Tuesday in Burnet County, on the banks of Lake LBJ in a neighborhood between Kingsland and Highland Haven. No other information was released about that victim, but Burnet County sheriff’s Capt. Chris Jett said authorities in Kimble County believe it could be the body of Charlotte Moye, who was missing after floodwaters rampaged last week in Junction, killing three other people. Moye’s dental records have been sent to the Travis County medical examiner for comparison, Jett said. “Hopefully we will be able to rule out if it is or isn’t that person soon,” he said. Residents of Llano, Marble Falls and Granite Shoals on Wednesday began assessing damage from Tuesday’s flood.

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The Eagle - October 18, 2018

Book wall at The George dedicated to former first lady Barbara Bush

What began as a focal point of a hotel lobby has become a sign of a legacy of literacy at The George. Neil Bush was on hand Wednesday to help dedicate the book wall art installation in College Station hotel to his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush.

"Thank you for the vision for putting this wall to such great use and for sustaining the memory of an amazing lady whose life was dedicated to service, but specifically to helping people realize their fullest potential through literacy," he said during the ceremony. Constructed out of 10,000 used books -- nonfiction, fiction and textbooks -- in the shape of the Texas flag, the wall has become the most photographed spot in Century Square. Among the titles are Texas A&M textbooks, a National Geographic Society collection of United States presidents and George W. Bush's book Decision Points. One of Barbara Bush's favorite authors, though, was Candice Millard, Neil Bush said. "She's got three books, and they're all just beautifully written historical books about Teddy Roosevelt and his experience going down the Lost River in the Amazon, so it was after he was president, and he almost died. It was a treacherous experience, but it was a beautiful description of the Amazon. And she writes about Churchill's experience in the Boer War in South Africa. She loved those books," Bush said. "My mom loved every book probably she touched. She liked trashy novels. She liked historical novels. She read just about everything." Bush said over the past four years, as his parents' health deteriorated, he read at least 14 books with them, from books on the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States to Bush family books. "Before my mom passed away, I read the Barbara Bush Memoirs to her, which was a fabulous book to read to a lady that was passing on to the next life, because she lived an amazing life and she wrote in her words," he said. Wednesday's dedication gives a deeper meaning to the wall of books, which Midway chairman Brad Freels said was missing before being renamed in memory of Barbara Bush.

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Abilene Reporter-News - October 16, 2018

Stan Lambert answers District 71 residency question, refuting claim he lives in Granbury

Lambert, a first-term Republican who faces Democrat Sam Hatton, was accused of living in Granbury, which is in District 60, east of Abilene, and represented by Republican Mike Lang. We'll cut to the chase. Lambert's district address is 1501 River Oaks Road, an Abilene residence purchased in 2017. That was confirmed by the Central Appraisal District of Taylor County.

Here is the full story, told us this week by Lambert. In 2013, a home was purchased in Granbury by Stan and Debbie Lambert so that the couple could be closer to her aging parents, who lived in nearby Glen Rose. Debbie Lambert had a place to stay on weekend visits to see her folks, whose health was failing. At the time, she was an educator in the Wylie ISD. Eventually, she retired to spend the majority of her time to take care of her parents. Lambert, who was employed by Coleman State Bank when he first sought the District 71 seat, lived and worked here. He won the Republican primary in the spring of 2016 and resigned his job in August 2016 to prepare for Austin, "assuming I'd win election" against Democrat Pierce LoPachin. He did. But he continued to live here. Yes, he went to Granbury on weekends, when his wife was not coming back to Abilene. With the loss of her parents, the Lamberts sold their Granbury property in December 2017, Lambert said. They have had three recent Abilene addresses, moving from Scott Place to Carrera Lane and then to River Oaks.

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ProPublica - October 16, 2018

Voter registration around Austin smashed records. That may be a problem.

Travis County, Texas — the home of Austin — has experienced a massive spike in voter registrations this cycle, which officials there attribute to the heightened interest in the state’s competitive Senate race. The county received around 35,000 registrations on the final day to submit them — that’s 10,000 more than on the same day in 2016.

While the increase in voter participation is good news, the recent surge is complicated by the fact that the registrations were submitted on paper. Texas is one of only 13 states not to have online voter registration. About a dozen county employees are now sifting through thousands of applications, verifying them and entering them into the state’s voter rolls by hand. Of the 35,000 registrations received on Oct. 9, 25,000 have yet to be processed. Early voting starts Monday. County officials recognize that the haste required to process that many applications is likely to lead at least some voters to experience problems at the polls. “We’re humans entering information that was filled out by humans,” said Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s tax assessor and voter registrant, the official responsible for overseeing the county's voter registration systems. County employees are now working overtime to process the registrations before early voting starts. It’s a herculean task — these employees must correctly read names off of often inscrutable, handwritten cards, performing necessary checks for eligibility along the way. “We’ve got to get it done by Sunday. If for some reason we don’t, everyone who is not in yet can cast a provisional ballot and that will give us some time,” he said. Elfant said some voters are likely to experience problems, many of which will be mitigated if voters bring with them the “receipt” that they received if they registered in person with a deputy registrar.

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Rivard Report - October 16, 2018

Community service drives Lujan, Pacheco in House District 118 race

Republican John Lujan, who once served less than a year as representative for Texas House District 118, is leading a grassroots campaign, hoping to win back that seat in the Nov. 6 election. His opponent, Democrat Leo Pacheco, is leading his first campaign for public office and running as if he were far behind Lujan in the race. “I’m treating it like I was running against an incumbent,” Pacheco said.

The Democratic-leaning district covers much of the far South and Southeast sides, winds northward through Universal City, Schertz, Selma, and Live Oak, and back into far Northeast San Antonio. The race for House District 118 is not a big-money contest, with Lujan reporting $1,329 cash on hand in the most recent campaign finance report filed Oct. 8. Pacheco had slightly more, reporting $5,080 cash on hand. Both candidates are lifelong South Siders who together with their families have invested decades into community service. Pacheco’s father was a deacon at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, and the Democratic candidate has volunteered at St. Leo and coached with the Catholic Youth Organization sports program. Lujan’s mother was a principal at Gallardo Elementary School; his father, a minister, has returned to lead the congregation at Southside Baptist Church. Pacheco, 60, has spent nine years as a human resource specialist at Palo Alto College, and has been an adjunct professor at San Antonio College and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The first in his family to graduate from college, Pacheco possesses three college degrees after a brief stint driving a VIA Metropolitan Transit bus. These educational and professional journeys, and volunteering for Frank Tejeda’s legislative campaign, left an impression on Pacheco. “The bug hit me to get more involved in the community,” he said. Lujan, 56, spent six years with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office before pursuing a career with the San Antonio Fire Department that lasted 25 years. In 1999, he launched a second career when he joined his brother’s venture, Y&L Consulting, a local company that now has hundreds of consultants providing businesses nationwide with information technology solutions. “Public service has always meant much to my family,” Lujan said. Lujan first claimed the District 118 seat in an upset win in a January 2016 special election runoff, replacing Democrat Joe Farias, who resigned midway through his fifth term in office.

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The Guardian - October 17, 2018

Davidson: Don't bet on Beto O'Rourke to win Texas for the Democrats

National Democrats have long dreamed of recapturing Texas, and Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat Republican senator Ted Cruz has seemingly given them reason for hope. O’Rourke has raised record-breaking amounts of cash ($38m in his latest haul), drawn large crowds of supporters at rallies across the Lone Star state and been fawningly profiled in nearly every major publication in the country.

But there is a fatal flaw in the 46-year-old El Paso congressman’s strategy. O’Rourke is betting that increased voter turnout among Texas Democrats, rather than the persuasion of Republicans, will propel him to victory. Appealing to disgruntled Republicans and independents by tacking to the center on key issues – gun control, abortion, taxes – isn’t part of O’Rourke’s strategy, even if he pays lip service to the idea in his impassioned rhetoric and populist pose. To understand why this no-compromise, no-persuasion approach is likely to fail (O’Rourke is trailing in the latest polls), you have to understand how Texas became so Republican in the first place. Today Texas is known for being a GOP bastion, but it wasn’t always. Like much of the American south, Texas was firmly in the hands of the Democratic party from the end of reconstruction until the end of the 20th century. Yet things changed, and now the Texas Republican party dominates the state. Its growth was driven by a concerted, sustained effort to draw out the ideological differences between the two major parties and convince conservative Democrats that based on their values and policy preferences, they actually belonged in the GOP. Eventually, the strategy worked. George W Bush won the governorship in 1994, Republicans took control of the state senate two years later, and in 2002 they won the state house. Ever since, the Texas GOP has maintained control of both legislative chambers and nearly every statewide political office. How is all this relevant to the Cruz-O’Rourke race? Because if O’Rourke wants to become the first Democratic senator from Texas in 30 years, he’s going to have to do what Texas Republicans did in the 1970s and 80s: convince significant numbers in the opposing party to cast a ballot for him. O’Rourke’s big problem is that during a time of deep partisan divisions in America, he’s not making the slightest effort to persuade Texas Republicans to vote for a Democrat. Instead, he’s simply betting that demographics and voter turnout will carry him to victory.

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El Paso Times - October 17, 2018

Facing push-back, Rep. Fallon apologizes for LGBTQ joke about El Paso Rep. González

After receiving push-back from other lawmakers over comments he made about El Paso state Rep. Mary González's sexual orientation, Rep. Pat Fallon on Wednesday said, "I probably won't ever utter the word pansexual again."

The Republican, who is running for a Senate seat in North Texas, singled out González during a speech in Wichita Falls where he joked about different sexual orientations as part of a larger critique of the Democratic Party. "You can’t be gay anymore," said Fallon, who represents Prosper and Frisco. "It’s like the whole alphabet soup now — lesbian, transgender, bisexual, questioning. There’s something called pansexual." Fallon said then told the audience that a Democratic representative from the El Paso region is pansexual. "I don’t even know what that is," he said. "Suffice to say, secure your cookware." When González was elected in 2012, she became the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve in the Texas Legislature. She identifies as pansexual, meaning she is attracted to people regardless of their gender or sexual identity. González said Fallon called her on Wednesday and offered an apology for his remarks. "We had a conversation, we talked about it," she said. "I am more interested in moving forward and talking about the issues that impact our state. My personal life hasn't impacted my effectiveness, nor will it ever impact my effectiveness in the Legislature." While Fallon's comments drew laughter from members of the Wichita County Republican Women group who gathered for his speech on Monday, several lawmakers condemned his comments and asked that he apologize to González. "His patronizing mockery of a fierce LGBTQ Latina advocate like Mary González — someone I know he's treated as a friend in person — is really beyond the pale and part of the disgraceful turn politics has taken in recent years," said State Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat who represents El Paso and works closely with González. Reps. César Blanco, Donna Howard, Celia Israel and Poncho Nevárez, all Democrats, also criticized his remarks. "This is politics. We expect our colleagues to vociferously advocate for policy positions, inclusive of criticisms of their opponents’ positions," Howard wrote on Twitter. "But it crosses the line when the personal life of a member is ridiculed for cheap laughs." In an interview with the El Paso Times on Wednesday, Fallon said he regrets referencing González in connection with his remarks. "I just shouldn't have mentioned that there's a (representative) that uses this label at all, and just talk about the label," he said. "So that was completely something that I regret."

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San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2018

Beloved or reviled, Alamo Plaza’s urban habitat may not survive looming makeover

Cosmo DeFina is not accustomed to having his life analyzed by urban planners and connoisseurs of the American public space. “I sell T-shirts across from the Alamo,” said the bemused owner of Alamo Plaza Shirts, next to the Ripley’s and Guinness World Records storefronts. “I’m just a small potatoes guy from New Jersey.”

He’s proud that his high-ceilinged shop in the 1882 Crockett Building, open every day with some 500 shirts on display, has helped put his two kids through college and provided jobs for dozens of young locals. They often come back years later to thank him, their own children in tow. With a City Council vote set for today on major elements of a proposed restructuring of the plaza — street closures, a long term lease to the state of Texas and the repair and relocation of the 1936 Cenotaph monument — DeFina finds himself and his livelihood being dissected by architects, politicians and state-approved preservationists who either want him to go away or who awkwardly celebrate his slice of Americana as essential to the redesign. “Having storefronts opposite the Alamo was completely in the original plans of the presidio layout,” says urban planner and former University of Texas at San Antonio lecturer Gary Houston. “To suggest that ‘the village’ is now encroaching on the mission is a gross misunderstanding of the master plan.” The planned revitalization - some critics call it suburbanization - of the streets, sidewalks and shops converging on Alamo Street are part of a massive and controversial redesign that would triple the size of the plaza, control daytime access (perhaps through a single gate) and eliminate or distance the vendors, buskers and evangelists who populate it. “Just don’t call us tacky,” said DeFina, 59, who confesses to having never seen the 1960 John Wayne film, “The Alamo.” “We’ve always thought of ourselves as a family store. We don’t sell anything risqué. We’re not disrespectful to the Alamo. We’re just trying to make a living.” His business slows a bit in the fall, so in between the stray tourist from Des Moines or Sarasota he recently had time to think about what the plaza redesign’s supporters mean when they say the whole Alamo experience should be more “reverent.” “I think it is those extreme history folks who want the reverent atmosphere,” DeFina offered. “But, honestly, if they do that, I think they’ll lose the family crowd. And think of the school kids. You don’t want it to be all history class. We are like recess.” The makeover “could be beautiful,” he added, and blocking traffic to improve things for pedestrians might be good for business. But city officials have never asked for his opinion and “I just know that I am not in their plans,” DeFina said, with some resignation. “I’ve been hearing about these kinds of plans for 30 years, but this seems like it’s gonna happen.”

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Star-Telegram - October 16, 2018

A Fort Worth family made millions in shale gas. Now a court wants their ranch sold.

An enormous Davis Mountains ranch owned by a prominent Fort Worth oil and gas family has been ordered sold by a bankruptcy court. The KC7 Ranch near Balmorhea (about two hours southwest of Midland) features about 37,000 acres of tranquil land with managed wildlife. The sale also will include potentially lucrative mineral and water rights — amenities that are highly sought after in the Permian Basin shale oil play.

Icon Global Group, a Dallas commercial real estate firm that has become known for its ability to market Texas-size ranches, was appointed broker for the sale. The company announced it would immediately begin accepting offers for the land, with a deadline of Nov. 30 for prospective buyers to submit sealed bids. The bankruptcy case is being heard in Fort Worth federal court, under the supervision of Judge Mark X. Mullin. Water rights are extremely valuable in parched West Texas, not only for drinking water supplies, but to ensure that natural gas fracking companies have the liquids they need to force petroleum from the bowels of the Earth to the surface. “The inclusion of the previously unavailable but immensely valuable owned water rights in this property is a game changer and makes for an extremely unique and potentially revenue rich investment opportunity with predicted income streams potentially worth many multiples beyond any surface value acquisition price,” said Bernard Uechtritz, Icon Global Realty founder. “I have seen data which indicates up to 400,000 barrels a day of water production is possible. Current frac water rates in the area range from sixty cents to two dollars. Let’s say conservatively this water is delivered is at twenty cents. This could mean a payback as much as $70M a year for decades. I might be married into an Aggie family and only have a 10th grade education, but even I understand that kind of math, and these are big, big numbers,” Uechtritz said. The property also includes a nearly 10,000-square-foot stone lodge, which was remodeled in 2007. The ordered sale stems from the bankruptcy filings of KC 7 Ranch, Ltd. and related entities. The property has been for sale for years with a list price of $52 million, not including mineral and water rights. But now that water and mineral rights are included, there is no official asking price. The ranch is symbolic of the rise and fall of the Fort Worth area’s Barnett Shale natural gas play. Thomas “Toby” Darden, who along with other family members ran one of the Barnett Shale’s most lucrative companies, Quicksilver Resources, filed for bankruptcy protection for the ranch in December, and for other related companies in January.

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County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2018

Travis County judge criticized for shutting court in Kavanaugh protest

A Travis County judge has come under criticism from defense lawyers and at least one other elected county official after he closed his courtroom and refused to handle cases for one day to protest the Senate confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

County Court-at-Law No. 3 Judge John Lipscombe, who presides over misdemeanor cases, draped black funeral bunting over the double doors to his courtroom on Oct. 8, according to a photo posted on Twitter by KVUE-TV reporter Jenni Lee. The Democratic judge told Lee that the shutdown was in response to Kavanaugh’s turbulent ascension to the nation’s highest court amid sexual misconduct allegations from three women against him. After weeks of intense political debate over Kavanaugh’s fitness for the job, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate voted narrowly to confirm his nomination Oct. 6. By the next morning, defense lawyer Sidney Williams said Lipscombe had sent him a text message announcing he would be closing his court the following Monday to honor “survivors.” Williams, who up until earlier this month was the president of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, initially thought the judge was closing the court for breast cancer awareness. Williams said he alerted other lawyers to Lipscombe’s intentions in a message posted to an online mailing list Oct. 7. Williams informed his peers the judge would be working in his chambers and was available if they needed him. Lipscombe, who has been in his judicial role since 2011 and is running unopposed in November’s election, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. A member of his staff told the American-Statesman that the judge will be gone all week. Critics say the protest came at the expense of the 103 defendants whose cases were set for Lipscombe’s court that day. Defendants sometimes have to take off work or hire a baby sitter so they can attend court for a few hours. Others are in jail pending the resolution of their cases. All but two of the 137 cases set for Lipscombe’s court that day were rescheduled for a future date. Any defendants who wanted to plead guilty had the option of presenting their cases to one of the other six county Court-at-Law judges.

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City Stories

Rivard Report - October 17, 2018

Expanding current airport would fit needs of growing San Antonio, study suggests

A new airport is likely not in San Antonio's future. According to engineering and planning firm WSP-USA, which in August was commissioned to do a feasibility study on the San Antonio International Airport, the footprint of the current airport could serve the needs of the city and region for another 50 years.

However, in order to accomplish this, the airport would need to add new runways and other infrastructure by 2023. In a Tuesday meeting of the Airport Advisory Commission, a WSP consultant briefed commission members on a study that involved a series of public meetings and surveys and forecasted travel demand. According to forecasts within the study, airport passenger growth will increase 1.6 percent annually for the next 20 years, then 2.3 percent annually through 2068. Already, by 2023, the airport is expected to reach 80 percent capacity. In September, airport officials said passenger growth is the highest it has been in nearly 16 years. The airport hosted 881,896 passengers in August, 17 percent more than during the same month in 2017, putting it on course to hit or surpass a record 10 million passengers this year. The San Antonio Airport System launched the strategic development planning process in August to prepare for a growing population and increasing air travel. It is the first such master plan to be developed since 2010. Currently, the San Antonio airport sits on 2,600 acres and has two terminals, 24 gates, and 11 airlines providing service. To keep up with projected growth patterns, the airport would need to add another 11 gates by 2038, and 63 gates by 2068. Following Tuesday's briefing, commission members met in small groups to discuss the study's conclusions, with one member calling the findings a "relief." “It sounds good, to build a new, shiny thing, but it’s not that easy,” said John van Woensel, team project manager for WSP. “Building a new airport is an enormous undertaking, and the process starts with determining if you can fit it here. If it will, then the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] won’t support [a new one].”

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Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2018

'Dallas is no longer a pleasure': Botham Jean's family doesn't want to be here, but they do want justice

Trips to Dallas were once a joyous reunion for the Jean family. It meant spending time with their son, Botham Jean. Allison and Bertrum Jean now travel here from their home country of St. Lucia out of duty. They came to ensure justice for their son, who was killed in his own apartment.

Returning to Dallas this week, "just opened the wound even deeper" than when they flew in after Jean was killed Sept. 6. Dallas police officer Amber Guyger had just left work but was in uniform when, she said, she mistook his apartment in the Cedars for her own and thought he was a burglar. "I’m afraid Dallas is no longer a pleasure,” Allison Jean told The Dallas Morning News. “I have to do it. I will do it. It is not a place that I wanted to be.” After the searing shock of grief, the couple find themselves going through the motions of life: doing what must be done and finding no joy in it. They must figure out how to cope without their 26-year-old son, who planned to return to their island in the Caribbean one day and run for prime minister. After meeting Tuesday with Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, the couple drove through downtown Dallas, their path dotted with painful landmarks. They drove past Lamar Street — where their son lived. A quick turn south would have taken them to the apartment where Guyger shot him as he watched football in the dark. They have no desire to return to the South Side Flats, where their son lived on the fourth floor, directly above Guyger's home. His apartment still holds his belongings, most of which the family will donate. Their son, an accountant who wanted to right wrongs and help others, would have wanted that. The Jeans also worry about their grandsons growing up in the United States. They're 3, 10 and 15. Allison Jean was visiting them when Botham Jean was killed. Her husband was at their home in St. Lucia. "Persons are scared about sending their kids to the United States when they think of situations like Botham," said Allison Jean, a former government official in St. Lucia. "Botham tried his best to do everything right. He was not walking or running or driving. He was in his own apartment. Alone. And he gets killed there. I think it's a lesson for everyone."

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National Stories

Washington Post - October 17, 2018

Senior Treasury employee charged with leaking documents related to Russia probe

A senior Treasury Department employee was charged Wednesday with leaking to a reporter confidential government reports about the financial transactions of Trump associates and others under scrutiny in the special counsel’s probe of Russian election interference.

The charges reflect the latest move in the Trump administration’s effort to punish leakers within the government. Earlier this week, a former senior Senate staffer pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in a separate leak investigation. The Treasury case centers on a dozen stories published by BuzzFeed News that described suspicious activity reports, or SARs, which are generated by banks when a financial transaction may involve illegal activity. Prosecutors charged Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards with the unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity reports and conspiracy. The charges were filed in federal court in New York but she made her first court appearance in Northern Virginia. Edwards, 40, lives outside Richmond, Virginia and works as a senior adviser at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, often referred to as “FinCEN.” At a brief court appearance in Alexandria, she was released on $100,000 bond and instructed to appear next month in court in New York. She was also prohibited from speaking to anyone at FinCEN or accessing any FinCEN equipment. Her lawyer, Peter Greenspun, declined to comment.

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Washington Post - October 17, 2018

Growing number of Republicans sounding a lot like Democrats ahead of elections

Republicans around the country have begun campaigning on safeguarding insurance protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, a pillar of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — even though the GOP spent years trying to repeal the law.

In Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere, conservative GOP incumbent governors known for clashing with teachers are now campaigning on pledges to boost teacher pay or spending on students. And after the bitter fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, a handful of Republicans are trying to turn the #MeToo movement against Democrats, advancing accusations of sexual wrongdoing or assault against their opponents. Poll after poll shows health care as the top issue for voters. Democrats repeatedly have said that the GOP, which is intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act, will strip Americans of the core protection of coverage for those with preexisting conditions. In the campaign’s final stretch, the messaging from Republicans is in part an acknowledgment that the Democratic argument has resonated with voters. And on other issues, with their control of Congress and statehouses at risk, Republicans appear to have concluded that the best offense is a good defense. “I think it’s a defensive maneuver, a sign that the messaging from the Democrats has started to draw some blood with the attacks, and Republicans are trying to forcefully respond,” said Nathan Gonzales, publisher of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter.

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Washington Post - October 18, 2018

Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor: I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.” As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change. The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before. My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence. As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

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Washington Post - October 18, 2018

Just about everything you’ve read on the Warren DNA test is wrong

After being egged on by President Trump, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, released the results of a DNA test Oct. 15 that indicated that she had a Native American ancestor. The results — which identified Native American DNA from six to 10 generations ago — were immediately misinterpreted.

It started with a Boston Globe report, which initially said that the test showed she was between 1/32nd and 1/514th Native American. After confessing twice to a math error, the Globe corrected that to between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American. That would translate to between 98.44 percent and 99.9 percent not Native American. The RNC then issued a news release directing reporters to a 2014 New York Times report that said “European-Americans had genomes that were on average 98.6 percent European, .19 percent African, and .18 Native American.” So it sounded like Warren had less Native American DNA than the average European-American. But it turns out reporters and politicians are not very good at understanding genetics. So we will set the record straight, after reviewing the results in detail and consulting with genetics experts. Warren’s DNA was sequenced and analyzed by a group led by Carlos Bustamante, a well-regarded Stanford University geneticist. Researchers studied a fraction — far less than 1/1000th — of Warren’s DNA, and then compared it to the DNA of 148 people from Finland, Italy, Spain, China, Nigeria and North and South America. Additional comparison was done with 185 individuals from Utah and Great Britain. Here’s where the reporting went off course. The report said that Warren had 10 times more Native American ancestry than the reference set from Utah, and 12 times more than the set from Britain. The report also said that the long segment on Chromosome 10 indicated that the DNA came from a relatively recent ancestor. Those are significant findings. But reporters focused on the language indicating a range of between the sixth to 10th generation. That raised the prospect of an ancestor amid hundreds of great-great-great-etc.-grandparents.

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Reuters - October 17, 2018

U.S. states opposed to offshore drilling find hope in Zinke's words

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has hinted to at least six coastal states that he will keep their waters out of a looming plan to expand U.S. offshore drilling, telling some they lack enough oil to be included anyway, according to state officials and transcripts from public hearings.

Zinke’s comments are the clearest indication to date that the Trump administration’s initial proposal to open nearly all U.S. waters to drilling, announced in January, will be significantly pared back by the time it is finalized. The proposal is expected later this year. The administration had billed its initial plan as a good way to boost domestic energy production, but officials from nearly every Atlantic and Pacific coastal state opposed it on the grounds a spill would damage their multibillion-dollar tourism and fishing industries. About 17 percent of U.S. oil and gas production now comes from offshore production, but that output is concentrated almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Shortly after announcing the initial proposal, Zinke exempted Florida, sparking an outcry from more than a dozen other states that want to be spared too, and criticism from an oil industry keen to access new parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Zinke has since told officials from at least six states they will be “pleased” or “happy” with the final plan, that the waters off their coastlines do not have enough resources to make investment worthwhile, or both, according to the states contacted by Reuters and the hearing transcripts. They include New Hampshire, Maryland, North Carolina, Maine, Oregon and Washington.

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Reuters - October 17, 2018

U.S. courts abruptly tossed 9,000 deportation cases. Here's why.

Liliana Barrios was working in a California bakery in July and facing possible deportation when she got a call from her immigration attorney with some good news. The notice to appear in court that Barrios had received in her deportation case hadn’t specified a time or date for her first hearing, noting that they would be determined later. Her lawyer was calling to say that the U.S. Supreme Court had just issued a ruling that might open the door for her case, along with thousands of others, to be dismissed.

The Supreme Court case involved Wescley Fonseca Pereira, a Brazilian immigrant who overstayed his visa and was put into deportation proceedings in 2006. The initial paperwork he was sent did not state a date and time of appearance, however, and Pereira said he did not receive a subsequent notice telling him where and when to appear. When he failed to show up in court, he was ordered deported. The Supreme Court ruled that paperwork failing to designate a time and place didn’t constitute a legal notice to appear in court. The ruling sparked a frenzy of immigration court filings. Over ten weeks this summer, a record 9,000 deportation cases, including Barrios’, were terminated as immigration attorneys raced to court with challenges to the paperwork their clients had received, a Reuters analysis of data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review shows. The number represents a 160 percent increase from the same time period a year earlier and the highest number of terminations per month ever. Then, just as suddenly as they began, the wave of case terminations stopped. On August 31, in a different case, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruled that charging documents issued without a date and time were valid so long as the immigrant received a subsequent hearing notice filling in the details, as is the usual procedure. A Department of Justice official said that as a result of the BIA decision, the issues “have been solved.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not respond to requests for comment, but the agency laid out its thoughts on the terminations in court documents opposing the motions to terminate. In a San Diego case, DHS wrote that the motions were based on a “misreading” of the Supreme Court decision. “If read in a manner most favorable to the respondent, the practical impact would be to terminate virtually all immigration proceedings.” The Supreme Court decision “nowhere purports to invalidate the underlying removal proceedings,” DHS wrote.

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New York Times - October 17, 2018

Senate truce collapses as GOP rush to confirm more judges begins anew

Senate Democrats struck a deal last week with Republicans that saw the quick confirmation of 15 more conservative judges in exchange for a rapid flight to the campaign trail. Liberal activists were infuriated, but after the brutally divisive fight to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the agreement held out a promise of peace. On Wednesday, the armistice collapsed.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee convened yet another hearing to consider still more conservative federal court nominees — while the Senate was technically in recess. Incensed Democrats boycotted the proceedings, but their empty chairs did not prevent candidates for the bench, such as Allison Rushing, 36, a social conservative nominated by President Trump to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, from taking a crucial step toward confirmation. “If there was ever any hope that after the Kavanaugh experience we could return to bipartisanship on the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was shaken this morning,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, in a telephone interview. The hearing demonstrated the lengths to which Republicans will go to put conservatives on the federal judiciary, a signature initiative of Mr. Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader. Only a handful of Republicans attended the Wednesday hearing, but it checked a box to move more judges to the floor during the lame-duck session after Election Day. Ms. Rushing is drawing protests from liberal advocacy groups who say her résumé is too thin for an appeals court nominee. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, before he became a Supreme Court justice, but is only 11 years out of law school and has never been a judge. If confirmed, she would become the youngest nominee to take the federal bench in more than 15 years. Even Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, pressed Ms. Rushing about her youth and inexperience. For their part, Democrats are facing some serious blowback from progressives, who were already up in arms over last week’s deal. Brian E. Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group, said Democrats should have demanded that Wednesday’s hearing, and another one scheduled for next week, be delayed as part of the recess deal.

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CNN - October 17, 2018

Trump asks Cabinet secretaries for five percent budget cut

President Donald Trump on Wednesday instructed every agency secretary in his Cabinet to cut five percent from their budget for next year. "I think you'll all be able to do it. There may be a special exemption, perhaps. I don't know who that exemption would be," Trump told Cabinet members during a meeting at the White House. Trump added "some people at the table" could cut "substantially more" than five percent of their budgets.

"There are some people here at the table, I'm not going to point you out, but there are some people that can do substantially more than that. Because now that we have our military taken care of, we have our law enforcement taken care of, we can do things that we really weren't in a position to do when I first came," he said. Democrats in Congress have blamed the Republican tax plan for ballooning the deficit. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren claimed it amounted to a "$1.5 trillion in tax giveaways to wealthy donors." The federal deficit, essentially the difference between the federal government's revenue and how much it spent, rose to $779 billion in fiscal year 2018, up 17 percent from last year, according to final figures released Monday by the Treasury Department. That's the largest number since 2012, when the country was still spending massively to stimulate an economy struggling to recover. The White House has steadfastly defended its policies, maintaining that the yawning gap is a reason to cut deeper into social programs to balance out increases to the military budget. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, a notable debt hawk while he was a congressman, said the numbers underscored a need to cut spending. Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested in an interview with CNN that Democrats' resistance to cutting government spending on education, health care and other social programs was to blame for deficit increases. "People are going to want to say the deficit is because of the tax cuts. That's not the real story," Mnuchin told CNN. "The real story is we made a significant investment in the military which is very, very important, and to get that done we had to increase non-military spending."

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Fox News - October 17, 2018

Feinstein wants Kavanaugh sexual misconduct investigation reopened if Dems take Senate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said Wednesday that if Democrats took control of the Senate following November’s midterm elections, she would be in favor of reopening an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations levelled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“I’d be in favor of opening an investigation into the allegations,” Feinstein, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during a debate in San Francisco with her challenger, state Sen. Kevin de León. A fellow Democrat, de León emerged from California’s hectic jungle primary system to challenge one of the Senate’s longest tenured members for her seat. Feinstein has come under fire from both Republicans and her fellow Democrats since the Kavanaugh confirmation after it was revealed that one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, had reached out to the lawmaker with her allegations and asked that they remain confidential. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR, said last month that Feinstein’s office will be investigated to determine whether or not it leaked Ford’s letter to the press. “They have betrayed her,” Cotton said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” about Ford. ” “She has been victimized by Democrats ... on a search-and-destroy mission for Brett Kavanaugh.” During Wednesday’s debate, de León agreed with Feinstein that he would also support a renewed investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh. And while this was one of many issues on which the two Democrats appeared to be eye-to-eye, de León was critical of Feinstein and the rest of Congress' slowness in tackling issues like climate change, immigration reform and health care.

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Politico - October 17, 2018

Treasury sends warning shot to China on currency

The Trump administration avoided a major escalation in its trade fight with China after the Treasury Department said in a report released Wednesday that Beijing was not intentionally devaluing its currency.

Still, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a warning about the lack of transparency and the relative weakness of China’s currency, the renminbi. “Those pose major challenges to achieving fairer and more balanced trade, and we will continue to monitor and review China’s currency practices, including through ongoing discussions with the People’s Bank of China,” he said in a statement. The report offers a bit of a reprieve in the ongoing trade war by concluding that China’s direct intervention by its central bank has been limited. The U.S. has imposed tariffs on more than $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. Still, Treasury is critical of Beijing for not pursuing more market-based reforms that could bolster confidence in the renminbi. President Donald Trump has accused China of purposefully devaluing its currency to give its exports a competitive advantage on the world market. The report warns that the recent depreciation of China's currency will likely widen the economic giant's trade surplus with the U.S. even more. A lower currency value also softens the sting of U.S. tariffs by making Chinese exports to the U.S. cheaper. The Trump administration has imposed the tariffs to punish China for its intellectual property and technology transfer policies that it says is ripping off U.S. companies. China will remain on a list of countries the U.S. monitors, along with Japan, South Korea, India, Germany and Switzerland. The U.S. has not labeled a country a currency manipulator in the report for more than 20 years. China was last given the designation from 1992 to 1994. The last Treasury report in April 2018 made similar findings. China met one criteria for being listed — having a significant bilateral trade surplus. But it did not have an account surplus in excess of 3 percent GDP and evidence of a “persistent, one-sided” intervention in its currency market. China allowed the value of the renminbi to slide to a 13-month low against the dollar at the end of July, but the currency has appreciated in value relative to the dollar since then. The report also said that China’s currency value has fallen “notably” in recent months — by more than 7 percent against the dollar since mid-June.

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Governing - October 17, 2018

Taxes on Netflix and yoga gain favor as a way to raise revenue. Arizona referendum would stop the movement in its tracks.

More governments are looking to expand their sales tax to services like Netflix and yoga. Already, half of states tax fitness studio classes or memberships, while places like Chicago, Florida and Pennsylvania have all started taxing online streaming services in recent years. But there's a growing movement in conservative states to stop that trend.

Next month, voters in Arizona will consider whether to make their state the second to ban any expansion of the state’s already limited tax on services. Currently, the state only taxes certain types of software services and some transportation services. Dubbed the Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act, Proposition 126 is backed largely by the Arizona Association of Realtors, which has poured more than $5 million into the campaign. Two years ago, the state realtors association in Missouri funded a similar ban, which won handily at the ballot box. Supporters of the ban, which include a wide swath of industries from pet shops to child care operators to physical therapists, argue that expanding the sales tax is a threat to lower-income consumers who already pay a larger share of their income to sales taxes than the wealthy. “A service tax would increase the cost of child care, adding an unfair burden on working families,” James Emch, CEO of a Phoenix-area chain of child care centers, said in a statement. “This initiative will make it possible for parents across the state to rest easy knowing there is one less cost to worry about.” But policy experts warn that such a ban limits a state’s revenue-raising options and could actually be a greater burden on the poor. Across the country, states have struggled to keep up the same revenue growth as they experienced before the recession. One big reason is that consumers are spending far more on services -- most of which aren’t taxed -- than goods, which are. Without the ability to expand the sales tax base, lawmakers looking to stabilize their slowly shrinking revenue would only be left with the option to raise the sales tax rate.

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New Republic - October 17, 2018

Shepard: The Democrats’ incredible shrinking message

In the summer of 2017, when the midterm elections were more than a year away but already on everyone’s mind, Democrats seemed to have an embarrassment of riches. President Donald Trump was historically unpopular and engulfed in myriad scandals, from the tawdry (an alleged affair with a porn star, covered up with campaign funds) to the corrupt (using the presidency to enrich family businesses) to the existential (Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government).

Presented with so many gifts, Democrats’ only question was whether they should focus on one issue or try to synthesize them all into a single, winning message. “That message is being worked on,” Congressman Joseph Crowley, the number-four Democrat in the House, told the Associated Press. “We’re doing everything we can to simplify it, but at the same time provide the meat behind it as well. So that’s coming together now.” It did not come together—not then, not ever. The midterms are less than three weeks away. The Democratic Party still hasn’t found its message, and the issues that many thought would feature prominently on the campaign trail—impeachment, Russia, corruption, #MeToo—have largely been relegated to subtext. But somewhere along the way, Democratic candidates around the country, almost in spite of the party’s dithering, have found the winning message themselves. The number and breadth of these scandals created perhaps the biggest debate in Democratic circles over the past year: whether the party should pin its 2018 hopes on promising to impeach Trump. A few House Democrats support the idea, but party leaders have danced around the question—a recognition, perhaps, that the issue could hurt the party in November. While a significant majority of the party’s base (and megadonor Tom Steyer) support impeachment proceedings, polls consistently show that fewer than half of all Americans do. Though cool on impeachment, the Democratic Party has repeatedly grasped for a similarly compelling, unified message. Its first attempt, unveiled in July 2017, was the well-conceived, poorly received “A Better Deal,” which stated that the party’s mission was “to help build an America in which working people know that somebody has their back. American families deserve A Better Deal so our country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests.” The message went nowhere. Almost exactly a year later, the party rolled out the even more milquetoast “For the people.” Most Democratic lawmakers, if put on the spot today, likely could not explain the three main issues the message represents. This has led to some familiar Democratic anxiety. Writing in The Atlantic in August, former Democratic Congressman Steve Israel described attending a campaign fundraiser in “a plush residence on the 64th floor of Trump World Tower,” where “most in the crowd wanted to know one thing: What’s the Democratic message?”

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CNBC - October 17, 2018

Elon Musk says he's going to buy $20 million of Tesla stock

Tesla chief Elon Musk told the electric car company that he plans to purchase $20 million of common stock during the next open trading window. Tesla shares rallied after the filing. Musk is the company's largest shareholder, holding more than $9 billion worth of the stock before Wednesday's announcement.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk told the electric car company that he plans to purchase $20 million of common stock during the next open trading window, according to a filing related to the CEO's settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. "Separate and apart from the settlement, Elon has notified Tesla that he intends to purchase from Tesla, and Tesla expects that it will issue and sell to Elon, $20 million of Tesla's common stock during the next open trading window at the then-current market price," the filing read. Tesla shares fell 1 percent Wednesday morning following the filing. Musk is the largest shareholder in Tesla, holding more than $9 billion worth of the stock or more than 33 million shares before Wednesday's announcement. The CEO bought $24 million worth of Tesla in June and $9.9 million in May, according to InsiderScore.com. Tesla shares are down 10 percent in 2018. The 8-K filing also detailed Tesla and Musk's settlement with the SEC. A judge approved the settlement with the SEC on Tuesday over allegations that Musk committed fraud when he tweeted earlier in the year that he had secured necessary funding to take the automaker private. The deal, viewed as a positive development for embattled Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, requires Musk to pay a $20 million fine and step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years. The company is also obligated to monitor the CEO's statements to the public concerning the company on Twitter, blog posts or any other medium.

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Weekly Standard - October 17, 2018

Congressman Steve King endorses White Nationalist Faith Goldy

Representative Steve King is an embarrassment to the Republican party. The former national co-chairman of Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign has been for some time. On October 16, he endorsed white-nationalist Faith Goldy for mayor of Toronto. Goldy has plumped for a book that calls for the extermination of “the Jewish menace” and says that it’s “very, very, very, very spot on given a lot of what the movement is talking about right now.”

In August 2017 Goldy was fired by Rebel Media for podcasting with the neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer. Enough to gain Steve King’s endorsement? You bet. But while King’s endorsement is embarrassing, it’s also unsurprising. King and Goldy are both animated by the same brand of race-based identity-politics that consumes the alt-right. King’s focus on race and ethnicity is so consuming that it has become the core of his politics. In the past two weeks alone, he’s gone after Rep. Joaquin Castro and his brother Julian Castro, who served as an Housing and Urban Development Secretary under Obama by saying that they’re “retroactive Hispanics” who “took Spanish lessons to qualify.” n June, King tweeted in support of Mark Collett, a British white-nationalist, to express their joint opposition to immigration. In favor of the far-right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, King tweeted: “Wishing you a successful vote. Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.” King is so obsessed with the effects of immigration that he has sponsored bills to end birthright citizenship. King would like, he says, to have “an America that's just so homogenous that we look a lot the same.” How extreme is he? “I do my best to pull President Trump to the right,” King tweeted on October 10.

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Newsclips - October 17, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2018

Five things to know about Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz's massive fundraising hauls

The Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke has spurred a fundraising frenzy unlike anything seen before in politics — in Texas or anywhere else. Campaign finance reports filed late Monday shed new light on those staggering hauls by providing the most detailed look yet at how the rivals are raising and spending all that cash.

O'Rourke, the Democratic challenger, announced last week that he'd raised a record-breaking $38.1 million from July through September. Cruz, the GOP incumbent, had said earlier that he'd brought in about $12 million — a monumental sum in its own right — during that stretch. O'Rourke, for instance, has poured millions of dollars into a digital ad push that's almost on par with his TV and radio spending. Cruz and a coterie of political consultants, meanwhile, have shared his message by spending millions of dollars on "media" and other items. Both campaigns appear to be spending sizable sums on a campaign classic: signage. Here are five takeaways from their hauls: 1) O'Rourke has maximized use of ActBlue, the online Democratic fundraising platform that makes it easy for candidates to amass huge war chests by receiving modest contributions from hundreds of thousands of donors from across the country. But the full scope of that tactic is now apparent. About half, or $31 million, of the $62 million that O'Rourke has raised to date has come through ActBlue, according to his latest filing. The tally suggests that the Democrat collected nearly $14 million by way of the platform in the third quarter alone. Cruz, however, has three different fundraising accounts. There's his main Senate campaign. There's the Ted Cruz Victory Committee, a joint fundraising account. And there's the Jobs, Freedom, and Security PAC, which is a leadership political action committee. Cruz's campaign raised $11.6 million in the third quarter, including $1.1 million from the victory committee. The committee also collected an additional $900,000. The leadership PAC raised small amounts in July and August; its September tally isn't available. All told, Cruz raised at least $12.5 million from July through September. 2) Cruz and O'Rourke both have fairly high burn rates. The Republican's main campaign account spent $9.6 million in the third quarter, about 83 percent of what it raised during that time. The Democrat spent about $29.2 million during that stretch, about 77 percent of what he raised. The dynamic could prove troubling for the challenger. That's because even though O'Rourke has opened the purse strings, he's still trailing in the polls. 3) O'Rourke was the biggest spender in the U.S. on digital political ad spending through early September, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. It's going to be hard for anyone to remove him from that top spot, if his latest filing is a guide. The Democrat spent $7.3 million on digital ads in the third quarter. That sum isn't too far off from the $9.9 million he devoted to TV, radio and cable ads during that time. Cruz, meanwhile, spent $4.5 million in the third quarter on "media," a category that likely includes advertisements. But it's sometimes harder to dig deeper into how Cruz is spending his bounty, since he parcels out much of his work to consultants. 4) O'Rourke's gigantic fundraising haul has caused some liberals to grumble that he should share some of his campaign cash with other Democrats, particularly if the polls are indeed correct that the Texan is heading for a loss in the November election. The El Pasoan has rejected that idea, saying he's "focused on Texas." "I've got to honor the commitment of those who contributed to this campaign have made to me," he told reporters after a rally Monday in San Antonio, explaining that he was grateful for the support. "If they want to contribute to someone else, they should do so." But he did donate $815,000 this quarter to the Texas Democratic Party, the latest filing shows.

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El Paso Times - October 16, 2018

Moritz: Who won the final Texas debate between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke?

Democrat Beto O'Rourke played the role of the aggressor in Tuesday night's debate with Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, putting the incumbent on the defensive as he sought to overcome his slippage in recent polls.

"Senator Cruz is not going be honest with you," O'Rourke said in a stinging jab. "That's why the president called him 'Lyin' Ted,' and the nickname stuck." The El Paso Democrat delivered crisper attacks than he showed during the first debate last month in Dallas, casting Cruz in the unfamiliar role of counterpuncher. But the one-time college debate champion did not stay on his heels for long, experts said. "Cruz was shaky early on with his jab but found his rhythm," said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. "O’Rourke bloodied Cruz’s nose but didn’t knock him out. Cruz thrives on this kind of political combat and is hard to put on the canvas." Seeking his second term and coming off what insiders said was a strong showing in the first matchup, Cruz acknowledged that he had expected O'Rourke to stray from his campaign-long practice of emphasizing his desire to take the fiery partisanship out of an undeniably political process. "It's clear Congressman O'Rourke's pollsters told him to go on the attack," Cruz countered. Robert Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said O'Rourke's newfound aggression was effective, but questioned whether it was enough to change the trajectory of the race three weeks before the Nov. 6 Election Day and less than a week before the start of early voting. "O’Rourke was forceful and took some personal shots at “Lyin’ Ted,” which will probably keep his supporters enthused enough to vote," Lowry said. "Problem is he’s behind in the polls and needs to close the gap. "I’m not sure anything he said will cause Cruz supporters to change their minds."

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Associated Press - October 17, 2018

Trump tells AP he won’t accept blame if GOP loses House

Facing the prospect of bruising electoral defeat in congressional elections, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he won’t accept the blame if his party loses control of the House in November, arguing his campaigning and endorsements have helped Republican candidates.

In a wide-ranging interview three weeks before Election Day, Trump told The Associated Press he senses voter enthusiasm rivaling 2016 and he expressed cautious optimism that his most loyal supporters will vote even when he is not on the ballot. He dismissed suggestions that he might take responsibility, as his predecessor did, for midterm losses or view the outcome as a referendum on his presidency. “No, I think I’m helping people,” Trump said. “I don’t believe anybody’s ever had this kind of an impact.” Trump spoke on a range of subjects, defending Saudi Arabia from growing condemnation over the case of a missing journalist, accusing his longtime attorney Michael Cohen of lying under oath and flashing defiance when asked about the insult — “Horseface” — he hurled at Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who accuses him of lying about an affair. Asked if it was appropriate to insult a woman’s appearance, Trump responded, “You can take it any way you want.” Weeks away from the midterms, Democrats are hopeful about their chances to recapture the House, while Republicans are increasingly confident they can hold control of the Senate. Trump has been campaigning aggressively in a blitz of rallies aimed at firing up his base. He said he believes he’s doing his job, but allowed he has heard from some of his supporters who say they may not vote this November. “I’m not running,” he said. “I mean, there are many people that have said to me ... ‘I will never ever go and vote in the midterms because you’re not running and I don’t think you like Congress.’” He added: “Well, I do like Congress.” If Democrats take the House and pursue impeachment or investigations — including seeking his long-hidden tax returns— Trump said he will “handle it very well.”

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USA Today - October 16, 2018

Google News results favor left-leaning media, report finds, but no sign of intentional conservative suppression

Google News and Google News search engine results appear to show a “strong preference” for media organizations that are on the left of the political spectrum, a new report finds. The report from the media technology group AllSides, out Tuesday, analyzed Google News’ homepage and search engine results from the news page over a two-week period and determined that news outlets with a "left" bias were more often prominently displayed.

But the study found no evidence Google had intentionally altered search results for the purpose of “suppressing voices of conservatives,” as President Donald Trump has previously stated. Trump has previously claimed that Google and other search engines are “rigged” against him. "Google search results for 'Trump News' shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media," Trump tweeted Aug. 28. The administration has said the president was considering regulations against the tech giant. John Gable, CEO of AllSides and author of the study, said the bias is the result of “most news online and most news consumption online (being) from a left perspective.” AllSides specializes in identifying media bias for the purpose of providing balanced perspectives. The group uses a media bias ratings based on popular opinion to rank media outlets as either left, right or center. “If you look at where people get news online and you rate it, most of it is coming from the left,” Gable said. He said Google search results come from what is largely a “popularity algorithm,” meaning that viewpoints more people have are more likely to be highlighted. As a result, viewpoints that are outside the majority don’t appear as high up in search results. In this sense, Gable said, Google's algorithm is unintentionally biased toward more popular perspectives, and those are the results users see. He said the danger in this is that it can play into people's preconceived notions. "Right now, technology overly puts a spotlight on the most popular perspective, or the perspective that most fits you, and that cuts out other perspectives," he said. "It reduces an individual’s ability to decide for themselves or know the whole story." Gable said going forward, Google has to decide what role it wants to play. “If their role is just to reflect the internet, they’re doing a fine job," he said. "… If they think their job is to empower people to decide for themselves, they actually need to make a change.”

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2018

Justin Nelson is the sole Democrat buying TV ads in a campaign for Texas state office

Attorney Justin Nelson, a candidate for attorney general, on Tuesday became the first — and likely only — Democrat running for state office to go on TV with a Texas-wide campaign ad.

Nelson’s 30-second spot now on air across Texas hammers incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton for his 2015 criminal indictment for securities fraud and a subsequent 2017 investigation into bribery and corruption, the latter of which was closed. Paxton has yet to go to trial on three felony charges. Paxton, a Republican finishing his first term, released his own ad Monday. Paxton’s campaign spot features his office cracking down on human trafficking to make Texas safer. That includes helping shut down Backpage.com, a website that hosted prostitution-related ads. Paxton’s spokesman said the ad is on air, including in the Houston market. Nelson, in his first campaign for office, has raised more than any other Democratic contender for a statewide office in Texas, with $2.2 million since 2017, according to records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. That’s nearly double the campaign funding of Democratic candidate for governor Lupe Valdez. Summer polling showed Nelson was virtually tied with Paxton, although no new polling has been released on that race. Paxton has a major financial advantage over Nelson. Paxton has $4.3 million in his political war chest to carry him through the remaining weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Nelson has $1.7 million to spend.

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Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2018

Richard Linklater drops new anti-Cruz, pro-Whataburger ad

Austin-based film director Richard Linklater made national headlines last week when he dropped an anti-Ted Cruz ad that mocked the senator's "tough as Texas" slogan. Now, he's made another one, featuring the same actor -- Sonny Carl Davis (from Linklater's movie "Bernie") -- in the same diner setting mouthing off about Republican Cruz.

This time, in an ad that was released Monday on YouTube, he takes Cruz to task for having said he likes East Coast-based White Castle burgers while Davis claims true Texans would prefer Texas-based Whataburger. The Cruz campaign has called Congressman Beto O'Rourke "a Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who is out of touch with Texas values." "Everybody I know in Texas likes Whataburger," Davis says in the ad. "There's not a White Castle within 900 miles of Texas, Ted. Maybe up in Canada, huh? But not in Texas." The last line is a reference to Cruz having been born in Calgary, Alberta, which may not be Texas but, to be fair, has been called "the Houston of Canada," because of its energy production. he Linklater ads are not affiliated with the O'Rourke campaign but with the Fire Ted Cruz political action committee. The PAC was formed by Marc Stanley, a Dallas lawyer and Democratic donor.

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Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2018

Outrage over 'stupid' law pushed Dallas Democrat to go after Rep. Morgan Meyer's Texas House seat

Last year, former foster care child Joanna Cattanach watched in horror as her state representative voted to pass a law she vehemently opposed.

The law allows state-funded private foster care and adoption agencies to make child placement decisions based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” such as the parents’ sexual orientation and religion. Cattanach said the law discriminates against families — including her own. She is Christian and her husband is Muslim. She also said it makes it harder to place children who just want loving homes, regardless of their parents’ religion or sexual orientation. “That we have kids that are desperate to find a family and we pass a law like this,” she said, “it’s just so stupid to me.” So Cattanach, a Blum native, decided she’d challenge Rep. Morgan Meyer, a Republican who has held the seat in a GOP-leaning district since 2015. She said she’s disturbed by attacks on the rights of women and minorities, and said she thinks many people in the district, which includes the wealthy Park Cities and Uptown and parts of downtown and Old East Dallas, agree with her. After all, Hillary Clinton won the district by 6 points over President Donald Trump in 2016. Meyer, a 44-year-old attorney and father of three young kids, said he supports a private agency’s right to religious freedom — a conservative tenet — but when he voted for the bill he was more concerned about trying to stop private foster and adoption agencies, including Catholic Charities, that were threatening to leave the state.

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Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2018

Will AT&T compensate customers for its big Dallas-area internet outage on Monday?

After a widespread outage Monday, AT&T's internet and U-verse television service have been restored in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But the trouble isn't over.

Customers took to social media demanding to know what the Dallas-based telecommunications giant plans do to compensate them for the significant service disruption. Questions were also raised about whether the extent of the outage could have been limited if the company had better back up plans in the event of failures in its communication network. AT&T did not answer either question or say how many customers were affected during Monday's outage that lasted about 12 hours. The company said the outage was caused by a lightning strike and subsequent fire at a Richardson switching station. Richardson Fire Chief Curtis Poovey said Tuesday that his department couldn't determine a cause or verify that there was or was not a lightning strike. He said the fire was limited to wiring at that facility. Service was back up about 10:30 p.m. Monday — customers started reporting the outage well before noon. Some affected customers were also demanding to know what the company would do to reimburse them. One Dallas Morning News reader said he wanted AT&T to refund his phone data since he had to turn his cellphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot when his home internet was out. Responding to questions from The Dallas Morning News, AT&T said it did not want to comment on whether it will compensate customers who faced service disruption on Monday. "Customers with questions about their account should contact our customer care team," wrote local AT&T spokesman Charles Bassett. The outage also affected businesses that rely on AT&T internet for their point-of-sale systems, internet phone system and internet sales.

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Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2018

Roger Williams: I was attacked on a baseball field for my political beliefs, and Democrats are wrong to promote violence

June 14, 2017, was the worst day of my life. It was the day I faced my own mortality at the hands of a shooter who was so enraged and blinded by his own political beliefs that he turned to violence as a means of retribution.

The day began early with colleagues gathered for our normal practice, away from the demands of the Capitol, in preparation for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. In a split second, both practice and our fellowship ended. Shots rang out across the field, and several were wounded. The only thing that prevented all of us from being killed was the courage of two Capitol police officers who stopped the gunman. I will never forget that day, and for people like Majority Whip Steve Scalise, it's an event he lives with every day as he struggles to walk again. Though most of our physical wounds have now healed, we continue to be challenged by Democratic leaders intentionally inciting a violent and mob-like mentality from their followers. With this toxic outlook, it is only a matter of time before this type of politically motivated attack happens again. This is simply not acceptable because next time, the targets may not be as lucky as we were. As a survivor of such violence that was directly targeted at Republicans, I was disgusted on Wednesday when a video was released of former Attorney General Eric Holder rousing his fellow Democrats at a political rally saying, "When [Republicans] go low, we kick them." It is this very idea — the call to violence as an act of political discord — that keeps me awake at night. This harmful rhetoric has become the premeditated brainchild of Democratic leadership, and sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Recently, the nation also heard Sen. Cory Booker plead for activists to "get up in the face of some congresspeople," and Rep. Maxine Waters call for her supporters to harass members of the Trump administration. Furthermore, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the liberal mob and said that you "cannot be civil" with Republicans. It is exactly this type of divisiveness that threatens not only the very foundation of our country, but also its future. What will become of our democracy if we refuse to be civil with those we disagree with? Our great nation simply cannot and should not accept the strategies of a fractured political party so determined to destroy its counterpart that it will unapologetically threaten and turn to physical violence as a means of motivation for its activists and supporters. It is time for Americans to take a stand against those who would foster such violence and hate. It is time for our country to make drastic strides toward civility.

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Abilene Reporter-News - October 16, 2018

Hardin-Simmons University president announces layoffs, program closures in Monday email

Hardin-Simmons University is ending a number of undergraduate and graduate programs suffering from low enrollments. In an email to faculty, staff, students and alumni Monday, President Eric Bruntmyer laid out the cuts that were officially adopted by the school's trustees Thursday and Friday. The university had announced cuts would be made in a similar e-mail last month.

According to Bruntmyer, the trustees approved closing the following academic programs: Undergraduate programs in Environmental Science, Geology, Medical Illustration, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Sociology, Spanish and Music in Performance. Graduate programs in English, History, Math and Environmental Management will also close. The cuts affect 82 known students, as data from the five closed extensions was not provided. Of the 82 students, 62 were undergraduates. Bruntmyer said the cuts came after the school lost some of its funding. The Texas Equalization Grant Program, designed to help students of need access private higher education, has reduced funding to HSU by more than $1.2 million annually when compared to 2007 funding levels, he said. Last month, he said, the Baptist General Convention of Texas notified HSU that a 6 percent decrease in Cooperative Program receipts was eliminating some funding for all Texas Baptist-partnering universities.The school lost gifts of more than $500,000 annually from the BGCT when compared with 2007 levels, he said. With the program cuts, Bruntmyer said, comes layoffs. Tenured faculty were offered buyout options, while non-tenured staff will be permitted to complete their contract but not be offered financial assistance.

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Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2018

Chronicle Executive Editor Nancy Barnes to leave Houston for position at National Public Radio

Houston Chronicle Executive Editor Nancy Barnes — whose five-year tenure brought the newspaper its first Pulitzer Prize — announced Tuesday that she will leave the organization next month to become senior vice president of news for National Public Radio.

Barnes, 57, who also served as executive vice president and editor of Hearst Texas Newspapers, guided the Chronicle's coverage of Hurricane Harvey as well as investigations that garnered multiple national awards. Chronicle President and Publisher John McKeon said a national search will be conducted for Barnes' replacement, with a transition plan still in the works. "I want to say really emphatically: I liked my job, I loved the newsroom, I'm very proud of the work we've done," Barnes said. "The opportunity to really take a leap in a different direction doesn't present itself every day, and I wanted to go for it." Barnes joined the Houston Chronicle in 2013 and led the newsroom to a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2015. During her tenure, the Chronicle received widespread acclaim for its investigations into grand jury abuses, the statewide denial of special education services to schoolchildren and chemical regulation failures in Texas. McKeon said he will "forever be appreciative" of the contribution Barnes made to the Chronicle. He expects to appoint one or two people to fill Barnes' responsibilities amid a search for her permanent replacement. "Nancy has done a fantastic job at developing the talent in the newsroom and the kind of strategic direction we've been hoping to accomplish," McKeon said. "She's really laid the foundation for us." Barnes, 57, joined the Chronicle after serving as executive editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune from 2007 to 2013.

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San Antonio Express-News - October 16, 2018

Despite outdated voting technology in San Antonio, officials say November elections will be secure

Elections officials in Bexar County and Texas say they are confident the midterm elections will be secure, though voters here will use some of the most outdated voting machines in the country amid national concerns about tampering or hacking.

U.S. officials have warned that a situation like the one in 2016, in which Russia-linked hackers targeted elections systems in 21 states, including Texas, is “one click away” in November, but they haven’t yet detected any attempts to corrupt election systems or leak information. Most of the activity in 2016 amounted to hackers making preparations to break into networks by scanning them for potential vulnerabilities, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The agency said that’s what happened in Texas. Secretary of State Rolando Pablos has repeatedly denied that Texas’ election systems were targeted or scanned. He said a state investigation “determined conclusively” that election systems were not targeted here. Records show Russia-linked hackers did target the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Library and State Archives Commission. “There’s a giant lack of understanding about what happened,” said Dan Wallach, a Rice University professor who studies elections security. In Texas, where each county is responsible for its own elections, security experts say there are several potential vulnerabilities, including the voting machines themselves, a statewide voter registration database that is online and a lack of oversight regarding how counties procure poll book systems.

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Bloomberg - October 16, 2018

Dell stands behind plan to go public despite Icahn objections

Dell Technologies is sticking with its $21.7 billion plan to go public by buying its tracking stock DVMT despite investor Carl Icahn’s objections. The Round Rock-based technology giant released the statement after Icahn said Monday that he would oppose the deal because it undervalues DVMT, in which he owns an 8.3 percent stake.

“Dell Technologies continues to believe that the proposed offer for DVMT shares, which represents a 29 percent premium to the DVMT share price immediately prior to the announcement of the transaction, is fair and in the best interests of DVMT shareholders,” Dell said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners are offering $109 a share for DVMT, which tracks Dell’s stake in VMware Inc. The deal is designed to take Dell Technologies public and to simplify Michael Dell’s tech empire. An independent committee representing DVMT investors determined the deal “was the best available option” after discussions with about 40 percent of shareholders and negotiations with Dell, Dell Technologies said Tuesday. It offers shareholders $9 billion in cash as well as an interest in Dell Technologies, it said. “The transaction is the result of a very transparent and thorough process of evaluating multiple alternatives,” Dell said Tuesday. It plans to file a definitive proxy in the coming weeks and to set a date for a shareholder vote before year end. Some investors have balked at the DVMT buyout, questioning how Dell arrived at a valuation of its own shares. Its offer of $109 a share in cash and stock values Dell’s new Class C shares at $79.77 -- a number that more than doubled during the company’s internal calculations in the months before the deal. A number of DVMT stockholders have expressed concerns to Dell about the terms of the deal since it was announced, Dell said in a regulatory filing this month. Icahn said the offer values DVMT at about $94 a share, based on his calculations. That’s well below the $144 a share he believes its worth. He also described Dell’s contingency plan to pursue a traditional initial public offering if DVMT holders reject the deal as an “empty threat” that wouldn’t pass a fairness test in Delaware courts. At least one law firm says he might have a point. “We tend to agree,” according to a research note Monday from New York-based law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Delaware courts have determined that deals involving controlling shareholders are fair so long as minority holders aren’t coerced into voting for them, among other criteria, Akin Gump lawyers said.

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National Stories

New York Times - October 17, 2018

No, Trump’s tax cut isn’t paying for itself (at least not yet)

The Treasury Department released figures on Monday showing the federal budget deficit widened by 17 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, to $779 billion. That’s an unusual jump for a year in which unemployment hit a five-decade low and the economy experienced a significant economic expansion.

But the increase demonstrates that the tax cuts President Trump signed into law late last year have reduced federal revenues considerably, even against the backdrop of a booming economy. Some conservatives don’t see the rising deficit numbers that way. They note that the Treasury reported that federal revenues rose by 0.4 percent from the 2017 fiscal year to the 2018 fiscal year, and view that as a sign that the tax cuts are “paying for themselves,” as Republicans and Mr. Trump promised. That’s not the case. There are several ways to ask the question, “Are tax cuts paying for themselves?” Based on the data we have right now, they all arrive at the same answer: “No.” The issue here is not whether the government spends too much money, or whether tax cuts have buttressed economic growth, or even whether it’s advisable to run such high deficits in flush economic times. The issue instead is: Have the corporate and individual tax cuts that went into effect in January generated so much additional growth that tax revenues are as high, or higher, today than they would have been if the tax cuts never passed? That’s how all scorekeepers — be they independent congressional staff members or researchers from think tanks that lean liberal or conservative — assess the “pay for themselves” question. A few months before they passed, the Congressional Budget Office predicted the government would take in $3.53 trillion in revenues for the fiscal year. On Monday, the Treasury reported that revenue was actually $3.33 trillion for the year — $200 billion short, even though economic growth has outpaced the budget office’s forecasts.

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New York Times - October 16, 2018

Suspects in the Jamal Khashoggi murder had ties to Saudi Crown Prince

One of the suspects identified by Turkey in the disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — seen disembarking from airplanes with him in Paris and Madrid and photographed standing guard during his visits this year to Houston, Boston and the United Nations.

Three others are linked by witnesses and other records to the Saudi crown prince’s security detail. A fifth is a forensic doctor who holds senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment, a figure of such stature that he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority. If, as the Turkish authorities say, these men were present at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Mr. Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2, they might provide a direct link between what happened and Prince Mohammed. That would undercut any suggestion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a rogue operation unsanctioned by the crown prince. Their connection to him could also make it more difficult for the White House and Congress to accept such an explanation. The New York Times has confirmed independently that at least nine of 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries. One of them, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007, according to a British diplomatic roster. He traveled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard. How much blame for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance or death settles on the 33-year-old crown prince has become a decisive factor in his standing in the eyes of the West and within the royal family.

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Wall Street Journal - October 16, 2018

U.S. is world’s most competitive economy for first time in a decade

The U.S. is back on top as the most competitive country in the world, regaining the first spot for the first time since 2008 in an index produced by the World Economic Forum, which said the country could still do better on social issues.

America climbed one place in the rankings of 140 countries, with the top five rounded out by Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. All five countries’ scores rose from 2017, with the U.S. notching the second-biggest gain after Japan’s. The top spot hasn’t gone to the U.S. since the financial crisis stalled output and triggered a global economic slowdown. “Economic recovery is well underway, with the global economy projected to grow almost four percent in 2018 and 2019,” said the report, published Tuesday by the organization that produces the Davos conference on global politics and economics. However, “recovery remains vulnerable to a range of risks and potential shocks,” the authors warned. They cite a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China as a possible hindrance to growth that could potentially derail the recovery and deter investment. The U.S. has levied tariffs on a total of $250 billion of Chinese goods and China has retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of U.S. exports as the two nations spar over trade imbalances and other issues. Companies that have repatriated manufacturing to the U.S. say that tariffs are increasing their costs and making them less competitive. The Global Competitiveness Report this year assessed 140 countries on 98 indicators that measure business investment and productivity. The indicators are organized into 12 main drivers of productivity including the nations’ institutions, tech savvy, infrastructure, education systems, market size and innovation.

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Wall Street Journal - October 17, 2018

Trump complains about rising interest rates, calling the Fed ‘my biggest threat’

President Trump reiterated his complaints that the Federal Reserve is raising short-term interest rates too fast, calling the U.S. central bank “my biggest threat.”

“It’s independent so I don’t speak to him, but I’m not happy with what he’s doing, because it’s going too fast,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with the Fox Business Network, referring to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he nominated last year. “You looked at the last inflation numbers, they’re very low,” he said while arguing for a slower increase in interest rates. The president acknowledged Mr. Powell was his pick to replace former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, and said he wasn’t blaming anyone. “I put him there, and maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong,” he said, adding, “I put a couple of other people there that I’m not so happy with too. For the most part, I’m very happy with people.” In the interview, Mr. Trump said Mr. Powell is “being extremely conservative, let me use a nice term.” But he demurred when asked directly if Mr. Powell would be out of a job if his decisions prove misguided. “Well number one, I don’t appoint for another four years, five years,” the president said, “so look, I am not happy with what he’s doing.” The law is vague about whether a president can fire a Fed chairman, who serves a four-year term. Mr. Trump has nominated three of the four current members of the Fed’s board of governors: Mr. Powell, Vice Chairman Richard Clarida and Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles. Three other Trump nominations to the board are still awaiting Senate confirmation. The president’s comments are his latest criticism leveled at the central bank. On Oct. 9, he repeated his displeasure with the Fed and said he believed inflation remained in check. “I think the Fed has gone crazy,” he told reporters the next day, in the middle of a stock market selloff.

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Washington Post - October 16, 2018

Sullivan: Nate Silver will make one firm prediction about the midterms. Most journalists won’t want to hear it.

After the roller-coaster ride of 2016’s election night, have journalists and political junkies learned not to let conventional wisdom substitute for hard knowledge? Nate Silver — the closest thing there is to a celebrity in the arcane field of statistical journalism — is not wildly optimistic about that.

“Media understanding about probability, margin of error and uncertainty is very poor,” Silver said Monday afternoon when I stopped by the Manhattan office of his FiveThirtyEight.com for a pre-election chat. “That led them to be more surprised than they should have been,” he said, based on the quite accurate polling numbers that were available. Silver, who turned 40 this year, was in jeans and sneakers, his hair unruly, as he sat in his office before a whiteboard of incomprehensible — at least to this visitor — phrases and calculations. Now that we’re three weeks away from the midterm elections, Silver is seeing some of the same tendencies in media coverage and social-media chatter that plagued 2016’s coverage. Take the Senate challenge to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz of Texas by Beto O’Rourke, for instance. When Silver’s forecast had O’Rourke’s chances of upsetting Cruz at a 35 percent probability, the media chatter had it as almost a toss-up. Now that those chances have dropped to about 25 percent, the prevailing narrative has downgraded O’Rourke almost to dead-man-walking status. “That’s not a night-and-day change, but that’s how it’s being talked about,” Silver said. Which leads to his worry about coverage over the next few weeks, and particularly in the days leading up to Nov. 6. “I get nervous about how people overstate things” he told me.

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Washington Post - October 16, 2018

Paralyzing polio-like illness mainly affecting children confirmed in 22 states, CDC says

Federal health officials are worried about an increase in a mysterious and rare condition that mostly affects children and can paralyze arms and legs, with 127 confirmed or suspected cases reported as of Tuesday.

Of those, 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, have been confirmed in 22 states, according to Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been in children 18 and younger, with the average age being 4 years old. The surge in cases has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday took the unusual step of announcing a change in the way the agency will count cases in the future. They also wanted to raise awareness about the frightening condition so that parents can seek medical care if their child develops symptoms, and so reports of the illness can be quickly relayed back to CDC. “We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned about AFM,” said Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has not been able to find the cause for the majority of the cases. “There is a lot we don’t know about AFM, and I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness.” The increase in cases has been happening since 2014, usually in August and September, but only in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said in a news briefing with reporters. CDC knows of one child who died of the disorder in 2017. Because officials have been unable so far to determine how the disease spreads, they are starting to count suspected cases as well as confirmed to better anticipate increases in confirmed cases over the coming months, she said.

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USA Today - October 16, 2018

Trump increases deportations to Mauritania, where slavery dominates culture

During a meeting in the White House last week to launch a task force designed to stop human trafficking and modern-day slavery, President Donald Trump vowed to do everything in the federal government's power to stop the scourge. "Our country will not rest until we have put these vile organizations out of business and rescued every last victim," Trump told the officials gathered there.

Yet this week, the Trump administration may deport four black men to Mauritania, a Muslim-majority nation in Africa that the CIA describes as a hotbed for human trafficking and slavery of its black minority residents. If the deportations are carried out, they would represent the latest in a growing number of black Mauritanians forced to return to a nation that their attorneys said could lead to imprisonment, torture, slavery or death. From fiscal years 2014 to 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement averaged just seven deportations to Mauritania each year based on those concerns. In 2018, the agency deported 79 people to Mauritania, and ICE says 22 are in custody awaiting deportation. Lynn Tramonte, director of the Ohio Immigrant Alliance, an advocacy group based in a state with one of the country’s largest Mauritanian communities, said she was sickened to learn of the White House event, where Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all promised to protect people from human trafficking. That followed an event in March where first lady Melania Trump named a Mauritanian woman who was born into slavery and co-founded an anti-slavery organization one of the Department of State’s International Women of Courage Award recipients. "It makes me angry, but this is their level of governance: photo ops and saying they're doing things, saying that they care, and then doing the exact opposite," Tramonte said. "It's not surprising, but it's frustrating." Tramonte said previous administrations limited deportations of undocumented immigrants from Mauritania because of the flagrant human rights atrocities committed there. Those living in the USA have been stripped of their Mauritanian citizenship, further limiting their rights if forced to return. More than three dozen Democratic lawmakers sent a letter last week to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking them to stop “the deportation of black Mauritanian nationals, who face the threat of race-based discrimination, violence or slavery if forced to return to Mauritania.” “Most Mauritanians in the United States arrived here seeking refuge from government-led racial and ethnic persecution and extreme violence,” the lawmakers wrote. “For the following two decades, our government declined to deport Mauritanians because of the dangerous and potentially life-threatening conditions they would face if they were returned to their country of origin.”

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USA Today - October 16, 2018

Health care is a key national issue in midterms but the real action may happen at state level

Health care has been a top issue in federal races this year as Republicans and Democrats fight over repealing or replacing Obamacare. But the real action this election might come at the state level.

No one knows that better than Amy 'A'lana' Marmel, an Idaho Falls single mom who was shocked when she went to sign up for insurance after the 2010 Affordable Care Act passed and found out she didn't qualify. That's because Idaho is one of 17 states that haven't gone along with the law's expansion of government insurance to include those earning up to about $28,000 for a family the size of Marmel's. So in November, voters in Idaho – as well as Nebraska and Utah – will decide whether to go around elected officials who have rejected expanding the joint federal-state program that covers the poor and disabled – one of every five Americans. Marmel, 48, who works as a server and bartender, is among 84,000 people in those states who could gain insurance. "It would be a huge weight off my mind," she said. Tens of thousands more people who are already eligible could sign up for care because they'll be told about the program and be helped to enroll. “There is just a huge swing in terms of the outcome of this election from really buttressing the existing levels of coverage for adults and securing them, to significantly damaging them,” said Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at the advocacy group Families USA. Eight out of 10 Medicaid adults – including parents and childless adults, the group targeted by the Medicaid expansion – live in working families, and a majority work themselves, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In Utah, advocates are trying to make their Medicaid move bullet-proof by also putting on the ballot a sales tax increase to pay for the state’s costs. They hope that will prevent Utah's legislature from not implementing the expansion – even if voters approve it – simply by not funding it. “We are bringing that decision directly to the people,” said Stacy Stanford, a Utah resident who went without health insurance for years and is now helping push for Medicaid expansion through the Utah Health Policy Project. Health care has typically ranked as a top issue for votes, but has risen this year in importance to Democratic voters while fallen among voters supporting Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center. Nearly nine in 10 Democratic voters say health care is "very important' to their vote, making it their most popular issue. Among Republicans, however, only six in 10 called health care "very important," ranking it behind the economy, terrorism, Supreme Court appointments, gun policy, taxes, immigration and the federal budget deficit. In addition to state ballot initiatives, the governor's races in several states – such as Florida, Kansas, Tennessee and Georgia – could help determine if Medicaid coverage is expanded there.

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Reuters - October 15, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs companies over lead paint liability

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals by three paint manufacturers challenging a California court ruling that held them liable for millions of dollars in damages relating to the use of lead paint decades ago.

The justices left in place the lower court’s 2017 ruling that endorsed a trial judge’s finding that the companies had created a “public nuisance” by concealing dangers posed by lead paint, which can cause brain damage if ingested. The appeals were brought by: Sherwin-Williams Co; ConAgra, part of parent company Conagra Brands Inc; and NL Industries Inc, which is owned by Valhi Inc. Lead paint was banned by the U.S. government in 1978 for use in homes but remains a top cause of lead poisoning, especially for children. The California appeals court said the companies were liable for the cost of lead abatement in homes built before 1951. The long-running litigation, dating back to 2000, stems from a complaint filed against the companies by 10 local jurisdictions in California, including Los Angeles County and the city of San Francisco. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg in 2014 ordered the companies to pay $1.15 billion into a fund used to locate lead paint in homes in seven counties and three cities and then to remove it from those residences. Kleinberg found the companies had knowledge of the hazards of lead paint, including the dangers of childhood lead poisoning, when they promoted lead paint for domestic use. The three companies sought Supreme Court review after the California Supreme Court in February refused to hear their appeal. They have said that there is no evidence any injury traced to lead poisoning came directly from their products and that liability was imposed based on the companies’ promotion of lead paint at a time when it was legally sold.

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Reuters - October 16, 2018

Senior FBI official improperly accepted gifts from reporter: report

An unnamed senior official at the FBI improperly accepted tickets to professional sporting events from a reporter and later misled investigators when confronted about it, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Tuesday.

The FBI official, who resigned from the agency during the probe, initially told the inspector general’s office under oath that the official had paid for the tickets, but later admitted that was not so. The reporter who gave the tickets to the FBI official is a television news correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the FBI, the report said. The report did not name the correspondent. The official’s conduct violated federal regulations, the internal watchdog said. The FBI declined to comment on the report’s findings. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley asked the internal watchdog to send him a copy of the full investigative report by Friday. The two-page report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz stems from a much broader investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe ahead of the 2016 presidential election. That investigation, released in a 500-plus page report in June, rebuked former FBI Director James Comey for announcing his decision shortly before the election to reopen the probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server. It also was critical of former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was later fired, for sending politically charged text messages that disparaged U.S. President Donald Trump and other politicians.

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The Hill - October 17, 2018

Dems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms

More than 70 Democratic House hopefuls outraised Republican incumbents in the third quarter of 2018, according to an analysis by The Hill of newly filed fundraising reports, giving them a sharp financial edge in the final stretch of the midterms.

The filings for the July to September quarter showed Democrats continued their aggressive fundraising in some of the most competitive House and Senate races. Eight Democrats running for House seats each raised more than $3 million in the same period, while 30 raised more than $2 million and 60 raked in more than $1 million. Three Democratic candidates brought in upward of $4 million in the third quarter — Gil Cisneros and Andrew Janz in California and Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania. Not all that money came from donors, however, given that Cisneros loaned his campaign $3.5 million, while Wallace loaned $4 million to his. The fundraising numbers are the latest boon to Democratic hopes to recapture the House majority in November. The party needs to pick up at least 23 seats to win back control of the chamber from the GOP. “It’s another reminder of how energized and motivated the Democratic base is,” said Navin Nayak, the executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, adding that the wealth of small-dollar donations to Democratic candidates “reinforces that there’s a ton of enthusiasm for candidates who are going to reject corporate PAC money.” In the previous quarter, just over 50 Democratic House hopefuls raised more than Republican incumbents. The number of Democrats who outraised GOP incumbents in this quarter continued a trend of record-setting fundraising that has helped empower Democrats in 2018. The strong numbers are part of a larger trend of heightened enthusiasm among Democratic voters and donors driven by deep dissatisfaction with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. The Democratic fundraising hauls were also in no small part fueled by low-dollar donations.

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The Hill - October 17, 2018

D'Amato: Bipartisanship is a greater danger than political polarization

The worst policy disasters of the country’s history have enjoyed some of the broadest bipartisan support. New scandals and culture war clashes have distracted us. They have obscured a deeper truth: the big-taxing, big-spending, war-making bipartisan consensus has dominated Washington policymaking for generations and it is far more durable than we are led to believe.

While the red and blue teams seem to be fighting each other, they are allied in their war on the rest of us. Among the most subtle and insidious frauds perpetrated by the united political class is the notion that citizens are in a kind of agreement with the government. If we are in fact in an agreement with the government, it is one of a very strange kind. Consider entitlement programs. These programs do not in fact entitle any individual to anything, just as funding police departments through tax dollars doesn’t entitle one to protection, just as paying for government schools doesn’t entitle one to a serviceable education. You’re not in a contractual agreement with the government that creates obligations for it — only for you. As philosopher Michael Huemer points out in his book, "The Problem of Political Authority," American courts have been of one voice in roundly rejected the proposition that the government has any duty, of even the flimsiest kind, to protect its citizens. Of course, if we consider history, this stands to reason. The government was never supposed to protect citizens in the first place; government instead predates its citizenry, holding them captive to enrich itself and its friends. It was to establish this system which is and was a permanent war upon its people. This remains the primary purpose of government. Policy wonks and political philosophers who insist that government represents a social contract apparently do not know the meaning of the word contract. By definition contracts create reciprocal duties. The apologists who honestly believe we are “in this together” have been bamboozled, though they can’t be faulted for not knowing better. A concentrated stream of misinformation, pageantry and propaganda — supported by both parties — exalts the government and euphemizes its misdeeds.

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ABC News - October 16, 2018

Heitkamp apologizes for ad that mistakenly identified some women as abuse survivors; misidentified others

North Dakota Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is apologizing after a newspaper ad released by her campaign used the names of sexual assault survivors who did not give permission for their information to be used and incorrectly identified others.

Heitkamp, who is facing a tough re-election bid in a state President Trump won by 36 points in the 2016 presidential election, said in a statement she recently learned that several women named in the ad hadn’t authorized it or are not survivors of abuse. “Sexual assault is a serious crime – and one that too many North Dakota women have experienced. In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and push back against dismissive comments toward sexual assault survivors by Kevin Cramer, our campaign worked with victim advocates to identify women who would be willing to sign the letter or share their story,” Heitkamp explained in a statement provided by her campaign to ABC News. “We recently discovered that several of the women's names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse. I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again,” Heitkamp said in the statement. The ad ran on Sunday in several North Dakota newspapers as an open letter to Kevin Cramer, Heitkamp’s Republican opponent in the Senate race, criticizing comments Cramer made during a New York Times interview in which he ripped into the #MeToo movement. The open letter was signed by more than 125 people. “That you’re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened,” Mr. Cramer said during the New York Times interview, alluding to Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who has accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers – and further challenging more broadly the idea of believing sexual assault survivors.

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Bloomberg - October 17, 2018

Mueller ready to deliver key findings in his Trump probe, sources say

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to two U.S. officials.

Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation. That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released. The question of timing is critical. Mueller’s work won’t be concluded ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to take control of the House and end Trump’s one-party hold on Washington. But this timeline also raises questions about the future of the probe itself. Trump has signaled he may replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the election, a move that could bring in a new boss for Mueller. Rosenstein also might resign or be fired by Trump after the election. Rosenstein has made it clear that he wants Mueller to wrap up the investigation as expeditiously as possible, another U.S. official said. The officials gave no indications about the details of Mueller’s conclusions. Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. With three weeks to go before the midterm elections, it’s unlikely Mueller will take any overt action that could be turned into a campaign issue. Justice Department guidelines say prosecutors should avoid any major steps close to an election that could be seen as influencing the outcome.

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Weekly Standard - October 16, 2018

Lindsey Graham pledges to 'sanction the Hell' out of Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi disappearance

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning that de facto Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman (commonly referred to as MBS) has “got to go” in light of the country’s suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has been missing for two weeks since last being seen entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

“I’ve been their biggest defender on the floor of the United States Senate,” Graham said of the country, which has long been an ally of the United States despite its human rights abuses. “This guy is a wrecking ball. He had [Khashoggi] murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it—I feel used and abused.” Graham added that MBS is toxic. “He can never be a world leader on the world stage,” said the South Carolina senator. Asked how President Donald Trump should respond to the matter, Graham said it was up to Trump, but “I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia . . . This guy’s got to go. Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.” Graham’s comments came after CNN reported on Monday evening that Saudi officials were preparing to release a potential statement acknowledging that Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate, despite initially denying involvement and claiming without evidence that Khashoggi had left the building unharmed. The statement would pin blame on intelligence officials rather than Saudi leaders, alleging that an interrogation attempt had gone wrong and Khashoggi, who is a U.S. resident and an opinion writer at the Washington Post, was killed without authorization. On Tuesday, Graham appeared unlikely to accept such a defense. “Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it,” he said.

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CNN - October 17, 2018

Trump defends Saudi Arabia as accusations mount over journalist disappearance

President Donald Trump has defended Saudi Arabia as accusations mount over its de facto ruler's close links to the men who apparently killed a journalist in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia has come under intense international pressure to explain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance after he visited the consulate on October 2 to obtain papers that would have allowed him to marry his Turkish fiancée. The disappearance of Khashoggi, an insider-turned-critic of the Saudi government, has prompted international outrage and calls for punitive action against Saudi Arabia. It has also thrown Trump's close ties with the kingdom into the spotlight as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is engaged on a tough diplomatic mission to contain the crisis. On Tuesday sources told CNN that a group of Saudi men, whom Turkish officials believe are connected to Khashoggi's possible death, was led by a high-ranking intelligence officer, with one source saying he was close to the inner circle of the Kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump suggested in an interview on Tuesday that the wave of criticism the Middle Eastern kingdom has faced over Khashoggi's disappearance is premature, comparing the case to sexual assault allegations against recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. "Here we go again with you know you're guilty until proven innocent," Trump told The Associated Press in an interview at the White House. "I don't like that," he added. "We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way." Later during an interview with Fox, he said that if Saudi Arabia knows what happened to Khashoggi, "that would be bad."

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Politico - October 17, 2018

Hurricane aftermath threatens to unleash Florida election chaos

As tens of thousands of voters in Florida’s storm-tossed Panhandle try to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Michael, their communities are grappling with yet another problem — an election season thrown into disarray.

With power out in many areas and phone lines down, it’s still not clear how many voters across the state have been affected. Nor is it clear which voter precincts were damaged, or what exactly the state should do to make voting easier for survivors and the displaced. Then there are the more crass political considerations. The state’s Senate and gubernatorial races are virtually tied at the moment — and 8 of the 11 counties without power, an area affecting 135,000 customers, are Republican-performing counties. One option available to GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running to topple Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, is to delay the general election in state races — but not his federal race — under an emergency power Floridians granted governors in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It’s an unlikely scenario, but it’s one that Florida Democrats discussed Monday and Tuesday. They also corresponded with the state’s elections division in support of more voting opportunities for hurricane survivors. And they privately war-gamed how to reach voters and debated what to do if the state decides to place any super-voting precincts in GOP-heavy areas, but not Democratic ones. Between House races, the governor’s race and his own Senate contest, Scott’s ultimate decision could have far-reaching implications in a state with a history of razor-thin elections margins and controversies — and it could even affect the balance of power in Washington. Polling in the nationally watched Senate and gubernatorial races in the country’s largest swing state has temporarily ground to a halt for political parties, campaigns and independent groups trying to get a read on what voters think. Some pollsters are holding off making calls even as phone service returns because it’s unseemly to call homeowners who are only interested in talking to insurance adjusters about home damage. “Even if the phone lines are up, people are still struggling, it’s the heat of recovery. You don’t want to be the one calling and asking folks to take a political survey,” said University of North Florida political science professor and pollster Michael Binder. UNF is polling Florida statewide late this week but will make calls to the still-reeling Panama City and Tallahassee media markets last so as to give survivors more time to process their emotions and handle their affairs.

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CNBC - October 17, 2018

Tesla buys new plot for its first China factory

Tesla successfully acquired an 864,885-square meter plot in Shanghai's Lingang area for the electric car maker's new factory, according to an announcement from Lingang Wednesday afternoon. No price was immediately disclosed.

Plans for the wholly-owned factory were first announced in July. Lingang is located on the coast, about 47 miles southeast of the center of Shanghai or a roughly two-hour subway ride. Several auto manufacturers with foreign ties have facilities there, and unmarked test vehicles can be seen roaming the streets. Tesla expects the factory to produce its first cars in three years, according to an earnings release in August. The facility will initially have capacity for about 250,000 vehicles and battery packs a year, and plans to eventually double that, the release said. Funding will mostly come from local debt, and Tesla's own investment "will not start in any significant way until 2019," the company said in the August release. Producing cars in China, the world's largest market for electric vehicles, would significantly lower costs for Tesla. The company noted in an Oct. 2 report it cannot access the same cash incentives as local Chinese manufacturers, and overall ocean transport costs and tariffs mean the automaker is operating at a 55 percent to 60 percent cost disadvantage compared with a domestic equivalent.

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Newsclips - October 16, 2018

Lead Stories

The Hill - October 16, 2018

Five things to watch in Cruz-O'Rourke debate showdown

Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke will square off in a debate on Tuesday at a pivotal moment in the hotly contested Senate race. The debate comes days after O’Rourke announced a record-shattering fundraising haul, even as he continues to lag in the polls.

1) Can O’Rourke put Cruz on defense? Cruz, a champion debater from his days at Princeton University, was mainly on offense at the first debate. He aggressively tore into O’Rourke’s record and sought to closely align him with the Democratic establishment. O’Rourke countered with a few of his own jabs, bemoaning that Cruz’s tactics are the reason Americans are frustrated with Washington. But in Tuesday’s debate, O’Rourke is likely going to need to land a knock-out punch to help move the needle over the next three weeks. 2) Will culture wars dominate again? The candidates were asked about kitchen table issues, but a significant part of their first debate was consumed by culture wars and identity politics. Both candidates sparred over controversial issues like police shootings and guns in school. O’Rourke defended his support for NFL players who kneel during the national anthem — a viral moment of the campaign that Cruz has seized on. 3) How will Cruz continue to tie O'Rourke to Dem party? Like other Republican candidates in Senate debates, Cruz repeatedly brought up 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders as a way to paint O’Rourke as a liberal that wouldn’t stray away from the Washington establishment. O’Rourke has said he’ll work with Trump where there’s agreement, and at the last debate, noted that he didn’t care about party. But Cruz is hoping that raising the specter of Clinton and other Democratic politicians whom Republicans use as boogeymen will counter the notion that O’Rourke will be an independent mind in the Senate. 4) How will O’Rourke, Cruz differ on foreign policy? Foreign policy and national security issues like the Iran deal, the rocky relationship between the U.S. and North Korea and Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin are likely topics that could be broached at Tuesday’s showdown. Cruz and O’Rourke are on opposite sides over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. 5) Can O’Rourke counter GOP enthusiasm on Kavanaugh? This is Cruz and O’Rourke’s first in-person encounter since that testimony and Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court. Cruz has been a strong defender of Kavanaugh and will likely draw that stark contrast with O’Rourke, who said he wouldn’t have supported his confirmation if he was in the Senate. At the last debate, Cruz hammered O’Rourke over the Supreme Court, arguing that like Clinton, “he wants liberal judicial activists on the court.” O’Rourke has said that he finds Kavanaugh to have a “troubling history” when it comes voting rights protections as well as civil rights.

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Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Trump sets 'major rally' with Ted Cruz for Houston on Oct. 22 at arena that seats 8,000

President Donald Trump will star at a rally in Houston on Oct. 22 to help Sen. Ted Cruz, the president's campaign announced Monday night. The president announced last month that he would hold a "major rally" for Cruz at "the biggest stadium in Texas we can find." That turned out to be the 8,000-seat NRG Arena, which isn't close to the biggest event site even in Houston.

Nearby NRG Stadium, home to the NFL Houston Texans, and tops out at around 80,000 people. The Toyota Center, home to the Houston Rockets basketball franchise, seats 18,000. Those seemed to be the sorts of venues Trump had in mind when he announced that he would come to the rescue of a man he derided as "Lyin' Ted" during the 2016 presidential campaign. "I'm picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find. As you know, Ted has my complete and total Endorsement. His opponent is a disaster for Texas -- weak on Second Amendment, Crime, Borders, Military, and Vets!" Trump tweeted last month. Weeks before that, struggling for traction, Cruz had said he would welcome Trump's help in his effort to fend off El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke. A Trump campaign aide, insisting he not be quoted by name, took issue with questions about whether the rally site falls short of the expectations the president set. "The suggestion that we didn't book the largest venue available is erroneous, as we sought other locations for the day that early voting begins in Texas on October 22, but they were not available in Houston," this aide said by email. "We will try to accommodate as many people as possible and also provide viewing for the overflow crowds that always accompany our rallies." NRG Stadium is hosting a monster truck jam on Saturday, two days before the Trump-Cruz rally, and a game between the Texans and Miami Dolphins three days after the rally. The Toyota Center has shows with Kevin Hart on Saturday, and on Tuesday with Josh Groban with Idina Menzel.

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Washington Post - October 16, 2018

Trump tops $100 million in fundraising for his own reelection

President Trump has topped $100 million in fundraising for his 2020 reelection bid — an enormous haul for a president barely two years into his first term, according to new Federal Election Commission filings.

Trump pulled in $18.1 million last quarter through his campaign committee and two joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee, for a total of at least $106 million since January 2017, according to federal filings made public Monday evening. Together, all three committees ended September with $46.7 million in cash on hand, filings show. No other president dating back to at least Ronald Reagan had raised any money at this point for his own campaign committee, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan research group. Unlike his predecessors, Trump began fundraising for his reelection shortly after his 2016 win. Trump continues to be buoyed by an avid small-donor base. FEC filings show 56 percent of the total raised by his committees from July through September came from donations of $200 or less. Despite his haul, Trump was not the biggest fundraiser last quarter. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to GOP incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, reportedly raised more than twice as much, pulling in $38.1 million — a quarterly fundraising record for a Senate campaign. Lara Trump, senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said in a statement that the campaign hopes to see its grass-roots supporters “and millions more like them to get out and vote in the midterms so President Trump can continue to build on his agenda with even greater success for the forgotten men and women of this great country.” Trump’s campaign committee spent $7.7 million last quarter, including $1.6 million on online advertising paid to a company called American Made Media Consultants. The entity is controlled by campaign officials and designed to serve as a clearinghouse for advertising purchases, the New York Times reported Monday.

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NBC News - October 14, 2018

You'd think Hispanics would be leading a march to the polls because of Trump's rhetoric. They aren't.

More than three years after Trump launched his presidential campaign by railing against Mexican "rapists" streaming over the border, Democratic hopes and Republican fears that the growing population of Latinos would give Democrats a permanent advantage have yet to materialize.

Nationally, Latino voters favor a Democratic Congress over a Republican one by 64-21 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Telemundo poll last month. But self-reported interest in the election is low, according to the same survey, and the picture in some individual races looks even worse for Democrats. On paper, some of congressional Democrats' best opportunities to pick up seats come from heavily Hispanic districts that are currently held by Republicans, but which Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Yet those are also some of the places where recent polls are showing Democratic candidates not doing as well as anticipated. But nowhere is the Latino challenge this year more evident than Texas. O'Rourke, who is of Irish descent but adopted a Hispanic nickname, needs strong backing from Latinos to win against Cruz in the heavily Republican state. Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, is earning the support of almost four-in-10 Latino voters, according to a Quinnipiac poll. "The problem with Texas for Democrats is not that it's a red state, it's that it's a non-voting state," Julian Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and ex-mayor of San Antonio, told NBC News. "The issue we have is with ourselves — it's getting more people registered to vote, it's getting the Hispanic community to turn out and vote."

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Cruz hits O’Rourke for voting no on funds for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense — but he did, too

Sen. Ted Cruz asserts that Rep. Beto O’Rourke has “the most anti-Israel record of any Senate Democratic candidate.” To back up the claim, he points to one particular vote against funding for Iron Dome, a defense system that lets Israel knock down rockets raining down from Gaza and elsewhere.

The allegation may surface in Tuesday night’s debate in San Antonio, devoted in part to foreign policy. But Cruz’s allegation is oversimplified. O’Rourke has voted to fund Iron Dome numerous times, but opposed funding one particular time. And the senator has voted four times himself against larger measures that provided funds for Iron Dome. In May, Iran fired 20 rockets into the Golan Heights that were intercepted by Iron Dome. Cruz pounced. “Beto O’Rourke was only one of only eight Members of Congress to vote against crucial funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, joining the ranks of Nation of Islam supporter Rep. Keith Ellison and liberal Rep. Zoe Lofgren,” the campaign said in a prepared statement. Cruz routinely repeats the allegation at campaign events. “Nancy Pelosi voted yes. Maxine Waters voted yes. Beto O’Rourke voted no,” he said at one recent appearance. He’s referring to a vote on Aug. 1, 2014, when the House approved $225 million to replenish Iron Dome funding on 395-8 vote, a week after the Senate gave its approval. Although O’Rourke opposed that batch of Iron Dome funding, he supported funding many other times. On June 20, 2014, he voted for the National Defense Appropriations Act that included $670 million for missile defense programs for Israel, including $351 million for Iron Dome. Six days earlier, he had supported an amendment to add $15 million to improve Iron Dome. The August 2014 vote was the first time O’Rourke did not support spending on Iron Dome. In May 2016, he voted against a budget bill that included Iron Dome funding. He was on the losing side of a 277-147 vote. In June 2013, the House voted 315-108 for a defense spending bill that included over $235 million for Iron Dome. O’Rourke supported that bill. But when the Senate took up the measure, Cruz voted against it. That bill sailed through the Senate on an 84-15 vote in December 2013, which Cruz voted against. In 2013, Cruz supported Sen. Rand Paul’s budget resolution, which would have slashed defense funding, including aid to Iron Dome.

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Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Libertarian Senate candidate files FEC complaint against O'Rourke and CNN for $10M over town hall

Libertarian Neal Dikeman filed an FEC complaint against Beto O’Rourke and CNN for $10 million, saying the network's town hall on Thursday violates campaign contribution laws.

The complaint filed on Monday argues because Sen. Ted Cruz is not taking part, and O’Rourke is the sole participant, CNN cannot claim the event as a debate. Also, he said the hour-long format with O'Rourke is not typical news coverage given to other candidates. Dikeman finds the single candidate town hall to be an in-kind donation, which is prohibited campaign contribution. “Whatever you do, you can’t do this,” he told The Dallas Morning News. Dikeman wrote CNN a letter on Oct. 11 requesting to participate in the event but has not heard back from the network. The $10 million included in the complaint is what Dikeman estimated the one-hour slot on CNN would cost. If the FEC found this to be an in-kind donation to the O'Rourke campaign, he hopes the congressman would pay CNN back. A CNN spokesperson responded to an email saying the network is aware of the complaint and will respond soon. The O'Rourke campaign did not immediately return requests for comment. Erin Chlopak, senior legal counsel of campaign finance for the Campaign Legal Center, said the lack of members on the FEC commission right now makes it hard to see this complaint go through. The FEC is normally made up of six commissioners, with no more than three from either political party. However, the commission only has four members, with two seats open seats. Last week, Cruz declined to participate in the CNN hour-long town in McAllen on Oct. 18. Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe took issue with the characterization. “CNN subsequently offered back to back town halls, in which we are unable to participate,” Roe tweeted.

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Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Supersonic jet ambitions of Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass are a step closer to reality

General Electric Co. has completed its initial design for the first commercial supersonic aircraft engine in five decades, a major hurdle for developing private planes and, perhaps eventually, jetliners that fly faster than the speed of sound for Aerion, a startup backed by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, who has been trying to develop a supersonic business jet for more than a decade.

The twin-shaft, twin-fan design will slash travel times by hours after 50 years in which the average speed of private jets has increased only 10 percent, GE said in a statement Monday. "Instead of going faster, cabins have increased in size and become more comfortable and range has become longer,'' Brad Mottier, GE vice president for business aviation, said in a statement. "The next step is speed.'' The engine design bolsters Aerion's goal of putting a supersonic plane in the sky next decade. Lockheed Martin Corp. is helping with design and production of Aerion's AS2 plane, which would seat 12. Flexjet, which flies clients who buy fractional ownership of an aircraft, agreed in 2015 to buy 20 of the planes. Aerion is targeting the aircraft's first flight in 2023, followed by a commercial debut in 2025. The engine will be able to meet noise and emissions rules while flying faster than the speed of sound over water and decelerating to slower speeds over land. Most countries still ban breaking the sound barrier because of sonic booms. The booms and loud engine noise hobbled flights of the Concorde, contributing to the demise of the last supersonic commercial plane. Aerion is hardly alone in the race to develop civilian planes that fly faster than the speed of sound. Boom Technology Inc., a Colorado startup, is developing a 45-to-55 seat plane capable of connecting New York and London in about three hours. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. and Japan Airlines Co. have said they intend to purchase the aircraft.

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Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Colin Allred raises $1 million more than Pete Sessions in North Texas race for Congress

Colin Allred raised $1 million more than rival Pete Sessions during the third fundraising quarter of this year, signaling that the race for Dallas-area's 32nd Congressional District is one of the most competitive bellwether districts in the country.

According to his campaign, Allred, the former NFL player turned candidate for Congress, raised more than $2.3 million for the period from July 1 to Sept. 30. The Democrat spent $1.3 million during the period and had $1.9 million in the bank at the start of October. Sessions, the incumbent who's represented the district since 2003, hauled in $1.3 million for the same period. He spent over $533,000 for the period and had $2.6 million in his campaign fund. For the election, Sessions has raised $4 million, while Allred has collected just over $3 million. "Colin's campaign puts people in North Texas first, not special interests. Colin has refused to take contributions from corporate PACs, unlike Congressman Sessions, who has taken over $10 million from corporate PACs while he's been in Washington," said Allred's campaign manager Paige Hutchinson in a prepared statement. "That's why Congressman Sessions has used his decades in Washington to do special interest's bidding and Colin will be able to bring fresh ideas to fix a broken system." But a Sessions campaign spokesperson said Allred is being backed by supporters of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "Coastal liberal elites from California and Massachusetts are funneling money into North Texas because they want Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House," said Sessions chief of staff Caroline Boothe in a prepared statement, though Allred's report has yet to be filed with the Federal Election Commission. "Our fundraising numbers show that we have strong support because Pete has a proven record of results that have made our communities safer, stronger, and more prosperous."

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Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2018

Texas Democrats are already missing their chance to slow down the GOP

Blue wave or not, Texas Democrats may have already squandered their best chance to cut into the growing political power of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, arguably the most powerful Republican in the state government.

Six months ago, Democrats needed to pick up just two very winnable seats in the Texas Senate to throw up roadblocks for Patrick, who has driven a conservative agenda over the last four years dominated by so-called bathroom bills, abortion restrictions, attacks on unions and jabs at local governments. But now just a month from the election, through a pair of self-inflicted wounds the Democrats have put themselves in a position such that they will need to win four Senate seats on Nov. 6 to slow Patrick down. And worse, if they fail to win more seats, the Democrats will go into the 2019 Legislative Session with just nine senators — fewer than at any time in modern Texas history. Yet the top Democrat in the Texas Senate says he’s not conceding defeat. “I’m still hopeful,” State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, an El Paso Democrat, said. Rodriguez says Democrats still have the momentum to win enough seats to change the composition of the Texas Senate and force Republicans, and thus Patrick, to be more collaborative. As much as Democrats have counted on a so-called blue wave to help them claim the 13 seats they need to stall or block legislation, they’ve made major tactical blunders that could hurt them come January. First, disgraced Democrat Carlos Uresti resigned from the state Senate after being sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for securities fraud and money laundering. In a subsequent special election, Republican Pete Flores won what had been a solidly Democratic district, and was sworn in on Friday. And instead of needing to gain two seats, the Democrats needed three. The night Flores won, a beaming Dan Patrick proclaimed: "All this talk of a blue wave. Well, the tide is out.” Democrats could be down yet another seat because of the timing of State Sen. Sylvia Garcia’s expected resignation. Garcia all but locked up a seat in the Democrat-dominated 29th Congressional District in Houston in March with a victory in the primary election. But instead of resigning ahead of the November general election, Garcia submitted an “intent to resign” letter that Gov. Greg Abbott has refused to recognize, rejecting her request for a special election for the Houston-based Senate seat. Now, the Senate is almost certain to be in session before a special election can be held to replace Garcia. Without Garcia, the Senate’s three-fifths majority would then be based on 30 members, meaning Republicans would need just 18 Senators to agree to bring a measure to the floor, and the Democrats need to flip four seats in November.

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Houston Chronicle - October 11, 2018

Crenshaw, Litton agree on flood control needs, differ on details

With Harvey fresh on residents’ minds, recovery and flood control have emerged as top issues in the race to represent the district, which includes hard-hit areas such as Spring and Kingwood.

Flooding also is the topic on which Republican Dan Crenshaw and Democrat Todd Litton have found the most common ground as they vie to replace U.S. Rep. Ted Poe. The Humble Republican is not seeking re-election. Crenshaw and Litton are at odds on most topics, revealing differences during a pair of recent debates on gun laws, immigration and health care. At a forum hosted last week by the nonprofit advocacy group Residents Against Flooding, and in separate interviews on flooding, however, they had few policy dissents, instead differing in style and priorities. The sharpest difference appears to be their respective approaches to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that operates the Addicks and Barker dams and reservoirs. The Army Corps oversees scores of flood studies and projects nationally, including some announced earlier this year in Harris County. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, sees a key part of his role as pressuring the Army Corps to hasten upgrades on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs and its study of a potential third reservoir. “If we actually dedicate some effort to it and put some pressure on the right people, I think you can speed these things up without forfeiting quality,” Crenshaw said. “I have a lot of experience with the Army. It doesn't matter whether they're engineers or whether they're in Afghanistan. I come from a social operations background where we specialize in breaking down barriers and getting the job done.” At the flooding forum, Crenshaw answered the opening question — “What is your big-picture strategy for solving flooding in the Houston region?” — in part by saying he would target committee assignments in Congress that would deal with flooding and give him “oversight and authority” over the Army Corps.

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San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2018

EPA weighs allowing oil companies to pump wastewater into rivers, streams

With concern growing that the underlying geology in the Permian Basin and other shale plays are reaching capacity for disposal wells, the Trump administration is examining whether to adjust decades-old federal clean water regulations to allow drillers to discharge wastewater directly into rivers and streams from which communities draw their water supplies.

Technically speaking, drillers are allowed to do this in limited circumstances under federal law, but the process of cleaning salt-, heavy metal- and chemical-laden wastewater to the point it would meet state or federal water standards is so costly that it’s rarely done, experts say. “Technology is changing. At some point, if your disposal options are limited or it becomes so expensive you’re having to truck water to be disposed of several hundred miles away, companies will do it,” said Jared Craighead, legal counsel to Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton. “It might not make sense today but maybe in a year or two.” The Environmental Protection Agency is consulting with experts and conducting public meetings around the country toward making a decision next summer, said Lee Forsgren, deputy assistant administrator at EPA’s Office of Water, Tuesday in Washington. “We’re very much in a listening mode now,” he said. The primary question facing the EPA is whether water standards can be adjusted so oil and gas companies can economically treat wastewater to be pumped into the water supply without contaminating drinking water supplies or killing off local wildlife. In 2016, the EPA banned municipal sewage plants from accepting wastewater associated with hydraulic fracturing after it was discovered that in Pennsylvania, water was sent to plants not equipped to properly clean it. Amid that state’s fracking boom, residents along the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania were advised to use bottled drinking water. “It would be so difficult to (treat the wastewater) because there’s so much we don’t know,” said Nichole Saunders, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin. “There’s only a handful of research papers. We don’t have approved testing methods. The complicating factor here is there’s not really the science and data to inform EPA.” In Washington, lobbyists for the oil and wastewater industries are pushing hard to loosen regulations they say go too far. Their primary case to the EPA is that the treated wastewater could provide a valuable resource for drought-ravaged water supplies in the western United States, with potential uses for agriculture and industry, and even drinking water supplies.

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San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2018

As Texas faces a sharp increase in special education students, the shortage of teachers could get worse

Texas will need about 9,000 more teachers like De Los Santos as 150,000 more students statewide become eligible for special education classes in the next three years. That will intensify an existing shortage of such teachers in the state and in the U.S.

For more than a decade, the Texas Education Agency set an illegal limit on special education services, a 2016 investigation by the Hearst Newspapers found and a later federal audit confirmed. State officials removed the cap last year, which opened the door to more students getting services. Instruction for the additional students is estimated to cost at least $3 billion. About 32,000 teachers in Texas taught some 500,000 special ed students last year. Veronica De Los Santos is one of about 350 teachers and almost 400 instructional assistants in San Antonio Independent School District who work directly with special education students. She teaches academic subjects such as reading, social studies and math to eight students at the Robert B. Green Academy. Almost 5,300 students receive special education services in the district — 11 percent of the total enrollment. De Los Santos, 33, began teaching special ed 10 years ago by accident. On her way to becoming a businesswoman, she took a detour for a summer substitute teaching job. She said she lost her heart to the children.

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Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2018

Despite legal uncertainty, sales of cannabis extract booming in Texas

Stores selling CBD – a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana and hemp – have been popping up statewide, almost as if Texas recently enacted a sweeping medical cannabis program. It hasn’t.

The boom in retail sales of products containing CBD, or cannabidiol, has instead been taking place in a legal gray zone, with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and some pro-cannabis activists disagreeing among themselves as to whether it is lawful in Texas. The uncertainty stems largely from vaguely worded state marijuana prohibitions, as well as from evolving cannabis policies at the federal level. But even those who contend it is illegal say enforcement is a low priority for prosecutors and police. Texas lawmakers approved a restrictive medical cannabis law in 2015, called the Compassionate Use Act, that allows dispensaries licensed by the Department of Public Safety to make and sell CBD products that have greater percentages of active ingredients than the bulk of those now found at retail outlets. But the DPS has only allowed three dispensaries to obtain licenses -- with each required to pay an initial $488,520 administrative fee -- and the law only permits them to sell to patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy and referred by a doctor. “We legalized CBD through the Compassionate Use Act -- that’s it,” said state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, a leading sponsor of the bill that created the state law. “Even if it is a hemp-derived product (instead of marijuana-derived), Texas has not legalized hemp.” But Klick’s view hasn’t stopped wellness centers, natural products retailers and vape shops that sell over-the-counter CBD produced out of state from opening throughout Austin and other Texas metro areas, based on the premise that it’s legal under federal law and not prohibited by state law at low levels of active ingredients. The stores have been capitalizing on nationwide hype touting CBD as something of a wonder therapy for everything from chronic pain to insomnia.

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Bloomberg - October 15, 2018

Icahn fighting Dell’s plan to return to public markets

Activist investor Carl Icahn has come out against Dell Technologies’ plan to return to public markets, arguing that the proposed transaction undervalues shares that track its stake in VMware Inc.

The billionaire said he would solicit votes against the deal and potentially propose an alternative transaction allowing investors to cash out if they want. Icahn also disclosed Monday in a letter to shareholders that he had increased his stake in the tracking stock known as DVMT to 8.3 percent from 1.2 percent, making him its second-largest holder. “I intend to do everything in my power to stop this proposed DVMT merger,” Icahn wrote in the letter. “It is better to have peace than war, but be assured, I still enjoy a good fight for the right reasons, and in the current situation, I do not see peace arriving quickly.” A representative for Dell declined to comment. At issue is Round Rock-based Dell’s $21.7 billion-proposal to buy out DVMT holders before listing its own shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The move, which is backed by private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, is designed to help Michael Dell streamline his tech empire, which includes Dell, the tracking stock and a majority stake in VMware. Some investors have balked at the proposed DVMT buyout, questioning how Dell arrived at a valuation of its own shares. The offer of $109 a share in cash and Dell stock values Dell’s new Class C shares at $79.77 -- a number that has more than doubled during the company’s internal calculations in the months before the deal. Icahn urged DVMT holders not to accept Dell’s offer, or a new bid, unless it includes a “very, very substantial increase.” The activist said he’s evaluating alternative transactions with financing sources, as he recognizes some investors holders might want to cash out. “If Dell does raise the offer, it will be important to provide liquidity to the DVMT stockholders that want to sell, while also protecting the DVMT stockholders that do not want to sell from being forced out in a merger,” he said. “The best way to balance these competing interests would be to offer a competing partial bid that provides partial liquidity without forcing a merger.”

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Star-Telegram - October 15, 2018

Tarrant lawmaker uses Dallas skyline in campaign flyer, sparking flare-up of DFW rivalry

The rivalry between Fort Worth and Dallas has reared its head again. This time it’s through a new campaign flyer in the Texas Senate District 10 race. The flyer, by incumbent state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, shares the message “Keep the Texas Economy Strong.” Behind those words is a photo of the downtown Dallas skyline.

The Senate District 10 includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville. But not Dallas. Burton faces Democratic challenger Beverly Powell in her re-election bid to this district that’s neither solidly Republican nor Democratic that has swung between the two parties for years. When asked for a comment about the Dallas skyline being featured in her flyer, Burton responded in a text message: “The press wants to write about an image on a mailer instead of my opponent’s repeated history of failing to pay her taxes and her many lies about it during this campaign. What really matters to voters?” Burton is referring to a past lawsuit against Powell for unpaid business property taxes. Her campaign has shared paperwork showing a tax judgment and liens involving several businesses, including a Burleson antique store co-owned by Powell. Powell responded to the allegations earlier this month on a website, stating: “The bottom line, the business taxes Burton questioned have been paid.” “There’s a reason Konni Burton deflects and distracts when asked about her priorities — because they reflect the direction given to her by the Empower Texans special interest PAC and the West Texas billionaires who fund her campaign, and not the priorities of the voters of SD10,” Powell posted.

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County Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

DMN: John Wiley Price’s greatest gift to Republicans is his mailer comparing Trump to Hitler

Even by John Wiley Price standards, the political mailer was offensive, dangerous and vile. On the right, a photo of President Donald Trump. On the left, a brown-shirted Adolf Hitler with his signature mustache and cruel, beady eyes.

In the middle of the two, Price placed an equal sign. Under them, he listed all the ways Trump and Hitler are supposedly alike — racism, facism, a promise to make Germany/America great again. Left out for the convenience of this sinister political cliche were the historical realities. Hitler was a megalomaniacal dictator who engaged a campaign of genocide against the Jewish people so ruthless in its conception and so calculated in its implementation that it treated murder as an assembly line — mechanizing human destruction in a way history had never known. That isn’t to mention the war Hitler waged against the free people of Europe or the cost in American lives to undo his tyranny. For Price, Hitler represents something simpler — a chance to take a shot at a president he finds politically distasteful. Jewish leaders in Dallas are appropriately offended. As are Republican leaders. Democratic County Judge Clay Jenkins un-courageously demurred when offered the chance to speak out against the mailer. Jenkins said he was focused on his own campaign.

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Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2018

Ed Emmett aims re-election campaign at Democrats

If there is a nightmare keeping Harris County Judge Ed Emmett awake at night, it may go like this: It starts months before November, when Democrats tell pollsters they, of course, will vote for Emmett, even though he’s a Republican. They like how he led the county during Hurricane Harvey, and the storms before that, stretching back to Ike a decade ago.

Election Day arrives. A surge of Democrats turn out, motivated by anger with Republicans at the top of the ticket and President Donald Trump, who is absent from the ballot. They have no quarrel with Emmett. But the lines are long, the ballot is long, and the county judge’s race is below dozens of state and federal contests. At the top of the ballot, however, voters can select the straight ticket of their party with one button. Democrats pick theirs, and leave. And Emmett loses to a 27-year-old who never has held political office. That is the scenario, in the last Texas election with straight-ticket voting, election researchers say could sweep Emmett out of office. Though Emmett is likely to win a third full term, they said in an election in which Republican voters likely will be a minority, the judge should be reminding Democrats to buck their party and stick with him. “It’s all about Democrats voting for Ed,” said Robert Stein, a political science professor at Rice University. “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility, however remote or odd it sounds, that Democrats never remember to.” Emmett’s opponent is Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old community advocate and graduate student in her first campaign for political office. Emmett is far more experienced, has raised more money and is more widely known than Hidalgo, yet takes her challenge seriously. In the pair’s joint appearances Emmett has campaigned aggressively, seeking to portray Hidalgo as a candidate ill-prepared to run the nation’s third-largest county whose passion should not be confused with expertise. In an interview from his downtown office on a dreary afternoon, Emmett, 69, said he will focus the final weeks of his campaign on swaying Democrats he needs to build a winning coalition. “Not a day goes by where somebody doesn’t walk up to me and say I’m the only Republican they ever vote for, or ‘I’m a Democrat and I always vote for you,’” Emmett said. “My job is to make sure they find me on the ballot.”

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2018

HISD trustees apologize for superintendent vote, pledge to work better with each other

Houston ISD trustees on Monday offered a public apology to students, parents and teachers for their behavior the past 10 months, particularly the chaotic meeting last week when a faction of the board surprised their colleagues and the audience by replacing the interim superintendent.

Trustees said they hoped the apology and pledge to work better with each other is the first step toward quelling infighting on the board, restoring the public’s trust and showing the Texas Education Agency that HISD is capable of governing itself. “Our actions have not modeled the behavior we desire to instill in our children that we serve,” said Trustee Diana Dávila at a lectern surrounded by her eight colleagues. “We sincerely apologize to all of you.” Trustees said they would reinstate Grenita Lathan as interim superintendent, reversing the abrupt appointment of former HISD head Abelardo Saavedra as her successor. Lathan was greeted with hearty applause by the more than 100 officials and members of the public who filled the HISD boardroom. Lathan thanked the board and community for their support. “There is is no doubt that these past few days have been a difficult time for our district,” she said. “But know that my work never stops. My students have always been my priority, and will continue to be my priority.” Trustee Jolanda Jones said the board at a special meeting Thursday morning would set an end date for its search for a permanent superintendent, consider hiring an executive coach for the school board and Lathan, and request a new governance counselor from the Texas Education Agency, which has been monitoring the board for months. Dávila did not respond to a request for comment Monday evening, but made a personal apology to the community on Twitter earlier in the day in which she acknowledged she “participated in this dysfunction.” She also praised Lathan’s leadership during the news conference.

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Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2018

Mayor Turner’s former press secretary faces second criminal charge

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s former press secretary has been charged with abusing her official capacity by misusing her government computer, cell phone and email account for private purposes, according to a charging document filed by the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

Darian Ward, who also was charged last July with refusing to turn over public records, “intentionally and knowingly” misused government property to “obtain a benefit” between March 22, 2014 and Nov. 15, 2017, states the charging document, which was filed Friday. The value of the alleged misuse was estimated to be at least $750 and less than $2,500. The new charge is listed as a felony on the charging document, but the district attorney’s office said that is a typographical error and the charge is a Class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail or both. Ward, who resigned her city post in January, faces a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail or both under the misdemeanor records charge filed in July. She is accused of failing to turn over roughly 5,000 pages of emails about personal business activities sent or received on her city of Houston email account in response to an open records request by a reporter. Ward’s attorney, Chris Tritico, has said the emails were not public information and that his client did nothing wrong.

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Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Dallas Police and Fire Pension System leader says city needs more cops to help 'fragile' fund

If City Hall doesn’t do more to grow its ranks of police and firefighters, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System won’t be able to stay on its already perilous path to solvency, the fund’s top official said Monday.

Kelly Gottschalk, the system’s executive director, delivered that warning to members of the City Council’s Government Performance & Financial Management Committee. The $2.1 billion retirement fund is trying to work its way back from years of underperforming investments and lucrative benefits. A year after implementing a series of changes aimed at fixing the fund, Gottschalk called the fund’s current position “fragile" and dependent upon factors outside her control. “Our path to solvency is narrow and it’s risky,” Gottschalk told the committee. “So, things like the hiring plan and the investment return really matter.” The system’s leaders made similar warnings after city officials, state lawmakers, police and firefighter associations and the pension board in 2017 agreed to a compromise that put the fund on a sounder financial path. The changes cut billions of dollars in future liabilities. The city and members pony up more every year. Police and firefighters also took benefit cuts. But the path back to full funding was long — and based on projections and a series of assumptions that might not materialize. The first year hasn’t gone quite as well as hoped. The Dallas Police Department — which lost hundreds of officers when the pension was on a path to insolvency within a decade — is still struggling to fill its ranks. An Oct. 8 report from the department showed that the city had 3,029 officers at the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year, down from 3,070 in 2016-17. Last fiscal year, the department lost 240 officers, and hired 199 new officers from a pool of 1,217 applicants — well shy of its ambitious goal of 250 that the city set out in January. Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief David Coatney said in an email his department met its hiring goal, adding 264 new hires from a pool of 4,645 total applicants.

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National Stories

Washington Post - October 16, 2018

In dust-up with Elizabeth Warren, President Trump shows he’s pulling the strings in the Democratic presidential contest

As she sought Monday to quell persistent questions about her distant Native American ancestry, Sen. Elizabeth Warren also raised an important new one: Just how much is President Trump driving the Democratic presidential contest?

The Warren issue, a response to Trump’s relentless attacks on the Massachusetts Democrat, illustrated the tricky task facing Democrats as the 2018 midterms near and soon are followed by the 2020 presidential contest: how to respond to the roiling debates within their own party and also to the bomb-thrower in the Oval Office. Even as many Democrats would like to focus on 2018 candidates, Warren was pushed by Trump to release a DNA test about her heritage. Michael Avenatti, who rose to national fame as Trump accuser Stormy Daniels’s attorney and now is toying with a presidential run, showcases a near-daily engagement with Trump, one that appeared to backfire when he aired unsubstantiated accusations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Former vice president Joe Biden, another potential presidential aspirant, has been counterprogramming in the same places as Trump, holding rallies in Kentucky last week and Nevada this week to respond to the president. All of that has given the appearance that Trump, and not his would-be challengers, is setting the tone of the current debate, defining what topics his political rivals react to and distracting from more-pressing Democratic needs. Warren, for her part, is working aggressively to elect candidates around the country — dispatching staffers to nine states and closely coordinating with more than 150 campaigns. But her announcement Monday seemed to shift focus from that field of play. “Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now?” tweeted Jim Messina, the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. “Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???”

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New York Times - October 16, 2018

Swartz: All the good Beto headlines have been used

Does a much-covered Texas representative looking to unseat Ted Cruz stand a chance? And what if he — gulp — loses? Well, we’ve been here before.

Representative Beto O’Rourke, who you probably know has been running to take the seat of Senator Ted Cruz, has been the subject of hagiographic articles in just about every publication in existence, including Town & Country, a magazine rarely known for its political influence. Beto (he has achieved first-name status) has also appeared on the TV shows of Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher, among many, many others. Beto fever has reached malarial levels on both coasts, too. It is impossible for a Texan to visit Manhattan or Los Angeles or Washington or Seattle without being cornered by some near-delirious soul who wants to know if Beto really has a chance. For a Texan, especially one who leans left, this situation can be disconcerting. It’s nice to feel so much enthusiasm for a Texas race, but the implication, subtle though it may be, is that Beto is the only living human who might be able to save Texas from itself. Yes, Beto is the coolest-looking man to come out of Texas since Matthew McConaughey. He has an Ivy League degree and cares about the underserved and the undocumented. He doesn’t wear cowboy boots to prove his Texas bona fides. To many urban Texans, that means that Beto is not so different from a lot of thoughtful, educated, big-city folks who live here. Non-Texans, in contrast, are still stunned to discover that even people who don’t live in Austin know about Tuscan blends and Karl Ove Knausgaard. A win for Beto, then, is a win for the new Texas. A loss means that even though all of our major cities are blue, the old, [insert pejorative here] Texas still prevails. We have been here before. Ann Richards, you may recall, became a national icon after taking over the governor’s office in 1990. From the outside looking in — and even to some locals — Texas seemed to be on a whole new trajectory: Ms. Richards did what she could to move the state forward, or at least gave the impression that she was. (The governor’s job was largely symbolic until Rick Perry got in there.) The national media, and the so-called East Coast elites, adored her acrid folksiness, her ability to serve up put-downs as only a Texas woman can, with a gimlet eye and cornpone-laced delivery. Ms. Richards may have sounded like the Texas rubes they loved to make fun of, but what she said was in line with their liberal politics. She sure wasn’t afraid to take on our 41st president when she was just a sassy state treasurer: “Poor George,” she said at the Democratic convention that put her on the national stage in 1988. “He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

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New York Times - October 15, 2018

Trial against affirmative action at Harvard begins

Harvard University’s admissions practices are on trial in Federal District Court in Boston, in a lawsuit that could have a broad impact on the way colleges choose their incoming classes.

The trial began on Monday with opening statements by lawyers for the plaintiffs, who accuse Harvard of effectively setting a restrictive quota for the number of Asian-American students it accepts, and for the university, which denies that its admissions practices are discriminatory. Supporters of the two sides held dueling rallies in Boston and on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Mass., on the eve of the trial. The case is a departure from past challenges to race-conscious admissions, because it argues that a minority group has been unfairly penalized in favor both of whites and of other minority groups. Asian-Americans are divided on the case, with some saying they are being unfairly used as a wedge in a bid to abolish affirmative action. The court may rule broadly and make new law on the issue, or it may hand down a narrow decision that affects only Harvard. At a minimum, legal experts say, the case will expose the sometimes arcane admissions practices of one of the most selective institutions in the world. William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s longtime dean of admissions, is expected to be among the first witnesses to testify. In opening arguments Monday, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Adam Mortara, asserted that the lawsuit was not against campus diversity. “The future of affirmative action in college admissions is not on trial,” Mr. Mortara said. “This trial is about what Harvard has done and is doing to Asian-American applicants, and how far Harvard has gone in its zeal to use race in the admissions process.” Harvard’s lawyer, Bill Lee, finished his opening arguments in defense of the university on a personal note. He recalled the first time he had appeared in a federal courtroom, more than 40 years ago. Everyone in the room was male, he said, and they were all white except for him, an Asian-American. “This, of all times, is not a time to go back,” Mr. Lee said.

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Associated Press - October 15, 2018

Government spends millions to guard Confederate cemeteries

After last year’s deadly clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, the federal government quietly spent millions of dollars to hire private security guards to stand watch over at least eight Confederate cemeteries, documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs show.

The security effort, which runs around the clock at all but one of those VA-operated cemeteries, was aimed at preventing the kind of damage that befell Confederate memorials across the U.S. in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence. None of the guarded cemeteries has been vandalized since the security was put in place. Records obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act show that the VA has spent nearly $3 million on the cemetery security since August 2017. Another $1.6 million is budgeted for fiscal 2019 to pay for security at all Confederate monuments, which could include other sites. The agency has not determined when the security will cease. Private security was needed “to ensure the safety of staff, property and visitors paying respect to those interred,” Jessica Schiefer, spokeswoman for the VA’s National Cemetery Administration, said in a statement. The agency “has a responsibility to protect the federal property it administers and will continue to monitor and assess the need for enhanced security going forward.” Most of the protected cemeteries are in the North, in places far removed from the Confederacy. Vast numbers of the buried soldiers were prisoners of war who were held nearby. Many succumbed to smallpox and other diseases. The cemetery monuments are typically simple and solemn, serving more to acknowledge the deceased than to celebrate the slaveholding nation they defended. Government watchdog groups and some members of Congress question if the spending is still necessary. Steve Ellis, executive vice president of the non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the cost of security represents the sort of “spending inertia” too common in government.

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Associated Press - October 15, 2018

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels' defamation suit against Trump

A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Monday, saying the president made a "hyperbolic statement" against a political adversary when he tweeted about a composite sketch the porn actress' lawyer released.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump in April after he said a composite sketch of a man she said threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with the real estate mogul was a "con job." Trump tweeted that the man was "nonexistent" and that Daniels was playing the "fake news media for fools." He retweeted a side-by-side photo comparing the sketch with a photo of Daniels' husband. In an order handed down Monday, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said Trump's statement was protected speech under the First Amendment. "If this Court were to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in this type of 'rhetorical hyperbole' against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the President," the judge wrote. "Any strongly worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the 'discourse' common to the political process." Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, vowed to appeal the decision and said he was confident it would be reversed. But the president's lawyer immediately hailed the ruling as a "total victory" for Trump. The judge's ruling also entitles Trump to collect attorneys' fees from Daniels, but the amount that Daniels would need to pay will be determined later, Harder said.

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Texas Public Radio - October 15, 2018

With voters sour on major parties, group recruits 'None Of The Above' candidates

In the middle of a fiercely-fought election between Democrats and Republicans, one group is trying to encourage voters to pick candidates from outside of the two-party system.

The effort comes at a time when voters are dissatisfied with both major political parties. Nearly 70 percent of voters say Republicans and Democrats fail to adequately represent the American people, according to a recent survey from the nonpartisan Democracy Fund. A Colorado-based group called Unite America is trying to use that dissatisfaction to elect more independent candidates to office nationwide. They have endorsed 29 unaffiliated candidates running for all levels of office from across the country. Among the statewide candidates with the group's support are Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, the country's only unaffiliated governor, and Greg Orman, who's running for governor in Kansas. In Colorado, they've helped five state legislative candidates qualify for the ballot, campaign, and get their names out with promotional videos. Anthony Cross may be the kind of voter Unite America has in mind. He's a Democrat who runs an arts magazine in Fort Collins and says he'd back an unaffiliated candidate, if he agreed with the candidate's policy positions. "If anything, the last presidential election has kind of proven that both parties in many ways are flawed, the leadership in those parties are flawed," Cross said. And even though he likes the idea of backing an unaffiliated candidate, he thinks the chance that he would ultimately vote for someone who is unaffiliated is pretty slim. "There's a high likelihood that I might not even know that person exists. And that's the thing. If you don't know they exist how can you vote for them? And how can you get that message out?" Unite America is trying to fill that void by helping the candidates develop their message. Yet on their websites, most Unite America candidates don't give a lot of details on specific policy proposals. "Everybody wants to put you in a box and wants you to stand in a box so they can clearly define what you are," said Paul Jones, who's in a race against a Democratic state representative in a competitive Colorado district. He believes his independent mindset will resonate with voters who are frustrated and looking for change. "That's the problem that we face is that we're trying to solve complicated issues with very black and white solutions."

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Weekly Standard - October 15, 2018

What would a Democratic takeover in the House mean for 2020?

As soon as the 2018 election is over, political media will start to cover the 2020 election. If Democrats take the House (and possibly the Senate), pundits on the left will argue that the GOP’s losses foreshadow an inevitable doom for Trump's re-election. And if Republicans do better than expected, possibly holding onto both chambers of Congress, pundits on the right (especially the Trump-ian right) will say that the president is invincible and will surely be re-elected.

I’ve read a lot of commentary and watched a solid amount of cable news, and I can basically guarantee that someone with a high position or a lot of credibility will end up making one of these arguments. It’s not a great argument. This scatter compares midterm election results to the results of the following presidential election. Each point is a midterm election (all midterms from 1946 to 2014 are included). The horizontal axis shows the number of seats Republicans lost or gained, and the vertical axis shows their popular vote margin in the presidential election held two years later. There’s no pattern here. Sometimes a terrible midterm is followed by a rough presidential election. In 2006, President George W. Bush’s Republicans lost the majority to Democrats (public opinion was turning against the Iraq war and the White House had struggled with its response to Hurricane Katrina), and two years later John McCain lost to then-Sen. Obama by a solid margin. But that pattern doesn’t always hold. Republicans won a wave election in 1994, but Bill Clinton still prevailed in 1996. And House Republicans had a rough time in the 1982 midterm, but two years later Ronald Reagan won in a landslide. All of which is to say, an especially good Democratic year won’t tell us much about Trump’s chances of winning re-election in 2020. And an especially good midterm election for the president’s party probably wouldn’t tell us much either.

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Daily Beast - October 16, 2018

Democrats to Obama: where are you?

With just three weeks to go before one of most critical midterm elections in modern American history, the most powerful figure in the Democratic Party has kept his distance. Barack Obama’s involvement in the 2018 cycle was always bound to be limited. The former president has stressed his desire for the future generation of Democratic leaders to step up, along with a reverence for norms dictating that ex-presidents should not criticize current ones.

But with fear growing within the party that they may not win back either chamber of Congress, even members of Obama’s alumni network are beginning to question whether the detachment is strategic at all. “Everyone agrees that he is doing very little. There is just a debate as to whether that is savvy or not,” said one former top Obama official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to candidly discuss the ex-president. “I think the people who are closest to him are probably all pretty comfortable with him not being as actively engaged. The people in circles of influences outward wish he was being engaged more.” To date, Obama’s engagement has been largely out of public view and consisted of the electoral equivalent of the low-hanging fruit. The 44th president has signed off on nearly 20 fundraising solicitations to go out under his name. He’s provided his endorsement to hundreds of candidates down-ballot. He has raised money for committees and given a speech about the fragile state of American democracy and youth participation in the midterms. But he’s held just three campaign events in 2018. His twitter feed, with more than 103 million followers, has mentioned the word “vote” three times in 2018. “We want to be strategic about this for a number of different reasons,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the ex-president. “Because we have kept our powder dry we believe he has unique standing in this moment to have impact.” The expectation is that Obama’s activity will ramp up as Election Day nears. The former president is planning campaign swings in critical states—including one this week in Nevada for Rep. Jacky Rosen’s Senate campaign. He is also set to have a more heightened media presence in the coming weeks as well, likely on non-mainstream outlets. Not all of his impact will register publicly either. Obama is expected to record Get Out The Vote calls for campaigns to release without much fanfare, as he did for Doug Jones the night before his surprise win in the Alabama Senate race. The ex-president has also endorsed hundreds of down-ballot candidates this cycle, which party officials have usefully parlayed into fundraising solicitations and local news clips.

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Fox News - October 15, 2018

Cherokee Nation responds to Senator Warren, says DNA test 'useless to determine tribal citizenship'

The Cherokee Nation responded to the DNA test results of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, on Monday, arguing that “a DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship.” The response comes after the Democratic senator revealed that, based on tests, she has Native-American ancestry “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.”

Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America," Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a press release. "Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation," Hoskins continued. "Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage." Warren took the rare step of sharing DNA test results examining her long-challenged Native-American bloodline earlier Monday. According to the analysis, as first reported by The Boston Globe, “the vast majority” of Warren’s family tree is European and there is “strong evidence” she has Native-American ancestry - albeit anywhere from 1/64 to 1/1,024. Warren, who is mulling a 2020 presidential run, repeatedly has been mocked by President Trump for claiming Native American heritage. The president has notably called her "Pocahontas" while criticizing her on the campaign trail.

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BuzzFeed - October 15, 2018

The next generation of Democratic leaders wants to move up but the Baby Boomers are in the way

Ambitious, young House Democrats have a problem: At a time when the party is calling for generational change, there are few opportunities to advance. Leadership has long been static for Democrats in the House. Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn, the top three Democrats, respectively, have all been at the top of the House Democratic ladder for more than a decade.

And none have shown any signs of leaving; Pelosi has said she expects to be speaker if Democrats retake the House in November. That stagnation has some Democrats worried that their caucus is bleeding talent, and it has left two options for the party’s rising stars — try to work their way up outside of the traditional leadership structure or head for the exits. In conversations with BuzzFeed News over the last few months, Democrats have pointed to varying ways that newer members have sought relevance within a party that has traditionally prioritized experience and required members put in time before they get to run the show. Their solutions and complaints show a bubbling frustration with the current system, from who fills the top leadership posts to the party’s choice to prioritize seniority to fill high-ranking committee spots. Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a frequent critic of his own party's leadership, said that promising Democrats are leaving the House “all the time” because they see no upward mobility. “They see no path forward, and they’re often not even respected for their contributions.” The House of Representatives has always been seen as a training ground for higher office, and it’s hardly surprising that members would leave for positions where they could punch higher at a time when Republicans control Congress and the White House. And while the number of Democrats exiting the House this year isn’t much different than in previous congresses, the departure of some of the caucus’s rising stars is particularly striking at a time when Democrats may be poised to win back the House in 2018. This cycle, Reps. Beto O’Rourke, Jacky Rosen, and Kyrsten Sinema are all running for Senate seats. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Jared Polis, and Tim Walz are running for governor in their states. Rep. Keith Ellison, the number two official at the Democratic National Committee, is seeking the Minnesota attorney general position (a decision he announced months before an ex-girlfriend accused him of abuse). Rep. Colleen Hanabusa also made an unsuccessful bid for a gubernatorial seat. Rep. John Delaney is running for president. New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney also took a stab at becoming New York attorney general, but is running for reelection to his House seat after losing that primary. Those departures come after two lower-level members of House leadership, who were seen as potential heirs apparent, also left the House. Chris Van Hollen ran for Senate in 2016 and won, while Xavier Becerra left the House in January 2017 for a post as California’s attorney general. One House Democrat running for another office this year told BuzzFeed News that lack of leadership opportunities has at least in part contributed to talented Democrats leaving the House. Asked if he agreed with the assessment that talented members are walking out the door because they don’t see a path up in the ranks, California Rep. Juan Vargas said, “that’s probably true.”

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Newsclips - October 15, 2018

Lead Stories

Vanity Fair - October 12, 2018

Media falling out of love with Beto? Vanity Fair says O'Rourke is getting his ass kicked in Texas

The most spectacular part of the Beto O’Rourke narrative—beyond the fact that he’s come within spitting distance of Ted Cruz in a Texas Senate race, or that he’s a skateboarding Kennedy doppelgänger, or that he may be the most exciting thing to happen to today’s sluggish Democratic Party—is that he’s somehow managed to manifest all of these qualities in his money game.

But as Bernie Sanders demonstrated back in 2016, a massive, sustained influx of grassroots cash does not guarantee victory, and the numbers are there to prove it: though O’Rourke certainly has the cash and the press to elevate his profile, he still lags behind Cruz by a considerable margin. The Real Clear Politics average for October places Cruz ahead of O’Rourke by an average of 7 points, citing polls from The New York Times (which has him up by 8 points) and Quinnipiac (up by 9 points), among others. While it’s not the double-digit margin Republicans usually boast in Texas, it’s wide enough that election watchers are largely placing Texas in the “leaning red” category—that is, barring a completely possible last-minute surprise. O’Rourke’s lag makes sense within the context of the Texas electorate itself: he has low name recognition in the rapidly growing Hispanic demographic, who he will need to turn out in order to secure victory. (Despite their strong animus against Donald Trump, whose child-separation policy is still reverberating along Texas’s southern border, Hispanics accounted for less than one in five voters in the 2016 election.) Cruz, on the other hand, has an enthusiastic base of white conservative evangelicals who regularly vote in midterm elections, and who gobble up Cruz’s message that O’Rourke is a Texas version of a coastal liberal elite, citing his appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, his sordid punk-rock days, and the fact that both Hollywood and the Democratic machine are fund-raising for him in earnest. At one point, Cruz tweeted a photo of the Hollywood sign being changed to “Betowood,” mocking a fund-raiser hosted by Bravo’s Andy Cohen, and an upcoming one hosted by Judd Apatow. (One could, of course, point out that Cruz also benefits from out-of-state dark money, but fracking billionaires don’t carry the same stigma in Texas as decadent entertainment figures.)

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Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2018

Congressional battleground map expands in Texas

With the midterm election less than a month away, pollsters and nonpartisan political prognosticators are now rating as many eight GOP-held congressional districts in Texas as competitive, with Democrats charting a possible route to seize control of the U.S. House through the Lone Star State.

Democrats must flip at least 23 Republican-held House seats to become the majority. Recent polls show a commanding advantage for Democrats in a generic congressional ballot and an edge for the party among likely voters who live in dozens of tightly contested House districts, most held by Republicans. Surveys show Republicans leading in most of the Texas districts now considered competitive, but the expanded battleground map underscores the level of Democratic enthusiasm as Democratic congressional candidates hope to ride the coattails of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso Democrat raising record campaign cash and drawing huge crowds in his bid to expand the electorate and topple U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. The districts in play this fall include two Central Texas districts that have long been safe territory for Republicans: The 31st Congressional District, anchored in the fast-growing suburbs north of Austin, represented by U.S. Rep. John Carter of Round Rock. The 21st Congressional District, which runs from Central Austin to San Antonio and encompasses six Hill Country counties, represented by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, who is retiring. Also considered competitive are the 2nd Congressional District in Harris County, being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Humble, and the 6th Congressional District in North Texas, represented by retiring U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis.

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Washington Post - October 14, 2018

Trump unsure whether Mattis will leave, says he is ‘sort of a Democrat’

President Trump said he is unsure whether Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will leave the administration and described him as “sort of a Democrat,” amid reports of friction between the two. Trump made the remarks in an interview with CBS News’s “60 Minutes” that airs Sunday night. An excerpt of the interview was released Sunday morning.

“Well, I don’t know; he hasn’t told me that,” Trump said when asked whether Mattis might be leaving his position. Trump said that he has a “very good relationship” with Mattis and that the two had lunch together “two days ago,” but the president added that “it could be that he is” leaving. “I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.” Mattis has often publicly walked back some of Trump’s more controversial statements on foreign policy, and the two have a strained relationship, veteran journalist Bob Woodward has reported in his book “Fear.” In one episode reported by Woodward, Mattis described Trump as having the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader” after a National Security Council meeting. In another episode, after Trump said he wanted to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assassinated, Mattis reportedly agreed but later told an aide, “We’re not going to do any of that.” Mattis has denied making disparaging comments about Trump, and the president said last month that the retired general was “doing a fantastic job.” In the “60 minutes” interview, Trump also described reports of chaos within his administration as “so false,” dismissing concerns about the rate of turnover among his top officials. “I’m changing things around, and I’m entitled to. I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. They’ll come into the administration. They’ll be phenomenal,” Trump said.

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Marketwatch - October 15, 2018

Call of the day: Don’t rule out $400 oil if the U.S. sanctions Saudi Arabia

So now Ford Motor Chairman Bill Ford and JPMorgan Chase boss Jaime Dimon have both opted to drop out of that Saudi conference following the country’s suspected role in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, however, is said to still be planning to attend. That flow of Saudi cash is apparently pretty hard to resist.

Nevertheless, mounting threats from around the world to punish Saudi Arabia, including the possibility of U.S. sanctions, are rattling the oil-soaked nation and drawing sharp words in response. “The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusation,” a government source reportedly told the official Saudi Press Agency. “The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action.” Hence, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel’s general manager Turki Aldakhil, in our call of the day, warned we could see an explosive move in oil prices. “If U.S. sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world,” he wrote in an op-ed. “If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure.” This mess could ultimately throw the entire Muslim world “into the arms of Iran, which will become closer to Riyadh than Washington,” Aldakhil said. “The truth is that if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh.” The deteriorating international relations have triggered a selling spree in the Saudi stock market, as you can see from the chart of the day below. The U.S. market enjoyed a rebound on Friday after a beatdown earlier in the week, but it looks like sellers have the upper hand again.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2018

New rule: Tougher scrutiny on legal immigrants using assistance brings widespread fear

The new, so-called public charge rules, unveiled in draft form last month by the Department of Homeland Security, has unleashed panic and confusion among immigrant communities in Houston and across the nation— even among those the change will not touch.

The rules are aimed at immigrants applying for green cards that grant permanent residency or seeking temporary visas for work or school, but they have generated so much fear that even immigrants unaffected by the change have stopped enrolling in assistance programs for which they are eligible or dropped off the rolls. At ECHOS, a Houston community health and social service ministry, for example, applications for government-funded health care programs for children are down 23 percent from year ago. Renewals for Children’s Medicaid, the federal health insurance for the poor, are down 28 percent. Renewals for food stamps have plunged by one-third, although that doesn’t necessarily mean people are no longer in need. The number of families using the agency’s food bank have nearly tripled. “It is a result of families being too fearful to apply despite they are eligible for the services,” said Cathy Moore, executive director of ECHOS. “They think it will put a target on their back.”The stated goal of new policy is to encourage self-sufficiency so immigrants will not “depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations.” But discouraging immigrants in general from using government benefits — including those unaffected by the rule change — appears to be part the Trump administration’s plan. Buried in the 447-page document detailing the policy was this assertion: “Research shows that when eligibility rules change for public benefits programs, there is evidence of a ’chilling effect’ that discourages immigrants from using public benefits programs for which they are still eligible.” In a statement last month, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson said the measure would “protect the finite resources by ensuring that (immigrants) are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

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Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2018

Culberson, recovering from surgery, postpones debate with Fletcher in US House race

Houston U.S. Rep. John Culberson, facing a strong re-election challenge from Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, has called off Monday's scheduled debate at the University of Houston to recover from surgery for diverticulitis.

Culberson, 62, revealed Thursday that he was recently released from Memorial Hermann Hospital after a ten-day stay following surgery for "complicated diverticulitis," a type of intestinal inflammation or infection. His campaign said that at the recommendation of his doctors he will be unable to attend the debate, the only face-to-face encounter that had been scheduled in the closely-watched contest. The debate, sponsored by ABC13 and Univision, has been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. central. In a letter to the Fletcher campaign, Culberson campaign manager Ben McPhaul said the nine-term Republican incumbent "remains committed to participating in the debate" and that his doctors "expect him to make a full recovery." McPhaul's letter was accompanied by a doctor's note "as a testament to our good faith in this matter." The note, signed by Doctor Joseph Cali Jr., assistant professor of surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said Culberson underwent surgery on October 1, and was released from the hospital on Wednesday.

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Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2018

Cruz vs. O’Rourke is most expensive U.S. Senate race in history

The battle between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke is now the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history and the costliest general election battle Texas has seen for any office.

That was assured on Friday when O’Rourke announced he raised $38 million in just three months from the start of July to the end of September. It is the biggest-ever campaign fundraising quarter for a U.S. Senate race, crushing an 18-year record. “We are doing something absolutely historic,” O’Rourke told his supporters in announcing the haul on social media. It also means O’Rourke remains well ahead of Cruz in campaign cash. Last week, Cruz told reporters he raised about $12 million over the same stretch. That money does not include outside political action committees that are spending millions more to defend Cruz, whose re-election is considered crucial to retain the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. Combined, Cruz and O’Rourke will have at least $96 million going into the final weeks with still a month of fundraising to add to that total. But more than just setting records, the funding is absolutely a must for O’Rourke who trails Cruz by six to nine percentage points, according to recent polls, and who needs voter turnout like Texas has never seen in a midterm election in order to win, political analysts say. “He’s going need every bit of that $38 million,” said Jay Kumar Aiyer, an assistant political science professor at Texas Southern University. “He needs a historic get out the vote effort to pull off what would be a monumental upset.” For 20 years, Texas turnout in midterm elections has not topped 40 percent. Aiyer said O’Rourke needs a much wider Democratic base to vote in the Nov. 6 election. In presidential elections, the average turnout is 55 to 58 percent in Texas. Democrats would need to vote in those numbers if O’Rourke is to win, Aiyer said. While there are signs of that kind of energy around his campaign, there is no guarantee it will get them to the polls. The turnout math explains why O’Rourke is spending considerable energy and money wooing traditionally poor midterm voters, like college students, blacks and Latinos. Those voters have a bigger drop off in midterm elections compared to the electorate at large. Over the last two weeks, O’Rourke has jumped from one college campus to the next pushing students to get registered and make a plan to get out to vote on the first day of early voting, Oct. 22.

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Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2018

Ted Cruz employs father - en español - while Beto rakes in big money haul

Ted Cruz, resisting calls to debate in Spanish, has often said the majority of Texas voters speak English. But with his expected margin of victory in the U.S. Senate race narrowing against Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, a fluent Spanish speaker, the Texas Republican is taking no chances with the Latino vote, which generally breaks in favor of Democrats in Texas – though not by as much as some Democrats would hope.

On Friday, Cruz busted out a digital Spanish language ad featuring his father, a Cuban emigre who can speak to the aspirations of people who come from repressive political regimes. "I knew of the American Dream even before I lived it," he begins. "My son, Ted Cruz, understands that liberty needs to be protected..." The ad is being launched just as O'Rourke revealed a record $38 million fundraising haul over the summer, about three times as much as Cruz raked in. A recent Latino Decisions survey found that in Texas, 62 percent of Latinos reported that they have yet to hear from a campaign, political party or independent organization. The Rafael Cruz Sr. ad stays on a lofty, general, ideological level. It doesn't delve into walls, Dreamers, or other aspects of immigration politics, which mark the sharpest differences between Cruz and O'Rourke. But it gives Cruz a speaking part at the end, when he gets to say, "Yo soy Ted Cruz, y apruebo este mensaje." ("I am Ted Cruz, and I approve this message.")

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San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2018

Pipeline constraints out of West Texas will slow production growth

Pipeline constraints out of West Texas will slow oil and gas production growth in the Permian Basin oil field for at least another next year, according to new report.

The report, by bond rating firm Moody's Investment Services, forecasts that pipeline shortages will persist into late 2019, when the first of several new pipelines is expected to go into operation. Three of the biggest projects are expected to be completed by early 2020 to move oil from the region to Gulf Coast markets. Production in the West Texas shale play has reached 3.4 million barrels a day, bumping up against the pipeline capacity out of the region. Crude oil production in the Permian is expected to grow another 31,000 barrels a day this month, according to the Department of Energy, further straining pipelines. The lack of available pipeline capacity out of the Permian Basin — which Moody's estimates to be fewer than 4 million barrels of crude a day — has widened the discount of oil sold in Midland compared to other markets because of uncertainty over the ability to deliver. Oil in Midland is selling for $14 a barrel less that in the storage and pipeline hub in Cushing, Okla., and $23 a barrel less than along the Gulf Coast, according to Moody's. As result, the growth of the Permian's output is slowing, Moody's said. The analysis doesn't expect oil production in the Permian to break the 4 million barrel a day mark until the third quarter of 2019. The Energy Department this summer forecast that Permian production would would increase by an average of about 500,000 barrels a day in 2019, slowing from a projected 870,000 barrel a day increase in 2018. Permian production is expected to average 3.9 million barrels a day next year, the Energy Department said.

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San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2018

Three of the top five cities with wage theft complaints are in Texas, and largely filed by undocumented workers

Trapped between the Rio Grande and border checkpoints, Sandro Garcia Moreno is among thousands of undocumented immigrants being ripped off by unscrupulous employers.

He wants to find work to the north but fears he’ll be caught and deported. At night he lies alone in bed, swiping through cellphone photos of his wife and daughter, who fled back to Mexico for their own safety. An undocumented, low-wage worker, Garcia Moreno won a federal labor complaint two years ago against Pollos Medina, a chain of three barbecue restaurants in Mission. He and co-worker Jose Arciga Garcia won a $108,000 judgment when the restaurant was found in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which entitles all workers, regardless of immigration status, to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and overtime pay. Their case was one of thousands filed against employers in the Rio Grande Valley, a national hotbed for wage theft. In the past 10 years, the Labor Department has investigated more than 1,350 wage theft cases in the region, resulting in payments of more than $8.5 million in back pay, records show. “As far as I know, it has been an epidemic in the Valley forever,” said Kathryn Youker, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. “It just is sort of a facet of daily life down here.” The Valley’s underground workforce of undocumented immigrants is a key component of the economy and a prime target of unscrupulous employers who pay less than the minimum wage, deny overtime pay, threaten to turn complaining workers over to the Border Patrol and sometimes beat their employees, police reports and court records indicate. Since the Labor Department began keeping public records in 1984, three of the five cities with the highest number of wage theft investigations are in Texas. And eight of the top 20 ZIP codes in the country with the most investigations are in South Texas. Five of them are in the Rio Grande Valley. Violations are most pronounced in the service industry(including restaurants), agriculture and among domestic workers.

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Dallas Morning News - October 14, 2018

Defiant Ted Cruz in Beto O’Rourke’s hometown El Paso tells Democrats: ‘Come and take it’

There was no love for hometown congressman Beto O'Rourke in the gymnasium of Franklin High School on Saturday night. A sea of 2,200 people carrying "Ted Cruz: Tough as Texas" signs, wearing red "Make America Great Again" hats and waving American flags, came out to boisterously support Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

An energetic Cruz, with comfortable leads in recent polls despite O’Rourke’s huge fundraising lead, greeted the standing-room-only crowd, saying: "The media told me there weren't any conservatives in El Paso." The crowd booed loudly. Cruz then went down a checklist of issues that are central to his conservative base. On taxes, he said, he'd led the way to pass "the biggest tax cut in a generation." And he'd worked to cut down on regulation of business, which he said resulted in more jobs. Unemployment, he told the crowd, was at its lowest rate in 49 years. Among African-Americans and Hispanics, he said, it was at historic lows. "Sounds like we've got an agenda that's working," he said. He even brought out his own "Beto" - Gilberto Gonzalez - a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency for 24 years who now runs the Texas Narcotics Officers Association and supports the Cruz campaign. Cruz also tied the success of Trump's policy positions to his own. The United States' embassy in Israel had finally moved to Jerusalem, he said, and the country had pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal. "How about the judges?" he asked. "We have Justice Neil Gorsuch and we have Justice Brett Kavanaugh." The crowd exploded into applause and began chanting "USA! USA!" Cruz said Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings were "an absolute circus" and called the "behavior of Congressional Democrats truly appalling." Cruz's recital of his résumé played well with voters like Rosie Romo, who said she supported his views on border security, defending Israel and opposing abortion. She'd voted for him in the past and would vote for him "forever," she said.

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Dallas Morning News - October 14, 2018

Trump's push to accelerate Texas-Mexico border wall project inflames Rio Grande Valley residents

The Homeland Security Department's decision last week to speed construction of a border wall in the lower Rio Grande Valley has inflamed local residents just as the midterm election is in sight.

Politically, it cuts both ways. As Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke stokes voter interest by reminding them about President Donald Trump's plans, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz also is using the issue to excite his base. At the border, where miles of gaps separate segments of wall constructed a decade ago — hardly any of it as imposing as the barrier Trump envisions — some residents are angry that the administration decided to waive environmental and other regulations halfway through a two-month comment period. Moving ahead without waiting even long enough to collect feedback suggests to wall critics that Homeland Security was only going through the motions in response to Trump's impatience. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democratic congressman from McAllen, called the plan a "monumental waste of money." "The Republicans love it. We look at it in terms of common sense. Does it work? Is it offensive to our friends and neighbors to the south?" he said. Cruz stands with the president in demanding a wall, and mentions it regularly on the stump, as he did Saturday night in El Paso. "We need to build a wall and we need to triple the Border Patrol to stop illegal immigration," he said. Asked Saturday about the waiver, O'Rourke said in McAllen that "we do not need walls. We do not need to spend $30 billion to build a wall when we have the safest communities in the United States along the border."

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Star-Telegram - October 12, 2018

Even in the wealthy Texas suburbs, the GOP is struggling to sell its tax cut

Republicans at house after house in this upper middle-class neighborhood — a group of voters the GOP desperately needs to excite to the polls this November — aren’t particularly enthusiastic about the party’s most-prized accomplishment in Washington.

“I’m an ex-stock broker, don’t get me started on this,” San Antonio resident Bill Chapman said of the GOP’s overhaul of the U.S. tax code. Chapman answered the door in his workout clothes on a rainy Monday afternoon in his gated neighborhood. “We’re going to pay the price for this sometime down the road....It’s going to be a drag on the economy.” Headed into a midterm election where Republicans are expected to face a tough battle maintaining their majority in the House, the party’s sweeping tax law has hardly been the political bonanza GOP leaders once hoped. The Republican-led Congress passed the legislation without the help of a single Democrat last year, triggering the biggest drop in the corporate tax rate in American history and lower taxes for most people. The new law is expected to save the average Texas family of four an estimated $2,200 per year, a benefit that was expected to help Republicans in the five Texas districts being targeted by national Democrats this year. While GOP leaders credit the tax cut for a booming national economy they hope will help them in the midterms, a survey conducted by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies for the Republican National Committee last month suggested nearly two-thirds of voters believed the cuts benefit “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families.” Even in this prosperous San Antonio neighborhood — where residents are expected to be among the law’s biggest individual beneficiaries — not a single Republican reached by volunteers from the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC this week could say definitively whether it would cause them to pay less in taxes in the coming year. “I suppose maybe less?” one woman answered when asked about how the law would affect the amount she personally pays in taxes. “It probably won’t make it any worse,” added the woman, who plans to support Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, the local congressman. She asked not to be named in this story.

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McAllen Monitor - October 14, 2018

The 2020 presidential campaign may run through South Texas

No Democrat currently considering a presidential run has spent much time here, the region most affected by two of President Donald Trump’s top campaign promises in 2016. But a visit to the Rio Grande Valley by U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-MD, who visited the Rio Grande Valley recently, may signal a change.

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville and his Valley colleague, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, have recognized the region’s importance. Free trade has transformed South Texas, but Trump’s trade policies and threats have left the industry here uncertain about the future. The president has also hammered the border for a lack of security and immigrants streaming into the country, promising to build a wall between the two countries. Over the summer, politicians swarmed to the border following Trump’s policy to separate immigrant families upon illegally crossing into the country. Many of these families were split up by federal law enforcement at a U.S. Border Patrol facility in McAllen. Most of these visiting members of Congress hadn’t signaled 2020 bids, though a couple have since. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., was the first senator to make a splash when families were being separated. Merkley live streamed his trip to a Brownsville youth migrant shelter in June, one where many separated children were being housed. Merkley was denied access, so he attempted to be a leading voice on immigration following his visit. Since June, Merkley has made trips to early presidential primary and caucus states, including Iowa. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., visited by himself a couple weeks after Merkley, in the middle of a flurry of congressional trips. Booker observed proceedings in McAllen’s federal courthouse and toured the south McAllen Border Patrol facility where families were separated. Vela and Gonzalez plan to host everyone genuinely considering a presidential run. Vela has made contact with people close to Booker, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, he said. Kamala Harris is also on their radar. Vela and Gonzalez are hoping for another presidential prospect to visit before year’s end. By next fall, the Valley congressmen expect to have hosted every serious Democratic candidate.

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National Review - October 14, 2018

Geraghty: The beatification of Beto

The media’s treatment of Texas Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke wasn’t the most egregiously unfair coverage of the past year — that would be the treatment of Brett Kavanaugh — but it ranks among 2018’s most annoying.

The endless glowing profiles of O’Rourke in every publication from Vanity Fair to Spin to Rolling Stone to Town & Country represent the national media’s worsening challenge in differentiating between what it wants to see happen and what is actually happening. The national media desperately want a Democrat who can win statewide races in the South and someday end up on a presidential ticket. That yearning drove the brief and otherwise unremarkable career of disgraced former senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Democratic statewide winners exist here and there, such as North Carolina governor Roy Cooper and Louisiana governor Jon Bel Edwards. Doug Jones won his Senate race in Alabama, though it helps to run against Roy Moore. Reporters from the national media desperately want to discover the Southern Democrat with national potential — Bill Clinton 2.0 — and write the first glossy profile piece of a future president, a lengthy, detailed piece that basically doubles as a future book proposal. Lots of political reporters aspire to be the next David Maraniss and write the next First in His Class and spend the latter half of their careers as quasi-historian experts about a particular president. In every cycle, at least one Democrat gets the glossy “here’s the Democrat who can win in the South” treatment. Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee, Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Michelle Nunn and Jon Ossoff in Georgia. Stephen Colbert’s sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, got a lot of hype in her special House election bid against Mark Sanford in South Carolina. Their campaign ads and photoshoots of the Great Southern Democratic Hopes always feature bucolic, postcard-worthy outdoor settings. If they’re indoors, they’re in church.

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Austin Chronicle - October 12, 2018

City slickers: How the state’s most influential conservative think tank works to undermine our local control

On its face, Austin's Prop K appears to be a commonsense transparency and accountability measure. Who doesn't want their government checked up on? But critics say it's another way for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and its Republican backers, hellbent on undermining Austin's local control, to try to roll back or privatize city services.

Two blocks from the Capitol, in a pristine auditorium on Congress Avenue, attorney/activist Fred Lewis, District 8 City Council candidate Bobby Levinski, and Art Martinez de Vara of the Texas Local Government Center debated Proposition K, the November ballot measure that calls for a third-party efficiency audit of the city. Chuck DeVore of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, owners of the $20 million building with its Rick Perry Liberty Balcony and its Red McCombs Event Center, led the conversation, held last Wednesday. What was supposed to be an objective debate quickly devolved into a 3-1 attack on Prop K adversary Levinski, who in breathless refrain, persistently reminded the audience that the city is routinely and robustly audited and does not need to spend an additional $4 million on Prop K's proposed audit. City Aud­itor Corrie Stokes – who works directly for City Council and its Audit and Finance Committee – and her office perform annual audits of all departments on a rotating basis, to ensure efficiency, effectiveness, and equity. Prop K defender Lewis – a progressive Democrat who has often worked in common cause with Levinski on land-use issues – countered that the city "can do better" when it comes to budgetary spending, and insisted outside "expertise" would serve to improve city staff processes. DeVore, a former Cali­for­nia GOP legislator and failed U.S. Senate candidate, added soliloquies about the many benefits of a city audit – especially potential staff layoffs and tax cuts. While TPPF continues to insist it isn't directly backing Prop K, ample evidence shows its ties to the initiative. The pro-Prop K political action committee Citizens for an Accountable Austin is headed by Michael Searle, former aide to District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair, a favorite of TPPF and a leader of ALEC's local-government affiliate, which aims to find partners who will "privatize historically municipal services."

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City Stories

Rivard Report - October 12, 2018

Group launches campaign to engage, connect San Antonio-area Native Americans

Local Native American advocacy group Urban Indian SA wants to help strengthen Native American community bonds in the city. The group announced its “Making the Invisible Visible” campaign. The campaign aims to equip Native Americans in San Antonio with community organizing and leadership skills, and encourage them to vote.

Data analyst Madelein Santibañez said the group has been gathering quantitative and qualitative data through surveys and interviews with Native Americans living in Bexar County since February. Nearly 27,000 Native Americans live in the area, making up 1.4 percent of the population. “The surveys that were conducted kind of address the challenges and needs of native people,” she said. “It was clear we wanted culturally relevant education being taught to our youth, we need our history to be told in gatherings, and advocate for our needs — health care, ceremonial spaces, spaces where we can gather.” Karla Aguilar, development coordinator for the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM), said the survey data showed that Native Americans in San Antonio primarily were concerned with housing, employment, education, and health care issues. She also emphasized the diversity in Native American culture. “Native cultures are not monolithic, it’s very diverse and complex,” she said. “But we have a lot in common.” AITSCM Executive Director Ramon Vasquez said it’s important to get Native Americans involved in policy and have their voices heard by lawmakers. He pointed to a federal ruling last week in which U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 law that gives preference in adoption placement of Native American children to biological family members, members of their tribe, or other Native Americans.

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KTRK ABC 13 - October 15, 2018

Houston ISD school board decides to go in 'different direction' after vote to bring back former superintendent

Two days after an HISD school board meeting in which members screamed reproaches at each other, the board reversed its decision to bring in a replacement interim superintendent.

On Friday, the decision was made to replace Dr. Grenita Lathan, who was appointed interim superintendent after the surprise resignation of Richard Carranza, who left to become a superintendent in New York City. Dr. Abe Saavedra, a former HISD superintendent, was set to replace Lathan. Then, a team building workshop for the school board on Sunday set off the reversal. Saavedra attended it. "The most serious issues in HISD are not necessarily who's sitting in the superintendent's chair," he told us Sunday night. "But the school board being very dysfunctional and not being able to work with one another." Saavedra said, with the help of a consultant in charge of the team building session, the board agreed to veto bringing him in and he agreed with the decision. "I just don't think changing out the interim superintendent was the solution to the most serious issues that exist in HISD today," he said. This afternoon, he was already home in San Antonio. "No, I won't be back in Houston Monday," he said. HISD school board members and the still-interim superintendent, Dr. Lathan, are scheduled to have a news conference Monday afternoon.

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National Stories

New York Times - October 11, 2018

After hurricanes, we hear a familiar criticism: "Why do people live there?" The answer: Many have few options.

It should come as no surprise that some of the poorest, most disenfranchised populations live in high-risk floodplain areas, and they are often the least equipped to evacuate before the storms or rebuild afterward.

Those trends, ever apparent in the Carolinas, hold true for much of the southeastern coastal regions frequented by hurricanes, including the Florida panhandle devastated this week by Hurricane Michael. So what are we to do for these vulnerable people? Historically, disaster response has been mostly reactive: wait for federal programs to acquire houses and move residents to higher ground away from floodplains; elevate houses and structures for those unable or unwilling to relocate; prepare community shelters and recovery structures for those who can’t retreat; and place storm survivors in temporary housing until they are able, if ever, to repair or reconstruct. These are practical, physical matters. But we need to demand more than a “bounce back,” or return to what was, from our investment in recovery efforts. This requires a marked shift from reactive to proactive approaches to policy, planning and design. Policies should address larger social issues of inequity and recognize a changing climate. Conventional construction, development and management practices need to change to adapt to floodplains and flood-prone areas — and governments need to acknowledge that some places are too dangerous for development. Rebuilding efforts must take into account community development, natural systems and the need for affordable, resilient and dignified housing.

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New York Times - October 14, 2018

Now for rent: Email addresses and phone numbers for millions of Trump supporters

Early in his presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump dismissed political data as an “overrated” tool. But after he won the Republican nomination, his team began building a database that offers a pipeline into the heart of the party’s base, a comprehensive list including the email addresses and cellphone numbers of as many as 20 million supporters.

Now, consultants close to the Trump campaign are ramping up efforts to put that database — by far the most sought-after in Republican politics — to use, offering it for rent to candidates, conservative groups and even businesses. It is an arrangement that has the potential to help the Republican Party in key midterm races, while providing a source of revenue for President Trump’s campaign and the consultants involved. It has also set off concerns about diluting the power of one of Mr. Trump’s most potent political assets, while raising questions about whether his team is facilitating the sort of political profiteering that he disparaged during his campaign. It is not unusual for candidates to rent supporter data to — or from — other campaigns. The new effort by Mr. Trump’s team, however, appears to be the first time the campaign of a sitting president facing re-election has opted to market its list. Federal election law allows campaigns and political action committees to sell or rent their lists, provided that the payments received are fair market value. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump’s campaign, which is not known for its adherence to political norms, quietly signed a contract with a newly formed Virginia-based company called Excelsior Strategies to market the emails and cellphone numbers — what is known in the political industry as first-party data.

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New York Times - October 14, 2018

Immigration becomes unexpectedly potent line of attack for GOP

Not long ago, as heart-rending images of migrant children separated from their parents at the border filled the airwaves, the issue of immigration seemed to be losing some of its potency as a weapon for Republicans with the midterm elections approaching.

But Republican candidates across the country, leaning on the scorched-earth campaign playbook employed by President Trump, saw an opening nonetheless, painting Democrats as the ones pursuing an extreme immigration agenda that would fill the country with “sanctuary cities” where violent criminals roam free. The strategy, in play in a growing number of races, may be working. As a tight battle for control of Congress enters its closing weeks, Democrats have found that in politically competitive states, particularly ones that Mr. Trump carried in 2016, the attacks can easily turn crucial voting blocs against Democrats. “Sanctuary attacks pack a punch,” says a four-page memorandum, prepared by the liberal Center for American Progress and the centrist think tank Third Way, that has been shared at about a dozen briefings for Democrats in recent weeks. The New York Times obtained a copy of the memo, whose findings are based on interviews and surveys conducted over the summer. Many of the Republican attacks use misleading language and employ overblown claims about the dangers of immigrants. But the fear-based appeal demonstrates how Mr. Trump has overcome months of negative headlines about his hard-edge immigration policies to make the issue a potentially profitable one as Republicans try to preserve their slim Senate majority and defy projections that they will lose the House. Democrats, the strategists who prepared the memo advised, could neutralize the attacks if they responded head-on. But they should spend “as little time as possible” talking about immigration itself, and instead pivot to more fruitful issues for Democrats like health care and taxation. The strategists worry that Republicans’ foreboding immigration message is far more personal to most voters than the more modulated position of Democrats, whose push to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers and to ensure humane treatment of undocumented people does not, in many cases, affect voters themselves.

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New York Times - October 14, 2018

Democrats want to beat Scott Walker. But the Wisconsin economy is a hurdle.

“Forty days is not enough to talk about all the awful things Scott Walker’s done,” Mandela Barnes, the Democrats’ nominee for lieutenant governor, called out.

Randy Bryce, a mustachioed former ironworker who hopes to seize the seat that House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving, mocked the “Scott-holes” that he said plague Wisconsin’s roads. And Tony Evers, a grandfatherly-looking state schools superintendent who is running against Mr. Walker, said that it was high time they hold the governor accountable for cuts to schools, rising health care costs and a state economy that may look dazzling in headlines but, Mr. Evers says, doesn’t always feel that way to residents. Wisconsin, which had not picked a Republican for president since 1984, shocked the country in 2016 by backing Mr. Trump. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been such a surprise: Mr. Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature were re-elected in 2014 after slashing taxes, and many Republicans, independents and even some fiscally-minded Democrats saw benefit in a firmer line on the size and costs of government, not to mention lower tax bills. But now there’s a rising debate over whether this state needs more than Mr. Walker’s unbending rectitude. One question for Democrats is whether they can successfully make an economic argument at a time when Wisconsin’s economic indicators are strong. By most metrics, Wisconsin’s economy is doing well. At 3 percent, the state’s unemployment rate is well below the national average of 3.7 percent. Nationally, Democratic leaders are watching Wisconsin closely, in part to understand how to run against a relatively upbeat economy, and in part for lessons for winning back the state in the 2020 presidential election.

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Washington Post - October 14, 2018

Michael Cohen: 2018 midterms ‘might be the most important vote in our lifetime’

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, is urging the public to #GetOutAndVote next month. In a Sunday afternoon tweet, Cohen said the Nov. 6 midterms, in which Democrats are aiming to retake control of the House and the Senate, “might be the most important vote in our lifetime.”

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight violations of tax, banking and campaign finance laws, implicating Trump in some of his actions. New York state law prohibits felons from voting, but only while incarcerated, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union told NBC News. Cohen is out on bail until his sentencing in December, meaning he remains eligible to cast a ballot on Nov. 6. The midterms could be his last opportunity to vote for some time: He faces 46 to 63 months in prison, according to court filings. Cohen last week changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, according to his attorney, Lanny Davis, who said in a tweet that his client was “distancing himself from the values of the current Admin.” On Sunday, Davis made note of Cohen’s call for voters to go to the polls. “No one knows better than @michaelcohen212 why the midterm stakes are so important to #America’s future as he is the holder of truth about @realdonaldtrump,” the lawyer tweeted.

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Washington Post - October 14, 2018

Elizabeth Warren builds expansive Democratic campaign effort ahead of likely 2020 bid

During the past six months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, has quietly built a shadow war room designed to elect Democrats across the country in the midterm elections, overtaking some of the traditional duties of Democratic Party campaign committees and further positioning herself for an all-but-certain 2020 presidential bid.

Her effort, which goes far beyond the fundraising and endorsement speeches in which prospective presidential candidates typically engage, has encompassed work in all 50 states and close coordination with more than 150 campaigns. The result is a wide-ranging network that includes those running for state treasurer in Nevada, state legislature in Iowa and congressional offices around the country. It is unmistakably aimed at some of the early-primary states that Warren would need to contest in a presidential campaign. She has deployed staffers to all four early primary states — two to New Hampshire and one each to Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada — as well as to traditional powerhouses like Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. “I feel the urgency of the moment nationally,” Warren said in an interview. “It’s two parts: It’s holding Donald Trump accountable for what he does. It’s also trying to push this country toward working better for hard-working families.” The Warren effort, while beneficial to a presidential campaign she said she will “take a hard look” at after the midterms, also signals how decentralized the national Democratic Party has become as most of the energy is being generated by individuals who are building their own operations. On the fundraising front alone, scores of Democrats have raised more than $1 million each in pursuit of House seats this year; in Texas, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke pulled in more than $38 million in the most recent fundraising quarter. Warren is still helping the official campaign committees — donating and raising money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for example — but much of her work is independent of them and appears aimed at restocking a Democratic bench that has become woefully thin in recent years.

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Washington Post - October 14, 2018

After journalist vanishes, focus shifts to young prince’s ‘dark’ and bullying side

When he hosted last October’s glittering global investment conference in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had the world at his fingertips. Thousands of investors, corporate chieftains and government leaders flocked to the kingdom to hear the charismatic young heir to the Saudi throne outline his plans for modernization of the reclusive kingdom, and to be invited along for the ride and the profits.

“Only dreamers are welcome to join,” Mohammed told his audience. As a second conference approaches this month in Riyadh, Mohammed, 33, seems far less dashing. Over the past week, many who had planned to attend have abruptly canceled, scrambling to distance themselves from what they now see as a runaway train headed for disaster. Their distress stems from the still-unfolding story of Jamal Khashoggi, the self-exiled Saudi journalist allegedly killed and gruesomely dismembered this month by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, after he dared to publicly criticize the crown prince and his government. To some of Mohammed’s foreign admirers, it is still inconceivable that the ebullient and charming prince — widely known by the initials MBS — could be responsible for such barbarity. The Trump White House has insisted it has reached no conclusions about what happened.

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Washington Post - October 14, 2018

Kudlow defends Trump for calling Fed ‘crazy,’ says president respects central bank’s independence

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday defended President Trump for saying that the Federal Reserve has “gone crazy,” arguing that the president was not telling the central bank what to do but was merely expressing his view that interest rates are being raised too quickly.

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Kudlow said that “as a successful businessman and investor,” Trump is knowledgeable about economic issues and was “giving his opinion” on interest rates. “His concern is that the Fed might move too quickly and might choke off the economic recovery, which is now running 3 to 4 percent,” Kudlow said. “He’s not impinging on Fed independence. He didn’t say, ‘I want you to change your plan.’ ” Presidents and their advisers traditionally refrain from commenting directly on Fed policy. Yet, over the past week, Trump has voiced increasing displeasure with Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell and blamed the central bank for the recent stock market plunge. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters before a rally in Erie, Pa., “I think the Fed has gone crazy.” In an interview with Fox News Channel on the same day, he described the Federal Reserve as “going wild” and “loco.” On Thursday, he said the central bank was “out of control” and was “getting a little bit too cute.” “I’d like our Fed not to be so aggressive, because I think they’re making a big mistake,” Trump said in an interview on “Fox & Friends.” His comments stood in stark contrast to a statement on Wednesday in which the White House gave a more measured response to the stock market drop. Kudlow maintained Sunday that Trump’s public remarks did not mean that the president was telling the Fed what action to take.

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San Francisco Chronicle - October 12, 2018

Pelosi’s hope for a divided government

Sorry to disappoint the factions on the left who are relishing revenge and the alarmists on the right who are warning of socialist apocalypse if Democrats regain control of the House in the midterms, but Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is thinking about neither the i-word (impeachment) nor the o-word (obstruction) when she returns to the speakership.

And let there be no doubt: She wants that speaker’s gavel back in January, and is willing to say so out loud. Instead, the House minority leader was talking the b-word (bipartisanship) in her meeting on Wednesday with our editorial board. “It’s not the lowest common denominator,” she said of bipartisanship. “It’s the boldest common denominator.” This is not exactly what the Democratic base wants to hear or what the Republican base purports to fear. But for as much as red-state Republicans like to cast Pelosi as the unwitting running mate of their Democratic opponent, the San Francisco Democrat has shown herself to be a pragmatist in working with a Republican president, including the one she opposed “totally, completely, a million percent” on the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Pelosi noted that she found common ground with President George W. Bush on consequential matters such as the largest energy bill in the nation’s history, international HIV/AIDS relief and the stimulus package after the 2008 economic crisis. But is it really plausible to expect that Pelosi could similarly develop a working relationship with President Trump, who routinely mocks her at rallies, and House and Senate Republicans whose contempt for compromise across the aisle goes back into the Obama years? “So when we win,” said Pelosi, thumping the wood conference table five times for emphasis. “It will be open and transparent,” she said of the Democratic-controlled House. “It will be fair. It will be accountable to the public, and it will try to seek solutions that are unifying. This is because it is what we believe, but also because it is what we owe our founders.”

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Pacific Standard - October 12, 2018

McWillliams: Of course public confidence in higher education is down

As Americans' faith in higher education reacts to rising costs, mounting debts, and the growing sense that preparation for the workforce need not take a four-year degree, the post-World War II ambitions of higher education may prove to be a noble failure.

A new Gallup poll reveals that only 48 percent of Americans have "'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence" in the United States' higher education system. That figure marks a significant drop; 57 percent registered high confidence in 2015. No other major institution, including Congress (which has an 11 percent confidence rating), experienced such a precipitous decline in public faith over the last three years. Gallup analyst Jeff Jones was blunt about these findings, noting that leaders in higher education "probably should be worried." There are many short-term causes for this drop in confidence. The seemingly endless contretemps over controversial campus speakers—debates that usually reduce all sides to a caricature—haven't helped higher education's public image. Likewise, the perennial emergence of Sokal-type hoaxes—most recently by a team of academic tricksters called Sokal Squared—presents academia as a place where jargon replaces thought. The perception that higher education teems with leftists intent on indoctrinating impressionable minds seems difficult to shake, especially with right-wing organizations funding a host of media outlets dedicated to perpetuating this prejudice. But the decline in higher education's reputation has little to do with the war on free speech, safe zones, trigger warnings, or radical feminist jargon. The deeper reason for Americans' lagging confidence in the conventional four-year degree is due to a much more fundamental paradox. Over the last 50 years, colleges and universities have done a remarkable job expanding student diversity and access to a broad range of specialized majors. Consider just one measure: enrollment across racial and ethnic lines. A 2016 report published by the Department of Education confirms that, in 1974, only 6 percent of Hispanics and blacks over 25 had completed college. But by 2014, 15 percent of Hispanics and 22 percent of blacks had done so. Hispanics have done so at greater rates than whites, with the gap in college enrollment rates between these groups dropping from 18 percent to 8 percent between 2003 and 2013.

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Fox News - October 15, 2018

Trump asks RNC chair Ronna McDaniel to stay on for another term, source says

President Trump has asked Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel to serve a second two-year term, a source told Fox News late Sunday.

McDaniel was first elected RNC chair in January 2017 on Trump's recommendation. She replaced Reince Priebus, who had been RNC chairman since 2011 and left that position to become Trump's first White House Chief of Staff. McDaniel is a niece of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Axios first reported Trump's request to McDaniel. A source told the website that Trump has praised McDaniel's work on behalf of the president's agenda and noted record fundraising and grassroots engagement. The presidential endorsement makes it unlikely that anyone will challenge McDaniel when the post comes up for a vote next year. The RNC has not had a contested election for its chair since Priebus' initial victory in 2011. The RNC’s 168-member body votes to select its chair each January during the committee’s winter meeting.

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Associated Press - October 15, 2018

GOP plays blame game while fighting to save House majority

Republicans have begun to concede defeat in the evolving fight to preserve the House majority. The GOP’s most powerful players this midterm season are actively shifting resources away from vulnerable Republican House candidates deemed too far gone and toward those thought to have a better chance of political survival.

And as they initiate a painful and strategic triage, the early Republican-on-Republican blame game has begun as well. GOP operatives connected to several vulnerable candidates complain that the committee responsible for electing House Republicans has failed to deliver on its promise to invest $62 million in political advertising across 11 states this fall, a promise detailed in a September memo that declared, “The cavalry is coming.” The operatives spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution; vulnerable Republican candidates still hope to receive additional financial support over the three weeks before Election Day. But if the cavalry is coming, it’s not coming for everyone. Already, the Republican operatives and spending patterns by both sides indicate GOP defeat in as many as a dozen House races — halfway to the number Democrats need to seize the House majority this fall. Dozens more seats are in play. “We’re starting to hone in on what are the races we can actually win. Sometime that requires a hard conversation,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan’s fundraising chief, Spencer Zwick. Even after a burst of enthusiasm that helped Republican Senate candidates in several states following the recent Supreme Court debate, some Republicans closely following the more complicated House battlefield fear the party may have already lost Congress’ lower chamber. With 22 days to go, they’re working furiously in an expanding political battlefield to limit their losses. Fundraising challenges make it harder. As of Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent or reserved $44.8 million of television advertising in competitive House races since the end of July, according to spending records obtained by The Associated Press. That’s significantly less than the $62 million promised in last month’s memo.

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McClatchy - October 12, 2018

Nervous Democrats ask: Could Election Day disaster strike again?

It was this week two years ago that Hillary Clinton’s victory looked assured, when the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault appeared all but certain to end his campaign. Jesse Ferguson remembers it well. The deputy press secretary for Clinton’s campaign also remembers what happened a month later.

It’s why this veteran Democratic operative can’t shake the feeling that, as promising as the next election looks for his party, it might still all turn out wrong. “Election Day will either prove to me I have PTSD or show I’ve been living déjà vu,” Ferguson said. “I just don’t know which yet.” Ferguson is one of many Democrats who felt the string of unexpected defeat in 2016 and are now closely — and nervously — watching the current election near its end, wondering if history will repeat itself. This year, instead of trying to win the presidency, Democrats have placed an onus on trying to gain 23 House seats and win a majority. The anxiety isn’t universal, with many party leaders professing confidently and repeatedly that this year really is different. But even some of them acknowledge the similarities between the current and previous election: Trump is unpopular and beset by scandal, Democrats hold leads in the polls, and some Republicans are openly pessimistic. FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats a 76.9 percent chance of winning the House one month before Election Day. Their odds for Clinton’s victory two years ago? 71.4 percent. The abundance of optimism brings back queasy memories for Jesse Lehrich, who worked on the Clinton campaign and remembers watching the returns come in from the Javits Center in New York. “I was getting texts after the result was clear – including even from some political reporters and operatives – texting me, you know, ‘Are you guys starting to get nervous?’ or ‘What’s her most likely path?’” he said. “I was like, ‘What do you mean, starting to get nervous? What path? They just called Wisconsin. We lost.’” “People were so slow to process that reality because they just hadn’t considered the possibility that Donald Trump was going to be the next president,” he continued. Lehrich said he sees similarities between 2016 and 2018. But he said he thought Democrats were cognizant of the parallels and determined not to let up a month before the election, as many voters might have two years ago.

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Washington Examiner - October 15, 2018

Reynolds: What House Republicans must do to maintain their majority

As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2004 and 2006 cycles, I know a little bit about dealing with an uncertain political environment and making sure your opponents are on defense.

In 2006, we were able to save at least 20 seats with strategic decisions made in the final weeks of the campaign by following the advice of George Washington: “Offensive operations, often times, is the surest, if not the only ... means of defence.'' Republicans have controlled Washington for the past two years. And as history tells us the first midterm for a president is always dangerous for his party in Congress. While the president and members of Congress have worked hard to put policies in place to grow the economy, that alone isn’t enough. Candidates must also raise money and draw sharp contrasts with their opponents in order to win competitive races. Consider the race in Kentucky’s 6th District, where Democrat Amy McGrath is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Barr. After her primary victory in May, very few people viewed McGrath as a liberal. In early June, polling showed that McGrath led Barr, 51 to 38 percent. But before McGrath could really set the terms in the general election, CLF jumped into that race in August and ran six ads over the course of a month, highlighting her liberal positions on immigration, taxes, liberal handouts, and the Iranian nuclear deal. The results were staggering. An early September poll showed Barr leading 49 percent to 45 percent. Perhaps more important were the numbers showing that McGrath’s net favorability rating had dramatically fallen, from plus-39 to just plus-11, and that 66 percent of those polled now believed that she was a liberal. New data in Ohio’s 1st District shows a similar trajectory. After initially being locked in a tie race in late August, Rep. Steve Chabot now leads Democrat Aftab Pureval by 7 points. Pureval’s negatives have surged 16 points overall, and they have doubled with independents. How did this happen? In August, CLF began television and digital advertising highlighting Aftab Pureval’s hypocritical D.C. work history, his liberal positions and the ongoing investigation into his campaign. In both of these races, CLF’s ground team has been knocking doors since last year as part of their field program.

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CNN - October 15, 2018

Dozens are still unaccounted for in hard-hit Mexico Beach, 5 days after Hurricane Michael

Florida and Georgia are reeling from the brutal effects of Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the Florida Panhandle Wednesday.

The widespread destruction has left many people living in dire conditions. Residents have been waiting in long lines to collect bottled water and ready-to-eat meals (MREs) at several distribution centers. Helicopters are also airdropping food and water to remote areas. Early Monday, more than 250,000 customers were still without power in seven states from Florida to Virginia. The death toll remains at 18 but authorities say it could climb. About 30 to 35 people are unaccounted for in the Mexico Beach area, Police Chief Anthony Kelly said. President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a disaster declaration in Georgia for Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller, and Seminole counties. It follows the declaration of a major disaster in Florida's Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, and Wakulla counties on October 11. The declarations give affected residents and businesses access to federal aid and funding. The President and first lady are scheduled to visit Florida Monday where they are expected to survey damage from Michael. On Sunday, FEMA said more than 58 evacuations and 403 rescues or assists had been completed by several agencies in the days since Hurricane Michael made landfall. Authorities also completed 3,362 shelter-in-place checks, and performed structural assessments on 7,257 structures in Florida. FEMA has 14 teams in place in Florida to help people register for disaster assistance, the release said. There are also 17 distribution points throughout Florida and Georgia where people can get food and water in places where stores remain closed or there are limited supplies.

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Bloomberg - October 15, 2018

Top three percent of taxpayers paid majority of income taxes in 2016

Individual income taxes are the federal government’s single biggest revenue source. In fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, the individual income tax is expected to bring in roughly $1.7 trillion, or about half of all federal revenues, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

If past statistics can offer any guidance, in 2016, $1.44 trillion income taxes were paid by 140.9 million taxpayers reporting a total of $10.2 trillion in adjusted gross income, according to data recently released by the Internal Revenue Services. Bloomberg looked into the 2016 individual returns data in detail for some additional insights illustrated in the charts below: The top one percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (37.3 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (30.5 percent). The top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of total individual income taxes. In other words, the bottom 50 percent paid 3 percent. Which small percentile of tax payers also paid 3 percent or more? You might have guessed it. It is the top 0.001%, or about 1,400 taxpayers. That group alone paid 3.25 percent of all income taxes. In 2001, the bottom 50 percent paid nearly 5 percent whereas the top 0.001 percent of filers paid 2.3 percent of income taxes. The individual income tax system is designed to be progressive – those with higher incomes pay at higher rates. While the indentation, or the reduction in the steepness of the "progressivity" curve, is visible at the highest levels.

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Bloomberg - October 12, 2018

100 million barrels: The world hit a daily oil and liquids record

The world is pumping out more oil and other petroleum liquids than ever before. Global supply rose to 100.3 million barrels a day in the third quarter, the International Energy Agency said Friday in its monthly oil market report.

Output, which includes crude oil, natural gas liquids, biofuels and refinery processing gains, was 2.3 million barrels above the same period last year and 1.3 million barrels a day higher than the second quarter. The new quarterly output record underscores how growing demand in the developing world requires new sources of supply in the short term, even as increasing sales of new energy vehicles and renewable power generation threaten the long-term growth of fossil fuels. The IEA sees production from outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries rising another 1.7 million barrels a day next year. The output increase from the second quarter was led by OPEC, which boosted production by 500,000 barrels a day, and the Americas, which saw a rise of 400,000 barrels a day. Biofuel production also increased by 300,000 barrels a day from the previous quarter, according to the report.

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