Pete Buttigieg had the perfect response to a Trump-loving heckler trying to crash a Biden rally

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) gave a Trump-supporting heckler a taste of his own medicine when he interrupted his campaign rally for Joe Biden.

On Wednesday night, Buttigieg held a rally in St. Pete, Florida to campaign for Democratic presidential nominee. He crossed paths with a man wearing a red MAGA hat and khaki shorts, reports Pink News. The man held his cell phone up to live-stream his heckling protest.

Buttigieg's staffers made attempts to remove the heckler but to no avail. However, that did not stop Buttigieg from getting his point across.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who will serve him just as enthusiastically as he will serve us?" the former mayor asked. "Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who cares just as much about protecting the lives of those that protest us as those who stand at our side? Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who does not believe in violence against those who disagree with him?"

He went on to note the importance of inclusion in America as he painted a picture of a better America focused on "rejecting racism and embracing one another for a better future."

"Are you not proud to be an American in a country that makes room for all of us, but whose values include rejecting hate and rejecting those who would deny science when it could save lives? Rejecting racism and embracing one another for a better future for this country?"

Then, Buttigieg offered a direct message to the heckling Trump supporter saying, "And don't you feel a little sorry for a president who finds it necessary to draw this kind of support? But it's OK sir, because when Joe Biden is president you will be safer too."

As Buttigieg attempted to get back on track and focus on the rally, the heckler continued with his antics. So the once-presidential hopeful challenged the heckler again asking, "Can I finish my remarks? Are you afraid to hear what I have to say?"

When that approach did not work, Buttigieg went for another angle asking, "Do you denounce white supremacy?"

To that question, the man nodded that he did. Buttigieg hit back with remarks on President Donald Trump checkered public stance on white supremacy. "Good, then we agree on something. That's a beginning point. See if you can get your president to do the same thing."

Buttigieg also took a dig at Fox News and Vice President Mike Pence as he recalled his commitment to helping the Biden-Harris campaign on their road to the White House. Over the last several weeks, Buttigieg has become one of Harris' top allies as Democrats band together to take the Oval.

"I've told the Biden-Harris campaign I would go anywhere to support the cause. I didn't know that would mean going into the mind of Mike Pence for a while to help with debate prep," Buttigieg said during the rally. "I didn't know it would mean going on Fox News quite as often as it has."

His latest remarks come shortly after his previous Fox News appearance with host Martha McCallum. He was asked about Harris change of heart regarding Medicare for All. Buttigieg quickly fired back with an argument of his own as he noted the hypocrisy of Pence, an evangelical Christian, running on a political ticket with Trump, a president caught cheating on his wife with a known adult film star.

"Well, there's a classic parlour game of trying to find a little bit of daylight between running mates," Buttigieg quickly fired back.

He added, "If people want to play that game, we could look into why an evangelical Christian like Mike Pence wants to be on a ticket with a president caught with a porn star. Or how he feels about the immigration policy he called unconstitutional before he decided to team up with Donald Trump."

news & politics

Elizabeth Warren rips into the plot to sabotage the Postal service — and the election

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday blasted members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors for "acting as accomplices" to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy while he sabotages the mail—and, as a result, the election—after the panel rejected her request for financial disclosure filings and refused to commit to reversing DeJoy's destructive policy changes.

"The USPS Board of Governors has refused to release information about their own financial ties and has doubled down on their support of Louis DeJoy," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement. "Once again, I call on the board members to release their financial disclosure forms, remove DeJoy, and do their jobs by reversing DeJoy's actions."

In August, as Common Dreams reported, Warren sent a letter demanding that the six members of the Board of Governors—all of whom were appointed by President Donald Trump—release their federal financial disclosure documents so lawmakers and the public could determine whether they "have investments or outside responsibilities that potentially pose conflicts of interest."

But in a letter (pdf) to Warren dated last week, USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan—who previously served as chairman of the Republican National Committee—said the board "respectfully declines to publicly release the financial disclosures of its individual members," citing ethics regulations that exempt so-called Special Government Employees from financial disclosure requirements.

Warren has previously dismissed the exemption as a "dumb loophole."

In a separate letter (pdf) released by Warren's office Wednesday, Duncan made clear that the board has no intention of removing DeJoy—a Republican megadonor to Trump—or working to reverse his operational changes that caused major and persistent mail delays across the country, intensifying concerns about mass disqualification of ballots that arrive late due to no fault of the voter.

The Board of Governors, wrote Duncan, "remains fully confident that Mr. DeJoy is the right person for the job"—an assessment Warren slammed as "absurd."

"The ongoing postal delivery delays," Warren replied, "reveal that there is no reason for their confidence."

election '20

‘He just lies all the time’: Senior voters are rejecting Trump over his failed coronavirus response

Voters who are 65 and older — especially those who are White and live in red states or swing states — can be challenging for Democrats because: (1) they are more likely to be conservative, and (2) they are more likely to vote. But reporters Kendall Karson and Will Steakin, in an article published by ABC News this week, stress that President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic is, in 2020, hurting him with senior voters — including some who voted for him in 2016.

"Trump is attempting a repeat of his first stunning victory by banding together a base that's still mostly White, largely male, less formally educated and older," Karson and Steakin explain. "Underpinning Trump's success in 2016 was, in part, an army of seniors that made up a large slice of the electorate and backed him by 7 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, according to national exit poll data. Older voters are among the most likely to vote and have sided with Republican nominees in every presidential election since 2004, reinforcing Trump four years ago and helping tilt key battleground states in his favor."

The ABC News journalists, however, add that in 2020, Biden is performing relatively well among voters who are 65 and older.

"This cycle, former Vice President Joe Biden is cutting into Trump's coalition, making significant gains with older voters across the U.S. — particularly in must-win states for Trump," according to Karson and Steakin. "A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found the two men running even among likely voters 65 and older nationally — 48% to 49%. In Florida and North Carolina, two states Trump narrowly won in 2016 and considered crucial for him to win in 2020, the president's advantage over Biden with seniors is slightly better than his national standing but still well short of his margins over Clinton."

ABC News interviewed some senior voters for the article, and Trump's coronavirus response was a major concern. Marcelo Montesinos, who voted for Trump in 2016 and is now 72, told ABC News, "He knew everything all the way back in February, and he didn't take the precautions.... He didn't believe in science. He doesn't believe in doctors. He always tries to blame somebody else, like a little kid."

Montesinos, who lost a family member to the pandemic, told ABC News that when Trump downplayed the pandemic's severity, "It hurt me so much."

North Carolina resident Cindy Cook, a 68-year-old independent, told ABC News that she doesn't appreciate Trump's recent attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci — an expert immunologist who is part of the White House's coronavirus task force.

Cook argued, "(Trump's) wrong. Fauci knows what's going on. Trump just wants to get reelected and make everything he does terrific, but he hasn't done anything."

Another North Carolina voter, 77-year-old Biden supporter Arlie Thompson, told ABC News, "He certainly dealt himself a blow by not dealing with the pandemic like he should have. The economy is a mess now."

Al, a senior voter who is a registered Republican but is voting for Biden, told ABC News, "I believe Fauci. I don't believe anything Trump says unless somebody of substantial means can verify it. Because he just lies all the time."


Even MOMA is mocking Kim Kardashian West for flaunting private island vacation photos amid pandemic

Kim Kardashian West is a famous person. She is also a wealthy person and her extended family has been at the forefront of the "reality stars" entertainment economy for some time. She is married to Kayne West. Together they are very very wealthy. And like all wealthy people, they live in very rarified air. And like most one-percenters, they are narcissistic in both their pursuit of wealth and their achievement of wealth. It's also Kim Kardashian West's 40th birthday!

On Tuesday, Kim Kardashian West put up a post of glamour shots showing a big crew of friends and family living it up in some tropical area. She wrote, "After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time." I mean, after "2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine," I'm surprised that people were "surprised" by Mrs. Kardashian West's luxurious trip. Of course, the tone-deaf, privileged, and ill-timed boasting Kardashian West was very quickly memed into the history books. This was because a) hundreds of thousands of people are dying and our Republican-led government isn't doing anything about it, b) hundreds of thousands of people are dying and our Republican-led government isn't doing anything about it, and c) hundreds of thousands of people are dying and our Republican-led government isn't doing anything about it.

Warms the heart doesn't it?

Good point.

You know it. Let's lighten the load.


Almost too close to the bone here.

And darker.

And darker.

MOMA stepped up.

Here's a reminder.

And let's lighten it up again.

The fact that she has the money to not worry about a lack of stimulus while families are just gutted by this very preventible pandemic means she is a part of the problem. There are very few people in her position. Very few. Maybe a couple of thousand people in a world filled with billions of people. Her lack of understanding isn't unique to her, but don't feel sorry for her for getting criticized for it. She doesn't care about you. While the extremely wealthy among us might do cool things from time to time, like championing an end to mass incarceration, in the end, they aren't on your side. They are only and forever on their own side.


'Follow Trump off a cliff’: Psychological analysis reveals 14 key traits of people who support the president

As he himself said even before he won the presidential election in 2016, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." Unfortunately for the American people, this wild-sounding claim appears to be truer than not, at least for the majority of his supporters, and that is something that should disturb us. It should also motivate us to explore the science underlying such peculiar human behavior, so we can learn from it, and potentially inoculate against it.

In all fairness, we should recognize that lying is sadly not uncommon for politicians on both sides of the political aisle, but the frequency and magnitude of the current president's lies should have us all wondering why they haven't destroyed his political career, and instead perhaps strengthened it. Similarly, we should be asking why his inflammatory rhetoric and numerous scandals haven't sunk him. We are talking about a man who was caught on tape saying, "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy." Politically surviving that video is not normal, or anything close to it, and we can be sure that such a revelation would have been the end of Barack Obama or George Bush had it surfaced weeks before the election.

While dozens of psychologists have analyzed Trump, to explain the man's political invincibility, it is more important to understand the minds of his staunch supporters. While there have been various popular articles that have illuminated a multitude of reasons for his unwavering support, there appears to be no comprehensive analysis that contains all of them. Since there seems to be a real demand for this information, I have tried to provide that analysis below.

Some of the explanations come from a 2017 review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology by the psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew. Others have been put forth as far back as 2016 by myself, a cognitive neuroscience and psychology researcher, in various articles and blog posts for publications like Psychology Today. A number of these were inspired by insights from psychologists like Sheldon Solomon, who laid the groundwork for the influential Terror Management Theory, and David Dunning, who did the same for the Dunning-Kruger effect

This list will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump's intransigent support, and as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters' unbridled allegiance.

The psychological phenomena described below mostly pertain to those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff. These are the people who will stand by his side no matter what scandals come to light, or what sort of evidence for immoral and illegal behavior surfaces.

1. Practicality Trumps Morality

For some wealthy people, it's simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not matter if he's a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.

2. The Brain's Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump

According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn't necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level

3. America's Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America's addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn't matter what Trump actually says because he's so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained

4. "Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn."

Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight, and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.

5. The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you've found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

6. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat

A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump's fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one's death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn't lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

    7. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

    Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it's ever been, they simply take his word for it.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn't just that they are misinformed; it's that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

    Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, "The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment." These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

    8. Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement

    Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

    Common explanations for Trump's popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.

    These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as "relative," as opposed to "absolute," because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.

    9. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

    Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one's own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it's important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump's white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that "…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support." This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters' physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #14.

    10. Trump's Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

    While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

    The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of "odd beliefs and magical thinking." One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

    Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

    11. Trump Taps into the Nation's Collective Narcissism

    Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one's national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the 'true identity' of a nation — the 'ingroup,' in this case White Americans — perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them 'unrightfully.' This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).

    A study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward 'outsider' groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

    Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being "true patriots" or "real Americans," he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of "identity politics," a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

    12. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

    Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

    In Trump's speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 survey study of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

    13. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome

    Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome — a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one's authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

    Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. President Trump's speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like "losers" and "complete disasters," are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

    While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise

    14. Racism and Bigotry

    It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump's supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that many do not. It is a well-known fact that the Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard Nixon's "southern strategy," used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with "dog whistles" — code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.

    While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trump's signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. There's no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims "dangerous" and Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "murderers," often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.

    Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyAzarian.


    Here's what water on the moon means for the future of exploration

    Earth news is a bit anxiety-provoking these days, which might be one reason why the Internet pulled out all the stops to communicate collective enthusiasm over the discovery of vast amounts of water on the moon.

    The finding could be useful to humans who want to leave Earth immediately and live on the moon. (We're only half-joking).

    While scientists previously suspected that water existed in the shadowy, cold parts of the moon — such as its poles, where it would stay frozen — a pair of studies published on Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy confirm that there is a large amount of water on its sunlit regions, too.

    "We had indications that H₂O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon," Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. "Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration."

    Yet even the data on water in the moon's darker, colder regions was always iffy. Part of the challenge of finding water on the moon is that the Earth's atmosphere, which has plenty of evaporated water, interferes with ground-based attempts to see water on the moon without the atmosphere interfering. Space telescopes or very high altitude telescopes can alleviate this problem. In this case, NASA used the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an infrared observatory mounted on a Boeing 747 airplane, which takes observations from the air. SOFIA data suggests strongly that yes, water is present on the sunlit surface of the moon.

    That's particularly unusual given the temperature cycles on the moon: the moon during the day is a scalding 250 degrees Fahrenheit, well above water's boiling point. So why doesn't said water immediately evaporate? As explained in the study, titled "Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA," scientists detail evidence that hypothesizes the water observed may be trapped in naturally-formed glass on the moon's sunlit regions. Being encased in glass means that the water is impervious to the heating and cooling cycles that would usually evaporate the water. Since the moon doesn't have an atmosphere and there's very little gravity, it's impossible for water to just hang out on its surface like it does here on Earth.

    The second study, titled "Micro Cold Traps on the Moon," catalogs all the potential sites that are cold enough for ice to remain stable, and where water could exist without being trapped in glass.

    "Our results suggest that water trapped at the lunar poles may be more widely distributed and accessible as a resource for future missions than previously thought," the authors state.

    To put the discovery into context, NASA says that the Sahara Desert has 100 times the amount of water than what was detected on the moon's surface.

    Intriguingly, it turns out that there is no shortage of potential places where water could exist on the moon without being trapped in glass. According to the study, the moon's southern polar region may hold nearly 40,000 square kilometers of lunar surface with water ice.

    These studies are changing the way scientists look at the moon. Perhaps it is more than a dark, dry, and rocky place.

    "Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space," Casey Honniball, a lead author of one of the studies, said in a statement. "Yet somehow we're seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there."

    According to NASA there are a few ways the water could be stored— in either "beadlike structures in the soil," or "hidden" between "grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight."

    So, what does this all mean for moon colonization? Well, it might not mean that humans can move there once climate change gets us. But it does mean that NASA astronauts could perhaps spend significantly more time on the moon before needing to come home for a resupply.

    "The existence of significant amounts of water on the lunar surface can be helpful for establishing a sustainable base there in the context of NASA's Artemis program with its international partners," Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's astronomy department, told Salon via email. "This will be the first step in advancing humanity to more distant destinations, such as Mars and beyond."

    Loeb added: "There is no doubt that our future lies in space, not only for national security and commercial benefits but mainly for scientific exploration aimed at opening new horizons to our civilization."


    Faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter

    Black Lives Matters (BLM) has been portrayed by its detractors as many things: Marxist, radical, anti-American. Added to this growing list of charges is that it is either irreligious or doing religion wrong.

    In late July, for instance, conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan tweeted that BLM was “incompatible" with Christianity.

    He isn't alone in that belief. Despite receiving the backing of diverse faith leaders and groups, BLM has been attacked by sections of the religious right. One evangelical institution felt compelled to issue a statement warning Christians about the movement's “Godless agenda." Other evangelicals have gone further, accusing BLM founders of being “witches" and “operating in the demonic realm."

    Joining conservative Christians are some self-proclaimed liberals and atheists who have also denounced BLM as a social movement that functions like a “cult" or “pseudo" religion.

    As scholars of religion, we believe such views fail to acknowledge – let alone engage with – the rich spiritual and religious pluralism of Black Lives Matter. For the past few years, we have been observing the way the movement and affiliated organizations express faith and spirituality.

    Since 2015 we have interviewed BLM leaders and organizers as well as Buddhist leaders inspired by the movement. What we found was that BLM was not only a movement seeking radical political reform, but a spiritual movement seeking to heal and empower while inspiring other religious allies seeking inclusivity.

    A love letter

    Black Lives Matter was born from a love letter.

    On July 13, 2013 – the day of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had killed an unarmed black teenage named Trayvon Martin – soon-to-be BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, posted “A Love Letter to Black People" on Facebook. She declared:

    “We don't deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter."

    Since its inception, BLM organizers have expressed their founding spirit of love through an emphasis on spiritual healing, principles, and practices in their racial justice work.

    BLM leaders, such as co-founder Patrisse Cullors, are deeply committed to incorporating spiritual leadership. Cullors grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, and later became ordained in Ifà, a west African Yoruba religion. Drawing on Native American, Buddhist and mindfulness traditions, her syncretic spiritual practice is fundamental to her work. As Cullors explained to us, “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight."

    Theologian Tricia Hersey, known as the “Nap Bishop," a nod to her Divinity degree and her work advocating for rest as a form of resistance, founded the BLM affiliated organization, The Nap Ministry in 2016.

    In an interview with Cullors, Hersey said she considers human bodies as “sites of liberation" that connect Black Americans to the “creator, ancestors, and universe." She describes rest as a spiritual practice for community healing and resistance and naps as “healing portals." Hersey connects this belief to her upbringing in the Black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, where, she explained, “I was able to see the body being a vehicle for spirit."

    The movement is committed to spiritual principles, such as “healing justice" – which uses a range of holistic approaches to address trauma and oppression by centering emotional and spiritual well-being – and “transformative justice" which assists with creating processes to repair harm without violence.

    Black Lives Matter protesters pray near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Transformative justice, central to the beliefs of many in the BLM movement, is a philosophic approach to peacemaking. With roots in the Quaker tradition, it approaches harms committed as an opportunity for education. Crime is taken to be a community problem to be solved through mutual understanding, as often seen in work to decriminalize sex work and drug addiction.

    BLM affiliated organizer Cara Page, who coined the term “healing justice," did so in response to watching decades of activists commit themselves completely to social justice causes to the detriment of their physical and mental health. She advocates that “movements themselves have to be healing, or there's no point to them."

    'Without healing, no justice'

    BLM-affiliated organizations utilize spiritual tools such as meditation, reiki, acupuncture, plant medicine, chanting, and prayer, along with other African and Indigenous spiritualities to connect and care for those directly impacted by state violence and white supremacy.

    For instance, Dignity and Power Now or DPN, an organization founded by Cullors in Los Angeles in 2012, hosts almost weekly wellness clinics on Sundays, often referred to as “church" by attendees.

    On July 26, 2020, they held a virtual event called Calm-Unity, to remind people that “without healing there is no justice." Classes included yoga, meditation, African dance, Chinese medicine, and altar making.

    In interviews, movement leaders described honoring their body, mind and soul as an act of resilience. They see themselves as inheritors of the spiritual duty to fight for racial justice, following in the footsteps of freedom fighters like abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

    BLM leaders often invoke the names of abolitionist ancestors in a ceremony used at the beginning of protests. In fact, protests often contain many spiritual purification, protection and healing practices including the burning of sage, the practice of wearing white and the creation of sacred sites and altars at locations of mourning.

    'More religion, not less'

    BLM's rich spiritual expressions have also inspired and transformed many American faith leaders. Black evangelical leader Barbara Salter McNeil credits BLM activists in Ferguson as changing the Christian church by showing racism must be tackled structurally and not just as individual sin.

    U.S. Buddhist leaders presented a statement on racial justice to the White House in which they shared they were “inspired by the courage and leadership" of Black Lives Matter. Jewish, Muslim and many other religious organizations, have incorporated BLM principles to make their communities more inclusive and justice oriented.

    As University of Arizona scholar Erika Gault observes, “The Black church is not the only religious well from which Black movements have historically drawn," and with Black Lives Matter, “We are actually seeing more religion, not less."

    Religious pluralism

    Attempts to erase the rich religious landscape of Black Lives Matter by both conservative and liberal voices continues a long history of denouncing Black spirituality as inauthentic and threatening.

    [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation's newsletter.]

    The history of white supremacy, often enacted within institutional Christianity, has often vilified and criminalized Indigenous and African beliefs, promoted the idea that Black people are divinely destined to servitude, and subjected communities to forced conversions.

    As Cullors said to us in response to current attacks against BLM as demonic, “For centuries, the way we are allowed to commune with the divine has been policed; in the movement for Black lives, we believe that all connections to the creator are sacred and essential."The Conversation

    Hebah H. Farrag, Assistant Director of Research, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Ann Gleig, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Central Florida

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    human rights

    Election holds future of young, undocumented immigrants in the balance

    SAN DIEGO — Among the many policies that will be on the ballot Nov. 3 is what will happen to the lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.The Trump administration has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which began under the Obama administration. For the past four years, Trump officials have argued that the program is illegal and should be stopped.DACA has so far survived only through court intervention. Even after the Supreme Court issued a decision in June that it should be fully restored because it wa...

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    Some of the mystery around why Barr was so anxious to fire US Attorney Berman has been solved

    In June, Attorney General William Barr suddenly announced the resignation of U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman. There was only one problem—Berman had not resigned, and he wasn't going to resign. So Barr fired him. Berman disputed Barr's ability to remove him from office, but finally left after securing an agreement that his primary assistant would take over the office, rather than handing it off to a political appointee with no criminal law experience who was favored by Donald Trump.

    In congressional testimony, Berman made it clear that Barr had been trying to force him out of his office for months. The class between Berman and Barr made clear that the new attorney general was attempting to completely politicize the DOJ. And for weeks following Berman's departure, there was speculation over exactly why Barr was so anxious to see the New York attorney gone. Was Berman looking into the fake "We Build the Wall" organization that was feeding money to Steve Bannon? Was he taking a closer look at Rudy Giuliani after bringing the grand jury case that indicted Giuliani's pals? Or was Berman fired because he was taking a look directly into the finances of the Trump Organization?

    At least part of the answer became clear on Thursday, and that answer is: none of the above. Instead, Berman was trying to prevent a Turkish state-owned bank from illegally funneling billions to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. And Donald Trump was defending them.

    As The New York Times reports, Berman had the evidence he needed to make a case against Turkey. But even before Barr came to town, the Department of Justice would not allow him to move forward on charges that Halkbank, under the control of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had violated U.S. law and international sanctions to the tune of billions.

    In 2019, a frustrated Berman came to press his case to the a newly installed Barr, and Barr had an immediate answer for him—settle the case. What Barr wanted was for Berman to tell Turkish officials that, in exchange for a small fine, he would end the investigation. Halkbank would be able to carry on business in the U.S. Erdogan and other figures connected to the sanctions violations would not be charged.

    Berman refused. He pointed out that though they had enough evidence to lay charges against the bank, there were key investigations underway. Not only did some of those investigations involve people close to Erdogan, there also appeared to be direct connections to the Iranian nuclear program—a program that was restarted after Trump broke the multinational Iran nuclear treaty.

    "This is completely wrong," said Berman. "You don't grant immunity to individuals unless you are getting something from them, and we wouldn't be here."

    Why was Barr pushing Berman to let it go? Because Erdogan was pushing Trump.

    From the very beginning of his time in office, Trump has refused to confront the Turkish strongman over anything. Meetings concerning Turkey inevitably include Trump bragging about his properties in Istanbul, and Trump frequently defends Erdogan's harsh treatments of his political opponents. Trump isn't alone. Among the charges that the DOJ dropped when Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, were illegal lobbying for Erdogan, and even a plot to kidnap a U.S. resident and bring him to Turkey so Erdogan can kill him.

    One year ago, Trump tweeted out his support for Turkey's "ultimate solution" of the Kurdish situation as he betrayed America's long-time allies, turned his back on treaties, and handed over much of what they considered their homeland to Erdogan. For Trump, it's not just a relationship in question, it's an exchange of cash. Trump has made at least $2.6 million from his operations in Turkey since he made that ride down a golden escalator. The two men also share an attorney in Rudy Giuliani, who Erdogan hired to lobby in the United States.

    So why wasn't Berman able to make progress in charging Halkbank? Because at the same time Erdogan was on the phone with Trump, pressing him to drop the case. According to the NYT report, Erdogan is concerned because "the case had become a major embarrassment for him in Turkey." Berman was canned, at least in part, because he had become an obstacle in one of those "personal relationships" that Trump regards as more important than treaties or alliances.

    But there is one point where the Times article doesn't speculate—which came first: Erdogan's making billions from Iran's nuclear program while sending millions to Trump, or Trump's desire to end the Iran nuclear deal, making Erdogan's multi-billion dollar play possible?

    Gov. Ron DeSantis tried to vote in Florida. Police say a 20-year-old Naples man had changed his address

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made an alarming discovery when he arrived at an early voting location in Tallahassee, FL. —his primary address had been changed to a residence in West Palm Beach, FL, according to The Washington Post.

    On Monday, DeSantis arrived at the Leon County Courthouse to cast his vote for the presidential election.

    After launching an investigation, state investigators learned that the change was not a computer error, but rather a deliberate, falsified act. According to court documents, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement discovered that a man identified as Anthony Steven Guevara, of Naples, FL, had made the change.

    Based on Florida laws, voters only need to provide their date of birth to change their address through Florida's Department of State's website. Guevara admitted to law enforcement that he found the governor's birth date through Wikipedia. The 20-year-old has now been arrested and charged with two third-degree felonies, including voter fraud.

    The incident involving the governor has raised concerns about the state's voting system and its level of security. With Election Day just five days away, local residents are concerned they could similar problems at the polls next week. Less than one month ago, the Florida elections website also crashed on the last day of voter registration. However, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R) insists voting concerns are "unfounded."

    Despite Guevara being able to easily use the state's system and change the address of the state's top government employee, Lee attempted to assure voters that the state's voting system is "secure."

    "There is no evidence to suggest that this change was made through the Florida Department of State," Lee said. "We commend the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on their swift action to bringing this malicious actor to justice. The situation was corrected immediately."

    On Wednesday morning, Guevara was released from Collier County Jail where he had been held on a $5,000 bond.

    Mitch McConnell gets torn to shreds as 'evil' and 'cruel' in local paper column

    Even if November 3 brings a major blue wave, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to recent polls, is likely to be reelected. McConnell is seeking a seventh term, but veteran progressive activist Ralph Nader, in an op-ed for the Louisville Courier, argues that the last thing the Kentucky senator deserves is to be reelected.

    "I have studied and interacted with many members of Congress," Nader writes. "McConnell is the most brazen evil, cruel and powerful legislator in the last 50 years. His lack of empathy for the vulnerable and disadvantaged is stunning."

    McConnell's record, Nader stresses, has been characterized by a total lack of compassion for those less fortunate than him. And he hasn't grown any more compassionate under Donald Trump's presidency.

    "McConnell, comfortably embraced by the Congress' socialized medicine, loses no sleep saying yes to a corporate-profit-glutted, wasteful corporatized health care industry whose denials, co-payments and exemptions are costing thousands of uninsured and insured American lives a year. He fought but failed to end Obamacare, pleased to consign another 22 million people to the dreaded, uninsured hell," Nader writes, adding that he has vigorously fought against relief for Americans who are hurting financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    According to Nader, "McConnell's back-of-the-hand to coal mine workers' safety, survivors' pensions and continuing black lung payments, mainly harms Kentucky, but his other aggressions against people in favor of big business affect the entire country. He bragged at an event in Owensboro that he and he alone decides what issues this Senate votes on."

    McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. This year, his latest Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, was hoping to unseat him. But McConnell appears heading for reelection.

    "McConnell has the gall to campaign on 'Kentucky Values,'" Nader writes. "Voters in Kentucky, with a little homework, or a factual memory of this senatorial oligarch, shouldn't have difficulty in rejecting those claims. McConnell has gotten away with ferociously shredding Kentucky values for 36 years. He smugly expects six more years."

    'Destruction without limit': Psychologists warn of 'rage' and 'terror' if narcissist Trump loses

    There is agreement among psychologists — and, for that matter, anyone who has been abused by narcissistic personalities — that President Donald Trump fits the psychological profile of a narcissist. What does that mean for the upcoming election, particularly if Trump loses, as polls suggest? Psychologists tell Salon that pathological narcissists who do not get their way tend to react abusively — which could lead to one of several devastating political scenarios for the nation in the election's aftermath.

    "One does not have to diagnose to recognize pathological or toxic narcissism," Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a psychiatrist who has taught at Yale and authored the new book "Profile of a Nation: Trump's Mind, America's Soul," told Salon by email. "This is behavior, not a diagnosis — and the media need not fixate so much on 'the Goldwater rule,' which applies to only 6% of practicing mental health professionals (that is, members of the American Psychiatric Association, the only association in the world with this rule)."

    The so-called Goldwater Rule holds that "it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement." However, the rule does not apply to describing obvious narcissistic behavior in a public figure, any more than it would disqualify someone from describing celebrities who spend most of their days drinking liquor as having an alcohol problem.

    "Those with pathological narcissism are abusive and dangerous because of their catastrophic neediness," Lee explained. "Think of a drowning person gasping for air: a survival instinct just may push you down in order to save one's own life. In the manner that the body needs oxygen, the soul needs love, and self-love is what a toxic narcissist is desperately lacking. This is why he must overcompensate, creating for himself a self-image where he is the best at everything, never wrong, better than all the experts, and a 'stable genius.'"

    Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology who is noted as an expert on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse, agrees that Trump is narcissistic and believes this makes him very dangerous.

    As Durvasula explained, many of Trump's seemingly inexplicable actions as president make sense when viewed through the lens of a "narcissistic or antagonist personality style." These include "validation and admiration seeking," as manifested by his "endless campaign rallies despite the associated danger, needing to be taken on a ride around the hospital when he had COVID-19 so people could wave to him, repeatedly requiring validation on the number of people present at his inauguration." Trump also displays denial, as seen by his response to the pandemic, and vindictiveness, as demonstrated by his obsession with reversing Barack Obama's legacy "seemingly just to punish him" as well as by his threat to "withhold federal funds from California for wildfire destruction because he perceives the state is against him."

    In addition, Durvasula pointed out that Trump shows extreme sensitivity to criticism through the erratic and malicious content he frequently posts on Twitter, but at the same time reveals a lack of empathy through "his discourse about the diverse citizenry of this country – racial and ethnic minorities, specific religious groups (e.g. Muslims), women, and separating families at the border." Trump, Durvasula said, is also manipulative, as he panders to a constituency that he appears to "have contempt for." Durvasula cited his gaslighting, too— meaning trying to alter or deny memories of basic facts — is revealed in how "he has often been caught by fact-checkers in his lies, and denies things he actually said."

    Perhaps the most ominous of the symptoms that Durvasula identified, though, is "triangulation." As she explained, "this is the infliction of chaos created by turning groups against each other. Doing this centralizes the power in the narcissist and creates a blind alliance between some of the polarized groups and him; the country is terribly polarized on numerous dimensions, to the point where families are bearing a toll of divisiveness based on the antagonistic rhetoric."

    Now, experts and pollsters seem to agree that Trump is likely to lose this election. So what happens when a narcissist doesn't get their way?

    Lee explained that narcissists who cannot get the love they crave will frequently seek adulation as a substitute. Because no amount of adulation will ever satisfy them, though, "the usual course of an unconstrained pathological narcissist is to seek positions of ever greater power and celebrity." Yet, as Lee explains, because "reality never matches one's fantasy, dissatisfaction grows at greater pace."

    Therefore, if Trump loses to Biden, as seems likely, the outcome could be be "frightening."

    "Just as one once settled for adulation in lieu of love, one may settle for fear when adulation no longer seems attainable," Dr. Lee told Salon. "Rage attacks are common, for people are bound to fall short of expectation for such a needy personality—and eventually everyone falls into this category. But when there is an all-encompassing loss, such as the loss of an election, it can trigger a rampage of destruction and reign of terror in revenge against an entire nation that has failed him."

    She added, "It is far easier for the pathological narcissist to consider destroying oneself and the world, especially its 'laughing eyes,' then to retreat into becoming a 'loser' and a 'sucker' — which to someone suffering from this condition will feel like psychic death."

    In a sense, the best analogy is that of a narcissistic family member abusing other family members. Metaphorically, Trump has already abused America. "This personality pattern has taken a toll on this country, and been quite abusive," Durvasula says. "It has eroded trust, left a nation confused and unsupported, and deeply divided and insecure. These same adjectives can be used to describe a marriage or a family which is suffering the challenges of a difficult narcissistic personality in its midst."

    If Trump loses, Durvasula says it will be like watching a three-year-old refuse to go to bed.

    "They will just stand there, poignantly in their Superman pajamas and say NO, I am NOT going to bed, and drop to the ground and scream," she explained. "Plan on an adult version of that. As is often the case when a difficult personality style like this faces disappointment we tend to see a cascade of reactions – oppositionality, denial, rage, despair, paranoia, more rage, entitlement, victimhood, and vindictiveness."

    The next question, then, is what Trump could actually do in his vindictive rage to punish an America which he may believe has consigned him to "loser" status. (Indeed, one-term presidents are usually regarded as failures — and Trump would be the first one-termer in 28 years). As political activist and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader wrote in August, Trump could pressure the Justice Department to issue bogus subpoenas in order to punish his critics and opponents, pull out of contracts with businesses and individuals who he feels wronged him, refuse to work with Biden's transition team in handing over power and (of course) "intensify the use of the Justice Department and his personal lawyers to challenge in every frivolous, obstructive way the results of the election in selected states, no matter what the margin of his defeat."

    Trump could also pick winners and losers in terms of who receives federal help during the pandemic and recession, helping those who sided with him and exacting vengeance against those who did not. He could egg on his supporters into committing acts of violence or, at the very least, do everything in his power to make sure they do not accept the legitimacy of a Biden presidency. He could pressure the Federal Reserve to try to drive up interest rates and stop supporting the stock and corporate bond markets, actions that would tank the American economy (and which Trump would most likely attempt to blame on Biden).

    Most ominous of all, a narcissist like Trump could simply refuse to leave office when his term ends on January 20, 2021. America has never had an incumbent president flat-out defy the results of an election — John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush all overcame their disappointment and accepted that they had lost.

    If Trump refuses to leave because of his narcissism, it will be unprecedented. It will be abnormal. And it will all have been very, very predictable.

    Justice Kavanaugh's 'sloppy' opinion is an embarrassing mess riddled with errors

    Late Monday night, the Supreme Court issued a ruling blocking a lower court's decision to force Wisconsin election officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots, as long as they were post-marked by Election Day. This decision to limit ballot access was unsurprising given the conservative majority on the court, but as I noted, Justice Brett Kavanaugh's concurring opinion disturbed many readers because of the views it seemed to express about voting and elections.

    But there's a related aspect of Kavanaugh's opinion that has attracted significant attention in addition to its ideological bent. It was, many commentators noted, extraordinarily sloppy for a Supreme Court ruling. The opinion was riddled with errors, embarrassingly so, and some of which even relate to the substance of his argument.

    For instance, Kavanaugh wrote:

    To be sure, in light of the pandemic, some state legislatures have exercised their Article I, §4, authority over elections and have changed their election rules for the November 2020 election. Of particular relevance here, a few States such as Mississippi no longer require that absentee ballots be received before election day. See, e.g., Miss. Code Ann. §23–15–637 (2020). Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. [emphasis added]

    But as Vermont's own secretary of state confirmed, the state had changed its election rules this year. It sent every voter a ballot by the first of October:

    That doesn't really change the substance of Kavanaugh's ruling, but it does throw doubt on his understanding of the current environment and shed light on his lackluster fact-checking.

    Another mistake from Kavanaugh, though, really is important to his argument. He wrote of the reasons that states have for limiting the deadline for absentee ballot returns to Election Day itself:

    States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election. And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter. Moreover, particularly in a Presidential election, counting all the votes quickly can help the State promptly resolve any disputes, address any need for recounts, and begin the process of canvassing and certifying the election results in an expeditious manner. See 3 U. S. C. §5. The States are aware of the risks described by Professor Pildes: "[L]ate-arriving ballots open up one of the greatest risks of what might, in our era of hyperpolarized political parties and existential politics, destabilize the election result. If the apparent winner the morning after the election ends up losing due to late-arriving ballots, charges of a rigged election could explode."

    But Kavanaugh's quote here from Professor Richard Pildes in The University of Chicago Law Review Online is extremely misleading. Pildes argued in the article cited for the opposite outcome. He urged that states extend deadlines for receiving ballots past Election Day:

    States that require absentees to be received by election night or shortly after should move this date back. Even if this fall the same percentage of absentee ballots as in normal elections would be rejected for coming in too late, the same point noted above holds true: a 3 percent rejection rate risks undermining the perceived legitimacy of the election if 70 percent of the vote is cast by absentee ballot. And this problem would be compounded, of course, if mailing back ballots five days before the election is normally sufficient to get them back in time, but not this year. The overall burden on the U.S. Postal Service makes that five-day figure less realistic this time around. Moreover, if a significant number of votes come in after a receipt deadline that has not been changed and that is much tighter than in other states, ex post litigation challenging that deadline is easy to imagine. This is exactly what we do not want to face for a risk that can be mitigated in advance.

    Now, Pildes' argument here isn't on exactly the same topic as the question before the court. But it's disingenuous for Kavanaugh to present him as if his argument supported the Supreme Court's decision. Pildes did agree that a long vote count could undermine trust in the election, but he also said that cutting off the deadline by Election Day also "risks undermining the perceived legitimacy of the election." It was dishonest and alarming for Kavanaugh not to acknowledge that the risks cut both ways, especially since the president that appointed him has been trying to discredit mail-in ballots.

    Pildes added:

    In Wisconsin's election, the federal court pushed the date back six days. But that was for a presidential primary. In the general election, participation rates will be much higher. In choosing an updated receipt deadline that anticipates a dramatic rise in mailed-in ballots, policymakers face a trade-off. The longer the permitted time, the more ballots will be valid. But the longer that time, the longer it will take for the final result to be known. If we thought voters would be patient, that would not pose any risk. But in our climate of existential politics—with partisans all too prepared to believe or charge that elections are being manipulated, and a social-media environment poised to heap fuel onto the fire—the longer after Election Day any significant changes in vote totals take place, the greater the risk that the losing side will cry that the election has been stolen.

    Election administrators in different states must weigh in on whether, in their circumstances, a six-day deadline post-election is appropriate, as the federal district court held for Wisconsin. The National Vote at Home Institute, one of the leading advocacy organizations for absentee and mail-in voting, suggests the deadline should be three business days after the election, which seems unduly short under our new circumstances. But state legislatures and election officials need to start facing this issue soon.

    Others picked up on another error in the section of Kavanaugh's opinion cited above. He warned about a situation in which "thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election" [emphasis added]. But this is completely wrong. Additional ballots don't flip the "results" of an election because there are no results until all the legitimate votes are counted. Kavanaugh surely knows this, because he worked on the Republican side in Bush v. Gore, which was an extensive argument about the counting of ballots after Election Day in Florida. There was no result until the election was certified. States don't typically "definitively announce the results of the election on election night," either, as Kavanaugh claimed. The media, of course, makes projections about what the final vote will be prior to certification, but that's not the same — as we learned in 2000 when the media incorrectly projected the Florida results. It's rhetoric like Kavanaugh's that truly serves to undermine the legitimacy of this process, rather than extensions of deadlines.

    Kavanaugh's argument also incorrectly claimed that the the desire to obtain a quick election result was the Wisconsin legislator's reason for not extending the mail-in ballot deadline. But as Talking Points Memo reporter Tierney Sneed pointed out, this is clearly not so. Otherwise, Wisconsin would have permitted mail-in ballots that were received prior to Election day to be counted ahead of time, making the final count much more efficient. It has not done so, which likely means the ballot counting will extend past Election Night.

    Despite Kavanaugh's claim, it's more plausible that the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature doesn't want to receive late mail-in ballots because they think those votes will advantage Democrats.

    Election law expert Rick Hasen pointed to another error in Kavanaugh's opinion in a piece for the Washington Post, pointing to an incorrect citation of precedent:

    Kavanaugh cited a case that came to the Supreme Court during the disputed 2000 presidential election before Bush v. Gore — Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board — as standing for the proposition that state legislatures have this power — negating the power of state courts to expand voting rights under state constitutional provisions that protect the right to vote. As law professor Justin Levitt pointed out, though, Kavanaugh was wrong: The Supreme Court in the Palm Beach case unanimously raised but did not resolve that question. Kavanaugh further embraced this theory as advanced again by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist in Bush v. Gore itself, but that was an opinion joined only by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

    At another point in the opinion, Kavanaugh tried a clever argument to suggest that no matter the deadline that is set, some voters will miss it:

    But moving a deadline would not prevent ballots from arriving after the newly minted deadline any more than moving first base would mean no more close plays. And more to the point, the fact that some ballots will be late in any system with deadlines does not make Wisconsin's widely used deadline facially unconstitutional.

    This is true, but Kavanaugh seems to misunderstand the difference between a deadline for sending a ballot and the deadline for receiving it. Extending the deadline for receiving the ballot give more grace to voters for a consideration that is out of their hands: how quickly the postal service can deliver ballots. That's how many such deadlines work; for example, you only need to send your taxes into the government by April 15 — it doesn't need to receive them by that date. Kavanaugh's failure to notice the difference in this analogy is telling.

    It's notable that, in all the tumult controversy that surrounded Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, many people told us that — whatever his personal faults — he was an excellent and upstanding jurist. This latest opinion gives us reason to question that conclusion.

    Hasen, in particular, seemed disturbed by this turn of events.

    "Why was Justice Kavanaugh so sloppy with the facts and law here (and presumably in the earlier Wisconsin election per curiam)?" he asked on Twitter. "He is usually a careful writer. It just undermines his points. A huge, unforced error."

    The errors and sloppiness reflect another sad fact about the court: There's little we can do to encourage good behavior among Supreme Court justices. Short of impeachment or expansion of the court — either of which would be heavy lifts, though they're possible — there are few ways to limit their power. That means Kavanaugh can write sloppy and erroneous opinions on the bench with little fear it will cost him.

    Here's what the Supreme Court's threat to mail-in ballots really means

    Two Supreme Court decisions issued Wednesday took no action to change 2020's election rules in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but statements from conservative justices warned that the high court would likely disqualify any absentee ballot received by election officials after Election Day—because those states' legislatures had not extended the ballot return deadline.

    "The important constitutional issue raised by this matter… could lead to serious post-election problems," began the statement by Justice Samuel Alito concerning Pennsylvania, where the state supreme court extended the ballot deadline by three days to Friday, November 6.

    "The provisions of the Federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, not state courts, the authority to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless if a state court could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by claiming that a state constitutional provision gave the courts the authority to make whatever rules it thought appropriate for the conduct of a fair election," Alito said, in a statement agreed to by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

    "In some respects, this case may be even more egregious," wrote Gorsuch in his dissent in the North Carolina ruling, "given that a state court and the [statewide election] Board worked together to override a carefully tailored legislative response to COVID. Indeed, the president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate and the speaker of its House of Representatives have intervened on behalf of the General Assembly to oppose revisions to its work."

    At first glance, the contention that state constitutions, state supreme courts and state boards of elections have no power to regulate elections without explicit authorization from federal authorities or state legislatures, could have radical implications. It would suggest states could not adopt policies that go beyond the federal standard. But, for now, the issue in play concerns the counting or the disqualifying of absentee ballots that will be received by officials after Election Day in two 2020 battleground states.

    In recent days, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings that rolled back accommodations made by lower federal courts after Republican-majority legislatures did not extend absentee ballot deadlines and loosen other voting rules in response to the pandemic. The newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, did not participate in either decision issued Wednesday.

    The court's conservatives said that they would have gone further in the North Carolina and Pennsylvania rulings but for the proximity to Election Day. Any last-minute changes in voting rules are confusing for voters, officials and tend to create problems undermining public confidence in the process, they noted.

    Gorsuch recounted this chronology and said that he and fellow conservatives were inclined to draw a line on counting absentee ballots that were received by officials after Election Day, even though that issue could not be litigated until after November 3.

    "Despite the [North Carolina] General Assembly's considered judgment about the appropriate response to COVID, other state actors—including the State Board of Elections—recently chose to issue their own additional and supplemental set of amendments to state election laws," he wrote. "Relevant here, they purported to extend the absentee ballot receipt deadline by six days, up to November 12. That last part should sound familiar. Just days ago, this Court rejected a similar effort [in Wisconsin] to rewrite a state legislature's election deadlines. Wisconsin (like North Carolina) has a ballot receipt deadline enshrined in statute. All the same, a federal district court decided to order Wisconsin to extend its deadline by six days. The Seventh Circuit stayed that ruling, and we agreed with its disposition. For many of the same reasons I believe that decision was correct, I believe we should stay the Board's action here."

    The justices' statements, which told Republicans that they have a post-Election Day basis to challenge and disqualify potentially thousands of late-arriving absentee ballots in the two swing states, reshuffles some Election Day scenarios.

    Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth, told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that she has directed county election offices, which run her state's elections, to "securely segregate all mail-in and civilian absentee ballots received between 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, 2020,and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 6, 2020, from all other voted ballots."

    On his ElectionLawBlog, scholar-pundit Rick Hasen asked, "Why would Democratic state officials do this?" He opined that they did not want Republicans to try to disqualify all of the absentee ballots cast—because once the ballots are taken from their return envelopes and counted, it would be impossible to retrieve them should the high court void them.

    North Carolina's State Board of Elections had no statement about the Supreme Court ruling on its website on Wednesday, but instead emphasized how statewide voter turnout was poised to cross the "50 percent" threshold with one week to go before Election Day.

    "Through Tuesday, more than 2.8 million voters had cast ballots in person this year, nearing the 2,955,600 votes during the entire 2016 early voting period," it said. "Combined with more than 819,000 by-mail ballots, more than 3.6 million North Carolinians have already voted, about 49.6 percent of all registered voters."

    North Carolina-based voting rights attorneys contacted on Wednesday night did not know if the state board would follow Pennsylvania and segregate absentee ballots that were received after Election Day. The board had said that ballots received through November 12 could be counted. The state Senate president, Phil Berger, issued a statement saying late-arriving ballots should not counted. "If public confidence in elections is important to our system of government, then hopefully the answer to that question is 'no.'"

    A 2020 Game Changer or Not?

    The conservative justices' statements open up a potential post-Election Day avenue for Republicans to disqualify some volume of absentee ballots. This scenario raises big immediate questions, such as how many votes might be imperiled, and could that volume alter election outcomes?

    Phil Keisling, a Democrat, former Oregon secretary of state who oversaw its introduction of all-mail voting and who is now the board chair of the National Vote at Home Institute, said that the impacts might be less than many Democrats may fear.

    To start, state legislatures in every other battleground state have passed laws that set post-Election Day "received by" deadlines for absentee ballots returned via the mail, he said, which was what the high court's conservatives wanted to see. In Iowa, that cutoff is November 9. In Nevada, it's November 10. In Ohio, it's November 13.

    When it comes to future Supreme Court litigation and rulings shaving off possibly thousands of votes after Election Day, Keisling thought that fear might be overstated because so many voters have already cast ballots or were likely to vote by Election Day. Just as the North Carolina State Board of Elections said that half of the state's registered voters had voted by Wednesday, in Pennsylvania record-breaking percentages of voters have requested and already returned absentee ballots.

    The U.S. Elections Project, whose early voting, ballot request and ballot return data is the basis for many national news reports, said that nearly 2 million absentee ballots had been returned across Pennsylvania as of October 28, out of 3.1 million requested ballots. Kiesling said that having an Election Day return deadline could undermine the false Republican narrative that late-arriving absentee ballots would be fabricated by Democrats to elect Joe Biden.

    Historically, Republicans have voted in higher numbers by absentee ballots, he said. But that precedent has been turned upside down in 2020, as Democrats and independents have been voting absentee at more than triple the rate of Republicans. Keisling was hopeful the volume of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day in Pennsylvania and North Carolina would not be very large, especially if voters were urged to return their ballots in person. (He noted that Pennsylvania was widely deploying drop boxes. In North Carolina, absentee ballots could be dropped off at any early voting location—ending Saturday—but not at Election Day polls.)

    While Keisling may prove correct that the latest rulings might not implicate enough votes to determine the outcomes of the highest-profile races in these states, the conservative justices' comments left no doubt that the nation was on the verge of a new chapter in election law—one where only legislatures have the power to run elections, not state constitutions, governors via executive orders, secretaries of state issuing directives, state election boards settling lawsuits or state supreme courts upholding their state constitutions.

    "As they [the federal appeals court] observed, efforts like these [in North Carolina] not only offend the [U.S. Constitution's] Elections Clause's textual commitment of responsibility for election lawmaking to state and federal legislators, they do damage to faith in the written Constitution as law, to the power of the people to oversee their own government, and to the authority of legislatures," wrote Gorsuch in his dissent. "Such last-minute changes by largely unaccountable bodies, too, invite confusion, risk altering election outcomes, and in the process threaten voter confidence in the results."

    If these issues return to the court after Election Day, Justice Barrett will likely participate in the deliberations and rulings.

    Here's the case for impeaching Clarence Thomas — the most corrupt Supreme Court Justice

    With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the radical right has completed its long and painstaking project to seize control of the Supreme Court, and to reshape constitutional law for generations to come. Barrett's elevation will give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court and usher in a crisis of legitimacy for the third branch of government not seen since the 1930s.

    The right's triumph has prompted anger and soul-searching among Democrats and progressives, sparking calls to expand the number of Supreme Court justices, echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful effort to add additional seats to the high tribunal in the midst of the Great Depression.

    Enlarging the Supreme Court is entirely within the power of Congress, as the number of justices is not set by the Constitution. The court's composition has, in fact, varied over time, ranging from six justices when the Constitution was ratified to 10 in 1863. The panel was reduced to nine by an act of Congress in 1867 and has remained there since then by statute.

    While Democrats should definitely demand court expansion if they retake the White House and the Senate and hold the House, there is at least one additional step they should take to address the court's legitimacy crisis—the impeachment of its most corrupt member—Clarence Thomas.

    Thomas should be impeached on charges of perjury for allegedly lying in his annual financial disclosure statements for over a decade and, more fundamentally, for lying in his 1991 confirmation hearing about his disgusting history of sexual harassment.

    Although federal judges are appointed for life, their terms are subject to "good behavior." Like all civil officers of the United States, they can be removed, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, "on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

    The impeachment process, as we were reminded by the experience of President Trump, consists of two basic steps: First, members of the House of Representatives impeach an official by adopting, on a simple majority vote, one or more articles of impeachment, which read very much like a criminal complaint or a grand jury indictment. Step two proceeds with a trial in the Senate, which has the power to convict on a two-thirds ballot. Ouster from office follows conviction automatically, and cannot be appealed.

    Only three presidents—Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Trump—have been impeached in our history, and all were exonerated in their Senate trials. A fourth, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of near-certain impeachment and removal for his role in the Watergate scandal.

    The impeachment of federal judges, by contrast, has been far more common. To date, 15 federal judges have been impeached, and eight have been convicted by the Senate. Indeed, the only Senate impeachment trials resulting in convictions have involved judges.

    Since 1988, three federal judges have been impeached and removed on charges involving perjury. The last judge to be impeached was G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, a Clinton appointee who was convicted by the Senate and ejected from office in December 2010 for accepting bribes and, among other derelictions, signing false financial declarations under penalty of perjury.

    Thomas, if targeted, would become just the second Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. In 1804, the House charged Associate Justice Samuel Chase with eight articles of impeachment for engaging in arbitrary and oppressive conduct and expressing political bias while serving as a trial judge in certain Sedition Act cases during an era when Supreme Court justices also conducted trials. An outspoken Federalist and supporter of John Adams, Chase incurred the ire of Thomas Jefferson and his Republican allies. Chase was acquitted the following year in a Senate trial presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr. (The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides only in presidential impeachment trials.)

    As the Senate's website instructs, Chase's exoneration has since been construed to insulate the "judiciary from… congressional attacks based on disapproval of judges' opinions." Guided by the Chase example, an impeachment proceeding against Thomas could not be initiated because of policy differences Democrats may have with him, even though Thomas has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of minorities, women and criminal defendants during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

    Like Porteous, however, Thomas is vulnerable to perjury allegations.

    Under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, all high-ranking federal officials are required to file yearly financial disclosure statements for themselves and their spouses to safeguard against conflicts of interest. But for 13 years, Thomas failed to report his wife Virginia's earnings on the mandatory annual financial disclosure forms that he signed under penalty of perjury, indicating that his spouse had no non-investment income when in fact she was steadily employed in high-level jobs as a policy analyst and an outspoken conservative activist.

    According to Common Cause, Virginia—who is also a lawyer and a one-time aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey—received more than $686,000 between 2003 and 2007, working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2011, claiming incredulously that he had misunderstood his reporting responsibilities, Thomas amended his financial disclosures, which can now be examined on the website.

    As University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos pointed out in a 2011 Daily Beast article, "The relevant question on the disclosure form isn't complicated: Even if Justice Thomas wasn't a lawyer, he shouldn't have needed to hire one to explain to him that the box marked NONE next to the phrase 'Spouse's Non-Investment Income' should only be checked if his spouse had no non-investment income." In Campos' view, Thomas' omissions were "criminal."

    Thomas' alleged perjury in his testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 was of a far greater magnitude, centering on his denial under oath that he harassed Anita Hill and other female colleagues while he served as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    The clash between Hill and Thomas was televised and made for riveting viewing, even more so than the rancorous battle over the 2018 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Thomas was treated with kid gloves by the all-male members of the Judiciary Committee, who sat largely in silence as he denied ever engaging in inappropriate behavior and claimed that he was being "subjected to a 'high-tech lynching.'"

    Hill, who is now a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University, was treated with scorn and contempt by the Judiciary Committee. Some members called her "delusional," suggested she was mentally "unstable" and was a "scorned woman" out for revenge against Thomas for rebuffing her romantic advances.

    In addition to assassinating Hill's character, the committee, under the chairmanship of Joe Biden, then the senior Democratic senator from Delaware, declined to call three other female Thomas accusers to testify at the hearing. One of those accusers, writer Angela Wright, remains an outspoken critic of Thomas, and has publicly called for his impeachment. Anita Hill, too, has never wavered, insisting she told the truth.

    Unlike criminal trials, impeachment proceedings are not governed by statutes of limitations. In any event, it is never too late to do justice and provide Hill and Thomas' other accusers with the fair hearing they never received.

    Even assuming Thomas would avoid conviction in the Senate, his impeachment trial would be nothing like the farce of Trump's proceeding. With Democrats holding a majority in the Senate and Kamala Harris presiding as vice president, documents would be subpoenaed and witnesses, including Thomas, would be called to testify.

    The impeachment of Thomas would also offer Biden a full and final opportunity to make amends for the past. Above all, combined with a move to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court, impeaching Thomas would restore the legitimacy of the judiciary as a bulwark of constitutional rights, and send a message that the nation has had enough of Republican efforts to return the country to the dark days before the New Deal and the civil rights movement.

    Before any of that happens, of course, Donald Trump and his GOP enablers must be defeated at the polls.

    Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

    This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

    Trump’s border wall is costing taxpayers billions more than initial contracts: federal spending data review

    ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

    On the same day in May 2019, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a pair of contracts worth $788 million to replace 83 miles of fence along the southwest border.

    The projects were slated to be completed in January 2020, the Corps said then. Four months into this year, however, the government increased the value of the contracts by more than $1 billion, without the benefit of competitive bidding designed to keep costs low to taxpayers.

    Within a year of the initial award, the value of the two contracts had more than tripled, to over $3 billion, even though the length of the fence the companies were building had only grown by 62%, to 135 miles. The money is coming from military counter-narcotics funding.

    Those contract spikes were dramatic, but not isolated. A ProPublica/Texas Tribune review of federal spending data shows more than 200 contract modifications, at times awarded within just weeks or months after the original contracts, have increased the cost of the border wall project by billions of dollars since late 2017. This is particularly true this year, in the run-up to next week's election. The cost of supplemental agreements and change orders alone — at least $2.9 billion — represents about a quarter of all the money awarded and more than what Congress originally appropriated for wall construction in each of the last three years.

    President Donald Trump made construction of the border wall a signature issue during his 2016 campaign, claiming that his skills as a builder and businessman would allow his administration to build the wall in a more cost-efficient way than his predecessors. “You know the wall is almost finished," he told a crowd of supporters in Arizona recently, and they weren't paying a “damn cent" for the border wall. It was “compliments of the federal government."

    Yet an accounting of border wall contracts awarded during his presidency shows that his administration has failed to protect taxpayer interests or contain costs and stifled competition among would-be builders, experts say. In all, Trump's wall costs about five times more per mile than fencing built under the Bush and Obama administrations.

    Experts say the frequent use of so-called supplemental agreements to add work or increase the price has amounted to giving no-bid contracts to a small group of pre-selected construction firms, many with executives who have donated to Trump or other Republicans.

    Some contracts and add-ons have been handed out without press releases or announcements, making it harder for the public to track the expanding costs.

    Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore contracting expert, said the contracting actions involving the border wall project are unusual for the normally restrained Corps, whose contracts aren't typically characterized by massive price increases. Tiefer called the amount of money awarded through modifications “amazingly high."

    “These (border wall) modifications do not look like something the Army Corps of Engineers would get by competitive bidding," Tiefer said. “The taxpayer is paying much more than if the whole contract were out for competitive bids."

    The Government Accountability Office told ProPublica and the Tribune that it was looking into the contract modifications as part of a broader review of the process the Corps has used to award border wall contracts using military funds. The report is expected to be released early next year.

    While adding work to a contract is not unusual on its own, some of the very rapid and significant supplemental agreements in some of the border wall contracts raise red flags and don't always provide enough information to determine if they are problematic, said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of Celero Strategies and former deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and reform during the Clinton administration.

    Raini Brunson, a spokesperson for the Corps, said she couldn't comment on specific contracts, instructing reporters to file records requests for more information. But she added that modifications are “made all the time for a variety of reasons." And while the Corps doesn't provide specific updates on a regular basis, she said contract awards and modifications are posted on federal procurement websites and in databases accessible to the public.

    But the sites can be difficult to navigate, and the databases often don't reflect recent changes. Neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection nor the Corps publicly maintains a comprehensive list of all border wall contracts and their modifications. Some projects lack enough detail on government websites to even determine basic facts, such as what the additional work is for.

    Some of the border wall contract modifications essentially amount to new projects that in some cases then undergo their own modifications.

    A review of recent Corps non-border wall contracts shows no recent contract add-ons that approach the scale of border wall awards. Two contracts for walls surrounding a Florida reservoir awarded in early 2019 for about $130 million have had no cost increases, according to federal procurement data.

    Of the Corps' five largest active non-border wall contracts in fiscal 2020, three received no additional money through supplemental agreements, and a fourth received three supplemental agreements totaling $584, according to A fifth contract, to replace locks along the Tennessee River, did increase substantially, but 98% of the rise was due to pre-agreed contract options, not after-the-fact supplemental agreements or change orders that have been added on to so many border wall contracts.

    Building a wall along the southern border has been one of Trump's core promises and perhaps one of his most politically divisive battles.

    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by advocacy groups over a move to shift billions of dollars from the military for border wall construction after Congress refused to fully fund the project. The federal government's own watchdog agencies are reviewing some of the contracts after lawmakers raised concerns that political favoritism played a role in how the government awarded them.

    Among the biggest beneficiaries of the wall contract changes is Galveston-based SLSCO, which has won the second-most in border wall contracts since 2017, about $2.2 billion, including nearly half a billion dollars in supplemental agreements. North Dakota-based Fisher Sand & Gravel has also won more than $2 billion in contracts since building a controversial private border fence in the Rio Grande Valley, which a ProPublica/Tribune investigation found was in danger of toppling if not fixed and properly maintained. On May 6, federal officials gave the firm a $1.2 billion contract, first reported by the Arizona Daily Star; the government did not publicly announce the massive award. The company's CEO, Tommy Fisher, could not be reached for comment. SLSCO officials referred questions about its border wall contracts to CBP.

    “Spiraling Costs"

    When Trump first touted his plan to build a “beautiful" wall all along the southern border, he said it would cost $8 billion — $12 billion tops — and that Mexico would pay for it.

    The nation's self-anointed “best builder" bragged in 2017 that his construction know-how and savvy would bring the price of his border wall “WAY DOWN!" once he got involved in the process.

    In the last three years, the administration has awarded nearly 40 contracts to 15 companies worth at least $10 billion to build more than 500 miles of fencing plus roads, lighting and other infrastructure, according to the most recent data compiled by ProPublica and the Tribune. (Initially, the president proposed building 1,000 miles of wall, but he later revised that figure down to 450 to be completed before the end of his first term.)

    In an October update, the administration said it had identified $15 billion — most of it from military funds — to build a total of 738 miles, which comes out to roughly $20 million a mile.

    That's compared with the $2.4 billion the government spent from 2007-15 to build 653 miles of fence, as well as gates, roads, lighting and other infrastructure, according to the GAO.

    Roger Maier, a CBP spokesman, said it's not reasonable to compare prior expenses to current ones. “CBP is constructing a border wall system which includes a combination of various types of infrastructure such as an internally hardened steel-bollard barrier 18' to 30' high, new and improved all-weather roads, lighting, enforcement cameras and other related technology to create a complete enforcement zone," he wrote in response to questions. “This is very different than the barriers we constructed in 2007-2009 where it was just the 18' steel-bollard barriers in some locations and vehicle barriers in others."

    So far, Trump's administration has completed 360 miles, with an additional 221 under construction, according to CBP. Very little of that has added new fencing where there was none, though. Most of the work has been replacing shorter vehicle barriers and dilapidated fences with more imposing 30-foot bollard poles largely on land already owned by the federal government in Arizona and California.

    Much less work has been done in Texas, one of the busiest border regions in terms of drug and migrant crossings, but which features the border's largest stretch without barriers. That is due both to the Rio Grande that snakes its way along the 1,200-mile Texas border, dividing the U.S. and Mexico, and the fact that most of the land is privately owned.

    Trump declared a national emergency in 2019 after the Democrat-led House refused to give him more than $5 billion to fund the border wall, instead offering $1.4 billion to build fencing in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. The impasse led to a 35-day partial government shutdown before Trump bypassed Congress. By declaring a national emergency, Trump was able to shift billions of dollars from the Department of Defense and the Treasury Department. The rest comes from CBP appropriations.

    To those following the border wall construction closely, the contracting process has triggered alarm.

    “I'm just extremely concerned about the spiraling costs of the border wall … and about the amount of money that they are having to take away from DOD projects to build this wall," said Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, which is tracking the increasing costs of border wall-related contracts.

    “Trump is trying to make good on a campaign promise that he made four years ago, and he's rushing through the construction of the wall," he added.

    In February, the administration waived 10 federal contracting laws to speed up construction along the southwest border, doing away with rules that promote contract competition and small-business participation, as well as requiring justifications for the exercise of contract options, which prompted experts to issue warnings about the potential outcome.

    In awarding additional money through contract modifications, the agency has frequently cited “unusual and compelling urgency" to further erode rules requiring a competitive bidding process. Experts say that “urgency" has little credibility and has led to environmental and other damage along the border.

    “Whenever you do that, there are some compliance risks, and ... there's the risk of not getting really adequate, robust competition," Soloway said. “The more and better competition you have, the more and better decisions you can make."

    A July report from the DHS Office of Inspector General said costs for the border wall could grow exponentially due to CBP's poor planning ahead of construction in an apparent rush to build the wall.

    The agency “has not fully demonstrated that it possesses the capability to potentially spend billions of dollars to execute a large-scale acquisition to secure the southern border," the inspector general reported.

    Until it improves its acquisition planning and management, the DHS watchdog said, “any future initiative may take longer than planned, cost more than expected and deliver less capability than envisioned to secure the southern border."

    In response, DHS and CBP said they were being “chastised" for following the president's executive order from 2017, which directed the “immediate construction of a physical wall."

    The inspector general countered that DHS' lead role in building the border wall doesn't exempt it from “following congressional requirements and established acquisition practices to safeguard taxpayers dollars from fraud, waste, and abuse."

    A Track Record of Violations

    There's no universal list of all border-wall-associated contracts. ProPublica and the Tribune found 68 contracts since late 2017 using CBP news releases, DOD and Corps announcements, and a search of federal databases for a group of 12 companies given pre-approval status by the Corps. Roughly two dozen of these contracts have only been awarded a minimum guarantee of about $2,000 but no border wall work yet. Not included in this list are millions more awarded to companies for peripheral services including acquiring land, aerial imaging, the removal of munitions debris and cactuses, and environmental monitoring.

    Of the awarded contracts identified by ProPublica and the Tribune, four companies earned the vast majority of the funds — about $9 billion. The analysis focused on the total value of the contracts, rather than the amount spent to date. Top officials at the firms have been frequent donors to Republican candidates, and records show some of the companies have a host of safety violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for offenses including failing to provide adequate shade to workers and not operating equipment safely, as well as wage violations.

    One contract obtained by a Montana company shows how the awards can grow to several times their original size. In May 2019, BFBC LLC, a subsidiary of Barnard Construction, won a$142 million contract just a few days after it learned it was one of 12 construction firms selected by the Corps.

    The contract called on the firm to replace about 5 miles of aging, low-slung vehicle barriers with 30-foot-high steel bollards near Yuma, Arizona. The project, one of the first to be paid for with diverted military funds, was widely publicized and featured a quick turnaround, with completion scheduled for Jan. 31, 2020.

    What was less publicized was that the contract was open-ended. In technical terms, it was “undefinitized," which is allowed when the government seeks to begin work immediately, but which experts say provides little incentive to keep costs contained.

    Four months later, the contract was “definitized," bringing the cost to more than $440 million. A DOD announcement says the money was for “replacement of El Centro and Yuma vehicle and pedestrian barrier," but it gives no additional details.

    Six months later, in March 2020, the Corps issued a $172 million change order. This time, no press release or announcement hailed the contract modification; a federal database says the money is for “additional miles" near Yuma, but it provides no details.

    Then, in April, a week after Democratic members of Congress urged border wall funds be redirected to the then-exploding coronavirus pandemic, BFBC received its biggest contract modification to date: $569 million for 17 additional miles in San Diego and El Centro — or $33 million per mile. A Corps spokesperson told the Daily Beast it awarded the half-billion-dollar contract add-on without competitive bidding because the firm was already “mobilized and working in close proximity."

    Congressional Democrats called on the GAO to investigate what Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called a “no-bid contract to an apparently politically connected, private contractor" as part of the federal watchdog's broader review of Corps contracts. Campaign finance reports show BFBC's owner is a longtime GOP donor who has given nearly $200,000 since 2017 to Republican causes and candidates, including to those in his home state of Montana as well as Texas and Arizona. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

    Southwest Valley Constructors, a New Mexico-based affiliate of Kiewit Corp. that formed several months after Trump's inauguration, has received the most in border wall contracts since 2017. This subsidiary alone has been awarded contracts worth at least $2.7 billion for about 100 miles of border wall work in Arizona and Texas. More than $2 billion of that has come from the single May 15, 2019 contract and subsequent modifications.

    While most of the work is ongoing, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials in Arizona have already raised concerns that the company's work is dropping groundwater levels at a wildlife refuge, according to emails obtained by the Arizona Daily Star. In South Texas, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the company after descendants of the family that started the Jackson Ranch Church and Cemetery accused it of working in such “hurried manner" that it was causing excessive shaking and vibrations at the historical sites.

    The firm already faces three serious OSHA violations related to excavation safety rules that stem from a single inspection, sparked by a complaint. Southwest Valley Contractors is contesting them. Kiewit and its subsidiaries have a long track record of violations related to worker safety, the environment and employment. Since 2000, it has paid more than $5 million in penalties, records show. Kiewit representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

    The $2.2 billion Texas-based SLSCO has won since 2018 has been for at least nine contracts for border wall construction, including about $300 million to build 13 miles of fencing on top of concrete levees in the Rio Grande Valley. That fencing skirts the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, La Lomita Chapel and the National Butterfly Center, which Congress exempted from border wall construction in 2018.

    The firm's work has come under scrutiny previously: A section of fencing built by the company in Calexico, California, blew over in January during the construction process, which officials blamed on high winds and drying concrete.

    The firm has also received more than $410 million in supplemental agreements to a $390 million contract originally awarded in April 2019 to build fencing west of El Paso. Some of that money went to pay for an additional 2.4 miles of fencing; it's not clear what the rest went to.

    As the presidential election approaches, both contractors and administration officials are racing against the clock: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, has pledged to cancel the existing contracts if he is elected. If this happens, construction firms would likely be awarded termination fees and get paid based on the amount of work they have completed by the time contracts are canceled.

    While there's not an overall estimate of how much that could cost, court documents filed by the administration as part of the legal battle over the use of military funds provide a window into what a Biden administration might face come January: A single contract awarded to BFBC in November 2019 for 33 miles of fence replacement in Arizona, currently valued at about $420 million, could cost the government nearly $15 million to terminate.

    “While ending construction is easy to say, it might not be so easy, because he'll have to consider the phase of construction, gaps in the wall that could be exploited and the termination costs for existing contracts, which can come with a high price tag for taxpayers," said Amey, with the Project on Government Oversight. “President Trump might have boxed in Biden, requiring completion of certain portions of the wall whether he likes it or not."

    Armed Biden and Trump supporters involved in violent clash outside Georgia Democratic rally

    Supporters of President Donald Trump were involved in a physical confrontation with supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden outside a rally for the Democratic candidate in Warm Springs, Georgia on Tuesday.

    Video of the incident was captured by Twitter user AlliB77, who describes herself as an "unapologetic conservative."

    As the video begins, a Biden supporter wearing a face mask can be see charging at a mask-less Trump supporter.

    An armed Trump supporter then puts the Biden supporter in a chokehold before tossing him to the ground.

    At that point, an armed Biden supporter tries to break up the fight.

    "I will fucking hurt you!" a woman yells.

    The two armed men then square off.

    "Back up!" the armed Biden supporter demands.

    "This is peaceful!" someone shouts. "We've got enough violence. This is peaceful."

    A woman with a Biden sign then becomes angry and claims that one of the men involved in the skirmish is autistic.

    "You want to talk about my boy?" she exclaims. "You want to call my boy a retard? I will slap the god damn taste out of your mouth."

    "Let me tell you something you aborted bastard," the woman adds before walking away.

    Watch the video below.

    ‘It’s not just that you’re a crook, senator’: Jon Ossoff shows GOP foe no mercy in​ viral debate clip

    Although Georgia is still a red state, Democratic candidates have been surprisingly competitive in the state's two U.S. Senate races this year — just as former Vice President Joe Biden has been quite competitive in the 2020 presidential race. One of Georgia's Democratic Senate candidates is Jon Ossoff, who gave his GOP opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, absolute hell in a debate held on Wednesday night, October 28. And a clip of that debate has gone viral, receiving a staggering 6 million views overnight.

    Ossoff didn't hesitate to play hardball during the debate. Slamming Perdue's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ossoff told his opponent, "Well, perhaps Sen. Perdue would have been able to properly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic if you hadn't been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading. It's not just that you're a crook, senator; it's that you're attacking the health of the people that you represent."

    Ossoff went on to note how Trumpian Perdue's response to the pandemic has been. Like President Donald Trump, Perdue has downplayed the severity of the pandemic — which, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide and over 227,700 people in the United States.

    The Democrat told Perdue, "You did say COVID-19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say there would be no significant uptick in cases. All the while, you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio — and you did vote four times to end protections for preexisting conditions. Four times. And the legislation that you tout, the Protect Act — it includes loopholes that specifically allow insurance companies to deny policies to Georgians with preexisting conditions."

    Why Trump's collapsing poll numbers could scuttle plan to take vote count to court: legal experts

    President Trump has repeatedly tried to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election and signaled that he hopes the Supreme Court's conservative majority can deliver him a win — but election law experts say that scenario is increasingly implausible because Trump has fallen so far behind in the polls.

    "It is unlikely the Supreme Court will decide the 2020 elections because it would have to be so close in a state pivotal to the Electoral College that litigating could make a difference," Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine School of Law, told Salon. "That's what happened in 2000 and it could happen again, but odds are against it. If cases do get to the court, we have seen the court divide along ideological and party lines in some key election cases. I hope that would not be the case in 2020."

    Trump has said that his campaign's litigation over mail voting expansions in key swing states could "end up in the Supreme Court" and the court's recent decisions have raised fears that it would side with the president in a dispute over ballot rules. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation is likely to further stack the deck in Trump's favor unless she recuses herself from election-related cases.

    Even before Barrett's confirmation, the court voted 5-3 to block a district court from extending Wisconsin's mail-in ballot deadline. The court split 4-4 on a decision that allowed Pennsylvania to extend its mail-in ballot deadline, but the state's Republicans have already filed another request for the court to hear the case after Barrett's confirmation. Republicans asked a court to separate ballots sent in after Election Day to make it easier to reject them if the court decides to block Pennsylvania's deadline extension after all.

    These rulings could certainly affect the outcome of certain states' elections, if a large enough percentage of ballots are affected.

    "Focusing just on how [the Supreme Court] might rule after Nov. 3, when the initial tallies have already come in, misses something important: It could be that the critical ruling that will decide the 2020 race has already, today, been made by a court or elections official somewhere," said Michael Geruso, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies the Electoral College. "Judges and elections administrators have already made dozens of decisions in Pennsylvania and elsewhere about how and where ballots will be accepted. These decisions have already affected voters' behaviors. Almost certainly, they have affected whether some voters have voted at all."

    Geruso said that rulings made before Election Day can be just as important as a post-election ruling like the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.

    "Regardless of whether SCOTUS rules on an election case after Nov. 3, it could still be the case that earlier, lower rulings — as well as judgment calls by local or state election officials in Pennsylvania and elsewhere — are affecting which ballots are cast and which ballots are counted," he said. "If these decisions could affect a few thousand votes, then the courts and officials, not the voters, could be deciding the presidency in 2020."

    Conservatives on the court like Justice Brett Kavanaugh have "advanced a controversial theory about near-absolute power of state legislatures to set rules in federal elections," Hasen wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. "If Barrett does not recuse herself from election disputes next month, there's every reason to worry that a 5-4 court could interfere in the election to help Trump if a case that might swing the outcome gets before the court."

    Hasen said there was a "small chance" that the court would take up the Pennsylvania case a second time, but said it is "extremely unlikely" that the court would intervene in a case that affects the outcome of the election.

    But even a small chance and a small number of votes could impact hundreds of millions of people. A study by Geruso and fellow UT Austin economist Dean Spears found that there is greater than a 10% chance that just "20,000 votes or fewer could decide the Electoral College winner in a typical election year."

    A "one-in-10 chance of something happening that could precipitate a legitimacy crisis is something to be concerned about," Geruso said. "If you thought there was a one-in-10 chance of your plane crashing, you wouldn't want to get on that plane!"

    But a lot of things would have to happen for the election to come down to 20,000 votes. First, Trump, who trails nationally by about 8.5 percentage points, would have to make up enough ground in other states for the election to come down to a single state like Pennsylvania, where the president trails by about five points. Any litigation would have to make its way through the federal court system and the Supreme Court would have to agree to hear the case.

    "I have to think that at least one of the [conservative] justices would have real qualms about upsetting the apple cart this late," Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Washington Post. "The court would be doing this literally on the eve of the election … past the point where at least some Pennsylvania voters would be able to cast a lawful ballot."

    But conservatives on the court have made eyebrow-raising decisions in election cases already, making a break from longstanding tradition more likely.

    "It is conceivable that if it all comes down to the counting of late-received ballot in Pennsylvania, the court could be dispositive," Richard Briffault, a professor at the Columbia School of Law, told Salon.

    Trump has repeatedly argued in court that "courts or administrators have changed the rules beyond what the state legislature has authorized, and that those changes should not be allowed to take effect," he said. "They have had some success with this argument when the change was due to the decision of a lower federal court."

    Briffault said it is also possible that "millions of ballots will be disqualified" based on the "normal 1-2% disqualification" rate of mail-in ballots for issues like missed deadlines and signature issues.

    "It might be the case that a lower court or state elections system might accept ballots that arguably 'should have been' rejected, either for lateness or a signature problem, and that could be challenged to the Supreme Court," he said. "Of course, in a close election, rejecting thousands of ballots would be enough."

    But Hasen stressed that "it is far from likely that the election would come down to Pennsylvania — or, even if it did, that Pennsylvania will be within the margin that litigation of the election could swing."

    Beyond the 2020 election, however, "it is hard to escape the fact that the Supreme Court is poised to allow Republican states to engage in all manner of voter suppression in the name of protecting the rights of state legislatures," he said.

    Geruso, who with Spears authored an earlier paper showing that the Electoral College heavily favors Republicans in close elections, noted that concerns about whether courts will determine the election winner could be alleviated in the future by switching to a national popular vote system.

    "It is very, very unlikely that a small number of votes would separate the candidates nationally," he said. "Even in the closest races, hundreds of thousands or millions of votes typically separate the candidates. For 2020, there's uncertainty about the Electoral College outcome, but very little uncertainty that the popular vote spread will be enormous. Projections today suggest that Biden will win the popular vote by millions. A Biden popular vote win in the millions is likely to occur regardless of whether judicial decisions about mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania ultimately decide who becomes president."

    Polling guru who predicted Trump's 2016 victory: 'We’re watching an incumbent self-destruct'

    With Election Day just one week away, polls signal that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will take the Oval Office. President Donald Trump's supporters are pointing to the outcome of the 2016 election in hopes that the president will defy the odds. Democratic voters are also on edge because they, too, vividly remember the upsetting outcome of that election.

    Now, the polling guru who predicted Trump's 2016 win is admitting that he, too, is betting on a Biden win. During a recent interview, Dave Wasserman, a polling expert who analyzes Congressional races polls via the non-partisan Cook Political Report, has revealed just how difficult it will be for Trump to win the upcoming election.

    According to Vanity Fair columnist Mark McKinnon, the takeaway was clear: the president will need an electoral sweep to beat Biden and it does not appear that will happen.

    After talking with him I came away with the sense that Trump is not just toast, but burnt toast. To use a poker metaphor: In the last election, Trump won by pulling an inside straight. This time he'll need nothing short of a royal flush—by pulling an ace from his sleeve.

    Wasserman outlined the differences between this election and the 2016 election that awarded Trump his first term.

    "There are a couple of important differences," Wasserman said, adding, "At the district level, the polling that we're seeing is pretty consistent; it's in line with the national polls that suggest that Donald Trump is underperforming his 2016 margins [by] anywhere from 8 to 10 points, with few exceptions."

    He also noted important differences between Biden and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    Wasserman added, "There are a couple of exceptions: One is in really heavily Hispanic districts. [These] are places where Donald Trump is approaching or even exceeding his 2016 performance. But we also are seeing in really wealthy suburbs or highly white-collar, professional suburbs—even in traditionally conservative metro areas—that Joe Biden is doing 10 or more points better than Hillary Clinton did."

    The poll expert also explained how Biden's polls fair differently from Clinton's polling in 2016. Wasserman compared the 2016 polls to the erratic diagrams you see on an EKG. Unlike Clinton, who rarely maintained a consistent lead over Trump, Wasserman notes that "Joe Biden has never been behind; he's had a fairly stable lead that's ebbed around the margins."

    So, what's the bottom line? Wasserman believes Trump needs to "win all of the states that are really close in the polls right now: Florida, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina." and "he's gotta break through in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Arizona to have a pathway to replicating his success in 2016."

    With all that has transpired, Wasserman is convinced that will not be an easy feat for the president because Biden appears to be "doing better in Arizona than in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania."

    Although Trump managed to snag the 2016 election, Wasserman believes what the American public is witnessing now is "an incumbent self-destruct."

    'Wives of the Deplorables': Trump-hating women don’t understand why their husbands still back the president

    Women whose husbands voted for President Donald Trump are gathering online to support one another.

    Carole Catherine, who learned her husband Tim backed Trump the day after the 2016 election, started the "Wives of the Deplorables" group on Facebook last year to figure out how to speak to her partner about politics, reported CNN.

    "I didn't know that he's anti-abortion," she said. "I didn't know that he is so emotional about immigration. Both of us never really fleshed out those issues."

    Catherine said group members are glad to have a place to talk about how it feels to be married to a Trump supporter.

    "There is a big wall between us like never before," one woman told the group. "We've been married 45 years and I adore him. Except this. I have GOP friends and I love them. But it's hard to be married to a man who I thought shared the same values."

    Democrat Joe Biden leads Trump by an average of 25 points among women voters, and white women in particular are moving away from the president since the last election, despite his often clumsy attempts to woo them back.

    "I'm a suburban woman, I have kids, I go to a job everyday," said Gretchen Wisehart, a Democrat married to a Trump-backing Republican. "There were a lot of women who voted for him in 2016 as the lesser of two evils. But his constant rhetoric, the way he demeans women, it turns women off. It turns them the other way. I hear it from a lot of people."

    Catherine said group membership has grown in the final months of the 2020 election, but she sees a ray of hope in her own relationship with comments her husband has made about Trump.

    "'What's the a-hole and chief saying today?'" Catherine said her husband recently asked. "And I was like, 'I love you!'"

    But she said the Trump presidency has done real harm to their marriage.

    "We've had some really good conversations recently, where I can tell that we agree on more than I think, and it makes me feel so good," Catherine said. "He wants things to be pre-politics, but that's the thing. Your relationship has changed forever, for good and for bad, and, you know, there's a little of both."

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