10 things you need to know today: October 28, 2016

Handout/Getty Images


1. Oregon wildlife refuge occupiers found not guilty
A federal jury on Thursday unexpectedly acquitted anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy, and five others of conspiracy charges for their armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge early this year. The defendants and others occupied the Oregon refuge’s headquarters for 41 days to protest two local ranchers being sentenced to five years in prison for arson on federal land, characterizing their actions as civil disobedience in opposition to federal government control over millions of acres of public lands in the West. The Bundy brothers still face assault, conspiracy, and other charges over a separate armed standoff at the Nevada ranch of their father, Cliven Bundy, after federal agents seized his cattle over his failure to pay fees for grazing his livestock on public land.

Source: Reuters

2. Michelle Obama joins Hillary Clinton for North Carolina rally
First lady Michelle Obama made her first joint appearance with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday at a Clinton campaign rally in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The event drew an estimated 11,000 people, one of Clinton’s largest crowds in the campaign. Clinton, whose campaign has hailed Michelle Obama as its “not-so-secret weapon,” introduced the popular first lady with praise for her work for children’s health and lauding the “wise and beautiful speech” she gave at this summer’s Democratic National Convention. Obama called Clinton a “friend” to her family and a “unifying force” for America, and repeated her declaration that Clinton is the most qualified candidate for president ever.

Source: The New York Times

3. 141 Dakota Access pipeline protesters arrested
Police in riot gear arrested at least 141 people in an attempt to break up an encampment of protesters blocking the path of the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota on Thursday. The charges included criminal trespassing, engaging in a riot, and conspiracy to endanger by fire, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said. Native American demonstrators say the pipeline, which goes through an area they hold sacred, could contaminate the water. They say they are reclaiming land that was given to the Great Sioux Nation in the 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty but later revoked. Most protesters were peaceful, although one reportedly set fire to tires that were part of a barricade.

Source: Los Angeles Times

4. Mike Pence’s plane slides off runway in NYC; no injuries reported
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s plane skidded off a runway Thursday night after landing at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. No injuries were reported. The chartered Boeing 737-700 jet, painted with the campaign’s logo, reportedly fishtailed as it touched down in rainy weather, and slid into a grassy area beside the runway before stopping abruptly. Pence, Indiana’s governor, then walked to the back of the plane to check on the press pool. There were 37 passengers — including Pence, his wife, daughter, and several advisers — and eight crew members on board. Pence canceled an appearance at a closed-door fundraiser at Trump Tower, but he called into the event.

Source: New York Daily News, CNN

5. Twelfth woman accuses Donald Trump of sexual misconduct
A 12th woman has come forward to accuse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. Former Miss Finland Ninni Laaksonen, now 30, told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat in an interview published Thursday that Trump grabbed her before an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in July of 2006. “Before the show, we were photographed outside the building. Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt. He really grabbed my butt,” Laaksonen said. She noted someone had told her at another event that year Trump liked her “because I looked like [Trump’s wife] Melania when she was younger.” Trump has denied the allegations of the other 11 women who have come forward in recent weeks.

Source: The Guardian, The Telegraph

6. Latest WikiLeaks emails show Hillary Clinton aides surprised by server details
Hacked emails published by WikiLeaks on Thursday show that two of Hillary Clinton’s top campaign aides were taken aback by the first reports about the private email server she used as secretary of state. “Did you have any idea of the depth of this story?” Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, wrote to her campaign manager, Robby Mook, in a late-night exchange after news broke about the server in the basement of her Chappaqua, New York, home. Mook responded, “Nope. We brought up the existence of emails in research this summer but were told that everything was taken care of.”

Source: Reuters

7. Obama commutes sentences of another 98 inmates
President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 98 more federal inmates on Thursday. The move was part of Obama’s push to reduce what he considers to be unfairly harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. It pushed Obama’s total commutations for the year to 688, more than any president has ever granted in a single year. He has now cut the sentences of 872 inmates during his presidency, the most since Woodrow Wilson.

Source: USA Today

8. Poll finds Trump supporters believe claim that election is rigged
Sixty-four percent of Donald Trump’s supporters say they will have serious doubts about the presidential election’s legitimacy if he loses, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday. The Republican nominee has been repeating dubious claims that the election is “rigged” for weeks. Just 35 percent of his supporters who were surveyed said they would most likely accept the results if Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, is declared the winner of the Nov. 8vote. “Of course I believe it’s rigged, and of course I won’t accept the results,” said Mike Cannilla, 53, a Trump supporter from the New York borough of Staten Island.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Cruz says Republicans could block Supreme Court nominees if Clinton wins
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday that there was “precedent” for leaving the Supreme Court with fewer than its full strength of nine justices. Analysts interpreted the remarks, delivered at a rally for a GOP Senate candidate, as suggesting that at least some of the Republicans controlling the Senate favor continuing to block President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, and possibly Hillary Clinton’s if she wins the Nov. 8 presidential election. Cruz said there would be “plenty of time for debate” on whether a Republican-controlled Senate should hold votes on a Clinton nominee. Leading Republicans are divided on the issue. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recently made remarks similar to Cruz’s, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said senators couldn’t “just simply stonewall” on a Clinton nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Source: The Washington Post

10. Amtrak to pay $265 million in Philadelphia crash settlement
A federal judge on Thursday approved a settlement in which Amtrak will pay $265 million to victims of a train crash that killed eight people and injured more than 200 others last year. Victims of the crash, which occurred when a speeding train derailed on a curve in Philadelphia, will have until Nov. 21 to join the settlement. A judge, aided by two masters, will then be able to hold hearings and evaluate damages so that people will get their awards by June instead of waiting for years to get awards through lawsuits.

Source: CBS News

Election Update: The Polls Disagree, And That’s OK



Pretty much everyone has an incentive to push the narrative that the presidential race is tightening. The television networks would like for you to keep tuning in to their horse-race coverage. Hillary Clinton’s campaign would like for you to turn out to vote, instead of getting complacent. Donald Trump’s campaign would like you to know that its candidate still has a chance.

But what do the polls say? The race probably is tightening — but perhaps not as much as the hype on the cable networks would imply. In our polls-only forecast, Trump has narrowed Clinton’s lead in the popular vote to roughly 6 percentage points from 7 points a week ago, and his chances of winning have ticked up to 17 percent from 13 percent. In our polls-plus forecast, Trump’s chances are up to 19 percent from 16 percent. Because of the high level of uncertainty in the race, we can’t say the door is closed on a narrow Trump victory. And we’re certainly a week or two removed from the period when every poll brought good news for Clinton: Plenty of polls now show negative trend lines for her (in addition to others that show a positive trend). But the race hasn’t fundamentally changed all that much, and Clinton remains in a strong position.

The data, however, offers a lot of opportunities for cherry-picking, both because there are a lot of polls and because they don’t agree all that much with one another. That’s especially true of national polls.1 Recent national surveys show everything from a 14-percentage-point Clinton lead to a 1-point lead for Trump. On average, that works out to a Clinton lead of 5 to 6 points — but there’s a lot of variation.

How unusual is it for polls to show this wide a range of outcomes? In the table below, I’ve compiled a summary of national polls conducted during the final week of the campaign in elections since 1976. (I used just one poll per polling firm — the last one each released before the election.) For 2016, I’m showing the numbers for national polls since last week’s presidential debate. Note that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison: There’s a good chance the polling range will narrow over the final week of the campaign because of herding (pollsters sometimes get scared to publish results that seem like outliers as the campaign draws to a close). But it makes for some interesting data:

1976 3 Jimmy Carter +4 -1 +1.3 2.5
1980 4 Ronald Reagan +5 +1 +2.5 1.9
1984 5 Ronald Reagan +25 +10 +17.2 6.2
1988 8 George H.W. Bush +19 +4 +9.1 4.8
1992 9 Bill Clinton +8 +2 +5.7 2.3
1996 8 Bill Clinton +18 +7 +11.8 3.2
2000 9 George W. Bush +5 TIE +2.9 1.8
2004 14 George W. Bush +6 -2 +1.6 2.3
2008 18 Barack Obama +11 +5 +7.6 1.8
2012 22 Barack Obama +4 -1 +1.2 1.5
2016* 22 Hillary Clinton +14 -1 +5.3 3.6
How national polls varied in the final week of past campaigns

* 2016 results reflect polls conducted since the third presidential debate, not over the final week of the campaign.

In 2012, there were 22 polls conducted in the final week of the campaign. And they formed a very tight range: None had President Obama ahead by more than 4 percentage points or behind by more than 1 point. The standard deviation of Obama’s margin over Mitt Romney was just 1.5 points.

The 2000 and 2008 elections were similar, with only 5 or 6 percentage points between the best and worst polls for the respective candidates. No national poll in the final week of the 2000 campaign had Al Gore ahead in the popular vote, incidentally, even though he ended up winning it. The 2004 election had a slightly wider range: Some polls showed a George W. Bush lead of as large as 6 percentage points, while a couple had John Kerry ahead.

All those differences are modest compared with what we’re seeing this year. As measured by the standard deviation, the spread in polls conducted since the third presidential debate is about twice as wide as what we saw at the end of campaigns from 2000 through 2012, on average. Again, that isn’t a perfect comparison because the range of polls may narrow over the final week of this campaign. But it’s not just your imagination if you feel like there’s more variation in the polls than you’re used to.

Here’s another question, though. How much should you expect the polls to differ from one another? Even if there were no methodological differences, you’d expect some variation as a result of random sampling error. Could the seemingly huge spread in the polls this year turn out to be nothing more than statistical noise?

Probably not. For each election, I ran 10,000 simulations in which I estimated how wide the range of the polls “should” be based on the sample size of each poll.2 From these simulations, I also calculated a confidence interval for each election; in theory, the standard deviation in the polls should fall within this interval 95 percent of the time.


Well, that’s pretty interesting. The standard deviation for the 2016 polls — 3.6 percentage points — falls just outside the confidence interval, which runs from 1.8 points to 3.5 points. That suggests there are probably some real methodological differences and that the wide spread in the polls doesn’t reflect sampling error alone. For instance, live telephone polls show Clinton ahead by 6.4 points on average, a larger lead than she has in online polls (5.1 points) or automated telephone polls (2.3 points, although there are only three automated polls in the average).

What’s also interesting, though, is that there was too little variation in the polls in 2008 and, especially, in 2012. By chance alone, you’d have expected some Obama +6’s in the final polling average in 2012 or some Romney +3’s. Instead, the polls were packed within a very tight range, which probably suggests some herding.

And it wasn’t even as though the national polls did all that great in 2012. Of the 22 national polls, all but one underestimated Obama’s popular vote margin against Romney. Conversely, there was a wide spread in the polls in 1984 and 1988 — even wider than this year — but the average did a good job of forecasting the final margin in the race.

So although the wide spread in the polls this year may reflect challenges in the polling industry, you shouldn’t make a habit of berating the polls that seem to be outliers or use a somewhat unorthodox methodology. Aggregating mechanisms like polling averages and betting markets are powerful precisely because they reflect a diverse array of approaches and opinions, and they lose their power when they’re subject to herding or groupthink. You also shouldn’t cherry-pick the two or three polls that fit your narrative when there are dozens of them out there, of course. But ignoring or “debunking” the polls you don’t like is often almost as bad a sin as cherry-picking the ones you do like.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

Russia Gets Hacked, Revealing Putin Aide’s Secrets


Karma, it turns out, is a borscht.

A Ukrainian group calling itself Cyber Hunta has released more than a gigabyte of emails and other material from the office of one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides, Vladislav Surkov, that show Russia’s fingerprints all over the separatist movement in Ukraine.

While the Kremlin has denied the relationship between Moscow and the separatists, the emails show in great detail how Russia controlled virtually every detail of the separatist effort in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, which has torn the country apart and led to a Russian takeover of Crimea.

And unlike the reported Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee, the Ukrainian hack reached deep into the office of the Russian president.

“This is a serious hack,” said Maks Czuperski, head of the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council (DFRL), which has searched through the email dump and placed selected emails on-line.


“We have seen so much happen to the United States, other countries at the hands of Russia,” said Czuperski. “Not so much to Russia. It was only a question of time that some of the anonymous guys like Cyber Hunta would come to strike them back.”

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the U.S. “had no role” in the hack.

Surkov has been a close aide to Putin for more than a decade, serving as both deputy prime minister and Putin’s deputy chief of staff. The hacked emails date from 2014, a period during which Surkov was called the “gray cardinal” of the Kremlin, Putin’s behind-the-scenes aide responsible for managing Russia’s most crucial operations. He guided separatists not just in Ukraine, but in breakaway “republics” in Georgia as well.

It’s as if the Russians were able to hack the email of Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security director and close aide to President Obama.

Specifically, the anonymous Ukrainian hackers were able to download the Outlook email accounts of Surkov’s assistants, including a “Masha” and an “Yevgenia,” according to the DFRL. Surkov himself apparently doesn’t use email. The files included “the inbox, outbox, drafts, deleted email, spam, etc.,” said Czuperski, noting 2,337 messages in total were dumped.

Emails from the Outlook accounts of Surkov’s assistants Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council

A senior U.S. official, asked if the material was authentic, told NBC News that there was “nothing to indicate otherwise.”

Hidden in the one gigabyte file are a variety of materials that provided evidence of Russian involvement at the highest levels in the war in eastern Ukraine, which has taken the lives of 10,000 people, including the 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Flight 17, shot down by a separatist missile in July 2014 over Ukraine.

There is a list of casualties in the Donbass region of Ukraine sent from a high-ranking separatist official, and a list of candidates for office in a sham election. One email notes that the individuals with asterisks next to their name were “checked by us” and are “especially recommended.” Days later, those same names were announced as having been “elected.”

There are expense reports and a proposal for a government press office in Donetsk, scene of some of the fiercest fighting — a three-person operation for separatist propaganda, with an editor, reporter and webmaster.

Image: Vladimir Putin

© Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at the 8th annual VTB Capital “Russia Calling… 

One U.S. official told NBC News that the material confirms much of what the U.S. believed was going on at the time, that the Kremlin was running the separatists at a micro-level. In fact, the official noted that Surkov’s name was the first on a list of Russians and Ukrainians placed under executive sanctions by President Obama in March 2014, citing his role in the separatist movement. The action froze his U.S. assets in the United States and banned him from entering the country. Similar sanctions were imposed by the European Union.

Czuperski said he believed that since Russian authorities realized they were dealing with a violation of international law, they wanted to keep the details in their emails close-hold. He said that while he believes there is likely more hacked material, and that it may prove politically sensitive, he doesn’t know that for sure, or whether “Cyber Hunta,” like WikiLeaks, will continually dump material.

“It’s all time and probability — how much effort you put in and how much effort the adversary puts in,” he said.

Trump claims evidence of voting fraud in Texas


“A lot of call-ins about vote flipping at the voting booths in Texas,” Donald Trump tweeted. | AP Photo


Donald Trump pointed to Texas on Thursday as an example of the presidential election allegedly being rigged against him.

“A lot of call-ins about vote flipping at the voting booths in Texas,” he tweeted Thursday morning, citing no actual sources or reports. “People are not happy. BIG lines. What is going on?”

According to Snopes, “Reports are not flooding in from across Texas about vote switching.”

“Although rumors of ‘vote switching’ in Texas are rampant, we found only one case in which a report was investigated, and it was found to be unsubstantiated,” the rumor researching website said in a report Wednesday.

The Republican presidential nominee is likely referring to an allegation from a woman who posted on Facebook this week that she voted for Republicans up and down the ballot, though the summary of her votes showed that the Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine ticket was checked, too.

“I tried to go back and change and could not get it to work,” the woman, who voted in Texas, said. “I asked for help from one of the workers and she couldn’t get it to go back either. It took a second election person to get the machine to where I could correct the vote to a straight ticket.”

The woman urged voters to “double check your selections before you cast your vote!”

According to election officials, however, the problem was likely a “voter error,” not a sign of election rigging.

Tim O’Hare, chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party, told a local CBS affiliate that voters are inadvertently changing their votes by incorrectly turning the machine’s wheel to change the page.

“We don’t think there’s fraud inside the machine or software glitches,” he said.

Deborah Peoples, who chairs the county’s Democratic Party, said some Democratic voters were experiencing similar issues seeing their votes changed to Trump.

In incidents where officials have spoken with the voters, Tarrant County elections administrator Frank Phillips said “they tell us that they discovered the changed vote on the summary screen display.”

“This shows that the machine is working exactly as it should,” he added. “The voter gets to review a summary of vote changes made and make any changes as needed before actually casting the vote.”

In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Thursday, Trump leads Clinton by 3 percentage points among likely voters, 45 percent to 42 percent, which falls within the survey’s margin of error.

Clear evidence emerges of outrageous militarized police collusion with Big Oil at #StandingRock

Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen


Today’s militarized crackdown on water protectors in Cannonball, North Dakota stems from high levels of coordination between the extractive industry, state officials and police departments. It was waged against a frontline camp seeking to block the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which would cross beneath the Standing Rock Sioux reservation’s main drinking water source and bisect the community’s burial grounds. The attack took place under cover of a media blackout, with reports emerging that police were disrupting cellular phone reception.

Water protectors have already endured dog attacks, military-style checkpoints, low-flying surveillance planes, invasive strip searches, national guard deployments and mass arrests. “What’s happening today is a travesty on the human rights of Indigenous people,” Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, told AlterNet. “I see this as glaring evidence that the law enforcement of this county and state is more concerned about protecting corporate rights of the extractive industry than tribal nations.”

There is evidence of close coordination between the companies backing the $3.8 billion crude-oil Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and police departments. Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company for Dakota Access LLC, said Tuesday that it intends to work with police to forcibly clear a frontlines water protectors’ camp. Energy Transfer Partners threatened that “in coordination with local law enforcement and county/state officials, all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land.”

Challenging the company’s charges of trespassing, the frontline Sacred Stone Camp says they are taking back “unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land under the control of the Oceti Sakowin.”

“We have never ceded this land,” Joye Braun, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a press statement. “If DAPL can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland.”

Today’s events indicate that Energy Transfer Partners is not bluffing when it says that police are siding with the company. And in fact, law enforcement has vocally rallied behind DAPL, which is backed by Enbridge. “At some point the rule of law has to be enforced,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. “We could go down there at any time. We’re trying not to.”

The companies backing DAPL already have private security under their employ. Dakota Access LLC confirmed to AlterNet in September that it had hired the notorious multinational security firm G4S during a period that overlapped with the protests, but would not state where its forces were located. Attorneys representing the Standing Rock encampments identified the companies behind the Dakota Access company’s brutal dog attacks, captured on video, as private security firm 10-Code Security, LLC and attack dog contractor Frost Kennels.

But according to Peter Kraska, professor and author of Militarizing The American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and Police, the extractive industry is also has taxpayer-funded security, in the form of police.

“We have romantic notions of the relationships between government and the private sector and tend to think the old days of police supporting owners of capital—the railroad companies instead of the workers—are from a bygone era,” Kraska told AlterNet. “Situations like these show that corporations and energy interests are exercising a monopoly on violence to continue the fossil fuel industry unabated.”

Steven Salaita, professor and author of the forthcoming book Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine, put it this way: “The current buildup of tremendous force at Standing Rock should be understood as a military invasion of a sovereign nation on behalf of a foreign oil company.”

The heavy-handed response does not stem from local coordination alone. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in a press statement released Sunday that, “Due to escalated unlawful tactics by individuals protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Morton County has requested additional law enforcement assistance from other states. The state of North Dakota made an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request to states for assistance on October 7th.”

Remarkably, the EMAC program is supposed to be used to allow “states to send personnel, equipment, and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states.”

According to the Morton Sheriff’s Department, “Several states have responded and have arrived or will be arriving to support Morton County. States that are currently assisting Morton County are: Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Indiana and Nebraska.” AlterNet could not immediately reach Morton County.

In Minneapolis, news that local law enforcement officers were being sent to Standing Rock sparked protests on Wednesday. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that, “At the request of the State of North Dakota, and as approved by the State of Minnesota, on Sunday, Minnesota Sheriff’s Deputies from the Hennepin, Anoka, and Washington Counties’ Sheriff’s Offices were deployed to assist in Morton County, North Dakota.”

Those counties cover the bulk of the Twin Cities area, where local police been accusedof placing protesters in danger, through a far-reaching culture of incitement against the Black Lives Matter movement. In just one incident, St. Paul police officer Jeff Rothecker was forced to resign in February after he was caught encouraging drivers to run over Black Lives Matter protesters slated to gather for a Martin Luther King Day mobilization. Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis Police Officer’s Federation who has ties to a white-power-linked biker gang, has repeatedly referred to protesters as “terrorists.”

As police departments around the country send reinforcements to North Dakota, the appeals of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe for federal protection from law enforcement violence appear to have had no effect. In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier this week, the water protectors asked the Department of Justice to intervene.

“To many people, the military tactics being used in North Dakota are reminiscent of the tactics used against protesters during the civil rights movement some 50 years ago,” the letter states. “But to us, there is an additional collective memory that comes to mind. This country has a long and sad history of using military force against indigenous people—including the Sioux Nation.”

Trump: ‘We Should Just Cancel The Election’ And Hand Me The Presidency

Evan Vucci

Surely the sentiment of every dictator in history (ks)


At a rally in Toledo, Ohio Thursday, Donald Trump suggested the election should be cancelled because his opponent’s policies were unpalatable.

“What a difference. You know, what a difference this is,” Trump said of the differences between his and Hillary Clinton’s tax plans.

“And just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for? What are we having it for?” he asked. “Her policies are so bad.”

Watch below via ABC News:


GOP Senator Makes Distasteful Remark About His War-Hero Opponent’s Ancestry



In politics stupidity is not a handicap N. Bonaparte (ks)


Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk made an ill-advised jab about the birthplace and ancestry of his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, during a debate on Thursday.

Duckworth, who is challenging Kirk for his seat, had just finished talking about her military service and that of her ancestors, dating back to the Revolutionary War.

“I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk said in the debate at the University of Illinois Springfield.

It was an odd comment from a senator who has a reputation for making odd comments, but particularly impolitic given his opponent’s backstory. Duckworth was born in Thailand to an U.S. Marine father and a Thai mother of Chinese descent.

Duckworth and her family moved to the U.S. when she was a teenager. She went on to join the military and served in the Iraq War, where she lost both legs andearned a Purple Heart, among other commendations.

“There’s been members of my family serving in uniform on my father’s side going back to the Revolution,” Duckworth said, adding that she is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“I’m proud of both my father’s side and my mother, who is an immigrant,” Duckworth said.

Democrats quickly pounced on Kirk’s comment. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Lara Sisselman said in a statement that the senator’s “attack … was offensive, wrong, and racist.”

“A struggling political campaign is no excuse for baseless and despicable attacks, and Senator Kirk owes Congresswoman Duckworth and her family an apology,” Sisselman said.

Kirk campaign spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis did not apologize for the remark in a statement defending the senator.

Kirk, a former intelligence officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve, was caught makingmultiple embellishments and misstatements about his military record, including where he served. He said during the debate that those mistakes paled in comparison to allegations that Duckworth mishandled problems as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

“My past misstatements of my record have been small and selfish and I only hurt myself, I didn’t hurt veterans like my opponent,” Kirk said.

Kirk also responded to the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement of Duckworth. The paper questioned whether Kirk can still “perform to the fullest the job of a U.S. senator” after his 2012 stroke, wondering if his health has contributed to controversial comments he’s made since.

“I would say that the stroke has made me much stronger as a senator,” Kirk said in the debate. “When you come through something as difficult as a stroke you get in there and you’re going to fight, fight, fight to make sure you deliver for the people of Illinois.”

Duckworth said she thinks Kirk is “perfectly capable of doing his job.” He interrupted with a joke.

“I would say we both agree on one key point: that we both agree the next senator of Illinois should use a wheelchair,” Kirk said.

Kirk gave no clarity during the debate on whom he will support for president, other than to reiterate that he revoked his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in June. Kirk said Wednesday he didn’t know who he was voting for.

Duckworth said she already cast an early ballot for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

According to HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates publicly available polls, Duckworth leads Kirk by nearly 9 points.

Elise Foley

10 things you need to know today: October 27, 2016

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


1. Hacked emails show Clinton aides fretted over foundation donors
Hacked emails released by WikiLeaks indicate that Hillary Clinton’s top aides exchanged concerns in the years before she announced her 2016 presidential bid that foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s own money-making ventures could create problems for her. One top aide to Mr. Clinton, Douglas Band, said in an email released Wednesday that the former president had received personal income and “many expensive gifts” from some foundation donors. Chelsea Clinton hired an auditor to look at the foundation and accused some of her father’s aides of “hustling” to win clients for their own businesses during foundation events. The emails have contained no evidence supporting Republicans’ claim that Hillary Clinton did favors for foundation donors.

Source: The New York Times

2. Series of earthquakes rattle central Italy
Two earthquakes struck central Italy on Wednesday, sparking panic near parts of the mountains of the Umbria and Marche regions where a stronger quake killed nearly 300 people in August. “It was a very strong earthquake, apocalyptic,” Marco Rinaldi, mayor of the small town of Ussita, told the ANSA news agency. “People are screaming on the street and now we are without lights.” Numerous houses and other buildings collapsed, and at least two people were injured in the first temblor. The first earthquake was magnitude 5.4, the second was 6.1. There also were at least two weaker aftershocks.

Source: USA Today, The Associated Press

3. Pentagon stops effort to make California veterans repay bonuses
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Wednesday that he had ordered the Pentagon to “suspend all efforts” to get California National Guard members and veterans to pay back bonuses they were mistakenly given a decade ago. Thousands of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were informed recently that they would have to give back the money, in some cases more than $15,000, after an audit revealed recruiters had improperly offered the money to people who didn’t fall into categories eligible for the bonuses. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum had called for a halt to efforts to make the soldiers and veterans pay. Carter said no more money would be collected until a better system was established to help soldiers seek relief.

Source: The Associated Press

4. Chaffetz says he still won’t endorse Trump, but will vote for him
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who publicly rescinded his endorsement of Donald Trump over a 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about groping women, said Wednesday that he would vote for the Republican presidential nominee after all. Chaffetz had said that the comments in the hot-mic tape were “some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments” imaginable, but Wednesday he tweeted that he would not “support” Trump but would cast his ballot for him because his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, is “that bad.” Statistics expert Nate Silver said Trump has been picking up support as some Republicans are “returning home after a disastrous series of weeks for Trump,” although Clinton also is gaining votes as undecided voters make their decision with Election Day approaching.

Source: The Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight

5. Democrats accuse GOP of violating anti-voter-intimidation agreement
The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday asked a federal judge in New Jersey to stop the Republican Party from supporting Donald Trump’s call to recruit poll-watchers due to Trump’s claim that the presidential election is being “rigged” against him. Democrats say the GOP poll-watchers will intimidate voters in violation of a long-standing consent decree restricting the GOP from questioning voters at polls and discouraging them from voting. A GOP spokesman, Lindsay Walters, said the party abides by the consent decree and does not collaborate on efforts to “prevent or remedy vote fraud” with the Trump campaign or anybody else. “The filing is completely meritless,” Walters said.

Source: Bloomberg

6. U.S. abstains in U.N. vote on embargo against Cuba
The United States on Wednesday abstained for the first time in an annual General Assembly vote condemning the American trade embargo against Cuba. The U.S. previously always voted “no” in the symbolic votes against the half-century-old embargo. The change marked the latest step in the Obama administration’s efforts to restore relations with the communist-run Caribbean island, a former Cold War-era foe. The rapprochement began two years ago. The U.S. and Cuba reopened embassies in each other’s capitals last year.

Source: The New York Times

7. University of Wisconsin student charged in series of sexual assaults
A University of Wisconsin-Madison student, Alec Cook, is being charged in a string of sexual assaults, the Dane County District Attorney’s office said Wednesday. After Cook, 20, was accused of sexually assaulting three women, numerous other alleged victims came forward with new allegations. Cook was arrested after a fellow student accused him of strangling and assaulting her at his apartment on Oct. 12. Madison police said they knew of at least four women who have come forward to report assaults. All are students at the university.

Source: NBC News

8. Twitter confirms layoffs, says it’s cutting workforce by 9 percent
Twitter announced Thursday that it was cutting 9 percent of its global workforce as its revenue growth slows. The microblogging service reported that it gained sligtly more users than expected, with its average monthly active users rising from 313 million in the second quarter to 317 million in the third, as Twitter battled competition from rivals such as Instagram and Snapchat. Analysts had expected 316.3 million users, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount. Twitter’s revenue increased by 8 percent to $616 million, beating its forecast of $590 million to $610 million.

Source: Reuters, MarketWatch

9. New study shows HIV epidemic started years before ‘Patient Zero’
A new genetic study published in the journal Nature on Wednesdayconfirmed that the global AIDS epidemic started in New York around 1970, definitively clearing the name of a gay French Canadian flight attendant named Gaétan Dugas who was long vilified as “Patient Zero.” Dugas, who died in 1984, was first named in a study by Centers for Disease Control researchers who investigated the mysterious outbreak in 1982. They spoke to Dugas after three men from three different counties said they had had sex with him. His cooperation helped the scientists link HIV with sex, but a misunderstanding with journalists and the public fueled the belief that he was the one who brought HIV to the U.S.

Source: Nature, NBC News

10. Cubs beat Indians 5-1, tying World Series at 1-1
The Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 on Wednesday night to even the best-of-seven World Series at 1-1. Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, a 2015 Cy Young Award winner who pitched a no-hitter earlier this season, held the Indians hitless into the sixth inning before giving up two hits and a run. Anthony Rizzo kicked things off for the Cubs at the top of the first inning with an RBI double, and Kyle Schwarber got the first of his two RBIs hitting Rizzo home in the third. After two games in Cleveland, the Series now moves to the Cubs’ home turf, Wrigley Field, for Game 3 on Friday night.

Source: Fox Sports, Sporting News

Setting the record straight: Clinton’s 1975 Rape Case


(ks): Lately I’ve seen so many Trump supporters post (mis)information about a rape case from 1975 in which Hillary Clinton volunteered to defend the rapist..  Here are the facts:


Q: Did Hillary Clinton volunteer in 1975 to defend a rapist, who was found not guilty, and laugh about it in an interview in 1980?

A: Clinton defended an accused rapist, but she did not volunteer. He pleaded guilty to a lesser offense. She laughed when recalling unusual aspects of the case.


Did Hillary Clinton volunteer to defend a child rapist in 1975, accuse the 12-year-old victim of fantasizing about older men, later state that she knew he was guilty but got the charges dropped and laugh?


In 1975, Hillary Clinton — then known as Hillary Rodham — taught at the University of Arkansas School of Law, where she founded the University of Arkansas School Legal Aid Clinic. It was during this time that she defended Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.

In her book “Living History,” Clinton recalls that Mahlon Gibson, a Washington County prosecutor, told her that the accused rapist “wanted a woman lawyer” to defend him, and that Gibson had recommended Clinton to Judge Maupin Cummings. “I told Mahlon I really didn’t feel comfortable taking on such a client, but Mahlon gently reminded me that I couldn’t very well refuse the judge’s request.”

Gibson corroborated Clinton’s story in a 2014 interview with CNN.

CNN, June 25, 2014: Gibson said Clinton called him shortly after the judge assigned her to the case and said, “I don’t want to represent this guy. I just can’t stand this. I don’t want to get involved. Can you get me off?”

“I told her, ‘Well contact the judge and see what he says about it,’ but I also said don’t jump on him and make him mad,” Gibson said. “She contacted the judge and the judge didn’t remove her and she stayed on the case.”

In a separate 2014 interview, Clinton said she had an “obligation” to represent Taylor. “I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did,” she said.

In her book, Clinton writes that she visited Taylor in the county jail and he “denied the charges against him and insisted that the girl, a distant relative, had made up her story.” Clinton filed a motion to order the 12-year-old girl to get a psychiatric examination. “I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing … [and] that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body,” according to an affidavit filed by Clinton in support of her motion.

Clinton also cited an expert in child psychology who said that “children in early adolescence tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences and that adolescents with disorganized families, such as the complainant’s, are even more prone to such behavior,” Clinton wrote in her affidavit.

Update, Oct. 19: Clinton’s motion was denied, according to court documents obtained in September by a Pennsylvania lawyer who took an interest in the case.

Ultimately, expert testimony from a scientist “cast doubt on the evidentiary value of the blood and semen the prosecutor claimed proved the defendant’s guilt in the rape,” Clinton writes in her book. Clinton negotiated a plea deal and Taylor was charged with “Unlawful Fondling of a Child Under the Age of Fourteen” and was sentenced to one year in a county jail and four years of probation, according to a final judgment signed by Cummings.

In 2014, the Washington Free Beacon published the audio of an interview that Arkansas reporter Roy Reed conducted with Clinton in the 1980s. In the interview, Clinton recalls some unusual details of the rape case, and she can be heard laughing in three instances, beginning with a joke she makes about the accuracy of polygraphs.

Clinton: Of course he claimed he didn’t. All this stuff. He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs. [laughs]

At another point, Clinton said the prosecutor balked at turning over evidence, forcing her to go to the judge to obtain it.

Clinton: So I got an order to see the evidence and the prosecutor didn’t want me to see the evidence. I had to go to Maupin Cummings and convince Maupin that yes indeed I had a right to see the evidence [laughs] before it was presented.

Clinton then said that the evidence she obtained was a pair of the accused’s underwear with a hole in it. Clinton told Reed that investigators had cut out a piece of the underwear and sent the sample to a crime lab to be tested, and the only evidence that remained was the underwear with a hole in it.

Clinton took the remaining evidence to a forensic expert in Brooklyn, New York, and the expert told her that the material on the underwear wasn’t enough to test. “He said, you know, ‘You can’t prove anything,’” Clinton recalled the expert telling her.

Clinton: I wrote all that stuff and I handed it to Mahlon Gibson, and I said, “Well this guy’s ready to come up from New York to prevent this miscarriage of justice.” [laughs]

The emails we have received about this case contain some misinformation. Some have claimed, for example, that Clinton volunteered for the case and the accused rapist was found not guilty. That’s not accurate, as we just explained. But Clinton did laugh in the retelling of some unusual aspects of the rape case, and we leave it to others to decide whether her laughter was appropriate or not.


10 things you need to know today: October 26, 2016

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images


1. Indians beat Cubs in World Series Game 1 blowout
The Cleveland Indians clobbered the Chicago Cubs to win the first game of the World Series 6-0 on Tuesday night in Cleveland. Pitcher Corey Kluber, the Indians’ 30-year-old 2014 Cy Young Award winner, pitched six shutout innings and set a World Series record by striking out eight batters in the first three innings. “Just pretty much dominant as one could be,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. Indians catcher Roberto Perez contributed two home runs. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night, also in Cleveland.

Source: Chicago Tribune, ESPN

2. Colin Powell endorses Hillary Clinton
Colin Powell, a Republican former secretary of state, said Tuesday that he would be voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for president. Powell told members of the Long Island Association, a trade group, that Clinton, a Democratic former secretary of state and ex-senator, had served the country with “distinction” and demonstrated her “experience and stamina” on the job, according to people who attended the event. Powell also said Clinton’s Republican rival, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, was inexperienced politically, and had insulted a “huge swath of people.” Paule Pachter, a Long Island Association board member, said Powell talked about Trump’s message, “which really paints our country in a negative light across the globe with all our allies.”

Source: Newsday, The New York Times

3. Ryan urges Pentagon to stop taking back enlistment bonuses
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday called for the Pentagon to stop taking back enlistment bonuses from California veterans and active service members who received them 10 years ago even though they were not eligible. “When those Californians answered the call to duty” to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, “they earned more from us than bureaucratic bungling and false promises,” Ryan said. The Pentagon said Tuesday that the number of people affected was about 6,500, not 10,000 as initially reported. Defense Secretary Ash Carter promised to resolve the issue, which has left some veterans burdened with debt as they tried to repay about $15,000.

Source: The Associated Press

4. Trump ends big-money fundraising events
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has stopped holding big-money fundraising events with the Trump Victory fund, a joint effort with the Republican National Committee. The surprise move could hurt his party’s efforts to finance its push to get out the vote in theNov. 8 election. “We’ve kind of wound down,” said Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, in an interview with The Washington Post. Mnuchin said, however, that Trump Victory is continuing to raise money from big donors by phone and online. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, held her last big fundraiserTuesday night in Miami, but high-profile surrogates — including her husband, former President Bill Clinton — plan to hold another 41 events through Nov. 3.

Source: The Washington Post

5. Apple reports first annual sales drop in 15 years
Apple reported its first annual revenue decline in 15 years after the market closed on Tuesday. Apple, the most valuable company in the world, said income in the just-completed quarter fell by 19 percent to $9 billion, or $1.67 a share. That’s down from $11.1 billion or $1.96 a share in the same quarter last year, but just above analysts’ expectations of $1.65 per share. The company’s drop in revenue came mostly before the launch of the latest version of its dominant smartphone, the iPhone 7, which hit stores just before the quarter ended. Apple shares dropped by 2.8 percent in after-hours trading.

Source: MarketWatch

6. Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio charged with criminal contempt
Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his hardline stance against illegal immigration, was officially charged with criminal contempt of court on Tuesday. He is accused of ignoring a judge’s 2011 order in a racial profiling case to stop his immigration patrols, in which his deputies stopped people based on the suspicion they were undocumented immigrants without cause to believe they committed a crime. Arpaio, 84, is up for reelection in two weeks. He is seeking a seventh term. The Justice Department had warned two weeks ago that it would be filing the misdemeanor charge, which could carry a six-month sentence but would not bar Arpaio from serving as sheriff.

Source: Los Angeles Times

7. Iraqi forces move residents from villages around Mosul
Iraqi special forces have evacuated more than 1,000 people from villages near Mosul as a massive coalition closes in, in a bid to retake the city from the Islamic State, officials said Wednesday. ISIS fighters have been accused of atrocities in recent days, including returning to one recently abandoned town and executing residents who were celebrating their departure. Special forces Maj. Gen. Haider Fadhil said the displaced residents of Tob Zawa and other villages were taken to a camp in the nearby Khazer region. The International Organization for Migration says at least 8,940 people have been displaced so far since the offensive began on Oct. 17.

Source: The Associated Press

8. Judge approves VW settlement in diesel emissions cheating scandal
A U.S. judge on Tuesday approved Volkswagen AG’s $14.7 billion deal to settle its diesel emissions cheating scandal. The settlement with federal and California regulators — and the owners of 475,000 affected diesel cars — would be one of the largest corporate settlements in history. VW admitted last year that it installed software in diesel cars to help them beat exhaust emissions tests by appearing clean, even though they really emitted up to 40 times as much pollution as allowed. The German automaker — the world’s second largest — said it would start buying back the cars in mid-November.

Source: Reuters

9. New poll gives Trump a narrow lead in must-win Florida
Donald Trump, who has lost ground in many recent polls, got a bit of good news on Wednesday when a new Bloomberg Politics poll showed him leading his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, by 2 percentage points in Florida, a must-win state for Trump. In a four-way race, Trump has 45 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at 2 percent. Pollster J. Ann Selzer said Trump’s edge appeared to stem from his 2-point lead with independent voters in a head-to-head matchup. “This race may come down to the independent vote,” she said. “Right now, they tilt for Trump.” The RealClearPolitics average of polls has Clinton up 3.1 points in the state.

Source: Bloomberg, RealClearPolitics

10. Paul Beatty wins Man Booker Prize
Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize in London on Tuesday for his novel The Sellout, a satire about race in America. Beatty was the first American writer to win the award. Amanda Foreman, chair of the five unanimous Booker judges, called Beatty’s book “a novel for our times… Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve, and a snarl.” Winning the $60,000 prize is expected to assure Beatty of a significant sales boost worldwide.

Source: The Washington Post

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