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Aug. 24 2016 2:48 PM

Trump Might Have Lied About Meeting High-Ranking Chicago Cops Who Have a Secret Plan to End Crime

During a Monday night appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Trump said he's been in touch with "very top police" in Chicago, and with one "top police officer" in particular, who could make the violence-plagued city safe in a single week. The transcript:

When I was in Chicago, I got to meet a couple of very top police. I said, "How do you stop this? How do you stop this? If you were put in charge — to a specific person — do you think you could stop it?" He said, 'Mr. Trump, I'd be able to stop it in one week.' And I believed him 100 percent. ... All I know is this. I went to a top police officer in Chicago, who is not the police chief, and I could see by the way he was dealing with his people, he was a rough, tough guy. They respected him greatly. ... He said, "Mr. Trump, within one week, we could stop much of this horror show that's going on."

Seems plausible! The Chicago PD, however, says that Trump has not met with any of its employees who could in any way be considered "top" officers. From the Chicago Tribune:

"No one in the senior command at CPD has ever met with Donald Trump or a member of his campaign," Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi clarified later that since at least March, when a Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago was planned and ultimately canceled, none of the department's deputy superintendents, commanders of the city's 22 districts, chiefs of patrol or chiefs of detectives has met with Trump.

In response, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks explained that when Trump said "very top officers" and "a top police officer" he meant that the individuals he spoke to were "capable, smart and talented," not that they were high-ranking.

Incidentally, Trump did not elaborate on what his "very top" sources' plan for seven-day crime elimination actually constituted except to say that it would be "very much tougher" than the Chicago force's current approach. And as Slate's Jamelle Bouie observes, the city of Chicago recently created a reparations fund for victims of police torture, which means whatever Trump and his top guys have in mind must be very tough indeed.

Aug. 24 2016 10:32 AM

Turkey Launches U.S.-Backed Land Attack Against ISIS in Syria

Turkish tanks and special operations troops backed by U.S. airstrikes have crossed into Syria to attack ISIS forces holding the town of Jarabulus, multiple outlets report. Jarablus, described by CNN as "the last major town held by ISIS on the Syrian-Turkish border," is located on the banks of the Euphrates River less than a mile from Turkish territory.

At least 54 people were killed this weekend when a suicide bomber who may have been affiliated with ISIS attacked a wedding in southern Turkey. ISIS is also believed to have been responsible for the shooting/bombing attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport that killed more than 40 people in June. While Turkey considers ISIS an enemy, it has been hesitant to deploy its full resources against the group because the anti-ISIS alliance also includes Kurdish elements; Turkey has long fought against Kurdish separatist groups within its own borders. Turkey, a NATO member, is also hostile to the Russian-backed Bashar al-Assad regime that continues to fight ISIS.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday in Ankara in a move that signals that the U.S.'s military partnership with Turkey will remain strong despite the authoritarian crackdown that has taken place in the country after a coup attempt against Erdogan failed in mid-July.

Aug. 24 2016 9:17 AM

At Least 120 Killed by Earthquakes in Central Italy

Update, 3:15 p.m.: Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi now says the death toll is at "at least 120."

Update, 11:55 a.m.: Updated accounts say that at least 73 people are now known to have died in today's quakes.

Original post, 9:17 a.m.: At least 39 people have been killed in Central Italy by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake, followed by approximately 40 aftershocks, that began striking at 3:36 a.m. local time. The quakes lasted roughly three hours and were centered in a mountainous region about 100 miles northeast of Rome; buildings in a number of towns and villages have been reduced to rubble, and the death toll is expected to rise.*

Here's a photo from the town of Amatrice:

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Ciro Luca/Reuters

Another from Pescara del Tronto:

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Remo Casilli/Reuters

We'll update this post as information becomes available.

*Correction, Aug. 24, 2016: This post originally misstated the location of the quakes in relation to Rome. The region affected is about 100 miles northeast of the Italian capital, not northwest.

Aug. 23 2016 11:09 PM

New York Times Says Moscow Bureau Was Targeted for Cyberattack, but No Evidence It Was Successful

After CNN spent the afternoon reporting that the New York Times’ computer systems had been breached by hackers allegedly working for Russian intelligence—to which the Times said it was unaware—the Times followed up Tuesday evening reporting that its Moscow bureau had been the target of a cyberattack earlier this month, but there was no indication that it had been successful.

The Times confirmed CNN’s report that the FBI is investigating an attempted hack of the paper but appears to walk back some of the overheated CNN claims that other news organizations’ computer systems had been breached and that the Times had hired outside investigators to look into the hack. “Evidence that hackers had targeted The Times came to light two months after private investigators concluded that Russian hackers, apparently connected to two of the country’s intelligence agencies, had broken into the networks of the Democratic National Committee,” according to the Times.

Aug. 23 2016 10:14 PM

Stanford Bans Hard Alcohol for Undergraduates Months After High-Profile Sexual Assault Case

In the wake of the high-profile sexual assault conviction of Brock Turner this summer, Stanford University stiffened its alcohol policy this week and barred hard alcohol for undergraduates on campus in an effort to “reduce [its] availability and accessibility.” While not explicitly a reaction to the trial of the former swimmer, it seems clear the university is responding, in part, to the blowback the administration faced during the trial. Turner tried to shift blame for his sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster to the drinking and “party culture” on campus. "I've been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school,” Turner said in a statement during the trial.

Here are more specifics of the new ban:

Stanford University has updated its student alcohol policy to prohibit high-volume distilled liquor containers for all undergraduate and coterminal students living in undergraduate housing. It also prohibits hard alcohol at all categories of on-campus parties, with the exception of parties hosted by student organizations and residences whose membership is 100 percent graduate students. That exemption applies to alcohol in the form of mixed drinks. Straight shots of hard alcohol are never allowed at any party. Beer and wine are the only alcoholic beverages that can be present at all on-campus undergraduate student parties.
The policy update, which goes beyond state law requirements, prohibits containers 750 mL and larger of distilled liquor, spirits and hard alcohol (alcohol by volume 20 percent and above or 40 proof) in undergraduate student residences, including rooms and common spaces. The beverages that are allowed under this policy for individuals 21 and older must have been purchased from a licensed establishment and must be contained and stored in their original containers.

The move is sure to be unpopular with Stanford students returning to campus for the fall semester. More than 91 percent of students voted against the ban in a campuswide referendum last spring, according to the Stanford Daily. The move has also been called out as beside the point when it comes to combating sexual violence on campus.

Whether or not banning hard alcohol is effective, Stanford is not the first to try to regulate alcohol consumption, particularly liquor, on campus. According to NPR News, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, and Notre Dame have all had similar bans in place for years and Dartmouth and the University of Virginia both implemented similarly restrictive measures following high-profile sexual assault cases.

Aug. 23 2016 7:25 PM

The Clinton Foundation Saga Is Insanely Convoluted. Here’s Why It Matters.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press released a troubling new report suggesting that Hillary Clinton frequently met with the Clinton Foundation’s big-dollar donors in an official capacity during her time as secretary of state. Here is an attempt to unpack the ongoing and convoluted scandal that Republicans have pointed to as a sign that Clinton can’t be trusted in the White House and that Democrats are generally trying to shrug off as no big deal.

Why are we here?

Hillary is up big in the polls and in accompanying electoral projections, but she’s not in the White House yet—Republicans are hoping that the slow trickle of challenges to her integrity as exemplified by the Clinton Foundation affair will start to bring her numbers back down to Earth. Recently released documents from her time as secretary of state continue to raise serious questions about the Clinton Foundation, its overlapping interests with its deep-pocketed donors around the globe, and how that all may have influenced her work in the State Department. The ongoing controversy poses an immediate political problem for Hillary as she seeks the presidency, and would pose a real-world one for her administration if she does indeed win this fall.

Wait—I’ve heard of this “Clinton Foundation” thing. Haven’t we already litigated this scandal?

In some ways, yes. The Clinton Foundation has long been a topic of interest for Hillary’s fellow politicos, the press, and the public. In 2009, when then-Sen. Hillary Clinton was being publicly considered for secretary of state, her critics were quick to point to the foundation as one giant web of conflicts of interest. As a result, the foundation agreed to make public a list of its previously confidential donors, which turned out to include a number of oligarchs, royal families, and foreign governments.

Those same concerns—along with new ones associated with the millions of dollars Bill and Hillary were personally paid to give speeches to many of the same entities that donated heavily to their charitable organization—returned to the fore last year when it became definitive that Clinton would be running for president. Most notably, the cozy ties between the Clintons and their global patrons were the subject of Clinton Cash, a much-hyped book-length investigation from Peter Schweizer that was released in May 2015. Schweizer is a conservative journalist with ties to Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon, who since has become the chief executive of Donald Trump’s campaign, but that hasn’t prevented the book’s reporting from getting national attention in publications like the New York Times. The book itself failed to find the smoking gun Clinton’s most vociferous critics are convinced exists, but it served as a prod to the rest of the press corps to investigate the issues raised by Hillary’s involvement with the Clinton Foundation.

OK, then, why is this in the news again?

Recently released email exchanges between Clinton’s aides at the State Department and those working for the Clinton Foundation offered Americans a peek into how the Hillary-led department and the not-for-profit that bears her name interacted while she was serving in the Obama administration. That picture is not a particularly flattering one.

In one such exchange from 2009, for instance, Clinton Foundation executive Douglas Band reached out in an attempt to put a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, who had donated heavily to the foundation, in touch with one of the State Department’s experts on Lebanon. After top Clinton aide Huma Abedin suggested she’d help make the connection, Band responded by urging Abedin to call the ambassador herself ASAP. “This is very important,” he added. In a separate exchange several days earlier, Band had asked for something his subject line described as “a favor.” The email is heavily redacted, but it appears as though Band was trying to help someone who had recently traveled to Haiti on a Clinton Foundation trip get a job at the State Department. “Important to take care of [redacted],” Band wrote. To which Abedin replied: “We have all had him on our radar” and “Personnel has been sending him options.” A few months later, Band reached out again, this time on behalf of the crown prince of Bahrain, who wanted a last-minute meeting with the secretary. “Good friend of ours,” Band wrote of a prince whose government had given tens of thousands to the Clinton’s charity. The list goes on.

Yikes. What else you got?

These don’t appear to have been one-off incidents. As noted, the Associated Press examined Clinton’s official government calendar from her first two years in the State Department and found that more than half of the people who didn’t work for either the U.S. government or a foreign one that Clinton had scheduled meetings with were either donors to her family foundation or had pledged commitments to its international programs. All told, the 85 individuals gave as much as $156 million to the organization. (And those figures don’t even include meetings between Clinton and the representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that had donated as much as $170 million to the charity.)

But that doesn’t prove quid pro quo, right?

Correct, though that shouldn’t make anyone sleep better at night. You don’t need to believe the Clintons orchestrated some sort of pay-for-play scheme to know that there is something wrong with a dynamic where it is nearly impossible to prove whether they did or did not.

Still, what’s so bad about taking a meeting? Don’t politicians meet with donors all the time?

Yes, the possibility of favor trading hangs over almost every decision in Washington, where congressmen and presidents attend fundraisers with and play host to their biggest benefactors. But Clinton was—and is—in a unique position because corporations and some foreign entities can donate to her family foundation rather than just her campaign, something they can’t do directly to other candidates. Those conflicts of interest are only compounded, of course, by the fact that she was then the nation’s chief diplomat and is now running to become its chief executive.

Even if Hillary were able to separate past foundation donations and the promise of future ones from her official actions, the donors cutting those checks would still be getting the appearance of access to a former president and a likely future one. And the mere perception of access matters, both in the financial marketplace and the political one.

But I thought the Clintons stopped accepting donations from companies and foreigners.

Nope. Bill Clinton announced last week that the foundation would stop accepting such donations if Hillary wins in November, but not before then. That decision would limit—but not eliminate—the conflicts of interest that would be created by a global foundation founded by the man who was the 42nd president of the United States and the woman who would be the nation’s 45th. While the Clintons are now promising to build that firewall for themselves if Hillary wins the White House, their announcement did nothing to prevent foreign entities or corporations from cutting a check now with the perception that they might cash in later.

But is this really more concerning than anything that’s come out of Donald Trump’s mouth in the past 15 minutes?

Probably not. But you can still believe Donald Trump would be a far worse president—one with even bigger and more dangerous conflicts of interest—and acknowledge that this is a legitimate issue of concern about Clinton.

Trump might be terrible and he might be the one with the most to gain from serious investigations into the Clinton Foundation. But the weight of Bill and Hillary’s combined policy influence means that examining these questions through the lens of a political campaign is an appropriate frame to discuss the conflicts of interest that plague our political system. That discussion becomes only more urgent every step closer the Clintons get to returning to the White House.

OK, but the Clinton Foundation does tons of great work, right? You just want to throw that all away?

Yes, the Clinton Foundation has done admirable work promoting global health and human rights around the world, and the Clintons, their staff, and their donors should be lauded for that. But that also doesn’t change the fact that as long as Hillary Clinton is either running for the White House or running the country from inside it, donors will likely see the Clinton Foundation as a way to gain influence. If their donors are truly being driven only by altruism—and not by access—there is no reason they wouldn’t find another nonprofit for their charitable contributions during the next four or eight years.

When is this all going to go away?

Unless Donald Trump pulls off one of the greatest political upsets of all time, or Bill and Hillary find religion on the matter and stop accepting donations immediately, probably not until some time around 2021 when neither Clinton will have any sort of office to run for. Either that, or sometime around President Chelsea Clinton’s second term in the 2040s.

Aug. 23 2016 5:32 PM

Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: Courting the Black Vote by Insulting Every Black Person

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

Donald Trump is giving this whole "I'm not racist" thing his full attention this week! Here was his pitch to black people as delivered last night in Akron, Ohio:

What do you have to lose? Look, it is a disaster the way African-Americans are living. … We’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.

What's interesting about this is that there is a tiny little seed of empathy for nonwhite people here. Unfortunately, that seed has been swallowed by a giant stereotype dragon. There is a difference between "the black community in what is now the United States been the subject of both de jure and de facto discrimination for some 400 years and as such is disproportionately affected by social ills such as crime and poverty" and "every predominately black neighborhood is a Robocop criminal hellscape." Donald Trump has not quite yet grasped that difference. Our danger level remains low.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons

Aug. 23 2016 5:13 PM

Appeals Court Upholds Discriminatory Voting Restrictions, Deals Setback to Ohio’s Black Voters

Two steps forward, one step back. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit affirmed the legality of an Ohio law that eliminated the early voting week most favored by minority voters. The 2-1 decision bucks the federal judiciary’s recent shift toward robust protections for voting rights, and turns a blind eye to what any casual observer would surely recognize as a race-based voting restriction. But all in all, the ruling is really quite narrow, and it’s unlikely to have ramifications beyond its immediate restriction of the franchise in Ohio.

Tuesday’s decision centered around a Republican-led effort to abolish Ohio’s voting “Golden Week”—a six-day period during which individuals could register to vote and cast their ballots at the same time. Empirical evidence demonstrates that black voters were much more likely to take advantage of Golden Week than white voters. That makes sense: Black Ohioans are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to have time off from work than whites. For many black voters, these factors make two separate trips to vote—one to register, one to cast a ballot—very difficult financially. For this reason, a lower court had concluded that the elimination of Golden Week disproportionately burdened black citizens’ right to vote, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act.

The 6th Circuit reversed that ruling, declaring that it’s still “easy to vote in Ohio. Very easy, actually.” While the state eliminated Golden Week, it preserved 29 days of early voting—though none of those days allow same-day registration. The majority found that Ohio’s early voting system is “one of the more generous in the nation,” and that its contraction is “at most, minimally burdensome.” Sure, “some African-American votersmay prefer” voting during Golden Week, the court scoffed, but that’s simply “a matter of choice.” Stripping black voters of their preferred voting method, the majority held, just doesn’t qualify as a “state-created obstacle” to voting.

 

Aug. 23 2016 5:06 PM

More Than Half of the Private Citizens Clinton Met With at State Department Were Foundation Donors

It's been clear for a while now that Hillary Clinton's State Department did some favors for individuals who also happened to be big donors to the Clinton Foundation. The scope of Clinton's favor-trading operation, though, has been unclear. Was the State Department completely transformed for four years into a Clinton-enriching lobbying firm, as Donald Trump has hyperbolically alleged? Or are we talking more about a few perfunctory meetings here and there? A new Associated Press investigation attempts to answer that question, and the results are not flattering for Hillary:

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Yikes. The AP defines "private interest"-related meetings as involving individuals who weren't U.S. federal employees or representatives of a foreign government; by this measure, then, 55 percent of the nongovernment individuals whose meetings and calls with Clinton were reviewed involved donors to a powerful private organization that the secretary of state co-founded and helps control. It doesn't seem at this point as if there is any smoking gun example of Clinton taking an egregiously inappropriate action on behalf of any of these donors, but the AP notes that it's only received scheduling documents covering half of Clinton's tenure. (The materials that it has received were requested three years ago, and the AP had to sue the State Department to actually obtain them.) Meanwhile, it's already known that some of the entities that donated to the Clinton Foundation also paid the Clintons individually for giving speeches, which blurs the public service/private business line even further. As has become the norm with Hillary's State Department activities, nothing here is a "quit the presidential race"-level scandal—but neither does any of it give one a great deal of confidence in her integrity.

Aug. 23 2016 3:39 PM

In Landmark Decision, NLRB Allows Graduate Students at Private Universities to Unionize

On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate students employed by private universities are permitted to unionize under federal law. The 3-1 decision reversed a previous NLRB ruling that barred these students from unionizing in 2004. Every Ivy League school opposed the decision, which was spurred by Columbia University’s efforts to shut down a union drive on campus.

The critical question at issue in this litigation was whether students employed by a private university are “employees” as defined by the National Labor Relations Act. Twelve years ago, a Republican-dominated NLRB found that working students aren’t employees under federal law because their relationship with their employer was “primarily educational.” That board also found that collective bargaining between a university and its employed graduate students could not “coexist successfully with student-teacher relationships, with the educational process, and with the traditional goals of higher education.” Finally, it held that “collective bargaining would unduly infringe upon traditional academic freedoms,” including the “right to speak freely in the classroom.”

But the NLRB—which has since swung majority-Democrat—found on Tuesday that these rationales simply do not hold up to scrutiny. First, the board rejected argument that graduate students cannot be employees because their relationship to their employer remains “primarily educational.” This interpretation, the board wrote, cannot actually be found in the “statutory text” of federal labor law, and cannot be derived from its “fundamental policy.” Instead, the board asked whether colleges and students had a “common-law employment relationship,” with the school exerting control over its student employees and compensating them for their labor. Because such a relationship obviously exists, students may be considered “employees” of the universities for which they work.

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