You didn’t really expect Donald Trump to take this seriously, did you? The disgraced former president teased early Monday that he would make his long-awaited primary endorsement for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt that day. He already torched Rep. Vicky Hartzler last month, writing on his Truth Social platform that voters “can forget about” her chances, while egregiously claiming she’d asked for his nod multiple times. That left, among others, current Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens, who resigned as Missouri governor in humiliation amid accusations of campaign f...
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Appearing on MSNBC's "The Katie Phang Show" with guest host Cori Coffin, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said that it does not appear that Donald Trump has a legal leg to stand on should the Department of Justice file espionage charges against him.
Coming on the heels of the release of the warrant used to enter Mar-a-Lago earlier in the week which allowed FBI agents to retrieve multiple boxes containing highly sensitive documents, the former prosecutor said the former president has no defense that she can see that his lawyers will be able to deploy.
"Barbara McQuade, let's talk about the word classified," host Coffin prompted. "Trump is already claiming that the papers in question were, quote-unquote, declassified. If that's true with this change anything in terms of the DOJ probe, especially if we are considering the three laws known to be used to carry out the search?"
"No, this defense will fail because the three laws that they selected to put on the search warrant don't require that the documents be classified," McQuade replied. "I think until we saw that unsealed search warrant on Friday, we expected that they would charge the statute that was used for General David Petraeus and [former NSA adviser] Sandy Berger, which does require the mishandling of classified information. Instead, they require only one charge of government records, another charge related to national defense and another concealment of records when the government comes calling for them."
"So none of those require classification or declassification -- that's a defense they will fail," she added. "I think this is going to be the incredible shape-shifting defense; we've already seen several iterations of this from first denying that he had them and then accusing the FBI of planting certain evidence and now it's the classification."
"I look forward to what is hearing what's next but it seems likely that this one is going to fail," she concluded.
MSNBC 08 13 2022 07 02 15 youtu.be
A cotton field planted at a Hollywood school to teach students about the horrors of slavery caused emotional distress to an African-American girl, according to a lawsuit seeking $250,000 in damages in California.
Rashunda Pitts says her daughter has been traumatized by the episode, according to the Los Angeles lawsuit, which alleges discrimination and negligence.
"She has uncontrollable anxiety attacks and... experiences bouts of depression when she thinks about the cotton picking project," says the suit, filed this week.
The child, identified only as S.W., started attending Laurel Span School in Hollywood in late 2017.
After an enthusiastic beginning to the term, S.W. became sullen and tired, the suit says.
A short time later, as Pitts was dropping her daughter off at school, she noticed cotton plants on the campus.
"Bewildered as to why a cotton field would be growing in Hollywood, let alone on public school property, she called the front office to speak with the principal," the suit says.
She was told "children in S.W.'s class were reading the autobiography of (reformer and abolitionist) Frederick Douglass and that picking cotton was one of the experiences that he wrote about in the autobiography."
The assistant principal to whom she spoke explained the field had been planted to give youngsters an idea of what slaves were forced to do, the suit says.
"Completely incensed with the idea that the school would have her daughter and other children pick cotton as a school exercise to identify with the real-life experience of African-American slaves, Ms. Pitts expressed her disappointment and hurt in regards to the culturally insensitive and incompetent project."
Pitts' daughter told her that her "social justice teacher... required the students to 'pick cotton' to gain a real-life experience as to what the African-American slaves had endured."
"S.W. further explained that discussion of the project in school terrified her and she (was) horrified at the idea," the claim says.
The filing says parents were not asked for permission for their children to take part, and had not been told of the project in advance.
Na'Shaun Neal, attorney for Pitts, told AFP he was seeking a quarter of a million dollars on behalf of S.W., who is now 17 years old.
According to the suit, the Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversees the school, said in a statement it regretted that an "instructional activity" had been deemed culturally insensitive.
"When school administrators became aware of a parent's concern about the cotton plant, they responded immediately by removing the plant," the statement said, according to the suit.
In a statement to AFP, a spokesperson for the school district said: "Los Angeles Unified does not typically comment on pending or ongoing litigation."
If you had the choice, would you rather go to the Moon or Mars?
The question is utterly theoretical for most of us, but for US astronaut Jessica Watkins, it hits a bit differently.
"Whichever comes first!" Watkins says with a laugh, in a lengthy interview with AFP from her post on the International Space Station (ISS).
At 34, Watkins has many years ahead of her at the US space agency NASA, and could very well be one of the first women to step foot on the Moon in the coming years, as a member of the Artemis team preparing for upcoming lunar missions.
Missions to Mars are off in the future, but given that astronauts often work into their 50s, Watkins could conceivably have a shot.
Either way is just fine, she says.
"I certainly would be just absolutely thrilled to be able to be a part of the effort to go to another planetary surface, whether it be the Moon or Mars."
In the meantime, Watkins' first space flight was a history maker: she became the first Black woman to undertake a long-term stay on the ISS, where she has already spent three months as a mission specialist, with three months to go.
The Apollo missions that sent humans to the Moon were solely staffed by white men, and NASA has sought over the years to widen its recruitment to a more diverse group of candidates.
The agency now wants to put both women and people of color on the Moon.
"I think it is an important milestone for the agency and the country, and the world as well," Watkins says. "Representation is important. It is true that it is difficult to be what you can't see."
The Maryland native added that she was "grateful for all of those who have come before me... the women and Black astronauts who have paved the way to enable me to be here today."
Geologist at heart
Born in Gaithersburg in the suburbs of Washington, Watkins grew up in Colorado before heading to California to study geology at Stanford University.
During her doctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, her research focused in part on Mars and she worked on NASA's Curiosity rover, which just celebrated 10 years on the Red Planet.
Watkins still has a soft spot for Mars. In fact, she has published a scientific study on the planet during her stint on the ISS.
"I would certainly call myself a geologist, a scientist, an astronaut," she says.
Watkins remembers the moment that she realized space and planetary geology -- the composition of formation of celestial bodies such as planets, moons and asteroids -- would be her life's work.
It came during one of her first geology classes, in a lecture about planetary accretion, or when solids gradually collide with each other to form larger bodies, and ultimately planets.
"I remember learning about that process... and realizing then that that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and what I wanted to study," she recalls.
"The notion of being able to be a part of an effort to actually do field work on the surface of another planetary body is super exciting, and I look forward to being a part of it."
The Artemis program, a successor to Apollo, is aimed at slowly establishing a lasting human presence on the Moon. The end goal is to set up a base that would be a forward operating station for any eventual trips to Mars.
The first uncrewed mission under the Artemis banner is set to take off for the Moon at the end of August.
Watkins is one of 18 astronauts assigned to the Artemis team, to either provide ground support or eventually take flight.
Officially, every active NASA astronaut (there are currently 42) has a chance to be selected to take part in a lunar landing.
'Push the limits'
While previous mission experience may weigh heavily in NASA's choices for personnel for the first crewed Artemis flight, Watkins's academic background certainly should boost her chances of being chosen.
Being good-natured and having a healthy team spirit are also key for space flight teams, who spend long periods of time confined in small spaces.
Watkins says her colleagues would call her "easygoing," and her time playing rugby taught her the value of working on a team.
So how does she define being an astronaut?
"Each of us all have that sense of exploration and a desire to continue to push the limits of what humans are capable of. And I think that is something that unites us," she says.
Watkins says she dreamed of going to space when she was young, and always kept it in the back of her mind -- without ever thinking it could be a reality.
"Don't be afraid to dream big," she says. "You'll never know when your dreams will come true."